By Brendon Netto
This Season's Stats
|Premier League: 6th
Champions League: Round of 16
FA Cup: Fifth round
Capital One Cup: Quarter-finals (eliminated)
Win %: 47.22%
GF ratio: 2.16
GA ratio: 1.33
What they needed
Arsenal have sorely missed the game-changing goals Robin van Persie provided last season. Their current strike-force must be given due credit though as they have maintained their goal-scoring record from last season despite losing their flying Dutchman. However, the bulk of their goals have come against weak opposition and in games that were already won.
When they needed someone to score crucial goals for them this season, it hasn't happened on most occasions and that's one of the reasons why they are 6th in the table. They needed to recruit an experienced, composed striker who possesses a clinical nature that eludes every one of their current strikers regardless of their potential.
Lukas Podolski has looked a decent buy so far but he’s never going to be the main goal-scorer from the left flank. Olivier Giroud took some time to get going but has enjoyed a good vein of form recently although his ability to consistently score goals for his side remains in doubt.
In need of midfield & attacking reinforcements
Abou Diaby was a massive driving force for them in midfield at the start of the season but his injury-plagued career soon endured another blow and the midfielder has only recently returned to action. Jack Wilshere’s sensational form since returning from injury has been a massive boost for the team and the youngster has looked a class apart.
Santi Cazorla has been a revelation since his arrival and is undoubtedly one of the buys of the season but every now and then there comes a game in which the opposition stifles the Spaniard and Arsenal seem to run out of ideas when they can't get him on the ball enough. Nevertheless, their priority in midfield had to be to sign a defensive midfielder who could cover for or even rotate with Diaby.
The word from the Arsenal camp in December was that Arsene Wenger would have plenty of funds to work with once the window opens but instead the fans were only left to bemoan the lack of transfer activity.
Who they were linked with
Villa checked all the boxes
Easily one of the more teasing transfer sagas in January. To make a long story short, Arsene Wenger was interested in David Villa but Barcelona were reluctant to let him go midway through the season.What makes the failure to land the Spaniard all the more disappointing is the fact that he is exactly what Arsenal's attack needed. His record as Spain's all-time leading scorer confirms his prolific nature in front of goal. A recent article by Miguel Delaney on eircomsports.eircom.net indicates that among the current players in world football, Villa is second only to Lionel Messi when it comes to scoring decisive goals in big games and Arsenal could definitely do with someone like that.
His style of play is tailor-made for the North London club and his versatlity enables him to play anywhere across the front three thus affording Wenger more options. His sheer presence on the field and in the dressing room would have gone a long way to replacing that of Van Persie's. The good news for Arsenal fans is that the deal may be on the table in the summer.
Could have been an asset
It's not difficult to see why the transfer of Adrian Lopez from Atletico Madrid to Arsenal never transpired. Atletico valued their player at a certain price and despite putting in a couple of bids, the Gunners just couldn't meet it. Ultimately, it was just another case of Arsenal refusing to pay what they considered to be over the odds for a particular player.
Adrian Lopez may not have been the prolific striker the London outfit are in desperate need of but he is very much an Arsenal type of player. He can play on either flank, behind the striker or even lead the line on his own. He is a diminutive player who can dribble well and has bags of technical ability.
Cover in midfield
Mohamed Diame was the defensive midfielder most linked with a move to Arsenal especially since Wenger even watched him at Upton Park in mid-January. However, it's unclear why the Frenchman never put in an official bid. There seemed to be a good deal of interest but it amounted to nothing except Wenger reassuring the fans that his squad is complete.
Following Alex Song’s departure in the summer, it was widely suggested that Wenger would swoop in for Yann M’Vila but he decided to put faith in Diaby instead. Diame has been inspirational for West Ham United this season and has literally changed games for Sam Allardyce’s men. His imposing presence in the middle of the park could have served Arsenal well especially if Diaby gets injured again.
Wenger mentioned his admiration of Napoli striker Edinson Cavani in a press conference last month and several Arsenal fans nearly had a stroke. The market value of the Uruguayan meant that Arsenal would have to spend at least twice as much as they have ever spent on a player and so that avenue was shut down just as soon as it opened up.
What they got
Nacho average left-back?
Arsenal were all set to remain idle, arched back with their arms folded while they watched several other Premier League clubs scurry about on transfer deadline day but an injury to Kieran Gibbs on the penultimate day of the window robbed them of that luxury. The consistently appalling form of Andre Santos at left-back meant that they would need to sign someone in that position or risk the Brazilian being a liability in every game for the next six-to-eight weeks.
Wenger went out and signed Malaga left-back Nacho Monreal for a reported fee of £8.3 million. However, this is no panic-buy that's doomed to fail. Monreal is actually an astute defender and has been efficient for Osasuna and then Malaga for a long time. At 26, he has 9 appearances for the Spanish national team and is a more than dependable defender. His physicality and positional awareness are a couple of his attributes that stand out. This could be a very decent buy and he will not only offer cover for Gibbs but competition as well.
What this means for their season
The Gunners are 6th in the league and desperately needed to strengthen their squad to help them secure a 4th place finish. In a situation like this, a top quality striker could have given them just the push they needed to qualify for the Champions League. If Diaby succumbs to injury again then that would land the team in hot water so they are walking a tight rope on that front, so to speak.
Fortunately, Gibbs' injury happened when it did and Arsenal were still in a position to bring in a replacement. With their current squad, it's hard to see them getting past Bayern Munich in the Champions League although their FA Cup dream might still be alive.
The side have shown promise every now and then but their inconsistency does not bode well for the run-in. A 4th place finish is certainly not beyond them and they are still among the favourites but will have to step things up a notch and kill games off if they are to achieve their target.
|Who do you think Arsenal should have signed? Leave your comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.|
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