Alas poor Henrikh, I knew him well.
Which, of course, I didn’t. Suffice to say, I do not mourn his passing as an Arsenal player and despite exhortations otherwise, will not be following Roma’s English social media accounts to keep an eye on his career.
There are several reasons for this. If I do this for an overpaid underperformer like Mkhitaryan, I must do so for hundreds of other ne’er-do-wells who’ve worn the red and white shirt. Football consumes enough of my life as it is; I don’t think there’s any more room for it.
And to be honest, I don’t want to make any more room for it.
Personally, I’ve never subscribed to the idea of following ex-players careers. Once they stop wearing an Arsenal shirt, they are good for nothing more than pantomime villainy.
Once the crest on their chest changes, they are toast.
It’s a similar principle to supporting English teams in Europe. I can’t do it; I want them to fail as much as I do every weekend. There isn’t a little switch to flick which makes foes friends and vice versa. This is medieval politics.
Anyway, the upshot of that is you now know for certain that I am a miserable sod. Which you knew already, of course.
Some concerns were raised that Mkhitharyan’s departure leaves us light in depth. Sunday’s bench answered that question. Reiss Nelson is one to benefit, so too Gabriel Martinelli.
Arsenal’s model is now to promote youth, as well as outsmarting the market. Let’s be honest, getting shot of Mkhitaryan was clever enough, but forcing Roma into an option to buy is not so much outsmarting the market as making it sit in the corner wearing a dunce’s cap.
As I mentioned earlier, the Armenian underperformed at Arsenal. We couldn’t fix what Jose Mourinho broke at Old Trafford.
If that doesn’t turn your stomach at the prospect of the Special One managing Arsenal, just consider his behaviour on every touchline and press conference at Chelsea, United and Real. He might possess a winning mentality but he is just mental.
Our squad is now what it is. For the briefest of moments, we dared to dream of a Mustafi-less Arsenal but Juventus sobered up pretty quickly when they realised everyone was taking them seriously.
The German will surface, I’m sure, against Nottingham Forest and maybe in the dead rubbers of the Europa League group phase. I wouldn’t, however, risk him in a tricky game.
We’ve got enough error-prone defenders as it is but on the balance of probabilities, we know they are likely to give up just one error each. Mustafi is multiple mistakes in the making, even if he has a barnstorming match otherwise. And we won’t remember that bit; it’s only the mistakes which are etched into your brain.
Most mistakes on a football pitch are a lapse in concentration or forgetting instructions. Not all of them but certainly the ones we’ve seen so far this season are mental errors; carelessness.
That suggests the solution to our problems lies with sports psychologists. Either that or the players need to stop thinking about the list of chores their partners gave them.
You know, tightly typed A4 sheet you’re expected to do by the end of the day. The ones which carry over a day then appear on the next list in RED at the top of the page. Just for an added element of malevolence.
The State of Play
Exits at this stage of the transfer process are unsurprising. With the English window closed several weeks ago, the likelihood of a major player leaving was zero; you don’t sell your best assets without the opportunity to replace them.
Well, not anymore we don’t.
So, what is the state of play? The attack is settled. We have an issue if either Lacazette or Aubameyang is out for a significant spell; it puts a lot of pressure on the remaining player unless others chip in with goals.
OK, that’s primarily Nicolas Pepe, so if someone could send him his shooting boots from France, it would be much appreciated.
Like attack, we’re principally well-stocked in midfield. It’s a case of personnel rather than getting new faces in. I wouldn’t shed a tear if Xhaka left, but then there are few who I feel that strongly about.
Ian Wright chimed in this weekend, questioning his suitability as captain. He observed that with the Swiss’ only travails, getting his own game sorted out is the most important objective.
The defence? I wonder if we’re going to be more settled with Bellerin and Tierney? I don’t know if that has an impact on the centre-backs? Genuinely, I can’t see how since mistakes happen irrespective of who plays on the flanks.
In the lead up to the January window, I’d expect Team Shkodran and the Transfer Window Action Teams to work round the clock to find him a new club. Rob Holding is about to return to the fray and Callum Chambers is above Mustafi in the queue for the first XI.
All For One But Not One Of The Four
We’ve got four first XI central defenders so I would use one of the experienced players plus Medley in domestic cups and European dead rubbers. Keeping the German out of the first XI may rehabilitate his reputation better than him treading the turf.
However, there is a balance. Injuries may force Mustafi’s use; he needs to be match fit or as close to it as possible.
Enough on the Mustafi, however. He’s an incidental player, quite literally, is this scene.
I do think we’re well set for the next few months. If – and it is a big ‘IF’ – we can sort out the stupid errors, there is no reason we shouldn’t be in a prime position to reclaim a top-four finish.