Lazio await in the final pre-season match in Stockholm – of course – after which, it’s all about the Premier League season.
Unai Emery received his ‘Arsenal welcome’ when he lost Sead Kolasinac for 8 – 10 weeks. It seemed innocuous at the time, with the left-back’s concern precautionary. Instead, we find he’s one step short of amputation and missing for the best part of three months.
We know the Spaniard is meticulous in his planning and this will upset those fine ideas. Fortunately, we’ve got Ainsley Maitland-Niles to deputise when Nacho Monreal needs a rest. While Kolasinac isn’t a central plank of our season, his absence forces adjustments and reshuffles.
Broken promises as well, to those square pegs previously played in round holes. No more of that under the new regime, they promised, fingers crossed behind their backs. The ill-winds of footballing fortunes quickly wrought their havoc across those fine words.
But it is the question of Aaron Ramsey which vexes. His calf is tight and the medical team are hopeful that he will train next week. No sense in rushing him back for a meaningless friendly; surely everyone agrees on that?
It’s the only thing we do all agree on as far as his is concerned. The lack of public progress in contract talks pushes the boundaries of support to the extremes. Sell him! Keep him! Flog him! Hang, draw and quarter him! Tar and feather him! Take him to Traitor’s Gate!
Being a footballer in contract talks is tough once the initial gasp of awe following the news that negotiations have begun. If a new deal isn’t signed on the spot, questions hang over a player. Is he loyal? He didn’t play well – is he distracted by his situation?
All this before the plaintive cries of ‘Sign da ting’ begin.
Pointing Out The Flaws
Maybe he will, perhaps not. What is certain is that Ramsey won’t be sold next week unless silly money is offered. Which it won’t be, of course. The received wisdom is that European giants are waiting, poised to strike after the English transfer window closes for purchases.
It’s a fine idea but flawed. There’s no evidence beyond West Ham, that clubs are stockpiling players and will be desperate to sell after 9th August. Certainly, there’s no sign clubs will sell star players after that point. With the exception of Manchester City, few – if any – have the squad depth to do so without missing a beat.
So, talk of driving prices down may be true for the fringe players in squads, but the broadcasting deals will ease that pain. The reality is that there isn’t much interest in the Premier League’s elite players. Wages are too high and the quality too low. Not necessarily in the same players, I agree.
However, to be brutally honest, there are few Premier League players who occupy the ‘must have’ strata. Real Madrid must have a new goalkeeper and few are better than Courtois. He’ll be sold this week so Chelsea can land a replacement who is better than Willy Caballero. Which is setting the bar low.
Ramsey is in the cluster of players who might do well abroad. Five little letters which almost damn him, but not quite. I don’t see him in an elite club; no Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG, or Bayern for him. Quality of players already at those clubs and a style not really suited to those countries. He can adapt, I know that, but Wales bring the best out of him thanks to their style. It’s not one you see very often in the Champions League, is it?
While Stating The Bleedin’ Obvious
In some respects, he is similar to David Platt but the former England man edges the battle between the two for me. There was a cleverness, an awareness of nuances in Platt that Ramsey doesn’t quite have. Or have to the same degree. It’s no criticism of Ramsey, just an observation of the two.
But it’s a moot point. Arsenal aren’t going to sell Ramsey unless they have to and that decision won’t be taken now. A January sale is a possibility but that depends on his form and where the club is. Hurtling toward the Champions League places will see Ramsey kept; sliding into oblivion and he’s gone, replaced by the next shiny thing to be worshipped.
There is another aspect to this. I don’t think Ramsey wants a move to another Premier League club. There’s a notion at the back of my mind which claims he wants to be thought of as a club legend. Unless he scores a last-minute winner to claim the title elsewhere, there’s only Arsenal where he achieves that. Already with a decade served at the club, five more years and he’s (almost) unique in the Premier League era.
Tonight’s game will see Torreira and Xhaka given match time. We know because Unai told us so earlier this week. Beyond that, the XI will hint at the team to face Manchester City. The central defensive pairings are all showing different vulnerabilities, the weaknesses of each player exacerbated by their partners’ own foibles.
Little wonder we’re linked with Bond villain Domagoj Vida, a man whose brutality was never knowingly understated at the World Cup. But only if we sell Shkodran Mustafi and Danny Welbeck. We’re not signing anyone next week, are we?
Enjoy tonight’s match wherever you are watching it.