Is Gabriel the final piece of the puzzle for Arsene Wenger's Arsenal?
For quite a few seasons now, Arsenal have always gone into the season with at least one position short of players. Their injury concerns made it even more unfathomable for manager Arsene Wenger to want to take the risk of not signing back up players and being optimistic that his players would stay fit throughout the season. As is often is the case, that doesn’t happen and Arsenal always go through the season shooting themselves in the foot and ultimately settling for a top 4 finish.
But more worryingly for Arsenal fans, the players that they did have in the team were sometimes not of the quality that you would expect of a big club like Arsenal, and certainly not of a team that was looking to win titles and become a force in European football. Granted, Arsenal still draws huge crowds, but that is more down to their attractive football rather than any perceived stature in the elite of football.
When the draw is made in the Champions League, teams generally heave a sigh of relief when they see their team being drawn with Arsenal. And for quite a while, Arsenal were also called Barcelona-lite, which is an insult if there was any, and not a testament to their quality as some fans seem to have interpreted it.
Change in Arsenal’s transfer strategy comes good
However, ever since the handcuffs of financial austerity were removed from Wenger’s hands, there has been a gradual move towards buying established players who would improve the quality of the team immediately rather than relying on youngsters to learn the trade and come good in a distant future.
Almost all fans would agree that the first step towards this was the signing of Mesut Ozil. The Gunners most expensive signing was also one of the crown jewels of German and European football, whose quality would be immediately apparent when it came to be known that Cristiano Ronaldo, his teammate at Real Madrid, was upset over the transfer.
But the signs have always been there, with the signings of Santi Cazorla proving that Arsene still had the appetite to sniff out a good deal for a quality player. Then followed another blockbuster signing of Alexis Sanchez, who has arguably been the standout player for the Gunners this season.
Even the signing of Mathieu Debuchy showed an immediate urgency to find readymade solutions to fix problems in the squad rather than rely on the inexperience of youngsters. The deadline day signing of Danny Welbeck was another indication that he was looking for players that can have an immediate impact, even in the forward line.
Gabriel fills the final gap in the Arsenal lineup
There was one gaping hole in the team and that was in the centre of defence, which was finally addressed with the January signing of Gabriel Paulista, another straight-to-the-first-team signing. As a result of these astute signings, Arsenal seem, after a very long time, a complete team. The rise of Francis Coquelin from nowhere has certainly helped Arsenal’s cause in the centre of midfield following the injury of Mikel Arteta, and if groomed further, could make the role his own as and when the current Arsenal captain is moved on.
If you look at the Arsenal team now, it is a well-balanced squad, with options available for every position. The once undisputed no. 1 goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny now has serious competition from Colombian international David Ospina. And any mistakes would see him lose his place, as has been the case since January of this year.
The backline is complete with quality backup for every position, with Hector Bellerin proving a surprise this year covering for the injured Debuchy. The midfield also does not have any problems with Coquelin seamlessly teaming up with whoever plays beside him, which in most cases this season has either been Aaron Ramsey or Tomas Rosicky.
Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil are both fantastic players in the no. 10 role, with Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck, Olivier Giroud and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain completing the forward line – all fantastic options to choose from for Wenger. And we have not even touched on Jack Wilshere so far.
This Arsenal squad has a good mix of youth and experience, talent and tenacity. Granted, it has not shown so far this season, but that can be put down to the frightening number of injuries they have had until December. But their quality is being shown this year, especially in the Premier League.
If they can hold the team together, and maybe one or two odd signings in the summer, only to cover for any players that may be leaving, the club can finally realize their true potential and become champions of England once again.