There are so many problems at Arsenal and, although Wenger says we live in a world of ‘transparency’, we know that’s not the case when we read that a transfer fee is ‘undisclosed’. Nevertheless, the media are capable of hounding agents and other clubs to find out how much money changed hands and it’s thanks to them that we get to find out that Oxlade-Chamberlain moved to Liverpool for around £35m.
The question is was the Ox a problem for Arsenal? I’m not too sure he was, as he would usually track back (a rarity these days at Arsenal), so the only problem was he would have probably left at the end of the season on a free had the Gunners kept hold of him. Therefore, perhaps it was better to pocket the money on offer. After all, the Ox was not a certain starter and his off-days were as numerous as his ‘on-days’, if I can call them that.
Nevertheless, I won’t be surprised if it’s a case of the curse of the ex when Liverpool next play Arsenal. Luckily, that test is not on the horizon as, even without the Ox, the Reds completely over-ran the Gunners and a 4-0 defeat was flattering for Wenger’s men.
What a Christmas present lies in store for Gooners on the two club’s next fixture on 24th December if Arsenal and Liverpool continue in their current veins of form. To call the Gunners’ display at Anfield ’embarrassing’ is an understatement. Had it not been for Cech, the damage could have been a lot worse.
Nevertheless, the transfer window offered Wenger the opportunity to turn fortunes around at the club. Instead of that, the club in their wisdom decided to try to make a fortune out of selling and loaning out players.
After such abject display against Liverpool, particularly from Arsenal’s defence, Wenger decided to allow Gibbs to leave for £7m. I’m a big fan of the left back, who can also play in midfield. When he’s playing, whether in midfield or defence, I think the Gunners have always been less leaky at the back. Consequently, in my view, instead of plugging one of the holes that Arsenal have defensively, Wenger has sold one of the possible solutions.
In Martin Keown’s mind, I should imagine the same applies to Gabriel, sold for £10m to Valencia. However, I do not totally agree with the TV pundit, as I don’t think the Brazilian shored up Arsenal’s defence much. He might have been the best man-marker at the club, but there’s not really been much competition at the club in that respect, has there?
The club’s defensive policy seems to be not to have midfielders tracking back because they are ‘too creative’ for such dirty work. Just have a look at Arsenal’s squad for a moment. Now tell me who can do a proper defensive job of protecting the backline? Coquelin. That’s it, really. Of course, there are doubts that the Frenchman can really cut it at the top level. Hand on heart, who can say he is on the same level as Kante of Chelsea. Even Wenger must agree, as Coquelin has played just 44 minutes so far this season, coming on for the ineffective Ramsey at Liverpool.
While on the subject of so-called defensive midfielders, Xhaka puts his foot in, often getting a yellow card or worse in the process, when he is not gifting the ball to the opposition in his own third (a heinous sin). However, how much running do Arsenal get out of the Switzerland international? I’d say a lot less than Fabregas and Flamini, who formed the last strong midfield partnership this club has seen. Of course, Xhaka and Coquelin are far more effective than the Denilson and Diaby partnership of yesteryear, so it could be worse. However, it could be better, and that’s what the transfer window was for.
Meanwhile, letting Szczesny leave is no loss, so it was just as well Arsenal got £10m for him. The same applies to Toral and Hinds, as neither were likely to break into the first-team in the foreseeable future. Even in these ‘transparent’ times, we don’t know how financially beneficial it has been to loan out Carl Jenkinson, Joel Campbell and Lucas Perez. I’m really not sure what those players have done wrong and why they can’t be part of Arsenal’s squad. However, it’s pounds and pence that matter at Arsenal, rather than points.
Talking of loanees, Asano scored for Japan against Australia and, by all accounts, had an excellent game. The question is why didn’t Arsenal appeal the Home Office’s harsh decision not to allow to grant him a work permit? However, the truth is, as good as Asano is, he won’t plug the defensive holes.
Instead, Wenger has filled the team with creators rather than spoilers, in a vain attempt to win trophies with ideals. That’s why we will continue to see maulings against the bigger teams, like Liverpool. Arsenal are, at best, a cup team now, until January, when I expect Wenger will miss another opportunity to strengthen the team defensively.