So that’s it, sanity prevails. Or more accurately, a little less insanity surrounds the world of football with the closing of the January transfer window. Sky will now put Jim White back into hibernation to recharge his batteries ready for June whilst social media will just, well, let’s not get our hopes up too high. My first thought is that at least we get to concentrate on the football from here on in. Except this a Saturday morning with no football and a void needs to be filled; Take Your Honey, this morning’s playlist, is designed to do exactly that.
Johnny Cash might have had A Boy Named Sue, Arsène has ended up with a man named Kim. Not Philby but Kallstrom as the Swede arrived on loan until the end of the season. No need to look at hours of YouTube footage on this one, he was a stalwart of Championship Manager and earlier editions of FIFA (so I’m told); aficionados of both recall the prodigious 16-year-old talent of the PC football management’s glory years – a true Wenger signing, cheap as chips to buy and capable of fetching a high value later in his career. Real life imitating art.
Kallstrom provides experienced cover for a midfield which has become depleted with confirmation of Aaron Ramsey’s absence for another six weeks. It means the Welshman will have missed the best part of three months of the season and leaves questions unanswered about whether he was rushed back with knocks and niggles beginning to take their toll? Either way, it is a blow given his form this season. With Wilshere doubtful for next weekend – the Palace match is beginning to become something of an incidental when talking of injuries - Arsène needed to react quickly to solve a short-term problem although the original question is a two-parter.
The second answer is not so straightforward; why was there no permanent addition to the squad? We know it was always going to be difficult to sign the right targets – as opposed the Mr Right Now – even City found striking deals was not always possible, no matter how much money is available. Arsenal could not strike a deal with Schalke over Julian Draxler, not prepared to meet the asking price. It might well be that the valuation Arsène put on the German international was more realistic than the release clause of the Gelsenkirchen club but when you’ve announced the richest kit deal in football, don’t be surprised if sellers aren’t willing to negotiate. The image is of a wealthy club trying to complete deals on the cheap.
Equally, Arsenal might not gain anything other than more competition for Draxler’s signature if they go back in the summer for a deal. Schalke are less likely to move on the fee when there is a World Cup which might net them a straight £37m (if that quoted fee is right) rather than relying on £7-10m through add-ons. That, of course, is if Arsenal go back for the player.
Personally, I am still concerned about the lack of cover for Olivier Giroud. Podolski is more effective from the left flank and Nicklas Bendtner is leaving me hoping Arsène never has cause to regret not signing a striker. The media continue to confuse desire for depth with replacing the Frenchman. I do not favour the latter course of action, Giroud has been in good form for the team and if we are honest, how many other strikers put in such a selfless and prodigious work-rate for the team? Watching the Premier League, it is apparent that the answer is not many.
If there was disappointment at missing out on ‘high profile’ targets, there was surely huge relief at missing out on Salomon Kalou who induces nervous laughter when linked to the club; “We won’t sign him” followed by a pregnant and a forlorn, “Will we“, after a pregnant pause being the general reaction. Arsène also moved on a number who were not going to make the grade at the club; Emmanuel Frimpong looked thrilled at the prospect of living in Barnsley – who can blame him – whilst there’s a new Park in Watford, allowing the manager respite from the worst deal he has struck in his tenure at the club.
Before getting antsy about the coming months, we need to keep sight of the fact that the club is second in the Premier League by one point and has shown more endeavour, depth and pragmatism than in many recent seasons and it is going well. Failing to spend big in the transfer window does not signal the imminent collapse of form in any of three major competitions they are chasing. There is an element of predictability in the havoc injuries and suspensions will wreak on the season but they can strike any player; a big transfer fee does not bring immunity from either. As it is, the squad is what it is and what-ifs should be left to the end of the season when the dramas have played out. Recriminations, if you want them, can wait until then.
Finally, eight years ago today, Thierry Henry’s 151st Premier League goal was not enough to prevent West Ham United leaving Highbury with three points and Sol Campbell’s sanity in their back pockets. And ACLF was born of frustration. The third child in the family, the one stashed in the attic. Wait, that isn’t ACLF, that’s Number Two Son; best let him out, I suppose. Thanks to everyone who passes through the doors each day to make things enjoyable and worthwhile.