Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Wenger to make shock recall? -Gibbs' comeback set -Arteta reveals house woe

Morning Gooners.

The talk today is all about whether Arsenal will splash out in January and bring in a few players. We are talking about this because the manager was asked about it last week at a supporters Q&A at Emirates Stadium last week.

We all know the problems we face come January. When Chamakh and Gervinho head off to the Africa Cup of Nations for six weeks, we're down to Robin van Persie and Ju Young Park as our only recognised strikers. For a club with the ambitions of finishing in the top four, I would suggest, this isn't good enough.

Robin can't play every game and Park has yet to play a minute of Premier Leauge football. When the Korean can't get ahead of Chamakh, who hasn't scored a goal in the league since September and only managed to find the back of the net twice more in this calendar year, that is saying something about the player.

So I think that most Gooners are in agreement that we need to bring someone else in who has got a goal scoring pedigree.

Wenger said at the Q&A event:
"We lose players like Chamakh and Gervinho to the Africa Cup of Nations, so hopefully touch wood we do not get any injuries to our strikers. 
"But if an opportunity turns up in that department then we will buy. 
"The situation, I must say, is a bit special. Economically the whole environment has changed and people suffer more. The clubs will suffer more financially and it's much more difficult. 
"Maybe we will have some opportunities because we are in a good financial situation."
The problem as I see it isn't about money. We know that the Transfer Proceeds Account (TPA) still has around £50m in it from the sales we made in the summer, plus the left over cash from Manchester City's purchases of Adebayor and Toure.

No, the problem is the Premier League's 25 man squad rule. Arsenal currently have their quota of no more than 17 'non-homegrown' players filled, which means if the manager wants to buy a player who is older than 21 he will have to remove one of those currently on the list.

There are three unused spaces. When the club submitted its squad to the Premier League back in September, there were only 22 spaces filled. Which means we could sign a player who has been affiliated to the FA or Welsh FA for a period of three seasons or 36 months prior to their 21st birthday.

This is why Wenger is targeting players like Mario Gotze, who is 19, and Eden Hazard, who will be 21 in January. Of course players like Karim Benzema and Lukas Podolski have been linked with moves to north London but both fall into the category of 'non-homegrown', which would mean the manager would have to make a decision.

We know January is a tricky window to work in. Last year would have seen us sign Phil Jones from Blackburn had we extended the price we were prepared to pay to £10m. We all know what happened last summer, when we were out maneuvered by Manchester United for a player we could have signed six months earlier for £7m less than what Alex Ferguson paid.

There are fringe players which the manager could look to move on like Manuel Almunia and Sebastien Squillaci, neither of whom have started in a Premier League game this season. But I would imagine both are on good money and won't be prepared to except anything less than they're currently on. Could it be a case of Wenger deciding to cut his losses with both?

It's a tough decision but it's one which the manager is paid his £7m a season to make. He can't stand still in January, that's for certain. We know that this squad will need striking options because of the time Chamakh and Gervinho will spend at the Africa Cup of Nations. We aren't blessed with options at full back either and we know what happened when we waited and waited for Thomas Vermaelen to return from injury last season.

This time round we can't be in the same position. Wenger needs to make the signings and then make room in his squad for them, if they're joining from overseas. Alternately he could sign someone with Premier League experience.

There is an alternative to our striking issues. Recall Nicklas Bendtner from his loan at Sunderland. If Martin O'Neill doesn't like the look of him, he'll be surplus to requirements and kicking his heals on Wearside. We could do worse than repay Sunderland some of the loan fee and get big game Bendtner back in the squad. He's be classed as homegrown because of his time in the Arsenal academy, so wouldn't mean we'd have to sacrifice one of the other players currently making up the 17 'non-homegrown' players.

The Sun are reporting that Kieran Gibbs is being lined up to play in the Boxing Day game with Wolves.

Elsewhere, Mikel Arteta has spoken to the official Arsenal magazine about life in north London since his move from Merseyside.

He said:
"My family and I are still living in a hotel which is a bit difficult really. We've had some issues with the houses we're found, people pulling out at the last minute and things like that. 
"It's hard to live in a small space for over tow months - our kids are here as well, so it's a challenge. 
"But we're trying to adapt as best we can and hopefully we'll find a house somewhere in London soon! 
"It's not ideal but the Club is being really helpful in making life easier for us and we're very grateful for that."
Sometimes it's easy to forget that despite being multi millionaires, they still suffer the same day to day difficulties as the rest of us. Arteta has been one of my favourite players of recent weeks. I think his performance at Wigan impressed me most. And alongside Aaron Ramsey and Alex Song we seem to have a good balance to our midfield.

Although I can't wait for Jack Wilshere to get back to full fitness. Then the manager will have a decision about which of the four will fit into the three positions. The joys of being a manager on £7m a season!

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