Do you think that Arsenal deliberately hold on to transfer announcements, just to troll the entire Arsenal supporting social media world? Feels like it, doesn’t it? So perhaps it should come as no surprise that we’re all still waiting on the Gabriel Paulista announcement (as I type), because Arsenal are masters of the ‘shall we? Shall we? Naaaah, let’s give those transfer-salivating keyboard warriors another day, just for kicks’ school of thought.
What I find works in this situation is to see the funny side of life and, let’s be honest, it is funny how the club leave it until the last second. After all, we already know Joel Campbell has signed for Villareal on loan until the end of the season, because he’s already been pictured in training wearing the colours! Not to mention the social media images of him signing a deal with the yellow submarines. One does have to now question whether we’ll ever see him back at the club. He’s 21, he’s got Welbeck, Walcott, Giroud, Alexis, The Ox and probably Cazorla ahead of him for the front three positions, as well as no real history of making it in the Premier League. The very fact that Sanogo was seen as more important to stay in the league, shows how far down the pecking order Campbell is, so I find it hard to believe that Arsène will bring him back into the team come the summer.
He’s shown glimpses of the quality we all know he possesses, but his Arsenal career does feel a little bit Velarian to me, so I wonder if Villareal have a clause to buy at the end of the season. We shall see.
As for us, the competition for places once Gabriel is announced, suddenly looks rather intense. The Ox has been quoted on the official site as being pleased to see the depth of Ramsey, Walcott and Özil back, but with all of these players now approaching full fitness, Arsène has one heck of a job picking his first eleven. It’s a dilemma that he has to wrestle with, but the most important thing from my perspective as a fan, is that those players that do get in take their chance. That’s what we all want to see. I want to be able to make an “ooooh, harsh that Rosicky hasn’t make the first eleven this week after last weekend’s performance” comment, or ponder how he fits Özil and Cazorla into the team. I want to see the freshness of legs and rotation of players; not because we have nobody else, but because the players that haven’t been playing are getting their chances and taking them.
The season before last we saw how competition caused Szczesny to up his game to stay in the team. Now, for the first time in a while, you can say that the same effect appears to be happening in pockets all over the park. Ospina has wrestled control of the gloves (for now), Monreal has done enough to keep his place (again, for now), Cazorla is proving that a price tag means little if you are in form, The Ox is taking hold of the wide right position and hasn’t let Walcott put together a run of games and when Welbeck comes back, Giroud will have some competition to keep him on his toes. I’m sure you’re the same as me in relation to ‘bedding-in’ periods for overseas players, but at least Gabriel Paulista will give some initial ‘food for thought’ in relation to Mertesacker and Koscienly.
Let’s not even forget that we have Debuchy and Wilshere missing from the team, as well as Podolski and Sanogo who have gone out on loan because they were never getting near the first eleven!
I know that all is not 100% rosy in the garden. I know we’ve struggled at times this season, but with four wins on the bounce, as well as confidence visibly returning to the team and an air of swagger, I feel like there are many more reasons to be cheerful about our chances this season than ever before.
Weirdly enough, I hope Arsène doesn’t find a settled XI,because when we’ve had that in recent seasons we’ve come-a-cropper because players have been run into the ground. I am a firm believer that players need regular game time of sorts to keep them able to perform at the highest level. Just look at how Carl Jenkinson has performed for West Ham. When squad players aren’t given regular chances, they become a bit match-rusty. So when they are needed through injury or suspension, they have three or four games of looking a little ropey. By keeping players ‘topped up’, like we’ve been seeing at the moment with the rotation, players like Rosicky and Walcott can perform to the highest standard. To get to the latter stages of multiple competitions, you need to have a squad of form players, so it’s good to be able to see a different man-of-the-match display each weekend at the moment.
Will Arsène settle on a first XI? Probably. But until that happens, I will continue to hope that he’s struck a balance, that we’ll see more rotation between now and the end of the season and that a blueprint for modern day Arsenal can be found.