Hi All, I had to write this for cathartic reasons!!
So, the transfer window light has been flicked off and we are shufflling out of the other side blinking, squinting and staring into the new dawn.
On the face of it, Arsenal have a nice, solid looking squad of twenty six.
Goalkeepers – Cech, Ospina and presumably Huddart.
Defenders – Mertesacker, Koscielny, Chambers, Gabriel, Gibbs, Monreal, Debuchy and Bellerin.
Midfielders – Cazorla, Wilshere, Ramsey, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arteta, Flamini, Coquelin, Ozil and Bielik.
Forwards – Giroud, Walcott, Alexis, Campbell and Welbeck.
Not too shabby. But a worry that the above, bar Cech and Bielik, didn’t come near to challenging for the Premier League, Champions League or even the League Cup.
What is also a worry is the fact that Welbeck has been injured since May, Rosicky has been missing this season, Wilshere has suffered an all too predictable injury and suddenly, the squad looks thinner. And there will be more injuries, of that you can be sure. Suppose that now you can factor in the oft-thought-theory amongst Gooners that Arteta’s legs aren’t what they used to be and that Flamini is lat present little more than a gob on a stick than a dynamic (or even semi-dynamic) footballer. And the squad looks that bit more lacking…
Lastly, we can look at who has left this summer. I agree with many that Sanogo and Ryo are no real loss. Podolski was however good for a few goals, if not for a few back-peddled yards. But did Akpom need to leave, after looking like he was ready for a chance to challenge upfront? Could Gnabry not have completed his rehab at the club that has launched him into the fringes of the German National team?
Last season, our strikers froze against the bigger sides. Well, this is actually an old issue. Giroud did net a consolation against Man Utd, and a super winner against Man City, but he might as well not turn up for a Chelsea fixture. Walcott was injured, and scored against Man Utd, so he gets a waiver. Alexis was sensational against Liverpool and Man City, but again, did little against Chelsea and Man Utd. Welbek is the very personification of hit-and-miss. Campbell; well, he still is an unknown quantity. The fact that he has barely been seen suggests that he is locked in the same Colney cupboard as Rosicky.
All of this, for me, makes the lack of signings over May, June, July and August even more inexplicable. Cech was a masterstroke, and another DM to cover or compete with Coquelin and another CF to keep Giroud on his toes is really all I think Arsenal needed. It is utterly understandable that ‘World-class’ (who defines this term?) forwards were unavailable or too expensive; there really does seem to be a distinct global shortage of up-and-coming striking stars, but surely a decent, proven squad addition with sell-on value could have been found?! Austin excelled in a shocking QPR side and gave Arsenal kittens in both games last season. Volland is a decent looking young striker in a medium tier side in a very competitive league. Fierro has all of the ingredients that Vela had all of those years ago. Yarmolenko is an absolute bruiser of a forward with a thunderous left foot which reminds me of Ivan Drago’s right hook (and they both look similar), and is very much available.
However, were decent forwards actually available this summer? Well, let us see who moved between European clubs since May for less than £30m: Martinez, Bacca, Luiz Adriano, Shaqiri, Jovetic, Dzeko, Mandzukic, Llorente, Rondon, Draxler, Thauvin and Konoplyanka being just a few examples.
Were there any decent midfield options traded though? Well…Cabaye, Wijnaldum, Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin, Clasie, Imbula and M’Vila were all available to be signed. Are these players better than Wilshere, Ramsey and Coquelin? No. Are they better than who’d step-up should any be injured or suspended? I would dare say, yes.
Arsene Wenger has more managerial experience in his smallest toe nail than I do. But he knows that Arsenal suffer with injuries. He knows that the team, more often than not, suffers a pre-March collapse in the league and Europe. He knows that the team collectively suffer a case of ‘virgins in a brothel’ when confronted by a ‘title rival’.
With fans who pay for the most expensive season tickets in the world, who listen to board members extolling the depths of wealth in the club’s coffers to any press ear cocked their way, and who see a new sponsorship announcement pretty much every fortnight, surely a belief that the club should ‘keep up with the Joneses’ is a fair one? I’m not saying €80m should’ve been spent on Martial, or £32m on Benteke, but surely, with the injuries that occur every season, and the loaning out of players that have filled into slots in the first team with some degree of success, outfield signings should’ve, and could’ve, been made this year?
Unless there is a dramatic improvement in maintaining fitness amongst the first team squad, a few injuries here and there are going to ravage this team. A defence shorn of Mertesacker and Koscielny were almost humiliated by Liverpool at The Emirates. Cech really did earn that point.
Will Walcott, at 26, finally get a full season and prove he is worth top-tier wages? Will the midfield conundrum of square pegs in round holes sort itself out? Will Giroud turn up against the big boys? Can Oxlade-Chamberlain transform pre-season electricity into end-product in games that matter?
I hope so, I really do.
Sadly though, I feel that this team is a Coquelin or Alexis injury away from calamity. And I don’t think it had to be this way.