Arsene was right not to buy in January. It’s all about the summer.

Sorry about the hiatus, but after Sunday I had to take a bit of a break.  Combine Sunday with the most anti-climatic transfer window in years, for Arsenal or any other Club for that matter, and frankly I was a bit discombobulated -yeah I said it, discombobulated.  In any case, Arsene was right not to splash the cash this window.  No purchase is going to fix the team.

People like to complain that Arsene doesn’t splash the cash.  But they neglect to think about what Arsene can do and has done.  This isn’t an Arsene apology piece, but a realistic one.  No purchase this January is going to fix this team.  Arsene needs to retool the team and that can’t happen until the summer, otherwise he might screw the team up for this year and next year because of unnecessary signings.

But lets start at the begining.  Arsene is trapped by the spirit of the 4-3-3 system we play.  Although the 4-3-3 system produces beautiful football and players love it, this kind of football imposes some harsh limits on potential transfers.  Basically, to play on Arsenal, a player must have nearly perfect technical skill, on and off the ball.  But those players are often the most expensive.  And Arsene cannot and will not spend lots of money to bring those players in.  It’s no shock that Barcelona is the only other team to play this system to any success.

Second, a 4-3-3 requires world class players in more positions than a 4-4-2.  Because a 4-3-3 requires the midfield and forwards to impose their play on the other team, e.g. through possession and passing, we need more world class players at every position.  By contrast, if we played a more physical game, we could just do crosses and push people around.  Unfortunately, we lack that extra class.

We have Fab.  We have Arshavin.  We have Rosicky and we have Song (I’ll include him in this group now).  But we lost RVP.  It’s no shock that the system has suffered against big teams since we lost him.  And while I like Denilson, Ramsey, Eduardo and Vela, they are not of the class (at least yet) we need.  Diaby has potential.  Just compare Barcelona’s midfield and front line.

Other big teams realize our weaknesses here and just soak up our weak attacks then counter strike (see chelsea and manu).  The fact is, talent-wise we’re better than manu.  But we are not better enough at enough positions.  This would seem to imply that our big failure rests with Arsene’s failure to sign players.

But before attacking Arsene for allowing this to happen; we have to realize that he made a real effort to sign quite a bit of players this past summer.  I’ve already talked enough about them, but just to refresh, I’m referring to Chamakh, Melo (world class), Sakho (world class) and Matuidi (rising world class).  We didn’t get any of these players and so Arsene was forced to adopt a new formation to match our strengths, namely that Fab and Song can play a 4-3-3.

Had these players come, imagine this starting XI.  Almunia, Clichy, Gallas, Sakho, Sagna, Rosicky, Melo, Fab, Nasri, Arshavin, Chamakh/RVP (protect RVP).  With the following players on the bench: Diaby, Ramsey, Song, Ebuoe, Eduardo, Vela, Walcott and Matuidi.  That’s a really strong team.  We could have made a run at every trophy.

Instead, we have a 4-3-3 this year and any player that’s brought in has to compliment that system now and the changes he’ll impose in the summer.  And lets be honest, there weren’t that many players out there at the right price.

So what’s Wenger to do?  The fact is no one player is going to fix our season.  Only the team can fix itself.  We, the fans, and they, the players, have to ride this system out and either rise to the occasion or fail.  Perhaps surprisingly, our season now depends on personalities we never expected.  Namely, should Diaby reach his potential (and stay healthy) we still have a real shot.  He’s shown that he’s better than Denilson by half.  And if Ramsey maintains his growth, we might be able to move to a more imposing 4-4-2 (Diaby, Song, Fab, Ramsey).  Of course the GK situation is still a disaster; and the front line is a mess.  But a strong midfield focusing on power and control can compensate by protecting our defense.

So the real question is what will Arsene’s strategy be this summer?  Will he sell Fab?  Will he buy a midfield “general”?  And if he does buy a general, who actually fits the bill?

I have no doubt that this summer Arsene will make some surprising changes to the squad.  But the real issue is not Arsene’s failure to try to buy, but what strategy will he adopt going into the summer.

-the student

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