When it rains, it pours, eh!
Most parched Gooner hearts will welcome the flash flood of signings we’ve seen in the last two days. A striker, two creative players, a centre-back, and a left-back cover almost all requirements that have been floating around in fan conversations. Or one could say two international captains, a club captain, and a couple of seasoned pros tick some of the experience and leadership boxes that have been vacant.
Of course, I will be surprised if there aren’t those who crib that the striker is from a relegated club in a weaker league, the attacking players are injury prone, centre-back is slow and the left-back is defensively suspect. Those who seek misery are invariably good at finding and spreading it.
Both sides do have valid points though, and which one you pick probably just depends on your attitude more than anything else. I have reluctantly accepted the fact that with the current policies at the club – which are hard to fathom due to the limited information available – and the demands of the selling clubs in this ridiculous world of football transfers, Arsenal are not likely to sign real game-changers anytime soon. The Sergio Agueros and Javier Pastores of this world are beyond the Gunners. So my expectations have been set at high quality (not the mind-blowing exceptional quality one would so love to have and that was lost when Cesc left), experienced players who can hit the ground running. On that front I am satisfied.
I feel the big impact will not come from the players themselves (that would have applied to almost any signing Arsenal might have made) but from the manner in which they are used. As I have said before, there is no quick fix solution to the issues at the club and that doesn’t change even with five new arrivals.
In this post I just want welcome all the newcomers and share some initial thoughts.
Ju Young Park
Ju, as he likes to be called, has been given the Number 9 shirt. That is quite an honour in my opinion. And hopefully it won’t be the curse that it was for some players in recent times.
I have vague memories of watching him in the World Cup. He looked like a very talented player when he was on the ball but didn’t get on it often enough for my liking. At this moment, I am not convinced he will have the physical strength and stamina to come in and make a mark on the Premiership. But it is just a feeling and I don’t want to hold it over him before the Korean captain even gets a chance to show what he can do. He has talked about working hard and proving that he can cut it at this level so I am gladly willing to suspend judgment.
His cousin at United and predecessor as the captain of the national team has a decent engine and good technique but has not been able to establish himself as a big name. Frankly speaking, a hard working squad player who shows heart and appetite for a fight in tough games might be an excellent unheralded addition to the squad.
On the purely positive side, I really like his close control and vision. It is surprising that a player who can play such passes (video worth watching if not seen already) didn’t have a single assist for Monaco last season (if I am not mistaken). Was that more of a reflection on his team and the reason they went down? Quite possible.
I think JYP can play as a shadow striker in the hole and also on the left flank. If he has the work rate he might pick up the attacking midfielder role in some games and will also be useful on the wings if a lead has to be defended. I haven’t seen him with his back to the goal so it’s hard to say whether he will be able to play as the main striker.
Standing close to six feet tall, Ju-Young Park will also bring some physical presence in both penalty boxes. He is also decent on the dead ball and should provide some competition to others (If the Gunners take it seriously enough!).
I am guessing Park will be blooded-in a tad slower than the others and should start off with some Carling Cup starts and sub appearances in the other games.
This is a nice read that provides some background and history about Park and tells us his first nicknames were “Football Genius” and “Korea’s Hope”. Not surprising given his talent on the ball and an IQ of 150.
I am finding it hard to write about Santos because I have seen very little of him and it’s impossible to form any sort of an opinion about a left-back based on videos of his goal-scoring exploits.
Simply based on what I have read and seen on Youtube, the Brazilian full-back seems to be a technically excellent attacking player. Will he be targeted by long, aerial balls over his head? Will he struggle without adequate support? I don’t know the answer to those questions but I do know that Wenger has a tendency to pick players after due consideration.
I like the fact that Santos can take free-kicks and that he can shoot from distance. Those two qualities can be immensely helpful and his forward forays can turn Chamakh into a goal-scorer once again if the two strike an understanding. That will take time though.
With Gibbs injured I expect Santos to come into the starting eleven straight away. It will be interesting to see how Wenger rotates the players once the Englishman returns to fitness.
Probably the biggest player among the five signed in the last couple of days, literally and in stature.
At 6’ 6” Mertesacker is a giant and fits the bill of a tall, commanding centre-back that many have been demanding. It’s a quality that can work against him because I see unwarranted expectations being placed on the German. His arrival will not solve Arsenal’s defensive problems but fans and pundits with short memories might make him the fall guy anyway.
I believe he is an excellent reader of the game and has good defensive technique. I also like his composure and confidence on the ball. Initially, I feel he might struggle with the pace of the Premiership even if the physicality is not an issue. His relative lack of speed and slow turning are the only two weaknesses but those can be covered through intelligence (think Busquets or Hangeland).
I am not sure if he will come straight into the starting line-up. And if he does will it push either Vermaelen or Koscielny into midfield, especially when Song is missing? There are some tactical decisions that Wenger will have to make and those paying attention might learn something.
This article talks about a decline in his form over the last season or two. It’s up to Arsene to get the best out of the German international.
I must confess this one was a real surprise, probably because I’d forgotten all about Benayoun due to his recent injury problems which kept him out of the Chelsea side. But the Israeli captain had a decent enough record with Liverpool which must have impressed the decision makers at Chelsea so the talent is most definitely there.
I love his control, quick feet, calmness in front of goal, and finishing abilities. He is the kind of player who can make a big difference in and around the penalty box. Even when teams have parked the bus, Benayoun can provide that individual spark which unlocks the defence. The Israeli, if he stays fit, can contribute as many goals as Nasri did last year and can assist a few more.
It will be interesting to see where he plays and Wenger will have a tough task in fitting him into the team because his defensive work isn’t all that great (still better than Arshavin). Left side of the attack seems to be the most obvious position but he can also play behind the striker or on the right.
I’d expect him to be behind Gervinho in the pecking order but he will get enough chances during the season to stake a claim for a starting birth. He can also be an excellent sub to have on the bench when chasing a game. Benayoun’s ability to keep the ball and play the possession game will also come in handy in tight games against quality teams.
I have been a big fan of the Spaniard ever since he started playing for Everton. Arteta is an excellent passer of the ball – long and short, can deliver and score from excellent set-pieces (last season was disappointing), can contribute goals from distance, and can hold the ball under pressure, and is fairly strong for his physical stature.
He is the kind of player who can get great value out of Gervinho and Walcott by unleashing their pace through passes from deeper positions. Arteta is also the kind of player who can get a lot out of someone like Chamakh. There are a number of possibilities but the end product will eventually depend on the work done on the training ground. I want to see how Arsene fits the former Everton player alongside Song/Jack/Ramsey.
I don’t think he is that good with his back to the goal or with his runs into the box so it will be a surprise if Arteta plays in an advanced position. Over time, I expect Ramsey to thrive in that position but for now it will probably depend on current fitness and form. I see Arteta more in the Xabi Alonso mould.
Arsene might even play all four of them in some games where dominating the ball is essential, something that will automatically make the defence look sturdy. In that case one of them will have to move to a wider role that Nasri played. The Spaniard can play on the left if need arises.
To sum it all up –
I am fairly satisfied with the business in the transfer market. Benayoun and Arteta probably have more Premier League experience than anyone in the current squad. There is good diversity and versatility in the new signings. Some obvious holes have been filled. Free-kicks might actually improve overnight! The squad looks much deeper and better balanced than it did a couple of days ago.
The signings aren’t without some questions marks and Wenger will have to earn his wages in order to get the best out of them.
At the very least, we can look forward to the future with a lot more hope and belief.