HUMBLE PIE, SOUR GRAPES & EDEN HAZARD? – Wenger’s Shopping List for this Summer

As Arsene looked at his watch on Sunday, staring down the barrel of a 3-1 defeat to Stoke, he must have been scratching his head for what he needs to do in order to sort a club out which hasn’t picked its head out of the sand since losing in the Carling Cup Final to Birmingham.

For the match against Chelsea in December, Arsenal boasted a bench of Wojciech SzczesnySebastienSquillaciAbou DiabyTomas RosickyAndriy ArshavinMarouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner. It was a stark contrast to the inexperienced substitutes of their opposition.

However, of primary concern for January is a new centre back, and a centre forward – but with the purse strings literally stitched to the palm of the Frenchman, who makes the shopping list?

Thomas Vermaelen is injured for the foreseeable future, while Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillacihas been nothing short of flappy whenever needed. Johan Djourou has certainly impressed since returning from injury, but the form displayed against Leeds, Ipswich and Bolton indicated he needs time to settle.

To challenge for the title, Arsenal need someone who can fit in immediately. Here is Ross Fisher’s shopping list if he were in charge.

1. Per Mertesacker

Though Matthew Upson has been linked to Arsenal, we elected to leave him off of this list. Not only is he English and therefore likely to be overpriced, he doesn’t possess the quality needed to be in a title challenging team. Against Germany in World Cup 2010, he massively struggled against a the quick German counter-attacks – something Arsenal are often hit by.

Someone who shone in that game though, was Per Mertesacker – and to be fair, he has shone ever since he became a regular in the German national team at the age of 20.

The 26 year-old stands at 6’6″ and would dramatically increase the height of Arsenal’s defence. He is also a superb tackler – booked just twice in his first four seasons as a professional footballer, and would be a better alternative to HangalandHe is yet to sign a new contract and Werder Bremen struggled last season so could be tempted.

2. Simon Kjaer

Arsenal could again look to the Bundesliga for Danish centre back Simon Kjaer – also not having the best of times with his club. Signed for €12m by Wolfsburg in the summer, he has struggled under SteveMcClaren to show the form which made him so coveted when at Palermo.

21 years old, 6’2″ and with 15 international caps already, Kjaer could still grow to become one of the best centre halves in Europe if trained in the correct environment.

Mega-rich Wolfsburg do not struggle financially so are under no pressure to sell a player just half a season into his contract, so could be a problem for The Gunners as Wenger never pays over the odds.

3. Christopher Samba

Arsene Wenger has said that he would like a player with Premier League experience, though international or European experience is also welcome. Chris Samba has certainly proven himself a tough competitor for the last few seasons, and the Blackburn Rovers defender has a powerful physique able to cope with the strongest of strikers.

Should Wenger require a Plan B, Samba could also be thrown up front for Arsenal players to lump balls forward to…

…I’m joking.

4. Jan Vertonghen

Ajax defender Vertonghen has been Thomas Vermaelen’s partner for the Belgium national team, and it could be a natural approach to bring that partnership at club level too –  but Arsene Wenger has been quoted to be concerned about having two left footed players at centre back. His versatility is a major selling point for Arsenal, and plus, a regular partnership at the back seems to win titles. Just ask Rio andVidic.

5. Gary Cahill

Arsenal have a strong relationship with Bolton Wanderers and their boss Owen Coyle.

Jack Wilshere smashed it at the Reebok Stadium last season, and with a loan bid for Carlos Vela going through – Coyle could be tempted to sell, but only at the right price. Cahill is strong and tall, Premier League proven, has youth on his side at 23 – and would help with the club’s English quota (which in fairness Arsenal hardly struggle with).

His price tag massively fluctuating in the media due to his nationality, the £10m valuation Arsenal have put on his head is unlikely to be the same as Bolton’s. If Owen Coyle believes what he reads, he could expect up to double that, which would of course scupper the deal.

6. Yann M’Vila

Yann M’Vila is not widely mentioned in media in the UK, but he is making a stir in France as a defensivemidfielder who is starting to establish himself in the revitalised France team under Laurent Blanc. At just 20 years of age, it is hoped that he will make the position his own for the next decade – and once he is picked up by a top European club he could well do the same for them.

With shadows of Patrick Vieira about him, he is calm in distribution and a good tackler, and could be a quality alternative to Alex Song if he gets offloaded in the summer.

7. Mahamadou Diarra

There are two Diarras at Real Madrid – Lassana and Mahamadou. Both are expected to receive their P45’s sooner rather than later, and could conceivably fit in well at Arsenal. Lassana Diarra has already shown that he would not consider a role where he is not a first team regular, and with competition stiff in the middle of the park – he might not sit well on the bench.

Mahamadou on the other hand would certainly consider a backup role, because despite playing a critical role in Real Madrid’s La Liga triumphs in 2006-07 and 2007-08, he hardly gets a game for the team now. The 29 year-old would also be available cheaply, but without too many starts he could be a trialist option.

8. Eden Hazard

Arsenal were linked with Eden Hazard when he played for the Belgian U17s side, but declined to act on their interest. Now 20, Hazard plays for the full national team, and his dribbling ability bamboozles teams on a regular basis in for Lille.

He has recently stated that Arsenal would be his dream move, but whether Arsene Wenger would be prepared to splurge millions of pounds on a player that shunned the club at the start.

Oddly, Hazard’s transfer to Arsenal probably depends on the future of Cesc Fabregas. If Fabregas is sold to Barcelona in summer 2011, Samir Nasri will likely move into his role of attacking central midfielder, which would free up a space in the team – and funds – for Hazard to join.

9. Axel Oxlade-Chamberlain

Arsenal are believed to be in pole position to sign Southampton academy star Axel Oxlade-Chamberlain, but no deal is yet in place. 17 years old and possessing the raw pace that has proven such an asset for Theo Walcott, Southampton officials reportedly believe that Oxlade-Chamberlain is even better than Walcott was at the same age.

If Arsenal do follow through with their interest, they can expect to pay a similar fee to that of Walcott – £5m or so with add-ons based on future achievements.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *