After years of disappointment in the transfer window, Arsene Wenger has finally managed to add a top quality spine to his squad.
With an outlay close to £100m, Arsenal have strengthened all across the pitch this summer.
Over the last few years, Arsenal have failed to take the next step in Europe as well as in the domestic league. With the signings of Xhaka, Mustafi, Perez and Holding, Arsene Wenger will be hoping to change that this season.
The Gunners have always been a very effective attacking unit. But their free-flowing football was often at the cost of some much needed physical presence in the midfield as well as the defence.
They have been criticised for being too soft at times. Especially against the bigger teams, where breaking up the play is often more important than intricate build up play.
And here comes the impact of the former Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Granit Xhaka.
The Swiss midfielder will not only add some top class positional play from the deep, he will also add some much-needed steel.
Xhaka has the defensive qualities that the likes of Cazorla and Elneny fail to add. He is also the playmaker from deep that Coquelin never quite managed to become.
With him in the side, Arsenal have a very good midfield three. Partnering Ramsey and Cazorla with him would allow Wenger to field a balanced midfield without compromising his defensive unit.
Xhaka’s excellent passing range, work rate, and positional sense make him the most well-rounded midfielder at the club right now.
The Swiss international will also allow Arsenal to dictate the game from the deep. The Gunners have often struggled to initiate attacks from the back against the top teams.
The gap between their defenders and midfielders allows the opposition to force them out wide and restrict them to direct football.
Xhaka’s presence and positioning will allow them to find the space when the opposition presses the ball. He also has the ability to receive the ball, hold on to it under pressure and find ways to drive the team forward.
Arsenal have primarily played in a 4-2-3-1 over the last few years and Wenger’s decision to include Cazorla in the pivot has cost his side defensively and against better midfield.
Xhaka’s signing gives him more tactical freedom without compensating or getting dominated at the centre of the park. Wenger can now try a three-man midfield against away sides/better midfield and can easily start with a two man midfield at home in order to fit in more attackers.
Finally, Xhaka’s arrival will also allow Arsenal to move on from the perennially injured Jack Wilshere. The England midfielder’s talent is beyond doubt, but he is simply too inconsistent and just not fit enough.
Wenger’s decision to loan him out is beneficial to both parties and it is highly unlikely that Wilshere will regain his place in the Arsenal first team in future.
Betway have a good debate going on about Wilshere’s loan to Bournemouth and whether he stands a chance to come back to the Arsenal starting XI next season. The truth is, the Diaby days of waiting on players are over. With Leicester winning the title and Tottenham challenging for top honours, Arsenal cannot afford to be patient with players. Wilshere’s chance looks to be gone.
You can join in on the debate in the comments of the Youtube video below:
Much needed Plan B
Defensively Arsenal are not bad. However, they do lack balance in that department.
Despite being a very good organizer, Mertesacker’s limitations have cost Arsenal dearly. The German’s severe lack of pace and lack of composure on the ball has been a major problem for Wenger.
The former Valencia defender Shkodran Mustafi will be an upgrade in that sense.
The 24-year-old is very disciplined and although he is not as quick as Koscielny, he is not as slow as Mertesacker either.
Furthermore, his positional sense helps him stay back and cover against pacy forwards.
His aerial ability and strong tackling will also add a physical edge to the Arsenal back four.
And that is not all. The German can operate as a right-back as well because of his calmness and composure on the ball.
He will offer Wenger a great tactical option against the top teams with world class wingers.
Bellerin’s attacking nature can often backfire against the best wide players and therefore Mustafi could prove to be a more cultured and defensive minded right back if needed.
Rob Holding could also prove to be an able backup for cup games and in times of injuries.
A better finisher
The signing of Lucas Perez has been questioned by the fans as well as the media so far.
Wenger’s decision to not sign a proven goal scorer once again is a bit surprising, to be honest.
However, it is important to remember that Perez had a very good season last year and is at his peak right now. Given the chance, he could well turn out to be just as good as some of the names that were linked with Arsenal earlier.
Who could have predicted Jamie Vardy’s breakthrough last season? it could be a similar case with Perez.
What Perez offers Arsenal is a clinical presence in front of the goal. The Spaniard is a very good finisher and is an upgrade on Giroud in that respect.
The Frenchman has often been criticized for not being able to finish off chances in big games.
Furthermore, Perez will allow Wenger to play the likes of Alexis and Walcott in their favourite positions. Both players have played as makeshift strikers in times of need, but both of them are at the best when they have space and can run with the ball.
When playing centrally, Alexis and Walcott are much more limited and offer much less than they actually can.
Also, Perez will offer Wenger some tactical options in big games.
The Spaniard is electric when running in behind the defence and is lethal in front of goal. His work rate makes him a nuisance to defend against.
His constant harassing of the opposition defenders will also come in handy in European away games when Arsenal are looking to defend and then go direct with long balls.
What the future holds for Wenger?
On paper, this has been a perfect window for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. The Frenchman knows that despite his legendary status at the club, time is running out and he needs to deliver now.
The fans have been patient, the stadium has been paid off and financially Arsenal are better than ever. If Wenger can finally deliver the title and finish what he started, he might just get to continue for as long as he wants.
Another top four finish and early exit from Europe and it is anybody’s guess what the future holds for him.