It’s a curious time for Arsenal fans. Bad news is in strangely short supply this summer, replaced instead by unfamiliar talk of a bumper spending spree.
New regimes are bedding in all around them and, with cash reserves bulging, Arsene Wenger is astutely aware a splurge could be both opportunistic, and effective.
Winning the Premier League in 2013/14 remains a long shot, but if the side can maintain the approach and consistency which proved so effective from March onwards, boost their squad with an influx of ready-made talent AND benefit from a dip at all three clubs that finished above them last term, they will be smack bang in the mix.
Just for fun, if I had the cash at my disposal this is who I’d be spending Arsenal’s millions on…
Asmir Begovic (Stoke City)
Polish pair Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski may have produced heroics during Arsenal’s clinical run-in, but neither man has cemented his place as the undisputed number one. Stoke City’s impressive stopper would be the ideal upgrade. Standing at six foot five inches the Bosnia-Herzegovina international is an intimidating presence fully acclimatised to the rough and tumble of the Premier League, and at 25 is only going to get better. Brave, agile and with a terrific positional sense, Begovic isn’t as flashy as some of the other names that have been linked with the Gunners, but I believe he’ll be the most reliable. For just over £10million, Arsene Wenger could nab himself a high class goalkeeper that will be between the sticks for a decade at Emirates Stadium.
Angelo Ogbonna (Torino)
Four dependable centre-backs are a must but Arsenal’s squad only contains three - and that includes the deposed and possibly disenchanted captain Thomas Vermaelen. The Per Mertesacker-Laurent Koscielny partnership enjoys great chemistry and has to remain his first choice pairing, but the capture of a new, talented young centre-back would do no harm at all to the manager’s options. Of the targets, I like Torino’s 25-year-old Italian international the most. Athletic, physical, versatile and with a natural ability to read the game, this ball-playing central defender looks tailor-made for the Gunners, and is far superior to another rumoured target, Ashley Williams. If Arsenal can beat Juventus to the punch by landing Ogbonna, they will not regret it.
Asier Illarramendi (Real Sociedad)
Mikel Arteta has reinvented himself as a defensive midfielder of real verve and intelligence, but the engine room would benefit from a specialist with the ability to cover more ground in the middle of the park. A number of French players have been linked, but on the back of an outstanding season for Real Sociedad and having played a pivotal role in Spain Under-21s’ recent success in Israel, Illarramendi is the guy I’d plump for. He’s basically a 23-year-old Xabi Alonso. Always looking for the ball, his short and long range passing is a joy to watch – and crucially, he moves the ball very, very quickly for his side. The Gunners sometimes laboured in possession against the lesser sides last term, but he’d ensure that didn’t happen. Busy, and with the nous to protect his back four defensively, Illarramendi is the technically brilliant holding player Arsenal have been crying out for.
Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid)
All the vibes suggest a £22million transfer is close and if it does come off, Arsenal fans should be thrilled. The side’s need for a world-class finisher is obvious and, fitness-permitting, the Argentine is guaranteed to plunder 20-30 goals a season. Arsene Wenger’s teams will always create a bundle of chances, and Higuain, with his sharp movement and clinical finishing in the final third, would prosper greatly. The likes of Falcao and Edinson Cavani are valued at twice the price of the Real Madrid man, but they’re not going to score double the goals. If Higuain moves to north London it will be a total game-changer.
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
There’s a lot of talk surrounding a £24million move for Everton utility man Marouane Fellaini, but while he’s a good player, by spending a few extra pounds on Rooney the Gunners will be acquiring someone capable of making a far more significant impact. Sometimes you just have to seize the moment, and Arsene Wenger will never have a better chance of landing the Man United ace. The Scouser’s relationship with United fans is crumbling, he doesn’t like playing second fiddle to Robin van Persie, the prospect of playing for a manager that once sued him doesn’t appeal, and his family oppose a move overseas. If Wazza sticks to his guns by quitting United, Arsenal or Chelsea are his only options. He has his faults, but Wayne Rooney in an Arsenal shirt is a ridiculously exciting prospect. I’d be going all out to schmooze Mr and Mrs R. It’s now or never. Rooney is 5.00 to join Arsenal this summer.
Arsenal are 12.00 with Unibet to win the Premier League next season