Something’s coming. I can feel it, and it’s coming right around the corner at me! It’s the new season, silly. The Community Shield threw up zero surprises. Manchester City played well and won. Chelsea were distinctly average and lost. So far, so expected.
Let’s make no bones about City. Later today, I’ll look ahead to the new season but it’s City’s title to lose and Liverpool’s to win. The latter invested heavily and reasonably well over the summer – you can read why there’s a qualification to the statement this afternoon.
The reality of our situation is that we’re in a four-way fight for the two remaining top four places. If we can get into the Champions League by winning the Europa League, so be it. I’d enjoy that more than a top-four finish but putting all your eggs in that basket is risky.
Anyway, we’re not title contenders and it’s no use pretending we are. The stars aren’t aligning as they did for Leicester, so it’s top four at best. Unai Emery is rebuilding, and my guess is there’s a lot more work than we thought.
The centre of our defence is weak and not improved by loaning Calum Chambers to Fulham. It’s not weakened significantly either. If we get to the point where we need two inexperienced centre-backs on the pitch, no disrespect to Chambers but he’s not going to pull the team together. None of them will; it’s part of the learning curve.
City are a good side. We’ve got to play at our best to get a result next weekend; we know that from the 3 – 0 gubbings we received earlier in the year. Our hope is that Unai Emery instils more spirit and fight in the players than we showed in those matches.
It’s never an enjoyable experience to watch Arsenal outclassed. I don’t care what you think of the manager, finding any pleasure in a thrashing is impossible. Unless you’re a public schoolboy or Tory MP, of course. The sky won’t fall in next weekend if we lose.
If you think that is me trying to prepare myself for that outcome, you’re absolutely right.
The transfer window for buying players closes on Thursday. Do I expect us to strengthen the squad before then? No. Will I be happy if we do? Yes. We have a bloated squad, we know that. There are whiffs of a story here and there, but most of the ones about us adding to the squad are too outlandish to be believed.
Andre Gomes for £40m? Not happening. Ricardo Rodriguez? Not happening. Vida? Ditto.
As for those who may leave, I don’t believe for one minute Aaron Ramsey asked for over £300k per week. He wouldn’t turn it down if offered; neither would in his position. But it’s a red herring, designed to paint the player into a corner.
Whether you believe he is greedy largely depends on your view of his value to the side. He is a good player but I don’t think the elite clubs will be clambering over dead bodies to sign him next summer. He has a very specific skillset and to get the best out of him, needs a particular style of play.
Could he make a difference to Barcelona or Real Madrid? I don’t think so right now. Who knows in 12 months time though. More likely, Atletico, Juventus or maybe a German club would be interested in a player whose strengths are ideally suited to the English game. If it wasn’t Chelsea, £35m now might be considered a good offer.
Happy Days Toytown
Another vexing minds is Lucas Perez. The move to Sporting found itself hit by footballing fly spray as the Portuguese club knocked Arsenal down on the fee but failed to convince Perez he was only worth half his current wages. Fair enough, and with West Ham throwing money around like confetti, maybe he’ll have more luck convincing them he’s worth it.
He’s got more chance of that than convincing Unai Emery to give him one places for the 25 players in the Premier League or Europa League squads. I know I wouldn’t give him one of those places, that’s for sure. Even if there was enough room to do so.
The club needs to be ruthless. Accepting a dismal fee showed their willingness to sell, but maybe the situation isn’t being made clear enough to players who are surplus to requirements? You can’t force players to leave but you can make it pretty damned clear that they won’t be sitting comfortbold two square on their bottys.
Finally, a missing persons appeal. Has anyone seen Danny Welbeck?