Thierry again, full backs again + Arsecast 222

So, Thierry’s return has now gone from possible to probable, the number 12 shirt is set to be handed to him and now we just have to wait and see if he can do the business.

On today’s Arsecast, my esteemed colleague from Gunnerblog makes the very good point that there’s never been a footballer (Beckham apart, perhaps) quite so conscious of their own image as Thierry Henry. He was there to see a statue of himself unveiled, let’s not forget, and if he felt there was any danger of him not being up to the job I think he’d quite easily turn down Arsene’s approach.

The big question now is what exactly does Henry’s signing signify. Is it a very short-term option completed at the start of the month to give Arsene time during January to explore other striking options? Or is it simply a case that he needs cover for the ACN – which will claim Gervinho and Chamakh – and Henry is that cover? I would hope it’s the former but then I’ve learned down the years that what I hope and what Arsene does are generally two very different things.

The boss is looking to delay the departure of Gervinho and Chamakh until after the FA Cup game against Leeds on December 9th, saying:

They have normally, legally, to turn up 14 days before, that means the 7th. We will ask for delays for both of them, at least until the Leeds game.

Hopefully we can get an arrangement for that. They will miss the first two days of the preparation but on the other hand they are both fit to start the competition. Hopefully we can get an agreement.

All we can do then is hope Gervinho comes back fit and that Chamakh, somehow, rediscovers something approaching the form he showed when he first arrived at the club. I won’t hold my breath over the latter but stranger things have happened. And if the Henry signing is just temporary then we’ve got to hope that the Moroccan can contribute something in the latter half of the season. There’s still a lot of newspaper chatter about how the boss is looking at other forward options but I suspect January could be a long, long month if we get too focused on that.

The other issue is full backs, and the lack thereof. Last week Arsene said he might bring somebody in on loan, but he seems to have changed his approach a bit now, saying:

There are difficult decisions to make because we are short in the full-back positions.  But you think, ‘do you really want to buy a full back for three or four years?’

When you have four out and two close to coming back. I think no, because we have people who can do the job during this period.

And I understand that completely. A permanent signing is pretty much out of the question on either side of the pitch so the only option is a loan. Yet when the best name we’ve seen linked to us during the last few weeks is Wayne Bridge you have to ask if the quality of player we need is available on loan. I’m sure if we really, really looked we could find somebody to do a job, but not somebody who would instantly make us much better.

I recognise that our attacking play is suffering somewhat from the lack of specialist full backs but as long as we have Mertesacker and Koscielny fit for the centre of defence, can we find a loan signing better than Vermaelen at left back, for example? I’d rather have the Belgian in the middle but sometimes you’ve got to use the full extent of your squad and we’re not the only team that does it. Man United play Valencia at right back, even Michael Carrick played centre-half for them recently, so it’s not as if this is unique to us.

That said, if somebody can point us towards a full back who is available on loan – therefore out of favour at his current club (either because of age, form, managerial indifference or some other reason) – who could come in and slot into this Arsenal side straight away then I’d be more than open to taking them for a month or so. Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

And that’s where it gets difficult. I’m pretty sure, like us, Arsene wants that player because we do have an issue at full back at the moment, but who is it? I don’t know, genuinely, but I do know it’s not Wayne Bridge – and if the option is him or get through with what we have then I’d go with what we have every day of the week. Not every problem can be solved with a signing although the manager has to look at the reliability of some of his players.

He talks a lot about having a big squad but that big squad isn’t as big when you have guys like Diaby and like Gibbs who spend more time injured than not. At some point he has to make a decision about them yet if we look at some of his previous we know it takes a lot for his patience to run out. There’s a certain Dutchman playing up front who, if Arsene had listened to some sections of the fanbase down the years, would have been moved on because of his tendency to spend so much time banjaxed in one way or another. I know Diaby’s case is somewhat different, his problems are chronic and all stem from that Dan Smith tackle, but bar a pivotal moment in their on-pitch career it takes a lot for Arsene to give up a player he’s got faith in.

Anyway, it all points to January being a bit quieter than we might like but I would hope that there have been lessons learned from the summer. If we do want players let’s go get them, be proactive and do it as soon as we possibly can. It’s one thing to muddle through an injury crisis, making use of the full squad, but it’d be another thing entirely to ignore the fact that as a squad we’re crying out for augmentation in the striking department. And whatever impact Thierry Henry has it can only be short-term.

With a massive fight on our hands for a top four finish I hope we go get a player who can boost the squad the same way Arshavin did (except for longer) or Reyes did (except for longer) etc. Over to you Arsene and Ivan.

Right then, time for this week’s Arsecast. As it’s still the festive period it’s a bit of a lazy one, a round-table job with Gunnerblog, Goodplaya and Goonerholic making up the G-mungous panel. On the agenda, Wolves, Thierry, full backs, January purchases and more.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast directly – click here (25mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

And that’s about that. Arsene’s got a press conference this morning so breaking news and other bits and pieces throughout the day on Arseblog News.

Till tomorrow.