Well I have to say well played to Raul Sanllehi once again because even though we all thought our business was done for the season both in and out, he pulled out another little surprise with the agreement that Henrikh Mkhitaryan is now a Roma player following a deadline day move.
It’s a move that, quite frankly, i’m delighted with on many counts. When he arrived at The Arsenal in that swap deal with Alexis I thought we might be able to patch together the pieces of the broken player that Jose Mourinho left behind at United. But as time wore on and 18 or so months later we see, that was always a bit of a pipe dream, because we never really got the player who was so electric whilst at Dortmund. And after a year and a half of being at Arsenal, given his age, I don’t think that player will ever return.
It’s a shame really because given the Alexis transfer to United went so horribly wrong it would have been delightful to see Mkhi make the step up. But we got barely any end product, a player who looked a little bit lost at times, epitomised by his cameo performance on Sunday which was complete with misplaced passes and mis-control of the football. When we needed a spark at the weekend with Laca not able to do 90 minutes he stepped forward and showed us just why Arsenal were so willing to get rid.
He delivered us nine goals and ten assists in nearly sixty games. That’s less than one meaningful bit of end product every three games. If you take into account that he was one of our highest paid players on £200k-a-week and was in a front three at many times last season, that simply isn’t good enough. Last season we had issues with our attacking players – other than Auba and Laca – delivering end product. We were too reliant on those two and we needed our wide forwards to pick up the slack. Both Iwobi and Mkhitaryan were those players charged with doing that and between them their return was pitiful. It speaks volumes to the new regime that the decision was clearly taken and the club have acted rather ruthlessly to remove those underperforming players and replace them with new and young players to be given a chance.
And that’s the right thing to do. Not only does the Roma loan move free up something like £180k of wages per week, but it opens up opportunities for the likes of Nelson, Martinelli, perhaps even the likes of Smith-Rowe to play out wide and be given game time. We have good young options and when your senior players are just getting in the way of that then you need to make a swift decision. The club did that.
It is a bit odd that Emery still chose to give Mkhitaryan minutes on Sunday though. He could have chosen Nelson, or even Ozil in that attacking trio, yet opted for a guy who would be in Italy playing for a new team just 24 hours later. Perhaps he thought this was one last shot at proving that he could still deliver something for us. If that was in Emery’s thinking then it failed spectacularly and maybe the Spaniard even sanctioned the move after his limp cameo?
Whatever the story behind it, this move is a big nod towards some of the young players because we couldn’t sign anybody else and Nelson or Martinelli now have space in front of themselves with which to take their chance between now and January. If they step up and show their perceived quality then the club will no doubt reward them with more game time. If they don’t then maybe the club will look at its options in January.
Whatever the situation it just serves to highlight that there’s a decisiveness that exists in the current footballing structure that didn’t feel like it was there even over a year ago. Wenger may have gone last summer but the fraud that is Gazidis was still at the club and so now that we have shed that particular piece of corporate deadwood, it feels like we’re a little more reinvigorated.
I also like the make up of our squad. We’re a little younger now, more athletic, it looks like there is a certain type of player we are starting to mould, so all in all I’d say we can be excited to see what the rest of this season can bring.
There was one deal that the club didn’t manage to do outwards, which was that of Mustafi heading out of the door, but I guess nobody’s perfect. Mustafi will now stay at the club until January at least and I suspect he’ll see little football time. The fact that he hasn’t pushed for a move is a bit farcical really because it’s going to make his life more difficult when he does eventually leave. His stock will have fallen and the clubs that are going to be interested in a player who’s barely played any football will be obvious. But that’s just football I guess. He’ll be limited to League Cup and Europa League games and unless there’s a massive defensive crisis he isn’t getting near our first team. That’s his choice and he and the club are just going to have to make the best out of the situation.
Catch you all tomorrow.