Tactics Column: Welcome to the New Arsenal

Tactics Column: Welcome to the New Arsenal

Welcome, then, to the New Arsenal. Which, on the face of it, looks not much different to the Old Arsenal, except with a few shiny new stickers on it. Arsenal’s encounter with Manchester City on Saturday was supposed to herald a new kind of Arsenal, one that could compete with the big boys and still play football like it wants to, but also show signs of overcoming the inexplicable weaknesses that it has – such as its fear of the early afternoon kick-off. And sure enough, the team started brightly – exhilarating even – playing an intoxicating and dizzying brand of football that made you think that this should have been the natural evolution of the Invincibles side and not the faux tiki-taka we got afterwards (though that was gripping in a tortuous sense).

The attack was aggressive, Arsenal snapping and snarling at the City players like a blur of red, led at the vanguard by Jack Wilshere and Alexis Sanchez, and then breaking with speed. For the first-half of the first-half, Arsenal were in total domination – until Welbeck missed. His chipped chance, fashioned because Arsenal’s pressure forced David Silva to play an errant back-pass, hit the post. It should have been the dream start to his debut, capping off a committed and fiery opening period for Arsenal. Instead The Gunners’ mood deflated and City wrestled control of the match.

This was one of the ugly traits of Old Arsenal; wilting at the point in the match where a bit of ruthlessness was needed, such as against Bayern Munich at home last season. It wasn’t just that they let Man City come onto them, standing off whenever they attacked, but in their desperation they kept giving the ball away. When City scored, it came after Alexis tried to dribble his way through a crowd of players and athough Navas got a bit of luck when the ball fell for him on the right-hand side, Aguero’s minimal effort to finish was a contrast to Welbeck’s elaborateness.

Arsene Wenger’s reaction in these moments has always been to keep playing, to keep trying to find angles to play their “zippy” passes. Mesut Ozil was switched to the right-flank in order to get him on the ball and to try to regain some control of the match. However, the tactical reshuffle, prompted after Welbeck had missed, may have inadvertently led to City’s opening goal. That’s because Ozil, starting on the left, acts as a bit of a balancer between the two sides, allowing Alexis to stay up the pitch and make runs in behind while he helps circulate possession. His deeper starting position also meant that Nacho Monreal, Arsenal’s weak-link, wasn’t so exposed going forward. All these factors came together when Arsenal conceded the goal: the play became a little narrow, as shown when Alexis tried to dribble his way through the centre and was tackled and then Monreal was caught up the pitch, making a run he didn’t was required to make in the early stages.

How Arsenal’s play narrowed once Ozil and Alexis switches sides following Welbeck’s big miss.

How Arsenal’s play narrowed once Ozil and Alexis switches sides following Welbeck’s big miss.

Thankfully, Arsenal returned to their high-tempo, tigerish ways after the break and when Alexis scored the goal to take the score to 2-1, it even vindicated the tactical switch to move him to the left somewhat. The two goals Arsenal scored were excellent, coming from the type of move that when Arsenal perfect, is usually too slick, too evasive for opponents to handle. Yet, as highlighted by the Wilshere goal there is an extra ingredient in this Arsenal side that makes them so exciting and what I believe might be the crucial factor – players who can defeat a man 1 v 1.

Because the way Arsenal play, provoking teams to defend deep and compact, sometimes even space to run behind will be at a premium. These players, when they turn on the ball and suddenly they’re facing the goal, is what can make Arsenal dynamic. When they can eliminate a man and then suddenly the space opens up it becomes extremely difficult to defend as Gael Clichy found out when Wilshere sidestepped past him. Throw in Alexis, Ozil, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Welbeck and even Sanogo into the mix, who is robust in the challenges, and you get what might be the most intrepid Arsenal squad this side of the Invincibles.

It was interesting after the game that Wenger described this Arsenal as an “offensive team.” In any other year, it would be shrugged off as normal but last season, Wenger avoided such adjectives, instead focusing on praising the team’s spirit or mental resolve. It’s clear then that side was a work in progress, as this team is, though it is getting far closer to the ideal that he wants his team to be. However last season, Arsenal added a pragmatism to their game, the ability to “win ugly” and though it was often reserved for games outside the top four, the inexplicable nervousness that kicked in once Arsenal took the lead and then conceded will have been a bit of a worry. Jack Wilshere says Arsenal are trying to win the ball back quicker this season and certainly, it will be up to Wenger to find a balance between the passiveness that served them well last season, and the high-pressing deployed in parts against City.

Here, the 4-1-4-1 shape probably grants Wilshere and Ramsey too much liberty going forward and as a result, probably forego some of their defensive duties. Of course, that’s partly the point in switching to the new system as it gives the midfield more margin for error in transitions, but at the same time, Arsenal, by rarely having Wilshere and Ramsey defending on the same line means that they neglect one of the benefits of the 4-1-4-1 which is, as Zdenek Zeman, the former Roma coach says, “the most rational formation to cover the spaces”.

It’s probably one of the weaknesses of Arsene Wenger who, it is argued by Matthew Whitehouse, is mainly a “facilitator of players’ development” and not very keen on developing positional play. Indeed Whitehouse, author of “The Way Forward: Solutions to England’s Football Failings”, argues that “Ozil is struggling to impact games because the Arsenal team is not set-up tactically well enough to bring out best in him.” This is a big statement, one that is rooted in truths though I’m not so against using Ozil wide because he always knows the right thing to do wherever he plays. However, I do believe he is Arsenal’s best player and you lose his ability to control the play when shunted out to the flanks. In that case, he becomes more of a balancer rather than a conductor. Still an important player, but one the team relies on less now.

One final interesting tactical observation on the 4-1-4-1 is the use of Wilshere and Ramsey as interiors. In the past, one of these players might typically be a defensive player: indeed last season, Wenger used Flamini in such a role. However, it seems now the trend is, with more teams willing to use a diamond formation or play three midfielders behind a narrow front three, is to use attacking players to the side of the midfield. That’s because teams want to get quickly from defence to attack – perhaps in the last decade, it has been the other way round. Playing dynamic, aggressive yet most crucially, skilful players help achieve that and Wenger’s comments on Wilshere after the game seems to confirm that: “Wilshere’s coming back physically to his level where he can be,” said the manager. “It takes time to find that fraction of a second where you feel you can make a difference and it’s so important in the modern game – to get away from people when you win the ball.”

Wilshere, with a spring to his step, is such a crucial player for Arsenal.

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Arsenal Gentleman’s Weekly Review

Arsenal Gentleman’s Weekly Review

As I sit here following a week of the deathly-dull Interlull, more boring than a day in Hull, as the old saying goes, we have time to reflect upon the signing of Danielsan Arantes do Dat Guy Nascimento Santos Welvalho, now known to all as ‘Welé’. In the week I succumbed to his badgering for an interview and we met this Wednesday last at The Garrick. More of this anon.

It is quite the revelation that on the deadline day cattle market, Mr. Windsor, erstwhile overlord of Woolwich Arsenal made a trip to Rome to see the pope. I’ll put that another way: Mr. Windsor of The Arsenal went to Rome to see the Pope. Mr. Windsor of the Arsenal went to Rome to see the Pope. Mr. Windsor of The Arsenal went to Rome to see the pope and this is what he said: How nice! Which is of course a heartening contrast to the reception that Tottenham Hotspur traditionally receive.

Which brings me to our poor old Middlesex chums up the road, who seem to be pursuing their traditional effort to make the Keystone cops look like the SAS. Now I am now property developer but I know one thing. You do not attempt to build a stadium without owning the land. It does appear, hilariously, that Spurs will reconnect with their roots by appearing at a stadium in the home counties for at least one season, with the possibility of Wembley, if you please, hosting their ‘European’ ties.

It is not clear at this juncture whether they mean the stadium itself or a corner of the conference centre. It has even been mooted that they share the Emirates stadium with Arsenal. Now there are several reasons that this is both impractical and undesirable. Firstly, The Emirates is in London so Spurs would feel uncomfortable with the metropolitan milieu. Secondly, the lavatories are inside and the Spurs fans would not know what to do. Thirdly, we must consider the local residents.

They accept that once per season Tottenham’s fans will arrive in the area and deal with this fact with great stoicism. They board up their houses, roll out the barbed wire and sit in wait with a twelve gauge for the self-styled ‘Heathen Hordes of the Home Counties’ or ‘The Middlesex Maulers’, whatever they are calling their ‘firm’ that week. But every other weekend? Who will foot the extra policing bill? Not to mention the costs of cleaning the ordure from the streets after that have departed each week. This cannot stand, and Spurs must make the journey to their spiritual home 50 miles up the M1. They are, by the way, up for sale, with giggle-inducing delusion ne’er-do-well Joe Lewis wanting ONE BILLION POUNDS for the entire shooting match, including the kitchen sink (which is what they call Vlad Chiriches at The Lane). I have a

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Welé – The First Interview

Welé

We met for five minutes at The Garrick this week. His English is still somewhat rudimentary, somewhere around the level of a Stoke fan, but I do have some Portuguese so I have translated his answers as best I can.

AG: Welé, if I may call you that, and I may, because I named you, welcome to the Garrick. I can recommend the Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 1996. Brings back the elegance of the ’53.

W: What is Lafite?

AG: Oh dear. This may be a very short conversation.

W: I like Ribena.

AG: Let’s start with your transfer from Manchester United. Tell me how it happened.

W: I have been trying to leave the hellhole for years. First there was the angry man with the funny nose, he look, as we say in Belo Horizonte, like bit of scrag end in the butcher’s at 5 o’clock on a Saturday. He do shouting and chewing. Always on phone to his friend Mr. Webb. Then there was funny man Moyes, we thought he was wind up at first, with his boggle-eyes and the getting lost in Manchester centre. One day we had to send driver to pick him up, very confused. And now this tortoise man. Horrible club. I wanted to go. So I speak to my friend Jacques Wilshère, and he said LEAVE IT OUT MATE YOU WANT TO GET DOWN HERE so I said I want transfer and not to play with Tom Cleverley any more. So I came. Someone phoned from a club I did not recognise, Motteringham Tottspurs or something? Do you know them? So funny and cheeky that little clubs think they can sign big players. As we say in Brazil even the ugly donkey dreams that he can be a racehorse.

AG: We have a strong English core at the club, Peregrine Meatlocker, Laurence Costerley, Matthew Matthews, Orwell, Cousins, Oxlade-Chamberlain. Was that part pf the attraction?

W: Oh yes. I love England for long time. Ever since I was a boy in Belo Horizonte watching Match of the Day. I loved Match of the Day, except funny Shearer man with the shiny testicles, and Gary Lineker with his smug jokes. As we say in Brazil, at the golf club, there are many very boring men making jokes that nobody laughs at.

AG: And you qualify to play for England through the ‘granny rule’?

W: Yes! I was so pleased when I discovered this. I qualify through my granny, Rio Ferdinand.

AG: A wonderful old lady.

W: Oh yes, such a nice old lady. We all love Granny Rio and her funny clothes.

AG: And have you settled in quickly at Woolwich?

W: Oh yes. Mr. Cousins – you call him ‘hand feet’ – is such fun to train with. And Mr. Orwell likes to show off his Mesmertron at any opportunity. When he does this Mr. Windsor pops out his monocle in a comedy way. All we had in Manchester was everyone saying to Ryan Giggs about him having sex with his relatives which he did not find very funny. Meatlocker is very posh. Orwell is quite hard to understand as he has a strong northern accent but he is nice.

AG: His special move as you say is The Mesmertron. Everyone at Woolwich has a special move. What is yours?

W: I demonstrated it for England in the week for goal two. It is the Strawberry Switchblade, where I look one way but shoot the other. As you say in England, I did them with the eyes.

AG: You’ve advertised a special medical product. Is that something you have yourself used?

W: You mean my tonic? Mind your own business.

AG: It has been wonderful talking to you Mr. Welé. We look forward to seeing you play upfront tomorrow against The Vulgarians.

W: Mr. Windsor I think is going to use me as a how you say, left back tomorrow.

AG: Of course he is. Best of luck.

Why #rainbowlaces is so important

Why #rainbowlaces is so important

It may not have escaped your notice last week that Arsenal and betting company Paddy Power produced a video in association with Stonewall, Britain’s leading LGBT charity. The video caused something of a stir across social media, which was soon picked up by the mainstream media. The campaign, rainbow laces, is intended to highlight and tackle the issue of homophobia in football. The short film featured some leading Arsenal first team players indulging in some self deprecating pastiche.

It’s fair to say that homophobia isn’t a fight that football has shown a great willingness to arm itself for to this point. Society itself has taken too long to properly address the issue, but football, in its machismo bubble, has kept it firmly on the shelf. Or in the closet, if you will. In 2012, the Football Association launched an anti homophobia campaign but could not find a single current player to publicly endorse it.

It’s a thorny issue for sure. Football has long been considered the domain of the alpha male, both in the stands and the dressing room. Even if the gentrification of football crowds in the last 20 years means that the social construct of the terraces is a little more forgiving than it was prior to the 1990s. However, the fact remains that we don’t have a single openly gay footballer in the Football League when, statistically speaking, it is virtually impossible to suggest that there aren’t any gay footballers.

American midfielder Robbie Rogers publicly declared his sexuality and immediately followed up by retiring from football aged just 26. Thomas Hitzlsperger waited until he was retired before coming out. At this point, many will ask, “Why does it matter? I don’t care what footballers get up to in the bedroom, I just care how they play.” On the surface of it, that’s a perfectly reasonable standpoint and once we have moved to a position of complete acceptance of homosexuality in the game, you would hope it would be the prevailing sentiment.

Arsene Wenger himself said as much earlier this year, “It [would be] good if four, five, six people come out and after that nobody speaks about it anymore because they just think it is people who live their life like they want to live it. He (Hitzlsperger) could not come out during his career, which means we still have some progress to make in our game because he should not have had to wait until the end.”

The problem is we haven’t yet reached this nirvana of approval. We have probably progressed from the point where abuse and violent retribution would be anything other than the reaction of an idiotic minority (though that minority still lurks menacingly in the shadows). But that doesn’t mean we have reached acceptance. Ask yourself a question. In all of the football matches you have ever attended, do you think you have ever walked past or even sat next to a gay couple? Statistically it’s pretty likely that you have. More than once too.

Now ask yourself, have you ever seen a gay couple holding hands at a match together? I know I haven’t and I’ve probably clocked in at over 1,000 top class matches now. Around 30 of those, I attended with a gay couple I knew well. Yet how many straight couples have you seen at matches down the years walking hand in hand towards the stadium? I attend matches with my wife and I know I don’t even have to afford a second thought to clasping her hand or putting my arm around her. Whilst this remains undisputedly the case, we still have a cause worth fighting and as an Arsenal fan, I am proud to see Arsenal leading putting their heads above the parapet.

I am writing this in an internet cafe, in searching for the Arsene Wenger quotes provided above, I was led to a website called sosogay.co.uk. For some reason I felt the need to glance over my shoulder as I clicked the link to see if I was being judged. Whether that was down to my own subconscious prejudices (‘I’m not gay, honest! It’s just research!’), or my fear of the prejudices of others, I confess I am not entirely sure. Or maybe I am just not comfortable with the answer and have intentionally re-branded it as intellectual confusion.

For this is the problem. It is unconscious bias we are fighting and that is a tricky battle. It is easy to identify and isolate froth mouthed purveyors of abuse. Tackling the prejudices people don’t even realise that they possess is another struggle altogether, as is educating those who don’t believe there is an issue at all. On Wednesday evening, Arsenal Ladies defender Casey Stoney publicised a quite disturbing letter that somebody had sent her (anonymously, of course) via her twitter feed which suggests homophobia’s canteen culture is alive and well and has access to the Royal Mail.

This is why the Gay Gooners banner and the Rainbow laces campaign are so important. The best way to weed out unconscious bias is to normalise. Make that marginal ‘other’ a part of people’s visible reality. Remind them constantly that there are gay people in their football stadiums, in their football teams and there always have been and that it does not and has never remotely threatened their experience or enjoyment of the game. The sky hasn’t fallen in and it hasn’t rained men and it’s not going to.

It’s just that there are some people that would like to be able to go a game or play the game with the same level of blithe acceptance most of us enjoy and take for granted. And we’re not there yet. Campaigns and banners such as these are not about ‘rubbing our noses in it.’ Nobody’s asking for a parade of pink hot pant clad men to thrust their groins in our faces for half time entertainment. The aim is actually the complete opposite of a demand for attention. It’s about the freedom to be ignored. To be oneself at a game or in the changing room without attracting so much as an awkward glance.

That’s what campaigns such as these are working up to. Since Arsenal publicly backed their LGBT group, Gay Gooners, clubs such as Everton and Spurs have followed suit. Whilst acknowledging that this is an issue that ventures beyond tribalism, we ought to be proud that Arsenal are setting an example. Homophobia might not only be a football problem, but there are a multitude of examples of sport being a uniting force for good.

Imagine if you will, Marine Le Pen trying to explain away France’s 1998 World Cup triumph with a team comprised largely of first and second generation African immigrants. The rainbow laces video was amusingly and tactfully executed, which can only further the cause. In the meantime, try not to ask why there is no ‘straight laces’ campaign or ‘straight Gooners’ banner. Instead, give thanks that they have never been necessary and hope that, soon enough, video campaigns and banners won’t be required for football’s LGBT community either. LD.

Follow me on Twitter @LittleDutchVA

Arsenal Gentleman’s Weekly Review

Arsenal Gentleman’s Weekly Review

First we turn to the City of Manchester Stadium, AKA the Abu Dhabi Dome, AKA The Lowest Circle of Hell Arena, AKA The Shitty Hat Stadium, AKA Manchester City Council Stadium, AKA Stockport Park, AKA The Palace of Grotesquery, AKA The Oil Ground, AKA The Compound of `Mercenaries, AKA Mrs. Nasri’s Hideout, AKA Sagna’s Sanctuary, AKA The Kingdom of Doom, where last weekend a plucky band of twelve-toed genetic curiosities collectively known as Stoke City Football Club, over 120 toes between their First XI, struck a blow for the little man and beat the subsidised, football-killing monsters whose success is only down to the petrochemical wealth of an entire country enabling them to purchase by the Bentleyload – a team of supremely gifted warrior athletes (and Bacary Sagna) – whose only reason for being in that godawful slum-ridden hodge-podge of cotton mills, estate pubs, thriving heroin dealerships and urine-stinking shopping ‘precincts’ is that they all quite like earning ten times more per week than your average working woman or man does in a year. Two and a half cheers then for little Stoke City.

Except no, that is not quite the case. The Coates family, Stoke City’s owners, are the Poundland Abu Dhabi Royal family of the North. They have subsidised plucky little Stoke to the tune of £86m. “Without the backing of this wonderful family, we would not have achieved anything like we have today,” said horrendous little water rat Anthony Pulis last year. Utterly vile.

I am sure that at the time, Manchester City must have felt like a stinking tramp had entered their stately home and proceeded to relieve himself on the floor, but in reality it is nothing like that. So whilst it is only correct that we should take an almost sensual pleasure in the defeat of the Abu Dhabi Vulgarians, we should remember that it was a team who are in effect the Jumble Sale Chelsea who did it.

Turn then, if we must, to the unhappy rannygazoo that was Woolwich’s unedifying draw with Leicester Fosse weekend last. Mr. Windsor continuing his somewhat ill-proven argument that strikers are something of an unnecessary frippery, started Whizzband Saunders up front, with our lively billikens of Cousins & Orwell behind Mr. Sangley hoping to supply the Gentleman’s Favours.

Yet Mr. Sangley continues to impersonate an electrified marionette, He is a nuisance, a distraction, a handful, what the Vikings would have called a berserker, but a world class striker he is not. There is one thing you have to do, repeatedly, twenty or perhaps thirty times per season, which he has not yet done. We very much look forward to him doing that but perhaps he would like to continue his education on loan somewhere.

None are available, cries the manager, much like the layabout husband when asked by his spouse to toddle off to the shop for a pint of milk. They have sold out, dear, and I am staying right here on my harris.

Which brings us to the signing of Danielsan Arantes do Dat Guy Nascimento Santos Welvalho, or simply Welé. Please see below for the Gooner faithful’s attitude toward this particular signing throughout the day. At 11pm, I would say that the majority were fairly gruntled with his acquisition. If he is given a run in the side, with Orwell and Cousins sending in the ticklers, all may very well be oojah-cum-spiff by the end of the season.

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More anon

The Gent

Welbeck’s mellow gold

Welbeck’s mellow gold

It’s difficult to argue that the transfer window hasn’t become a kind of competition in itself in this day and age. A catwalk for football’s fiduciary vanity. We’ve come to a stage where the window has become a barometer for judging a manager’s worth. I have seen all sorts of ridiculous assertions in the last week or so that demonstrate how football’s priorities have gone to hell in the handcart of an overly hyped trolley dash.

“If X doesn’t sign anyone he should leave” and other similar sentiments have been allowed to pollute our cyber conscience unchecked. What if the manager signs three really good players and they all turn out to be bloody awful? What if they’re good players but they just don’t fit tactically? What if they all get injured, or homesick, or are abducted by Roger Daltrey’s buttered beasts? Judging a manager’s acquisitions before they’ve kicked a ball isn’t dismissed with the ridicule it ought to be.

Sky Sports are asking whom was the best deadline day signing before said signings have so much pulled on the training kit of their new club and apparently nobody regards this as a stultifying moronic question. Many supporters may reject the idea that new signings are the new trophies (which gets the greatest viewing figures do you imagine, the League Cup Final or transfer deadline day?) but whilst we use something as nebulous as a transfer window to make definitive judgements about players and managers, we’re in no position to deny it.

That said, Arsenal once again became part of the mad parade with another deadline day signing in the high top, perma-gloved shape of Danny Welbeck. You imagine that before long, Arsenal will be presented with an MBE by Lord Jim White for services to TDD™. Perhaps it will be King ‘Arry that delicately places the sword upon the shoulder of Arsene Wenger whilst Countess Natalie Sawyer looks on with an air of detached bemusement.

I like Danny Welbeck and think he could be a good signing. (As much as I would like to substitute ‘like’ with ‘love’ and ‘good’ with ‘great’ in the previous sentence). I viewed Welbeck’s opening interview with Arsenal Player with interest. Whilst I’m acutely aware that such conferences are scripted to the gills, I did cock an eyebrow when Welbeck suggested, “At Arsenal we’re not short of combination football, I’d like to bring pace and power.” It validated my suspicion that Welbeck could fit in nicely.

Whilst his comments suggest that Welbeck sees himself as a central presence in Arsenal’s attacking entente, his mobility lends itself nicely to Arsene’s vision of fluidity. Last week I wrote about my impression that Wenger wanted to move away from the fixed figure of the target man and Welbeck could facilitate that transition. In that piece I pontificated on the prospect of Alexis and Walcott swapping wide and central roles as the situation demands and Danny Welbeck potentially fits into that structure too.

Welbeck is noted for his work ethic and dynamism and alongside Alexis, we may potentially see the return of ‘the high press’ in the Gunners attack, which could prove especially useful with the phasing out of the perpetually scurrying Rosicky. When Welbeck spoke about Arsenal’s multitude of combination players, he offered himself as a kind of iron fist inside Arsenal’s velvet glove of attacking midfielders, the cadence to our creative fret-wank. Whereas at United he had to figure out a way of harmonising with bellowing Jagger-Gallagher types like Rooney and van Persie.

In theory at least, it could be a mutually beneficial move and, at 23 years of age, Wenger still gets to play the development game he loves so much. Barney Ronay suggests that Welbeck is a mystery wrapped in an enigma and I’m inclined to agree. In that respect, he reminds me quite a lot of Sylvain Wiltord. For everyone that believes he is ineffectual there is somebody that thinks there is a genius trapped in the cogs of the system, needing to escape from the shackles of his willingness to blend in.

The acquisitions of Welbeck and Alexis suggest a move to a more dynamic front line, both have the ability to run in behind or to beat a man, which adds a string to last season’s bow. I have always had the impression that Welbeck has big game pedigree too and I certainly think Arsenal could do with more players that share that trait. The question however, is whether you believe this was a methodical or simply opportunistic signing on Arsenal’s part. Your overall impression of Arsenal’s transfer strategy is likely to inform whether you view this as a ‘planned pregnancy.’

Reports suggest that Welbeck himself was the driving force of this deal. If England had been training, in, Liverpool say, as opposed to London Colney come deadline day, would this deal have gone through? We can but speculate. There’s certainly a suggestion that Welbeck was keen to come to Arsenal and to make the deal happen, in which case, you have to admire his drive, conviction and confidence (or his treachery, backstabbing and disloyalty depending on where your allegiances lie). I’m not sure how it would look on our executive team if players were having to rock up at London Colney and demand to be signed before the trigger is pulled.

There again, there was little suggestion that Welbeck was available prior to United’s dalliance with Falcao and Arsenal would argue that their financial planning has brought them to the stage that they can take this sort of opportunity when a player like Welbeck becomes available. Whether this was a linear panic buy after an impotent display at Leicester or simply a case of taking a good opportunity as it arose is a matter of opinion.

However, it is difficult to deny that Arsenal have left themselves troublingly short in defence. I mistakenly believed that Vermaelen’s transfer had been signed off in the knowledge that a replacement had been secured. Maybe the club were in the final stages of a deal that didn’t come to fruition at the time. It isn’t just quantity that is a prevailing concern back there, but compatibility, or rather, a lack thereof.

Mertesacker and Chambers for instance isn’t the most symbiotic pairing. Both prefer the right side of defence for a start and they are similar types of defender. Neither is an aggressive, ball hunting centre half. We saw Romelu Lukaku expose both Chambers and Mertesacker high up the pitch for Steven Naismith’s goal at Goodison Park last week. Nacho Monreal is a good defender and one of his principle strengths is his ability to intercept. In this respect, he will be viewed as a deputy to Koscielny.

But leaving aside the fact that Monreal can expect plenty of games at left back deputising for Kieran Gibbs, I could imagine the Spaniard struggling with a more direct, physical threat. I was far from Vermaelen’s biggest fan, but I think I would prefer to pit him against, say, Diego Costa, than Nacho Monreal. Let’s just hope we can keep a relatively clean bill of health back there until January and hopefully, another centre half is scouted in advance of the January meat market. LD.

Follow me on Twitter @LittleDutchVA