Looking at the players who could lead Arsenal to glory in 2013
Arsenal endured a frantic season, starting off in 17th place with five defeats in their last eight games. Yet, a momentous turnaround has seen them finish in third place, with victories over Tottenham and Manchester City large factors in their defining season.
What started off as turmoil ended up being a mildly successful season. Not only did Arsenal secure Champions League football ahead of north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, they did it for the 15th consecutive season.
But where do they stand now? Will they keep hold of Robin van Persie? Who are their main transfer targets? What will 2012/13 bring? It’s time to find out.
With Arsenal finishing third in an automatic Champions League qualification spot, they are in the driving seat in the transfer market, offering targets the chance to play amongst Europe’s elite. Arsène Wenger described the 3-2 victory against West Bromwich Albion as a perfect send off for Pat Rice, who retired at the end of the season. It was the three points that Gooners all over the world craved, especially with the thought that they would finish ahead of Spurs. But looking at the uncertainty of Robin Van Persie’s presence next year, will there be more to cheer about?
The high-flying Dutchman scored an emphatic 30 goals in 38 games in the league, becoming this season’s top league goal-scorer. With Walcott second with 13 goals, it shows just how much Van Persie means to Arsenal. Losing him would prove to be a major blow that just about every non-Arsenal fan would love to see, but it’s something the Gunners simply cannot allow. The dilemma seems to repeat itself, formerly in the shape of Cesc Fàbregas, who was determined to leave and Samir Nasri, who was running out his contract. Just how much longer can Wenger keep Robin Van Persie at the club?
Next season will be dependent on the Dutchman’s decision but Arsenal may already be looking ahead to some stars for the future.
Lukas Podolski – 27 years old – Undisclosed Fee (Reported £10.8m)
The German international made a real name for himself at his boyhood club, 1. FC Köln. It was at the Cologne-based club that Podolski scored an impressive 46 goals in 81 games, prompting Bayern Munich to sign him in 2006. During his time here, the 27 year old struggled to make an impact and although he managed to score 15 goals in 71 games where most appearances were as a substitute, he was allowed to re-join his former club 1. FC Köln. Re-finding his form proved easy for him after a successful World Cup in 2010.
Arsenal were certainly impressed with his attacking abilities and with proven German international Per Mertesacker already on their side, it is no surprise Podolski didn’t hesitate to sign a four-year contract at the Emirates.
No longer splashing the cash on unproven youngsters, is this a step towards a new philosophy for Arsène Wenger? Most fans would hope so although the progress of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain shows the French master still has an eye for gems.
Will this guy be the next one?
Yann M’Vila – 21 years old – Estimated £17.5m
The Frenchman, in accordance to UK newspapers, had practically signed for the Gunners. However, Wenger denied the deal was done, stating he hadn’t even spoken about the move with M’Vila’s club, Stade Rennais. What was more interesting was the fact that no sooner had the media reported M’Vila’s signing; they immediately created the non-story of Alex Song’s hesitance to stay at Arsenal. Although both players are very similar in their style of play, what is distinguishable is M’Vila’s defensive ability, which seems to have a more natural feel to it.
As much as Song loves to attack, M’Vila thrives in the tackling part of the game, ensuring his team recycles possession. With Mikel Arteta’s absence, this is something Arsenal severely struggle with. Signing the 21-year-old would be a good way of allowing Song to rest games as well as cover for injuries in the fragile Arsenal midfield. Although with Jack Wilshere’s return and Abou Diaby recovering from injury, the packed midfield could see M’Vila fighting for a starting berth. But since when have Arsenal last had too many good midfielders?
The next one could be another.
Shinji Kagawa – 23 years old – Estimated £7m
Borussia Dortmund have had a truly amazing 2011/12 season, winning the Bundesliga and the DBF-Pokal, the German equivalent of the F.A Cup. With Kagawa getting 13 league goals and 11 assists in 37 games from midfield, he helped his side grab top spot of the league ahead of favourites and Champions League finalists Bayern Munich. The 23-year-old has a great eye for a pass and shows tremendous talent as an attacking midfielder. With his contract expiring next year, Dortmund have confirmed they will be cashing in on the Japanese international at a cut-price.
With money already spent on Podolski, Arsène Wenger rarely buys another high profile transfer but with Kagawa available at a lower price, this may entice him further. However, with big money-spenders Manchester City also in the hunt, as well as Manchester United who are desperate to bolster their midfield, the 23-year-old will be the one making the decision.
Arsenal already have an impressive midfield which have helped Robin Van Persie score the goals he has but with their defence leaking poor goals, surely Wenger has to take a look at the defenders on offer?
Jan Vertonghen – 25 years old – Estimated £9m
The Ajax centre-back has shown encouraging signs of becoming a world-class defender and with Thomas Vermaelen sharing his Belgian trait, a transfer to Arsenal does look likely. The 6ft 2in defender can also play at left-back and has already shown how powerful his left foot can be. Vertonghen has scored 8 goals in 31 league games as well as two in the cup. What’s more impressive is that the 25-year-old collected the Dutch Footballer of The Year award of 2012, making him just the second defender to win the award in seven years.
With Arsenal conceding almost twenty more goals than their higher-placed opposition, the Ajax star would be a good step towards fixing the problem at the back. Just how quickly he can blend into the squad without falling for the all too common ‘adaptation period’ will set an example to just how good he can be.
Will he prove to be another Laurent Koscielny? Or a Sébastien Squillaci? It remains to be seen.
Other options include Twente’s Luuk de Jong, Swansea’s Michael Vorm, Lille’s Eden Hazard, Montpellier’s Younès Belhanda and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Juventus’ Alessandro Del Piero, Blackburn’s Junior Hoilett and Dortmund’s Mario Götze.
Arsenal are close to proving a successful philosophy can lead to trophies and look a little short of title-challenging quality.
With these new signings and no major departures, Arsenal could effectively end their six year trophy drought but it depends on who Arsène decides to bring in. More importantly, the contracts of Theo Walcott and Robin Van Persie need to be resolved.
Hearts are in mouths as the duo deal with the negotiations but if Arsenal manage to keep hold of them they will be a force to be reckoned with next season.
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