So, welcome to Arsenal, Mathieu Debuchy. There was air of excitement when Serge Aurier’s name floated like Mario Balotelli on an early pre-season wave of expectation. Instead we have a right back who has played well enough in a struggling Premier League team to retain his place in one of Europe’s top eight national teams. If that doesn’t bode well for Arsenal, then God knows what will for such a demanding audience.
Debuchy gives many positives for the club. It is a signing that reeks of forethought in an industry where snap judgements are praised. Arsenal have replaced a player with one who is ahead of him in the same national squad. It’s the defensive equivalent of signing Benzema. It’s okay, I had a tin helmet on when I wrote that. It held firm.
With a 28 year-old that’s a strange train of thought but on the face of it, Debuchy is a signing for the future. Not his but Carl Jenkinson to develop without the pressure of being first XI right back. Unless Arsène has made an astonishing u-turn in his thinking, Jenkinson remains firmly in his long-term plans in the same way he was when he was given a five-year deal not so long ago. Those players were viewed as the core of the team in the future and it would be a surprise if short-termism held sway now. But it is football we’re talking about and nothing should surprise us.
That Leonil Messi paid more than €50m to the Spanish tax authorities last year did raise an eyebrow though. Not in the sum in question but how much must he have earned to rack up that bill. Even if you take out the settlement from previous years, it is still a staggering amount to pay over.
A lot of Jenkinson’s immediate future depends on the club’s options at right back. Manvilo is still eyed by Wenger and with Fahti on trial, West Ham’s aspirations to sign Jenkinson on loan could well be realised. Crucially though, if he is going out on loan, Arsenal need some assurances that he will gain more first team experience than he would get by remaining at the club. I am not sure whether the club would have enough leverage with a Premier League club to insist on a set number of appearances in the season or even if such a clause is enforceable but going to Big Sam’s Up And Under Academy will serve no purpose if all the youngster is just going to sit on the bench. He can do that at Arsenal and have the chance to play in the Champions League.
The prospect of that competition is one of Debuchy’s reasons for joining the club and it also means Arsenal need decent cover at right back. Whether either of the alternative options offer that remains to be seen. Wenger was quite clear that whoever the second choice is, they are likely to get a significant number of games,
“There is nobody today who can play 60 games at the top level – that’s why you always need two players.”
It is a signal of the changing circumstances of the club that so far this summer we have seen precious little investment in the untried players. Youth is important but is it a case of giving Andries Jonker the chance to stamp his authority over the playing staff at the younger levels, before bringing in more slightly older players at the more senior level? Where, for example, is this summer’s Yaya Sanogo? People keep saying Wenger has or has not changed. Perhaps he is adapting his philosophy in recognition of the different circumstances in his work rather than a fundamental shift that is implied.
Whatever the case, there is more to come. To me there are still a couple more signings to come, before we get into the realms of replacing departures. That none beyond those whose contracts have run out have left is indicative of one fundamental shift this summer. Arsenal do not have to sell to buy and can afford to wait before doing so. Being given that breathing space allows those involved in addressing the more important aspect of the window, strengthening.
Talk of Thomas Vermaelen’s future is clouded by the club’s desire to offer him a new deal. For the player, leaving is the easy option but if he does go to United, for example, he has no guarantee that he will not find himself in the same boat in twelve months time. The only way he will guarantee first XI football is if he goes to a smaller club and does that really seem ambitious? Admirable as wanting to play regularly rather than sitting and taking wages is, to be willing to fight for a place in XI at a big club shows more fight than walking into a cushier number. Of course, there has to be an inkling that staying may lead to a starting line-up position and in that sense, I would be surprised if Vermaelen feels that opportunity exists for him at Arsenal. It strikes me that Wenger felt that he had offered the Belgian enough chances when he dropped him in 2012/13 and no matter how well he plays when called upon, the drop in form by Koscielny or Mertesacker would have to be catastrophic for Vermaelen to capitalise. In that respect, I would not be surprised if he leaves at all.
Elsewhere, this morning’s Daily Express has emphatically ended Arsenal’s interest in the remorseful Sami Khedira so expect his signing next week. Clement Grenier, according to the same newspaper, is not signing for anyone until he knows Arsenal’s intentions but given we’ve got Abou Diaby back in training, it’s like having a new signing, isn’t it? It is. Isn’t it?