Defence is the Question, Do You Have The Answers, Raul?

Tonight sees a Q&A session with fans, hosted by Vinai and Raul, with guest appearances by Dani Ceballos and Willy Saliba. It’s not quite the same as being hauled out in front of a packed stand to do some ball juggling. Katie Price ready to lend a hand should either struggle.

The imbalances within in our squad for the coming season are glaringly obvious. If supporters see them, seasoned football men such as Raul, Unai, and Edu did so sooner. It makes the apparent focus on midfield and attack in this transfer window all the more baffling.

Maybe baffling is too strong a word. We need to put work into these areas but Real Madrid exposed our wafer-thin defensive options. In my view, Laurent Koscielny’s actions haven’t particularly worsened the situation. The timing is appalling and his decision-making is dubious. But anyone who saw him on the pitch last season won’t be surprised by that.

However, that we are only looking at signing Kieran Tierney as defensive cover is telling. Or it tells me that we’re not focussed enough on the problem. I know we are signing Willy Saliba but he isn’t going to help this time around, is he? 

I understand we need to speculate but there must be realism about our circumstances as well. As easily as we could score our way into the top four, we can concede our way into an unseemly scrap for the final Europa League place.  If not eating at Europe’s top table crippled our finances, missing out entirely will decimate them.

We still pursue Wilfried Zaha zestfully. Palace hold out for £80m while we look at trimming our wage bill by adding every player can think that we’ll never use again.

Expediency

And I wonder where the future of Reiss Nelson sits if he’s included as a makeweight, even if it is for twelve months. When that spell is up, he comes back to Arsenal and fits in where? Is buying Zaha worth that price; the impact of this deal is more far-reaching than just being a serious hit on the finances.

The expediency of football demands signing Zaha. It sates the desire for big money signings, even if it underwhelms; that latter feeling is an opinion. Then again, beyond trophies and tables, pretty much everything in football is an opinion.

In Arsenal’s case, expediency is most definitely top of the agenda. Certainly, that’s if we’re aiming to return to the top four this season. Expediency, however, surely demands we look at the defence before a wide attacker. We have youngsters who can cover that role, so we’re led to believe. Alex Iwobi isn’t some people’s cup of tea but he makes three with Saka and Nelson for that role.

Balancing season-specific targets with player development is probably the hardest part of any head coach’s job. The two aren’t mutually exclusive but success with kids? We’ve seen in the not so distant past that it’s the exception rather than the rule to win with a squad heavily dependent upon youth.

The other side of the loan coin is the player. It must be tough going from playing regularly to featuring off the bench infrequently; patience is a virtue but if we sign Zaha, what message are we sending? One of developing players or one which deems experience as a more desirable quality?

Tonight’s Q&A is likely to be preceded by the announcement of Dani Ceballos on a year-long loan deal. Much of the talk around the midfielder is that the signing will be completed in a ‘few hours’ with both he and Saliba at Colney yesterday. A shame but it seems we were unable to persuade Real to agree to an option to buy at a set fee.

The Scottish Herald, after reporting the deal fell through at the weekend, now claim Celtic and Arsenal are now close to agreement over Keiran Tierney’s fee. A much-needed addition to the defence but we still need a centre-back…

Which is more or less where I came in today.

’til Tomorrow

32 thoughts on “Defence is the Question, Do You Have The Answers, Raul?

  1. I don’t know why YW….but something tells me we will buy a CB this window-definitely.
    Maybe, just maybe we are working on a deal thats under wraps 🤞🏻

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  2. All the more perplexing that Bielek is ruled out as an option straightaway. He should be in consideration if we are going with a youth movement and, if not, a transfer should be in the works to bring someone in. Holding injury likely cost us top 4 last year and we are down Koz, up Chambers to net no real improvement. Half a brain to share between Sokratis and Mustafi…. no real leadership in the back…. no other youth option… oh my.

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  3. Defensively, the addition of Tierney would be massive as defensively he is a better prospect than Sead but I do think that he will need time to adapt.

    I actually would love Arsenal to go to Juve with 30m and tell them to give us Rugani since he doesn’t look apart of Juve present or future.

    Zaha for 80m doesn’t make sense at all for me. Rather keep Nelson, Nketiah and hopefully Everton coming in soon.

    What will be interesting for me will be to see who is sold. With Tierney, Ceballos(on loan but I actually think we will sign him on the permanent next summer) coming in, I could see either Sead or Nacho being sold. Then in midfield Willock, Torriera, Ceballos, Guendouzi, Xhaka…I could see Xhaka potentiall sold.

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  4. Nice to have Dani on board but let’s not get too carried away, he’s a one-year sticking plaster not a longer term solution. Again Saliba will be welcome next year but doesn’t help us right now when we need him. Now Tierney would be a welcome addition, our first proper signing of the summer. I like Zaha but can’t see it happening so am not going to invest too much time worrying about that one. Looking forward to TW Pt.2 when the PL window closes and we try to offload the deadwood to unsuspecting teams in the rest of Europe (we all know we can’t multi-task and sell as well as buy at the same time).

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  5. C,

    The trouble with this loan deal with no option to buy (suggesting that RM are not keen to sell) is that if he bombs then fine, he goes back, but if he does well then even if RM want to sell him the price is going to increase dramatically which given our financial position is unlikely to be feasible. And he’ll have PL exposure which means others with bigger budgets could well offer a better deal anyway. So a successful loan spell doesn’t automatically mean we can sign him permanently later.

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  6. andy1886,

    Madrid may not be keen to sell him, but then again, its Madrid and they don’t operate like most clubs. I have seen quite a number of reports that we have 1st refusal which means there have been discussions and sure the price might not be set, but then again we don’t know all of the details of the loan. Maybe there is a fixed price or something in place that would allow us to. Again, it all comes down how we do in the PL next season. Say we make top 4, things would massively change or say Madrid get Pogba next summer.

    It might not solve our long term prospects (unless we buy him) immediately, but in the short term, meaning this season, he is and has thr potential to be that link player next to Torriera. With Emery wanting a back 4 but also wanting the ability to play with Lacazette and Aubameyang, a midfield of Ceballos, Torriera, Guendouzi, Willock, Xhaka(if not sold) and Ozil(if he is motivated like he has been this preseason) could most certainly help us get top 4.

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  7. Dco,

    Bielik is hyped at the moment. One good season with Charlton doesn’t make him ready for the EPL. Europe? Possibly. Domestic cups? Maybe. I just think at his age, we ought to know, as much as you can. That he’s on his way for a loan again speaks volumes.

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  8. I don’t want Zaha at any price, he is overrated, whiny, and would get away with the diving even less under a bigger spotlight. We could get two better continentals for the same price. Also, we have, as YW points out, up and coming players in that role. Okay, so they won’t all cut it in the end but there are several of them, so the odds are good.
    Conversely, I’m pretty happy with our Spanish arrival. He looks strong and might not need as long an adjustment period as some.

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  9. Oh well…seems we can lose to these paddies.

    Yogi I’ve had enough of typing my details in every time I post..I’m not going to post again unless you fix it!!

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  10. If Ceballos helps us qualify for CL next season we will have the money to either try to sign him (RM may not be willing) or spend it on someone we can’t afford at present. On the other hand, our last couple of loans have been a disaster (Sjallstrom and Suarez) so will this one be any better?

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  11. YW,

    All fair points. It just seems to me if Mustafi is your litmus test of current competency, it seems to me you have to either buy a replacement or give youth a chance. And that isn’t even taking into account the lack of cover if injuries occur. Put another way, this isn’t about Bielek for me—If you dropped the names of each Championship team’s best defender into a hat and randomly drew one, I’d take him over or in addition to Mustafi if we aren’t buying someone better.

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  12. I see that Ozil and Kola were victims of an attempted car jacking/robbery earlier this afternoon. Mesut ran into a Turkish restaurant while Kola took on one of the attackers. Fair play to Kola, neither player was hurt.

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  13. the attack on ozil and kolasinac and their reaction also shows their characters on the pitch and in real life, once again, ozil shows that he is a spineless pussy while kolasinac shows his street wise thuggery… but on a more serious note, kolasinac should be warned…u don’t fight with armed men, life has no duplicate

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  14. I am certainly happy to have Ceballos and Saliba but I am not sure much its helps us this season. Ceballos is going to take some time to get acclimated to football in the PL which can be different then he is used to at the Spanish youth level and no matter how talented he might be, we have seen that counting on a player of his age to step up and instantly be a difference maker is a bit a stretch. Our last player who was a star at the European U21 tournament was Yaya Sanogo. That said we can only hope for the best from Dani.

    Hopefully Saliba will be worth the wait.

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  15. Why are we trying to sign Zaha…it’s a mystery and an even bigger one at anything north of £30million.
    I’d personally rather see the money spent on defenders but hey what the hell do i know.
    If the fee for Ceballos loan is true, good god. Hope he turns out okay but not that comfortable with loans,
    shows where we are on the world football food chain. Given takes a year to adjust to PL properly can’t really
    see the point….he’s going to have to be an ever present to justify the move. And then needs to be replaced all over
    again next year. Look how D.Suarez turned out. In fact can anyone name a super successful one year loan of a player ?
    I’d far rather just abandon all pretence of ambition and play youngsters all season than this papier mache approach to our squad for
    probably the same end result.

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  16. Saliba good signing. But we need defenders now and about three of them.
    Mustafi, Mapr., Kos, Monreal, Jenk, Chambers…..all need to be sold/loaned out
    Kolasnic you’re a good lad. Let’s hope the whole team show similar balls on the field this year.

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  17. C:
    captain senderos,

    I truly hope your being sarcastic when you call Ozil a spineless pussy for getting into his car when attacked by thugs trying to rob him with a knife.What would you have done if you don’t mind me asking?

    Completely agree. The car’s insured, Kolasinac couldn’t been killed.

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