It is now 25 days since Per Mertesacker got injured and maybe 24 days since the club knew that it was going to be serious and long term.
It is now 10 days since Gabriel picked up an ankle injury against Man City which the club thought might see him out of action for a similar time period to Mertesacker, but they got some ‘good’ news in that he would only be out for ‘6-8 weeks’.
Almost four weeks since we lost our captain and most experienced centre-half, and well over a week since the only other senior centre-half the manager trusted last season – Laurent Koscielny aside obviously – damaged ankle ligaments.
It is less than 24 hours since the official website ran a story in which Jack Wilshere calls Rob Holding a ‘natural’ and waxes lyrical about his qualities as a defender. Now, to be fair, I thought Holding was pretty good given the circumstances against Liverpool. He was thrown in at the deep end and although he ended up swallowing some of the pool water, he comported himself well in what ended up being a disappointing debut because of the result.
It is, of course, both impossible and unfair to make any definitive judgement on a 20 year old making his first Premier League start. He’s got the goodwill of being a new player and one who most would feel is being asked to do an extremely difficult job in circumstances which are far from ideal. If anyone thinks Rob Holding is the problem, they’re missing the point completely.
I don’t know exactly when but Arsenal were in touch with Valencia over Shkodran Mustafi, but an enquiry was made. The La Liga side, who desperately need to sell players because of their financial situation, told Arsenal that the 24 year old German international, part of the World Cup winning squad in 2014, would cost €25m.
Since then they have heard nothing. Now, it’s possible this is a deal being managed/completed by agents or intermediaries, but if you had to guess based on our track record, it’s Arsenal taking their time. Perhaps they don’t want to pay €25m for him. Maybe they don’t think he’s worth it, but given almost any professional footballer with a heartbeat the ability to kick in a ball in more or less the right direction costs upwards of £20m these days, it doesn’t seem unreasonable.
Maybe we’re exploring cheaper options because we’re so intent on spending big on that striker we need that we knew we needed in June when we tried to buy Jamie Vardy yet but when he turned us down could find nobody of similar calibre in two months. Maybe that’s it.
What does it say to the player if we’re humming and hawing over him when our need is so obvious? If, as reported, we’ve agreed personal terms with him, what is the message he gets when he’s being asked to train alone at Valencia – presumably for fitness but also to ensure he doesn’t pick up a knock that might preclude the deal – and his destination club haven’t responded to the enquiry made about his price?
And why is that Arsenal, who face champions Leicester
at home away this Saturday, have sat on their hands and done nothing whatsoever to address the issue we have at the centre of our defence? As I said on Monday, Holding and Chambers were not individually or specifically to blame for the defeat, but I don’t believe we’d have been pulled apart the way we were with a more experienced partnership in there.
There’s no logic, rhyme or reason for this that I can see. I just don’t understand it at all. Let’s say, bear with me here because I’m moving into realms of surrealism and fantasy, we agree everything with Valencia today. The player has to come to England, undergo and pass a medical, the paperwork has to be completed, and everything else. It’s possible that it might be done by the 12 noon deadline on Friday that would allow him to play on Saturday.
Can you realistically ask a guy who will have barely trained with his new team, just about learned people’s names, to come in and play against Leicester? A new country, a new style of play, new language (maybe he speaks some English, I don’t know), all provide challenges and a little bit of settling in would help in that regard.
If, and again I time travel into a magical land where things make some actual sense, we had pushed through the deal for him last week, he could at least have moved some of his shit into the hotel he’d have to be living in, and had a full week on the training ground. He might, you know, be ready to play and thus help the team. But we didn’t do that. We didn’t do anything. We haven’t done anything.
What will today bring? More nothing? If that was an Olympic sport we’d be draped in gold medals. Or, perhaps, something. Something would be good. We’re heading into the forest of better late than never, but questions should be asked about why it’s taken us so long to react to a situation which even the most casual observer could see was one which might make things extremely challenging.
What are we waiting for? An injury to Holding or Chambers so someone might say ‘You know, I think we could need a defender?’. Is a Debuchy/Monreal central-defensive pairing the final piece in Arsene Wenger’s Summer of 2016 performance art? I wish I knew. I don’t understand.
This is not rocket science but in the time since Mertesacker got injured most of us could have learned how to make a rocket. A shit rocket, but a rocket nonetheless. YouTube tutorials all the way.
I might go make a rocket, just to pass the time.