The season is over, the depressing sight of Chelsea lifting the Champions League trophy behind us and from the next day it is doom and speculation on twitter, on blogs and down the pub. Who will we buy in addition to Podolski (ONE OF THE BEST INTERNATIONAL STRIKERS IN EUROPE LEST WE FORGET) and who will we miss out on? Why won’t we break the bank for players unproven in the Premiership, but who the press tells as are worth £25 million? Why won’t we spend millions on young stars to replace the young stars we all forget we already have in our ranks? And of course why have we not begun to rid ourselves of the deadwood long since proven not to be good enough to help us challenge for silverware?
A few ‘1nildown2oneup’ answers come to mind. We are the only side to have already announced a major coup of a signing and the rest is speculation because the bloody transfer window is not open yet. How can we moan about signings we are not going to make when we have no idea whether we are going to make them yet? Also those wanting to invest in the big name stars tell me that my stats are not important and you cannot judge a payer solely on stats. I concede you cannot in isolation, but if I was buying a creative midfielder I would hope to see a stack of assists and if I was buying a goal scorer I would be quite keen to see an impressive goal tally. So we have bought a striker whose goals ratio for Germany puts him probably only behind the greatest ever, Gerd Muller and his current compatriot Klose and who has hit 18 league goals for a relegated team in a top league. Yes his ratio is better than all time greats like Yurgen Klinnsman and Oliver Bierhoff and on a par with Rudi Voller. Some of you tell me that the German league is not as strong as the EPL but at the same time plead for us to sign Holtby, Gotze of Kagawa. You cannot have it both ways and I will be astounded if Lukas is not a huge player for Arsenal over the next few years.
So perhaps we will buy a creative midfielder that so many crave, but I personally doubt it because Wenger feels that if he combine solid experience with our creative youth of Walcott, Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain he can attain a winning formula. For me this may work and today after this rant I want to focus on one player who I feel may hold a key for Arsenal in 20012/13 and who combines both creativity and experience and who barely featured this past season. No don’t worry guys I am not going back down the Abou Diaby road but I am edging back to another favoured theme. So before you put me in a straight jacket please hear me out because this idea that has grown from a seed into full grown tree of a solution.
I wrote my first blog in admiration of Andre Santos after his incredible second half performance against Chelsea. There is nothing about Santos that I do not admire, other than his lack of match fitness in September. We only lost 1 league game he featured in out of 15, he has the 5th best tackle rate in the EPL, his passion is effervescent and his team ethic is there for all too see. As someone reminded me the other day he went totally berserk on the touchline when Vermaelen scored at Newcastle, on the touch line. But today I am not intending to applaud his enthusiasm and his passion, but more to consider his talent and what he might bring to Arsenal in 2012/13 and for this Gunner he might even be the missing link, but not at left back.
Flying down wing for Brazil
We lost Clichy and we all doubted Gibbs, Not his talent but his ability to stay fit. Well I hope he is through that now and his tackle in the dying moments on the last day of the season took as into the Champions League. For me Andre Santos is not a left back and he never will be but more importantly he never really has been. His ability going forward, his skills, his tricks, his final ball and crucially his shooting prowess belong to a left midfielder or a left winger. Well in case you don’t already know Andre Santos grew up a left winger and it was only latterly that Corinthians converted him into a wing back and this was his position when he moved on in 2009 to Fenerbahce. His assist and goal scoring record is that of a wing back or a left midfielder and not of a full back, but conversely his defensive frailties are equally that of a player playing out of position. Bottom line is that Santos is as much a left back as Dani Alves is a right back. Both played as wing backs together for Brazil and neither are accomplished defenders. Problem of course is that we don’t truly play a back 3 like Barcelona or Brazil to allow Santos to flourish and at 29 do we really want to teach him to be an out and out defender when he has so much to offer going forwards? No would be my emphatic response
So what is my solution for the talent that is Andre Santos? Well for me he is a left midfielder in a 442 or 4411, our old formation. A perfect left midfielder, Robert Pires style, but actually on his left foot, but equally with the talent and the skill to cut inside and link play. Now I am not saying Wenger will revert to the old winning formation but I am saying he should and I have been consistent in this. Even if he does not select this for every game we have been woefully short of a Plan B to change tactics against teams who park the bus.
This may be unpopular because selecting Santos not as a full back, means some fan favourites will miss out but I sincerely believe this truly would be like a ‘Wenger new signing’ to be unleashed on an unsuspecting Premiership and the key is not in his ability, which as a Brazilian international is not in question, but in his work rate and fitness. I have read and re-read the comments from Fenerbahce fans when he left them and all of them said the same thing. That Santos is brilliant offensively, slightly suspect defensively and the all questioned his fitness for the English top flight, so this is the key is a lean and fit Andre with a full pre-season. For those who doubt me please remember that Santos has 3 goals from full back and all from the edge or outside the box, and the ones against Olympiacos, Chelsea and WBA were special. How often have we cried out for Arsenal midfielders to shoot from distance? Well Santos and Arteta the men for the job.
Please just take a moment to witness and marvel quite what a fully fit Santos can do. Crikey chaps it is almost Hazard like!
Maybe this was a one off but I assure you that is not the case and 10 goals in 52 games for the Turkish giants will back this up. No I am convinced that the only thing holding Santos back last season was fitness. He was just getting back to full tilt when he suffered the ankle injury away in Greece. When he came back he was only getting on for cameos but we did see him pushed forwards ahead of Gibbs and that for me was taste enough of what I hope is things to come. So here is my probably controversial selection of a diamond 442, last featured consistently in 2007/08, the closest we came to winning the Premiership with Hleb, Flamini, Fabregas and Rosicky in the four man midfield for the most part.
Yes, no Walcott, no Song, no Rosicky, no Gervinho and no Ramsey in the team I would choose for matches in which a fluid 442 was deemed the best option. This is not for impact and not just to be shocking, the more I have considered it the more I feel Santos is the man for the role on the left but not in defence. Indeed as it is not likely as you will all tell me that the stubborn Mr Wenger will change I would also see a role for Santos on the left wing, where Arshavin, Gervinho and most recently Benayoun have failed to make a consistent impression. Don’t get me wrong in the 4231 I am sure Lukas Podolski would be first choice on the left wing but if he plays centrally should RVP be rested or facing in the worst case scenario not be here next season, I would happily see Andre Santos out there.
A further not insignificant benefit to building a younger side around the experience of Santos is that he too has the Arteta factor . What is the Arteta factor I hear you say? Well it is having a player of international class who has probably now missed his chance at international level playing for our club. Santos had a few good years in the Brazil side but would appear now at 29 to have been overlooked. This, as it quite obviously has been with Mikel can be a huge advantage to Arsenal, particular with a long summer for our European players and the African Cup of Nations qualifications and final ahead. Santos and Arteta being continually fresh will benefit us in the way that the evergreen Scholes and Giggs benefit the read side of Manchester.
For those of you still unconvinced of the merits of the argument and who think I am unhinged please take 3 minutes further to enjoy a compilation of a fully fit slimmed down Andre Santos destroying Turkish defences for Fenerbahce in 2009/10 and then tell me he cannot play left midfield for Arsenal next season.
After all he is Arsenal’s Number 11
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and the debate on twitter and in the comments but I must stress this is not blogging to cause consternation I have given this much thought and I believe this would be beneficial for the Arsenal.
Until next time thanks for reading
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