Are We There Yet?

I’m Celebrity, No Really I Am maybe topping the television ratings but such was the collective exhaling in ‘z-list world’ that a hurricane of relief tore through the land. Aaron Ramsey isn’t playing in Cologne tomorrow night; the timing of Rodney Bewes and David Cassidy’s passing was nothing more than bad timing.

Bless him, Aaron’s made it clear he doesn’t like references to the ‘Ramsey Curse’ but what’s a poor blogger to do in the calm before the pre-match storm. We could talk Leon Goretzka and apparently, Arsenal are going to in January. Perhaps a straight swap for Mesut Özil, whom Schalke want to ‘bring home’?

Who knows; one thing is for certain, the back pages are gradually beginning to fill with transfer chatter and Arsenal stand front and centre.

The question to be answered is risk or reward. Or risk and reward is a better way of putting it. Do they take the risk and keep the contract rebels, or is it worth taking £20m for one or both? Put it another way; is it a risk keeping Alexis and Özil to give ourselves the best chance of winning the Europa League?

On paper, a January sale makes financial sense. £20-30m for each eases next summer’s monetary pain; add in wages saved. Put that all to one side in a nice pot and you’ve got the best part of £40-50m to add to the transfer war chest.

However, keep them and their worth becomes tangible on the pitch. We’re through to the knockout stages of the Europa League, and looking at the 2nd and 3rd place teams in the other groups, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be looking at the Round of 16 as well. There are some dangerous teams left but none to be frightened of.

Think Before

There’s a lurking question, not quite an elephant in the room. Not yet anyway. We know from painful experience about Arsène and prioritising tournaments. The FA Cup, for some time, suffered because the fourth and fifth rounds proximity to the inevitable exit in the knockout (or ‘kickout’, as I typed initially for some reason) stages.

Where does Arsène sit on the interference the Europa League campaign runs with the chase for the top four? No disrespect to the current squad, but we are not going to get more than a round or two further in this competition if we continue to field a much-weakened side.

There’s a balance to be struck; we can’t rely on finishing the top four or winning the Europa League as a way of reaching next season’s ‘promised land’. United showed last season that the final decision on which basket deserves to hold all our eggs. There’s still a risk in doing so; most of us would have laughed our little cotton socks off if it had gone south for Mourinho against Ajax.

But is that a strong enough reason for holding onto both Sanchez and Özil? If we, for example, lured Schalke into a deal for Goretzka, do we let either of the pair go? With Monaco hitting the European skids, do we go back for Thomas Lemar? That was presented as a net £32m deal with Sanchez’s sale. Do we have £92m to spend on the French international?

It needs a man with a plan. Do we have one? We’ll only know if it’s the right one when hindsight is a wonderful thing. Or the then ‘now’ will be a wonderful thing. The scorn poured on the Europa League always misses the point; it’s a means to an end, as well as silverware.

You Can If You Just Try

There’s a long way to before we reach the crucial decision and it’s important to recognise that there won’t be a moment; it’s an incremental thing. The FA Cup 5th round bisects the Round of 32 tie; an early exit in the FA Cup affords a week’s rest between the two. A complication is the visit of Manchester City to the Emirates the following the Sunday.

The Round of 16 straddles Watford prior to the FA Cup quarter-final, Southampton/Newcastle the last eight, West Ham/Manchester United in the last four. There are some crucial games in there but surely we’ve built the squad to accommodate those challenges?

That’s the question we’ll see answered over the remainder of the season.

’til Tomorrow.

35 thoughts on “Are We There Yet?

  1. Morning All and a fine piece of writing there Yogi my man.

    I think the thing is, you forgot the reports of Arsenal interested in bringing in Draxler on loan in January. The deal for Goretzka is interesting because if he was bought it means nothing for Ozil but would be strengthening the central of the park, meaning Ramsey and Xhaka would be worried though it would be more Ramsey than Xhaka. If a deal can be struck for Goretzka, I would actually keep both Ozil and Sanchez and have a real go at the Europa League (which even when the likes of Dortmund and possibly Monaco fall, we should still be favorites for the Europa crown).

    When it comes to prioritizing, if I played manager for a min, I would stop with the weakened team starting in the Round of 32 in the Europa League and I would go with it in the FA Cup until we ran into some really stiff competition. I would then actually start rotating during the PL season when we face clubs like Crystal Palace, Swansea, Bournemouth, Huddersfield, etc., we will be able to use players like Jack, Giroud Elneny, Iwobi to rest players like Ozil, Lacazette and Sanchez for the tougher FA Cup and Europa League matches.

  2. Great post Yogi.

    I think the decision regarding Ozil and Sanchez will depend on what happens between now and mid January. If one or both play the way they did against Spurs and it looks like they have reengaged their engines then we keep them. However if Sanchez returns to sleep walk mode and plays the way he has been for most of this season or if Ozil’s performance against Spurs proves to be a 1 off and he returns to playing like he has for most of the last 2 years and doing his best impression of the invisible man then we should sell him. The problem is that I doubt we get any serious offers for Ozil. I would be surprised if a team like Schalke or Atletico would be willing to pay the wages for Ozil. Even if Ozil is willing to get by on only $200,000/week he would instantly become either teams highest paid player and it would increase Atletico’s wage bill by more then 10%. I doubt that a team which has been as savvy as Atletico would make that sort of long term high dollar commitment for a player who is entering his age 30 season and appears to be slowing down already.

  3. We will have the same problem with destroying the wage scale if we try to sell Sanchez to a less wealthy team although I think Alexis is much more marketable then Ozil at this point. The reality is that I doubt either of them would actually accept a $200,000/week offer in January which means we would have to find a big team that could soak up their wages without much trouble. I suspect both players might prefer to stick with Arsenal for the rest of this season which would allow them to start negotiating with every club in the world in January. They can hope to get a couple of big clubs involved in a mini bidding war. That won’t happen if they are tied to one specific team. They also increase their wage leverage by moving on a free transfer rather then coming with a transfer fee.

  4. It still makes me laugh that some ‘fans’ sniff at the Europa League. The idea that it’s preferable to be humiliated year in year out in a competition that we have no hope of winning rather than compete in one where we are one of the favourites, that AFC have such a fine European pedigree that the lesser competition is some kind of insult. What have these people been smoking?

    If we can’t win the league I’d take the FA Cup and/or Europa League over a top four finish because these are real successes, not paper ones that impact the balance sheet more than the history books. And no, CL qualification isn’t going to enable us to sign the players needed to win the top trophies, that takes cold hard cash and/or the discipline, desire and tactical nous of a manager at the top of their game. And we lack both.

  5. Really interesting post YW.
    George Graham, albeit in a totally different era, would it seemed at the time, target a competition and maybe that’s a decision that Arsene has to make early next year, especially if we’re still in the League Cup.

    I agree with C, maybe some thoughtful rotation in those lesser EPL games is a way to go.

    Ozil and Alexis to stay for me, both will up their game with the prospect of silver wear I’d imagine., whilst Shad Forsyth has a major job on his hands.

  6. Allezkev

    Its going to be difficult to move either Ozil or Sanchez even if we try.

    Andy

    If we are going to prioritize I think the Europa League should be #1.

  7. C

    We have been down this road many times and we become over confident after one win such as the Spurs game. We can’t afford to rotate in league games if we really want to prioritize finishing in the top 4.

  8. Bill,

    No offense mate, but I don’t give a rats ass about top 4. I would sacrifice top 4 for winning the FA Cup and Europa League 10 out of 10 times. So if that means rotating and playing the B team against lower league competition the same week that we have a big Europa League or FA Cup match then so be it.

    For example, if we have a PL match against Sunderland on Saturday or Sunday and then a Europa League Round of 32 or 16 match against say Dortmund on Thursday; then I’m resting Ozil, Sanchez and Lacazette against Sunderland and starting Jack, Giroud and Theo.

  9. I know its just a talking point BUT its fucking absolutely ABSURD that Gerrard makes UEFA’s Team of the Century ahead of Kaka, Ronaldinho, Pavel Nedved and Zidane.

  10. C,

    A one club man, not in any way controversial, good disciplinary record, slightly better than average for England players of that era.

    Just a pity he’s turned into a boring old fart at the age of thirty-seven…..and he’s on TV far too often.

  11. Orson Kaert,

    Not taking anything away from him because he was a brilliant player, but to get into the team ahead of those others is beyond me. Sure Zidane wasn’t a one club player but what he did as a player, very few can match.

    Ronaldinho was unplayable and was the key player that helped to turned Barca’s whole club around when he arrived.

    I’m pretty sure they don’t care about controversy or disciplinary record as both Pique and Ramos made the team.

  12. Andy
    Maybe it’s a defense mechanism of sorts on their part.
    Arsenal maybe one of the favorites to win the Europa League but Wenger’s record in Europe suggests making the top four is more easily attainable.

    Arsenal can have a Liverpool style fiasco (4:0) several times in a course of the season and still be within a shout of the top four in May, while the smallest hiccup in the European knock out stages could mean curtains.

    On Wenger’s part, one can understand why the PL is the priority.
    He’s been singing from the same top four consistency hymn sheet for so long , that missing out two years running would be a bigger failure than getting knocked out in Europe by virtually anyone.

  13. silvergunner,

    I was thinking the same thing but unless we are bringing somebody else in, I don’t see Arsene selling him because of Welbeck’s injury history, Giroud’s inconsistency and Theo can score goals.

    I do think though he will have suitors

  14. On second look, Buffon made an absolutely brilliant touch save to push it off the post.

    Just think, Delefou was deemed not good enough for Everton and the PL but he is a Barca product who was highly rated and now has gone ‘home’ and started to show his talent. Funny how people will say your not good enough if you struggle in the PL where pace and power are at times more important than understand space and time

  15. With Arsene talking about if Welbeck is fit he goes to the World Cup, if Welbeck doesn’t start tomorrow then I would be really really surprised.

  16. C

    I suspect getting back to the CL any way that he can is Arsenes priority just like it was for Mourinho last season. I think Arsène will prioritize the league because the run of top 4 finishes is the most important part of his post 2004 legacy. If it looks like we are falling out of the race for the top 4 then the priority will move to Europa League similar to Mourinho. We have won the FA cup recently so that is no longer as important and the league cup was never important.

  17. Poor old Celtic copped it tonight, PSG 7 – 1 Celtic. If we bought Dembele in January could he play in the Europa League or would he be cup tied having already played in the CL?

  18. We’re not the only ones to fuck up in Europe…..good ole Man U got tucked up in the 89th minute……they now have to beat CSKA in their next encounter 😂😂

  19. Bill,

    Tbh Bill, if Ozil and Alexis were going to leave then it had to be last summer.

    I guess it’s a financial balancing act, their transfer value vs a possible top four finish?

  20. C,

    As regards Dembele’s eligibility for the Europa League, if he was transferred to us, having played in the CL for Celtic …….. depends.

    It is a bit of a stretch for him to be transferred to us in January —- but if he did —- and Celtic managed not to finish bottom in their CL group, (only the third team in the group qualify) then he could play for us in the CL.

    But, if Celtic made it into the EL by finishing 3rd in their CL group, then, because he had already played for them in the CL in the same season, then he could not play for us in the last part of our CL campaign this season.

    The Oracle

  21. Bugger!!

    There is a “not” too far in the above. 🙂

    Should be:- — “and Celtic managed not to finish bottom in their CL group”

    Hope that is clear. 😀

  22. Just been watching, on TV, the traffic jams in LA as people try to get away for Thanksgiving.

    Having been stuck in something similar it is a pain in the ass — but the aerial shot looks real pretty! 😀

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