It is apt that Real Sociedad forward Vela also left the Premier League in search of games; at Arsenal he was barely given a sniff, but Arsenal right now could really do with a fox in the box.
I was hugely impressed by Arsenal at the weekend. I said prior to the match that they remain fragile in certain areas, and that they react badly to defeats such as the League Cup loss to Chelsea in midweek (which, in turn, exposed a relative lack of depth in those positions). This was a crucial, potentially season-defining game for the Gunners and they were absolutely superb.
For Liverpool, I don’t think defeat was that big a blow, more a reality check. I always felt any title talk was premature, and that the realistic target is the top four. Three of their next four matches are against Fulham, West Ham and Hull City, plus a match against Everton, so there is plenty of opportunity to stay in the Champions League places.
Arsenal were excellent, just better than Liverpool all over the park. They completely controlled their game and their ball retention gave Liverpool the run-around; they just couldn’t keep up and were exhausted by Arsenal’s passing.
The thing is, I just find it hard to trust Arsenal. You just expect them to capitulate, to implode at some point and for their season to go off the rails, as it has done so frequently over the past half-decade.
They have had a fantastic 2013, so it is perhaps unfair to take this attitude with them, but until they prove otherwise you would not feel comfortable backing them.
Yet in their two big Premier League matches this season, Arsenal have managed to keep clean sheets. Maybe it is their time – but I still feel they need to make a big signing in January to keep the momentum going.
We all know that Mesut Ozil has given them a boost of a magnitude we could not have predicted; despite being signed for a position in which Arsenal have plenty of depth, heads have risen, not dropped. His team-mates are excited to work alongside such a player, and their own confidence has risen as a result – the central players are keeping the wide men out of the team, which says everything about how they are playing.
So where should Arsenal strengthen?
Despite having two left-backs, Kieran Gibbs is always likely to break down injured while I am not convinced that Nacho Monreal is quite good enough for a title-challenging team.
While Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny have developed a fine understanding at centre-half, Thomas Vermaelen looks a shadow of his former self and is probably not suitable back up.
But, if we’re talking about the sort of player who will make a tangible difference in Arsenal’s quest for silverware, up front is where a new face is needed.
Olivier Giroud has done superbly well this season, but he has already played 17 matches. One of his big strengths – an unquestionable work ethic – could see him lose momentum through fatigue, as it is unlikely he’ll be able to maintain his level for much longer without hitting a wall or, worse, getting injured.
When Theo Walcott recovers from injury, life will get easier for Giroud as the England forward will (a) create more space for the Frenchman and (b) give Arsenal a different option in attack.
But that still leaves Arsenal with two central strikers whose prime attributes are physical: Giroud’s size and strength and Walcott’s pace. They are still lacking a poacher, an outright finisher whose main work comes in the box. A player whose movement creates space for others, and whose undoubted presence off the shoulder of the last defender gives Arsenal’s midfield the comfort in knowing someone will probably be there if the ball is whipped across the face of goal.
Going forward, that is probably the only thing Arsenal lack.
While Falcao is unlikely, Arsenal will need to be cheeky in the transfer window. Whether that means going back to Liverpool for Luis Suarez or asking United about Hernandez, who at this stage of his career has proven himself for club and country and has earned the right to play more regularly.
While Suarez is undoubtedly one of the finest players in English football, I think Hernandez would be the better option as, while not cheap, he would cost less than the Uruguayan, while his abilities fill an existing gap in Arsenal’s weaponry. He is also arguably the hungriest finisher in the Premier League, and one with a point to prove.
January will also be important for Liverpool – particularly retaining Suarez – but with Arsenal likely to be near the top of the table, the transfer window should prove more defining for them.
For once Arsenal are likely to be in a position whereby the best available players in the world will see a realistic chance of silverware on multiple fronts; players who will think that, if they move to the Emirates, they could be the man to fire the Gunners to glory.
Throw in one of the more desirable locations in world football and you wouldn’t put another head-turning transfer coup past them.
- Sports & Recreation
- Premier League
- Javier Hernandez