Mark Urban looks at the players who would turn Arsenal from top four contenders to title challengers all within their reputed summer budget.
If Arsene Wenger has anywhere near the reported £70m war-chest that has been rumoured, then he needs to look at bringing some of the following players in to strengthen his squad. All of them are currently playing in the Premier League, are realistic targets within Arsenal’s price range and play in positions that the Gunners need to strengthen.
While it won’t be financially viable for Wenger to purchase all of them, the addition of any of these names will instantly make Arsenal a better team than last season.
Hatem Ben Arfa – Price £15m-£20m
Arsenal have had some fantastic wide men in the not so distant past. You only have to look at the impact that players like Overmars, Ljungberg and Pires had on the Gunners, not only in terms of creativity and assists but in the goals they weighed in with as well. Their ability to take on opposing players made them exciting to watch and Hatem Ben Arfa comes into that category.
If Ben Arfa can stay fit, he is the sort of player with the flair and skill that can turn a game on it’s head – which is something Arsenal desperately lack.
Newcastle have had a terrible campaign and now would be the time to put in a bid and lure him to the Emirates before another team decides the same.
Christian Benteke £20m-£25m
What a first season in the Premier League Christian Benteke has had. He has single handedly kept struggling Aston Villa in the top flight with his 19 league goals but Villa can’t possibly think they will keep hold of him over the summer with so many teams needing a striker in his mould.
As strong as an ox and a handful for any defence, Benteke has consistently banged the goals in this season including a hat-trick against Sunderland towards the end of the campaign.
At 22 years of age he has a great future ahead of him and is a target man the likes of Arsenal have never had in the modern era.
The Gunners could definitely use a threat like Benteke but he is a hot commodity, and they will have to fight off stiff competition from other clubs, including their bitter rivals Spurs, for his signature.
However, with the high price tag, there also comes a risk. It wouldn’t be the first time a player has had a brilliant first season with a team and then crumbled under the pressure of a big money move. Andy Carroll anyone?
Romelu Lukaku £15m-£20m
If (and this is a big if) Chelsea decide to cash in on their young striker, Arsenal should be at the front of the queue.
A stellar loan period at West Brom where he found the back of the net no fewer than 17 times in the Premier League (including a hat-trick on the last day against Manchester United) and set up a further 7 goals for the Baggies, Chelsea may very well see a future for the 20 year old at Stamford Bridge and subsequently favour another loan move.
Lukaku is another player with strength and talent and one thing is for certain, if the opportunity arises, the Gunners should pull out all the stops to get him.
Edin Dzeko – Price £15m
Edin Dzeko seems to have had a raw deal at Man City in my opinion. The man clearly has an eye for goal and brings a different dimension to the team when he plays. He causes mayhem in the opposition’s penalty area and is someone who can come on and change a game at any time (take for example his 2 goals against West Brom despite only being on the field for 12 minutes).
His 14 Premier League goals for Man City, despite only starting around half of their games this season, along with his aerial threat and being third choice striker behind Tevez and Aguero, means that Dzeko would provide Arsenal some value and goals at this position at around £15 million.
Phil Jagielka £10m-£15m
With Thomas Vermaelen out of favour these days and Per Mertesacker getting on a bit, someone who Arsenal should seriously look at to fill the centre back position alongside Laurent Koscielny, is Phil Jagielka.
A solid, no nonsense and more than reliable English defender, Jagielka may feel the time is right for a move. With David Moyes headed to Manchester United and an Everton fire sale sure to happen with Moyes’ departure, Arsenal should look to test the waters with a bid of around £10m.
At 30 years of age, Jagielka looks to be in the prime of his career and provided he stays injury free, should give Arsenal a good few years of service and leadership that they sorely lack at the moment.
It’s hard to believe it only cost Swansea 2 million to prize Michu away from La Liga and even more surprising that they didn’t face much competition for his signature, given that he was the highest scoring midfielder in the Spanish top flight the previous season – which included a brace against the mighty Real Madrid.
He has been a revelation in his first season, adapting instantly to the Premier League whilst notching up 18 goals from 35 appearances. If he can manage that many goals for a team expected to fight for relegation, imagine what he could do with the supporting cast at the Emirates?
Swansea won’t want to part with their talisman and top goal scorer but a profit of 13-15 million is a sound investment and would be hard to turn down.
Leighton Baines £15m-£20m
It’s no secret that the left back position has been a strength of Arsenal’s for years, with the likes of Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy, and while the duo of Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal seems to have solidified that position of late, I would still like to see them further strengthen the left side with the signing of Leighton Baines.
Baines works for a number of reasons for me. His set piece delivery is second to none, he can bomb forward in the way Wenger likes his full backs to, but also, if push came to shove, I think you could use him on the left side of midfield too – which would also fill a need while allowing Gibbs and Monreal to carry on as they are.
The signing would be an exciting one for the fans and would bring that attacking flair and quality back to the Gunners wide channels that hasn’t quite been there of late.
Marouane Fellaini £25m-£30m
This could be a tough one for Arsenal to pull off with Manchester United touted as a potential landing spot, and others sure to be interested in the Belgian stalwart, but stranger things have happened, and if you don’t try, you will never know.
Fellaini would add the sort of steel Arsenal’s midfield have sorely lacked since the days of Patrick Vieira. His ability to dominate a game and his physical presence and goal threat make him a no brainer for the Gunners, but the fee – and the wages – could throw a spanner in the works, and now that United have Fellaini’s former boss (David Moyes) together with their own need to strengthen in the middle of the pitch, it seems written in the stars that he will end up with the Old Trafford outfit.
Morgan Schneiderlin £7m-£10m
A less talked about name who might be more up Arsene Wenger’s alley is Southampton’s young French defensive midfielder, Morgan Schneiderlin.
Coming off the back of a solid season at St Mary’s, the 23 year old wouldn’t cost anywhere near as much as a Fellaini, but is someone Arsenal could look to bring in with a view to playing the role of breaking down and disrupting opposing teams in the middle of the park. He led the Premier League in interceptions this season with no fewer than 139 and also averaged 4 successful tackles a game. How Arsenal could use that sort of defensive influence in midfield.
Being so young, he has potential and having spent 5 years as an ever present at Southampton – and clearly being able to make the step up to Premier League football – he is a man who knows what the English game is about and could make a very useful addition.
Seamus Coleman £5m-£8m
Bacary Sagna has been solid for Arsenal at right back, but injuries and some mistakes in the earlier part of this season (perhaps due to the lack of competition at the right back spot), suggested that perhaps the time has come for Wenger to think about a long term replacement.
With a lack of quality right backs in the Premier League these days, if Wenger does decide to make a purchase at this position, Seamus Coleman of Everton could be the man for the job.
Like Baines, Coleman has the exciting ability to make forward runs from defence and this shows with his 5 league assists this season.
His defensive work is getting a lot better too and now might be the time to step in before more teams take notice.