What is going on at Arsenal?
There’s a general agreement that some new players are needed, there’s a general feeling that the momentum of the 22 game unbeaten run has been lost because there were not enough backups to cover injuries, there is the upcoming free transfer of Ramsey, there is Ozil, Cech is retiring and there is a general belief that the owner has said there is no more money available.
That is probably not quite what people imagined when they held up their “Wenger out!” boards and hired aeroplanes to fly over the ground.
The problem is that whichever way you look at things this collection of current events looks fairly chaotic, and not helped by the fact that no clear statements clarifying anything are coming out of the club – although maybe that is understandable given the secrecy surround most transfers until they are signed and sealed.
So what, if anything, do we actually know?
To start, let’s ask the obvious question: do we have any space in the squad?
We actually have a 24 man squad at present, so immediately there is space for one other player to come in. Seven of the 24 are listed as Home Grown which means that if we bring in one more player he can be home grown or foreign.
Right, that bit is simple, but now the oddity. Cohen Bramall who is in the PL squad but has never been seen, is not listed as home grown, even though his birth place is England. If I am right and that is a mistake in the PL records then we could reclassify him and then remove any player and bring in a player of any nationality.
So that gives us space for two players – if we wanted more we would have to start removing players from the list and make sure that we balance “foreign” for “foreign” to keep the HG numbers up. The name being touted by some blogs as the player to go is Elneny although I think he does provide a valuable cover for other players, and personally would hold on to him.
But we could also drop Holding, Welbeck and Jenkinson from the list – the former two because they are injured, and Jenkinson because he is not getting any first team games. But all three are “home grown” so could only be replaced by home grown players.
We could also lose Ramsey – although the indications are that he is going nowhere until the summer, and there is much talk about the manager having fallen out with Mesut Ozil – but again it would seem rather short notice to get Ozil out.
So there is space to bring in new players (remembering that we don’t have to worry about any players who were under 21 when the registration started last year, they stay registered as under 21 through the whole season).
The most welcome return could well be Mavrapanos who has been out all season with an injury. He won’t be thrown into the first team but he could start making a few appearances as the season wears on.
Then we have the problem of signing players. The story that the club can only sign players on loan has been published in so many places there is a feeling it must be true – which suggests that the owner is restricting the amount of money he is going to make available. Originally it was said to be £50m but then went up to £70m last summer. That extra £20m could have been advanced from this January’s window money.
Now it could also be that the manager has also been told to cut the wages bill to balance the books – which would explain the potential departures of Aaron Ramsey and perhaps Ozil.
But what this sort of approach does mean is that Arsenal could find themselves continuing in the role that Arsene Wenger had to play – that of bringing through young players rather than buy expensive readymade talent.
In this regard we are quite well off: Nelson, Smith Rowe, Saka, Nketiah Willock, John-Jules and Amaech are all looking to be players of talent. They won’t all make the first team at Arsenal but just a few of them coming into the squad could make quite a difference.
Plus there is Cech. Personally I don’t think that Cech leaving at the end of the season is going to be a cause of any change for Arsenal, as I suspect Martinez will step up to be back up keeper, with Iliev as third choice and one of the under 23s as fourth choice keeper.
But I think there is one issue that could be even bigger than this, and that is the possible departure of Sven Mislintat, who we are told is unhappy with the way his recommendations are being ignored and the manager is pursuing his own favourite players.
Of course I don’t know if this is true or not but it is hard to argue with the transfers that Emery has made so far. Sokratis, Guendouzi, Torreira and Leno have all looked worth the money – Guendouzi particularly seeming an incredible bargain. Only Lichsteiner has not quite looked the part – and given his age I suspect that he was always nothing more than a temporary backup.
However one thing is certain – if Arsenal continue in their current form and come in at fifth or sixth, even without a win in the Europa or FA Cup, most people will be happy to see this as an interim season, as the new boss gets his feet under the table.
But that leeway won’t exist next time around. This season we are performing at a similar level to that of Wenger’s last season, and that, as we all remember, was not good enough. So no matter what the club does this month, they really do have to get things moving and get Arsenal back into the top four by summer 2020.
Oh yes, and a cup along the way would still be welcome. After all Mr Wenger managed to deliver those in record number.
In short Emery has one more summer transfer window to extract money from the owner, or use the money from sales, and produce a team that is at the very least securely top four – and with that being a launch pad.
Chelsea are one of Arsenal’s main rivals for a top 4 place and they are seemingly very active in the transfer market with them linked with bringing in Gonzalo Higuain to replace the potentially outgoing Alvaro Morata while the Gunnners’ other main rivals for the top 4 Manchester United may not need to do much in this window given the new impetus provided by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
One positive bit of news for Arsenal is that North London rivals Spurs will be with Son for the rest of January and Harry Kane is out until March with an ankle injury.
Emery has his work cut out for him to get Arsenal into the top 4 and win a cup this season which is what most fans are hoping for this season and if the Spaniard does not deliver then there could be trouble.