The fan-base division of Arsene’s longevity continues to roll on. After every hint of a defeat, those against present their case with seemingly startling evidence on why the beautiful game has left this fine vintage of a manager behind. His obsession with crafting a self-made super-team left in tatters amidst a flurry of elite poaching. One by one, the modest-costing vanity project fell apart. Wenger’s 3rd edition devastated with a trophy less era gathering continued momentum.
And then somewhere deep in the bowels of the Emirates, the decision was made to adapt the landscape, heavily, whilst maintaining the premiership. The king remained on his throne. The one who supplied the Invincibles, Thierry Henry &, lest we forget, the critical stadium upgrade whilst remaining on the juggernaut coat-tails. Like a sitting President amending his priorities towards the end of an initial term, hoping for re-election, Wenger desperately set out to gather experience and all the treasures such brings – leadership, know-how and a competitive edge.
The first attempt was as to be expected – desperate and limited. A ram-shackle raid on deadline day. Mertesacker and Arteta have provided value and perhaps mostly, team cohesion. Santos, Benayoun & Young less so. £40 million spent on established players. Reform was afoot.
The following season witnessed a honing of such recruitment, with Podolski, Giroud & Cazorla secured in quick succession. Nacho Monreal followed in Jan. Barring the social mammoth they call Lukas, with his previously accumulated ton of Germany caps, each purchase continues to reap wider dividends in the current campaign. All without joining the super-spenders with their wildly loose cheque books.
Then came Mesut. And his fee. And the wonder, hope and, subsequently, belief. What had we become? A one-off or the acceleration of a new strategic approach. In true Wenger style, Ozil was complemented with the low-brow free-transfer return of Corporal Flamini. An FA cup followed. Just.
Before the 4th season of OPERATION SWANSONG, the fine-tuning seemed to occur. Alexis Sanchez, another elite operator, and Welbeck, Debuchy, the Colombian No.1 and then Gabriel Paulista have all been successful recruits, within the limited measurements available for reference. And still, we remain somewhat short. Barring the Monaco home tie, clear advancements have been made. A flirtation with big-game handling seems afoot, less chasing and more establishing a top 4 position (one hopes this continues!) is trending and genuine form is ever-present across the roster – Alexis, Giroud, Nacho, Le Coq, Koscielny and the Emirates darling, Santi.
Even the refusal to lose an attacking player in order to facilitate a genuine DM was lost somewhere along the 14-15 trek. So, in summary, positives galore. But with a swansong finite in essence, the final blocks remain unbuilt. Whilst all focus remains, rightly so, centred around cup defence and automatic ECL qualification, those tasked with planning – the silly season sergeants AKA scouts, are surely ratcheting up the air miles. So just what, and potentially who, is required to complete the jigsaw?
In order to maintain our current crop of elite talent’s satisfaction, promises will need to be present. At least visually. Ozil, Sanchez, Koscielny, potentially Ramsey too, are all capable of absolute inclusion amongst Europe’s finest spreads. Trophies define the limited periods footballers have within the game. Extended periods without emit uncertainty and doubt. The key elements which dissolved the previous regime. This summer has to be the completion phase.
Whereas leadership is regularly bandied around as the core vacant ingredient, perhaps the generalisation of such a theory is unfair. A positional assessment, however, tells another story. At the back, Per and Laurent Le Rock continue to lead an increasingly miserly defence. Nacho has added to this stewardship and it’s fair to suggest, Debuchy shall do likewise. It’s between the sticks where questions bubble most. Whereas David Ospina is enjoying a current purple patch, there’s little concrete evidence to suggest this could elevate him to the pantheon currently housed with multiple Chelsea recruits, the red half of Manchester’s player of the season and the recently Nou Camp inspired England No.1. This, coupled with Wojciech’s perennial proneness towards error, leaves an identifiably weak cog. With Cech, and a De Gea dependent potential Bernabeu departure, leaves 2 simple suggestions. Both within their own personal twilights, Cech or Casillas come fit for purpose and likely to last Wenger’s limited soiree. Beyond those, Valdes (fitness dependent) is surely worth consideration.
Moving forward, we remain packed with asset-laden silk throughout midfield. With Jack and Rambo prone to such regular injury, the oft-suggested lion heart core has yet to materialise. Doubts remain around their mentality to score on the Vieira/Gilberto/Petit boss-o-meter. And this progresses me nicely on to Le Coq, a genuine delight in the current season scrapbook. Performing stoutly in 2015, similarly to Flamini’s triumphant-to-flop-like return, his repertoire of abilities shall surely struggle when aligned with Yaya Toure, Nemanja Matic et al. Again, validity to the leadership debate. We need one in the boiler room. No better evidenced than Jose’s expensive pursuit of Matic. Consistency demands such an asset.
Availability wise, Sami Khedira immediately jumps to mind. Less revered in Madrid than ever before, the relationship with Mesut suggests multiple attractions for Arsene and Co. Morgan Schneiderlin is another seemingly accessible solution, whilst adding to the French (and former South Coast) flavour through the squad. The wildcard suggestion being İlkay Gündoğan. Likely expensive, he’d fit the bill with aplomb. Geoffrey Kondogbia is another. There’s nothing quite like a shock result inspiring imminent transfer activity from said shocker to those being shocked.
Finally, on to the headliner. The No.9 and focal point – a striker. Olivier Giroud has grown undeniably since his arrival, his desire roars in strength perhaps making this the most difficult to suggest. Devastating against many teams, his stock remains adrift from the game’s elite – Suarez, Benzema, Aguero, Costa, potentially Kane, previously RvP. To compete, and win, against the best – such a player is essential. Highlighted no better than Monaco Pt.1 & any fixture against Chelsea, neither him nor Welbeck will shoot a team to title glory.
From an availability spectrum, such players aren’t easily attainable. If Karim Benzema becomes available, then it’s a no brainer. Beyond that, I see 2 options of different scale. Marco Reus, of Borussia Dortmund, could be converted position-wise and would fit financially. Interest is, however, rife. The other remains a little left-field, almost Nicolas Anelka like from 97-98, is Saido Berahino. His temperament would require assessment, his focus aligning, but his ability as a high-impact any-occasion finisher is plain to see. Plus, he fits the British core we’ve developed quite nicely. Would likely allow for significant investment in a CM/DM and elite GK too.
So, there we have it. 3 areas requiring significant upscale. Several suggestions of differing level. In an ideal world, Cech – Khedira – Reus would elevate Wenger’s final curtain call to a potentially rip-roaring standing ovation. Casillas – Kondogbia – Berahino, a likely more realistic offering could plug the remaining gaps to ensure a truly grandstand finish to the tenure of Arsenal’s finest visionary – the great Arsene Wenger. Is Le Professeur set to concoct one last vintage?
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