Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Tuesday May 15 2007
Usually, I am incredibly reluctant to advise our manager how to do his job. I am also normally unwilling to furnish him with a list of transfer targets, I cannot honestly say I was begging him for the signing of Patrick Vieira in 1996, or Thierry Henry in 1999. But what the hell? It's silly season and with no competitive football for another three months and an imagination running riot amidst a desk full of paper, I thought I might just indulge the fantasy that I might be Arsenal's incoming Director of Football. Arsene Wenger has spoken today about how 80% of his job this summer will be to get everybody back fit. The other 20% will comprise what he does in the transfer market. Now my interpretation would be that the driftwood will be cut loose to free up some funds. I don't see Arsenal making many signings this summer, but two or three quality additions will be needed if we are to keep pace with the nouveau riche Chelsea and Liverpool and the majorly in debt Manchester United. I think we can safely assume that Mathieu Flamini, Jeremie Aliadiere, Baptsita/ Reyes and possibly Freddie Ljungberg will not be Arsenal players next year. Now assuming the signing of Fabianski goes off without a hitch, that really leaves us needing a striker and a winger to replace Ljungberg. The departure of Flamini will be consigned irrelevant with the emergence of Diaby and Denilson, Aliadiere's departure will be offset by the homecoming of Niklas Bendtner.
I seriously think we need another top quality striker. Henry and van Persie would seemingly be first choice, while Adebayor lends us an interesting option for tough away matches or when we are chasing a game. Bendtner will probably require time to fully settle and challenge the top boys, but I would like to see a goal hungry striker who scores the messy goals. My first suggestion would be Nicolas Anelka, who would fit perfectly into our team, Wenger would relish the opportunity to settle unfinished business and turn him into the world class striker we all know he should have been and none of his teammates from his previous tenure are even here anymore, not even David Dein! Failing that, I could see Benni McCarthy really fitting in at Arsenal. A class player whose hold up play would aid and abett our style and a player capable of breaching the most packed defence with a sly run or diving header. Feeding off the service of Rosicky, Hleb, Henry and co, I could see him scoring a hatful.
In fact, Blackburn's failure to qualify for Europe could be a real coup for us. Most have spoken about Arsenal's need for a winger who differs from our current crop. Our inability to score from midfield is also well documented. This conundrum could be solved in three words- Morten Gamst Pedersen. A quality left footed winger (equally comfortable on his right), a regular on the scoresheet and a scorer of spectacular goals- extra convenient if you're up against a forty man defence in the dying minutes of a 0-0 home draw with Cloggers United. The lack of European football at Ewood Park, together with Pedersen's undoubted quality might dictate that he could be persuaded to join one of the big boys. The big stumbling block would be Mark Hughes, who would not exactly have the welcome mat out for any prospective suitors. In fact, I would wager he would be more inclined to invite gentlemen of ill repute to fornecate with his daughter than sell his star player. But perhaps we might offer something to seeten the deal? Throw in a pinch of Freddie Ljungberg. With Tugay in his autumn years, perhaps a young terrier of a midfielder to do his bidding for him might be preferable, so we'll throw in Mathieu Flamini as well? (Hell, let's throw in a curly wurly and a packet of lovehearts to sweeten the deal).
It's abundantly clear that Arsenal do not have massive expenditure at their disposal, so any deal for Gamst would have to either involve a swap deal or rely on us performing an old Herbert Chapman trick. Apparently, some time in his Arsenal reign, whilst negotiating with a rival chairman for the signature of Ronnie Rook, Chapman instructed his aid to slip whiskey into the hardball chairman's drink to lubricate the wheels of negotiation. Wonder what Sparky's tipple is? Reportedly Arsenal are permitted a £12m net spend every summer, assuming we pick up £9m for Reyes, we are currently holding out for £5m for Aliadiere, Flamini will go for free. If Blackburn and Freddie do not feel love at first sight, let's be optimistic and say we can get £4m for him. That's around the £18m mark, leaving us with £30m to play with (assuming that the board were not lying). Surely £30m could get us Anelka and Pedersen? We might not get much change, and it is paramount that we do not live beyond our means, but with some crafty negotiating I think we could clear out the deadwood and pick up some players that would really have us challenging again.
It is important that the construction of this team is not interrupted too greatly, so a myriad of signings is not really desirable. It is also crucial that the development of our talented youngsters is not impeded, likewise, I think they could do with a touch more experience in the squad and a little more top, top quality if we are talking about challenging for the title. Players such as Pedersen, Anelka/McCarthy have demonstrated the ability to produce match winning moments in tight situations. What is also very relevant is that all have Premiership experience and would not require the year settling in period. Ferguson has spoken at length about how United's good start was vital in securing the title. Statistical analysis shows that, on points obtained from January to May, Arsenal were only a point behind Chelsea and two behind United, which elucidates the extent to which our slow start hurt us. Likewise, Liverpool made a plethora of big signings last summer which ultimately culminated in them surrendering their title charge earlier than we did. Anyway, those are just my thoughts, doubtless you'll have your own. Oh, and just for the record, after ten successful years as Arsenal's Director of Football, in which Arsenal win ten quadruples, secure world peace and discover a cure from cancer during a tedious ten nil win at White Hart Lane, I eventually retire to marry Jessica Alba. LD.
Date:Tuesday May 15 2007
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