The infantry that slipped away from the Arsenal
By Liam Bradley
After December obligating all festive stereotypes for Arsenal fans-with the only gift seemingly coming through the appointment of Mikel Arteta- everybody is about to turn to the board again in the hope of more tangible prowess arriving at the Emirates rather than the treacherous ownership of Kroenke continuing. Although the first half of the season has proven the squad needs improvements in the transfer market, today I’ll highlight players who could have bolstered the current squad, but have been flogged onto the transfer market in previous seasons, and subsequently left the club. Basically, examples of poor squad management and poor decisions made by the club in the transfer market.
Serge Gnabry (Bayern Munich)
After a loan spell at West Brom in the 2015/2016 season, Serge Gnabry was sold to Werden Bremen for £4.5 million. Following the youngster’s move to Germany, he has racked up game time and thrived- scoring 10 or more goals in the last 3 seasons- attracting moves from the green of Werden Bremen to the blue of Hoffenheim, before now settling at the
synonymous Bayern Munich. The 24-year old is now flourishing at the highest level- scoring goals in the champions league and on the international stage- and following prolific performances against Spurs and Northern Ireland was branded “one of the most dangerous wingers in world football.”
The question on the lips of many Arsenal fans must be: how can the potential seemingly go unnoticed for a player of such current stature? Unfortunately, you have to put it down to a lack of game time. Gnabry played just 11 games in the premier league and with such pressure on all 38 games in the season, an unproven youngster couldn’t be trusted. However, Arsenal now pay the consequences with no wide man- bar Alexis Sanchez- being able to come close to his stats since he left the club. This summer, we spent large amounts of money on young winger Nicholas Pepe, who has struggled to adapt to the pace and intensity of the English game thus far. How did we let Gnabry slip and at such a low price?
Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus)
After a long affiliation with Arsenal dating back to 2006- making his professional debut in 2009- the Pole left North London permanently after double loan spell in Rome in 2015. Before leaving for Italian football, Szczesny was a first team regular, making 132 appearances for the gunners before the age of twenty-five and although suffered severe criticism (adding to the toxic aura in the climax of the Wenger reign), he had relative success. This was put on a tangible pedestal by winning the golden glove in the 2013/2014 season, keeping 11 clean sheets in 37 games.
Since leaving for Serie A, Szczesny has had success in the Italian capital and at the 2-time European champions- Juventus. In his second year in the capital he kept 14 clean sheets, the most in the league, propelling Roma to their highest ever seasonal points tally. Following his early phenomenon, he attracted a move to Juventus where he is now tipped to be “Buffon’s long term replacement”, following his departure at the conclusion of the 2018/2019 season.
Could he have been Arsenal’s long time solution between the sticks? In order to secure the number one shirt at Arsenal he would have to contest with German Bernd Leno, who’s 28th birthday is forthcoming. How do they compare? And potentially more importantly, how would they fit into Arteta’s long term ethos and style?
This season, both have kept 4 clean sheets, although Leno has played over double the amount of games. Furthermore, in terms of distribution-a massive factor in modern day football and in Arteta’s possession based style- Szczesny seems to tower over Leno, having the second best pass accuracy percentage in world football.
Overall, stats would tell you the Pole would have played over Bernd Leno and earnt the number one shirt. Another we lousily let go?
Olivier Giroud (Chelsea)
Although this may come as a shock to some due to the Frenchman’s current age, game time and potential quaint style of play; Oliver Giroud can be described as one of Arsenal’s greats of the previous decade. In the Premier League era, only 2 players have scored more than the target man for the club- one being fellow Frenchman Thierry Henry and the other Dutch talisman Van Persie- leaving him in great historical stead.
Since making his way across London, he has only scored 6 League goals in the blue of Chelsea, but he did score important goals on the road to Europa League glory, something so many Arsenal fans desired last season. These goals off the bench are invaluable and something Arsenal really need, despite possessing two of the League’s best strikers. But would that be his role? Absolutely.
With Giroud giving Arsenal extra ideas and tactical capability off the bench to bolster the current attack, we’d have a different approach, a plan B if you will. Against smaller sides that are difficult to break down, having a physical, aerial threat to play more directly to is a useful asset. Similarly, the Europa League; a proven goal scorer at that level, Giroud could guide the Gunners through the earlier rounds which could guide Arsenal to Champions League football in the upcoming years, with chances of the top four currently looking bleak, with inconsistency ridiculing Arsenal’s current form.