The transfer talk is ratcheting up a notch or two with claims that Arsenal tried a last-ditch attempt to land Fabinho before he signed for Liverpool yesterday.
That we’re bidding on a £39m player underlines the naivety of believing £50m means £50m; is it even a net impact of £50m anyway. According to last week’s Telegraph, it’s £70m in any case with Ivan finding £20m in used fivers in a carrier bag in Arsène’s bottom drawer. And to think he was happy enough finding an empty Tupperware box as he rooted through Wenger’s leftovers.
What the reports underline is the folly of (a) trying to work out what we’ve got to spend, and (b) believing what the papers say we’ve got to spend. The transfer window for supporters is hoping the club address the deficiencies in the squad, or at least the ones we perceive to exist.
Crucially, this is the time for the new management structure to show there is a new Arsenal Transfer Window Action Team in town and build momentum for Unai Emery era.
Stephan Lichtsteiner brings a wealth of experience, as well as cover, for Hector Bellerin at right-back. I understand that he won’t be lighting a fire of excitement for many, but someone who can help the Spaniard understand the role of right-back as well as featuring in cup competitions must be a good move. The transfer window isn’t all about signing the ‘A-listers’.
It seems we’re ‘attacking’ the defensive weaknesses with Sokratis seemingly resolving the immediate issue of Laurent Koscielny’s Achilles heel. I don’t claim to understand the recruitment strategy for the back four; it’s all Greek to me.
Another young centre-back, Caglar Soyuncu of Freiburg – me either – told the Turkish media he is having talks with Arsenal after this round of international friendlies.
Crushed by the Wheels of Industry?
What we’re seeing is the perception of the squad left behind by Wenger. We knew there were glaring weaknesses at the back because there have been for a number of seasons. None of this is new; resolving it is, however, a pleasant twist.
There is also a balance to be found. Wholesale changes, shipping out ten players, bringing in a dozen has never been a sustainable or successful policy; there’s simply no way to remodel the whole squad in one summer. Unless you are Harry Redknapp and his CV doesn’t bristle with success.
This rebuild after Wenger’s departure could take up to four transfer windows.
Arsène maintained the squad was intelligent and the first six months under the new coach will tell us how intelligent they are. Adapting to Unai Emery’s methods is the first test; some will pass, some will find themselves ill-suited to the Spaniard.
Competitve games will also answer that question. Will they revert to type when the going gets tough? Or can Emery shift the defensive laxness or the inability to track back properly?
The key in any sport is the players buying into the coach’s philosophy, whether its Clive Woodward with England, Sean McVay at the Rams, AJ Hinch in Houston or Unai Emery at Arsenal. Enthusing the players to buy into the Pep Guardiola way brought City success last season as much £200m in the transfer market.
But success for us won’t be instant but what constitutes failure for Emery in his first season? No sense of progress is my answer. Quantifying progress then becomes the issue. From sixth, is it unreasonable to think we can improve to fourth on the basis of a new boss and some defensive changes? Certainly the midfield needs bolstering if that is to be achieved.
Stand and Deliver
The transfer window is a peculiar beast. Liverpool, the received wisdom, mean business because they’ve signed a good player before the window is even open. Fabinho plus Naby Keita minus Emre Can is good business. However, it’s too soon to begin complaining that Arsenal are being slow or we need to get our fingers out.
What would be good is if the deals are done by the time pre-season training begins. We could have most of the squad available with just Ospina, Özil, Iwobi, Xhaka and Welbeck missing. Even then, Dave might just be a memory in a cardboard box and Welbz won’t be far off returning after England’s traditional early exit.
Then the hard work begins. Of that quintet, Xhaka seems the most important. Özil has the quality to fit into any system, it’s a case of whether or not he wants to adapt. The others will need to work at aspects of their game, trading off some traits for new skills.
But Xhaka, in the centre of the park, has much to adapt to. He needs more discipline positionally and defensively; staying on his feet will be a new notion for him to grasp, but grasp he must.
The spell between now and pre-season training, with the World Cup as a distraction, is set to be very interesting indeed.