Some interesting bits from Mikel Arteta’s press conference yesterday, starting with the fact that we’re looking for a goalkeeper during this transfer window. Having sold Emi Martinez to Aston Villa, there was a need for some back-up, beyond that which now former Gunner Matt Macey could provide (he joined Hibernian a few days ago).
The man we brought in, Alex Runarsson, hasn’t quite looked up to the job. Eyebrows were raised when it was reported we were signing a player who had lost his place at Dijon, but there was a connection between him and our current goalkeeping coach Inaki Cana Pavon. The two had worked together previously at FC Nordsjaelland in Denmark, and it seems clear that Runarsson’s capture was made on his recommendation.
Arsenal had also been chasing Brentford’s Spanish keeper, David Raya, for some time, but flush with cash from selling Ollie Watkins to Villa and a healthy loan fee (plus a transfer fee down the line) from West Ham for Said Benrahma, they rebuffed all offers. It meant we went further down the pecking order than we might have liked, and the Icelandic international was the man we chose.
He’s made six appearances in total, four in the Europa League and two in the Carabao Cup. He was barely tested in Europe, such was the calibre of opposition, but when we faced Man City he had nightmare game, one of those performances that was so bad you kinda feel sorry for the player but one which is pretty hard to come back from.
So, it’s little wonder Arteta confirmed there are efforts to address the issue, saying:
We are assessing the situation with the three positions on the goalkeeping area and we will find a different solution, probably in this window. The discussion we had in the summer within the club are a little bit different to what actually happened because of the transfer window and the situation that developed with Emi.
We didn’t have much time to do what we really wanted to do and we decided to assess the situation in this window which is what we are trying to do and we will make a decision on how we want to move forward in those three positions.
While I do have some sympathy for the idea that it was difficult to find a replacement for Martinez in a difficult market, there was basically a full month between his departure and the close of the window. And the idea that the Argentine might leave was hardly a shock, given his express desire to play first team football on a regular basis, so it’s not as if we were completely caught on the hop.
However, it’s another issue from the last window which indicates how we were scrambling following the departure – and the necessary departure let me make clear – of Head of Football, Raul Sanllehi. We didn’t complete the paperwork for William Saliba’s loan back to Saint-Etienne, and in our desperation we took the word of the goalkeeping coach and signed a player who, with the greatest of respect to him, isn’t quite up to it at this level. Seasoned watchers of French football expressed surprise over the deal, and it’s no shock at all we’re back in the market for another keeper.
Last season demonstrated the importance of solid back-up, and we’re an injury to Bernd Leno away from being in a real pickle. Quite who they bring in remains to be seen, but I’d imagine some kind of experienced keeper on loan until the end of the season makes sense. There are young keepers like Karl Hein and Arthur Okonkwo who could provide that third choice cover if Runarsson goes out on loan, but a solid deputy for Leno makes a lot of sense.
One thing I would say though is that based on his recommendation for Runarsson, the goalkeeping coach should be removed from this process completely. That is not the right way to recruit. Edu has all the data and software at his disposal; there’s StatDNA in-house (now known as Arsenal Data Analytics as per The Athletic £); he has scouts and analysts; and they should be identifying goalkeeping targets, like he said the process would work, not a coach who likes a bloke because he’s worked with him before.
And if the Raya interest is mostly predicated on his relationship with Inaki Cana Pavon, then it needs to be reassessed. It’s not to say he can’t be the right player, but he should be analysed the same as any other potential candidate and if he stacks up and is the best player we can get for the best price, then fine. But no more mates of mates signings because that’s got us in enough strife over the last little while.
This window does appear to be about clearing the decks, trimming the fat, or however you want to put it, but if the acknowledgement we have an issue in the goalkeeping position is encouraging, I’d be interested to know what our plan is for left back. Sead Kolasinac is gone, and as it stands Kieran Tierney is our only natural player for that position.
I know that Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Cedric Soares can provide cover there, but both feel like last resort options rather than an actual alternative to the Scottish international. It’s impossible not to love Tierney, how he plays and how much he brings to the team, but it’s also impossible to keep playing him in every game between now and the end of the season without him suffering fatigue, at the very least, or something worse. There is clearly a need to have some kind of back-up for him, and I do wonder if that’s something we might be looking at in this window too.
Right, I’ll leave it there for now, and if you haven’t heard it yet yesterday’s Arsecast Extra is below, all the links you need to listen/subscribe are there. Enjoy!