Look if everybody is fit and available we don’t need to go on the transfer market.
When that quote hit social media, it wasn’t surprising that blood pressure rose. Particularly since the club’s official Twitter feed broke the comment to the masses. If you’ve just read that for the first time, there is more to come but in the meantime, you need to relax with this morning’s playlist, Covers 3 (here or in the right sidebar on Dad’s Jukebox, there’s a page of the same name with previous playlists as well).
Now you’ve composed yourself, the rest of the answer to the question about the coming window is more telling,
But we have to consider that Koscielny could be a question mark with his fitness and we have to go out on the transfer market, yes.
Which puts the original quote into a wider context. It’s not quite an open admission that he needs a new central defender for depth but the door remains open rather than slammed in anyone’s face. There is a suggestion that Arsène needs to play his cards close to his chest so that other clubs don’t hold Arsenal to ransom.
Anyone with a pair of eyes – even half an eye – can see the shortfall and knows that the club will come knocking, if they haven’t already. In an age where the Premier and Champions Leagues are beamed around the world, everyone knows Arsenal are looking to add to the back four, ideally one who can drift into left back if needed. Like Thomas Vermaelen, for instance. Obviously not Thomas Vermaelen, that one didn’t work out too well in the end, but someone with his versatility.
And whilst he is at it, Arsène can apply the same rule of thumb to the central midfield places. Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere; out for varying numbers of weeks and months now, none of them are suffering their first injuries of the season either. An injury to Flamini or a suspension and the squad is paper thin for those positions. Those calling for Calum Chambers to be the answer to the defensive midfield role might get their opportunity sooner than they think. If the back four can spare him of course.
Which they can today with Mathieu Debuchy moving into the centre to cover for the youngster’s absence. With Hector Bellerin coming in on the right, it will be a ‘raw’ side to the defence and well, there’s no point in recriminations, it is what it is for another few weeks. Thankfully Debuchy is back otherwise there would be an altogether more youthful edge to the back four. Wenger noted that it wasn’t ideal that his senior right back has had just a day to learn a new role and it would seem that Cisse will target that inexperience although he will probably fancy himself in a race against Mertesacker as well.
And that might be a mistake because of his full backs, Debuchy seems on the face of it, to be best suited to the central role, strong in the air and difficult to shake off the ball. It isn’t ideal but not as nervy as bringing in a raw player for a Premier League debut. It’s different if the side is doing well, confident and winning comfortably most weeks. But Arsenal aren’t; the last domestic game featured the worst forty-five minutes of the season and whilst there was a comfortable romp in midweek, this will be a sterner test and one where mettle must be shown.
It gives something of a makeshift look to the side, continued into midfield. To offer stronger protection to the back four, I would drop Ox into the central role vacated by Ramsey; were Rosicky fit, there would be a first Premier League start for him but he remains doubtful. There are other youthful options but Arsène has shown he prefers to fit players he trusts into square holes rather than use any round pegs available.
The only exception to that ought to be Podolski whose brace in Turkey ought to get him an hour today and pose a goal threat from either flank, Welbeck shifting to the right. Arsène will probably opt to bring Cazorla into the centre and Sanchez to the right but I am not sure that is for the best when victory is going to require more than a single goal.
Newcastle arrive having lost just one of their last nine Premier League games in a run that has seen them climb from eighteenth to seventh, behind Arsenal on goal difference, conceding the same number but not scoring as freely. The biggest danger for Arsenal will come as Chelsea found, on the counter-attack. It’s another reason to drop Oxlade-Chamberlain deeper; Flamini doesn’t have the pace to cope with the speed of opposition breaks. It will need a disciplined performance from the youngster though, the adventurous streak in his game would need to be tempered.
It’s a good enough team to win, just a lot more of the second half performance at Stoke is needed than the first. Whilst the media may wonder if the crowd will turn on the manager following last weekend’s incident, reports emerge that whilst it was the first caught on camera but not an isolated incident. How true that is, I don’t know but I suspect today will be a friendlier atmosphere, especially if it goes well; defeat is trickier to read but it gives more of an indication of the prevalent mood in the stands.
Arsène was right about respect, reiterating a point most have made. A little loose with facts as well. Commendably he took charge of his 180th Champions League game this week. Of course no previous Arsenal manager has had the luxury of qualifying from fourth place for the Champions Cup.
Indeed, were the same restrictions that others have worked under in place, Arsenal would have only qualified three times in nearly two decades. That’s one more than George Graham achieved albeit English clubs were banned for one of them. So whilst it is a mark of outstanding consistency, it’s a dangerous game to play comparing footballing apples and oranges.
But that’s an argument for another day, today is about winning and taking three points on a weekend when I expect most, if not all, the clubs above us to do that. Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.
FROM THE VAULTS
Today’s match is from 2000, Newcastle’s visit to Highbury on 9th December and if I recall correctly, the only hat-trick Ray Parlour scored at Highbury.