It’s not often that I write about the men’s team on this platform, these days.
The reaction after the deadline day got me itchy, though, so I thought I would share some of my feelings.
Was it a underwhelming? Yes. Does it leave us short in numbers? Yes. Is it a 1/10 window? No.
Edu and Mikel Arteta continued the cleaning process they started last summer and shipped out those players who barely featured this season and were due to be sold or released anyway. The only concern I have, in this regard, is the inability from the technical director and the manger to make up their minds earlier on, when the aforementioned players could have brought in some money.
There is a big question mark hanging over Edu about his ability to move players on at profit, given that he could only do the trick with Emiliano Martínez and Joe Willock, so far. If we want to be a self-sustaining Club, selling at profit is a must and the former Corinthians and Brazil national team executive never truly fulfilled this part of his mission.
I understand that moving on players on big wages and/or pretty average isn’t easy but we had offers in the past for Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Calum Chambers or Eddie Nketiah but we stalled until those players were free to walk or lost any appeal to potential suitors. I hope that next summer, when all the deadwood will be gone, Edu will start showing some skills, in that regard.
This is not the whole point of this blog, though.
Edu and Mikel Arteta took a gamble and decided to postpone any incomings to the summer, which leaves us quite short, number-wise, for the closing 17 games of the season. With a European spot to go after, possibly a return to the Champions League after five years at stakes, that was a very bold move.
If anything, this decision will show us how good a coach Mikel Arteta is, because he will have to juggle with 18 outfield players for the remaining 17 games. He might not have the depth but he certainly has options, because many of his players can play several positions and are flexible enough to allow the manager to do his magic.
Gabriel Martinelli can play wide or central, Bukayo Saka can play anywhere, Emile Smith Rowe can be deployed everywhere in midfield and the same goes for Martin Ødegaard. Mikel Arteta can play with one striker and three attacking midfielders, a lone striker and two wide forwards in a 4-3-3 / 4-1-4-1 or even with two strikers and two wide midfielders. He has Alexandre Lacazette to help bringing players into play or Eddie Nketiah to play in-behind, not to forget Nicolas Pépé’s, Martin Ødegaard’s and Emile Smith Rowe’s ability to play the free role next to a more traditional centre-forward.
Likewise, he can deploy a double pivot in midfield or play three men, with one sitting in front of the backline and two in a more advanced postion. He has a variety of profiles at his disposal, from the ball-recycling Mohamed Elneny to the more adventurous Thomas Partey, which should allow him to choose a tailor-made formation for each opponent.
At the back, he can stick to a four-men line or move to a back-three, with Cédric, Bukayo Saka, Nuno Tavares and Kieran Tierney able to play wing-back. He can move Kieran Tierney in a back-three and go back to the origins, with Gabriel Martinelli playing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s wide forward role and hit on the counter.
None of these solutions is ideal but that’s the path chosen by Mikel Arteta and Edu when they decided not to strengthen the squad right away. I admire the fact that the Club decided to stick to the plan they had in mind, instead of going into full-panic mode and sanction the wrong deal or overpaying for their targets. I do believe that there was margin for one striker to come in and offer more than Eddie Nkeitah but Edu and Mike Arteta decided otherwise, so now it’s time to walk the talk and deliver.
This team lacks goals and the ability to carry the ball through the lines, two flaws that were evident but have not been addressed in January, so I guess Mikel Arteta has a plan to correct it and have us fighting for a European place.
I don’t know whether the Spaniard has already agreed a new deal to stay on as manager of this team regardless of the outcome of this season but I believe that he should be judged by the way he handles the squad he decided to work with. He brought us in a good place after a terrible start, showed he could do well with the players he chose to sign and make it work so there is hope that we could get the European spot we desperately need with the personnel at his disposal.
He made this bold move and gambled on the second part of what has been a disappointing season, so far. Should he fail to get us back to Europe, he (and Edu) should be held accountable for that gamble and those decisions.
Over to you, Mikel.
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.