It’s transfer deadline day today – a lot earlier than it’s ever been – and despite some of the murmurings of a Dembele here, or centre half there, I think Arsenal’s revolving door at Colney will be more busy by the ‘exit’ part than the ‘entry’.
We’ve got too many players. Jenkinson, Brammall, Perez, Welbeck, Ospina, all just a few names that look like they have little chance of game time this season. When you also look at the fact that it appears players like Nelson, Smith-Rowe, Guendouzi and Maitland-Niles are all set to get more game time this season, it points to a congested first XI and so I expect there will be room cleared but little incoming.
Thankfully Vida won’t be one of them as it appears Arsenal aren’t interested in him. Besiktas have been desperate to cash in on him since the World Cup and it feels like there’s a reason they want to cash in. He’s a journeyman who’s played for Zagreb, Kyiv and Besiktas. It’s hardly a glittering career and if Arsenal had been in for him it would have left a lot of us scratching our heads.
I just hope that the fact it’s the last day of the window doesn’t result in somebody at Colney losing theirs and going after him. It doesn’t appear to be a move that would be welcomed with both arms by Arsenal fans.
So I think we’ll go into this season with the four centre halves we expected and to be honest whilst it’s not my preferred choice, I can live with it, because I’d rather we kept our powder dry for another season as opposed to spunking the cash we do have on Croatian journeymen who will be seen as a bit of a waste this time next year.
So we look ahead to the actual football and hopefully it’s a good season we have. Yesterday I pondered (and pouted, to be fair) over the back line and today in minded to think about middle of the park. It really feels like the success of this summers acquisitions, as well as the faith in the existing players, will come from how well our midfield does and who remains in it.
The signings of Torreira and Guendouzi – as opposed to the slight malaise over the defensive reinforcement – feels like they excited us fans. We all like the look of Torreira from what we’ve seen and specifically if he can play that terrier-like role just in front of the back four. We spoke about him on last night’s Arsenal fans show on LoveSport and what I said about him was that we’re all wanting him to be our version of Kante. Energy, a proper defensive-minded attitude, but also an eye for the occasional pass too. Perhaps I’m projecting too many hopes on a young man in a new country, but he just feels like a player whose type of position and style Arsenal are crying out for.
If we’re going to adopt a higher press, winning the ball back higher up the pitch, then we’re going to need to have people like him driving us forward and pressing high. We want to put as little pressure on that dodgy-looking back line of ours as possible and so if we can win the ball back in the opponent’s half more then that will help no end.
Guendouzi looks more like the cultured midfielder of the future, perhaps in the mould of an Arteta than a Kante, but there’s a place for that kind of player too. Whether he gets game time ahead of Xhaka in the immediate future I’d be doubtful on, but if he starts to show the same signs of composure on the ball that he has done in pre season, but in some of the League Cup and Europa League games, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start to feature more as the season goes on.
Xhaka will be better too, I reckon, because he’ll have players alongside him who can be the energy, whilst he pulls the strings from deep. I’ve always said I think there’s a great player in there but what that player isn’t is a guy who will cover all the ground in front of the back four or five. Xhaka improved vastly in the second half of last season but to get the best out of him and his vision it feels like he needs a Torreira alongside him. If that happens and those two start more games together then I reckon we see a different Swiss player to the one that we’ve been treated to glimpses of in the last couple of seasons.
So then, finally, to Ramsey (I’m treating Özil as one of the attacking players and so will talk about him separately tomorrow I think). Ahh Rambo, will it be a case that ‘we hardly knew ye’ come the end of today? Or will he still be an Arsenal player this time tomorrow?
I suspect he will. Chelsea’s loan of Kovacic feels like it’s closed that door and unless one of the big European teams comes in then I think we’ll still have our Welshman. If he’s fit, he has to start and if you think about the high-energy game Emery wants Arsenal to play, that is Aaron Ramsey down to a tee. If he signs a new deal then he becomes captain, talisman and should be stepping up to be the focal point. Emery will want to put him front and centre and that wouldn’t even surprise me to see Özil moved to one of the wide forward positions to play Rambo through the middle.
But if he doesn’t sign a new deal then we need to – it saddens me to say – begin a process of phasing him out this season. It sounds a little ‘cut your nose off to spite your face’ but in reality if he isn’t going to commit his future to Arsenal then we shouldn’t be committing the team to revolve around him. And it feels like he’s one of those players that needs that to thrive.
The club needs to sort this situation out though. And fast.
There will be opportunities for the likes of Maitland-Niles, Willock and Nelson throughout the season, but for now I think I’ll just focus on those who are probably going to start in contention. And anyways, I’ve probably rabbited on enough for one day as it is.
Back tomorrow for a look at who we didn’t sign and also our attacking line up.
Catch you all then.