Sunday, December 10, 2023

Fun time holiday snaps

Six days to go. This day next week we’ll be going over what happened in our opening game of the season against Brentford which takes place on Friday night.

We still don’t have a number 2 goalkeeper. We’re still light in the attacking midfield department. And despite there being basically an entire team of players we’d be happy enough to move on, we haven’t made a single sale yet this summer – beyond the Matteo Guendouzi deal which won’t see us get paid until next year.

With the clock ticking you’d expect everyone to be hard at work, burning the midnight oil and all the rest. So, I wonder how more social media pictures of Edu enjoying himself in Spain will be perceived inside the club. Let me be clear: everyone is entitled to their leisure time, everyone is entitled to their private life. People can also work anywhere these days because of technology. That goes without saying (even though I just said it, but you know what I mean).

I just wonder why it is that the Technical Director of this football club, which is struggling to improve after a fairly torrid couple of seasons, isn’t at least concerned about the optics of pictures like this. You can still have a nice time on your break without that break being made public knowledge. Perhaps there was an element of work involved in this, but I’m not sure which Real Mallorca player we might have been after.

In possibly the most important summer in Arsenal’s recent history, we know Edu has been in Portugal on holiday; on a yacht with Kia Joorabchian and former Head of Football Raul Sanllehi; and now he’s in Spain. Maybe he doesn’t really care, and I suspect that’s probably the case, but it doesn’t present a great image – not least when you’re six days out from the start of the season and you still have so much to do.

Edu comes across as a very affable man, charming in his way, and as I said earlier, everyone needs and is entitled to time off. He just doesn’t come across as fully serious when it comes to his work, and this summer, of all summers, Arsenal need some of that. The window is open until August 31st, of course, and what the work he presides over between now and then will be more important to his reputation than some Instagram stories, but he’s not doing himself any favours either.

To be fair, there are things he deserves credit for. Mikel Arteta made it clear that he’d played a significant role in convincing Folarin Balogun to sign a new deal; we’ve tied down Emile Smith Rowe to a new contract (not that it was a particularly challenging situation); the age profile of the signings we’ve made is encouraging and hints at a strategy/plan, and that hasn’t been the case in some time.

However, we have a clutch of players (Lacazette, Nketiah, Kolasinac, Nelson) with 12 months left on their contracts that haven’t been sold or moved on; the Granit Xhaka thing was a bit of mess – not entirely of our own making – but the contract renewal stuff is confusing; we nominally have four right backs and the best of them is a guy whose reputation in that position was only salvaged last season having been roasted in one game seven years ago; Willian remains a millstone around our necks and a reminder of the kind of agent-indulgent transfer business Edu was directly involved with last summer; we don’t have Martin Odegaard from the squad that finished last season so we’re weaker in that area of the pitch; if Bernd Leno gets a kick on the knee against Brentford we’re reliant on a kid or Icespina to cover against Chelsea and Man City; and the injury to Thomas Partey means we could start a new season with a midfield partnership of Xhaka and Elneny, which is the equivalent of rushing downstairs on Christmas morning to unwrap your new bike only to find a rusted Penny Farthing under the tree.

I think we can all recognise the market is difficult, and there are things that make this window particularly challenging. We know there’s likely to be more action towards the end of August as market forces dictate how things will go for players and clubs. I just don’t think it looks great when your Technical Director is showing the world he’s having a lovely time on his travels (and even leaving football work aside, there’s still a global pandemic going on).

Anyway, as far as I’m concerned Edu can pose for pictures on roller-coasters, at the seaside, on slides, pleasure boats, gigantic ball pits like in kids’ playgrounds, and anywhere else he fancies as long as the work gets done. But maybe do the work first, and the Instagram later.

Till tomorrow.

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