Rob Holding signs as club and manager change the message about transfers

Good morning and happy Saturday to you. A quick look at what went down yesterday, and there was some interesting stuff. Let’s start with an actual signing, and the capture of Rob Holding from Bolton Wanderers was made official.

The 20 year old was Bolton’s Player of the Year last season, but is obviously still very raw having played just 30 games in his career. He’s been handed the number 16 shirt though, which suggests first team involvement, and he spoke about the move to official site, saying:

It’s a massive club to have signed for. It’s something you dream of as a kid, so I can’t wait to get started. There’s massive competition here and it will only improve me. It will push me to new boundaries and hopefully I can prove my worth.

The fee is believed to be around £2.5m plus add-ons, but there were a couple of notable things about the announcement. Firstly, the lack of any quotes from Arsene Wenger struck me as a bit odd. Usually when we sign a player, the manager says something about how he’s a versatile player who will add to the squad and blah blah blah, but there was nothing like that in this case.

Perhaps they’re just saving it for a separate article, but it still seems a bit strange to me. Even if AW was indisposed yesterday preparing for the friendly against Lens, he must have been aware this was going down beforehand, and these things are normally pre-prepared. It’s not a huge issue, ultimately Arsene Wenger decides who we buy and Holding wouldn’t be an Arsenal player if he didn’t want him, but it’s a break from the norm.

The second thing was that at the end of the announcement, there was a line which said: ‘We remain in the market, so stay close to for any further transfer news.’

In all the years of following this club online, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before. It’s almost as if it was a deliberate response to the somewhat underwhelming comments made by Ivan Gazidis which had people exercised yesterday. I don’t think it was a tactic just to make people check the website more, so it feels like something a bit more concerted. A feeling backed up the manager’s comments after the 1-1 draw with Lens last night.

Unsurprisingly he was asked about transfers, and seemed to contradict the message Gazidis appeared to be sending by saying that he’s ready to spend big, with the well-worn caveat that it has to be on the right players:

I am sure that my chief executive didn’t want to dampen the expectations on that front. We are very active. If we find the right candidates then we will spend the big money. We have already spent big [on Granit Xhaka]. We are active, very active every day and it’s not over. Today we are on July 22 and the transfer market finishes on August 31. You know that a lot happens in the last week, so it’s a long time to go, but we are active and we are working.

We have definitely heard this kind of stuff before, and I understand why people might be cynical about it. Chief Executive hints at a conservative spend and ludicrously suggests that we’ve got a squad that can compete for the Premier League and people get upset. Within hours the official website is hinting there’s more to come in the transfer market and the manager says he’s prepared to spend big.

Classic media manipulation, or genuinely just crossed lines/mixed messages? Obviously people can make up their own minds on that, but the only proof will be in what we actually do. Not what we say, not what we talk about, not what we hint at, but what we get done between now and the start of the season or the close of the window.

I’ll admit that part of me is now feeling a little more encouraged, that at the very least we’re open to doing more business, but I remain cautious because the ‘right player’ is such a vague term and an easy get-out that’s been used before. Ultimately though, nobody is expecting him to go and spend big money on a player who isn’t good enough or doesn’t fit – yet it’s his job to find the right players and make sure we act with the kind of decisiveness and alacrity that makes the deals happen. Let’s see how it goes.

Last night, we played our first pre-season game, drawing 1-1 with RC Lens. I didn’t watch much of it. I started but then realised there’s a whole long season ahead of us, and there wasn’t anything particularly new or interesting about last night’s team so I switched off. We went behind in the first half, but equalised in the second through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

His finish was really rather gorgeous, but keep an eye on the defender who appears to knock himself out off the post. Classic. There’s really very little to read into performances or results in pre-season, they are training exercises, so getting angry or outraged by any of it is a total waste of time. There are always some, however, and in some ways those people do us a service because we know they, along with YouTube commenters, ought to be put on a rocket and sent into space, thus improving humanity greatly.

Right, that’s that for today. I hope you have the right Saturday.


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