It has been another busy day at the office for Arsène Wenger. He turns to his study once more, flicks on his lamp and unfurls a scrap of paper. On the list include four names. Names associated with success, style and experience. He reaches for a pen and strikes half a tick across the name of Lukas Podolski and leaves the remaining three names of Mario Gotze, Jan Vertonghen and Javi Martinez blank. He pauses for a second, casts his eyes across the names again and then returns the scrap of paper into the depths of his pocket.
Whilst we can only guess how Arsène Wenger conducts his transfer activity during his own private time, what is more certain is the number of players he will need to strengthen his Arsenal outfit this summer, indeed convincing Robin van Persie to remain at the club. Netherlands legend Marco Van Basten reckons it will take four marquee signings to keep their current Dutch master in North London.
With the slightly premature news that Lukas Podolski has actually agreed a deal with the Gunners, Arsenal have yet to tie down any player in a pre-contract deal for next season, but it still remains likely that the German striker will be their first high calibre arrival.
The days are gone at Arsenal whereby the club could call upon undoubted experience from the substitute’s bench. The likes of Sylvain Wiltord’s and Nwankwo Kanu’s experience in utility roles no longer remains and Arsenal fans would all accept the notion that the squad isn’t deep enough to aim for a title tilt next season with the current personnel.
Of course the club has had its injury problems and Jack Wilshere hasn’t had a chance to further his claims that he is the best English talent since Rooney this term. Furthermore, the injuries to Abou Diaby, Andre Santos and Bacary Sagna for spells this season have weakened the Gunners in areas which have been plugged by either players switching positions or more inexperienced pros obtaining first team berths. For example Francis Coquelin and Carl Jenkinson.
Nevertheless, there still lacks an essence of experience and squad depth within the Gunners ranks and the stats explain themselves that there has been a top heavy burden on Robin van Persie to lead the team through the more tricky passages of the campaign.
The potential German duo of Podolski and Gotze arriving would certainly take the weight off van Persie’s goal scoring exploits and creativity on the Arsenal front line. Although the current first choice pairing of Gervinho and Theo Walcott still assist greatly to the Dutchman, Gotze and Podolski possess more of a scoring threat from the flanks. The latter has scored 16 goals this term and can play off the left hand side in Arsenal’s favoured 4-3-3 formation. Furthermore, the duo are likely to be the centrepiece to potential German success at the forthcoming Euro 2012 Championships and Wenger would be wise to secure such dealings prior to the tournament commencing in June.
What’s more is that the calibre of players would get Gunners fans out of their seat, as well as their captain. The closest Arsenal supporters would have come to experiencing a wave of excitement last summer was the capture of Mikel Arteta who surprised everyone with his deadline day move to the capital. A good passer he remains, but at 29, some have questioned the long-term staying power of the £10 million Spaniard who is approaching his thirties. Everyone knows Arsène is careful in renewing the contracts of his more elderly statesmen.
The other summer moves for Gervinho, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Santos and Park were all justified upon certain merits but they still lacked a wow factor and didn’t have the big name feel of the expensive transfers of Arshavin and Reyes before them. It seems this summer might be the next whereby Arsène decides to spend ‘big’ and in terms of keeping hold of van Persie it is imperative that he must do so.
A move for Ajax’s Jan Vertonghen seems viable too considering he is a close associate of Thomas Vermaelen and they both came up through the same Germinal Beerschot and Ajax youth systems, rising to prominence with the first team. Vertonghen is almost the double of his fellow countryman in that he can play at left back and possesses a hammer of a strike from range. Perhaps Vermaelen should take Mertesacker-like tapping up duties upon his shoulders in the hope of luring another new arrival.
And as for Martinez, the Spaniard would be the perfect foil for Alex Song in his versatility in playing in defence and midfield. Coveted by many clubs and with his stock rising following an impressive showing at Old Trafford in the Europa League, a move for the Basque-born enforcer seems the least likely at the Emirates, but still represents the calibre of player required at the club to remind van Persie of Arsenal’s long-term ambitions.
Finally and perhaps unmentioned thus far, Arsenal require a back-up choice to first team stopper Wojciech Szczesny. The calamity trio of Fabianksi, Almunia and Mannone have all enraged Gunners supporters with their inconsistency over past seasons and a move for an experienced standby such as when the Gunners tried to capture Mark Schwarzer represents another responsible dealing required this summer.
So there you have it. The Gunners have at least remained competitive during their seven seasons without a major honour, but an influx of big name arrivals would certainly boost their chances of bucking the trend next time round. Sorry Marco, I think the Gunners may need five!
Written by Taylor Wright