Monday came and went with players returning to training and, unlike in places like Southampton where the odd chap doesn’t show for his first day back with his current club, everyone at Arsenal came back who was supposed to come back. No Szczesny stuck in a wishing well, no Wilshere falling in to the Grand Canyon and certainly no Flamini stuck on a boat 10 miles from Somalian pirates. All appears to be gravy in The Arsenal world.
It’s nice. I like it. Having spent a few seasons with a settled squad, my ever hazy memory is beginning to remember the times in which we just got stronger every summer under Arsène’s stewardship.
News wise there still isn’t much though. Arteta might be on the verge of a new deal and whilst that will have some Arsenal fans spitting feathers and chewing the inside of their mouths, I’d be quite happy to see our experienced captain receive the backing of the manager with a new deal.
Sure, there will be those of you that might think “but what does that mean in terms of a replacement in holding midfield??”, but I don’t really think that decision taken by the manager will have had that much of an impact on his decision to strengthen in the defensive midfield position. He signed an extension to Rosicky’s contract, but do you think that means Rosicky is going to play more regularly? I don’t. I do think that Arsène is making sure we have enough cover by keeping Tomas and I think Arteta is in that position too.
Besides which, every successful team has a balance of skills, enthusiasm and experience, so why wouldn’t we want Arteta around to support his teammates? He’s proven himself a great person to be at the club; eloquent, honest, and on top of that many people seem to forget just how good he is. He’s a master at receiving and distributing accurately from our back four, relieving pressure, as well as setting the rest of the team up to find space and start attacks. He’s an organiser on the pitch. He’s brilliant at the tactical yellow card in the middle of the pitch. He’s also versatile. In his career he’s been a playmaker, a left midfielder and a holding defensive midfielder. He’s had his injuries – particularly last season – but when he plays he will be an asset to the team, of that I have no doubt.
Unusually for me, this summer I’ve taken the approach that I’m not sure we really need that much in order to compete with Chelski. We’ve bought a great ‘keeper capable of salvaging us points. Last season I remember saying that neither Szczesny or Ospina were that type of ‘keeper I felt. So we’ve addressed that now. But with Coquelin established as the first choice holding midfielder, surely it makes sense to have a calming and mentoring influence in the shape of Arteta, for him?
I think so. I also think that unless a player is available for a realistic market value, Arsène won’t do any type of deal in any position, because he’s not going to want to have his fingers burned by playing £30million for Schneiderlin. No matter how much the player wants to come or how many French Caps he has won.
There’s also the small matter of Krystian Bielik who, with such big things expected of him in the coming years, would probably see his path all but blocked up if Arsène signs another 24-25 year old for the position he offers. I know Bielik is only 17, but we like to blood them young at Arsenal, so it wouldn’t surprise me – assuming he’s good enough – to see him emerging within two years. By that time you’ll have a Coquelin who will be at his peak at 26, Arteta will have hung up his boots and young Krystian can act as Padawan to Francis.
I know I know, it’s all very hypothetical and a lot of ducks need to be lined up before it happens, but I’m just trying to put myself in Arsène’s shoes with Arsène’s thought process. Why go out and spend £30million on a player when you have a £30million player (as he believes) in that position already?
I suppose he has form in the shape of Monreal signing for £8million when we had Gibbs in the team already, but that move was partially justified based on the Englishman’s injury record, so it made sense. Coquelin hasn’t really established himself long enough in the first team to work out if he has injury problems, so for all we know he could play 40 times next season and the whole question over having good enough cover becomes a bit of an irrelevance.
I guess that just goes to show you the delicate nature of the decisions Le Boss has to make with his squad at the moment. The team feels to me like it’s standing on the precipice of greatness, it really does, so to unbalance it with a host of Galatacicos – for example – doesn’t make sense. However, there needs to be sufficient depth, with a blend of young hungry players and experienced elder statesmen to compliment those in their prime in order to see us lift the Premier League and/or the Champions League.
Anyway Arsène, over to you sir.