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Arsenal Review: Playing Football Manager in the Transfer Window

Transfer DeadlineWith the stroke of midnight chiming throughout the globe, the dreaded/awaited Transfer Window has swung open once again.  For the next month, clubs can purchase players like so much chattel in the hope that the new striker finds the back of the net, the new keeper finds a way to stop him and that the new midfielders can balance the game.   That means the million of blogs, news sites and opinion pieces will be filled with the right formula for any club to go about their business within January.  Players will be linked.  Rumors will spread like wildfire through Twitter.  Journalists will be bamboozled.  And when it’s all done, we will all hope that our team is stronger for it.

As it touches upon Arsenal, however, there are no two Gooners who can agree on just what exactly the right mix of purchases is that will propel the team back into the ranks of the Premier League’s elite.  We can all agree that there needs to be players added to the squad – and they don’t have to be “super-quality” to be worth it to the supporters.  They need to be healthy, willing and capable.  But do we buy a striker and a defensive midfielder?  A left back and a winger?  A whole new side?

So, with that in mind, I provide the following list of options for purchase.  I’ve decided that, rather than say “Go buy Player X!”, I would provide options for all the positions and then say a little of why for each.  I’ve also broken it down to a 3-tiered system: a “Dream” purchase is one of those big-money, big-statement purchases that we all do on FIFA or Football Manager, but that Arsene Wenger is so against making.  “Real” options are the ones that are more feasible due to financial reasons and opportunity.  The “Budget” option is just taking a stab in the dark to say “if you feel you need this position tackled, but want to spend little, here’s a likely candidate.”  There’s many options to be found and I don’t expect any of these to end up at Arsenal.  But why not doff our Football Manager hats and just do what we all do when we fire our computers, tablets or gaming systems up?  It’s no different than what Goal or The Sun will do to us in the next 31 days.

Striker: EVERYONE agrees striker is a top need for Arsenal. With Theo Walcott setting himself up for a departure, only Olivier Giroud is left as a real CF.  Unless we want to bring back Nicklas Bendtner, there ought to be a purchase made.Spain Soccer La Liga

Dream: Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid): The Colombian striker is one of the most sought-after players in the world today. 17 goals in 16 games and leading Atletico to 2nd in La Liga will do that.  The last 2 strikers to leave Atletico for England: Fernando Torres and Kun Aguero. Great pedigree.

Real:  Demba Ba (Newcastle United): The French striker lit up the Bundesliga before knee issues sidelined his Premier League move.  That’s how he ended up at Newcastle with a small contract and a small escape clause. Both are likely to disappear soon. 13 goals in the PL so far and he is sought.

Budget: Loic Remy (Marseille): Remy has been after a move to the Premier League for a while now.  While his current goals total of 3 is down from the one of the last two years (23 in 2011, 19 in 2010), that could be cured with a move away.

Winger: Podolski, Gervinho, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain and even Ramsey have all featured in the wide forward positions. Problem is none of them are out-and-out wingers and they all want to play in the middle.  Oh, for the days of Freddie Ljungberg.

Dream: Andre Schurrle (Bayer Leverkusen): One of Germany’s brightest new stars, Schurrle is adept both out wide or in a central position. He contributes goals (7 so far) and assists (6) and is likely a target for the biggest of big clubs.  Only 22, he would still grow and develop with the sky being the limit.

Real:  Wilfred Zaha (Crystal Palace): The 20-year old has burst into the scene this season with 5 goals and 4 assists for the Championship-side.  Covetous eyes from across the Premier League turn his way and it’s a question of where, not when, he will land in a big club.

Budget: Junior Hoilett (Queens Park Rangers): Last year, Hoilett left Blackburn and turned offers from various big clubs to join Rangers.  But that was a different Rangers with a different manager. There’s no guarantees Harry Redknapp will keep him if an offer is made.

Attacking Midfielder: Conceivably, this isn’t a need, what with Santi Cazorla in charge.  But, as we’ve seen, he can be played into the ground.  Maybe a proper deputy would make sense if we’re not hedging our bets that Tomas Rosicky will make another miraculous return.

transfer - iscoDream: Isco (Malaga): The Spanish club was forced to sell Cazorla, but they haven’t missed a beat thanks to his replacement.  The young Spaniard has 6 goals and 3 assists to his name and can play anywhere up front. Given their European ban, Malaga may have to sell him to try and balance their books.

Real: Younes Belhanda (Montpellier): One of Montpellier’s core during last year’s title run, he has remained one of their best players.  With the Ligue 1 side languishing at 11th in the table and out of Europe, they could decide to cash in on his talents to help them shore up other areas.

Budget: Lewis Holtby (Schalke 04): The young German midfielder has been one of Schalke’s best players.  He’s also stated he will leave the German side at season’s end. Given his talents, age and availability, he could be a Cazorla-like steal for Arsenal at a cut-rate price.

Central Midfielder: We could call this the “Abou Diaby Hole”.  It’s a shame that the French giant couldn’t stay healthy as his strength and form in the heart of midfield were tremendous.  Arsenal have been known for their box-to-box midfielders and adding more strength should be high on the list.

Dream: Marouane Fellaini (Everton): The combative Belgian midfielder is both a source of goals (8 this year) and fouls (7 yellows so far). His energy, drive and nous have made him one of the best midfielders in the Prem. He wouldn’t come cheap though as Everton won’t just give him away.

Real: Victor Wanyama (Celtic): It might seem odd to say Wanyama is a real option for Arsenal when just about every club is after him.  Still, a 21-year old young midfielder with 5 goals to his name and a physical presence could be the natural replacement for Abou Diaby.

Budget: Moussa Sissoko (Toulouse): The 23-year old French international isn’t a goal threat per se (highest total was 7 in 2009-10), but he and his midfield partner Etienne Capoue are amongst the many future French talents and he has size and strength.  The 6’2” presence could be the perfect replacement for Diaby.

Defensive Midfielder: Selling Alex Song to Barcelona seems to have been a disaster for both Arsenal and for Song.  The club miss his grit in front of the back four and the Cameroonian was just voted the worst transfer of the season in La Liga. Mikel Arteta is not a CDM, no matter how hard he tries.transfer - daniele de rossi

Dream: Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma): One of the best defensive midfielders in the world, De Rossi has long been the target of clubs like Manchester United and Real Madrid. Until now, he’s sworn he’d stay at Roma. But rumors are that he’s willing to entertain offers now that he’s 29. Why not us?

Real: Etienne Capoue (Toulouse): Arsenal have already been linked with Capoue this past summer as the need for a CDM intensified.  The 24-year old French international is physical, combative and a strong shield for a back four. Sounds exactly what Arsenal’s midfield needs, right?

Budget: Fernando Reges (FC Porto): A 25-year old Brazilian defensive midfielder whose focus is solely on protecting his defenders and breaking up attacks?  Now, who does that remind you of? Not saying Fernando is the next Gilberto Silva.  But if there’s a chance, maybe we take a chance on him?

Left Back: Kieran Gibbs just signed a new deal, but until he can manage a season or two without a major spell on the sidelines, there will be a need for another good left back. Andre Santos, sadly, isn’t it and he’s been frozen out.  And Thomas Vermaelen really should not be used there.

Dream: Leighton Baines (Everton): Every transfer window has seen Baines linked with a move away from Goodison. Every window ends with him still there.  The 28-year old England international is a seasoned defender who can pop in with the odd goal. If he were available, he’d improve our back four.

transfer - luke shawReal: Luke Shaw (Southampton): The 17- year old defender is the latest Saints academy prospect to be linked with a move away from St. Mary’s. Arsenal got two of their best players – Theo and the Ox – from them and there’s no reason to think Shaw wouldn’t fit at Emirates just as well.

Budget: Filipe Luis Kasmirksi (Atletico Madrid): The Brazilian wingback has had a solid if difficult time at Madrid, given that he’s been competing with youth academy grad Antonio Lopez for the starting left back spot.  Still, he remains one of the better left backs in La Liga and could be had.

Central Defender: Arguably the lowest of needs given the presence of Vermaelen, Koscielny and Mertesacker. However, all three have had poor outings and with Johan Djourou on the way out, we’re an injury away from starting Squillaci and/or Miquel.

Dream: Joleon Lescott (Manchester City): Lescott is the latest big money transfer that is being frozen out at Man City.  A starter during last season’s title run, he’s now found himself surplus to their cause and is available at a cut-rate price of around 6 million pounds.

transfer - mapou yanga mbiwaReal: Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (Montpellier): The young, physical Montpellier captain has long been in the radar of Arsenal.  Only 23, he can play either as a central defender or as a defensive midfielder.  His only flaw is that he’s prone to bouts of physicality, but I think that’d just endear him to Gooners more.

Budget: Hector Moreno (Espanyol): One of the Mexican national team’s building blocks, the 6’1” Moreno has had a solid rise – from Pumas to AZ Alkmar to the Catalans.  A former U-17 World Cup winner, Moreno is amongst the more consistent defenders in La Liga.

Right Back: Bakary Sagna is out of contract soon and just had his worst game for Arsenal today against Southampton. Even if you think he should stay (and I do), to put all the pressure on young Carl Jenkinson to grow up quickly would be more of a career-killer than to bring in competition.

Dream: Gregory van der Wiel (Ajax): The Dutch right-back is another player continuously linked with a move to Arsenal. Not surprising, given his ability to push forward and join the attack.  Admittedly he had a hell of a bad Euros 2012, but he remains one of the more exciting right backs in football.

Real: Theodor Gebre Selassie (Werder Bremen): This Czech defender had a really good time at the Euros this year. So much so that Bremen beat others to his signature in a mad dash.  They might balk at losing him so early, but the 26-year old is entering his prime and had a good year for Bremen.

Budget: Gotoku Sakai (Stuttgart): A 21-year old just signed from Albirex Niigata, the Japanese defender can capably fill in on either fullback spot and is good both defending and attacking.  He’s only on loan to Stuttgart, is out of contract at year’s end and could be plucked away with the right offer.

Goalkeeper: While Szczesny is entrenched as the #1 keeper, the situation at #2 is not ideal – Fabianski has been out injured, Mannone had a few good games and then a few not-so-good and Martinez is as young as Szczesny. There’s a need for a solid #2 keeper who can both deputize and challenge Szczesny for the #1 shirt.transfer - julio cesar

Dream: Julio Cesar (Queens Park Rangers): When the former Inter keeper joined QPR, it was with dreams of Premier League trophies. Clearly things have gone badly at Rangers.  Still, he remains a quality keeper and, if Redknapp wants to build his transfer kitty, he’d be a great way to do so.

Real: Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray): The Uruguayan national team keeper moved to Turkey after a strong spell at Lazio and he’s done nothing there but continue to impress.  His most notorious win so far was Gala’s triumph against Man United, in which he excelled.  Only 26, he can still get better.

Budget: Sergio Romero (Sampdoria): A 25-year old keeper who is already established himself as Argentina’s #1, Romero should just get better and better. 45 saves for a side is impressive when that side is 15th in Serie A and could find itself in a relegation battle.  If so, Arsenal could swoop in and steal him away.

So, with all that said, all I can say is that I hope Arsene Wenger and the board do their due diligence, recognize the need for reinforcements and are quick and purposeful in their transfer dealings.  No time wasting.  No waiting until the deadline to strike the better deal.  Games in the FA Cup and against Chelsea and Manchester City in the Premier League are on tap for this month.  To say nothing of the upcoming Champions League clash against Bayern Munich.  Any aspirations for a top four finish – never mind a trophy – can be improved with the right purchases within the next 30 days.

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