On Domestic & European Success, Alexis & New Lemar Bid On Way

So it’s the new season. Not quite; the FA confirmed the Community Shield isn’t a major trophy, an opinion which will be greeted with dismay in Fleet Street. Pre-season friendlies are performances to be dissected to the nth degree with victories of Europe’s great and good, signs of a dominant campaign ahead. Ask Liverpool; it probably seems a long twelve months from the gubbing they gave to Barcelona at Wembley.

Too much will read into tomorrow’s result, as it has been in the past. Wins over Chelsea and Manchester City were the beginning of a new era; meet the new boss, the same as the old boss. This time next week, we will looking back at an altogether more important ninety minutes, which doesn’t have the rescue of ABBA’s Winner Takes It All finale.

The opener against Leicester City is the first game in what will be a testing season. Arsène tried to paint the Europa League as a positive in the Premier League title race. It’s a flawed logic, in the same way that Leicester’s title success is held up as a sign anyone can win the league. Chelsea and Liverpool finished higher than us last season without European football at all; not just out of the Champions League but also the Europa League.

No side in the Europa League has finished higher than third in the Premier League, I read yesterday. Arsène may argue that it’s an improvement on fifth but no matter what he says, a top four finish is not a trophy. It isn’t and if the reward is a round of sixteen knockout in the Champions League, there’s little sporting merit in the top four finish either. Repetitive mistakes in the same competition is lunacy not sporting achievement.

Talking About My Squad Rotation

Quite rightly, the manager observed that squad he uses in Europe this season depends on the group stage. We’re top seeds in the competition at the moment but there are some potentially tricky matches. However, it’s impossible to argue with his logic about next seasons journeys to the continents lesser lights,

“In the Europa League if we can afford sometimes to rest some players we will do it. But we have to adapt to the level of the competition and see first what kind of group we play in.”

The physical pattern of Sunday / Thursday / Sunday is different to Sunday / Tuesday or Wednesday / Saturday which may prove helpful in the Premier League. As a hint to where my pre-season preview next season might heading, I don’t think we’re title challengers with the squad as it currently is so it’s more a case of winning the knockout competitions.

Arsène rightly identified domestic competitions are being more important to supporters.

“Well for us it is a good opportunity to focus completely on the Premier League.

“But anyway, I would say that the Premier League has, in my opinion, taken over from the Champions League, interest-wise. 

“It has happened in the group stage sometimes that we have rested players to prepare for the next Premier League game. Every Premier League game is so difficult.”

 

The Premier League has always been more important in my view. If we win the Europa League and Champions League, it ticks off the trophy boxes, adding kudos along the way, as well as opening doors to other minor cups.

I would right now, prefer the Premier League trophy; previously, it’s been the Champions League but years of underperformance in the competition has taken its’ toll. I’m worn out down by the same mistakes.

I Hope We’ve Tried Before I Get Old

Wenger went on to discuss the “suicide” of giving out information on Alexis’ situation. Have you noticed that for an urbane man, his language is dominated by violence and negative connotations; or is it just me?

Anyway, Alexis isn’t going anywhere this summer, a point the manager reiterated once again,

“I will not give anything away on that but the only thing I can tell you is that he is focused, and my decision is clear: he will stay and he will respect that.

“It is as simple as that.”

It’s a double-edged sword for the boss. Win a place back in the Champions League via the top four and the £50m fee ‘lost’ this summer is nullified, especially if there’s a good run in the Europa League. Miss out on everything and the hole we’ve created is like a cigarette burning a hole in kitchen roll; Alexis’ money is the centre but the other little fees missed out on has a widening effecting.

As I’ve said previously, I don’t believe there will be an issue with Alexis’ effort; there will be a lot of negativity around the Chilean. It was there last season after Wenger criticised him and has carried on. Almost as if people are preparing themselves for the inevitable ditching at the end of the season; “he wasn’t as good as is claimed”, kind of thing.

We shall see. Thomas Lemar’s arrival might alter perspectives with a £54m bid being sent to Monaco who claim he isn’t for sale. Paper talk? Probably, but makes us feel like the club are trying to do something .

A new playlist on Dad’s Jukebox this morning. Keep an eye on comments section and the right sidebar for the link.

’til Tomorrow.

42 thoughts on “On Domestic & European Success, Alexis & New Lemar Bid On Way

  1. Re the Sanchez saga, there will another Window before his present contract runs out.
    I wonder whether Arsene Wenger, in refusing to let him leave NOW, is hedging his bets and will rethink in January depending on results in the meantime. 😉

  2. nicky,

    I like your thinking, but unfortunately he is able to talk to potential new clubs in the January window and line up his out of contract deal. He won’t want to move in January and the buying club won’t see any reason to buy him at that point. The only deal being arranged in January will be his big sign-on fee at his new club. Expect a muscle tweak around the January window as he takes some time off to have a sit down with his new club.

  3. Astute observation on AW’s strange penchant for violent language. It has always struck me as jarring but I had never thought about it as a tendency, interesting as ever, YW.

    It will be a major challenge to adapt to this new rhythm for the team. I expect there will be some disruptions involved to routines that have been so ingrained. I was hoping we could escape any European football, because like you I think we have to try to win the PL. I can only remember what a challenge is like in that competition in a vague, distant way. The closest we’ve come to challenging was a decade ago. I’ll feel more optimistic if we get the CM we need. I don’t think Lemar is quite right for that roll though I like the player.

  4. This Neymar thing is going to change the next few weeks as we know them. It will be the same, but different. I’d imagine new opportunities and challenges face a lot of top and lower top tier teams in the wake of the domino effect. Can Spurs and possibly Liverpool hold onto their stars? Are we ready to adapt and react accordingly?

    It will at least be interesting watching football eat itself

  5. The season over, Wenger extended then a couple of journalists remarked though the extension was two years, a review was expected at the end of the first year (I believe one was the Telegraph). It was mentioned in passing and at the time I said who knows if there is any truth to it.

    So, having let what Wenger has said these past days percolate I find it strikes an odd quite specific note.

    Though disappointed with last season the fans are grounded. They might like the team re-structured and focused – a solid push for top four with a deep run in the EL and would be happy. I am not aware of anyone demanding (let alone expecting) we must win the Premier League next season.

    However, now we have Wenger underlining our impending title tilt, it’s all about the Premier League and Sanchez is going to win it for us. From my perspective Wenger is painting himself into a corner when if anything he could easily lower expectations without push back from the fans.

    I then recalled those mentions of a potential year-end review –could there be something to it?

    If it is the case – it would explain the desperate need to keep Sanchez and put all his eggs in that basket and bugger the financial hit in 12 months. I think it would also explain the apparent hesitance to re-structure the team to any major degree (rely on the tried and trusted –even if I would argue the otherwise).

    It feels a little too desperate when I am not sure why we have to aim that high. It seems he’s trying to convince himself it’s do-able.

    Could it be Wenger is betting all (as he sees it) on next ten months?

  6. DFS-,

    Sanchez has had three seasons at Arsenal in which to lead us to the Premiership title, he hasn’t done so yet so why does Wenger believe he wil do it in 17/18.

  7. Great post Yogi.

    The PL has to be the priority for Arsene this season. His legacy and his real value to the team during the Emirates has been his run of top 4 finishes. He needs to regain the top 4 spot. He can dismiss Missing the CL last season as a one off but doing it again would put him under a lot more pressure.

  8. He article about the our bloated squad that wavey referenced yesterday confirmed something that we had argued about a lot over the years. Big team managers don’t rotate very much which means that squad players don’t get a lot of high leverage minutes. For years everyone said that Arsene never rotates and it was said so often that it became the conventional wisdom. The reality is that he rotates more then other managers. Its an other example that we see what we expect to see

  9. Another excellent post YW. I am in 100% agreement with you that this current squad as it stands is not capable of winning the PL.

  10. Looking forward tomorrow to seeing Hissing Sead Kolasinac who was impressive in the pre-season games. How we managed to pick up someone like that on a “free” is quite remarkable.
    On Sunday Chelsea should be afraid. Be very afraid…..;)

  11. Ras

    It does not have to win the PL to meet minimum standards but it does have to get us back into the top 4.

    The other thing Arsene said that Yogi referenced was just how difficult every PL game is. That is why I tend to focus on players stats in league games and put less emphasis on the stats from “all competitions”. The first year that Danny Welbeck came on board he scored a very nice hat trick in a CL game against a very weak Gala team and everyone was excited however, his performances in the PL over the course of his career was the real indication of how many goals he would score. It does not mean much if a player pads his stats by scoring a hat trick in a league cup game against a league 2 opponent.

  12. It looked like Johan Djourou had nailed down a move to Sheffield Wednesday after leaving Hamburg on a free at the end of last season, but there is now a story out that the deal has collapsed at the last minute.

  13. Namaste

    A curious case indeed,
    Wenger believes,
    He can win the league,
    By avoiding fatigue,
    In the Europa league?

    Shows his intentions at least which appear deluded unless he can wise up to his centre. Either by getting carvalho (my choice), seri (Will at least allow us to evade the press) or by growing a pear and making Aaron Rambo do his job.

    Even with additions do I believe Wenger is balanced enough to inspire consistency? No. I think going for a trophy deemed higher than the f.a cup and automatic entrance to the golden trough should be the priority. A lot can go very wrong in 38 games, like a French Achilles or a disgruntled Chilean. If we can’t get Lemar this season then at least give yourself a better chance to replace Alexis next season.

    Hissing Sead? Do you know of his reptilian lineage or something? 😉
    He certainly is quite beastly. Gonna enjoy him bullying opponents this season. Tick.

  14. If I was an author, and thank the lord I am not sir, I would look at the few known or guessed facts of the Arsenal story for the upcoming season, and name it as an inevitable tale of woe full of pathos for the many fans, and try as I might, I cannot think of a happy ending without falling into maudling irrelevance.

    Luckily my creative juices match my looks – not too good.

    On what did I base the above assessment, you might ask, and even if you didn’t, I will none-the-less tell you.

    — What is undeniably a well known fact is that 3 key players have almost reached the end of the road in terms of the contracts binding them to the Arsenal, and there seems scant chances of that changing.
    — We have bought one new hopefully significant player and lucked out with a free signing who seemed very solid in the pre-season games, both of whom would be more likely to change our fortunes in the Premier League if the first ‘fact’ above had not occurred.
    — All the clubs, save the Spuds, pro tem, who finished above us in the Premiership have improved their squads or intend to do so, by dumping unwanted players and buying better quality players – and others like Everton and Manure have already done so, whereas our attempts to recruit an additional player or two have run into veritable brick walls, so far.
    — There is still time in the transfer window for more arrivals and departures at Arsenal to pick up speed but as always with the Arsenal — it is possible they won’t.
    — We still have an interesting roster of injured and recovering players, and no doubt they will be added to during the season. Our cover seems to be paper thin in certain areas – so we will need a large dollop of luck.
    — The manager has said that he does not intend to work his way into the following season’s CL qualifying by giving the Europa Cup the attention it needs to win it, and will instead concentrate on resuming our assault on the Premiership 4th place — I wish him luck with that.

    There are enough moving pieces and variables there to install, in this blogger at least, an increasingly morbid fear that next season may well end up a carbon copy of those seasons that have preceded it, hence my feelings expressed in the opening paragraph above that Wednesday’s child is full of woe ……

  15. Yogi, I am not sure that I would interpret Wenger’s comments as violent. You may have detected a strong sense of having been in this place on previous occasions with players such as Van Persie and to whom the club gave an incredible amount of time with respect to his many injuries over many years. Van Persie did not give so much as a by your leave and he was off to Manchester.

    With Alexis, Wenger appears to be clarifying that there is a contract and the expectation of Arsenal Football Club is that the substance of the contract will be respected.

  16. Henry B
    You still managed to spin out….I expect this season to go pear shaped.

    I agree. Nothing has changed in my opinion, to warrant any hope of something different happening
    other that the usual groundhog day scenario. My enthusiasm for a coming season has never been lower. He always says ” Judge me in May” he ignored it and signed on. I can’t see it ending very pretty.

  17. Excellent post Yogi.

    I was talking to a mate of mine in the pub and we got to discussing the upcoming season and the question was posed, “what would constitute a successful season? How about the Europa League crown and say 3rd or how about the PL but getting knocked out of the Europa League in the first leg of the knowout stages.”. It is one that I pondered and I would take either and I think should either happen I could see Sanchez staying for his last big payday.

  18. We have to be happy, if not satisfied, with the signings so far. Lacazette is a definite upgrade over Welbeck and Giroud. While Kolasinac looks to be a very useful utility defender able to play at left fullback, left wingback or in the centre of defence. To me, he looks like a player we have been lacking for a while, strong and uncompromising. I think he will turn out to be one of Wenger’s best recruits.

    If Wenger can just bring in a Cazorla replacement the transfer window can be considered a success.

    The one downside for me is the loss of Martinez who is a better option than Ospina but I look forward to him returning next season possibly as our first choice ‘keeper.

  19. Orson Kaert,

    My thoughts exactly, which is why I was reminded of the idea of a ‘review’ if the season does not go well. Perhaps there is an element of pressure on Wenger to produce this season and it is being reflected in key decisions.

    As I noted I haven’t seen a single demand from any fan that we must win the title or else.

    Then there are two points regarding Sanchez…agree once more – whether people grasp it or not (?) we have not won it with him in our ranks. The second issue is that I do not believe Sanchez will give all game in and out and do not even want to consider the atmosphere if we go through a contentious period.

    Bill,

    I had some issues with that piece – it felt lazy (of course, I have a position on this).

    Two of the title winning teams he cited did not have European football.

    Just yesterday Conte was across the media noting Chelsea ‘were in trouble’ with their squad size. They had replaced not expanded and now they had to confront the Champions League. He said if they did not succeed in buying more players this would be the most difficult season he has faced.

    The reference to Wenger rotating is misleading. He throws various players into cup games and we have a squad perrenially hit with more injuires than every other PL team.

    Wenger does not habitually rotate in the manner I would suggest – that you bring in squad players with frequency against lesser PL teams. The attempt should be to utilize a full squad and expand an inclusive squad spirit and ethos.

    Wenger does not do that.

    I should footnote there is patently something contentious going on at Chelsea. It started immediately post season with rumours Conte was going to quit (which seemed ludicrous but obviously there was a rift between Conte and some executives) and then his comments were pointed yesterday. I do not think this whole chapter has quite played out.

  20. Southampton have signed, pending a medical, Lemina from Juve and that is a really good buy especially when paired with Romeu.

  21. For tomorrow I hope we see our strongest or should I say our close to strongest line-up:

    3 at the back:
    Cech
    —–Holding—-Kos——Nacho
    Bellerin—-Xhaka—Ramsey*—-Sead
    —–Ozil——-Lacazette——Welbeck**

    *I think Elneny makes us stronger but Arsene will go with Ramsey.
    **Sanchez is the starter there once he is match fit

    4 at the back:
    Cech
    Bellerin—-Holding—-Kos—-Nacho or Sead
    ——–Xhaka——–Ramsey*-
    Theo——–Ozil————Welbeck
    ————Lacazette—————–

    Our strongest for me when everybody is fit and isn’t suspended outside of those like Santi we doubt will be fit for the season or say Gabriel who won’t be fit for the first month or so:

    Cech
    —-Holding——Mustafi—–Kos——
    Bellerin——Xhaka—–Elneny——Sead or Nacho
    ——Ozil——-Lacazette—–Sanchez

    You could also go with a more experienced back 3 of Kos/Holding/Nacho

  22. DFS-,

    As I said earlier, I have no problem with squad size when the players are good enough but they’re not. If the players we pick for our first eleven are no more than good, it doesn’t bode well for the ability of the back up players. Wenger has used the large squad as an excuse for not buying players in the past, but many players in the squad simply are not good enough and never have been. Wenger has also hamstrung the club by tying players in to contracts with wages that established players at other clubs don’t get paid, so it becomes almost impossible to move players on. The article did highlight the need to move players on before being able to bring new players in. The real issue is that the Arsenal squad has needed an upgrade for some time with players who have become comfortable with their spots in the first eleven needing to be dropped to the bench, or even shipped out completely. That just won’t happen under Wenger, so we will continue to limp on, maybe doing enough to get into the CL spots but never challenging for the title.

    Wenger seems to be suggesting that Wilshere needs to move on to progress his career. A view that many took some time ago. A pity that his insistence on sticking with Jack has meant that we have missed out on the £30m we could have potentially received if he’d been sold a couple of seasons ago.

  23. Arsene knows he’s sitting in the Last Chance Saloon with only one bullet in his revolver. If he can’t get arsenal back into the top four, he won’t survive the season. So he doesn’t give a damn about the club torching 50 mill on Alexis or anyone else. He’s got his beady eyes on survival. Which suggests he’ll pay whatever it takes to get Lemar. Everything he does needs to be seen through that lens.

  24. Glad to see us sign Lacazette who is a quality finisher. However my biggest worry is that we won’t be able to win the battle in the midfield with the players we have.

    We have not won the league since we had Viera and Gilberto. We need a Wanyama/ Matic type player to play alongside Xhaka. You can only afford to play one of Ramsey, Ozil or Iwobi in the same team or we are in big trouble.

    Lemar looks good but he won’t change our team that much. If we went for a Carvalho type player then our defence would have much better cover. The 3 at the back has just given us a bit more stability at the back but if we have an expert defensive midfielder in our team I think we could win the league.

  25. Wavey,

    I’ve always thought that our emphasis on ‘the squad’ is an issue. Wenger always talks about a strong squad (and we could argue that point) and it’s often pointed out that our bench is strong compared with even the best sides, but it’s the strongest first XI that wins titles IMO. I would much rather have the best first XI possible with two or three top alternatives and fill the rest with youngsters or merely solid players who can ‘do a job’.

    What we have is one or two top players them a raft of players at a similar level who are very good but not top drawer. Previous title winning sides have had great teams and selection has been pretty much fixed with the back ups filling in when needed rather than really vying for a starting role.

  26. Freddo,

    And that remains the issue. His target will be to get Arsenal back in the top four, not to challenge for the title. I don’t doubt that Wenger has always had money to spend on players. He has proved that in the past with the signing of Ozil, Alexis and Xhaka. I think the criteria he has to meet is whether or not the purchases he makes are going to help the club with their main aim of being in the top four. The question always being whether the club needs them to be top four. The purchase of Lacazette was a no brainer as we had already proved last season that the squad wasn’t good enough for top four. If the two additions we have made so far are perceived as enough to get as back into the top four we won’t add any other players. Lemar is part of a new look front line with Lacazette when Alexis goes, with his potential purchase moved forward to this summer as Alexis could leave now. We’ve seen Wenger target players over several transfer windows before with the chasing of players like Baptiste. If we don’t get them in one window then Wenger is willing to leave a gap in the squad and try again. He does the same with our long term injuries. Arsenal continue to work on the tightest purchase budget they can, only buying the players to meet the top four target. That seems fairly clear from the perennial top 3/4 finishes. We were second a couple of seasons ago not because we had raised our targets, but because Spurs collapsed at the end of the season and collected only 2 points out of a possible 12 in their last four games.

  27. andy1886,

    Exactly, but when your target is top four you can’t sanction buying a great team. A few star players and plenty of good players has seen us over the line. We usually need a single prolific striker to lead the charge. It was the performances against mid to lower table teams that caught us out in the end last season. Losing to Palace, Watford and West Brom meant that we lost too much ground on those ahead of us. We are usually very efficient at being flat track bullies with only one real slip up and a couple of draws that should have been wins. Losing 9 points in those three games was a disaster for the club’s target.

  28. Wavey,

    Wavey, all true. But this time, Arsene knows he has absolutely no margin for error. He won’t be thinking in terms of flopping over the line and just getting a top four finish. He will want to save his arse in style. That means the strongest team possible, damn the expense. Otherwise, he’s a total moron, and I don’t think he’s that.

  29. Freddo,

    If his main target remains top four, he is going to have to start looking over his shoulder at Everton as well. Koeman has been given the funds to put together a top four challenging squad. He may not do it in the coming season, but he is likely to be in the mix until late in the season. They don’t seem to have the firepower up front, but they are building a strong base of players.

  30. Wavey – as a famous Australian politician once said: “In the race of life, always back self-interest; at least you know it’s trying.”

  31. Wavey,

    Don’t worry – agree on all points.

    Personaly, rather than have some specious tilt at the PL title, I’d wish we set about a fundamental rebuild. But, that’s why I was stating I don’t think Wengers head is even in that space.

    He seems to be on a ludicrous tear…its all about the PL, Sanchez will win it for us, ‘he’s focused and he will respect that’

    Alrighty then.

  32. Arsenal: Cech, Holding, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bellerin, Elneny, Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Welbeck, Iwobi, Lacazette.

    Ozil and Ramsey have knocks, Sanchez isn’t in the squad. Why Sead isn’t starting is beyond me. I love the Xhaka/Elneny partnership, think its the strongest we currently have.

  33. @ Freddo,
    Your 8.51 puzzles me. Whether or not Arsene Wenger achieves 4th place is irrelevant. He has a contract lasting two years. He has never broken a contract. And he has begun the first of a two-year stint. End of. 😉

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