Here we are. The of 2020. Get in the effin’ bin you horrendous year.
Apart from the bit in which we won the FA Cup. That bit was grand, although even that was slightly tainted because there were no fans in the stadium to get to the final and as a result we all had to watch from our armchairs. Finals are actually a rarity for even the most lucky of fans, so not being able to see your team win it is a real wrench. But at least we did and from a footballing perspective that’s pretty much all we can take from 2020. It was quite the annus horribilis for The Arsenal and frankly I’m glad to see the back of it. COVID, defeat after defeat, some shoddy performances, some shocking transfer decisions, as well as some leeches who frankly we’ll all be glad to see the back of.
And it appears as though some of the waste is already being jettisoned from the Good Ship Arsenal it seems, as Sead Kolasinac is reportedly on the verge of a return to Schalke, having left them to join us in 2017 for a free transfer. When he arrived we hailed him as a ‘tank’, he looked impressive and strong going forward at first, but his lack of technical ability and then perhaps confidence, has seen a player whose most recent involvement was to be part of the supporting cast of players stinking the joint out for the game in the League Cup at home to Man City. And he certainly played his part in that game, ducking out of the way of the free kick Mahrez took that Runarrson flapped in to his own net. It was symptomatic of the fall he has had from our team, but that we couldn’t offload him in the summer tells a bigger story about Arsenal’s mismanagement of player recruitment and contracts in recent years.
The thing about Kolasinac though, compared to some of the other deals, was that you could sort of understand it because it came without a transfer fee. By signing for us on a Bosman he was able to approach a number of clubs via his agent and command a high fee. He had been in the Bundesliga team of the year that season and so his stock was at its highest. He was also in his early 20s, which meant that he theoretically had resale value, so whilst right now paying him the reported £100k-per-week feels steep, back then it was a relatively sensible punt and I don’t remember anybody complaining about it when it happened. If we’d have bought the player we’d have probably had to pay around the £10 – £15million mark, plus his salary. Even at half of his current salary we’d have outlayed circa £17million+ if he was a market value signing. Of course we don’t know about signing on fees buy just the salary alone over the three and a half years he’s been at Arsenal makes it £18million (ish), so it’s far from the worst punt ever taken for a player that on paper looked smart.
But unfortunately we can’t take the likes of Kolasinac as a an isolated incident, because the club have made multiple costly errors which have seen us fall far from the places we want to be at in the league. Shkodran M ustafi for big money and big wages, Mesut Ozil for big wages which has led to this current situation, Mkhitaryan in a swap deal instead of getting money for Alexis Sanchez, Lacazette instead of Aubameyang and then subsequently buying Aubameyang, Denis Suarez, Nicolas Pepe, David Luiz, Cedric Soares, then most recently the complete shocker that was Willian. It has been a litany of either bad decisions on high wage low-value players, or big money on players who haven’t kicked on from promise at other clubs, or just weird deals which on the face of it have a very fishy whiff about them.
And as a result the club are just having to remove the ballast from the airplane by just chucking out anything of even the tiniest bit of value at the club. Kolasinac will go out on loan until the summer and then I suspect the club will just look for somebody to take on his wages with no fee involved. Sokratis will possibly go this January, most likely for free, having signed for us three year’s ago for £15million. Lucas Torreira we’ll have to find a buyer for and his value will have tanked by next summer after he’s having a difficult time in Spain apparently. Ozil will get his big money move from the MLS, but not before he’s taken his wages and probably also a loyalty bonus at the end of his contract.
I could go on but I think we all know the mess the management has put the club in and the hope is that enough dead weight can be cut from the team that we can start to look a little more like a side playing for their teammates rather than their bank managers. I suspect there might be one, maybe two more, that go from the club this window, but I doubt they’ll be replaced. That’s because we a) don’t really have the money, and b) already have a bloated squad. So all we’re really doing is levelling things up.
But it’s a start. The cull has begun and for that we can be pleased. Let it continue and reach its climax come the summer. Then we can start to see where the club are at come the ending of those disastrous contracts that are coming to an end.
Have a happy new year celebrating in whatever slightly odd way you have to celebrate this year. I suspect we might get some form of team news today so hopefully it is good.
Catch you all in 2021.