Plenty to talk about today, as Arsene had his pre-match presser and had lots to say on a wide range of topics.
He was asked about doing transfer business early and gave the standard sort of non-committal answer about not doing early transfer business, but doing the right transfer business, which would surely be all the press could ask for on any question about transfers whilst we’re still in the season. I really don’t approve of the media’s “look what they’ve done, what are you going to do, hmm?” approach to transfers. It’s so ridiculously reactionary and if there’s one thing I’ve learned being a football fan in my time on this earth, it’s that transfers are usually a lot more thought through by all football clubs than the media would have you believe. There’s always multiple factors involved between buying and selling clubs (Le Boss cited the move for Alexis being contingent on the signing of Luis Suarez), but rarely if ever is transfer business bought forward just because another club/rival has made a big statement early in the off season/end of season.
What will be more interesting is how Arsene assesses his existing squad, because the general consensus amongst Arsenal fans I speak to is that we don’t really need a lot. In fact I’m going to go out on a limb here – if we signed nobody in the summer I wouldn’t be foaming at the mouth – because we’ve managed to source solutions internally during the course of the season already. I hate to be clichéd and sound like our Strasbourgian manager, but we have found players that are just ‘like a new signing’ in Bellerin, Coquelin and even to a lesser extent players like Monreal who have upped their game. In that sense, we’re stronger than we were at the beginning of this season and if we restarted the season with this team, I’d wager we’d be a lot closer to Chelski than we are now. There is arguments to be had about the fact United, City and Chelski will all make signings and will all be strengthened, but again without wanting to sound too clichéd, you can only ever play eleven on the pitch and if they buy a host of new players they’re not going to be able to fit them all in to a new team.
Loan players will come back and will need to be assessed. I suspect that Poldi will be moved on, but the futures of Jenkinson and Campbell are less clear. Interestingly Arsene said he would talk with Carl about his future when the season finishes and with the Harlow-born lad already making noises about needing to play more regularly, Arsene spoke about the possibility of another loan deal. Now, apologies for me being all speculative and slightly conspiracy theoryesque, but I wonder if Arsene is looking at Debuchy’s injury-hit season and his age and wondering if in a year’s time Jenkinson might be a better option at right back with another season of first-team Premier League football under his belt. If Arsene had a mind to sell Carl I would have thought he would have been a little more cagey in his response when asked yesterday, but he seemed to be quite open about the fact that next season might mean another loan spell. That says to me that he thinks the right back has a future at Arsenal. As for Campbell, I’m really not sure how he’s going to feature in this Arsenal team. There’s no doubt that Walcott is next in line to play at the moment and he’s not even getting game time, so unless Campbell is ripping up trees in Villareal (He hasn’t scored for Villareal yet I believe, nor registered an assist), then I can’t see how he’s going to play. He signed a new deal in January before going out on loan, but that was surely to protect his value.
So whilst many are looking at a ‘keeper, central midfielder, striker and for some, a central defender (don’t get that one personally myself), I would be surprised to see that many signings.
What I think will happen this week is that Arsene will rotate a little bit. He sort of set up this Monday’s game for that yesterday, by saying that over the last few weeks all of Theo, Kieran and Jack haven’t been at 100% since returning from injury, but they are now at that level, so it just feels like he might give those three in particular a run out. And hey, if that happens on Monday, I think it will be a good thing. We need to keep players fresh and rotated and believing that if they pay well enough, then they’ll get a regular place in the team. Players are all fighting for a place in the cup final too, so I think there will be a little bit more desire to impress if they are given minutes. The fact that Arsene admitted he’s also quite happy to rotate says to me that we might see a bit on Monday. I know there will have been an element of a leading question from the press to get that answer from him, but I still think he’ll try a bit of a shuffle. Just have a feeling is all.
One player who will play, regardless I believe, is Santi the magician. His form this season has been sparkling and I’ve referred to him a couple of times already as the perfect ‘quarterback’ for us. Sitting deep he is able to pick passes that we haven’t had for a while – maybe ever in that deeper lying position, but alongside Coquelin he has been a key component in our success since the beginning of January. Talk of him moving overseas back to Spain at the end of the season is fanciful I think. Arsenal won’t let that valuable asset go. He’s got a couple more years with us I suspect, before he inevitably heads back to his homeland and by then you’d hope that one of our other younger players will be looking to step up to that role in the team by then.
But we can worry about that another time. For now, we have a non-Arsenal weekend and the desire is there to watch Crystal Palace and Chelski beat Manchester United and Liverpool respectively, thereby guaranteeing our automatic Champions League spot next season. See thee soon.