Joe Cole’s decision to join Liverpool this week came as a surprise to a few people. With three Champions League bound teams; Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham all fighting for his signature at one point, the former West Ham and Chelsea midfielder chose to see out the remainder of his prime as a Liverpool player.
With Manchester United not guaranteeing him first team football, Tottenham may have also been in the same situation and Arsenal most certainly would have been. Liverpool, needing to rebuild under Roy Hodgson was a good fit for the England international. With Yossi Benayoun going in the opposite direction and towards Stamford Bridge, Joe Cole is set to be Liverpool’s starting left winger next season, subject to injury. It has also opened up the door for both Ryan Babel and Albert Riera to leave.
Arsenal’s Depth in Midfield
After an injury-prone squad that Arsenal had last term, and the number of youngsters stepping up the ranks, it has left Arsenal with a large number of midfielders to select from this season. Should Cesc Fabregas stay for another season, it leaves fewer opportunities for the likes of Jack Wilshere to break into the first team. A problem many clubs would like to have, but a problem indeed for Arsene Wenger to negotiate.
To state the obvious, El Capitan, Cesc Fabregas will remain the heartbeat of the team next season. Everything goes through the World Cup winner, and often he’s the one finishing a move. Alongside, and protecting him as often been either Abou Diaby or Alex Song. Both have shone glimpses of stardom, but as with a lot of this current crop of Arsenal players, consistency has been an issue for them. If Barcelona hadn’t have been so persistent in trying to sign Fabregas, Arsenal fans could have continued their dream of either of these two becoming a legendary partnership in the side for a decade or so to come.
Arsenal have a number of options on the wings. Andrey Arshavin has success down the left wing, or as a left forward in a similar style to Thierry Henry without the pace. Cutting inside from the left on his right foot is his strongest point, while his weaknesses came when deployed in a lone striker role. Wenger must not make the same mistake again this season. On the right, Samir Nasri, Tomas Rosicky, Theo Walcott and Emmanuel Eboue have all played their recently.
Samir Nasri isn’t a winger for me. He should play in the centre, playing the balls out to the wide men. He’s got skill and a clever touch, but lacks the physical element and pace to his game. If Fabregas stays, it could be a frustrating for Nasri being deployed out of position. Tomas Rosicky is another option in any midfield position, except holding. A skilful player, injuries have prevented him becoming a regular to date. Injuries to the Arsenal midfield have helped Theo Walcott break into the first team. That and his hat trick for England against Croatia. A player who hasn’t lived up to his transfer fee in the four years at the Emirates now, Arsene Wenger’s patience should be running out on the frustrating forward. He was out of form last season leading to Fabio Capello omitting him from the England World Cup squad. He hasn’t progressed since joining the club and another disappointing season would likely see a larger section of supporters on his back. Could his time be running out at Arsenal? Emmanuel Eboue is always an option on the right hand side of midfield…
Looking to Break Through
When Aaron Ramsey was breaking into the Arsenal first time last season, a broken leg out an end to that. The skilful Welshman looks to have a bright future ahead of him provided he fully recovers from a serious injury sustained at the hands of Ryan Shawcross.
A player who’s impressed for Arsenal in the cup competitions but only been giving two opportunities in the league, Jack Wilshere has a bright future ahead of him. If Arsene Wenger cannot guarantee him regular first team football this season, and I suspect he cannot; Jack needs to be sent out on loan again. First team football at Bolton done him a world of good last season. Still only 18, I think he’s good enough to be a first team player for a number of Premier League sides. There’s a few lower half sides that play the ball on the floor where he would fit in well, keeping him away from the Reebok Stadium where he gets a headache from watching the ball fly over his head.
Others who have barely had a look in but are on the books at Arsenal are Fran Merida, Henri Lansbury, Jay-Emmanuel Thomas, Nacer Barazite and Emmanuel Frimpong. Lansbury, Emmanuel-Thomas and Barazite have previously had successful loan spells in the Championship but may be nothing more than Carling Cup players again this season. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas is a big lad who Wenger should be looking to mould into the next Patrick Vieira. While there’s little experience to help develop him in the first team at Arsenal, he is their best hope so far of adding a bit of steal to the Arsenal midfield that year-on-year gets overawed by Chelsea and Stoke. Merida made a handful of substitute appearances at the end of last season and needs to increase that number this year if he is to have a future at the club. Despite Frimpong leaving his team mates to challenge for headers, he is an energetic midfielder who can make a tackle.
Cole Made the Right Career Choice
Joe Cole had little chance of first team football week after week at Arsenal. Fabregas is the only one sure of that in the current Arsenal midfield. And with Marouane Chamakh being added to the squad up front, it could see one less place for midfielders in the team more consistently this season.