It’s Wednesday, the middle of the week, another three days until we meet Southampton in the FA Cup. So what did I do when I woke up this morning? Something I haven’t really done all season:
I looked at the league table.
It’s a bit mental. Usually by February you start to see one or two teams with a game still to play and usually it is because they’re fighting on a number of fronts, which is usually one or two of the teams at the top of the division, but right now we have about half a dozen teams with games in hand at a stage in which I’m sure the Premier League will be wanting most to be at the 19-match point like we are. Villa, for example, are just below us but have FOUR games in hand over us, so out position of 10th is probably a little bit false right now. They play Man City tonight and hopefully City get a win, not least to keep us in fourth at least until the weekend, but also because they are the lesser of all the evils at the top. Just my personal preference, but I am not a fan of Leicester, I REALLY don’t want to see the Scum there, plus you’ve got the irritation of United being top that frustrates. Liverpool I have made my peace with after last season so between those clubs I’ve just mentioned I’d rather see City then Liverpool up there than some of those currently occupying top spot.
It’s petty, I’m petty, but hey I’m a football fan and we have that attribute in spades as a collective. But when we all end up looking back on this season, I am in no doubt we’ll feel an immense sense of frustration. I find myself doing the ‘what if’s every week this season. If only we’d gotten our act together at home to Wolves Leicester and Villa. In each of those games we were poor, but add nine points to our tally and we’d be sat right up there dreaming of a potential title charge. Even the insipid performance at home to Burnley feels maddening, not least because it was of our own making and the recklessness of Granit Xhaka being stupid that cost us yet more points.
But I’m not turning this into a Xhaka bashing session, instead merely pointing out the opportunities we’ve had to correct any sort of blip. But we didn’t so much as ‘blip’ as fall head first into one of those sinkholes you see randomly open up in suburban towns and cities occasionally. It was a downing of tools from some of those players and I hope Arteta gets to the end of the season and shows no such loyalty to some of those chancers who got him in to the mess he was in just a few short weeks ago. Cut hard and cut deep Mikel. And admit that mistakes have been made. For example, if we have to give Willian a loyalty payment and a free transfer to get him out in the summer, just do it. If you want to move on Maitland-Niles, Chambers, etc, because you don’t think they have got it (although I’m not saying they are the problem, just that they aren’t playing enough), then do it. You’ve got Ozil, Kolasinac, Guendouzi out the door, but don’t even entertain the idea of a Luiz contract renewal (I don’t think they will ) and get Mustafi and Sokratis gone too. Hey, even Lacazette is probably somebody worth cashing in on.
There needs to be churn this summer because this Arsenal team at the beginning of the season – on paper and given what we have seen as the season has panned out – needs to be rebooted.
I know this is all stuff you have heard and read before, but I’m just saying it as it pops in to my head this morning. That’s what I always do with these blogs. And today has me thinking that come 1st July I’d rather have a squad looking thin than the one we had at the end of December looking more bloated than Mr Creosote in The Meaning of Life.
We’re probably also getting to the point where the club needs to decide if it is going to take a big hit on Pepe too. I want him to come good, I think he has the talent to be a success, but it is increasingly feeling like it isn’t with The Arsenal. Saka has ‘clicked’ in that right wing spot and there’s no way he’s not starting in the most important games now, so unless Pepe can do something spectacular in the opportunities he’ll be given, I can’t see this ending well. So take the hit in the summer if you have to. I’m not wedded to any of the players who have gotten us into the mess we’ve seen this season. I have no favourites any more.
If you think about it, there is a long list of players that could potentially go in the summer, to which I’ve already mentioned a chunk. Yet there are still more I’d question. Like Elneny for example. Surely we’ve got to get him out with only a year left on his deal? Or Torreira, whose loan move isn’t working out at all. He’ll be on the ‘for sale’ pile for sure. Eddie Nketiah too will have to have a decision made on him and the more you think about it, the more it feels like a mass change around in the squad is inevitable. I’ve listed 15 players from our first team but didn’t even mention Reiss Nelson or Joe Willock, both of whom Arsenal fans have questions over and Nelson who looks like he is so far out of favour he doesn’t even make match day squads these days. Not on a regular basis, anyway.
I also didn’t even talk about Ceballos, who will go back to Madrid.
That is a huge turnover of playing talent. Which also highlights the mess of the previous regime and the way in which we’ve managed transfers, contracts and loan deals.
My hope is that we see a huge change in the summer. Will we get it as big as what I’ve described above? Doubtful. But there will be plenty of work to do and I’m ready for it.
Catch you all tomorrow with more ramblings.