Good news – but one more please
If, as is widely being reported, Santi Cazorla is the latest high-profile signing for Arsenal in the off season, it does signal an intent to make some quality signings of international players with undoubted skills that complement the squad.
Cazorla should be able to make the transition to the Premier League, and should allow the new look forward line to flourish. He’s a great player, and should make Arsenal better going forward. Unfortunately, while the move is being viewed with a great deal of excitement there is, as always, another side of the coin.
Other clubs, most notably Chelsea, have already made a few high impact signings of their own. And, one could argue, they have a little more strength in depth than Arsenal, especially at the back. It has to be said that Arsenal do have one or two excellent defenders. Koscielny had a good season, Mertesacker may improve in his second season, and Vermaelen is excellent. But take into account injuries, and with no real defensive midfielder in the mix, and it’s at the back that Arsenal may still be a tad vulnerable.
Now, it’s on a different scale, but we’ve seen similar approaches before, most notably with the Brazilian national side. There have been occasions when their approach has simply been, “you may score four goals against us, but we’ll score five.” It served them well often, until they came up against teams prepared to play a tactical game to stifle the attacking flair and hope for a quick or lucky break. They came undone in several tournaments by applying little attention to the very un-Brazilian approach of defending.
The hope for Arsenal, if they do not add any defensive steel, or depth, is that a similar approach might work. Taking a look back over the past season and there were several games where, with better finishing and a more direct approach, tight games may well have been comfortable victories. Of course, the Manchester clubs had a pretty decent cushion of points come season’s end, but take three of the draws and make them wins, and three of the losses and make them wins, and there’s 15 extra points. Sure, that’s still four short, but it shows how the difference between major success and failure can boil down to a few incidents throughout the season. After all, Manchester City were 60 seconds from a ‘disastrous’ second-place finish.
In many respects, I’m as excited as everyone else about the fact that Arsenal have made some quality signings and that more may happen. I’m also optimistic and looking forward to seeing a somewhat new-look side in action. But I’d feel a whole lot more reassured if there were just a couple of more signings in the next week or so, and not more attacking players. You never know, it might even cause a reversal of Rooney-esque proportions in a certain Robin van Persie who, in spite of some vitriol being thrown his way, would be a hero if he re-signs and scores the winner against any of the big clubs. Memories are short when you’re winning.
One of the knocks against Arsenal has been, in recent years, that they play beautiful football with no end product at times. With Cazorla pulling the strings, and some lightning fast – and proven – strikers, perhaps the clinical finishing that has sometimes been absent will be the torment of defences across the country. And if they manage to win 38 games 5-4, few would complain, although the stress may kill us all.