05 June 2014

Thursday Throwdown: Transfers. Transfers? TRANSFERS! It Must Be Silly Season, Part 1

Serge Aurier is rumored to be Arsenal's
future at right back
(Credit: Swing59)
This week Andy and I decided to discuss transfers: what signings we need, who we would like, etc. Our discussion ran much longer than usual, so this week's Throwdown will be split in to two parts. Today, we look at goalkeepers, defense and central midfield. Come back tomorrow for our takes on the Fabregas rumors, attacking midfield and strikers.

Sam: It's been a pretty quiet week, with most of soccer being focused on the World Cup. Following on from last week's Throwdown, we're going to discuss specific transfer needs and desires. At the end of the last post, I seem to have made a somewhat controversial statement regarding the goalkeeper position; allow me to defend my position. As much as Wojciech Szczesny has improved over recent season, and as well as he played this past season, I still think that an upgrade is possible. Victor Valdes, a multiple La Liga and Champions League winner, is out of contract at Barcelona, while Iker Casillas, Spain's number 1 and a multiple trophy winner at domestic and international level, seems to be out of favor at Real Madrid. Am I wrong in thinking that either of those are better 'keepers than Szczesny? I'm not saying we should go after them, just that there are other options in the soccer world. Realistically, though, I guess we'd go for a back-up, so, Andy, has anyone caught your eye for that spot?

Andy: I believe the phrase "how dare you?!?" is the first thing that came to my mind when you mentioned upgrading from Sir Szcz, so yes, mildly controversial. In a vacuum, I might agree with you. At the moment Casillas and Valdes would be upgrades (though we may disagree on the degree) over Szczesny, so Arsenal could technically improve the goalkeeper position if they wanted to spend the money. But here's the thing: Szczesny is 24 years old and he has fought off all comers to win the job and become the Gunner's #1. I can't help but feel that it would be massively unfair to unseat him after his best season yet where he firmly established himself as The Guy. So no, I can't be on board with that.

With Lukasz Fabianski moving on to Swansea (deservedly so, he was well within his rights to want to be first choice somewhere) and Emiliano Viviano returning to Fiorentina, the backups to Szczesny certainly need to be addressed. My first reaction after a season would be to raid the relegated teams for talent and John Ruddy would be a good get in my mind. He is experienced and reliable, which means that he'll drive Szczesny but not so much that it will unnerve our Polish starter. I am uncertain if Viviano would have any interest in extending his loan (or if Fiorentina would be keen either) but that wouldn't be a bad move since he knows the club and I'm sure would be interested in fighting for the number two spot. I tend to think that Wenger would want to bring in a mix of a reliable veteran and a talented youngster to fill out second and third string, but I suppose we'll have to see if he instead will go more radical as you suggest.

Moving slightly up the pitch, the first choice center of defense is set with the Per Mertesacker/Laurent Koscielny pairing and one has to assume that the left is also complete with Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal both contributing strong performances. So, the million dollar defensive question becomes "what does Arsenal do on the right?" Can we trust Carl Jenkinson to step up and start or is an upgrade required? Also, how does Wenger address the depth at center back issue?

Sam: I was never seriously suggesting that we go for one of those 'bigger' name 'keepers, just that the option is there. I agree with what you say about the goalkeeping situation, so I'll move straight on to the right-back situation.

As much as I respect Corporal Jenks for being a lifelong Gooner and showing huge amounts of passion while playing, I don't see him as having the quality to be the starting right-back for a title-challenging side. Of the names we've been linked with, I like Serge Aurier. He's young, but has over 100 appearances in Ligue 1 and 7 caps for Ivory Coast. From what I've seen and heard he seems to be in the mold of Sagna; quick, likes to get forward and solid at the back. It would be good to see him develop playing alongside Koscielny and Mertesacker, and I'm sure he'd become one of the top RBs in the League in the next decade. Another option could be Seamus Coleman; I love watching him play and would be very happy to see him in red and white. Another relatively experienced player for his age, he seems to be a little bit more attack-minded than Sagna, but I'm sure that Wenger, his coaches and the incumbent center-backs could help him develop into a superb player. Amongst other names I've heard, Shalke's Atsuto Uchida is an intriguing option - from the brief glimpses I've caught of him in UCL he looks solid - and there's a rumor floating that Wenger sees James Milner as being able to convert to RB, and while he's covered there in has career, I don't see him as being able to start there for at least 38 games a season against the likes of Hazard, Suarez, Lallana, etc. In fact, he played that position in England's friendly against Ecuador this week and struggled mightily.

In terms of central defense, I guess it depends on what Thomas Vermaelen decides to do. Even if he stays, I'd like to see a fourth-choice in the squad to cover injuries (unless Wenger has faith in one of his youngsters or sees the future RB also able to cover in the center, a la Sagna). Perhaps a young British player for home-grown concerns; John Stones of Everton has been mentioned, while Jamaal Lascelles of Nottingham Forest is highly-touted, though with EPL scouts sniffing round, Forest have allegedly slapped a massive price tag on his head. Should TV5 decide to leave, then we'd need a high-quality third CB, and I'd be looking at rescuing Marquinhos from his PSG nightmare, and I think Shalke's Kyriakos Papadopoulos would be another good option for that 3rd-choice/rotation spot.

I'd like to get your take on central midfield now, Andy, as well as any thoughts you have on the defense. Do you subscribe to the notion that we need a midfield enforcer? How well stocked are we in that position to deal with injuries after losing Wilshere and Ramsey in that position last season?

Andy: I of course have heard the Aurier rumors and agree that he seems to be a natural fit for the team. He's already said that he wants a move, all signs point to Arsenal being interested... one would think this will come together naturally. If it is instead all transfer bluster (and really, no one will ever count that out) then I would love to have Coleman come to the Emirates. My Everton friends will hunt me down for this but he is a fantastic attacking right back that would add a little more menace down the right side. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate Sagna and how he played, but as he got older he was more content to play solid rather than aggressive and if Coleman could balance his attacking with his defensive responsibilities then he would be an excellent addition.

Javi Martinez is rumored to be out of
favor at Bayern Munich, and has been linked
to Arsenal
(Credit: henrikalexandersen)
A couple notes about players that you mentioned. All respect to Jenkinson from this corner as well, but as you said I just don't know that he's ready. He'll always be a useful player as he can play on the left or the right and he can move up into the wing position to help see out a game that Arsenal is winning, but I think he has a level he needs to get to in order to be a regular starter. Speaking of covering multiple positions, that is where Milner is an intriguing target. I wouldn't want him to be first choice right back or defensive midfielder, but he can cover so many positions on the pitch that he is an interesting choice if the money is right.

The last question you raise is probably the most important one of this offseason. I love Mikel Arteta and will always respect him for the job he's done changing his play style and holding together an unfamiliar position, but I believe that the Gunners need to bring in a new CDM to lock down the midfield in front of our center backs. This doesn't need to be an enforcer per se, but someone who knows how to break up attacks, is disciplined with his positioning, and who isn't a waste on the ball so that they can get the attack started in the other direction. Now, that is an expensive list of qualities to look for, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. Sven Bender, Morgan Schneiderlin, and Ilkay Gundogan have all been mentioned as targets but at this point it's too difficult to determine what is wishful thinking and what might be real talk. All three of those players would be fantastic acquisitions in my eyes and I'm sure everyone can think of a couple more that would fit the bill as well. Javi Martinez if he is indeed out of favor at Bayern, for example.

No comments:

Post a Comment