I didn’t watch the game against Hibs on Tuesday and so didn’t actually manage to catch some individual performances. So the sight yesterday of a slightly rounder Willian on the pitch, with various pictures of him looking visibly chubbier as he faced off against the Scottish team, would be utterly hilarious, if it wasn’t so depressing that we might actually be forced to watch him in an Arsenal shirt next season.
We’ve all seen players come back from their summer holiday’s not looking as sharp as the did when the season ended. But that doesn’t manifest itself in such a visible show of over-indulgence as we saw in some of those pictures. We all love a BBQ and hey, he’ll probably go on a strict diet regime and be fully capable of elite football within a month (???), but the optics of these pictures don’t look great, do they?
I mean we’re talking about one of the squads highest earners here. We’re talking about a guy who has done many a pre-season before and who knows what it takes to play at the highest level. Yet what this looks like – from the outside looking in – is a chap who is taking his money and happy to sit on it and do the bare minimum to collect his cashola from the club. When you add to that the season he had last year, that free transfer looks more and more costly every time we get any kind of news about the player.
What scares the bejebus out of most of us Arsenal fans most from these pictures, is the fact that if you are like me, you’re thinking:
“how the eff are we going to offload him – even on a free given his wages – to anyone this summer?”
It hasn’t worked out. This isn’t going to work. He’s not going to play much football next season. Judging by his current physique that probably isn’t really an issue for him though. A year in the stands making millions will probably be no skin off his nose. We just have to hope that Arteta realises the mistake he made in championing this guy and admits it, getting him out of the club this summer, pronto.
The problem is, however, that still we are seeing little movement. We’re now in mid July. The transfer window formally opened on 9th June. It is 12 week’s long and we have already seen five week’s go by and so far we’ve released a bunch of players out of contract, offloaded Guendouzi and Mavropanos. We have signed a back up left back to Tierney and officially that’s it, although confirmation on Lokonga is expected. This transfer window could quickly turn in to a shambles unless some movement happens en masse within the next couple of weeks.
Think about what the club needed to do this summer and what they still need to do:
- Offload Torreira
- Offload Willian
- Make a decision – probably to sell – Nketiah
- Give Bellerin the move he wants
- Find a replacement for Bellerin
- Sort out the Emile Smith Rowe contract
- Sort out the Xhaka situation either way – stay or go
- Decide what they are doing with Willock – sell, loan or stay
- Make a decision on Elneny with one year left on his deal
- Make a decision on Lacazette with one year left on his deal
- Find a creative playmaker so we aren’t overly reliant on ESR given some of the injuries he’d had
- Get in another centre back given that they are intent on loaning our Saliba
- Find a back up goalkeeper
Given all this, and if you were in their shoes, wouldn’t you have made some tough decisions already with some of this? I get that it isn’t simple, but some of it feels like it should be easier than others. For example the Smith Rowe deal must surely be one of the easier ones. Mikel wants to keep him, Arsenal want to keep him, the noises from the camp are that he wants to stay, so just get the deal done. Pay him like a first team player. Then go to Inter Miami and tell them they can have Willian for nothing. If they plead poverty on wages then suck it up and give Willian a sweetener to leave. You did it with Ozil and Mustafi, probably Sokratis too, so just admit the mistake, pay for it, get it done quickly, then start looking at the next item on the list.
Five weeks down, seven to go, approaching the halfway point in the window. In addition to this it is not like the previous summer in which they wanted the window to shut on the first game of the season. Which means if the club wanted to sort its squad out before then, we’re talking about less than a month to go on Friday 13th August, when we play Brentford. We are less than one month away from this very important start to the season in which we have tough opening games, and our squad is already weaker than the one that ended the season. That is especially so when you think that Xhaka and Saka might not be back given they were at the Euro’s and will need more time to rest and recover before starting up training again.
Already this is starting to set some alarm bells going with me, I’m afraid, because we can’t afford to see what our team looks like on 1st September and pretend the season starts then. We’ve done that too many times in the past and we should be sorting ourselves out sooner rather than later.
Perhaps over the next week it will all change. Perhaps we’re about to see a flurry of activity at London Colney and Highbury House. But it doesn’t really feel like it at the moment, does it?
I should probably leave it there today. Got plenty of work to be getting on with.
You have yourselves a fine ol’ day.