Since Flamini has left, there has been to many fans a gaping hole in the position right next to Cesc. Throughout the summer, Arsenal has been linked with player after player, but none have been signed next. Now it is the 9th inning and there are three seemingly left; Swiss international Gokhan Inler, Liverpool mainstay Xabi Alonso, and Villan captain Gareth Barry.
Now, if Arsene decides to stay within the squad, the top contenders for the position would be cameroon international Alexandre Song, Swiss defender Johan Djourou, (If called back from loan to Rennes) converted right back Emmanuel Eboue, Welsh international and former Cardiff City player Aaron Ramsey, and Brazilian international Denilson. There is not much else within the squad outside these players, unless Wenger brings up under-18 French international Francis Coquelin or converts starting centreback Kolo Toure to the DM position.
By not signing anyone, Arsenal is taking a great gamble. After Djourou, who is on loan and will be unavailable, there is a 500 foot cliff. Eboue, albeit a solid defender, hinders the fluid passing Arsenal’s attack relies on. Denilson and Ramsey, against Fulham and FC Twente, showed they are not ready for first team football. That leaves Song. Arsene has been playing Song as a CB, but Song has already shown the ability to play DM when he was chosen to the Best XI at the African Nations Cup for Ghana. The problem with relying just on Song or anyone else in the squad is the lack of depth. CB is lacking in depth after the announcement of Djourou’s loan to Rennes, and will be even thinner if Senderos is sent on loan to AC Milan. Eboue is a solid right back, but does not have the ball skills to start the passing attack like Arsenal would expect the DM to be able to do. Simply, promoting from in the squad is impractical. It ultimately weakens the team too much to be a viable option.
That leaves buying a player. Names like Miguel Veloso, Yaya Toure, and Ruben De La Red have been thrown around to fill the void left by the departures of Flamini, Diarra, and Gilberto. The leading candidates left are the three previously mentioned, Inler, Barry, and Alonso. Villa seems likely to let go of Barry for around 18 million, Liverpool will part with Alonso for around 10 million, and Inler has a buyout clause for 5 million, but Udinese would be looking 10 million. Barry is a 27 year old CM who doesn’t actually play DM, Inler is 24 and is a Viera type bruiser, while lastly, Alonso, is 26 and does play a DM role, but has a very similar style to Cesc coming forward.
At first, I believed Inler was the answer.
+ He has the height
+ He would be an enforcer in the middle
+ He has the passing ability to work in Arsenal’s system
+ He’s 3 years younger than his competitors for the spot
+ He’s cheaper than Barry or Alonso would be
But I soon came to the conclusion that he did not have the experience needed, and his grace period adjusting to the EPL is not what Arsenal needs in the current state of the club. He’s not the answer to the problem.
So I jumped to Barry.
+ Technically gifted
+ Premier League experience
And again, he did not fit. First and foremost, he does not play as a DM. That in itself should be a deal breaker. Second, the price is not worth the commodity. 18 million is overinflated for a player of his quality. Barry is not worth the price tag put onto him.
That leaves Alonso.
+ Technically gifted
+ Proven winner
+ Premier League experience
+ Sound defensively
+ Cheaper than Barry
And in my mind, he’s perfect. He’s a strong player with the ability to come forward without disrupting Arsenal’s game. What seems to be the greatest knock against Xabi is that he’s too similar to Cesc, and in my mind, that is exactly why Arsenal needs to sign him.
Cesc is not a kid anymore. Cesc has shown the ability to play both defensively and offensively. What Cesc needs most is not a babysitter, but someone he can feed off of. Flamini worked so well last year because the two were worked together beautiful. It was not Flamini’s defensive skills that were the greatest asset, it was his hunger. With Alonso, that same hunger will not be seen from only Alonso, but Cesc also because Cesc has a partner he wants to work with.
Second, Alonso and Cesc together in the middle would be the perfection of Arsenal’s attacking style. Both players can run the counterattack and offense, both can drop back and help on defense. The fluidity of Arsenal coming forward through the middle would be orgasmic. It would be the most beautiful thing on the earth to see such an attacking force coming forward. If Cesc is out of position, Alonso can run the ball forward unlike Flamini or Inler could.
Third, as shown by the performance of the team in its opening matches, a more pressing position that needs to be filled is the role of Cesc’s backup. Alonso is the only person out of the major three that could run the offense like Cesc does. Inler and Barry are not the type of players that could make Arsenal tick.
Fourth, it weakens a title rival. Without Xabi, if Mascherano goes down, Liverpool will fall from the top four, no question. They do not have the ability to replace someone of Xabi’s quality. If Liverpool was to do this move, it would be to finance a raid of Villa for Barry. But honestly, it looks like O’Neill is not stupid enough to part with Barry, and Liverpool will not be able to convince him otherwise.
So, in my opinion, the only real option Arsenal is presented with is paying the 10 million for Xabi Alonso, and winning the title. (After Gallas is sold back to Chelsea)
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