Wenger’s Dilemma in a Closing Transfer Window

The 2017 summer transfer window has been an interesting one for Arsenal fans. From the rampant transfer rumours that seem to consume the fan base every year, to a club record signing, to questions about the futures of key players, it has been a whirlwind of emotions and looks only to get more complicated. Until now, supporters seem pleased with the moves thus far, but are still eager for more. And rightfully so. The squad has weaknesses that Arsene Wenger must address, especially when every other transfer rumour mentions how Alexis Sanchez is now off to anywhere but Arsenal. Fans need the relief and excitement that comes from a big, impactful signing. With the early additions of Lacazette and Kolasinac, the club started the summer strong, but it remains to be seen if Wenger & Co can finish August with a bang and set the club up for a legitimate title challenge.

Wenger continues to ignore the goalkeeper situation

Wenger never lets his true thoughts and desires slip to the media and most of his comments should be taken with a grain of salt regarding Arsenal’s transfer business. In the case of an addition to Arsenal’s goalkeeping group, Wenger seems disinterested and unwilling to find an immediate replacement for Ospina and future number one to replace Cech. David Ospina remains Arsenal’s number two, much to the disappointment of many supporters and the departure of Wojciech Szczesny’s to Juventus is somewhat of a head scratcher. His time at Roma convinced Juventus that he was the man to take the reins from Gigi Buffon; it’s hard to imagine how Wenger felt he couldn’t do the same for Cech. Many pundits and fans alike wondered if this was the year for Emi Martinez to get a crack as Cech’s backup, but his loan move to Getafe has delayed his presence another year. Regardless, not all supporters view him to be the answer as Arsenal’s future number one.

At the moment, Arsenal are seriously lacking depth at the position and should look to make a long-term investment with a young goalkeeper they can train behind Cech and Ospina while learning from new coach Jens Lehmann. Arsenal would be wise to consider a keeper like the highly touted Bartłomiej Dragowski, who failed to crack the first team at Fiorentina last year, or go after the young Frenchman Alban Lafont, rather than overspending for a Premier League youngster.  For now, Arsenal are living dangerously. One long-term injury to Cech, even Ospina, could make the race for silverware nearly impossible.

Wingbacks offer elite presence, but centre-back depth could improve

Arsenal’s move to a three at the back system has been brilliant so far and has brought the best out of the club’s defensive players who, for most of last season, were the largest liability on the pitch. Depth at wingback is strong and the club shouldn’t bother with additions. With names like Kolasinac, Bellerin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Monreal, and even Reiss Nelson, Arsenal’s flanks are wrought with pace, strength, talent and technical ability. If Arsenal truly want to take their squad to the next level they should look at upgrading at centre-back.

Gabriel is in a make or break season, but if the club wants to challenge, they would be wise to unload the Brazilian, who seemingly lacks the necessary composure and footballing brain. Calum Chambers is also rumoured to be on the way out, hopefully on loan or with a buyback clause, but this presents the perfect opportunity for the club to strike and make a high class signing at the back. Slimming the squad while replacing with higher quality. AC Milan’s move to capture Bonnuci for an exceedingly good value is exactly the type of move the club should consider making. Koulibaly has been linked in the past, as well as the alluring possibility of Virgil Van Dijk, who would fit in brilliantly with Koscielny and Mustafi. Malang Sarr out of France has also been rumored of late, but news of any addition, especially defensive, will remain sparse until the club sells a few fringe players. Arsenal remains heavy at center back but not necessarily strong. The smartest move: two men out, one top man in. If Wenger and the board want a statement move to show their ambition it would be another club record fee for Virgil Van Dijk, stealing the Southampton defender right under the noses of rivals Liverpool and Chelsea.

Midfield requires toughness and consistency

Arsenal’s midfield has been troubling over recent years, often injury prone and flat. After an outstanding second half last season and a strong preseason, Granit Xhaka is ready to break out, but his partner in the midfield remains a question mark. Arsenal currently have an abundance of injury prone, inconsistent midfield options. The club can survive with the players currently available, but there are two players recently linked with the club that could serve as outstanding additions. Jean Michael Seri is the first. The diminutive Ivorian from Nice is a passing maestro, reminiscent of Santi Cazorla and even has traces of a young Andrea Pirlo.  As a creator, he would be a superb addition, but he is not without his weaknesses. He is not known for his vocal presence and like many players on the squad, lacks the natural leadership qualities the Gunners so desperately need. His size and strength might also emerge as an issue in the much more physical Premier League. Lastly, Seri suffers from a condition called “chilblains,” an itchiness and swelling of the skin in cold conditions, which may also prove a problem in the winter months.  Even with these weaknesses, Seri is a young, high class talent with a supposed €40M buyout clause. In today’s market, not only is that figure a steal, but it is a very reasonable gamble for a club that tends to be quite risk averse.

The second target Arsenal have been linked to quite recently is Steven N’Zonzi from Sevilla. Yes, the man who buried an absolute wondergoal against us earlier in preseason. N’Zonzi fits the bill as the tough minded, physical, yet surprisingly technical midfielder supporters have been yearning. He may not have the cache of a big market name, but he has Premier League experience and dominated La Liga for Sevilla. At 28 he doesn’t have the same youth as other transfer targets, such as Seri, but he would come in right away and make a crushing midfield tandem with Xhaka. Arsene Wenger and the board need to strongly consider both men for the upcoming campaign and stir up a midfield group in need of outside competition.

Looming uncertainty surrounds an immensely talented attack

The biggest question for Arsenal’s attacking group is regarding the fate of Alexis Sanchez and even Mesut Özil. Although the latter appears set on staying at least until the end of the season, the contract situation for both men has led to fear and uncertainty going forward. If Wenger keeps his word and refuses to sell Sanchez this summer, Arsenal will have an outstanding group of attacking players. Even if Sanchez stays, Arsenal should still look to seal the deal with Thomas Lemar. Rumours of a move for the young Frenchman out of Monaco have gone on for weeks. The interest is real but his arrival is far from a sure thing. Without a doubt his addition, for this season and for the club’s future, would push Arsenal’s attacking group to the top of the Premier League. Alexis, Özil, and Lacazette already make up arguably the best attacking trio in the league, but the addition of Lemar would be an elite boost to the squad. Riyad Mahrez has also been discussed at length this summer and should be pursued aggressively late in the window if the Lemar deal falls through. Mahrez wants to leave and Leicester are in a bind. Wenger needs to be ruthless. As a manager, he has lacked that aggressive quality over the years during the transfer window, but he has also shown in his dealings to sign Sanchez and Özil that he can steal a player away at the last second.

So, what happens if Alexis Sanchez forces a move – how does the club recover? If Sanchez does in fact leave in the coming weeks, Arsenal need to buy proven scorers and creators to attempt to replace his production. Yes, plural. In this scenario, Wenger would be wise to sign both Mahrez and Lemar. Lemar could contribute and adjust in time, but Mahrez could take the spot of Alexis alongside Özil creating an elite attacking pair. That still leaves goals needing to be replaced, but they could be found in a player like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. While he has been linked for years, the departure of Alexis would force the club to aggressively pursue targets looking for new clubs. Although Aubameyang is more accustomed to the role Lacazette is set to play this season, he plays in a very open, counter attacking system at Dortmund and finishes as clinically as any player in the world not named Messi or Ronaldo. Arsenal may have looked past Aubameyang earlier this summer in their pursuit of Lacazette, but in a world without Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal need players who simply score. 31 goals in 32 Bundesliga games last season and cheetah-like pace could make him a perfect replacement for Sanchez.

After what felt like years of rumours and no action, Wenger finally signed a big-time striker in Alexandre Lacazette. The club record signing should prove to be a perfect addition and leaves the striker group well equipped for the first time in years. However, if Giroud does make a push to leave late in the window, Arsenal must have a backup plan to replace him. Although he has taken criticism over the years, he is still amongst the highest Premier League scorers since his arrival and has shown to be a high class late-game substitute. If Giroud remains, as all indications point, Arsenal have both high quality and depth at their number nine position and should look towards the back half of the squad for meaningful additions.

 Looking Forward to September 1st

What can fans expect for this year? It depends. Although that may not be a satisfying answer, the urgency of Wenger and Arsenal is largely dependent on the fate of Alexis Sanchez, and the availability of targets late in the window. Wenger seems unlikely to force a move through and overpay, but if Lemar or Mahrez’s clubs allow the price to drop, Arsenal won’t hesitate to swoop in. For now, the club will spend its time unloading the likes of Lucas Perez, Carl Jenkinson, Kieran Gibbs, and other fringe players before they pull out the check book.

Arsenal started their summer with excellent transfer business and showed their intent to compete for the title and clinch champions league football for next season. Gaps remain however, and a high-class addition in defense and midfield will place the Gunners squarely in contention. Barring a departure from Alexis Sanchez, any other attacking signings will simply add to the existing quality. The next few weeks hold many unknowns for supporters, but if Wenger can solidify the squad and keep Alexis and Özil, the 2017/18 campaign may prove to be a highly successful one.

2 thoughts on “Wenger’s Dilemma in a Closing Transfer Window

  1. Pingback: Unnatural, or Simply Undiscovered: Is the New Formation Forcing Players to Accommodate or Allowing Them to Flourish? – afcstuff

  2. Pingback: Arsenal in Desperate Need of Petr Cech’s Heir Apparent – afcstuff

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