I’m sorry Chuck and Flavour, I want to believe the hype. You get sucked into the maelstrom surrounding every new signing, despite knowing that football’s history is littered with players about whom you shouldn’t have believed the hype. But you do, knowing they may be dogged by the same ill-fitting suit of inconsistency.
Nicholas Pepe according to the media and everyone proclaiming themselves a friend on Instagram, is on his way to Arsenal. The doctored images of him in the glorious new home shirt prove it. And the bookmakers are close to closing the market, the surest sign of a done deal. It’s always worth checking out the latest offers from betting companies to make sure you get the best bang for your buck in a fluid market.
Nicholas Pepe is coming to the relatively new home of football. Highbury remains the Home of Football; the Emirates is trying hard but is some way short of being a successful heir.
I can’t work out whether I’m excited by the signing of Pepe as a player or the fact that someone at Arsenal worked out how to spend £72m on a £45m budget. Yes, we’re into net spend territory. Vinai didn’t recognise £40m as the budget; that’s because the questioner was £5m out in his calculations.
It was the perfect escape clause. The simple answer to any question on transfer budget is “we don’t discuss our budget publicly because it weakens our hand in negotiations”. Boom! Where does the interrogation go from there; it’s closed down.
Instead, argumentative souls such as myself, think there is some double-talk from the dynamic duo. That Enos and Junior briefed them not to divulge anything. It was a fightback, not behind the bike sheds but Vinai used fighting talk.
Raul, the wise old head, remained silent. He waited on canvas skirt, leaning on the top rope, for Vinai’s hand to tag his but adrenalin coursed through the younger bureaucrat’s veins; he was on a roll and scented blood.
He isn’t the only one being combative. Social media, the bedrock of sanity and measured debate, saw one genius pour scorn on those who think £72m is better spent on a central defender. The way the pound is tanking, it’ll be £73m by the end of the week. I’ll put my hand up; £73m on several defenders is a more useful way to spend our money given the state of our back four.
The real world has two answers to that. Firstly, why must we be excited by signing a £73m player? Beyond the obvious club-record signing part, that is. Something about the deal is ‘odd’. Not in the ‘net spend’ odd, just the timing. Pepe wasn’t the player Junior told us to get excited about but Wilfried Zaha went the same way as Ryan Fraser.
Prior to the Africa Cup of Nations, I hadn’t seen Pepe play. I don’t watch Ligue Un; I don’t think my marriage wouldn’t withstand more football. It’s bad enough with the English, Spanish and Italian leagues plus all the cups and internationals. Two’s company, etc.
My relationship with the city of Lille is strained. I passed through once, en route to Vienna for our first away match in the final edition of the Champions Cup. Our bewildered looks on the coach matched those of the locals who saw an English coach draped in Arsenal flags, lost in the back streets. Our drivers, hellbent on leaving the motorway, finally did so
Buying a European Road Atlas on the outskirts of Dover as we headed to the ferry forewarned us of our drivers’ limited geographical knowledge. It was a long journey, some 36 hours from The Gunners Tavern to the Praterstadion; we just made kick-off.
Don’t Let The Door Hit You On The Arsenal On The Way Out
Pepe enjoyed two good seasons with Lille after signing from Angers. His rise is remarkably similar to that of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, albeit a lot quicker. I just hope we don’t end up with another pale shadow of a player.
Equally, I hope we don’t end up regretting the signing. A scenario where we score 100+ goals but 70 or so, leaves us mired in a battle for sixth and essentially worse off than we are now. The hope in me, the pre-season dreamer thinks with the attack we have – including Pepe – can fire us into the top four.
The cynic, the devil of doubt on my shoulder, thinks the defence we possess undermines that positivity. That conceding 50+ goals in the last two seasons isn’t a record we will improve upon. We are, to coin a phrase, our own worst enemies unless Unai and the coaching staff get to grips with the ill-discipline in the group. Signing new defenders is remedial action required two months ago, not with nine days of the window remaining.
Particularly as we’re on the verge of losing two centre-backs:
So there you have it. Ornstein, the Sage of Salford, spoke. Mustafi doesn’t want to go but Arsenal want him out. He’s mad to try and stay. Every mistake is under the microscope. The opprobrium of the masses comes with a misplaced pass so god knows what he’ll get if he cocks up like he did last season at the Etihad.
I admire him being willing to fight for his place but, honestly, there comes to a time to cut your losses. Laurent Koscielny knows this:
Koscielny knows he is a lost cause as far as we’re concerned. That only strengthened his desire to get the hell out of Dodge.
Ten Is A Tall Order
My son asked me this morning how I would judge the transfer window with the following criteria:
Pepe, Ceballos, Saliba in; Koscielny, Mustafi, Ramsey, Welbeck out.
I’m not sure I give that any more than a 6 out of 10 and I think that’s being generous. Saliba is next year’s model. A promising signing for sure, but not for this season. We need to land two more defenders to get it up to an 8/10, as well as selling Elneny and Jenkinson. We have youth aplenty who can come in for the early rounds of the domestic cups and Europe.
Add in Xhaka to the sales and I give them 10/10 for the window. I don’t think that’s going to happen by the way.
Plenty to think about, however, as far as strengthening the squad – by purchase or sale – as well as a busy week on the pitch. It’s almost here; you can almost smell the new season in the air. Either that or the sewage farm sprang a leak again.