|Who...are you...? (thanks be to the internet for the picture)|
To begin, despite it really being only about my opinions on some of the rumors (some are credible, some are just interesting), I actually want to discuss some of the January window bloviating that is making the rounds. First, let's briefly discuss us being linked with 17-year old Krystian Bielik, a holding midfielder from Legia Warsaw who no one outside of Poland's oh-so-routinely invaded borders has ever heard of. Normally I don't mind it too much when we chase after young talent...our youth academy hasn't produced many of our own gifted youngsters from scratch these past couple of years, but the frustrating part is the pseudo slap in the face that the one position we've needed a top class player in for years is not being addressed in the now. Sure, if this deal materializes, I won't hate it in principle necessarily, but it's still clear we need proper strengthening in two key areas, and that's what we need to be focusing on.
Speaking of holding midfielders, the other four players that we either have interest in or are secretly life-long Arsenal supporters are Moussa Sissoko, Loic Perrin, William Carvalho and Benedikt Howedes. Sissoko is a work horse for Newcastle and capable of playing anywhere in the midfield, but for me, he's too forward thinking and not the sort we NEED...we have too many forward thinking players at the club as is. So that brings us to Perrin and Carvalho - everyone in the world now knows who Carvalho is, the gifted young holding midfielder from Sporting Lisbon, who is precisely the player we need...hard working, tough in the tackle, physically imposing and able to win the ball and distribute to those ahead of them. The only stumbling block is the 25million pound price tag, something that we all know Wenger will struggle to justify, despite it being perfectly acceptable. Perrin, on the other hand, is an undersized center-back also capable of slotting into the holding midfield role who has spend his entire professional career at AS Saint-Etienne, and has never been good enough to even manufacture a move to a better Lique 1 club let alone jump to a league of more credibility...oh, and he's never even featured for France at the top level. Perrin's upside would be his relatively low fee, something that Le Prof will no doubt swoon over and likely rub fresh Brie all over himself at just the thought of it - for me, this the worst of the lot.
|God...I try to not ask for much honestly...so if you could see your way into letting this happen, that would be great...(again, thanks internet)|
To end the transfer hullabaloo, let's delve into Herr Howedes for a moment...I've got a feeling we have a real shot here, and if you need a reminder, think back to this summer and his defensive contributions to Germany's World Cup winning efforts. He locked down their left flank at the back quite well, and often times covered for Per Mertesacker before Joachim Low showed him the bench...Howedes then featured at center-back and played equally as well, and he's also able to do a job as a holding midfielder. Why do I have a hunch? Because Schalke just signed Matija Nastasic on loan from City for the remainder of the season, and the deal includes a 13million pound buy-out clause. With the influx of German players to the Emirates in recent seasons coupled with our existing needs, a move for Howedes could well materialize and probably for less than 20million - please god, let it be so.
Now on to more pressing matters and some topics of interest in our current first-team. Can someone tell me just what exactly Wojciech Szczesny is doing? Listen...when your the clubs number one keeper who so happens to constantly be taking 8th Air Force levels of flak due to inconsistency, the last thing you should do is have a smoke in the shower after a match...and then have the gall to wonder why the gaffer maybe took just a small bit of issue with it. Part of being a footballer is acting professional, and as Jack Wilshere's exploits on the same matter weren't enough before, you should probably conduct yourself in a more esteemed manner. The only thing that saved Wilshere was that he was away from the club...Szcz lit one up right then and there and cared not. Rightly sacked from the team sheet, and this is the moment where Wenger needs to remain firm.
|For behold...a first-class fool whilst in his natural habitat (image courtesy of Arsenal's official Facebook page)|
I recently read an interesting piece delving a little more into this topic, and the writer brought up an excellent point that Szczesny's actions show that Wenger is losing the respect of his players at a more than acceptable rate. I don't necessarily blame them if that's the case as he is still the manager, however he's never been much of a disciplinarian...well, at least not for the right reasons. It's worth keeping an eye on at the very least however, but for the moment I am more than okay with relying on David Ospina.
Santi Cazorla - player of the season for us in his first year, shifted out to the left and marginalized when Mesut Ozil was brought in, now back to his ludicrous best when Ozil was sidelined for three months. With his return to full fitness however, just where does Wenger go from here? You've got to remember, not only is Ozil back but so is Theo Walcott, and that gives Wenger a good selection headache in theory, but the unfortunate reality is that someone is going to be left rather disappointed. There is no possible way Alexis Sanchez will be sacrificed, so it'll come down to Cazorla, Ozil and Walcott competing for two places. The numbers are in Theo's favor...we're just a better side when he plays and his pace is irreplaceable, not even by Sanchez or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin. Ozil had a solid debut season for us, but his work rate and questionable attitude are major red flags when considering his re-institution into the first-team, whereas Cazorla as shown just what he is capable when we lean on him just a little bit. For me, honestly? Ozil has to earn his place back...to drop Cazorla from the XI now would be tantamount to a kick square in the gonads, and he deserves better than that...after all, the truth is, Ozil came to us as a luxury signing.
|Like Ospina and Bellerin, Francis Coquelin has done incredibly well and taken his chances well as of late (image courtesy of Arsenal's official Facebook)|
In closing, I'd like to talk about the value of taking your chances. Being apart of a big squad of talented players at a top tier club is never going to be easy, and it's difficulty is magnified by a factor of ten if you're seen as more of a squad player. Given our wonderful injury bug that prefers our taste above most, full credit must be given to Francis Coquelin, Hector Bellerin and the aforementioned David Ospina. Coquelin has been a journeyman if there ever was one, despite being on our books the entire time...languishing in the Championship or smaller Bundesliga clubs, he's been nothing better than a player who belonged in a tier below, but over the past few weeks he's been simply brilliant in the holding role. No, he's not our answer for that position, but he absolutely is a better option at the moment than both Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini and deserves to be selected from here on out...he's still young, he'll keep improving. The same can be said for Bellerin, who had a borderline horrific debut against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, but he's been improving with each and every appearance lately, looking stronger and stronger both at the back and going forward...he too deserves the chance he is currently receiving.
And finally, Ospina. He came to us after an excellent summer with Colombia, but his promising move was shut down via injury *shakes fist in frustration*. However, the hilarious yet foolish antics of he who shall not be selected have given him a golden chance to prove his worth. Much like Julie the Cat coming in for Greg Goldberg against Gunnar Stahl in the shootout in D2, Ospina has taken this chance with both hands (yes, that was a mild goalkeeper pun) and produced two clean sheets while looking self-assured between the posts. It remains to be seen if this gets the best out of Szczesny in the long run or if he'll continue to pout on the bench, but you really cannot go wrong with having two strong shot stoppers to call upon...dare I say, just ask Chelsea.
I do apologize for being so long winded today, but thank you to all of you who come to read us and continue to do so...we truly do appreciate it. Until next time, Gooner Family.
Andrew Thompson is a contributing writer at both The Modern Gooner and Outside of the Boot - follow him on Twitter @AFCBvB1410 for hilarity, history nerd moments, and of course, the beautiful game.