One of the many criticisms levelled against Unai Emery last season was that we had no footballing identity. There was no ‘Emeryball’ peg upon which we could hang our hats. That won’t be a problem this year with the current transfer activity at the club. We’ve had The Invincibles; Emery’s second year is The Undefendables.
Somewhere in the English language, there is a better word. In fact, there is a word rather than the made-up gibberish I just constructed in a cheap attempt to slap a label on the squad. I could focus on the attack but no, it’s the defence. We’re seemingly fine and dandy in attack, hellbent on winning games 7 – 5 on a regular basis rather than shaking our heads at the rank bad defending on a wet Wednesday night in Royal Berkshire.
Maybe we should call them The Defibrillators? We’ll be brilliant entertainment for the neutrals but your heart is going to take a pounding. Make sure your partner, kids, friends, whoever you watch games with, knows how to use the lifesaving machinery. Match tickets will be issued with a health warning and a photo of bad defending. “Cover the children’s eyes, Maud! They must not see Mustafi in that position!“
No pressure, Monsieur Pepe, but your scoring feats at Lille must pale into insignificance with Arsenal’s requirements. Eleven goals and 17 assists – or whatever it was – isn’t going to be enough. Laca and Auba must grab fifty Premier League goals each to stave off relegation.
I jest. Sort of. There’s something unsettling about the headlines being defensive sales, even if those sales will bring some sort of blessed relief. It will leave us woefully short at the back with just over a week of the transfer window remaining.
Make Him An Offer He Can’t Refuse
Edu reportedly met with Rennes about Laurent Koscielny. That’s according to the Sage of Salford among others. A lot of store is placed in his words, even if he’s merely regurgitating those of others; it’s been sourced. Ornstein is hamstrung by the BBC’s requirement of two sources verifying every story. Not for much longer though; he’s buggering off to an American publication where he can no doubt make everything up in the same way his peers do.
For once in a negotiation, Arsenal hold the whip hand. Koscielny won’t be leaving on a free transfer while Rennes will pay a fee. By the defender’s own admission, he’s been tapped up. so that’s €10m or we report you to FIFA. Can you avoid relegation with a two-window transfer ban in place? Thought not…
Monaco’s Russian money is driving them so crazy they want to chuck €30m at us for Shkodran Mustafi. Surely, we’ve accepted that offer already at the very least. Don’t negotiate, just get them to sign a sale contract before the realisation of what they are doing dawns on them.
It may do when they see the German at training but by then it’s too late. There will be no redemption available. This isn’t like sacking your manager, realising the new one is nowhere near as good as the old, sacking him and rehiring the man you initially sacked to get you out of a bigger mess than the one he left behind.
Roma is the other club willingly taking leave of their senses, offering Mustafi an escape route from his Arsenal hell.
Don’t Look Back In Angers
In the meantime, Derby County boss Phillip Cocu is determined to prove he’s not cuckoo, taking Krystian Bielik off our hands for £10m. The Pole’s departure felt inevitable when he didn’t travel to the States, despite the high hopes some had for him. His rating felt inflated by one good season in League One. The signing of Willy Saliba essentially cooked Bielik’s goose at Arsenal, as did promoting another young centre-back to the first-team squad. Two’s company, etc.
I don’t have the same sense of loss over this. I do agree he didn’t seem to get a fair shake at Arsenal but that’s football. It’s all about opinions and the club has a welter of stats to back their stance. We just have a gut feeling.
Still no Nicholas Pepe announcement…
The first XI is in France this evening for a match against Angers. where The Jeff fan club can sate their desires. With a trip to Barcelona this weekend, we’ll no doubt see a young side fielded. Lacazette is out injured but Ozil and Kola will return to the side having been rested at the weekend. God knows who will man the defence; we’re getting a bit low on numbers.
After the defeat to Lyon and the manner of conceding the two goals, Unai probably needs to field the quartet or quintet he wants to start the season with. That means AMN at wing-back, Kola the other side with Sokratis, Chambers and Monreal.
Or midfielder, centre-back, midfielder, left-back, left-back by their best positions. That should focus everyone’s mind on the desperate situation we’re in defensively and underline why we needed to concentrate on that area this window. We’re still in for Tierney but he’s another left-back and working his way back from injury according to some reports.
Hey, Never Mind We’ve Got Nicholas Pepe
No, we haven’t. Not yet; there’s still no announcement.
I know he’s a promising player. I get that paying €80m is something to be excited by, I do. But as I said earlier unless your philosophy is to score over 150 goals per season, only having one half-decent centre-back is something of a problem.
Maybe Raul will pull a couple of rabbits out of hats in the remaining eight days. They’ll have to work quickly which suggests loan deals are likelier than permanent ones.
I have no issue with that nor if there is no option to buy at the end of the season. It’s about getting the right personnel into the club and the wastrels out so we can think about improving our lot. And delivering as well. I think about improving our lot all the time but talk is cheap. It’s free here so that’s very cheap. So are the digs, the shots. I make no bones about that; guilty as charged.
Tonight is a key match. It’s genuinely the one where Emery must get his defence functioning. We’ll get torn apart in the Camp Nou, so here we need discipline, nous, concentration. You know, everything which has been missing in the pre-season games so far.
This falls under the loose heading ‘match sharpness’ but given the manner of last season’s capitulation, it feels different. More deep-seated than that. This is about being ready for the Premier League where even distinctly average sides are investing in their strikeforce. Even Newcastle, signing local boy Joe Linton for £40m, got the message after two relatively conservative seasons under Rafa Benitez.
Have we at the other end of the pitch? We shall see.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.
PS: Still no Nicholas Pepe announcement…