I love the idea that when Mohammed Elneny conducted his interview on the official site yesterday, after being awarded the Arsenal Player of the Month award, he had a maniacal glint in his eyes as he said to the camera “this is only the beginning”. The thought of somebody with somewhat comical hair styling could secretly be some sort of agent of Hydra amuses me.
This is only the beginning. We already have your Wenger. We’ve had him for a decade. We have been slowly cultivating our evil schemes for a decade, but as we draw to the conclusion of our master vision, we can reveal the truth. Arsène Wenger is a weapon of mass destruction and Elneny is the engineer to unleash him. The only thing stopping us? Those infuriating zips.
He’s deserved all of the plaudits this month. Some overseas players take some time to ‘bed in’ and I remember Dider Drogba being hilariously awful in his first season, but Elneny has taken to his role of Mr Recycler very well indeed and as many a blogger and podcaster will have already told you, the Egyptian has brought balance to our midfield force.
It will be interesting to see what the decisions are to be made when Santi comes back in. I believe he’s 31 and probably has a few years left back in him, but will the two of them duke it out to play alongside the destroyer that is Coquelin? Do we need somebody in the middle of the park who is more blunt instrument than sugical knife? I’ve spoken with a variety of Arsenal fans and the reactions are mixed. One school of thought, originally proposed to me by Ben, is that we shouldn’t need two people to be both a destroyer and balancing distributor. Why not find a player who can do both? That way it affords you an additional space with which to fill a deep-lying playmaker alongside said player.
So does that mean that Coquelin’s place should be considered at risk more than Santi’s, because Elneny and Santi might be a better combination? Or if not Santi, how would Wilshere react alongside Elneny (which I touched on last week in a blog)? Should the decision for the midfield in the summer be around finding another ball-winning midfielder who is also more in the mould of Elneny/Arteta as a player? I’m not sure. People have talked about Granit Xhaka but I’m not somebody who does amateur scouting in my spare time, so I’m not sure if he’s a player who would fit that mould, but from the few snippets I’ve heard it sounds like it.
Which begs the question about players like Ramsey. Where on earth does he fit in? He’s not a right winger and if Iwobi continues his meteoric rise at the club he won’t be given a sniff there, yet he’s nowhere near the level of Özil as a number ten, nor a deep-lying playmaker. So is he the gooseberry in the team when all are fit? I just wonder you know. I have no major issues with Ramsey, but if it is true that he doesn’t have a defined and specific ‘best position’ in the team, shouldn’t we cash in whilst his value remains high?
I’m not sure we will. Arsène has his players that he loves and I think Ramsey and Wilshere are two that he won’t want to let go. But at some point in time he’s going to have to realise that he’s going to have to be ruthless, like he has with Theo by effectively relegating him for a hungry, young, in-form 19-year-old. The natives have been restless at the Emirates for some time and there is now no room for sentiment. Theo wants to go to the Euro’s? Then he should have shown form for Arsenal and not go hiding in games. Now that we’re at the end of the season and his form has hit rock bottom, the manager appears to have run out of patience with his longest serving player, which means that the same can happen with the Welshman if he doesn’t have a role in the team.
All of this is of course wildly speculative, but Arsène cannot look at his team again this summer and believe it isn’t in need of an overhaul, can he? Despite the benefit of hindsight, in some way given our good form at the end of the season last season, I could see in part why he didn’t feel he needed to make a lot of changes. We’d won the FA Cup at a canter, we’d shown great form to finish third and the early addition of Cech felt like an important piece in a title challenge. The injuries to some players have had a big impact of course, but he too must be sick of Arsenal Groundhog Day, surely? So he has to properly roll the dice.
Or so you’d hope. Mine has dwindled and I’m just not a believer that he sees the squad needs as much surgery as we do. Many of us are thinking transplant, when his mind is in the ‘nip/tuck’ place, which is why so many of us might just be frustrated in the summer I think.
Still, at least there’s plenty of football between now and then for us to keep us distracted, before the angry keypad mashing begins. So let’s just try…I mean really try…to enjoy actual football whilst we have it.
Catch you tomorrow.