I’m Celebrity, No Really I Am maybe topping the television ratings but such was the collective exhaling in ‘z-list world’ that a hurricane of relief tore through the land. Aaron Ramsey isn’t playing in Cologne tomorrow night; the timing of Rodney Bewes and David Cassidy’s passing was nothing more than bad timing.
Bless him, Aaron’s made it clear he doesn’t like references to the ‘Ramsey Curse’ but what’s a poor blogger to do in the calm before the pre-match storm. We could talk Leon Goretzka and apparently, Arsenal are going to in January. Perhaps a straight swap for Mesut Özil, whom Schalke want to ‘bring home’?
Who knows; one thing is for certain, the back pages are gradually beginning to fill with transfer chatter and Arsenal stand front and centre.
The question to be answered is risk or reward. Or risk and reward is a better way of putting it. Do they take the risk and keep the contract rebels, or is it worth taking £20m for one or both? Put it another way; is it a risk keeping Alexis and Özil to give ourselves the best chance of winning the Europa League?
On paper, a January sale makes financial sense. £20-30m for each eases next summer’s monetary pain; add in wages saved. Put that all to one side in a nice pot and you’ve got the best part of £40-50m to add to the transfer war chest.
However, keep them and their worth becomes tangible on the pitch. We’re through to the knockout stages of the Europa League, and looking at the 2nd and 3rd place teams in the other groups, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be looking at the Round of 16 as well. There are some dangerous teams left but none to be frightened of.
There’s a lurking question, not quite an elephant in the room. Not yet anyway. We know from painful experience about Arsène and prioritising tournaments. The FA Cup, for some time, suffered because the fourth and fifth rounds proximity to the inevitable exit in the knockout (or ‘kickout’, as I typed initially for some reason) stages.
Where does Arsène sit on the interference the Europa League campaign runs with the chase for the top four? No disrespect to the current squad, but we are not going to get more than a round or two further in this competition if we continue to field a much-weakened side.
There’s a balance to be struck; we can’t rely on finishing the top four or winning the Europa League as a way of reaching next season’s ‘promised land’. United showed last season that the final decision on which basket deserves to hold all our eggs. There’s still a risk in doing so; most of us would have laughed our little cotton socks off if it had gone south for Mourinho against Ajax.
But is that a strong enough reason for holding onto both Sanchez and Özil? If we, for example, lured Schalke into a deal for Goretzka, do we let either of the pair go? With Monaco hitting the European skids, do we go back for Thomas Lemar? That was presented as a net £32m deal with Sanchez’s sale. Do we have £92m to spend on the French international?
It needs a man with a plan. Do we have one? We’ll only know if it’s the right one when hindsight is a wonderful thing. Or the then ‘now’ will be a wonderful thing. The scorn poured on the Europa League always misses the point; it’s a means to an end, as well as silverware.
You Can If You Just Try
There’s a long way to before we reach the crucial decision and it’s important to recognise that there won’t be a moment; it’s an incremental thing. The FA Cup 5th round bisects the Round of 32 tie; an early exit in the FA Cup affords a week’s rest between the two. A complication is the visit of Manchester City to the Emirates the following the Sunday.
The Round of 16 straddles Watford prior to the FA Cup quarter-final, Southampton/Newcastle the last eight, West Ham/Manchester United in the last four. There are some crucial games in there but surely we’ve built the squad to accommodate those challenges?
That’s the question we’ll see answered over the remainder of the season.