I think one of the more challenging aspects of this season is going to be the lack of European football. A bad result at the weekend can be offset – somewhat – by a good one in midweek.
Lose to some twats, batter some other less twatty twats. It doesn’t make everything right, but at least it is a distraction. You have another game to think about, to report on, to analyse, or waffle about. Now, bad weekends linger, like a Guinness fart in a small room with no windows. The room feels very small right now. The lack of windows should be outlawed by the Geneva convention. And I think someone had all the Guinness and a late night kebab too.
Amazingly, there wasn’t a single draw in the opening weekend of the Premier League. 10 wins, 10 defeats. Seven home wins, three away. Obviously it’s too early to start seeing any patterns, but I do wonder if the return of fans might skew things towards the teams playing at home. Given our next fixture, I hope so.
There are now just over two weeks left before the transfer window shuts, and behind the scenes Arsenal must be feeling quite anxious. Friday night’s game really did highlight some deficiencies in the squad. A goalkeeper is an absolute must, no two ways about it. Even though we have four right backs, Mikel Arteta sent a message by taking one off, leaving three of them on the bench, and putting on a left back in that position. Perhaps it was about just giving the new enthusiastic guy a chance, but managers often demonstrate how they’re feeling with the decisions they make. Putting Nuno Tavares on against Brentford really felt pointed, to me at least.
Our search for a striker has been thwarted by the inability to move anyone on. I suspect Arteta would quite happily clear out the two senior men plus Eddie Nketiah, but nobody’s taking Aubameyang’s wages, nobody’s been openly interested in Lacazette (and his wages are an issue too), while we can’t shift Eddie – although we did knock back a £12m bid from Crystal Palace, a decision which now looks a bit daft. I think we’d bite anyone’s hand off for that now, not least because he’s injured and any possible departure is going to be complicated by that.
I did enjoy the story in the Catalan media yesterday which said Barcelona would be interested in one or the other of Auba/Laca, but only if they can shift Martin Braithwaite. If that happens, they’d be keen to add a striker to the mix (they seem to have a big attacking hole to fill for some reason). However, their finances being what they are and the fact they don’t have tuppence ha’apenny to their name means they would only be able to offer a swap deal.
We already know that our pursuit of a goalkeeper involves Neto, represented by Edu’s good pal and yachting partner, Kia Joorabchian. How handy! But one average goalkeeper surely doesn’t add up to one striker, not even in this crazy market. Who else might Barcelona have that we would consider?
We need some ‘creativity’, don’t we? What about Philippe Coutinho and guess what? We have a man on the inside, kindly Kia is his agent, would do us a favour I’m sure, and negotiate a six year contract at a very reasonable rate for a 29 year old who would increase our shooting from distance quotient considerably. We could run bets on which of him and Thomas Partey will whack more shots over the bar over the course of a season.
Of course I’m being flippant, but it’s like joking through dark times. You use humour as a defence mechanism, to offset the fear. Do I expect this? Not really, but would it surprise me if it happened? Not at all.
I suppose if I’m going to talk about frightening scenarios, I suppose I should offset that with one which I would like. If – and I think it’s a big, big if – they would take one of the strikers and we could bring in Frenkie de Jong, I’d definitely consider that. I think we’d have to have supernatural powers of persuasion to make him even consider us right now, but let me daydream just a little.
Whatever the truth of all this, the manager, the technical director, and those behind the scenes have an absolutely massive couple of weeks coming up off the pitch – not to mention the increasing pressure that will ramp up of things don’t go well on it. Arteta’s frustration was palpable in his pre-game press conference, there were some less than convincing comments about the season ahead and certain individuals, and it’s almost certainly because of the state of the squad.
Again, this is no slight on the player himself, but when you’re chasing a game and you’re bringing on Reiss Nelson who played just 69 minutes of Premier League football last season, your squad rebuilding project has not gone to plan. Like one of those home building shows where they go late, over budget, they don’t have enough money to put a roof on, and it’s just started pissing rain.
Right, let’s leave it at that this morning. James and I recorded the Arsecast Extra for you yesterday, so if you haven’t had a chance to listen, it’s below – and in all the usual podcast places.