So Arsenal took off to the US yesterday with a squad much as you’d expect, but with one fairly notable absentee. Per Mertesacker hasn’t made the trip because he’s picked up a knee injury. As yet we don’t know how serious it is, but there were suggestions – from some not-always-reliable sources it has to be said – that he could be out for an extended period.
We’ll wait and see before panicking or anything like that, but it’s clear that an injury that would keep him out for any length of time would be bad news. Gabriel also misses the tour because of tonsillitis, but that’s a fairly short-term thing. He should have them out. I got mine taken out when I was a kid and vividly remember waking up during the operation to see the surgeon throw my tonsils into a yellow bucket before they put me back under.
Anyway, with Laurent Koscielny due back late from his summer exertions at the European Championships, it would leave us in a fairly precarious position at centre-half as the new season begins. You could already make a very good case that we need to sign a central defender, and while we’ve obviously done that with Rob Holding, I think it’s a lot to expect of a 20 year old to come into the side and be up to speed with Premier League football.
As it stands we’d be starting the season with Calum Chambers and Gabriel in the centre of defence. For Chambers in particular it might be an opportunity to stake a claim to a place. I thought he played pretty well overall when he got a chance last season, but the manager seemed to lose a bit of faith in him. Maybe something has changed in the meantime, but there have been a number of rumours about him leaving on loan for the season. If Mertesacker is injured then we simply can’t do that.
The solution, such as it is, seems obvious. Go out and buy a central defender, somebody who can immediately add something to the first team. The BFG is in the final year of his contract right now, and there don’t seem to be any moves to extend that at this stage. Koscielny will be 31 next month, not exactly over the hill by any means, but at an age where it would be cromulent to start planning for the future.
I know we have emergency options too, with Nacho Monreal having deputised there in the past, but the reality is that was because we didn’t have enough depth in that position. Interestingly, the manager said last week that he was still looking for offensive and defensive recruitments, so while all the focus is on our search for a striker or a forward who can excite us, there’s still work going on to make us defensively more secure and I’m all for that.
One man who might not be around is Mathieu Debuchy, with Bordeaux rumoured to be interested in taking him back to France on a permanent basis. I’d have no real issue with this, even if it did leave us with something to do at right back. It just hasn’t worked out for him since his move from Newcastle in the summer of 2014. I felt very sorry for him in his first season when injuries had a big effect on his Arsenal career, but not so much last season when his attitude left something to be desired.
I could understand how much he wanted to play at the Euros, and maybe he was just being realistic having seen the rapid progression of Hector Bellerin, but to agitate for a move away when he might have played his part in a squad that was challenging – at one point at least – for the title, seemed at odds with the team ethic you want to see. Especially from an experienced international player. If we can get some money for him, take it and then assess our options at right back.
On the other side you would say that Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs are more or less interchangeable in terms of the kind of player they are, their physiques and skill-sets. Obviously the Spaniard is first choice right now, but if Gibbs comes in to play, it doesn’t massively affect the way the team plays. My worry with the right back situation is that if Debuchy goes, the back-ups to Bellerin appear to be Chambers and Holding.
Bellerin has become very important to us in the way he plays on that side, but neither of the other two can play the same way. They’re central defenders doing a job out there, rather than specialists in that position, so I wonder if we do sell the Frenchman if that might give Arsene Wenger something to think about. Carl Jenkinson is a bit more Bellerin than the others, but he remains injured with a cruciate knee problem, and having been farmed out for two years on loan, you’d have to ask if he’s a player the manager really fancies. Just another small thing for us to worry about/obsess over.
Hopefully we’ll get updates and news from the tour as it progresses, and fingers crossed the news about Mertesacker isn’t bad. I know some would suggest that a long absence would force the manager’s hand in the transfer market, but we’ve seen in the past that similar situations haven’t done that, so that’s where my worry would be there.
For more on the transfer market, some chatting, some ranting, some discussion about how crazy it’s all gone and whether or not the lack of perceived value might affect Arsene Wenger’s thinking, check out this week’s Arsecast Extra. We also discuss Riyad Mahrez, dinner party sharks, and James tries marmalade for the first time in his life. It’s an action packed show, let me tell you.
Right, that’s that – news throughout the day on Arseblog News – and stand-by for a big announcement there today that will shake up the world of transfer rumours like nothing you’ve seen before. Sort of. A little bit. Perhaps.
Have a good one.