Morning all, a day off work and the posting schedule has gone to pot! Ah well…
The tedium of the transfer window speculation with the tedium of non-transfer window speculation. Arsenal have apparently been rejected by Tito, Randy, Michael, Jermaine and the other brother whose name escapes me, so turned to the one who wasn’t good enough to make The Jackson 5. Jackson Martinez is apparently on the club’s transfer radar.
And still we wait for the implausible excuse Sky will offer for Natalie Sawyer’s absence on Monday.
Wednesday arrives and a time to contemplate the upcoming North London Derby. Danny Welbeck is apparently going to be fit for the squad at the weekend with Alexis also expected to return according to reports this morning. Welbeck will join Chuba Akpom on the bench with the youngster apparently signing a 4½ year deal to keep him at The Emirates.
It’s a positive step for the club, one which signals to the player that he is wanted. A similar feeling that Francis Coquelin is no doubt experiencing. Thierry Henry praised his compatriot’s form and how he had taken his opportunity. This, Henry believes, allowed Arsène the opportunity to back away from buying Mr Right Now for the defensive midfield role.
Arsenal can go back for the player they want in the summer, if Arsène so desires. Mikel Arteta’s new one-year deal is as much of an insurance policy in case Wenger cannot land his target, as it is recognition of the Spaniard’s experience and the value he brings to the squad. Coquelin may, over time, yet prove to be the best solution but that’s a future judgement.
What he has done with his half-a-dozen or so appearances this season is give himself a chance of a future at the club when it seemed to all intents and purposes that he was on his way out. It’s one of those situations where it has worked out well for player and employer. The question is whether or not this is a temporary flirtation or the prelude to something more permanent?
There’s a sense of familiarity about it all. Mathieu Flamini was hawked around in the summer of 2007, turning down a move to Birmingham City. The following season, he was arguably one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League and let his contract run down, before moving to Milan. Fast forward eight years; same position, same situation. Arsène will be hoping for a different outcome.
A lot depends on the next three months. It’s the business end of the season and a time for players to stake their claims. Coquelin has the chance to impress both Arsène and any other club. I wonder if Wenger is minded to keep his fellow countryman to establish some sort of stability. There could be a couple of departures from the midfield area this summer – I’m thinking Flamini and Diaby as certainties whilst we face the prospect of the age-defying skills of Tomas Rosicky moving on as well – and the manager may want to hold on to numbers. That is, after all the name of the squad game.
It also buys him time, to allow for Arsenal’s negotiating team to grind down a selling club’s resistance and nab his target. The risk is that more deals fall through than happen, if you believe anecdotal evidence; not just for Arsenal but for all clubs.
There’s also the issue of offering a career path for players. Wenger has been at pains in the past to make sure we understood youth was being given a chance and he would not “kill” the career of a young player by signing a more experienced model. Some of that was smokescreen; finances dictated that the older players were perhaps not of the quality one might expect Arsenal to sign. There was nothing much to lose by giving youngsters a run in the first team.
Now the coin is in the bank – I’m not getting into an argument here about whether or not it was there in the first place – and Arsenal can compete with the top end of the second-tier of the market. It’s a good place to be if players of the quality of Sanchez and Özil are available. Arsène is modelling his new squad and being able to call upon that level of gifted individual makes it a little easier.
Whether he will prioritise the defensive side of the midfield is another matter. He could quite easily have ventured into the transfer market last month and opted for an experienced right back. That he didn’t is testament to Hector Bellerin’s ability and dedication, as well as the manager’s desire to promote from within. Old habits die hard. Which is not a bad film title…
The remainder of the season is shaping to be an interesting time, not just collectively but individually. Changes are not just contract dependent, players come and go for other reasons. There’s a lot for everyone to play for.