I think it would be safe to suggest that Arsenal fans on social media have been in degrees of meltdown in the past few days. The anxiety at the lack of arrivals to balance the exits as the end of the window approached, reached fever pitch as the final hours confirmed a further departure, and no new faces. Being as passionate a fan as the next Gunner, it is hard to take a measured view, when there is so much anger, but the situation merits it.
- The departures of Aubameyang on a ‘free’ and Balogun on loan leaves Arsenal with only Lacazette and Nketiah, both due to leave in June, as, in theory, the squads only recognised central strikers. Give how woeful and disinterested Nketiah seems, an injury to the skipper could be disastrous.
- The departure of Maitland-Niles and Calum Chambers (when we could have triggered a 1-year contract extension in December,) have left us with only Cedric to cover right-back. Given how different the Portuguese is to Tomiyasu has become to the way Arsenal set-up and play, Chambers seemed a far better stand in than Cedric.
- Allowing Chambers and also Mari to depart, leaves Rob Holding as our own senior, experienced cover for Gabriel and White. Without being disrespectful to Holding, he is a different proposition to either of the first choice pairing and we have seen that the popular Englishman’s poorer distribution is noted by our opposition, and it limited us badly.
- The fanbase justifiably wonders why when it became apparent that the moves for Vlahovic and Arthur were doomed, the club, and most notably Edu, who seems the main individual blamed, had no secondary targets, a plan B.
- Literally none of the players sold or loaned were regularly featuring. Whether they should have been can be debated but they weren’t and therefore the current first choice 11 and regularly used substitutes are all still available and crucially all fit.
- The main need for central midfield cover was due to the AFCON and suspensions. Arteta was certainly not aided by the idiocy of his 2 senior midfield generals but both Partey and Xhaka are now ready. Arsenal’s recent poor results were without these 2 and the good run until January 1st was built on the platform they provided.
- Their absence gave Sambi Lokonga more experience and it was not his shortcomings that let the team down, more a lack of genuine central midfield partner. I feel the Belgian further proved his value.
- Arteta, far from being bereft of goal scoring options, actually has Martinelli, who can still drift in field with Smith Rowe returning to the left. In addition, there is a strong possibility, although I may be hopeful, given Arteta’s stubbornness that the attacking departures might give a chance at re-integration for Nicolas Pepe. Lacazette needs to step up however.
A combination of assumption and a few conversations leads me to the unenviable conclusion that Arsenal, the management in conjunction with KSE have taken a huge punt, a colossal risk or an almighty gamble. However, we describe it, that is what we as fans have witnessed. The question is why, and will it pay off?
The reason is to massively reduce the club’s wage bill, which has for several years been at Champion’s League without the financial rewards derived from that competition. It is my belief that this will allow the owners to ‘go big’ in the summer window when I would expect, 3 marquee signings, to supplement the fabulous young core that Edu and Arteta have assembled to date. The real gamble element to this strategy is that whilst they will be in a renewed position to sanction high wages for any stellar additions, there is still a need to have European football. Big salaries, Arsenal, London, a respected young coach and Europe is hugely appealing but removing the carrot of European competition makes the allure less.
We as fans have seen the team get into a position to attain Champion’s League via the Top 4 this campaign and feel the club and management have gambled by not adding to the squad and allowing its depth to be lessened. Conversely, I think the club’s objective was top 6 and the Europa and they feel this will be sufficient to attract the stars needed to take Arsenal back into Europe’s elite the season after.
With better discipline, good luck on the injury front, some tactical flexibility from Arteta, the core the club has retained can and I think will take us into Europe but only after 17 matches will be know if the gamble was educated or reckless.
This is the full, unedited version of yesterday’s Sun Arsenal Fan Column
Passionate fifty-something Arsenal supporter who has been making the journey to N5 regularly since the early 1980s – although his first game was in 1976. Always passionate when talking about The Arsenal, Dave decided to send a guest blog to Gunnersphere in the summer of 2011 and has not stopped writing about the Gunners since.
He set up his own site – 1 Nil Down 2 One Up – in February 2012, which he moved on in 2016 to concentrate on freelance writing and building Gunners Town, which he launched with Paul in 2014.
The objective of GT was to be new and fresh and to give a platform for likeminded passionate Arsenal fans wishing to write about their team. Dave still of course, writes for the site himself and advises the ever-changing writing crew.