Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Arsenal chew over Bacca link as Mahrez becomes an obvious candidate

Morning all, a quick Saturday round-up for you before something else mad happens. I swear, if I woke up tomorrow, checked Twitter and saw that Crab People, who look like crabs and talk like people, had taken over the world, I wouldn’t even bat an eyelid.

Arsene Wenger has been talking about the importance of giving players rest after their exertions at summer international tournaments. It’s not something he’s always managed to do, especially with some of his most important players, but he says:

I believe that they need four weeks’ holiday because they need to recover from that. It takes you two or three weeks to regenerate… to recover completely, and they need to come back with hunger.

He referenced the disappointment felt by Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny, having lost the final, but believes it’s overall beneficial to Arsenal if players do well for their countries:

I believe the club benefits from our players’ experiences at the top level, and the mental experiences as well that they have gone through with such a huge pressure. Of course in the longer term you benefit from that.

Now, last season was quite the illustration in how not to manage a player after an international tournament. After a brilliant and amazingly hard-working season for Arsenal, Alexis Sanchez went all the way with Chile in the Copa America. Unfortunately, injuries and the lack of quality to provide back up for him meant he was thrown in way too early, without the required pre-season training, and his form and mood suffered for most of last season.

There’s a very obvious lesson there which I hope we’ve learned. The thing to take into account though, is that the four weeks holidays should be just that. After which they need to build up some fitness again, do some proper pre-season training, and be eased back into action. As such it’s vital that have a squad that can properly cope and that will come down to what the manager does in the transfer market.

Joel Campbell and Jack Wilshere are back in training now, but based on the four week rule Wenger is talking about, we’re looking at these return dates for the following, based on their last international game:

Monday July 11th: Wojciech Szczesny

Monday July 25th: Granit Xhaka and Alexis Sanchez*

Monday August 1st: Aaron Ramsey

Monday August 8th: Mesut Ozil, Laurent Koscielny, Olivier Giroud

There may be some fluidity in there, Xhaka may come sooner than that because Switzerland didn’t go that far and he’s got the issue of integration to deal with. Joining a new club, settling in etc. Ramsey too might come back a little earlier, and I’m sure Arsenal will be anxious to see what state Alexis Sanchez’s ankle is in.

As for Ozil, Koscielny and Giroud, there’s really no way they should be involved in our opening couple of games, regardless of how strong the opposition is. I worry a little about the effects of losing semi/final might be too. Perhaps it will increase their hunger to achieve next season, but it can also be debilitating. Remember when Russia didn’t qualify for the World Cup and Andrei Arshavin’s coping mechanism was to try and morph into Grant Holt? He was never the same again.

Anyway, these are all part of the challenges a manager has to face, and Wenger is hardly alone in having to deal with internationals being away at tournaments. What we can’t do is use it as an excuse. We can’t complain about being ‘a little short’, because we knew fine well this was a possibility. Let’s see how it all pans out.

Should we do a striker rumour? Ok then, the latest name to be added to the list is AC Milan’s Colombian forward Carlos Bacca. He scored 26 goals last season for club and country, and supposedly we’re hijacking his move to West Ham because West Ham are trying to buy every striker in Europe it seems.

Anyway, he’s going to be 30 in early September, so it would certainly be an atypical move from the manager if this came off. A Davor Sukian solution to our striking requirements, you might say. I’d be surprised but then maybe I shouldn’t rule anything out given the paucity of genuine candidates and players linked to us.

What’s more interesting to me this morning is the news that Riyad Mahrez has decided he’s not hanging around at Leicester. I suspect he knows it’s never, ever going to get better for them than it did last season and he now wants to move to a ‘major European club’.

Arsenal need more from the wide areas, that is very clear, so a player who got 17 goals and 11 assists last season seems an almost perfect fit. I don’t think there could be a more obvious candidate for us to go for, to be quite honest. The way these things work is worth noting too. A player doesn’t leak the fact he wants to leave unless he knows he’s got options, so I hope we’re one of them – or the one.

Wenger has long sought a player who can contribute from the wide areas. He got one in Alexis Sanchez, but Mahrez would add another layer of creativity and end product to a front three that has too often been deficient. He’s tried all kinds of people out there, but nobody has really flourished, so it seems the best way is to bring in somebody who is relatively established.

I don’t care much about N’Golo Kante going to Chelsea, we’re well-stocked with midfield players. What this team needs more than anything is more goals, and I think Mahrez is a player who could give us them. We have the firepower, I don’t think there’s any way he would do a Vardy and turn us down, so let’s make it happen.

Right, have yourselves a good Saturday, more from me tomorrow.

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