On Dud Centre-Backs, Misfiring Midfielders and Transfer Rumours…

If you want to, finding fault with Arsenal isn’t difficult. Transfers in, out, Raul shaking it all about; there’s good and bad in everything, with quite a lot falling into the various shades of grey in between.

This morning sees the ‘Visit Rwanda’ sponsorship deal in the spotlight. Arsenal were as late to the shirt sleeve sponsorship game as we were to advertising boards in football grounds. The club’s history is littered with innovation on the pitch and pock-marked with sloth off it.

The Rwanda deal raised eyebrows when it was signed. After stories in this morning’s press, it is teetering on the edge of blowing up in our faces. Diane Rwigara, a Rwandan dissident, claims that the current government “encourages the beheading of its’ opponents”. That doesn’t sit comfortably with the exhortation Visit Rwanda borne on our shirt sleeves. Two years remain on the deal, but I hope the club is actively seeking a less controversial partner. When I think back to the fraudulent truck deal, I’m not hopeful we’re going to find one…

Whilst that search goes on, this week is shaping to be a busy one for the Transfer Window Action Team. The first job is to get shot of Laurent Koscielny. His goodwill goose is cooked and news he’s agreed terms with Rennes is a step in the right direction. He falls flat on his face, however, with the claim it is dependent upon Arsenal acquiescing to a free transfer. It’s claimed Rennes called a press conference for today.

It’s a Brenda Slagg Moment

If – and it’s a big ‘IF’ – the French media reports are correct, both Koscielny and Rennes are royally screwed. The player and club both face sanctions should they not reach a deal with Arsenal. Rennes face a transfer ban if we complain about tapping up. Koscielny and his agent also face sanctions if the charge is proven.

The way this is going, Arsenal could end up keeping him without paying any salary. Make no mistake, this is about as serious a breach of club discipline the player could make. At the moment, Koscielny probably suffered a fine of two weeks wages. Continuing his action surely leads to more fines. Hats off to Raul if that’s the strategy; £8m in transfer income or £3m in salary savings.

Honestly, you could not make this up.

Meanwhile, Celtic are happy with the £25m valuation we placed on Kieran Tierney but not the structure of the deal. Raul left the USA!USA!USA! to sign deals so hopefully, this is one of them. Most outlets report Tierney kicked Napoli into touch, leaving Arsenal with a clear run at the left-back. He’ll feel right at home if that’s the case. Our defensive play was so bad last year, everyone had a clear run at our left-back.

The turbulence surrounding Arsenal sees a convulsion of headlines surfacing to prove the point. Dark times, especially as Sky claims we have “hidden” problems. I admire – to some degree – the likes of Mustafi and Kolasinac; they are openly our problems, wearing their situation on their sleeves as a badge of pride. Better than a ‘Visit Rwanda’ motif, I grant you.

Ten Is The Magic Number

According to Sky, never knowingly outsmarted in the clickbait stakes, the issue is our reliance upon Aubameyang and Lacazette. Fifty of our 112 goals came from their boots, 44.6% of the total. Liverpool and Tottenham posted similar statistics for their top two goalscorers; I’m not sure it’s as much of a problem as is claimed.

It does, however, underline a point I’ve made for several years: the midfield doesn’t contribute enough goals. No player in the Arsenal squad last season came close to scoring double figures in total goals. That’s not good enough. Five players scored five or more and now two of them are no longer with us; there’s work to be done in training. A lot of work.

While Eddie and Joe Willock are delivering on this tour, it’s unrealistic to expect them to deliver this season. Certainly in the Premier League. Maybe in the Europa League, expectations should be higher. After all, this is where I see them getting a lot of game time. However, as substitutes in the league? It’s hard to see them grabbing more than 10 between them.

Iwobi, Ozil and Mkhitaryan are the ones who genuinely need to step up to the plate. The latter is infuriating; I’m sure there would be a lot more takers for him if he reached double figures consistently. In England, he has yet to score 10 Premier League goals in four seasons while his highest return was 11 overall in his first season at United. The devastating season at Dortmund is looking more freakish with every passing year.

Score, Score, Score! Once You Get One You’ll Get More.

The trio has the talent to score more goals. Crucially, there’s a sense they enjoy creating opportunities more. Is that a genuine joy in creation, similar to Robert Pires? He struck a balance between scoring and creating but with this trio, is there a subconscious element holding them back? Are they shirking responsibility in front of goal; it feels that way at times. Maybe that’s my subconscious coming into play.

Whatever the reason, if they each grabbed ten goals a season then we might find ourselves vying for silverware. The Champions League places wouldn’t feel as far out of reach as they do now, that’s for certain. We could argue, quite rightly, that the defence conceding ten fewer goals per season holds the same effect.

One hundred and two goals conceded over the past two Premier League seasons; 51 in each, the seventh ‘best’ in that time of teams not relegated. Newcastle conceded fewer than us, to offer some perspective. They scored 66 fewer than us, with our 147 goals for being the third-best over the two seasons. One year of Arsene, one of Unai; the same problems remain.

Remain to be resolved is perhaps a better phrase. This, I think, is the season where Unai faces pressure in that sense. While he got a ‘free pass’ to some degree last year, now he has twelve months of work on the training ground to build upon. It’s weird thinking that given we showed precious little improvement last season defensively.

One and One is One

However, Emery’s contract is a two-year deal with the option of one more. I’d be surprised – or would I? – if Arsenal exercised that option should we finish sixth with another poor defensive record. I think that in attack we’re almost there. Not so at the other end of the pitch. When the goalkeeper says we’ve got to stop conceding stupid goals, you know there is a big problem.

The friendlies thus far show little sign of that being solved. As much as we won those games, we might not have done had the opening ten minutes seen us concede as we threatened to do. In reality, going into the season without another centre-back is madness. Rob Holding is coming back but Chambers played in midfield at Fulham last season and looked a better player for it. However, we need options to keep Mustafi out of the starting line-up and as Unai admitted, Nacho as a centre-back in a back four isn’t viable.

Raul, you’re back and busy; get the magic wand waving to find a solution. Either that or keep a prayer mat handy; we’re going to need it.

’til Tomorrow.

22 thoughts on “On Dud Centre-Backs, Misfiring Midfielders and Transfer Rumours…

  1. Damon says:

    Nice one YW, lots of detail in there today

  2. Jonnygunner says:

    Your writing is tip top YW….but how’s life with one kidney?…are you doing okay with it?

  3. Bill says:

    Great stuff yogi

    It’s great to see Eddie and Willock scoring in preseason but we have been here and done that many many times before with our younger players and counting on them to score in the PL is probably not realistic.

    I share the concern that we are overly reliant on Pea and auba. We don’t have another player in the squad who is a realistic threat to score double digits in the PL. if either gets injured or has a down season we are going to struggle even more. The idea that Ozil, Mkhitaryan or iwobe should decide to score more is not realistic. I doubt there is a single player in the history of football who would not score more goals if he could. Scoring goals is the single most difficult skill in football which is why goal scorers are so difficult to build from scratch and why there are so few top goal scorers and why they cost so much and get paid so much. The idea that a player does not score because he enjoys creating more then he likes scoring is another concept that is hard to accept. If ozil Mkhitaryan or iwobe really could score more goals they should be doing it. Their value to the team and ability to positively influence results would be much greater if they scored more often.

  4. jw1 says:

    Thanks!
    Read both yesterday’s piece and this one after the other– and laughed-out-loud-enough that coworkers noticed. OK it was a chortle. Nonetheless.
    Good stuff again.

  5. Wavey says:

    Afternoon all,

    Thanks for today’s missive YW.

    Would like to see at least one of Iwobi, Miki and Ozil go, but that doesn’t seem likely. So a lack of goals from midfield it is then.

  6. Wavey says:

    Bill,

    That seems to be exactly what Ozil does though. On many occasions he has blatantly passed up a clear shooting opportunity to try to provide an assist for another player and then the chance has gone begging. It’s not like he hasn’t got a reasonable shot of his own either.

  7. andy1886 says:

    Talk is we’ve gone back to Palace with an improved offer for Zaha. So maybe we’re looking for more goals from wide positions. We’re screwed if we’re expecting them from Xhaka for sure. That said our ‘improved’ offer appears to be underwhelming (no shock there) so I wouldn’t be confident of it going through by deadline day.

  8. C says:

    I actually think when it comes to Iwobi and Ozil , they are different discussions. Ozil is a natural assist maker, a classic #10 who would rather create for his strikers and wingers directly or indirectly and chip.in the odd goal. His isn’t about talent, but his futboling make-up and the player he is and quite honestly, flourished as for years at the hoghest of levels.

    Iwobi, just doesn’t have any consistency and the rush of blood gets him more than inability. We have seen him with some dreadful misses but have also seen him with some goals that make you say, ‘you should easily get 8-10PL goals and 12-15 in all competitions’. In that respect, he is very similiar to Ramsey, both have the ability but the application doesn’t all work as planned

  9. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    On form YW – Great read. Not convinced with UE and this season will be his defining moment for better or for worse. The defence is still ropey as ever and good luck and good riddance to Mr Koscielny. Although it would have been nice of the club to have said to him in the first place. Thanks for the good years and have this one on us. But I guess he’s paying the price for that Ozil contract.

  10. Ras says:

    Bon après Midi. Wonderful to see you back in the In fettle YW.

    It’s lamentable that We won’t get 20-25-30 Goals from Ozil, Mikhi and Iwobi. All 3 frustrate me no end.

    Until They are both consigned to history we are going to haemorrhaging money and on field performances.

    Mustafi, Sead and El Neny have to be moved on. I think El Neny will be the first of the 3.

    The Team is going to be a bit like a greasy monkey trying to climb up a greasy pole.

    The future is not bright

  11. andy1886 says:

    If we’re still chasing Zaha then the Everton deal looks unlikely. Which given that it’s been reported as almost a done deal for several days reminds us that nothing is certain until the player appears in club colours. For me the Tierney deal is most pressing, it’s the only one that addresses the defence for this season and there have been no reports of an alternative option being considered. Get it done FFS!

  12. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    Would like to see Krystian Bielik given a chance this season, along side Holding with Chambers in midfield doing the defensive midfield role and let Torriera and Xhaka roam a bit more.

  13. Two Owls says:

    I cannot believe Kos and his agent. Both have been around the league long enough to know the rules.

  14. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    And possibly Bukayo Saka as well for that matter.

  15. C says:

    andy1886,

    Or I wonder if the Everton deal is set to be complete(the story runs daily in Brasil) but people want Zaha which means we may yet see some people sold ot loaned out.

  16. YW says:

    Waiting to find out, JG. Just had enough blood taken to feed a family of vampires for a month, so find out how it’s settling down shortly.

    Or maybe not. The NHS, apparently, feels telling you results when everything’s fine is a waste of time so you only hear when it’s going (gone) wrong. No news really is good news in this instance.

  17. Blue Yonder says:

    We have seen Ozil score some magical goals so I’m sure he’s aware he has the ability. Mkitaryan and Iwobi, I’m not so sure. No doubt that we need others to spread the scoring or it makes the opposition’s job that much easier. One of the things that made Henry such a great scorer was that Ljungberg and Pires would chip in with anywhere from 12-17 goals apiece. And Bergamp, for all his wonderful goal-making abilities, scored many beautiful goals himself.

  18. Blue Yonder says:

    Everton instead of Iowi is an unknown but a gamble worth taking. Iwobi has had enough opportunities to establish himself.
    On the “Out” list – it appears we may be stuck with the entire group.

  19. C says:

    Ornstein saying we are set ti sign Saliba and Ceballos this week. Saliba will head back on loan and Ceballos is a year long loan

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