Arsenal return to Premier League action with a tricky little test at Burnley on Sunday. It’s hard to think that any of the team which lost in Cologne did anything to warrant inclusion in the starting line-up at Turf Moor. Arsène is a bigger picture guy as well, looking to the future as much as the present.
One problem that isn’t going away is the future of Mesut Özil. If a week is a long time in politics, it’s a lifetime in football. The German is the subject of speculation that he is being lined up for a move to Barcelona this winter as the Catalans resigned themselves to missing out on Philippe Coutinho.
That was until Lionel Messi decided that, to use the popular press euphemism, Özil “nicks a living” in the big matches and let the Camp Nou hierarchy know his views on the matter. And that would be the end of the matter, you would think. Not so; Arsène fielded questions on the very subject at his post-match, pre-match press conference.
Özil hasn’t agreed terms with Barcelona, he declared, before chastising members of the Fourth Estate for their hypocrisy on Twitter. OK, you have to read quite a lot into what he said to reach that last conclusion but the clues are there. If you jumble up all the words, you can see quite clearly he says, “Why should I answer questions from a breed who are so stupid that they take on Arsenal Twitter?”
Anyway, the upshot is that Wenger is tired of the speculation over the player’s futures. He could do with a break, you feel, from the Fenerbahce, Manchester United and Barcelona speculation. At least Alexis is only interested in one club, even if PSG and Real Madrid are intent on clouding the issue.
Nothing in Life is Free
I have said it before and will no doubt do so again but this is a clusterf*ck of Arsenal’s own making. Poor management all round – not just Wenger but Gazidis and Law too – to let contracts get to this stage. Even better, both first and second choice goalkeepers have contracts which expire in 2019. Only at Arsenal, it seems.
Not only at Arsenal, there are potentially higher profile free transfers next summer than before. Even Messi has yet to sign a new deal with Barcelona. Football chicken is well and truly under way.
And it puts managers in an invidious position as Jack Wilshere is about to find out. His contract expires next summer as well, which is flying under the football radar. Or those of the back pages after he declared he wanted to stay at Arsenal. Speaking after Cologne, he said he wanted “honest” talks with Wenger, about his future.
Despite being keen to stay, he knows that he isn’t going to get back into Gareth Southgate’s England squad unless he gets into the Arsenal XI. So Jack wants to know where he stands, as opposed to sitting on the bench.
However, Arsène’s predicament is that replacing Özil and Sanchez alone is likely to cost £150m+ unless he can pull off a coup and sign Goretzka in the January window. It’s unlikely Thomas Lemar will move for less than the £92m bid accepted by Monaco in the summer. A good World Cup will only see that rise.
Simply put, we don’t have the cash to replace an experienced player like Wilshere as well. That’s the brutal reality of our situation. While Willock is promising, is promoting him to the first team for cup matches enough experience for a season in the first team if the situation arises?
Talk is Cheap, Footballers are Not
So the honest opinion Jack craves will most likely be clouded by others situations. Wenger needs to be at his persuasive best to persuade a hugely talented player that his future is at the Emirates. Plenty would; Wilshere is Marmite for very few reasons which have to do with himself.
The real question is whether there’s a place in the side for Wilshere. All the while Özil is here, the answer’s ‘no’ for the most part. I get that, so does everyone else. When he’s gone, the question becomes whether we change our style as a result of losing Sanchez and the German at the same time. Do we become more ‘direct’ as a result of just the same with different personnel? I’m not so sure the answer is as clear-cut as either extreme believes.
Speculation will intensify between now and the end of January over the futures of those out of contract next summer. If all three leave, broken cannons will adorn the back pages. Rightly so? The fourth estate’s desire for vengeance on the Arsenal support may be a dish served cold…