The Shop Window is Looking Really Nice- A Review Of Arsenal’s Transfer TargetsBy: Perry | June 14th, 2011
Hello all, the transfer season is well upon us when we get rumors of Emmanuel Eboue leaving the club. To be quite honest, the Nasri situation (which Homey very eloquently talked about in yesterday’s post), along with the now annual Cesc Fabregas Summer Transfer To Barcelona Media Extravaganza (Now available in Qatar!) dominating the Arsenal-related headlines is not exactly the way I wanted Arsenal’s summer to kick off. Which is why I found it very pleasing to see dead weight like Denilson and Bendtner unequivocally express their desires to leave the club- Lord knows we don’t want a transfer saga regarding the lethargic Brazilian. I also found it a smart move on Wenger and the club’s part on setting a final deadline at the end of June for Nasri and Clichy to make their decisions and either stay or leave the club- it’s obvious that a summer-long transfer saga regarding a player leaving the club is not wanted at all- it would add an air of instability within the club and would make deals regarding incoming players much more difficult. So, whether someone like Nasri goes or stays, it’s good that we get over this quickly, cause boy, Arsenal’s going shopping!
Here is a list of the players we have been realistically linked to signing, and a few other names we could possibly sign. Onwards..
GOALKEEPER: NONE- Arsenal definately improved on two fronts last season. One was Arsene Wenger’s skills on violently throwing a bottle- a little bit more practice and he could get a spot in the World Championships! The other was our goalkeeping situation. What was our most pressing concern a little over a year ago seems to have resolved itself with the emergence of Wojcech Szczesny and the redemption of Lukasz Fabianski. Both had very good seasons between the sticks for Arsenal last season and while it is currently an assumed fact that Wojo is now our pernament #1, Fabianski performed well enough in his appearances that he at least merits a a shout over who should start in goal for us this coming August. While there were reports that Arsene tried and failed in a bid for Aston Villa’s Brad Friedel (who eventually signed for Spurs), I don’t see a need for any incoming GK’s this summer- we have a future World class goalkeeper already and his sturdy and dependable teammate and potential backup. Also, Lehmann could possibly resign for another year and we have Argentinian Emiliano Martinez in the Reserves, who seems to be held in high regard (and got a call-up to the NT for it’s friendlies earlier this month.)
CARL JENKINSON : At the time of writing he is our only signing, a 19 year old right back from Charlton Atheltic, who played in League One. While it seems he will be given a first-team chance (which could mean Eboue may leave the club), this is more of a “one for the future” kind of signing, a very speculative one at that. He’s really unknown and no one seems to think he’ll be a world beater one day. He holds some England and Finland youth caps but it doesn’t look like he’s anything really special. On the plus side, he came at a relatively cheap price (£1 million) and seems to be a big fan of Arsenal, which is always a plus. Hopefully he won’t be as bad as Eboue was last season, and that of course Sagna stays injury free.
All of the following players would only come should Gael Clichy leave. With that in mind, they would all come to play in a starting role in the left-back position.
LEIGHTON BAINES: The Everton man has just finished a spectacular season with the Toffees, getting 5 league goals and 11 league assists- making him the most productive defender in terms of goals in the EPL this season. His surging runs forward are now his trademark style, and his crossing is top-notch, something that could be very useful for us when we’re trying to get a goal. He has become a cornerstone of the Everton team, and is now a regular in the English NT. Honestly, if Clichy goes, then Baines is the best left-back available we can get (Fabio Coentrao, unfortunately, is too busy flirting with Real Madrid to notice us, or anyone else for that matter). And really, with Baines being worth about £15 million, it would be pretty dumb not to buy him unless we get someone who’s just as good as him, and even better, aside from Liverpool (who might get Clichy anyways), there isn’t really any top club with a pressing need for LB- Man U have Evra, Chelsea have Cashley, and City have Zabaleta/Kolarov. So there really isn’t any competition for his signature in England. Perfect environment for Arsenal to work with, right?
JOSE ENRIQUE: Has played for Newcastle for several seasons now, and was named their best player and included in the team of the year during the 09-10 season- the year they were in the Championship. However, he seems to have progressed in that time as he is held in high regard presently, so much that Liverpool were heavily linked to him after their Andy Carroll splurge. In contrast to a left-back like Baines, Jose Enrique’s main draw is that he is very, very solid defensively- he is good at keeping the ball and very rarely does a winger get past him. Heavily linked to Liverpool in the past, Enrique is thought to be available for £10-15 million and seems to be ready to move to a bigger club- even Barcelona have been linked to him recently. At the very least, he would be a better defender than Clichy, although his apparent lack of attacking prowess could be cumbersome.
BENOIT TREMOULINAS: The previous two players already play in England, and as such their prices are always going to be inflated. Not so with Tremoulinas. The man plays in France for Bordeaux, who have just finished a very disappointing season in Ligue 1, finishing in mid-table, just two years after winning the league itself! Tremoulinas has already showed he is capable of making the step up to a higher level, displaying some decent performances in the 09/10 Champions League and in the Ligue 1 over the last 3 seasons. Tremoulinas is a very modern, attacking left-back, capable of some dangerous forays forward. In all fairness, Tremoulinas would not represent a significant step-up from Clichy (aside from the numerous lapses in concentration), but rather a continuation of having a decent left-back who is good going forward.
CENTER-BACKS: Next to the attacking midfielder position, our most pressing need this summer. Koscielny still needs to improve, Bartley is unproven at this level, Djourou is injury-prone, no one knows if TV5 will return to his previous level pre-injury, and Squillaci just sucks. All this leads to Arsenal needing to sign at least one dependable, GOOD center-back who can provide quality competition for the starting CB role for years to come- no stopgap, cheap veterans, no teenager from some club no one’s heard of who has 16 caps for the Estonian U-14’s, none of that. Wenger needs to sign a center back who has plenty of experience already in his current club and has the ability and skill to effectively come in and start games. While some may say this will take away playing time from Kos or Djourou, who weren’t that bad as our de facto first choice CB pairing last season, we will inevitably have so much injuries and runs of bad form that our new signing will at least get 25-30 games next season. The main question is, who do we get?
JAN VERTONGHEN: If I were Wenger, I would be doing my utmost in trying to sign Ajax’s Jan Vertonghen. The Belgian international has just won the Dutch Eredivisie with Ajax and has indicated a desire to move on. Vertonghen displays a very attacking style for a center back, getting a couple of goals in the process (7 last season), similar to our own Verms, who also happens to be Vertonghen’s NT team-mate and best friend (and no signs of a Bridge mishap between the two on the horizon.) He is also left-footed, something we are currently lacking in the CB department (apart from Vermaelen), and hasn’t looked injury-prone in the last couple of seasons. He is already used to playing a highly technical, passing game with Ajax, and can also play as a defensive mid, meaning he could provide cover for Song and Wilshere (and be at least 100 times better than Denilson). In other words, Vertonghen would be very close to a perfect fit for Arsenal. Unfortunately, in recent weeks the talk has shifted to Man City being the leading contenders for his signature, indicating that perhaps Wenger is closer to signing someone like Samba or Cahill, or that he simply can’t match what the Citizens are willing to offer (more on that later.) It would be a shame, because Vertonghen has all the markings of being a very useful and good player at Arsenal
CHRISTOPHER SAMBA: The huge Congolese defender has been linked to us for a year now, and many seem to think he would be a perfect fit for us, given his tall stature which would add “Steel” to our defense. That being said, Samba, while certainly physically able and very good in the air (both offensively and defensively), is not used to Arsenal’s slick passing game and could very well struggle to get used to his surroundings. In addition, Samba’s lack of pace could be suicidal when playing with Arsenal’s traditional high defensive line- I can just imagine Rooney and Man United tearing us apart on the counter-attack and Samba being too far up to get back in time. Getting Samba would not be terrible, but giving the number of options out there, we could do better.
GARY CAHILL: Ah, Cahill. This guy seems to be linked to just about every single top club in England. Why wouldn’t he? He’s English, young, good in the air, English, plays for a decent mid-table side (Bolton), English, and is halfway decent. Did I mention he’s English? As such, he is generally regarded as a good defender who could help Arsenal get rid of their “frilly”, “don’t like them up ‘em” regard to defending. And you know what, I don’t think Cahill would be a bad buy. He’s already acclimated to the EPL and is already used to playing a passing game. However, my main beef with his signing would be the price. His contract runs out the next year and Bolton have set a price of £17m for his signature. I’m sorry but if that’s near the price needed to buy Vertonghen, then I’d rather have Arsenal sign the Belgian. In addition, there is NO way Wenger would spend that much on someone when their contract runs out the next summer. There is just no way. It happened in 09/10 with Chamakh (he could have gotten him for a fee in January, when we had a pressing need for an extra striker), and it’s going to happen this summer with Cahill. Unlikely, unless Bolton lower their price or Wenger gets desperate.
MAMADOU SAKHO: If we fail to get Vertonghen, then I want this guy. 21 years old, French, tall, and plays for PSG, one of France’s best clubs. But the big thing about this guy are his leadership qualities. He was the captain in every setup of the French Youth NT he was in, and is currently the vice-captain of PSG, despite being barely old enough to get a drink in the USA. This would be very good, for example, when we are faced with situations like the 4-4 game against Newcastle- somebody like Sakho can take hold of the team and say “all right guys let’s stop the rut and let’s stay afloat.” In addition, he is proficient in the air, also something we have been found lacking in defense the last couple of seasons. The more and more I think about it, the more I think Sakho would be a very good signing for us.
SCOTT DANN: More accurately, any starting Birmingham City defender. Despite being relegated, Brum’s central defenders have a reputation for being decent, no-nonsense, rough, English, worth spending money on, defenders. Although Dann (or Roger Johnson, for that matter) would be available at a cut-price following his team’s descent into the Championship, this would be the signing I would least want. He’d be no better than a back-up to Verms/Kos/Djourou, and would probably stifle Bartley’s or Miquel’s development while not providing much more in terms of quality. Should be nothing more than a last-gasp option if we fail in getting any of the other targets.
CENTER MIDFIELD: Denilson’s leaving, thank heavens. To be honest, I don’t think Center Mid is a position that needs investment, especially compared to more critical areas such as defense and wingers. At the very best, I can see Wenger buying another prospect or someone brought in just to be a backup- which, as Squillaci has shown, isn’t always a good thing. We have Wilshere, who will look to improve on his great breakthrough season, and Songinho, who will be working to perform even better in his currently adapting role as a dynamic, box-to-box guy. Ramsey will get a full pre-season to get even better after getting his leg broken 2 years ago, and Diaby, when he’s not crocked or getting sent off, can actually get the odd good game here or there. Plus, we have Henri Lansbury back from Norwich City, where he had an excellent loan spell and will look to get a shout in the first-team. And we can’t forget Emmanuel Frimpong, who many at the start of last season were predicting he would get his great breakthrough, and is now fit and ready to work up to that challenge. If the club feels that we do need someone new in this area, they could do worse than signing Jan Vertonghen, who has experience already in playing in this position. So forgive me if I think that getting a player in this area isn’t exactly critical- although I certainly welcome any debate on the matter.
ATTACKING MIDFIELD/WINGERS: Obviously, this a position whose signings will be made relative to whether Cesc and Nasri stay or leave the club. For various reasons, I don’t think Cesc will leave (more on that on a later post), but Nasri right now is a wild-card. With that being said, it’s necessary that we still make investments in this area, seeing as how we suffered from effeciency and ruthlessness on the attack last season. We have been most heavily linked to a certain duo from French Champions Lille, who were they again?..
EDEN HAZARD: Probably the #1 transfer target this summer, next to Aguero and Alexis Sanchez. Of course, being a vital part of your team that won it’s first league title in over 50 years and being compared to C.Ronaldo and Messi can do wonders for your reputation. A speedy, intelligent, highly technical attacking midfielder/winger with lots of vision, Hazard was named the Ligue 1 Player of the Year for his amazing performances and seems destined to leave the club. While his stats (7 league goals and 10 league assists) aren’t exactly eye-popping, it is his overall link-up play and vision which make up for any goal-scoring deficiency, being regarded as one of the best passers in France. In addition, he has a very cool temper, always a plus when dealing with stars (ahem.. *coughBalotellicough*). Hazard will likely only leave Lille on a big transfer fee, upwards of £20m being a possible value. And with City, Barcelona, and others looking at him, he could be the biggest signing Arsenal could make in years.
GERVINHO: The Ivorian, nicknamed by his ex-Brazilian coach, also played a hugely important part in Lille’s domestic Double last season, getting 14 league goals en route to the title. Has been extensively linked to us and Man City so far this summer, and if he’s going to leave Lille, it’s likely to either Manchester or London. Can play either up front or on the wing, which could potentially solve two problematic areas with just one signing. Has all the makings of a classic Arsenal signing, but this is where City come in- they’re basically willing to offer Gervinho much, much more than Arsenal are willing. We can avoid this problem if City get someone else, like Alexis Sanchez for example. But if they target Gervinho as their #1 transfer target, then unless the player himself has a burning desire to come to Arsenal, then he’s probably going to go Manchester.
ANDRE AYEW: The young Ghanian was perhaps Marsielle’s best player last season, helping them try to retain the title, that, thanks to him, they almost did. Has really come into his own in France, terrorizing defenders from the wing and scoring several crucial goals along the way. (He got 10 in Ligue 1 last season). He has indicated a desire to stay for at least one more season at Marsielle, but if we lose out on any of the two above then I can see Wenger tempting young Andre..
FORWARDS: With Bendtner leaving and Chamakh not really convicing anyone of him being a quality striker after his torrid second half of the season, it’s likely we’ll make an investment in this area. The question remains, should Wenger sign, will he make a signing that looks more to the future or a big-name signing who’ll be coming to play immediately? Support for the former would be RVP’s form that proves him as probably THE best complete forward in England and Walcott’s budding talents as a forward, not as a winger. Of course, we don’t know if RVP will last more than half a season and Walcott is still developing as a striker- indicating that maybe we do need a big-name forward signing.
FALCAO: The guy is a beast, let me start with that. He absolutely DESTROYED the Europa League, getting 17 goals, the most in the history of that competition. Is very good in the air, plays well with his teammates, and is an excellent finisher. In other words, just what Arsenal need in a striker. Could very well be the big marquee signing Arsenal have been looking for, although the same can be said about Hazard. We’re competing with Spurs for his signature, likely to be around £20m, but I think if we can accommodate him into our system (which would likely mean one of our center mids would be dropped), he could be a very good player for us.
OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN: Definitely a “one for the future” type of signing, although given how easily our forwards get injured, it’s likely Chamberlain would get a fair number of games should he sign. Big for his age and highly regarded in Southampton, his good performances got him into League One’s Team of the Season, with 10 goals and 9 assists. If we get someone like Gervinho, then I wouldn’t mind getting Chamberlain, but his price (around £12 million), does seem kind of high. And if he’s our only offensive signing, he would represent a gamble- he could potentially be another Anelka, or a Vela. Still, one to look out for the coming years.
BENZEMA: A very good player who’s not getting the respect he deserves at Real Madrid. Had a much maligned debut season and last season, Jose Mourinho publicly criticized him. Still, Benzema started to try and the goals flowed, ending as with 26 in all competitions. Wenger seems to want him, and to be honest Benzema, being French, being an aggressive forward, and being a good finisher, could very well be fantastic for Arsenal and the EPL. And if Aguero does a Judas and moves to Real, then the door could be opened for Karim to leave the club.
Based on their price and versatility, I think Arsenal should sign Vertonghen and Gervinho- Vertonghen can play in defense and as a defensive mid, while Gervinho can play on the wing and up front. After that, there may be something left in the bank for someone like Chamberlain, or Wenger and the club could surprise us all and get that big, star signing- someone like Hazard or Falcao, for example.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and if you think there’s a player out there who could be good for us, then don’t hesitate to point it out in the comments. And who knows, maybe Wenger will shock us all again and get that Estonian kid I was talking about! More on possible departures tomorrow.