Well here we are folks. The road ahead is as clear as day and so to is the list of players we will have available to us until the summer window opens up at the end of June. And I am sure you, as much as I, am disappointed with what has transpired this January. To me there is no other way of describing what has happened over the last 31 days in the transfer market as Arsenal have slowly disassembled large chunks of their squad and failed to recruit a single replacement to improve our squad.
That is a fact.
It is a fact that we are now officially weaker as a squad than we were on 31st December 2021. During January we have let 14 players leave the club. Admittedly, a large chunk have been kids, so if you only count those who could have been classed as ‘first team squad’, it is six players leaving, as last night it was all but confirmed that Aubameyang had left the club and signed for Barcelona on a free transfer. Our captain, a guy who started the season as first choice striker, plus a guy who has four Premier League goals in the 12 matches he has started (two additional games as a sub) has exited and has joined another team for free just so we could get his wages off the books. A player who has joined the increasingly growing list of those frozen out at the club by Arteta. We don’t know exactly why, we haven’t been given the transparency on that, but what we do know is that from the beginning of December we have decided that Aubameyang was not part of the first team because of his transgressions at the club. He must have done more than what has been publicly provided as information and if that is the case then I have no problem with the club acting. I agree that the culture at the club needed to change and if this is one of the latest steps to improve on that, then I’m fine with it. if I am honest.
What I am not fine with is the lack of planning that appears – from the outside – to have gone in to this window. We have lost a host of players for practically nothing, squad players who could have possibly have made an impact in January, yet totally failed to replace any of them. I have seen people suggest that many of these players weren’t playing anyway and so we shouldn’t get upset. But I think that misses the point somewhat. We all agree that football is a squad game these days, right? If that is the case, you need to make sure those who can step up can deliver – even if only on a temporary basis – to try to maintain your goals for the season. To me what we have done in offloading so many players to try to make room for more feels borderline reckless.
We are a few impact injuries away from disaster. We have staked the rest of our season on a thinner squad and whilst there will be rest in between games so fatigue won’t be an issue, we are a reducer challenge, or a twisted move away from looking like that ramshackle collective of players who started the season so poorly. Every time an Arsenal first team player goes gown after a collision on the pitch we will be holding our breaths. Every time we await team news on injuries we will be crossing our fingers. Every time we need to change a game we will be looking at the bench and wondering what on earth to do. Our paucity of options will soon become clear and I am so disappointed in the club for their lack of foresight and planning.
Bukayo Saka gets kicked everywhere he goes. If he takes one too many and is out injured for a while, we have Pepe, but that’s it. If Smith Rowe has another knock that keeps him out, we’re relying on Odegaard and that’s it. If Partey or Xhaka are missing together at all it’s back to Elneny and then Sambi in the midfield. Sambi I’m ok with but we’ve danced the Elneny dance; it isn’t pretty and it doesn’t elevate us to where we want to be.
Which is another frustration I have with people saying “that wasn’t the target this season. We shouldn’t have raised our expectations”. Nonsense. If we were second in the league and a point away from the team at the top, do you think we’d all be saying “oh well, we weren’t expecting this so let’s just be happy”. Of course we wouldn’t! We’d want the club to do that little bit extra to get us closer to achieving that big prize. Or how about this – if you were in a race – let’s say a 100m sprint – and you were at 60 metres and in with a chance of a medal, are you going to ease off because you were only rated as likely to finish sixth or seventh? You don’t, you push yourself that little bit more because following your start you have found yourself in an unexpected position, a position from which you can achieve an amazing objective that could change your life. Finishing top four feels like it could be a game-changer for Arsenal from a financial point of view. But this window feels like we have just decided to ease off a little bit with an opportunity to go further than we thought we could this season.
And for people who are saying that we can still achieve our objectives with the team we have got, because the players we have lost have not been playing, I refer you back to Aubameyang. He scored against Norwich in a 1-0 win in September. He second in the 3-1 win versus the Scum. He scored in a 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace at home and he scored in the 3-1 win against Villa. Even if you could argue that we scored other goals in the Villa and Spurs games and so his absence wouldn’t have been felt, you cannot argue that the two other goals he has scored haven’t contributed towards some – albeit a small number – of points that have had an impact on our season. Do you know where we would be if you take away those goals and points from our team (which is what we have done by not replacing him)?
Eighth. On 32 points. Ask yourself this question: Would there be as much understanding if we were in that position? Because by weakening ourselves and not replacing Aubameyang and even the few goals he has scored already for the first half of the season, it could very well happen again, I’m afraid to say.
I am behind Arteta and Arsenal. I want him to succeed because Arsenal succeed. I will back my team until the end. But it has become difficult not to think this morning that we have self-inflicted a whole lot more worry and risk on ourselves with the decisions made this January.
Catch you all tomorrow.
You are absolutely correct in everything you say.Dont tell me that Zakaria for under £10m would not have been a reasonable replacement for AMN and certainly a better option than Elneny!!…As we saw last month Arsenal are a few injuries and a red card away from being uncompetitive….Yet poor planning once again has allowed a team with great potential to rest on it’s laurels of a couple of good performances in December…lose all momentum gained during that time and forego the undoubted lift that a couple of decent additions would have brought to the squad…A decision which smacks of stupidity,ineptitude and delusion…If the result is mid-table mediocrity once again I hope that Arteta and Edu have the decency,at least, to fall on their respective swords and leave the management of Arsenal to people who are more capable of success.