The matches come thick and fast for the next fortnight with European and domestic cups interspersed among the Premier League schedule. With injuries taking their toll, the depth of the squad is being tested and it’s fair to say, next weekend will be found wanting.We’ve got two fit centre-backs and both are suspended.
It brought home the reality of our situation; in several key areas we’re one serious injury away from being short-handed. It’s a reason why I can’t see any major departures this winter without that money being immediately reinvested.
Raul Sanllehi’s observation that he dislikes January is a guiding light no matter how tempting it is for you to think there’s more than an inkling of truth in the Özil to Internazionale stories.
How much of Özil’s inconsistency this season is down to his back problem is hard to assess. It will impact but then he’s prone to bouts of inconsistency anyway; it’s the ‘curse’ of the talented player. Not the exceptional ones, I agree but the rest of the mere mortals.
But Özil is very much on the receiving end of Unai Emery’s ‘honeymoon’ period where anything he says, goes. He lost the power battle with Neymar at PSG where the hierarchy indulge the Brazilian, in his thrall thanks to the ludicrous fee paid for his services.
Emery, I suspect, is not going to allow a player to usurp his control; Arsenal will do everything his way, certainly on the pitch. His interview with a Spanish journalist earlier this year was telling:
I always prepare set-pieces extensively, and that has often worked in my favour. But when you have Neymar, sometimes there isn’t much more that you need — Neymar becomes your strategy.
The only strategy now is making sure everyone toes the company line.
Short Arms, Deep Pockets
There are more pressing problems than Özil. Henrik Mkhitaryan’s form for starters. His salary is big by Arsenal’s standards and in a club where value for money is key, we’re being short-changed.
His defensive work is often under-appreciated but in attack, which is his principal role, the end product is lacking. Based on their respective form since, we came out of the Alexis deal well. However, not as good as we set ourselves up to believe; one startling season in Dortmund is a millstone in the weight of expectations.
In some respects, it’s not dissimilar to Aaron Ramsey’s situation. A stellar season followed by respectable returns but failing to live up to the expectations created for him.
That isn’t to let the players ‘off the hook’. Consistency in performance is far from the simple flipping of a switch. A regular run in the side is more likely to manifest in consistency and consistency brings a regular run in the side; a vicious circle, particularly if you’re expected to come off the bench (
Maybe – and it is a big maybe – the busy Christmas spell will provide the spark as Unai Emery rotates the squad.
In the meantime, the academy players get chances on Thursday and maybe next week against Spurs. These players are a reason we may be busier next summer. Danny Welbeck is leaving, Aaron Ramsey too. It will be no surprise if Mkhitaryan is sold with Reiss Nelson returning from his loan spell.
Whatever the outcomes, even just those three leaving frees a substantial chunk of wages. Add Özil into that and Arsenal can restructure their wage bill significantly. No money to buy anyone…