It’s a bit odd. To hear Arsene Wenger tell it, Arsenal are looking for a hard man, and yet having been linked to nearly every hard man on the planet, he’s instead chosen not to buy. Still he tells everyone that’s who he’s looking for, either a center back, or a defensive midfielder, or if we’re to be real honest a centerbackdefensivemidfielderwhocanalsogoforwardandplayingoal.
This elusive player can’t be too tall nor too short. He can’t drink or smoke but he also needs to know when to lighten up and let his hair down. He need to be able to play the ball to feet and also play the long pass over the top. He should be in constant motion and yet always in the right spot at the right time. He must be cheap but also world class. He can’t be too young nor too old. And he should be able to take people out of a game while simultaneously being a good sport about it. On and on and on…
Arsene Wenger, as always, is looking for the Goldilocks Signing.
I’m not saying he shouldn’t look for perfection, but I am saying that he shouldn’t let perfection stop him from expanding squad depth. We’re in a pretty precarious position as far as Center Back/Defensive Midfielder is concerned. That position is currently occupied by only one man, Alex Song, and from here forward will be called “The Alex Song Position.”
I like Denilson, he’s a good player, smart with the ball, knows when to go forward and when to stay back, can play either in the center or on the right and hell, I’d even let him take Cesc’s spot as an attacking mid who can put in a tackle up front when needed. But when Gallas went out to have his contacts put back in and Arsene moved Denilson to center back on Saturday that’s when it dawned on me that Denilson, for all his good qualities, is not really a defensive midfielder. I almost hate to say it but it’s true, he’s just not got the size for it.
If Denilson isn’t a center back, then the fact that Wenger slotted Diaby in as defensive mid proves that Diaby isn’t really even a box-to-box player, but more of a deep lying striker or something.
I’m being serious.
Diaby has the physique to occupy the Alex Song position but he doesn’t have the mentality for it and I have to wonder if he ever will. He just doesn’t strike me as a cold, hard, killer like Thomas Vermaelen does.
I’m not taking anything away from Denilson or Diaby. I love them, they’re just not really holding midfield players.
So, if the current guys won’t do, then who will sit in for Song while he’s away for the Africa Cup of Nations? And who can fill in at center back for the days when William Gallas needs a break from scoring goals? It’s the question of this season and one that even Wenger has addressed publicly.
In some sense, I think that Wenger’s being disingenuous when he says:
I’ve spoken to 10 managers and all 10 are looking for centre-backs or defensive midfielders. It looks like the offensive players are the most-paid but at the end of the day, in the modern day, all the managers I speak to ask me the same thing.
‘Do you know a player somewhere?’
It’s almost as if he’s saying “look, everyone wants one of those guys, don’t be surprised if we don’t get one!” But wouldn’t that be like saying “I’ve spoken to 10 managers and they all want to win the Champions League, they all ask me ‘do you know how?’ HA HA NO ONE WINS THAT THING!!!”
Besides, it’s not true, Wenger’s had ample opportunity to sign a defensive midfielder and he’s passed on them one at a time, waiting for that damned Goldilocks Signing. Lorik Cana, for example, he’s currently plying his trade as Sunderland and by all accounts (he’s got 1 yellow in 3 games and yellow cards are his measuring stick, RIGHT?) he’s doing a hell of a job. He’s not perfect, he might ruffle a few feathers in the dressing room and on the pitch, but he’s the kind of guy that I could see in the Alex Song position.
Neven Subotic is another guy who isn’t perfect, in fact he seems to be a bit of a loose cannon: he got into an elbowing contest with Arsenal’s former headcase Jens Lehmann on Saturday. By all accounts Subotic won the battle and if that isn’t just the kind of guy that Arsenal supporters would love to have at the team I don’t know what is. Doubtless Wenger’s run the rule over Subotic and come up with “yeah, but he can’t play defensive midfield, so…” and turned back to his search for the perfect player.
It’s a hell of a risk on his part to be so picky. I’m not suggesting that he just buy anyone, someone like van der Vaart would be a bit of a useless signing in my book. Especially with reports of Rosicky practicing with the team on Monday (all the way at the bottom) and possibly taking over for Cesc on Wednesday. But cover for defense is not a useless signing and rather than wait for the perfect guy to come along, he should open the checkbook and sign a decent player. Steven Taylor is decried by many as not really good enough for Arsenal, but if there’s any coach in the world who could take a 23 year old hard man like Taylor and instill a bit of class in him, it’s Arsene Wenger.
Like I said, there’s more risk in not signing someone than there is signing someone who isn’t perfect, like Taylor. Not just on the pitch or in the locker room either. Cesc has already called for a signing, Arshavin is calling for a signing and I don’t know a single fan who wouldn’t welcome a signing. Even someone like Blaise Matuidi would be welcomed, I think.
But for Wenger I’m sure he’s got excuses on board for why we won’t move for someone like Matuidi; he’s not tall enough, he’s not old enough, the bed was too soft, this porridge is too hot…
Meanwhile the transfer window is closing and Wenger’s possibly taking the biggest chance of this season, searching for that Goldilocks Signing. We will see, I have maintained that Lescott to City, which looks imminent, is the linchpin for a bunch of defensive moves among City, Everton, and Arsenal. This next week could be flurry of activity or it could see Wenger making excuses for why so-and-so just wasn’t quite good enough.
I’m hoping for the former.