Tuesday, April 16, 2024

He’s gotta be, so Nacho + Arsecast 265

So deadline day came and went and we bought somebody but it was somebody nobody had ever mentioned before but everybody was an expert and knew all kinds of stuff about him even though they didn’t seem to know it the day before yesterday and basically I’m glad the transfer window is over because it’s all a big distraction from the real thing.

Am I satisfied with our business? I’d have to say I’m a bit disappointed we didn’t do more. I still worry about our striking options but as I mentioned yesterday, given the way we defend perhaps a defender would have been a smarter move. And we got one. Nacho Monreal has signed from Malaga. A Spanish international, ex teammate of Santi Cazorla, and an experienced left-back.

Arsene Wenger says:

We are delighted that Nacho Monreal has agreed to join us. We have been monitoring him for some time now and are really pleased that we’ve been able to agree this move today. Monreal is a strong left-sided defender with good experience at both club and international level.

He is a technically gifted player, a good crosser in the final third and strong in the air. Monreal will add quality to our squad and of course, to our defensive unit. We all look forward to him playing for us

Now, I know Andre Santos fails to convince, and even if Gibbs is out for three weeks, I’m not especially convinced that a left back was that high a priority. I think I’d have preferred to see another centre-half come in which would have meant in the short term Thomas Vermaelen could have filled in there until Gibbs returned. And when you consider Gibbs has been one of the brighter stories of this particular season it seems a bit of an odd one, but hey, faced with the prospect of nobody coming in at all then I’ll take it.

Perhaps there’s some method to the manager’s madness. I remember in the 2009 transfer window almost everyone was crying out for a centre-half, so Arsene went out and bought Andrei Arshavin. This time, with folks looking for a striker or a bit more midfield solidity/creativity, he’s bought a left back who will, at the very least, spawn an immeasurable number of puns based on his name.



And so on. And while I welcome him and hope he does well, I also have to ask how much of an impact we can seriously expect him to have on the way we play and the fact that this team isn’t strong enough to maintain a title challenge. We’ve spoken many times about how January is not the ideal time to try and buy the players you want. Look at the David Villa situation – we were in for him in a serious way, I believe he was very interested in the move, but Barcelona refused to sell in January (and we surely refused to pay so far over the odds that they’d have a change of heart).

Now that was a signing that you could envisage impacting the team in a bigger way than a left back, and I say that with all due respect to our new boy. Did we have back-up targets? I don’t know. I didn’t hear anything about a striker beyond Villa, so perhaps not. Maybe there’s nobody out there the manager fancied or who was available.

And as frustrating as all that might be, there’s little point in spending for the sake of spending, but maybe some work needs to be done behind the scenes so that all our transfer eggs aren’t put into one basket. I’d also ask if we’d have signed Nacho Monreal if Gibbs hadn’t been injured on Wednesday night. I suspect he’d have stayed in Spain for the remainder of the season – and I’m not convinced this is a summer signing brought forward either. It seems reactive, rather than planned, and ultimately that’s a worry.

It means there’s great competition for the left back spot now, but somebody’s going to lose out: it’s either the new £10m signing or part of our much-lauded ‘British core’ who has just signed a 5 year deal. Que sera, sera and all that, but again I’m struggling to believe this was part of a deliberate strategy. We’ve spent a lot of money because of a thigh strain and the fact that Andre Santos has probably gone past the point of no return now. Maybe that’s as good a reason to spend as any, the proof will be when we see this guy play and how Gibbs responds. I’m sure it will be a positive move, but it does feel like we’re scratching around in the dark a little bit.

Update: Arsene Wenger has revealed that Kieran Gibbs could be out for up to a couple of months, which certainly puts the move into better context. May the best man and, more importantly, Arsenal, win.

Beyond that nothing much happened from an Arsenal point of view. Chuks Aneke will spend the rest of the season on loan at Crewe and I was a little surprised that the likes of Eisfeld didn’t go out for a spell to get some first team football, but it was a fairly quiet day all round. I think it’s still possible for loans to lower leagues too.

So, what we have, we hold. This is the group of players who are now tasked with having a go at Bayern Munich, stepping up the chase for a top four finish and going the distance in the FA Cup. It’s going to take some improvement to do that; they need to find consistency above all else, cut out the crap at the back, and then we’ve got a chance. Yet every failure, every dropped point, every silly goal conceded, is going to be played out in the light of Arsene talking about having a ‘top, top’ squad, a ‘complete’ squad, the relative lack of January investment, and all the rest.

Tedious, it might be, but that’s the reality. I believe this is a group of players who are certainly capable of more than we’ve seen from them this season. There’s no lack of experience, there’s a fair amount of quality, and this isn’t a situation which is alien to us. We’ve been here before and we’ve shown the stones to get it done. It is really a matter now of digging deep, for those who can lead to do so through words and actions, and let’s hope it’s enough for us to achieve what we need to between now and May.

Once that’s done (fingers crossed), then a serious discussion needs to take place about how we improve the team and make it competitive enough to challenge for the league title again. As I’ve always said, winning the league isn’t the requirement for me, it’s knowing that we’ve done everything we can to try and win it. If we lose out to a better team, then that’s football, but I don’t believe we’ve done as much as we can this season (amongst others) and that’s the big frustration.

Anyway, without being blind to the failings, my glass tends to be on the half-full side. I like to believe that simply pulling on the red and white shirt gives them powers beyond those of mere mortals, and I sincerely hope that’s the case between now and May. I want us to win every game, play well and be in a position to improve come the summer. The alternative does not bear thinking about.

Right then, onto this week’s Arsecast, and due to the day that was in yesterday, it would have been out of date and stuff if I’d recorded early in the day. So what I did was record all day. I’m sure some of you would rather eat your own eyeballs, but it’s a journey through transfer deadline day with guest appearances from Gunnerblog, The Man from East Lower, Arse2Mouse, some poetry with Tony Adams and a bit of Amaury Bischoff PI at the end.

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 24mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.


News throughout the day on Arseblog News, a column from Tim Stillman here later. Back tomorrow with a Stoke preview.


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