Whilst the cat is away, the transfer mice played hard and fast with the club’s supply of cheese, taking us into the land of milk and honey. David Ospina’s entirely left-field signing has taken many by surprise, as was the price he was prised away from Nice, a mere £3.2m. Which was nice. Not Nice but nice.
It’s a new challenge for Wojciech Szczesny. Having seen off Fabianski, did god think Arsène would rush out and sign a rival whose international credentials bear the same, if not more, scrutiny than his own? Has it I wonder, forced some introspection on his own part, questioning what he needs to do to remain first choice Arsenal goalkeeper? I hope so. From his beginnings at Old Trafford, he has worked hard to overcome the setbacks that have littered his path. The brash confidence has been tamed slightly but not entirely, still leaving him with plenty of detractors pointing to this as a weakness in the Pole. I am not sure that it is to be honest, goalkeepers have to be confident and there is a fine line between that and arrogance. Does Szczesny drift over on the pitch? Sometimes but in a game where characters are homogeneous, are we really complaining that much?
Szczesny is capable of falling into that same dull trap. Arsenal players have in Wenger’s reign always talked the talk and even when the walking became more difficult, they remain amongst the most personable in an ego-riven industry. The Pole fell into line when talking about the new season. Being top for “100-odd days” as Wojciech Szczesny put it, he claimed is giving the players belief that they can challenge for the title this coming season. That Manchester City were top for less than a fortnight tells us all we need to know about the relentless professionalism that is required to be crowned champions come May.
It’s gaining the same momentum as being the best team in a calendar year, being top for 100-days. It’s a feelgood stat, until you realise that they weren’t top when it mattered and owed more to the kindness of the fixture list than anything else. Getting there was creditable and this is what the players should be pointing to, the games won, the unbeaten runs built, as the lessons to learn for this coming season. The real lessons were the painful ones where mediocre Manchester United sides yielded just one point out of six and three from eighteen against the top three. They mean more, learning from those games, how to take more points because in the open Premier League race which is expected, if Arsenal don’t start taking more from the big matches, they will never reach the peak when it matters.
It’s the depths to which gossip has plummeted that are the hallmarks of this summer and one that the club has adapted to. Alexis Sanchez’s hairdresser was deemed a legitimate source for confirmation of the his deal with Arsenal. The butcher, baker and candlestickmaker will come out at some point with inside information for future signings, I am sure. Look if Wikipedia is taken as a reliable source by this morning’s Independent that Thomas Vermaelen’s move to Manchester United is almost certain to happen, anything is possible.
Calum Chambers arrival for anywhere between £7m – £16m, makes it almost inevitable that once Mertesacker is ready for first team action the Belgian will be on his way. Wenger prizes the youngster’s versatility above all else,
He can play at centre-back, right-back and central midfield. I hope he will give us competition for the players in this three positions. He hasn’t played many games, no, but the English players on the market in England are very expensive and at the end of the day I was ready to take a gamble because he is a player for the future
Vermaelen was seen by many as offering a similar versatility but ultimately not trusted by Wenger to perform further up the pitch. Perhaps Chambers will be but the observation about midfield strikes me as more of a path to quelling fears about the lack of depth beyond the Arteta / Flamini axis. Carl Jenkinson’s immediate future will tell us more about where Arsène sees Chambers role in the squad. If the elder youngster goes on loan or to West Ham permanently as has been mooted for some time now, it is clear Chambers is the back-up for Debuchy. Stay and he will be the third centre back behind Koscielny and Mertesacker. Whether that is the best option for the season is another debate entirely.
The squad heads to Austria today with the World Cup quarter-finalists joining the pre-season. All except Alexis Sanchez who has visa problems and has to go to Paris before returning to London Colney for some fitness work, alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Yaya Sanogo. Quite why he can’t catch a flight from the French capital to the training camp with the rest of the squad is unclear but it is what it is and I sure that the manager will make the most of the players return to Colney on Thursday. There will be benefits to a three-day Alpine trip no doubt, even if it wastes the flying time that Wenger apparently so detests.
Elsewhere, Loic Remy’s move to Arsenal is set to complete on midnight on transfer deadline day. Having failed to pass his Liverpool medical, the French international is now hunting for a club with his Mr20% no doubt recalling Mikel Arteta’s late capture and thinking of using it as a template for his client. There isn’t any detail as to why the Liverpool deal fell through and I wonder if someone has cold feet, using the medical as a smokescreen? Sami Khedira meanwhile, has found it interesting the lack of interest his wage demands have caused and is preparing to drop them which is a story for another day.