less than a week until Christmas. Hope you’ve got all your shopping done. So far I haven’t done a single thing. It’ll be a lump of coal for Blogette. Again. Ah well.
Arsenal’s shopping is not based around the 25th of this month but Jan 1st – 31st and, you would hope, with an emphasis on doing things as early in the month as possible. The papers this morning link Liverpool with Dean Sturridge of Chelsea. What a handful he was back in his Derby days and he’s sure to add some experience to their forward line. They’re also re-signing Paul Ince to try and steady that particular ship (he’s already been pictured wearing a Liverpool shirt despite being under contract somewhere else). I hear through the grapevine they’re after Sp*rs midfielder Andy Townsend. Keep that under your hat though.
As for us, well, we’re close to announcing 5 new contracts for 5 British players. Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Ramsey are all set to pledge their futures to the club for the long-term and that’s good news. Obviously the glaring omission is Theo Walcott but I think enough has been said about that over the last few days and weeks and months and I’m not going to bother my hole this morning.
When it comes to other business though, I’m asked who we should be signing and my general answer is that I don’t really know because I don’t have a massive scouting network full of scouts who go about gayly scouting all day long.
Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to scout we go.
However, I do have some thoughts about which areas of the team we ought to strengthen so I’ll go with that. Starting with the obvious:
Lots of talk about Klass Jan Huntelaar and he’d be cheap enough, due to his contract situation at Schalke, although there are suggestions he’s looking for around £100,000 a week. On the one hand people will say ‘He’s experienced and scores goals’, on the other you’re looking at a player who is almost 30 and isn’t exactly them most mobile, dynamic forward around.
He’s certainly better than Chamakh but if that’s the bar we’re setting then it’s a fairly low one. Even Inanimate Carbon Rod is a step-up from Chamakh. I know the profile of players the manager signs has changed in recent years. Although there’s still some investment in youth there are more ‘ready made’ players being brought in. Mertesacker, Cazorla, Arteta, Podolski etc, are all at an age where you expect them to come in and produce straight away. Even so, I’d be surprised if we brought in Huntelaar at £100,000 a week.
The more obvious one for me is Demba Ba at Newcastle. It’s a gamble because one of his knees is filled with cobwebs and sawdust and held together with double-sided sticky-tape, but with a £7m release clause and fairly much proven and established in the Premier League it makes a lot of sense. I mean, we could do, and have done, a lot worse for that kind of money.
There’s also Fernando Llorente to consider. Like Huntelaar he’s also into the last 6 months of his contract and he’d command a fairly big wage, but at 27 provides better value for it. Could he be lured to play alongside his national team pal Cazorla? His situation at Bilbao seems complicated and fractious which might make it a more difficult deal to do.
I see talk of signing Pepe Reina and it’s the most stupid thing I can ever think of. There certainly was a time to sign him, it’s just that it was a) seasons ago when we were persisting with the Fabmunia Axis of Eejits and b) when he hadn’t turned to shit. Spending big on a keeper now, when we’ve got the best young keeper we’ve had at the club in generations seems ridiculous to me.
What we do need, however, is some experienced back-up. It’s a difficult one because any signing will know they’re back-up to Szczesny and as such won’t play very much. Perhaps hard to find and you might question the ambition and drive of a player willing to play that role, but Fabianski isn’t it, Mannone isn’t it, and we’re an injury away from having to rely on players who aren’t up to scratch.
Another tricky one this. Djourou is linked with a move away and hasn’t played in the Premier League this season. His absence through injury seems a touch convenient and maybe it’s to ensure he doesn’t pick up a knock which precludes a January sale. That means Squillaci moves up the pecking order and while I kind of feel for the guy – he was never the best centre-half ever but certainly not the worst – I’d rather not have him around the team. Ignasi Miquel, is he quite ready yet? And with Koscielny sitting on the bench when fit it’s going to be hard to find somebody to come as 4th choice but maybe it’s somewhere we need to think about.
Does the manager trust and believe in Francis Coquelin? Is Coquelin good enough yet? Let’s forget about Abou Diaby, sad and all as it is, it’s hard to think he’ll ever make it back properly and the club need to call time on his Arsenal career. So what the centre of midfield misses is some pace, power and physicality. We have all the tidy ball wizards we need, some kind of monster required here.
I know there has been a clamour for a more creative kind but I genuinely think Wilshere has the ability to play that role. Perhaps not as Cescy as we would like but I don’t know that there are too many Cescs out there. In his last 4 league games Wilshere has, according to the statty goodness provided by Opta, created 11 chances. Not bad. And when you consider his fitness and understanding with those around him is improving he can do more. It’s also worth pointing out that better options ahead of him might well improve that stat too.
Much depends on Walcott but Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain provide decent options, it’s beyond that we struggle. Gervinho’s off to the African Cup of Nations and hopefully he returns via a time vortex only to realise it’s 2196 and football has morphed into a game featuring laser-whips and ultra-mobile, fire-breathing velociraptors which the players sit on as they smash the ball with their torpedo feet.
We do have to pay attention to the development of Oxlade-Chamberlain. That old Arsene adage about not signing a player to kill another player rings true in this instance but a bit more zip and creativity out wide would not be a bad thing.
So, to conclude, I haven’t a clue who most of the players we should buy are but that’s not my job anyway. I look forward to January and for us to bring in top quality like Liverpool are doing. Onwards and upwards!