So, darling, how was it for you? Did we come out of the transfer window stronger or have we papered over the cracks? It’s hard to think that we haven’t done a bit of both.
We’ve added strength and shorn some of the chaff from the squad but there is so much work still to be done, that it’s impossible to believe we’re significantly better. Not least because the same hands are at the tiller. Until we have a new manager, my expectations remain low.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the talk of the town, as well as Mesut Özil’s new contract. Henrikh Mkhitaryan may float my boat after a few games but only after that will we see the extent of the psychological damage inflicted by Jose Mourinho on him.
The new boys, along with Alexandre Lacazette, put some pizzazz on the teamsheet, so long as you don’t look at the defensive element of the XI. That’s the conundrum; we’re putting the frame of a McLaren over the engine of an Alfa Romeo. It looks good but is entirely unreliable.
In fact, we don’t need to put the McLaren frame in place; Alfa Romeo’s look good and are still unreliable. So that’s what we are; the Premier League’s Alfa Romeo, with a Sunday driver at the wheel.
Nonetheless, we’re sixth and still in touch with the top four; just. Chelsea losing was something we had to capitalise on but the turgid display at Swansea put paid to any advancement this week. That’s the problem; we’re a one step forward, one sideways and one back kind of team; treading water because we don’t know how to swim.
Maybe our sparkling new forward will add that dynamic. His record in front of goal in the past few seasons suggests he will.
You’re Just Dreaming
Losing Alexis was a blow; we knew it was coming but the manner of departure was a surprise. We’ve cleared away one disruptive element and potentially replaced it with another. PEA comes with something of a health warning but football fans these days are such a bunch of drama queens, the line between truth and fiction is blurred.
In ten years time, people will ask about Alexis and the stock answer will be that he gave the ball away all the time. Not that he had a record of a goal every other game or his attacking contribution to the team. No, he gave the ball away. I genuinely despair at moments like that.
The same is true of Olivier Giroud. He’s being feted like a folk hero but let’s be honest, his record wasn’t much better than Frank Stapleton’s. Think of how much better it might have been were his career not punctuated with regular barren spells of five or more games. He hasn’t scored twenty goals in a Premier League season since moving to Arsenal.
If we’re being brutally honest about players, this is where we’re at.
It’s a strange time to be an Arsenal fan if we’re clinging to the likes of Giroud. These are players who didn’t sparkle but instead of celebrating what we’ve got, we’re bemoaning who’s left. The myth of the supersub is exactly that: a myth. He scored four goals in 15 substitute appearances this season; four in four games, to be accurate because, in 11, he didn’t find the net.
I’m not digging him out, just trying to cut through the fog surrounding him. And avoid looking ahead too far. There’s no point in looking too far ahead with this Arsenal side because honestly, you don’t know which one will turn up.
Plan 9 from Outer Space
Paul Merson offered the view that we no longer have Plan B without Giroud. We didn’t with him; we just pulled off a midfielder and added an attacker, while hoping for the best. Our style of play didn’t change when he came on. Moving from a back four to back three changes things but typically, we don’t do that.
I think its telling that we went back to West Brom on deadline day in the hope of landing Jonny Evans. If we needed him then, we needed him four weeks ago! Why wait until the last-minute? That certainly doesn’t lend itself to a strong sense of planning going into the window.
Maybe that expectation is too high for January. Maybe the new back-office staff need to have half a season with the club before we see any coherence in transfer thinking. I suspect we need a more seismic change than that for any genuine impact.
Nonetheless, I believe we’ve come out of the window stronger than when we went in, particularly with a new contract for Özil. The sense that the rot has been stopped in terms of contracts grows with that; tying a few others down will complete that job.
For now, we move on and Everton come into view.