Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Some more thoughts on Mahrez and what extra Xhaka might bring to this team

I know people are outraged that we haven’t yet signed a striker, but do you want to know what’s a real outrage? I’ll tell you. For the last two days in Dublin we’ve had sunshine and temperatures in the mid-late 20s C. This morning, the sky is grey and it is a little bit cooler than it was. That’s an outrage. You can’t tease us like that and expect it to be ok.

You can’t give us this taste of gloriousness and then remove it before we’ve even had a chance to take a real bite. Curse you nature, my one true, ever-lasting enemy. You are Skeletor to my He-Man, Newman to my Seinfeld, Danny Mills to my every single person that saw Danny Mills play football or who has since been subjected to his opinions about the game either in print or broadcast form.

Anyway, I suppose it’s a case of back to reality but as we all know reality sucks great big hairy donkey balls so it’s not always easy to deal with. How about this supposed reality from Claudio Ranieri about Riyad Mahrez?

Has he had a change of heart from last week when he and his people leaked the news that he wanted to go? Maybe Jamie Vardy has been round his house crying ‘Dnt leave me m8. Dnt n’golo like kuntykante. I’ll buy you 2 cases of wkd blue!’, perhaps that’s what changed his mind. He couldn’t bear to see his pointy-chinned pal sad and upset with only his new £120,000 a week four year deal and a weird lookalike bloke to keep him happy.

On the other hand, it could be posturing from Ranieri, as knows fine well Mahrez would like to leave. Interestingly, a journalist on L’Equipe TV yesterday said that he knew ‘for sure’ that the player would like to come to Arsenal. I can’t speak to his credibility of that of his sources, but he also said something about how, when it comes to transfers, Arsene Wenger is always on the starting blocks but never starting (cheers Ollie).

He’s got that last part quite right so I’m prepared to believe him about the first bit too. The word is that Barcelona are interested though, but that comes from the Catalan press who would, if the devil emerged from hell and announced his plans to wreak havoc and pestilence upon the earth before casting us all down to eternal damnation, write a story about how before he did all that he’d like to play for Barça because it’s his lifelong dream.

And of course all this is based on the assumption that we’re interested in Mahrez at all, but if Arsene Wenger saw enough of Leicester to try and buy Vardy, as well as routinely praise the quality of Kante in midfield, it can’t have escaped his notice that what the Algerian did for them last season is exactly what we need someone to do for us for the next few years. It would be astonishing to me if we weren’t keen on him. Goals and assists from wide positions? It’s a no-brainer.

Elsewhere, Per Mertesacker and Francis Coquelin have been talking about new boy Granit Xhaka and sound excited about what he can bring to the midfield. The new Arsenal captain says:

He’s a leader and that is really important, especially in midfield. He has got a very good attitude, is very composed on the ball and contributes a lot. He is a good passer as well, so he will set the tempo. I am looking forward to how he does it, how composed he will be in training and in the games. He will be the perfect signing for us.

While the Coq says:

I saw him in the Euros and he’s a good passer of the ball, he’s strong and good in the air so I think he’s going to add quality and strength to the squad and that’s a good thing.

I think what I’m most interested in, beyond his obvious quality as a midfield player, is the fact that he’s got a bit of an edge to him. He might chip away at some of the inherent niceness we have. We obviously need players who can improve us with what they do with the ball, but I don’t think it would do us any harm to bring in one or two whose attitude makes us seem less of a pushover.

I’m not suggesting we get people who go out and clobber others or set out to do the opposition in any nasty way, but even a bit of ‘Hey, I’m not having that’, when one of our players is on the end of something ‘robust’ in a game would be a step-forward. From what we know of Xhaka he’s got a bit of that about him, so it’ll be interesting to see how that manifests itself and whether or not it might transmit itself to the rest of the team.

For example, if a player pushed one of our players while he was in the air, breaking his shoulder, or into a camera position at Norwich, I’d expect him to take exception to that. Not stand around, or complain uselessly to a referee who clearly isn’t going to do anything about it. We shall see.

Finally for today, it’s expected that the signing of Rob Holding from Bolton will be made official. Perhaps there’ll be something in the announcement from the club that will give us a clue to his stature or role in the squad for the upcoming season. We’ll have all the details over on Arseblog News.

Right, I’m off to shake my fist at the clouds. Till tomorrow.

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