Thursday, July 18, 2024

Interlull kicks in, step back and take stock

I reckon it’s gonna be quiet for a few days, what with the Interlull and all that, and maybe that’s not a bad thing.

There’s been a lot said over the last 24-48 hours as the madness of deadline day took hold. Despite my concerns over our defensive issues, ones shared by pretty much everyone I reckon, I think we have to look back at the transfer window overall as one in which we did a lot of good business.

We signed a genuine superstar in Alexis Sanchez. We signed another striker who, although he wouldn’t exactly have been first choice even a week or two ago, looks more and more like a very decent signing under the circumstances, and it’s not as if we haven’t spent money.

I worked it out yesterday for the Arsecast Extra that our net spend this summer was around the £45m mark, give or take a few million here or there due to a bit of debate over how much we spent on Alexis, how much got as part of the deal which saw Cesc go to Chelsea and so on. And although I know football doesn’t really work like that, if you go back and look at what we spent in the last 12 months, the outlay for Ozil brings our total spend in that period to around £87m.

For a club like Arsenal, that has often made a transfer surplus, it is a big shift in the way we operate. I do wonder if you can ever spend enough to keep all of the people happy all of the time, but I don’t think we can argue too much with what we have done. As I said yesterday, it’s about what didn’t happen.

I don’t think a £10-£15m centre-half would have an unrealistic purchase but obviously we either couldn’t find the right player or, if we did target people, we couldn’t do the requisite business with their clubs. It’s a fine balance – I think if we had one central defender in the squad we’d all be feeling like this was a pretty successful summer.

The manager highlighted goals as an area of weakness for the team and, compared to this time last year, we have three new forwards. Welbeck, Alexis and Joel Campbell. Now, you might wonder how much the latter is going to play. It was reported in the Portuguese press yesterday that we offered him to Sporting as part of a deal to bring William Carvalho in, and his agent is apparently fuming that we didn’t let him go to Benfica on deadline day.

But the bottom line is he’s here and if he works hard enough then he’s going to play some football for us. I’ve never seen him as anything other than a player who can add depth to our forward options, which will be boosted again by the return of Theo Walcott towards the end of this month. I don’t think you can argue against the fact we’re stronger up top.

Midfield remains a bone of contention with doubts about Arteta and Flamini but I wonder how much those doubts are exacerbated by the desire for a new player. I see it written time and again that the Spaniard is too old and too slow, but while I fully accept he’s in the September of his career, I think his influence on the team is rather too conveniently overlooked.

People ask how are we to expect to avoid the thrashings away from home with Arteta or Flamini, as if somehow they were the chief culprits in those particular downfalls. Firstly, the failure on those days was collective: the manager and team together have to take the blame together. Secondly, there’s the slight possibility that having experienced those defeats last season (the only season in which I can ever remember those kind of results occurring with that regularity), there’s no reason why we can’t learn from them so as to avoid them again.

I’ve said plenty of time here that I’m open to any position on the pitch being improved on if we can find the right player, but there’s a tendency to thoroughly downplay, if not write off, the players we do have in order to justify such moves. You can want somebody new without having to dismiss what we do have as not good enough.

To my mind there’s no logical reason why we didn’t sign a central defender and that might well be the bit that comes back to bite the manager on the arse, but that aside we’re well stocked with players who, let’s remember, won the FA Cup last season and finished just 7 points off the title after topping the table for large chunks of the campaign.

Perhaps we’re not as good as some would like but we’re a long, long way from being as bad as some would have you believe. We’ve struggled through the opening couple of weeks of the season, as I thought we might. We’ve played five games to everyone else’s three. We’ve had three away trips in a row and know that our pre-season preparations have been disrupted for various reasons.

Which isn’t to make excuses but to try and seek an explanation. I don’t think we’ll ever look back on Leicester as anything other than points dropped, but we qualified for Europe, took a point at Everton against the odds (circumstantially), and won our opening game. We’ve got to kick on post-Interlull to really get our season going, and the manager has some decisions to make about how best to get the players he has to click in right way, but it shouldn’t be all doom and gloom.

Meanwhile, this is an excellent piece by Rory Smith about the transfer window and transfer deadline day. Well worth a read and it addresses some key points which do influence the way people think.

Elsewhere, it’s interesting that we haven’t yet heard anything from the manager or new boy Danny Welbeck. Although there are some pictures of him in his new uniform, there’s been nothing said. Perhaps it’s because he’s on international duty (where he picked up a little knock apparently – he’s fitting in so well!), but curious all the same. No doubt we’ll hear from them both in due course though.

Finally, if you haven’t listened to this week’s Arsecast Extra we look back on deadline day, the whole summer’s transfer business, wonder if there are any free agent centre-halves we could bring in, and answer lots and lots of your questions. Fill your ear holes with it right here.

And a big thank you to everyone who has been listening to the Arsecast and the Arsecast Extra: we had over 325,000 downloads in August alone, so all the bandwidth, feedback and comments are very much appreciated!

Till tomorrow.

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