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.
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.