Saturday, 24 March 2012
We’ll have space for quality AND quantity signings, Arsene
The boss gave the first inkling of his summer transfer policy yesterday and unsurprisingly it’s not radically different to his usual mantra…
“We will not be a lot on the market, quantity-wise I mean. Quality-wise, certainly,” he said.
“But the [maximum] number of the squad is 25. We have many players out on loan and we will take a gamble if we find top, top quality of course.
“But don’t forget we have many players out on loan and we have not had Jack Wilshere or Abou Diaby for the whole season.
“These players will be back and it means that number and quality-wise we are strong because we are in the position we are in without these players.”
I wish I could be bothered to search the archives to see how many times he’s said something similar over the past 16 years but I guess it is about 15. And he’s been wrong on quite a few of those occasions, with the squad rarely proving to be deep enough to fight on two or three fronts and not even good enough to do it on a single one in the past seven seasons.
By my reckoning we could have space for five new signings over the summer and we need to make them. Why? Firstly, every season we suffer an injury crisis we cannot cope with – the other day the manager blamed the New Year stumble to having ‘no full backs’ – because Wenger takes an almost puritanical approach and keeps the squad size at a bare minimum. Secondly, even if every member of the current squad remained fit, I still don’t think it has the ability to win major trophies.
The calculations work a bit like this. I don’t think it is stretching things too far to assume four members of the current Premier League squad will depart in the summer. In order of likelihood, they’d be Benayoun, Arshavin, one of Fabiankski/Almunia/Mannone and Squillaci. Chamakh could be another prime candidate for the exit door (presumably in addition to some of the loanees like Denilson, Vela and Bendtner and the usual few youngsters which don’t really impact on this debate). This is all assuming these players will opt to eschew their very comfortable Arsenal wages for a season or two and actually depart more let’s assume they do.
Two of those spots will be taken by Ramsey and Szczesny, incoming ‘homegrown’ players (born or at least registered for three years before they turned 21 in England or Wales) who will have turned 21 (you can have limitless numbers in the under-21 category) since the last deadline.
Factor in that we only supplied 22 of a possible 25 names on the squad list this season and you have five gaps to fill. I’m not a fan of the plan but seemingly Lukas Podolski will fill one of them which leaves us with four more spaces, all of which could go to ‘non-homegrown’ players. If one keeper goes he may chose to bring another in but he wouldn’t need to as the reserves keeper Martinez looks capable enough and has even been called up to the full Argentina squad.
Does four plus Podolski represent a large quantity of players? For Wenger, yes. When he says he’s aiming for quality not quantity because his squad is well stocked, I imagine he usually refers to one or two targets.
So I fear for the summer plans. If the boss is starting down this path we’re not going to have improved enough to close the gap to the top come August. I’m not suggesting Wenger needs to rip things up and start again; there is a spine in the team and a core of very good players that needs to be built on. But beyond that, there is plenty of room for improvement.
The other factor we can’t ignore is money. We don’t spend as much of it as other clubs and we seem to have over-spent recently in the wrong places, eg giving big contracts to players (Almunia) who will never be good enough to play regularly for the club. But if we can shift four names off the wages list, plus a couple of the loanees, there should be enough space to accommodate better talent. The fact the boss didn’t raise that as an issue, preferring instead to take about the size of his squad as the key consideration, is an encouraging sign.
I know life isn’t as simple as a game of Championship Manager where you can move players around on a whim. But Wenger needs to get ruthless and start wheeling and dealing. The most positive element of his comments is that he doesn’t want a repeat of last summer’s muddled activity, the fallout from which is still being felt now.
Get Van Persie to sign a contract and seal the Podolski deal before the Euros, then start working that contacts book, Arsene.