If ever a 24 hours summed up Arsenal Football Club in 2018, it’s this last set. From the utter despair of yet another Premier League away day – complete with comedic howler – Wednesday has seen us sign Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and tie down Mesut Ozil before lunchtime.
In truth, I’m not sure how to feel. On the one hand, I cannot get the atrociousness of last night out of my head. A shockingly limp display, the concession of a lead we’d gained within a minute, and the overriding image of those bloody blue shirts standing dejected, hands on hips as we’ve become far too accustomed to seeing.
On the other, we’ve just bought a striker that Football365 painted a picture of in the following way, earlier this month:
In December 2017, The Guardian consulted 169 experts from 63 nations and compiled a list of the 100 best male footballers on the planet. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was in 21st, now below five Premier League players but ahead of Mo Salah, Philippe Coutinho, Christian Eriksen, Paul Pogba, Dele Alli and Alexis Sanchez. He would end that calendar year with 28 league goals, which made him more prolific than Luis Suarez, Romelu Lukaku, Kylian Mbappe and just about every other footballer in Europe.
On top of Aubameyang’s arrival, Ozil has signed up for three and half more years of madness – news which has utterly stunned me. For all the relatively positive noises surrounding his future over the last couple of weeks, I was pretty sure he’d take the Alexis Sanchez route out the exit door.
I think my overriding hope is that this is, really this time, the beginning of the end of Arsene Wenger’s reign. What I hate is the way the team on the pitch makes me feel sometimes, because ultimately the weight of last night has removed some of the joy of the signing announcements somewhat.
Personally, I think signing Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan and even Ozil is like Arsenal sticking plasters over war wounds, but hopefully only until the summer. The positive spin is that guys like Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Francis Coquelin – players that had their fans and big moments, but ultimately underachieved – have been moved on. These were Wenger stalwarts, and we’ll be better off long-term for them going.
It feels like the beginning of a second chance for Arsenal and Ozil too. We’ve failed once to build a side around him, with Sanchez the only truly world class arrival since he turned up. Now we’ve got a new start, with the ex-Dortmund pairing as well as Alexandre Lacazette, who I’m praying will find a new lease of life in a slightly different system, or maybe alongside a strike partner.
What I don’t believe is that Wenger is the man to build the rest of the team behind Ozil. The sour taste of last night goes a long way to confirming this theory, I’d argue, with Granit Xhaka, Skhodran Mustafi and Petr Cech all underperforming in Wales. Add to those Laurent Koscielny’s age and Per Mertesacker’s retirement, and it’s clear that there’s a lot of work to do back there this summer. I repeat, I wouldn’t trust Wenger another chance to do this again.
Goalkeeper, centre back (at least one) and defensive midfielder are all priority areas for June and July, while pace will likely be required on the wings too. Given Wenger’s previous excuses about the World Cup getting in the way and a tired line about “not adding too many” new faces at one time, and I’d say the evidence is all there for him to go. Of course, being sixth with three away wins all season doesn’t help either.
All in all, I’d say I’m loving the new signings and I hope they all enjoy great success at the club. But be wary, because the problems of last night won’t just disappear into thin air.
These changes need to be the catalysts for more change.
A lifelong Gunner in his late 20s, Joe can just about remember Bruce Rioch and insisting that his dad took him to away games because he had the lightning blue away kit. Quickly grew up to love Highbury and thanks the Arsenal squads of 1998-2005 for making schoolyard banter a delightful experience. Joe quit his job as a teacher last summer to work in the fantasy sports games industry and writes simply because he enjoys it.