11 August 2014

Just one more player could push Arsenal to the top of the Prem...but who?

After in which we've seen Arsène eclipse almost all previous expectations for his behavior in the transfer-window (four new players in and almost £60m spent with three weeks still left before the window closes?), it seems a bit silly to both wonder and demand yet another signing. Elsewhere, Man City have been pretty quiet, Liverpool have to cope with the departure of nearly 33% of their goals-scored, and Chelsea will go into the season with Fernando Torres as their only forward after Lukaku joined Everton, Ba joined Beşiktaş, and Drogba succumbed to injury. Still, there's a nagging feeling that we haven't quite anted up to the point that would see us overtake any of these rivals while also staving off Everton, Spurs, or Man U, each of whom could shoulder their way into the top four. Who, then, can we look to?

"Gervinho. Santos. Um, Lukas? Is this maybe a little bit awkward?"
Having spent that £60m on four players more or less precludes us from signing a top-shelf striker unless we're willing to spend more than we have. One year of deficit spending would rarely jeopardize our good name with UEFA, at least as far as FFP is concerned, but it would beg certain larger philosophical questions about who we are. Are we willing to go down a path that only the Manchesters and Chelsea have previously trod? That's what it might take to land a striker of the sort we've coveted. The position seems to command transfer-fees starting at £40m. Diego Costa might be an exception; his transfer-fee was a "modest" £32.5m. Realistically, though, who could we still pursue, much less sign, at this point? Benzema and Cavani might entice, but is either actually available at any price? Hard to say.

Arsène's current focus seems to be at the other end of the pitch, both by virtue of necessity (we have only two experienced centre-backs at the moment) and of finances (defenders tend to be a it more affordable). Our transfer-balance to this point is a modest -£13.34 to this point. We could then add another player to buttress the defense without breaking the bank—or finance such a move by selling off someone else (Podolski, perhaps?).

Aside from a striker, our most-pressing need is a toss-up between centre-back and defensive midfield. The signing of Chambers suggests that Arsène might be looking for the kind of player who could slot in at either position (those who point out the irony in selling Vermaelen, whom some have suggested could cover both positions, are as daft as a brush). It seems then that Sami Khedira has been shelved, at least for now, as we seek someone more defensively minded, someone who can play in the holding midfield but who might also be comfortable, if not competent, as a centre-back. We've heard a few of these names before—Luis Gustavo, for one; William Carvalho, for another. What though of Benedikt Höwedes?

We've discussed Gustavo previously. He spurned us last summer, choosing to stay in the Bundesliga while demoting himself a bit to play for Wolfsburg. Fair play. I can understand a player wanting to play more and watch less (among other considerations). Carvalho's transfer gets complicated, as Porto don't own him outright and want his entire £35m buy-out clause up-front, rather than in installments as Arsène might prefer.

Höwedes, however, might entice. The 26-year old Schalke captain has ample experience across the back-four, playing at left-back for the German national team in the World Cup and as centre-back and right-back for Schalke. He offers experience and versatility and could be had for a transfer-fee below £15m. He's a bit below the radar, technical, inexpensive (compared to other options), and versatile. The only element missing from his Arsène-approved resumé is Frenchiness. We're none of us perfect, after all. The only other knock against him I can find is that he lacks pace. The last time we signed a slower-than-molasses-in-January German defender, it worked out pretty well.  Cover for left-back, centre-back, and right-back...hmmm. Whaddaya say, Arsène?