It’s that time of year again, and whilst not much is likely to happen until the close of play in Rio, I thought I’d outline what I reckon we should be aiming for this summer. I don’t think it would be shrewd or sensible to blow another £42 million on a superstar, but 3 or 4 players around the £10m mark are necessary to push us on. These are the areas we probably need to strengthen, and the players to do it with:
Problem: Sagna leaving.
Sagna leaving is not ideal, but given the wages it would have taken to keep him and his advancing years it’s probably the right outcome. Jenkinson is a decent enough support act, but short of a massive leap he is not yet up to the job, meaning we need to buy.
Looking around the market there doesn’t seem to be a massive amount of choice out there but my preferred option (and seemingly the club’s) is Serge Aurier. Toulouse finished 9th in Ligue 1 so there’s not a great deal to keep him there, and at 22 he could be the long-term answer too. He wouldn’t come incredibly cheap but I think it would be a worthwhile investment. Honourable mentions here go to Mathieu Debuchy (probably a bit old) and Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne who might be one of a few to leave now Pochettino has joined the enemy.
Verdict: Sign Aurier.
Mertesacker and Koscielny have been pure class this season, and long may their partnership continue, but Vermaelen’s fall from grace has been as worrying as it was dramatic. A youngster to come in and learn from these two whilst providing cover would be ideal, and I’m quite excited about the possibility of Eric Dier of Sporting CP, who could come in for about £5 million. It sounds like he’s got bags of potential and is ready to make a step up. I’m not keen on Ashley Williams or an expensive pursuit of Mehdi Benatia; I don’t think we need to strengthen, just to build for the future.
Verdict: Try to sign Drier but otherwise leave well alone.
Problem: We haven’t got one.
Walcott and Chamberlain are very good, don’t get me wrong, but they do get injured an awful lot and neither of them can really play from the left and Podolski is definitely a striker. Definitely. Özil is another option but he never looks as good playing from wide. We’ve played a narrower system at times with Cazorla, Özil and another in front of two deeper men, but I really think we need another option to really attack people down that flank and stretch the game. Juan Cuadrado is a great paceman, but would be expensive and is naturally right-sided too, although a return for Carlos Vela or a massive money haemorrhage for Antoine Griezmann don’t appeal greatly either.
Verdict: Keep ears to the ground for a potential bargain but probably leave things as they are for now *sigh*.
Problem: A big one.
Giroud has done a great job this year and all due credit to him for it, but he is abominably slow and clumsy when given more than two touches of the football. Aside from him, there is nothing. Sanogo is proving to be a rather pacy and exciting donkey, and is clearly the natural successor to Bendtner. An obvious, obvious, obvious solution is a shift to play Podolski in his natural position: he is a man who seems to believe his sole purpose in life is to kick footballs very, very hard at goal nets, and he should be allowed to exercise this urge.
There are loads of options, some probably too expensive but at least two or three pretty cracking and exciting prospects out there. One of them is NOT, however, Karim Benzema. Please do not let us sign that guy, he’s great but could so easily pull a Lamela on us, costing about £30m. Much preferable to this would be Loic Remy; his finish for France on Tuesday oozed class, and looked 50 shades of Henry. He is that good. At £6m he’s a massive bargain, and he could complement Giroud beautifully in a 2-pronged attack. Failing the Podolski switch, we probably need another forward as well, and that could well be Alvaro Morata. At £8m it looks like pretty much a done deal, but the buy-back clause looks irritating to say the least. I was actually in the Bernabeu when he scored within 5 minutes of making his first start, and he’s looked great since: powerful and technical, a real all-rounder.
I’m not too impressed with rumours of Benfica’s Rodrigo who has looked good in Portugal and the Europa League (doing a job on Spurs a couple of times too) but he would not be cheap and might not make the step up to the top table well. Similarly, Wilfred Bony is all very well but I for one don’t like his technique and I think he’s not quite good enough to slot in seamlessly.
Verdict: Sign Remy and Morata ASAP.
Cost: Under £20m
If I were King...
In: Aurier, Dier, Remy, Morata and a sub keeper (don’t really care who).
Out: Vermaelen can go if needed, or Arteta (if the right offer is around), but not both as their experience is valuable.
Net spend: £30-35 million.
First XI: Szczesny, Aurier, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Ramsey, Wilshere, Cazorla, Özil, Walcott, Remy in this season's 4-2-3-1 system, but more on that another time.
Cheers for reading, Aidan.
Mean Lean's Response
What struck me about your piece is how conservative it is compared to most transfer wishlists that I have come across. It is probably a lot more realistic than most.
I also don't think I've ever heard anyone prefer Remy over Benzema, I wouldn't be surprised if you come across differing opinions on that one. But in terms of the style of the player I think I agree with you but not the quality of the player. Technically I think Karim Benzema is a considerably better player but I am of the opinion that quality isn't the only thing to consider but also what the player wants to do naturally. Movement, speed and finishing has to be high on the list of requirements when it comes to signing a forward this summer.
I am going to have to disagree with you on Podolski though. If he is a striker then he is certainly not a lone striker. He's had roughly ten or so games playing there for Arsenal and I'm not sure if he's scored a goal playing there. He has also never played as centre forward for Germany. He played as a type of number 10 for Koln but I don't think he is anywhere near creative enough to do that for us. I take Podolski for what I think he is. An entertaining character but a flawed player who is excellent at scoring goals when the ball falls his way.
Arsene's comments today about wanting the deals done in June and July is hugely positive. I am encouraged because I don't see him making those comments if some work behind the scenes were not already in place.
An interesting summer awaits.