Something that keeps cropping up on Twitter etc, and which became a question in this week’s podcast, is how people would have reacted if, for example, Arsene Wenger had decided to sign a 34 year old right-back on a free transfer (it’s believed we’re doing exactly that with veteran Stephan Lichtsteiner).
I mean, I understand why people ask it. For some it’s genuine curiosity, for others it’s to hammer home a point about how Wenger could have rocked up with a Boston Dynamics Super Footballer Robot who was Messi, Ronaldo, Bergkamp and Henry rolled into one and someone would still find a way to complain. But really, what is the point of asking?
It serves no useful purpose at all, and simply frames everything we’re doing now in a Wenger context which is completely irrelevant now that we’re in new era under Unai Emery.
Quick point of order: I realise that the new set-up is different, that there are many layers, that decisions are being made an executive committee, but for the ease of simply writing about what’s happening, I don’t want to have to mention Ivan Gazidis, Sven Mislintat and Raul Sanllehi every single time. So, when I talk about the manager or head coach, I’m doing so in the full knowledge that he is working within this structure.
We have to allow him the time and space to make decisions and do things without the constant looking backwards. Without saying ‘Oooh, well Arsene Wenger would never have done this or that’. Without the old manager casting more of a shadow on the new one than the 22 years he spent in charge already does.
Let’s analyse what he does and how he does it on its own merits. If there are times when the the old manager is relevant, then we can acknowledge that but not every single thing has to be viewed through a Wenger prism.
Emery is reportedly keen to build his team around Aaron Ramsey, according to various reports, and the club are keen for the Welshman to stay with a new five year deal on offer. They’re looking for decisiveness from him, suggesting that if he doesn’t agree new terms he’ll be sold, and that’s understandable.
I don’t think you can do what we did with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil again. One left, one stayed, but there’s no doubt that their situations were a distraction, and by any reasonable standards it’s a poor way to operate letting players get into the final 12 months of their contract. The power is already skewed too far in their favour, and the only real outcome is to give the player exactly what he wants – whether that’s massive money or a move away.
I really want us to keep Ramsey, but if he won’t agree to a new deal this summer – particularly as I’m sure it’s one which will be very healthy in terms of a salary increase etc – then he should be sold, and that money reinvested back into the squad. Still, he does sound like he’s looking forward to getting going under Emery, saying this week:
I haven’t spoken to him at all yet, but I think it’s an exciting time for the club. I can’t wait to get back there now.
Is the ‘now’ telling or not? It might suggest he wasn’t as keen to get back before, but I suspect it’s a bit more innocent, just a turn of phrase. What will be interesting is what kind of a role the new boss sees for him. According to Gazidis, Emery arrived with an impressive amount of knowledge about the current squad, their strengths and their weaknesses etc, so while he might well view Ramsey as a player who could be a key part of what he wants to do, it can’t have escaped his knowledge that he’s a bit injury prone.
When he’s fit and in form he’s a brilliant asset, providing goals and creativity from the centre of midfield above and beyond anything anyone else in this squad can offer. It could well be a case that Emery is exactly the right person to add some discipline to Ramsey’s game, making him even more effective in a central role – and for those who scoff he has the intelligence, the physicality, the quality and everything else you need to do that.
And yet, a hamstring tweak or a calf strain can leave him sidelined not just for weeks, but for months. Perhaps new training, the new Head of High Performance, different management of his body and everything else might have a positive impact on his injuries, but the longevity of his injury absences have to surely be a consideration when you’re deciding how best to build your team.
I know it’s only paper-talk – this idea that he’s going to build around Ramsey – so I’d say it’s more a case he views him as a key player in the current squad rather than the Axis of Emery. I hope we can keep him, because as much as we like to talk about Hector Bellerin, Alex Iwobi, and some of the younger members of the squad as ripe for improvement under a new manager, I’m convinced Emery’s experience means he can also get more out of some of the senior players too.
Beyond that, it seems that the two veteran defenders are on their way, with deals expected to be confirmed shortly, while there’s potentially a younger addition coming too with highly rated 17 year old PSG midfielder Yacine Adli tipped to follow Emery from Paris to North London.
We’ll have more on those stories on Arseblog News, and keep an eye out later for a post on how to get involved in tomorrow’s phone-in Arsecast, which I’ll be doing a bit later on – from around 7pm or so.