We’re just 10 days away from the first game of the season now and things have gone eerily quiet in the world of Arsenal. Suspiciously quiet even. Extremely suspiciously quiet. Sure, there’s been murmurs about Arsene Wenger putting in a bid for Chelsea’s Salamon Kalou after the declaration that he has given up on Bordeaux’s Marouane Chamakh but in the positions that matter, central defence and central midfield, very little has been going on.
Personally I think it’s all going to change this week in a big, big way. In fact transfer-wise, I think this could well be one of the biggest weeks in Arsene Wenger’s tenure as Arsenal manager. ‘Why?’, you ask. Because if Arsenal want to win the league – and make no mistake, we are a very, very good chance – then two new players need to be brought in.
There is no way that Wenger will go into next season with an attacking unit that has the potential to win the title and make a really strong mark on Europe, without improving his defensive quality. At the end of last season he identified the defence as the one area of the team that required improvement and with Thomas Vermaelen in and Kolo Toure out, numbers-wise and quality-wise we’re very much in the same position as we were last season.
I believe that if Philippe Senderos had stayed at the club (official confirmation or not he has gone) then Wenger may have viewed his defensive unit as being strong enough to do the job. But right now it’s clear to me – and it will be just as clear to Wenger – despite the obvious quality of William Gallas and the extreme potential of Vermaelen and Johan Djourou we’re still one quality centre-back short of making the improvement that the manager would have wanted.
He’s obviously not a stupid man, Wenger, but it would be bordering on ignorance to refrain from bringing in another centre-back and it is for that very reason that I am so confident that he will.
Similarly, I see it as hugely unlikely that he will not bring in a defensive-minded midfielder given the change of formation and the numbers and quality we currently have in the squad in that position. And while there have been a lot of articles written in the papers and on the blogs about Wenger’s choice to go with 4-3-3, I’ve been surprised that no-one has pointed out the fact that by switching to only three midfielders it doesn’t actually decrease our need to sign a defensive midfielder.
Indeed, while a 4-4-2 under Wenger has usually accommodated two central midfielders, two attacking wingers/midfielders and two strikers, a 4-3-3 requires three central midfielders (one defensive, two slightly more attacking), two wingers and a striker. So while the switch undoubtedly utilises the strength of our passing and movement more effectively, it does not decrease the need for Wenger to bring in another player to do the holding job that he has surely earmarked for Alex Song.
In the past Wenger has suggested that Samir Nasri might be able to do that job and while he is obviously hoping to decrease the responsibility and pressure off the midfield anchor role, I still find it unthinkable that Wenger would not sign cover for (or someone to go in ahead of ) Song. The Cameroonian is a fine prospect and may well kick on from his excellent performances last season, but he will go missing during the African Cup of Nations and looking around our team there is no-one who quite does the job the way he does.
It is for these reasons that I know – not even hope – that signings will be announced throughout this week and the next. I’m not one to get on the bandwagon and big up speculation when it’s undeserved but mark my words: things at Arsenal are about to get mental.
* * *
Just an aside today I just want to share the excellent news that I have booked my flights to next year’s World Cup in South Africa. Yeaaaaaaaahhh!
I’m going to be flying into London from Brisbane the day before the World Cup starts and spending 10 days there before flying down to Johannesburg to spend a week soaking up the atmosphere. I’ll then be flying back to London before traveling around Europe before flying back home the day after the tournament. I’ll be documenting the whole thing as part of the Football Nomad project and I’ll undoubtedly be looking to catch up with as many Arsenal FC Bloggers as I can while I’m over there!
Anyway, that’s it. Have a lovely Wednesday and get ready for things to explode.
Have your say on any Arsenal transfer speculation or my World Cup news by leaving a comment.