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Fixing Arsenal: Squad hopes and doubts

A completely unqualified fan takes a look at the roster and determines what is working and what is not; it's OK to disagree.

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I set the team up (A primer), I praised the team (What is Right) and then I criticized the attack, the midfield and the defense (What is Wrong), all in an effort to figure out what Arsenal needs to rebuild and become a champion again. In another world, this would mean buying 3-4 new players and beefing the squad up. But since Arsene Wenger is in charge, I don't think we can expect that. Wenger is nothing if not loyal, so many of the course corrections will come from within. Time to look at those options, players coming through the ranks or not getting time this year.

Let's start with Hopes:

Mohamed Elneny - If I have a criticism of Elneny it's that he wasn't on the team in August (which isn't his fault obviously). Is he Arteta's heir apparent? Too soon to tell, but he has provided more support and positional strength in the center midfield than anyone this year and finally freed us from the Flamini Curse. The question remains as to who his best partner should be but, for now, the future is bright for the young Egyptian.

Alex Iwobi - There were calls to place him in the What is Right but nine games started and seven substitutions isn't much to go on from a 19 year old. What we have seen, however, has been very promising. It hasn't been faultless play but Iwobi has shown the most synergy with Ozil and Alexis as an attacking three behind the striker aside from, alarmingly, Aaron Ramsey. Arsenal have been lacking consistency on the wing since Nasri left and should Iwobi keep up the level of play, it isn't a stretch to pencil him is as a starter next year. Not a bad debut.

Joel Campbell - Not someone expected to make an impact this season, one can say he has had a positive one. Nothing spectacular but in the schedule injury pinch, Campbell provided some consistent work and is turning into decent squad depth at wing. His movement could improve (he's a tad direct, shall we say) but his defensive shifts weren't a total nightmare a la Walcott, should he take a step forward, he'll be valuable for a four competition team.

Gnabry, Jenkinson and JEFF - Sure, information is missing and they could all be nothing more than hype but perhaps they all end up in the squad next year. More youth! Let's enjoy that.

Xhaka - ... what? I can dream.

And now the doubts:

Santi Cazorla - He's a good player. He's an effective player even with a Coquelin anchor. He's also in his 30s coming off a serious knee injury to go with his rapidly decreasing speed. We've seen this story before in one Mikel Arteta. There are doubts over his strength of his return and where he fits in with Elneny's arrival and rumours of other midfielders coming in. Does he have enough to be wing or is he pure depth come next season? It's a harsh business but players will be coming in. Cazorla may be one of those on the way out.

Calum Chambers - my doubt? What is Wenger's role for him. He's largely performed as a Cup defender and only gets sniffs of major competitions. Will he see an increased role next year? Versatile as they come, playing centerback, fullback or defensive mid, Calum has the tools to be anything the team needs but no signs of it so far if he's going to get his shot. Only 21, though, so patience is due.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - (sigh) Another player who had high hopes pinned on him to finally break through and become a major 1st team contributor. It hasn't worked. Along with injuries, it has almost been disastrous. The Ox has failed to find consistency or understanding with the team despite the massive skill he obviously has. For the past few campaigns, Ox has epitomized the Arsenal critique of making a spectacular play, followed immediately by a braindead one. It is far too soon to give up totally on him but turning 23 next season, he's running out of time to show that he has that next level in him, which will further relegate him to a bit part in a thriving Arsenal. Greener pastures may beckon.

Jack Wilshere - Is he ever going to be healthy? In worse shape than the Ox, injuries have truly hampered Jack's career. He is one more bad break away from Diaby. He's played zero minutes this year. He only managed 23 games all competitions last year. Whatever understanding he has with the team, which was questionable at best last season, will be sorely lacking now. I would not consider him, even healthy, a go-to option to fix Arsenal's midfield. Wenger would be wise to ease him into the team slowly or sell him while he still has value. Perhaps harsh but it's too easy to see more injuries and problems in Wilshere's future. What once looked to be a bright career is really on the ropes. I do hope he finds his way, but I'm not counting on it.

David Ospina - He's currently Arsenal's back up. Or is he our starter? More than once, Wenger has handed Ospina the ball in games Cech was ready to go (oh hi, Champions League). Rumours surround him that the Colombian keeper wants out. Will Wenger try to entice him to stay with more starts? It isn't much of a doubt but Wenger will either have to add a new keeper or try to balance two keepers that both want to start. There's also a potential return for Szczesny if you really want to have a discussion. I'd be more than willing to let Ospina leave; just hard to think, given recent talk, that Wenger feels the same way.


There are other players, youth that may see some improvement or chances with the first team but largely, these players seem to be the most obvious options. Beyond Elneny and Iwobi, there isn't a lot there beyond depth (important!), so for improvement, major transfers are necessary. What they may be, I don't want to begin to speculate because Arsenal will inevitably be linked with 7,493 players come summer. My priorities would be (D)CM, CB, F and identifying backups at fullback and Ozil (this may be Iwobi, eventually). That's a tall list. Limited to two additions, my future squad would be:



Elneny/Ramsey-New Guy

Monreal-New Guy-Koscielny-Bellerin


Bench: Szczesny, Mertesacker, Chambers, Ramsey/Elneny, Coquelin, Campbell, Giroud/Welbeck

That's my say; thanks for reading. Let me know what your moves are and why I'm completely wrong. The silly season will be here soon enough and then we're all in the same boat - being annoyed by horrible rumours and lack of action.