Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Oxlade-Chamberlain signs, Gazidis says defenders coming

Morning all, do you ever wonder about the routines that certain people have when they get up in the morning? Toilet, coffee, breakfast, shave, get dressed, slap on some aftershave, makes sure you have bus fare, prepare toys to be thrown out of pram at any stage during the day.

Arsenal made a signing yesterday and it was greeted in some quarters as a personal affront, another reason to trot out the tired hackneyed acronyms and slogans. I mean, I get that it’s somewhat hard to get your head around spending £10m+ on a 17 year old winger when we all know that Arsenal’s defence needs strengthening more than anything else, but signing a 17 year old winger doesn’t mean we won’t be buying defenders. If anything it makes me more convinced that we will.

Simply from the point of view that Arsene Wenger, whatever you might think of him, is not a stupid man. Nor is Ivan Gazidis. That they’re unaware of a) the need and b) the clamour for defensive reinforcements is unthinkable to me. They must know that without strengthening, any defensive errors that cost us points will thin the ice even further for the manager. If we spend £10m+ on a 17 year old winger and don’t buy a defender, there will be little or no tolerance for excuses or justification that might be made. And rightly so.

I don’t think any fan I’ve spoken to has disputed the fact we need a centre-half, and maybe a left-back, this summer. Not one. Yet you can be of that opinion and still be happy that we signed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain yesterday. Of course you can question why we need another wide player, another relatively inexperienced one at that, but to use it as an excuse for petty minded vitriol is another thing entirely and says a lot about where sections of our fanbase are at the moment. They’re like Alexander O’Neal’s ex-girlfiend.

So, while I continue to be of the opinion that defensive recruitment should be at the very top of our priority list, I’m happy to welcome AOC to the Arsenal. He scored 9 in 27 for Southampton last season, which is quite a record for a player that young, and it was telling that the announcement on the official site yesterday confirmed he’d go straight into our first team squad. Arsene Wenger said:

He is an exciting young player who will provide us with creativity and offensive quality. Alex is a versatile player who can play in a number of positions. He can play as an attacking centre midfielder, or wide left and right.

While Alex said:

I’m so excited to be joining Arsenal. It’s a fantastic club and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity of playing football at the highest level.

Beyond what we’ve read I know little about him but clearly Arsene sees enough talent and potential to bring him in, for a serious chunk of money, to be part of things from the off this season. Spending £10m on him now probably means we don’t get bombed out of the race for him in a year’s time when his value would be even higher, so I guess it’s a strategic gamble in a way. He also provides the team with another injection of pace which, beyond Walcott, we’ve been missing at times.

I asked a Southampton blogger for a little more info about our new signing. Ben from Go Marching In, said:

It’s easy to sit here and compare Alex Chamberlain with Theo Walcott because they are similar players and both chose Arsenal as the club to further their careers. But if you were to ask me who was better when they broke through to the Southampton first team, I would have to say Alex Chamberlain.

His all-round game is better, he’s physically stronger and has a composure on the ball that belies his young age. A direct runner and crowd pleaser, he literally tore League One defences apart last season.

Of course there’s a big step-up from League 1 to Premier League so it remains to be seen just how ready he is, but it’s interesting how we’re beginning to put together a core of British young players. Walcott, Wilshere, Ramsey, Gibbs and now AOC. Add another League 1 stepper-upper in Carl Jenkinson to the mix and it’s hardly a coincidence. For a team which was often criticised for having few, if any, truly ‘home grown’ players there’s been a definite shift in focus.

So, what of defenders? At last night’s AISA meeting Ivan Gazidis was asked why we we’re not after ‘a couple of centre-halves’. His response, “How do you know we not?” He went on to say:

Arsene recognises we need to have additions and addition or additions in our defence. He recognises there has been an issue there. And he will take steps to do that.

I have not had an evening off – and I’m leaving here to do some more work – we are working extremely hard on this but it’s not a supermarket where you go in and pick good players off the shelf. That’s not the way it works. I’m sorry but it’s much much more complex than that.

Now, we know Ivan is a good politician and at meetings like that, where I’m sure pitchforks and ‘Down with that sort of thing’ banners are ready to go at any time, he’s particularly good at telling people what they need to hear. Yet there can’t be much in way of misinterpretation here. Arsene knows we need additions to our defence and he will take steps to do that. That means we’re going to sign at least one defender.

Ideally we’d have done that business before now, and yeah, we should have bought a centre-half before some kid to add to our ever increasing collection of wingers (Grrrrrrr!, *launches toys*), but there you go. Let’s hope that Ivan’s work last night was fruitful and that the squad goes into the first game of the season improved. It’s now time for actions to speak louder than words, however comforting or reassuring those words might be.

In other news The Sun are reporting that Arsenal will sell Nasri to Man City for £22m, provided the Middle Eastlanders pay the whole fee up front. Small change to them, isn’t it? The signing of Oxlade-Chamberlain is interesting, not least because of his potential, but because of where he plays. There are also reports that the fee for Joel Campbell has been agreed and he’ll join too, so you just wonder if those two arrivals might open the door to Nasri’s departure.

Also on the way out, Nick Bendtner, the greatest striker that ever lived, but he’s not saying where he’s going. Hopefully not Stoke. That would bother me a great deal, what with Lennie, the scuttery little goblin king on the sidelines, and their fans being a pack of self-fingering window lickers.

And that’s about that. It’s shaping up to be a fairly active week if yesterday was anything to go by, let’s hope for a bit more of the same. Except the Alexander O’Neal stuff.

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