Soon cometh the weekend, eh?
But there goeth the Greek smiler from Arsenal. Yep, the latest departure at the club was confirmed yesterday and it was our Greek central defender Sokratis who the club confirmed it had terminated his contract by mutual consent. The right move, he’s never properly been in Mikel’s plans and didn’t even make the squad this season along with Mesut (who still hasn’t been officially confirmed, despite his hardcore social media activity confirming it in pictures but not really words.
It’s the latest in a long line of unofficial confirmations from the club of some of the poor transfer management been done by the club over the years and a tacit admission that the actions of those now no longer at the club have cost us, although questions can also be raised given we weren’t able to offload players last summer, even during a pandemic.
Sokratis joins Ozil, Ramsey, Alexis, Mkhitaryan, Welbeck, Cazorla, Wilshere, heck – you could probably go back as mention Fabianski too, who left on a free. Yep, we have become quite accustomed to spending money on players and not getting value back from them as a club. That’s the way I look at it. If you are going to get value from a player then he should never leave on a free. Unless his age is such that it is the right thing to do i.e. a player who is 36 and wants to move back to his homeland. But that instance has rarely happened at The Arsenal in the last five years or so and here we are again having paid £16million for a player two and a half years ago that we are now releasing for free.
The club had to do it, don’t get me wrong, but what this situation highlights to me is the problem we have at the club, which is not down to one person but has many people culpable of how poor we’ve been in extracting value from our players going out of the club.
The depressing thing is that it won’t end there. Luiz will go for free, £35million Mustafi will go for free, then we’ll probably get poor value from Elneny, Maitland-Niles and Nketiah if he goes with one year left on his contract. We’re just not very good at our sales process and that is something that the club needs to get sorted in the summer. Find somebody who can make an amazing Adobe PDF brochure and YouTube compilation, or something, Arsenal.
In terms of the player himself, he was an alright stop gap, but again we probably overpaid. MOst likely because Dortmund just held out a little longer and we went back again a couple of times for a few nibbles. Sokratis had some decent games, he had some poor ones, but he’ll always be remembered as the man who it looked painful to smile, that picture of his arms outstretched with Harry Kane on his arse, as well as telling Arsenal fans to ‘calm down’ (in a kind of humourous way) in the FA Cup game at home to Leeds when he played at right back and wanted us to all know that he had everything under control.
In many ways though, his signing was a problem of the recent ‘experience now’ approach mentality that has seeped into the current regime with the signing of the likes of Willian. We’ve gone for Sokratis, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang (although that has largely worked out fine), Luiz, Willian and whilst five years ago I was certainly an advocate of buying Premier League ready players for the Arsenal team, these instances would not have exactly been what I had in mind. I’ve always hoped it would be that 24-year-old guy who had a number of years under his belt and still had a few more, not players like Willian who are a busted flush and just collecting their final coin before disappearing off in to the distance.
You can’t say that about Sokratis, he always seemed like he put the effort in, but it was probably always obvious he didn’t have the technical ability to play in a Mikel Arteta side. Not as a centre half who is expected to pick the ball up deep from the keeper and play out from the back, obviously, so it was always going to end with an exit earlier than his contract expiry I felt.
I just hope the club have played this sensibly and have at least recouped some money back that they would have played. If they owed him £2.5million, for example, then I hope the deal they’ve sorted is paying him off half of that with him safe in the knowledge that he’ll recoup his cash back in his next move and signing on fee with another club. If we were giving him £1.5million, for example, he could still probably grab himself a £1million signing on fee and wages elsewhere, so he’s quids in, whilst Arsenal get to claim an invisible million back of committed costs up until July.
I suspect that’s what has happened and if that’s the case then fine, crack on, like the Ozil situation. But I bet we hear more about that from Fenerbahce soon because they’ll want to not only parade this as a big win in terms of a big signing, but also that they have got him on the cheap and that it’s Arsenal who have still stumped up most of the cash the player wanted.
And so we now look towards incomings and also the remainder to be cleared in the summer, I suspect. If I was to hazard a guess I’d say we’re unlikely to get anybody else in this January, which I’m kind of ok with given that I think within the next two months the hopes of any decent league qualification might just be a bit beyond us, then it’s just down to seeing if we can have a good cup run. The purge has started but it won’t finish for another six months and if we can get this season over and done with and look to do a proper reboot in the summer, then I’m ok with that. And when I say ‘reboot’ I’m not just talking about transfers in. We need to be better at extracting value from our playing staff. Liverpool sold Rhian Brewster – who had no Premier League experience – during a pandemic transfer window and conned Sheffield United out of £23million. If we’re going to get better at selling we surely need to be looking at that – minimum – for the likes of Nketiah and Maitland-Niles, both of whom have done good things for their international teams (Nketiah smashing records at under-21s) and both of whom have proven Premier League experience. Other teams don’t budge when we go for their players, so why should we listen to the poverty card from them when we are selling? We shouldn’t and I hope that is a lesson Arsenal learn this summer.
Right, that’s me sorted for today. Offski for another one so I’ll catch thee in the morrow.