I found myself feeling the most dirty and unholiest of things last night: I actually routed for the Scum to win. It felt wrong on so many levels. But our ambitions have elevated ourselves above such local rivalry for me. The Scum are less of a consequence for The Arsenal this season. I suppose if I am trying to look at the positives of last night’s second half capitulation of Them to Man City, it is that they are the team currently occupying fifth and we are now 14 points clear of them, with two games in hand and depending on which bets you look at, we’re between 1/50 and 1/200 to qualify for the top four. And I will maintain my stance for a little while longer that top four was the goal at the beginning of the season. When I feel truly in my heart of hearts that top four is secured, then I’ll start to look at the top and start to wonder if that is possible.

My gut tells me that on around game week 25 I’ll probably start to have a better idea of whether I’m really going to open myself up to believing we have the potential to win the Premier League.

But to do that we need depth in the squad, as we’ve all known for some time, which is why the news that broke yesterday about Leandro Trossard is welcome. I first got a WhatsApp from one of the lads I go to the football with and when I read it yesterday morning my initial reaction was “ok,  fair enough, a little bit of depth. But how much is the fee?”. Two solid decades under Arsene Wenger trained me as an amateur accountant, you see, as if the difference between £20million and £30million should be something that is so imperative to me. I think I even said “if it’s £30million, then cheerio, for me”. But in reality we….sorry, I, need to start thinking a little differently given the position we are in right now. We’re five points clear at the top of the league with a game in hand, if we beat United on Sunday we probably remain five points clear because City will beat Wolves at home, but we’ll still have that game in hand. But whilst we’re playing well, we need to recognise that we aren’t going to have situations like we’ve had in January so far. What I mean by that is the scheduling of our games. We played Newcastle on 3rd January, then had Oxford in the cup in which we were able to undertake mass rotation. That mean that for many of our first team starters they had 12 days in between matches. Then after the NLD, we play United on Sunday, a full seven days since we played last. We aren’t knocked out of every domestic cup competition and we are in Europe, so we aren’t going to get one game a week until the end of the season. That is why a signing like Trossard makes sense.

Yes, he’s a little on the older side compared to our age profile of players we’ve signed so far under the recent Edu and Arteta regime and yes, he’s not exactly got the same level of exciting potential that Mudryk had. But with every passing minute I am seeing this as a sensible move and the amateur account in me is also appreciating this too. It’s circa £21million plus add ons. Those add ons will most likely be winning competitions like the Premier League, a domestic cup or the Europa League. And if through Trossard’s arrival we are able to rotate enough to keep players fit to win either the Premier League or the Europa League then, my word, this will have been worth it. Let’s also not forget that in Europe we have a pretty sparse record. We’ve won one Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (which was the predecessor to the UEFA Cup, which then became the Europa League) in 1970 and one Cup Winners Cup in 1994. I was 12 the last time we won in Europe and I’m 40 now. The Europa League Cup would be a massive achievement and so we should absolutely be going for it. Not only that, if we do win it, then paying those extra bonuses to clubs like Brighton will be no skin off our nose. In fact, that’s probably why Brighton have accepted £6million in bonuses. That’s nearly a third of the value being made up based on success metrics. Brighton are no mugs, but I think it also shows them that Arsenal are a team that might be able to win something this season (I hope I haven’t cursed us to the footballing gods by even uttering those words!). But it isn’t a competition we could realistically look at it we are gunning for the Premier League too. Not with the team as we have it. The arrival of Trossard makes us think differently. It makes me think differently. I was thinking about a fully rotated team to play in the next round of that competition if we need to, and it could look something like this:


Tomiyasu   –    Holding   –   Gabriel   –   Tierney


ESR/Vieira   –   Lokonga

Vieira/ESR   –   Nketiah   –   Trossard

Alright, that is a team in which there is clear a drop down in quality from the main match day squad and of course if we’re in the semi final of the competition Arteta probably doesn’t rotate his whole team, but I feel a little more comfortable about the depth now, compared to a week ago. For example, the Round of 16 is on 9th and 16th March. We play Bournemouth on 4th March, then Fulham on 11th, then Palace on 18th. With those teams plus that Europa League tie, I think Arteta would feel much more confident about rotating in and out some players from the above rotated squad. So perhaps during the Fulham game we see a Trossard starting because we want to play Martinelli against a strong Europa League opponent. Perhaps the full backs get switched around a bit so we have Zinchenko and Tomiyasu in that game, then Tierney and White in the Europa League match? The possibility for some light rotation to keep momentum is there for us.

So as I said at the top of the blog, this Trossard signing makes sense. He comes in on a decent wage, he’s been in decent goalscoring form so far this season with seven goals and ten assist, making him on track for a 20 goals and assists season this season if he’d have continued to play regularly at Brighton, and we have a player who will not come in and upset the apple cart by wanting to play instantly because he cost £75million and thinks that he should be starting given his status, fee and wage. Yep, this deal works on many levels for us.

The big challenge for the club now is to get the deal done in time to register him for Sunday. If they can, then suddenly he can train with the team tomorrow and be an option for the bench on Sunday along with Fabio Vieira and Emile Smith Rowe. And suddenly we’re looking at a much stronger looking bench. Turner, Tierney, Tomiyasu, Lokonga, Vieira, ESR, Trossard – all experienced players who can come on and add something. Mikel suddenly has more options with this signing and we have to be happy with that.

Final thought on this from me too: versatility. Fabio Vieira can play in the Odegaard role, he can play wide right, behind the striker and I think once or twice he’s played left wing. ESR can play wide right, false nine, deeper-lying in the number eight. Trossard can, I believe, play across the front line although primarily he’s been used as a left winger. But we now have players coming back in to the team who can make an impact from the bench as well as be a rotation option from the start in some games.