The season is drawing to a close, the transfer window is approaching and minds are switching to exactly what we need to put in a more sustained challenge next season. Wenger has pinpointed the problem, and it is hardly a surprising assessment:
“Where we want to set ourselves a target next season is we have conceded nearly 40 goals – that is too many to win the championship and is where we want to improve.”
A frank and fair analysis, I’d say. Prior to Van Persie’s injury the talk was about us reaching the 100 goal mark in the Premiership, which goes to show how potent an attacking force we were. His absence left the forward line stretched, unbalanced and lacking the numbers to rotate, whichwould have enabled the heavier pressing that marked the beginning of the campaign. Already the manager seems to have resolved that with the signing of Chamakh to ensure that at no point next season will we be lacking a genuine front man.
The problem, as Wenger rightly says, is the defence, and particularly the goalkeeping and central defensive positions. But I don’t go along with those who suggest we need a bunch of signings in this area, and I’d go as far as ruling it out as a possibility.
We will not sign more than one centre half this summer, even if Gallas leaves. Wenger likes to go into a season with four recognised centre backs, and given that he still considers Song a viable fill in option, it would be unrealistic to suggest that his thinking will change.
Last season, we had Gallas and Vermaelen as the stand out first choice pairing, with Djourou as the main reserve and Silvestre the emergency. Senderos was technically on the books, but was never in Wenger’s plans. Djourou missed the entire campaign, but is still rated highly enough to retain that squad status – becoming a first team regular is an unlikely move given that his injury has prevented any progress in his career.
Campbell replaces Silvestre as the emergency option at fourth choice, so the only change is likely to be a straight swap between the outgoing Gallas, who would surely have put pen to paper by now were he planning to stay, and a prospective new signing.
While I admit that may leave us a little light at the back – Campbell cannot play twice in a week and Djourou hasn’t proved he can stay clear of injury for a long stretch, I cannot see Wenger upping the numbers any further. Signing a replacement partner for Vermaelen is essential assuming Gallas does leave, but beyond the main four Wenger will rely on Song filling in, or one of the youngsters (perhaps Bartley, who turns 19 later this month).
The other main talking point over the past few days has been a series of ‘quotes’ from Arshavin, seemingly linking him to Barcelona. First he said it would be the pinnacle of his career, which sounded fairly hypothetical when you heard it in context, and then the official site put out a denial.
Now the People are claiming that they have official quotes from him, which on paper look clear cut:
“I am going to Barcelona in the summer. “I have always dreamed about going to Spain and playing for the best team in the world.”
“They were unsure about me when I was playing in Russia but I have shown them that I’m the real deal and I know they are ready to talk to me.”
Frankly, I would be staggered if these quotes were genuine. Outspoken he may be, but this would seem wildly out of character for the Russian. He isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade, but this is too much. I remain unconvinced by the legitimacy of the story.
Also, we have a game today. Strange to relegate an actual match to the end of the piece, but that is the nature of the end of season trundle we find ourselves in. However, any match against Sam Allardyce should be motivation not to let the 90 minutes drift by, so fingers crossed we can stick our usual quota of goals past Paul Robinson.
Van Persie in particular enjoys playing Blackburn – he has seven in seven against them – so the Dutchman scoring the first goal is my bet of the day, and you can get 7/2 with Sportingbet on that.
We still need a couple of points to secure third, and Ewood Park has been a tough place to go this season, so it won’t be easy. On the other hand, we are in danger of ending the season so poorly that the whole campaign takes on a different complexion, and it is up to the players to change that.
Enjoy the game.