It’s Thursday of week one of the new year and my, hasn’t it flown by, eh? We’re already on the countdown to the FA Cup third round and it’s a home tie to Newcastle that we start to draw our attention to. However, with the lack of team news – some of which will no doubt be coming out today I suspect – there isn’t any specifics to look at ahead of the game other than the fact that Thomas Partey is fit and in full team training. A welcome sight indeed.
So too was hearing that William Saliba had a good game for OGC Nice last night, even though they lost 2-0 and the Brest ‘keeper nearly scored the most bizarre own-goal you’ve ever seen from a pass back from his defender, hitting the crossbar and post before it rebounded back to him. Google it and see if you can find it – it really is quite something. But as for Willy himself, according to my mate Giles who watched the game, he was solid enough at the back. He wasn’t specifically targeted by Brest and that suggests an element of respect for the youngster, but there will come games when he’s tested and then it will be interested to see how he gets on.
Arsenal will certainly be keen to find out and watch closely. I can’t think of a situation in our history where a big money signing was on loan in the situation he’s been in. By that I mean usually our loan moves have been for youngsters that we want to see if they are going to come good, like Smith-Rowe at Huddersfield, or if you want to go way back then you look at Wilshere at Bolton, for example. But those are young academy players who are on low wages and who, if they don’t quite manage to impress enough, would probably just be moved on by the club. The other type of loan is the one where a player is surplus to requirements and we just want to get him out for game time in a hope we can move him in the follow transfer window. Kolasinac and Torreira are clearly that type of player and we know that their card is probably marked in terms of their Arsenal career. But a young, newly signed prospect who we have publicly stated has a long-term future at The Arsenal? That’s a new scenario and I suspect the Arsenal Loan Manager Ben Knapper will have been given a particularly detailed remit to keep a close eye on Saliba. He is an expensive asset that Arsenal need to see plenty of game time getting and also improving, so I suspect there will be plenty for him to be observing in the coming months.
The other Arsenal noises continue to rumble along about a creative midfielder. Julian Brandt’s name keeps popping up and this morning I saw a Tweet about Dortmund supposedly being willing to let Brandt go on loan until the summer. Maybe that is an option for us. We’ve already said that ideally we’d like to get a loan move this January and then make a decision in the summer and if Dortmund really are open to that I think it might be an interesting approach. The only challenge with that, however, is that it either goes two ways with this type of player:
- He comes in, hits the ground running instantly is a hit, meaning Dortmund want him back and we don’t get to see him beyond this season. Alternatively, it drives his price up and we have an expensive signing to make (although that is more justifiable if he has indeed had a blinder playing for us as you know what you are getting).
- He comes in, is patchy and inconsistent, doesn’t really improve the team and as a result we don’t hit our objectives for the end of the year. Sure we have mitigated risk in having him on loan, but the reason we want him in the first place is so that he can improve us, and if he doesn’t then it’s another waste of resources.
Either way it is a tricky one but if we did decide to go for a loan move like that then it does buy us more time for a proper look for a creative midfielder in the summer. Maybe that’s when the discussion over Buendia can be restarted, because that seems like a no-go with the supposed £40million that Norwich would want for his services.
Personally I’d do it if the financials are right. Buys us time, gives us another options and means you can alternate between Smith-Rowe and Brandt. And if Smith-Rowe gets more game time then that’d be perfect, because he has more of a future at the club than a player who is on a loan with no obligation to buy. It also covers the question that everyone has about our reliance on Smith-Rowe given his injury record, as well as the fact that the club see Smith-Rowe as a guy to come in and be the deputy rather than the main man. Brandt is 24 and has more senior football under his name, as well as being a German international with over 30 caps to his name, so would clearly come in and be the main man. But Smith-Rowe will have enough of a carrot dangled in front of him if it were a ‘loan only’ move, knowing that by staying fit and playing well he could really have Arsenal asking questions about who they bring in during the summer if he succeeds.
Either way it will be interesting to see what Arsenal have planned and how quickly they are going to move. I hope they do something soon because in January alone we have five games to play in the space of 21 days – that’s a game roughly every four days and if we are going to leave it until the end of the window we are either playing Smith-Rowe and risking some kind of injury given how little senior football he has played for us, or we are going to use a square peg in a round hole. We tried that with Lacazette – didn’t work. Willian has never played centrally in his career and yet we were looking at him and wondering if he would do it – he won’t. With Ozil on the verge of exit, or at least certainly not a player who will be named in the Arsenal squad, then we really don’t have anybody other than Smith-Riwe who has even come close to looking like they could do it in that connector role between midfield and attack.
So my hope is that Arsenal are making their moves now because if you can get somebody in for mid-January, for example, there are games against Southampton, Man United and Wolves that this player could realistically be in contention for.
Right, that’s yer lot from me for today, so I’ll bid thee farewell and be back tomorrow with whatever other thoughts pop into my head Arsenal-related.