Just when everyone thought it was getting ‘really’ serious, as quickly as the Ramsdale rumours started ‘hotting up’, they’ve had some cold water poured on them as of last night, with news emerging that Arsenal were unprepared to meet the frankly farcical fee suggested by Sheffield United for Ramsdale.
This is good. This is acceptable. For me the issue hasn’t been so much about Ramsdale being a poor ‘keeper, because I think he’s okayish, but he feels like a classic decent backup ‘keeper and if you’re getting one of those, you need to be looking at spending a fee comparable with the expectations of where the player is at in the pecking order. You can’t drop £30million on a ‘keeper that’s going to have a towel wrapped around him on the bench all season. Especially given that nobody has any money whatsoever. If we were a state owned club who could spunk whatever we wanted on players, you could understand it, but the reason we’re in the mess we’re in right now ahead of the season is because we have no real benefactor who will put his hand in to his own pocket.
So here we are. T-minus one day and counting until the new season starts. And where are we at? I thought i’d do a season preview breakdown piece today, given that it all kicks off from tomorrow with us facing Brentford in the season curtain raiser. And what are my expectations for the season?
Well, right now, not a lot. We have a goalkeeper who has supposedly made noises about leaving, then we heard some tentative noises about a new contract, but that died down quickly and so he’ll be our number one for the season. Which is just as well right now because as it stands we don’t even have a proper number two. If Leno was to injure himself tomorrow night, for example, we’re looking at chocolate wrists Runarsson or the young ‘keeper Okonkwo, who had a a slightly nervy pre season himself. We have all of our eggs in the Leno-shaped basket and even he looked a little shaky with his distribution.
In defence we have upgraded with White coming in and he has looked good with the little we’ve seen him. But as it stands the team tomorrow night will include a player in Pablo Mari who has looked more like an articulated lorry in pre season, as well as no real decision that looks to have been made on the future of Bellerin. So it’ll be either the Spaniard who wants out or a slightly less mobile Chambers who we pretty much can all agree probably isn’t a long term solution, right? If it’s Chambers for the season then every team is going to try to expose us on our flanks this season and we might see more of what we saw against Chelski and the Scum i.e. when we press our full backs high, wide players take up positions in behind and we are cut open on the counter. Chambers will naturally be more inclined to drop deep, but Tierney won’t. The difference between the two flanks is that Tierney has pace to get back, whereas Chambers doesn’t, so I’d be surprised if he marauds as much as the Scot.
That in itself leaves us feeling a little one dimensional and if teams know we concentrate our attacks on the left hand side, they simply target us on our right, whilst creating overloads on our left, to snuff out any danger. And this is one of my biggest worries for the season: Arsenal are too predictable and teams know what we’re going to do before we’ve even done it. There is not enough chaos theory going on at Arsenal. We have systems and structures and patterns of play, but we do not have the randomness that catches teams off guard, underneath all of the structure and order.
That’s why I’m not overly confident of our season as it stands. I think as the season wears on we’ll be in or around the seventh, sixth or fifth positions, but I haven’t seen any signs or glimmers of hope that this season could see something unlikely and delightful i.e. a charge on top four. That looks to be sewn up by the financially doped clubs, Liverpool or the commercial juggernaut that is United.
Our hope is that Gabriel comes back fit and then maybe we can be difficult to break down, repeating the good form that saw us with the third best defence last season, but we all know the biggest problem this team has is scoring goals. We have once again fallen in to the trap of putting a square peg in a round hole in Aubameyang wide left, with the round peg in the round whole of Lacazette simply not good enough, despite how he’s looked in pre season (which is pretty decent to be fair). We have a midfield in which Partey not in it is a bit of an unknown and I guess at this stage the fear is that having spent his entire career at Atletico relatively injury free, his body has got to the age where it has started to break down and he is more and more susceptible to injuries. That places a heck of a lot of responsibility on Sambi and whilst I – like you I’m sure – have been impressed with him so far, it is a lot to ask for him to take up Thomas’ role on a more regular basis. If he comes in, does well for a few games, then hands the keys back to Partey and he looks like he’ll be fit for most of the season, then that’s a-ok for me. But if Partey has another season peppered with injuries, the fear is that Sambi won’t be given the time and space to evolve into the midfielder we all hope he will be.
There are just too many questions about this Arsenal side and Arteta himself for me to believe that a shock can happen in terms of a top four space. I went in to the summer thinking that if we bin off some of the deadwood, make some smart moves, then with less games, we might stand a chance. But we’re looking at a similar looking side to the one that finished eighth last season.
The positive that I will end on today, however, is that the side that finished eighth last season was also one of the form sides since Christmas 2020. If THAT Arsenal side shows up then we will at least be competing in the top half of the table and not languishing in 17th come November. Hopefully the likes of Kolasinac, Cedric, Holding/Mari (who are ok but should not be first choice), Elneny, Willian are all nowhere near the first team for the vast bulk of the season and hopefully we see an Arsenal side that kicks in to gear tomorrow. We need to because as it stands I’m not really expecting anything from the Chelski and City games after Brentford.
Perhaps there will be business done between now and the end of the window but I wouldn’t put my house on it and so to use a golfing term “play it where it lies”, we have to look at the season through the prism of the current squad and not a potential future squad with signings. That is why, for me right now, it’s hardly a season in which many Arsenal fans I know have much hope or expectation.
Hoping to be proved wrong by 10pm tomorrow night.
Catch you all tomorrow.