Is this the start of a new week or does the bank holiday mean that Tuesday is the new Monday? It’s hellishly early for me, whatever the answer to that question is.
Liverpool is yesterday’s result and navel-gazing must end. Well, it wasn’t yesterday’s result obviously; that was Tottenham losing at home to the Barcodes with a squad that their self-anointed head coach decreed lacked unity and desire.
Whatever else you think of them – and most of it isn’t publishable in polite society – they are the gift which keeps on giving.
In the lead up to the weekend’s north London derby, the major European leagues end their summer madness. The transfer window finally closes.
Already, we see the signs of appeasing fans surfacing. Mohammed Elneny received an offer from Turkey this morning which essentially gave him a 50% pay cut in return for first-team football.
Or to put it another way, if he doesn’t fulfil a coach’s need, a 50% pay cut and not improve his playing career.
It was nothing more than a PR stunt by Galatasaray. They make loads of these offers through the Turkish press, appeasing supporters by looking busy.
Galatasaray execs pray he won’t accept. They perfected the “Dagnabbit, we tried” story and are completely unprepared for the “WTF? He accepted??” line.
They aren’t ready to be dropped in the cart by having to sign someone.
Even in our current reduced circumstances, most must take a pay cut when they leave Arsenal. But clubs must be realistic as well. That’s realistic in a ‘real world’ sense not a ‘football world’ sense.
Crystal Palace, a few years back, tried to sign Carl Jenkinson. It fell through and their manager – Sam Allardyce, I believe – made it clear in the press that it was down to greed.
In January 2017, Jenks made it clear that it wasn’t that black-and-white. Palace offered a small pay rise but wanted him to take a 40% pay cut if they were relegated.
No sense that the entire deal was worth the same overall; just that he had to suffer the pain to a greater degree than the club. Not only that, not all squad members had that clause. Jenkinson unsurprisingly refused their generosity.
Jenkinson said in that interview he wouldn’t run his contract down without playing. He was true to his word – just – and finally left this summer. But what of Elneny and Shkodran Mustafi?
These guys are, or were, regular internationals. They played at the highest level and still do. Personal pride must drive them on and, certainly in Elneny’s case, a desire to keep his place in the national team.
Can they ‘afford’ to sit it out at Arsenal?
There’s a feeling the club is exasperated by the situation. Some found Unai Emery’s decision to speak out about the pair specifically distasteful. A side to the ‘new Arsenal’ they didn’t like. Yet all he was doing was speaking the lingua franca of the Premier League.
He couched the message in personal terms. The Spaniard made it clear that they “know their situation in the squad”; they are not “protagonists” and won’t even get a game in the Carabao Cup.
Emery thought it better for them to move on and “be happy”. He had after all spoken “with them a lot of times last year and in this pre-season” because “last year when they did not play, they were not happy.”
A tarted-up way of saying “do one”.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Is a move necessary for their self-esteem? Friends and teammates look at them with pity; there but for the grace of God.
It must surely be better for their confidence, self-belief and every other bit of their psychology to walk away; to take the hint. There is a time to try to fight back, to try to win a manager over. But that public an execution? It’s over; your number is up.
Players are, however, no longer serfs and Raul is going to have to earn his corn. He’s got to balance the need for a fee with the need to free up the wage bill.
If he’s really going to outsmart the market, now’s a good time to do that.
Of course, Elneny and Mustafi are the only ones who could leave. They are just the most obvious targets. Others such as Kolasinac, Monreal and Mkhitaryan must wonder if they are in a similar boat.
The usual stories from the Basque country surfaced recently. Bilbao or Sociedad always want Nacho but they aren’t willing to pay the price. It’s a summer ritual much like the Turkish one.
There’s a case for selling and keeping both; let’s be clear though, only one can leave. Monreal, with his experience and versatility, is ideal for Emery as he tries to tighten the defence. A left-back or left-sided central defender in a three? Gold dust, albeit tinged by age.
Kolasinac is the archetypal Emery full-back cum wing-back; bombing on down the flank with no defensive cares in the world. External circumstances may make him more likely to depart.
Which brings us to a troublesome midfield trio: Xhaka, Ozil and Mkhitaryan.
The German is the easiest to deal with. If he leaves, it’s a January move to DC United when they lose Wayne Rooney.
The Turkish clubs can’t afford him unless he leaves on a free. Arsenal can’t afford to release him on a free unless he writes off all commitments due under his contract.
Sadly, no other European club views him as worth the salary he earns at Arsenal. It’s the same as Alexis at United; they must pay Inter half his wages if that deal is to go through.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan is in a similar boat. His wages are big, a result of Arsenal’s desperation to make a big-name signing. As it turned out, only his surname met that billing. I’m not sure we got the better of shifting Alexis by taking ‘Mkhi’.
The folly of turning down £60m for Alexis from Manchester City increases with time.
Which leaves Granit Xhaka. What to do with a problem like Granit? He has the technical ability to thrive in England; just not in the defensive role in which Arsenal insist on using him.
When the club has a specialist defensive midfielder in Lucas Torreira, including Xhaka on ability is all the more baffling.
I understand the leadership angle and with the trio of Ceballos, Guendouzi and Willock, there’s a case for Xhaka to be made. However, Anfield undermined that.
Do they need Xhaka to guide them? Can Luiz do that from the centre of defence? OK, he didn’t cover himself in glory either.
While I’m not a fan of his, I would hold onto him for the rest of the season but as a squad member. The Europa League, FA and Carabao cups captain; in the Premier League, it is Torreira every time for me.
So, that’s the squad decimated. Watch this space for the complaints when injuries strike. Who’d be a football manager/coach/administrator?