Should Arsenal gone for Martial instead of Mkhitaryan? (Stop press: He’s actually signed after the longest ’48 hours – imminent signing’ of all time!) Should Arsenal have followed up their apparent interest in Malcom, who now may join Spurs instead, if reports are to be believed. Will Arsenal manage to sign Aubemeyang? Will Arsenal sign anyone, aside from the young Greek defender, who cost around £2m and is unlikely to play for the club this season?
These are the questions on nearly every Arsenal fans’ lips as the transfer merry-go-out exit door goes into full swing. Walcott and Coquelin are gone now, bringing in substantial fees. Meanwhile, Arsenal fans have to wait patiently for a new arrival, some growing long beards in the process.
If only Arsenal could buy players as quickly as they sell them, maybe then the club wouldn’t be in such a mess. The truth is contract negotiations are always protracted at Arsenal, which is why Sanchez, Ozil and Wilshere have got to this stage: just a few months to go and they can walk away for free. Despite Wenger’s assurances about the latter two, no one knows for sure whether either of them will sign a new contract.
One of the reasons for these contract sagas may be that Wenger does not like players signing new contracts during the season, as it may affect a player’s focus on games. Listening to what Wenger says in press conferences, it quickly gives you the impression that matches are prioritised. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there has to be a time for contract negotiations.
If time cannot be made during the season to negotiate, then it’s only natural to wait until the summer to make deal. That was what happened with Wenger’s latest two-year deal, with rumours suggesting that he went to the owner Stan Kroenke’s hotel room, begging for a renewal. It’s hard to imagine a proud man like Wenger doing that. Instead, Kroenke may have simply rewarded Wenger for his loyalty, his ability to make the club money on the transfer front, while winning the odd trinket, here and there (e.g. The FA Cup, the Charity/Community Shield – or whatever it’s called now – and the Emirates Cup).
However, if players must wait until the summer to renegotiate deals that brings us to another hitch: Wenger is often busy with French TV, while players are off sunning themselves somewhere. Once again, there’s not much chance to negotiate. It’s going to be particularly difficult this year with the World Cup on.
Therefore, if the summer is not the best time this year to negotiate, which day of the week would be good? I had to laugh when I read that the Sanchez-Mkhitaryan deal will be completed as early as Sunday. Does anyone actually work on Sundays at Arsenal, unless there’s a match on? I very much doubt it. I really can’t remember a deal being announced on a Sunday, can you?
Of course, if Sundays and holidays are out, it could be that Arsenal work late into the night to close deals. Does anyone remember seeing Wenger emerging from the club’s offices after trying to the last minute to bring a new addition in? I can’t. I remember seeing Harry Redknapp doing everything he possibly can to strengthen his team: he’s a proper wheeler-dealer and even in the press room and nearby he’s taking calls about prospective signings. It’s called being pro-active. By contrast, Arsenal are ‘pro-passive’ or reactive.
Let me qualify that: Arsenal have a habit of sitting on their laurels hoping their misfiring team will come good. Games like the 4-1 defeat of Palace shows there is potential to do well. However, what about first-team regulars like Xhaka, who really hasn’t produced the goods yet? An active manager would look to strengthen.
Perhaps that’s why Sven Mislintat was brought in: to make something happen on the transfer front. Apparently, Mislintat was instrumental in getting Arsenal to lodge an official bid for Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang. I’m not suggesting that Arsenal will get this deal over the line, but the player was playing five-a-side with friends at the weekend, so there’s every chance could actually land the player.
Aubemeyang’s goalscoring record at Dortmund is impressive: 98 goals in 143 appearances. Wenger will have to go some to bring that statistic down: bringing him off in the 33rd minute instead of the 70th, as he does with Lacazette, for example.
Goals are lacking in the Arsenal team, at the moment, despite the four scored at the weekend. Who can the Gunners rely on to score? Lacazette, if he’s confident. Ramsey, if he’s fit. Theo, if he hadn’t been sold!
On the subject of Walcott, let me say I don’t think Arsenal got the best out of him. The only wingers who have done well under Wenger are those that arrived as finished articles: Overmars and Pires. Even those two had to cut inside a lot, as Wenger’s teams don’t use the flanks particularly effectively, usually preferring to play ‘eye-of-the-needle’ football through the middle.
Walcott’s attitude was always exemplary, so I think it’s a bigger departure than Arsenal fans realise. When you lose a player whose scored over a 100 goals for your club (mostly playing on the wing), surely it’s not something to celebrate, especially when the players you’ve been linked with (Aubemeyang and Mkhitaryan) have not actually joined yet!
Not only that, let’s not forget that Mkhitaryan is a provider, not a finisher. Five goals in thirty nine games tell us that. Therefore, once Mkhitaryan joins Arsenal, it’ll be yet another number 10 to line-up alongside the other ‘playmakers’ like Wilshire, Ozil, Ramsey and all the others breaking through from the youth squad.
Mkhitaryan’s probable arrival means Ozil’s departure, in my view. I really cannot see how both can be accommodated in a winning team. I mean, how many luxury players can be put in the same side? Perhaps, if winning is not the object, then there is no limit.