Thursday, July 10, 2014

Arsenal Sign Alexis Sanchez, Debuchy Next Up!

After several years of weakening each summer, losing Robin Van Persie, Nasri, Clichy, Fabergas, et al, the Gunners finally made waves last summer by signing midfield maestro Mesut Ozil on the final day of the window. But they failed to grab the second striker many believed they needed to win the title and a series of injuries to Walcott, Ox and Ramsey, among others, saw their title race fade in the latter stage of the season (not an uncommon occurrence over the past decade). Yet many positives could be taken from the season, including finally ending the trophy drought with a come-from-behind victory in the FA Cup and leading the EPL for longer than any team. The joy and relief on Arsene Wenger’s face after that 3-2 win told us all we needed to know about how that drought has weighed on him; as much as he tried to deflect the attention it received.

Many wondered if Wenger would finally open up the purse strings this summer, given the 100 million pounds he was offered by the board, and add to a talented young team, filling in the missing links that could see them over the line. And he has now answered that question with conviction, signing not only Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona, but quickly replaced the departing Bacary Sagna with the guy who took his spot in the starting lineup for France, Mathieu Debuchy. We are also linked with a host of other players, including German international Sami Khedira, striker Lois Remy and Columbian goalkeeper David Ospina, who impressed throughout the South Americans impressive run to the quarters of the World Cup.

Now Arsenal emerge as a real title contender this season, even with Chelsea, Man United and City all strengthening – and maybe Liverpool as well, though they will certainly miss their best player. If Arsenal can pick up Khedira, Schneiderlin or Bender to shore up the central midfield position (Arteta needs to be replaced, as his form dipped considerably as the season went on, and Flamini seems a little too reckless to be the first choice in DM) and another centre back to replace the probably departing Vermaelen, this will be a formidable offensive team with a solid back in Koscielny, Mertesacker, Debuchy and Gibbs.

The big question that remains is what about another central striker? With Sanchez and Walcott’s speed on the flanks and Ozil, Ramsey and Cazorla creating from behind, do we need someone to compete for the starting role with Giroud? That is an interesting question, and we might still have the cash to spend, but Khedira will certainly eat up another 25 million, leaving us a little light in that search. And the other question is who? Jackson Martinez seems like a great option, but those rumours have cooled since earlier in the summer. Benzema rumours also swirled for a while, but is Real really willing to sell him? And it appears we have lost out in our pursuit of Morata, who is heading to Italy instead. Remy might be the man to take that spot and maybe bringing the impressive Campbell back could help as well. I’m less convinced of Sanogo’s upside, after he failed to score all season, even when given clear chances.

Arsenal are clearly moving in the right direction and could arguably sport one of the top teams in the EPL next year. It will depend on Walcott, Ramsey and Ox staying healthy, on Ozil returning to top form, on Giroud scoring at a slightly higher pace, at Sanchez adapting to the more physical EPL quickly and on our stalwart defensive line returning to its parsimonious form of 2013. With a world-class defensive mid and good cover picked up in the next few weeks, the Gunners really should have a season to remember and I, for one, am as excited going into a year as I have been in a decade. COYG!

No comments: