The next in our end-of-week fixtures, the Friday Question is simple: Each of our writers takes a brief crack at one burning question. This week:
Arsenal are easy to mock but harder to fix. Which two players, and only two, would you sign to give them the best shot this season and why?
Wes: Two obvious positions: CB and CM. Several obvious candidates: Gary Cahill, Chris Samba, Eden Hazard, Juan Mata. One thing’s for sure: Arsenal are dangerously thin on talent at the moment.
So let’s take a look at some available but not-necessarily-obvious picks: Borussia Dortmund recently stated that Mario Goetze would only be sold to a foreign club, “only three or four clubs in the world.” Arsenal surely could be one of those clubs, right? Goetze was fantastic for Dortmund last season (six goals, 15 assists). He isn’t on the Fabregas level yet, but he certainly looks the part. He can dribble around players, clearly has an eye for a pass, and is comfortable playing in that advanced midfielder role alongside either Gervinho or Nasri.
What the Gunners need in the CB role is a proven, calm, assured presence (miss Toure and Gallas much?). A young CB won’t cut it here. Why not Bruno Alves? He is 28, but he would be a reliable and inspirational player to shore up a backline rife with inconsistency and youth. He will bring that champions pedigree Arsenal so badly crave; remain a strong presence in an otherwise delicate side. Does he fit Wenger’s buying policy? No. Will they have to splash a lot of that Fabregas cash? Probably. Will Alves help the side? Undoubtedly.
Adams: Okay, I’ll beat a dead horse. Arsenal need a goalkeeper. Period. Not just a solid shot-stopper, not just a comprehensive distributor (although those are certainly on the laundry list of desired attributes). A good keeper is like a general. Beyond simply sitting on the backline, he should be able to command, organize, and rally his troops. Like a discerning manager, the best goalies can make average teams look really good. Szczesny is too puerile to be a leader. An Englishman like Joe Hart would blend in seamlessly.
Other than that, acquiring Eden Hazard is a no-brainer, even if the asking price seems prohibitive. With the money Wenger made off of the Fabregas transfer, it shouldn’t be difficult securing the Belgian’s services. Besides being a supremely gifted player, Hazard is young, speaks French, and has played previously with Gervinho. Plus, he’s more than just a playmaker – he’s blazingly quick and shrewd in one-on-ones, as well. A dangerous player like Hazard could be enough to relieve the pressure on his teammates and make the whole unit operate more efficiently.
Eric: Between his contract status and the astronomical price tag Porto’s reportedly slapped on him, there’s no way they’ll ever get him, but the best possible option for Arsenal would be Hulk. Arsenal scored 32 of their 72 goals after the new year. Eighteen of those were scored by Robin Van Persie. In six games in 2011, he was the only Arsenal player to score, and they drew two and lost two of those, including to Bolton and Stoke. Their offense was one-dimensional, and so I think that even more than a playmaker, who they had last year, they need another goal-scoring threat. One who’s consistent (sorry Theo) and can operate in their 4-2-3-1/4-3-3. Is Lukas Podolski available? Marek Hamsik? Lisandro Lopez can play on the left, right?
The other area to address is the back. The first club that comes to mind when looking for young stud centerbacks is Borussia Dortmund with Hummels and Subotic, but after unloading Nuri Sahin and his pesky buyout clause to Madrid in May, they’ve not looked like sellers at all. The easiest thing to do would probably be try to take advantage of Everton’s dire financial straights to get Jagielka or Heitinga. Ahh, screw it, just go get Christopher Samba; maybe George John will get some playing time that way.
The Friday Predictions
Wes: Arsenal 1-2 Liverpool. Two Suarez goals and a late consolation goal for Van Persie.
Adams: Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool. Carroll opens the scoring for the visitor, but a late Arshavin equalizer saves the home side from humiliation.
Eric: Arsenal 3-2 Liverpool. A Van Persie hat-trick convinces Wenger everything’s fine just long enough for the transfer window to close.
The Friday Recommendations
Wes: The U-20 World Cup Final, Brazil v. Portugal. Portugal have had an amazing tournament, putting in a Paraguay-like performance (5 goals for, 1 goal against). Brazil have had an even more impressive tournament (15 goals for, 3 against). That’s an absolutely perfect ratio for both teams. Should be fun. Sadly, Caetano got injured in the match against Argentina. He’s supposedly 20, but looks all of 14. He has a Messi-like diminutive impressiveness about him. I was looking forward to seeing him again. Saturday at 9 p.m. EST.
Adams: Malaga v Barcelona. OK, it’s easy to recommend a Barca game, especially since they’ve added Sanchez and Fabregas to an already stellar team. But watch this fixture for Malaga – a team many are predicting to challenge the Madrid-Barcelona duopoly (it’d be more realistic to say that they’ll challenge for a European spot). Like Marseille, Malaga have been injected with oil money, and their squad is looking mighty appetizing. Barca have started slowly in the past few seasons – will they taste defeat this weekend? Sunday at 2 p.m. est.