Yesterday I was chatting to a few peeps online about Naby Keita from RB Leipzig and how I’d seen a video and he looked ace. I also said I wouldn’t mind him at Arsenal by the looks of him. He looks like he has that drive in midfield. The ability to travel quickly and with the ball at his feet with great composure and I’d be stunned if he didn’t get a big move this summer or next.
The discussion then turned to Arsenal, as it always invariably does, but in this specific conflab it was about who would leave the club to help bring in these players. Then it occurred to me: I haven’t personally thought too deeply about the outgoings and how it could affect the first XI and how we would set ourselves up. I’ve thought about squad players and what happens with them, but the actual first XI; who needs to be upgraded for us to win the Premier League?
Aside: I think the manager isn’t capable of winning us the league because I think psychologically he presides over malaise that always sets in at some stage in the season. But summer is about hope and because he isn’t leaving for at least a couple of years, I’m just playing the game of ‘hypothetical hope’ where changing staff on the playing field can win us the league.
I guess it depends on the system we employ, but if we’re looking at shipping out some players to make room, we’d need to think about which first team players go, don’t we? I mean it’s all very well totting up cash for Debuchy (ha!), Ospina, Szczesny, Gibbs, Wilshere, Elneny, Jenkinson, Lucas, Theo, the Ox and potentially even Giroud, but they are all squad players to varying degrees.
You can’t just sell a load of squad players and replace them with mega signings, replacing the existing first teamers and relegating them to subs, because a) they’ll just want to instantly move on, and b) they won’t perform as well when called upon. There will also be an issue of a bit of disharmony in the squad I fear. Having a squad of 20 players who all demand a space in the first XI is just going to cause Lassana Diarra levels of discontent very quickly.
Still, is that better to have players desperate to impress, rather than those who are happy coasting by? Probably. I guess what I’m getting at is that somehow we need to find a balance that works. We need to find those who will not go running to the press the first time they’re not in the matchday squad, but those that show enough desire and moxy about them to perform when called upon; I think someone like Elneny is therefore useful in our squad for example. Some do not rate him, but I think he’s a hard worker, good distributor, recycles and distributes possession well enough and can be a decent asset for our squad.
But anyway, back to my original point, which is who do you move on from the first team? It’s a really tough one. Especially when you think we’re looking for a striker and whilst Giroud hasn’t been the player that is going to get us 30 a season domestically, he has still proven he’s a very capable and very good centre forward. Welbeck has also shown his worth in the revised formation of the last six weeks of the season. But you’d imagine one has to go if one comes in. Welbeck and Giroud in the new formation don’t play as men behind the main striker. And so with a third striker it means one is back up and one isn’t even in the squad. With Welbeck now fit, as well as younger and a channel runner, he looks the more sensible option to keep if you had to keep one, but he’s brittle and has never matched Giroud’s goal return. As I said above I don’t think you can keep both so I suspect one goes. It feels to me like that’s Giroud and if that’s the case then it’s a gamble by Arsène and Arsenal.
Which is why he has to be ruthless this summer. He has to tell Giroud to fight for his place and give him a shot. We all know that if a big name – or even just an expensive one – comes along then we’ll find him benched after a few weeks of the season, but let’s get the season started and see what happens with him.
Then there’s talk of Lemar from Monaco. I think this one might be easier to solve because Alexis is gone in my opinion, as regular readers will know, so I think any move for Lemar will be because of Alexis getting a mega deal like Giroud was a replacement for RvP all those years ago.
If we somehow miraculously signed Alexis and Özil to new deals though, I still think there could be a place for him. Both he and Iwobi could act as understudies to the aforementioned mega stars and with somebody like Jeff also waiting in the wings, it gives a little more depth, especially if you also have players like Ramsey who can play in behind (we’ve seen him do it for Wales to some success).
The central midfield is a little more difficult. Xhaka is clearly a key player and he and Ramsey started to work a bit better in the new system. But Ramsey is injury prone and so is Cazorla given his age, so I think that realistically we need another two players who would probably play more regularly. One of those I’d have as the Ox and I therefore think there is room for another space. I don’t think we should have both Coquelin and Elneny so one should surely move on and I’d have the Egyptian over Le Coq, who can play that back up option. Would that free up some space for a Keita? Not sure, because I think we’d need a more defensive-minded player and I’m not sure how defensive he is.
One thing is for sure though, that is the protege that was Jack Wilshere, probably doesn’t have a future. It would be a sad ending to a player who we all thought would tear up our midfield for potentially a couple of decades. Sad indeed 🙁
Defensively is where i think we need the fewest reinforcements, if any, if I’m honest. We have Kolasinac to challenge and ultimately replace Monreal, I think bringing Chambers back in to the fold gives us lots of options in defence, whilst on the right hand side we probably need a Bellerin understudy. Perhaps Maitland-Niles? It just feels like we have the right numbers us the back to me.
Which just leaves in goal, to which I really hope we have a plan beyond Cech and Martinez. I’m not sure that Emi will ever make it you see. We’ve had other, more capable looking ‘keepers who have done it, you see. So I don’t see how he could be good enough. It’s harsh on the lad, but he feels to me like a number three ‘keeper. You know how Vito felt like that at Arsenal? Yep, that.
Right, that’s enough waffle from me for one morning, so I’ll leave you to get up to whatever it is you get up to. But let me know who you would bin off. Let’s see if we’re all on the same wavelength.