It was only a matter of time. The discovery of Lord Lucan in a Chigwell cellar means that Arsenal face just one more opponent: can they announce Nicholas Pepe before we find Wally. Or his aliases Waldo, Holger, Charlie or Walter. I’m not sure who to back in this one. DB Cooper is limbering up. He stands no chance; we found Shergar.
Unai Emery offered little hope of a swift resolution to the Pepe situation. “This one at the moment is not closed,” he said after last night’s draw in Angers. “But he is one we are following,” the Spaniard admitted. Which is just as well because the Lille president said it’s a done deal. More eloquently than that but you get the gist.
Which is well and good, because people need to get stuck into the fantasies of how well he will perform next season. Can he play left-back? Reports claim Kieran Tierney won’t be joining until next Wednesday; the eve of destruction or Deadline Day as Jim White calls it.
That means the Scot is a week away from match fitness. That’s not just about how far and fast he can run. Tierney must erase the defensive training Celtic gave him and learn to gambol around the pitch with no particular purpose. That’s the Arsenal Way of defending in the 21st century.
The defence ought to be pre-occupying Emery’s mind. Laurent Koscielny is hellbent on leaving with a queue of fans masquerading as Uber drivers outside Colney waiting to take him wherever he wants. Unai hopes they won’t be needed.
Koscielny, he declared, was “a very important player for us.” We know; we’ve seen Mustafi play although, in fairness to the German, he did reasonably well last night. Keeping the French international suits Emery’s purposes
“With respect, it’s better for us, it’s better for the team,” he said in his post-match press conference. Reports claim Koscielny staying won’t be universally popular in the squad. Some think his refusal to tour unprofessional and damaging to the team, others disagree. However, Emery is the one paid to make those tough decisions and he’d prefer that the former French international see out his contract.
Edu is in talks with Rennes which suggests a move is the likeliest outcome. Emery admitted there is not much they can do to change his mind over “a very personal decision”, a point he reiterated later in the conference. Arsenal, he said, “are respecting that.”
The bigger picture sees the impact it has on the defence in the manager’s eyes. “We want to be strong in our defensive line, working with the players we have now,” he noted. “We are speaking about the centre backs, but we have a lot of centre backs.”
Numbers aren’t everything because Emery believes publicly that “we have good centre backs.” We’ve just chosen to keep them hidden.
The next week is going to be busy. Having reached this stage of proceedings without signing one defensive reinforcement for next season, we’re now looking for two in a week. It isn’t going to happen which means one of Mustafi or Koscielny isn’t leaving. A frightening thought; age is Koscielny’s foe whilst both are fighting demons about being in the Arsenal side if they stay.
Emery hinted that is the situation. The club is “thinking if we can improve with other players”. The time for thinking is over; it’s now about doing.
There’s still no announcement on Nicholas Pepe.
Cue Witticism About Not Looking Back On Angers
Bizarrely though, there are claims Sami Khedira is part of the price we must pay for loaning Daniele Rugani. What have they been smoking in Turin?
There was a football match last night, in case you didn’t notice. It genuinely was a game of two halves for us. The first, instantly forgettable, while the second with its attacking verve, promised much for the new season.
We should have won; Aubameyang missed an absolute sitter close to the final whistle. Reiss Nelson, so often the spring of the attacks down the left, scored the equaliser from close range and looked lively. It will be interesting to see how Emery rotates him with Pepe, not forgetting Iwobi as well.
Nothing much to read into the game, however. Nor is there going to be in Sunday’s thrashing at the Camp Nou. From there on in, it’s all about the Premier League and being ready for Newcastle the following weekend.
Pre-season is almost over. Just the signing of Nicholas Pepe to be announced. Nothing from the club so far…