Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Some members day training reports + Alexis stays while Lucas can go

Hello everyone, I’m a bit knackered today, yesterday was a pretty long day, but an interesting one. I was at Members Day, and I watched the training. A few things stood out for me.

1 – Jack Wilshere looks sharp. Maybe it’s because it was a relatively leisurely paced session, but he seemed to me that burst of speed at times which is so integral to his game was back.

2 – Olivier Giroud spends a lot of time lying on the ground, At first I thought it was a bit silly, but then I realised it’s just part of who he is. At one point he lost the ball during a training game, and lay on the ground spread-eagled like a handsome bearded French starfish as the ball went up the other end. As soon as the ball looked like it might come back up the end he was attacking, he leapt up like a handsome bearded French salmon and went for the ball, didn’t get it, fell over and lay on the ground again. At which I point I decided this is just who he is and I embraced that.

3 – Reiss Nelson is really something. I saw him do this and figured it couldn’t have been as good as I thought, but replays showed that, if anything, it was better. I mean, ooooof:

4 – Alexis looked sharp, almost like he’d never been away, as did Lacazette. Sharp, I mean, not the away bit because he’s only just joined. Hector Bellerin scored a lovely goal.

5 – Towards the end Jens Lehmann was doing a drill with Rob Holding, asking the centre-half to ping balls to him from one side of the pitch to the far touchline. The first couple of efforts were a bit wayward, and even up the stand I could hear him shout ‘WHAT WAS THAT?!’. Holding subsequently found his range and further passes were greeted with thumbs-ups from Jens.

All in all, pretty interesting to watch the session, even if I suspect it was a bit tame because of the occasion. Afterwards, Arsene Wenger held his pre-Community Shield press conference, and was inevitably asked about Alexis Sanchez and his future. As he has been throughout the summer, the manager remained consistent, saying:

The only thing I can tell you is he is focused. My decision is clear. He will stay, it’s as simple as that and he will respect that.

He really can’t be any more clear about it. I like the bit about how ‘he will respect that’, like Sanchez is not quite there yet, but I really don’t see how, after everything he’s said, the club’s position on this is movable in any way. He was also asked about negotiations over a new deal, and was a little less forthcoming:

Every negotiation has to be a little bit secret. Transparency in society is very pushy, but we have to resist a little bit – as much as we can. We know as well we have a duty to inform people. But to talk about some things is not information anymore, it’s suicide.

At this point, if our position on his departure this summer is so fixed, I do wonder if we might see Alexis sign a new deal. He’s earning good money from Arsenal, but he could be earning more. He knows that, his agent knows that, but he’s not going to get it this summer because he’s not going to get a move. A two year extension at Arsenal that gives him a healthy pay-rise and an escape clause if he wants to go next summer or the summer after means he’s earning more, and there’d be some scope for his departure if he wanted to leave.

I think Luis Suarez did something similar with Liverpool, and it’d be a decent compromise for player and club. In the short-term he boosts his salary considerably – and based on his performances he merits that – while even if he does go next summer it won’t be for free and the club would get some money for him. Let’s see.

Meanwhile, the boss confirmed the inevitable departure of Lucas Perez, saying that there’s just too much congestion in the forward positions for him to get the games he should:

We have a congestion of strikers. I don’t like to lose him because, for me, he’s a top-quality striker but we have many strikers. At some stage, too much competition is not competition anymore. You cannot give a chance to everybody, so if he finds a satisfying solution, at least for a short time, he will do it.

Which hints at a loan move rather than a permanent one, but let’s see what happens here. I also think there needs to be a little perspective around Perez. He’s a player I like, he did well when given chances, and I feel like he deserved a better crack of the whip.

However, in the eyes of Arsene Wenger he’s basically our fourth choice centre-forward, and maybe lower down the pecking order for one of the supplementary forward positions. It’s also clear that the squad is too big and needs to be trimmed – perhaps we’re even in a position where we want (need) to sell before we buy again – so he’s an obvious candidate to go. Clearly there are others who are on that list, but I don’t think this is a huge tragedy or injustice.

Whether we accept the bid from Deportivo, or seek more from other suitors remains to be seen, but given we’ve just very publicly deemed him available for transfer, it might mean taking what we can get and cutting our losses.

Right, that’s your lot for today. For some extra reading here’s Tim Stillman on some players who have a big season ahead of them, and I’m back tomorrow.

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