As much as we want the arrivals to happen, departures are inevitable to facilitate them. Not just financially but in space as well. Presumably Arsène will donate a spot in the squad to Abou Diaby so numbers are close to the 25-man limit. That’s how it should be and all bar the very elite are safe from sale. Them and the inexplicable favourites of a manager. There are always some, players who nobody but the manager rates.
This is in a week where departures are on the cards. Thomas Eisfeld, a player in whom many saw a glorious future at the club, followed Henri Lansbury’s path to The Championship and regular football, this time Fulham was the destination. It underlines the difficulties faced by youngsters at a club of Arsenal’s size. With the financial muscle the club now enjoys, it takes a truly exceptional player to force their way through the ranks. Serge Gnabry is being touted as leaving for a season on loan, Southampton were yesterday’s men with Newcastle once more emerging from the pack as favourites. Perhaps he could house-share with Joel Campbell, whom Sunderland want to take for the coming campaign.
Atletico Madrid meanwhile are once more interested in Santi Cazorla, apparently quoted £15m as an asking price. Thanks for setting us on the path back to winning the cup at Wembley, old chap, but toodle pip! Somehow I don’t think it will happen but with that kind of offer, it is something the manager would have to seriously consider. The problem is that he would spend more replacing him. Equally, there seems little chance of Monreal joining him back in La Liga; Arsène has enough problems at right back without having to look at another left back. And please do not try to tell me that Mathieu Flamini is the answer to that question.
It seems as if the hand of God is behind it all; Arsène is putting ideas into the public domain to see which ones meet with supporter approval. Or perhaps the least reprobation. No sooner had the ink dried on the notion that Abou Diaby’s 45-minute stroll at Borehamwood meant he was the solution to Arsenal’s midfield question, than Jack Wilshere is now being targeted for the very same role. The gales of laughter at the notion of Diaby being reliably fit for a season travelled a long way on these windless days.
Too much was made of Wilshere’s holiday in Las Vegas. Photographs of footballers smoking always make good copy because of the contradictory nature of the habit with their occupation. It allows sweeping generalisations to be made about a footballer’s career, any failure – real or perceived – is open to innuendo; his smoking must be the cause, irrespective of any semblance of truth in the matter. Indeed, the truth is often an inconvenience to those who are paid by the piper.
I have never understood the divisive nature of Arsenal supporters relationship with Wilshere. He is a genuinely talented young man, who should be hugely popular but there is a simmering resentment among some that he is English, that there is an expectation from the nation that he perform for a national squad bereft of anything resembling technique. Perhaps that is the answer; he’s not entirely ours and for whatever reason, some cannot handle the adulation. I know there is a perception that he gets an easy ride; it isn’t true as this summer proved.
The fundamental problem is that Wilshere has yet to reach the ascribed status conferred on him. Missing a season through injury inevitably set back progress as it did in Aaron Ramsey’s case. It’s an interesting comparison to see; the Welsh wizard had until last season, enjoyed two relatively injury-free seasons since recovering from Ryan Shawcross’ brutal tackle. Wilshere by contrast has missed a third of the last two seasons since fatigue took its toll on his ankle. The stop-start nature of his career has inevitably raised questions; the logic argues that he should be a first-team regular by now.
Well he is but is he the answer to the future when Arteta and Flamini are no longer patrolling the centre of the park. Perhaps but if he is that will mean curbing his attacking instincts unless Ramsey drops deeper which in turn curbs his goalscoring instincts. There is a trade-off to be made if the duo are to be the pivots around which the Arsenal team is built. That could work as well, depending on the four ahead of them and assumes a rigidity in their roles that doesn’t necessarily exist. Even the most defensive of midfielders in the modern game has an attacking role to play in the side. The notion of a man standing metres in front of the back four for the whole match doesn’t exist at Arsenal. Maybe it should; maybe that’s a significant contributing factor in why Arsène’s teams have at times in recent seasons have struggled to close out games with clean sheets.
The broader issue is not around Wilshere though, it’s about the perception of a squad system. Many of us remember the days when it was the norm for successful clubs to play 60 – 70 games a season and to have three or four ever-presents. They belong with The Big Match, a section in the history books. Nowadays it’s a squad game with Aaron Ramsey’s near-50 games in 2011/12 and 2012/13 almost an anomaly. Each club needs their squad to cover injuries which occur more readily, be they contact or otherwise. It’s why a lot of talk surrounding transfers is easily led astray, too simplistically proposed as a straightforward replacement. Arsenal need a squad to compete for the trophies we want them to win. That will mean previously assured places in the side are challenged. It will mean previous expectations have to be adjusted and it definitely means that existing players have to raise their game. And that can be no bad thing at all.