Morning y’all from the warm and sunny south of Texas where even the least sane of people is entitled to carry a gun. Or it maybe more of a case that I wouldn’t trust the person who now possesses a rifle, with any sort of firearm, plastic or real. And this one was very real. Although why you need a camouflaged rifle to take on a deer or wild boar was never entirely explained. Then again, “because you do” has rarely been any sort of explanation at all.
So Gabriel has signed. Well, he might have done so by the time this sees print thanks to the vagaries of the time zones. You can get used to these types of deal, not the quality of the player; I haven’t seen anything much of him so couldn’t offer an opinion on him. I’m sure there is a YouTube reel of him looking like the lovechild of Beckenbauer and Kroll after being raised by Baresi. Actually, if such a reel exists, I’d quite like to see that; the art of defending is not quite lost but not what it was.
The lessons of the past appear learned, work permits duly attained and a signing to be announced. What his role in the squad is remains to be seen but any signing should be capable of challenging for a first team place and good enough to take the opportunity when it arises. Coquelin may have achieved that fortuitously but when his moment came, he took it. Whether he has done so on a long-term basis remains to be seen. I’m sure next summer will be revealing in that respect.
In the season review DVD for either 2003/04 or the following season, Arsène noted that signing Jose Antonio Reyes in January was ideal because it allowed the player to settle for six months or so, being ready for the following season. The theory didn’t work to well with Reyes who by his own admission, didn’t settle in England but that’s not to say Gabriel won’t. More importantly, the Brazilian has the chance to see English football first hand. Hopefully the brutality won’t astound him in the same way it did Robert Pires.
There might be a role for him this season. Certainly you would expect him to play in the FA Cup tie against Middlesbrough and he may slip into the side as two games a week becomes the norm around the end of the month, allowing the luxury of rest to Mertesacker or Koscielny as needed. Most importantly, it gives Arsène options, something which was so evidently missing up to now. So let the photos be taken, the pieces be written for the official welcome and get this show on the road.
Spending money seems to have reinvigorated the gossip columns but it will be a surprise if any more new players arrive this transfer window, certainly on a permanent basis. Talk of new right backs seems premature, although it was a chastening experience (to some extent) for Calum Chambers on Sunday. Right back doesn’t seem to be his natural position but needs must, as they have done all season. However, you would have to hope that Mathieu Debuchy’s ill-fortune cannot continue and that when he returns to fitness this time, he is able to enjoy a good run in the side.
With Carl Jenkinson returning in the summer, on the surface there appears little necessity to make a permanent signing. A loan is a different matter. Hector Bellerin has done a good job so far but there are crucial games coming and if progress is made in the cup competitions, especially the Champions League, then the opposition will provide sterner tests. Is he up to that? Is it even fair on the youngster to put him in that position with the knowledge that a bad game could have a lasting impact.
It’s a tough call for Arsène to make. He has to show some loyalty to the youngsters but balance that against the prospects of winning a competition or completing the task of finishing in the top four. These moments are great for speeding along Bellerin’s experience and with Carl Jenkinson getting regular first team action at West Ham, the future has great potential. If Jenkinson returns in the summer – and my view is that it is by no means certain – then the opportunity exists for Bellerin to go on loan and get experience next season. In a year’s time, Debuchy will be 31. Like Mertesacker, it isn’t old but it is the age when a first team place can be seriously challenged by two younger players. The circle of footballing life.
Having briefly mentioned it before, the FA Cup draw is favourable to Arsenal. Middlesbrough did exceptionally well to beat City at the weekend, rode their luck and took their chances. It was a typical smash-and-grab raid. I am sure Arsène and the players won’t be taking it lightly; if they do, they need only think back to the visit of Blackburn in the same stage of the competition two years ago as a reminder of how things can go wrong. A focussed Arsenal ought to be too strong for a visiting team whose predecessors have never won an FA Cup tie in the proper side of North London.
The draw looks as if it has evened the Premier League’s chances of providing the last four. Bradford have an excellent chance of making the last eight but with in all likelihood, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United still in the draw, it is hard to see beyond one of that trio lifting the trophy in May.