I don’t normally spend much time talking about transfers so this is somewhat of an unusual post. There have been some thoughts in my mind for a while and they clicked in place when I saw the news that Clarence Seedorf is going to be a free agent in the summer.
In the Arsenalsphere, countless hours and column inches have been devoted to the discussion on leadership, experience, and mentality issues. Most fans, even positive supporters with complete faith in Wenger, seem to agree that the Gunners are missing something in this department.
I don’t share the sweeping criticisms that there is no winning mentality in this squad or that there are no leaders among this relatively young group but I do agree there is scope for improvement on all fronts, viz. leadership, experience of winning big trophies, and strong mentality.
It is a complex issue and I wasn’t able to see how signing one or two players could solve everything. I still don’t see a complete or guaranteed-to-work solution but someone like Seedorf might go a long way in balancing this squad.
Before I expand on this I acknowledge that the Dutchman is past his heyday and will certainly not be seen as a marquee signing. Those who believe quality players can only be signed with big money (there are plenty of such people around and sadly some of them are quite vocal gooners) will undoubtedly vilify the manager for another ‘cheap/free signing’. But if we accept that players must be signed based on the needs of the squad and not of the fans, and that quality is not always proportional to the amount of money paid, then the acquisition of Seedorf could make a lot of sense.
Serious fans of the game know the Dutchman’s resume so I won’t repeat it. I think the biggest gain for Arsenal will be that of a player who knows how to win big trophies on a consistent basis. We must not forget this squad has some extremely talented players and if someone has to come in a leadership role that person would have to have unquestionable credentials. I’m pretty certain every member of the squad including the likes of RvP, Cesc, Nasri, and others will show natural respect towards the ex-Real Madrid midfielder.
The same cannot be said for the overwhelming majority amongst the gazillion names that are bandied about when fans have a discussion on internet forums and blogs.
The second aspect about Seedorf that I like is that not only is he a winner, he is an exceptionally good footballer who will fit into the Arsenal style seamlessly. the Dutchman can also act as a catalyst to accelerate the development of guys like Wilshere and Ramsey. The youngsters are top players right now but imagine a stage where the two of them can just own the midfield against any opposition! It’s a very realistic proposition but will take a great deal of work from the duo and having a mentor who’s been there and done that will do them no harm.
An interesting point that has been mentioned during the past few months is that Arsenal need players with a defensive mindset. It took me a while to completely understand the notion but now I fully agree with it. Seedorf is an attacking midfielder with a highly technical game. But he has played in the Italian league for a long time and we can see his defensive intelligence. Of course, he won’t be a substitute for a new No. 2/defence coach but Arsenal have quite a few players of similar ilk and they can all benefit from his experience. Subtle improvements in positioning, ball retention, composure, controlling the tempo of the game, etc. can make a massive impact on the results and points tally at the end of the season.
Another advantage with Seedorf is that he will understand that he won’t be first choice or a regular starter. Cesc, Song, Wilshere, Ramsey, and Diaby will all need games. In that regard, I’m convinced someone like the four time Champions League winner will be happy to play the kind of role Scholes and Giggs play at United. He can start some games based on the squad’s fitness situation and can also come in towards the end of matches to help the team hold on to leads. For him personally it would be a slightly different challenge but one that he should relish.
This won’t adversely impact the development of the younger players as they can learn from watching him in training and during crunch moments in certain games.
I haven’t followed his career closely but the highly decorated midfielder seems like a true professional with excellent work ethic. His fitness too has been exceptional throughout the course of his career and physically he seems strong enough for the Premier League considering he won’t be playing full games every three days.
Obviously, there is no guarantee that such a move will work out to Arsenal’s advantage to the extent of landing a few trophies in the cabinet. I am not saying he is the only player Arsenal need or that anyone else won’t work. However, considering various factors mentioned above, this would seem like a valuable acquisition with very little risk and a high probability of positive contribution to the squad in more ways than one.
Can Clarence Seedorf be the key signing for Arsenal?