I didn’t bother to watch any football yesterday (no Arsenal, no bother) but at 10pm last night as the news was on I thought I’d have a flick through my Twitter feed. And blow me down if I don’t see a load of Arsenal fans talking about the 1997/98 run that won us the league. Well, I’m thinking to myself “what an earth has brought this on?” and then when checking the Liverpool score I see that they have slipped up again, this time at the hands of Southampton on the South Coast.
Apparently we’re only 10 points off them and that gap is more than negotiable given what the 1997/98 team did. I love the optimism that is sweeping some people, although, I suspect some of it is tongue in cheek. Because although we’d all love to see this Arsenal team go on a 20 game winning streak in the league – that is what I think it would take to get close because that would see us having 83 points with three games to go when the season closes – I cannot particularly see this team doing it.
Don’t get me wrong, going on a winning streak is certainly possible and even Emery had a decent one when he first took charge, but the quality of the squad eventually caught up with us and we all clearly know this squad isn’t good enough. There are also question marks about those players who are running out of contracts and the characters in this Arsenal team have also been questioned a few times already this season.
That 97/98 team had some proper ‘characters’ in it and when the season was done we started to learn about the team ‘heart-to-heart’ that had happened after the defeat to Blackburn at home. That result sparked a streak of 15 wins, three draws and only two defeats after the title had been confirmed. It also had a ten game winning streak. I tell you what though, if Mikel Arteta puts ten league wins in a row together, then I will certainly start to believe it’s possible. He’s got three down already, so wins against Palace (home), Newcastle (home), Southampton (away), Man United (home), Wolves (away), Villa (away) and then Leeds (home) will have me believing we’re in with a shot. But you only need to look at those games themselves to realise that maximum points is probably unlikely.
However, it’s nice to be able to have those kind of comments on your timeline – however flippantly – because a month ago we were grimly talking about what happens with some of these players’ contracts when we are relegated. This season is mad though and the fact that with three wins that conversation isn’t even a talking point amongst pundits, just shows you how difficult it is this year and how any team on any kind of run will find themselves thinking of glory.
We’ll have to do it without William Saliba, who the club confirmed joined Nice yesterday on loan until the end of the season and whilst I’ll admit to some severe worry about what was happening yesterday, my hope has been lifted for the Frenchman after Edu confirmed that he is very much part of the clubs plans and they want him to get games and come back in the summer to compete. Hey, we all need to still be convinced that it is what the club want – I want to believe that too – but I guess it is up to Saliba to have a storming second half of the season and then get Arteta to have a proper look at him in the summer. I hope it works out well for him because he looks like a proper talent and we’d all love to see him do it in an Arsenal shirt.
I’m also pleased that Arsenal appear to be acting swiftly in their decision making this January. The Kolasinac deal was done before the window even opened, this deal was done within days of it, so hopefully there can be a few more players whose futures are sorted out sooner rather than later. There was some heavy talk about Emi Buendia and having sent one Emi packing from the club in the shape of Martinez to Villa last summer window, I think it only fit and proper that we get another one in…
All jokes aside though, he looks like a very good player for Norwich and it seems like he is tearing it up, with a fantastic goal at the weekend. Ten year’s ago you’d have dismissed it because of the quality of the Championship, but as Leeds have shown this year, Villa and Sheffield United last year, there is certainly a quality gap that has narrowed. Buendia looks a very good prospect but I’d be stunned if it happened this January. For one thing Norwich don’t have to sell. They made a couple of high value sales last summer and so have cash in the bank despite the COVID situation. They are also flying high at the top of the Championship and look like they’ll be in the Premier League again next season, so the carrot is there for some of their players to stay. And because of their position in the Championship, they know that selling a player who could see them promoted and get that circa £100million windfall, could be a massive gamble. So why take £25million today when you could make £100million tomorrow?
That would be their thinking I reckon. Of course if the player pushes for a move then it could be different. As I was talking about with my mate Giles on Twitter, if the guy pushes for it then it could force Norwich’s hand and although people are questioning whether Arsenal was the draw it once was, there is no doubt that if you’re in Buendia’s position you are going to jump at the chance of joining an established Premier League team with expectations of competing at the top rather than relegation.
The problem is that Arsenal don’t have money to spend in abundance. Norwich would probably laugh off £25million as it is, with some talk that only something like £40million gets Arsenal their man. There’s no way we’ll drop that kind of cash and I can see why some players have been mooted as possible makeweights. Nelson and Willock on loan would, I think, certainly help Norwich’s promotion run, but you have to convince those players that it is a good move for them. Willock might look at it and say that he’s played over 40 games in the Premier League last season and that’s where he sees his level. Whereas Nelson might think that Arsenal spending big money on Buendia means he doesn’t have a future at the club, so does he see a possible future at Norwich?
Transfers are complicated enough without ‘makeweights’ in the deals and that is why I’m not too convinced on this one. But if we could get him it would certainly improve us. Quite what it would do for Nicolas Pepe’s future would remain to be seen though, as Buendia primarily operates on the right hand side.
Anyway, that’s enough dirty speculation for one day, so I’ll take my leave and wish you and yours a good day. Catch you all tomorrow.