Arsenal head for Dubai today for some warm weather training, recuperation, battery recharging, and refocusing ahead of the second half of the Premier League season. I’m sure they’ll be doing some work on the training ground too, but I really think this is as much about hitting a kind of mid-season reset button as anything else.
The last month has been a real struggle. We can see that having a small squad, made smaller by AFCON absences, loan departures and stupid red cards, has taken a physical toll on some, and I’m sure there’s some mental fatigue in there too. We’ll have some players back, of course. Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka are available after suspension, while Nicolas Pepe (soon) and Mohamed Elneny (eventually) will return from AFCON.
Pepe looked pretty distraught after Ivory Coast’s elimination on penalties to Egypt, and I suspect in no small part that’s because he was enjoying playing having had scant minutes for us this season. Hopefully he’s not too downhearted when he comes back, and hopefully there’s more playing time for him. In his two seasons with us so far, the second part of it has been stronger than the first. In this instance, it wouldn’t take much for that to be true again, but I looked at a tired Bukayo Saka in the second half against Burnley and wished we had a quality substitution to make. At the very least, he gives us that.
I’m not necessarily convinced by the idea we should try him as a striker if we can’t make a signing. I do accept that his best moments come when he gets closer to the box, but I can’t see Mikel Arteta going for it, unless there’s some kind of crisis or desperation, and I’m hoping we don’t find ourselves in that kind of situation. I know, foolish of me as a long-standing Arsenal fan to think that some measure of crisperation won’t befall us at some point, but there you go.
What I do think though is that in order to maximise the final 17 games of the season, we have to maximise our squad. Regardless of who is playing up front, getting the most out of Saka, Pepe, Smith Rowe, and Martinelli in the wide positions seems important to me. I understand why Saka is ahead of Pepe in Arteta’s pecking order, but to get the best out of him, you need to not run him into the ground, and that will mean playing time for Pepe. Not just as a sub, but as a starter in certain games too. Keeping everyone as fresh as possible is part of how we elicit the maximum from them.
Meanwhile, on the transfer front, it doesn’t look as if the loan for Juventus midfielder Arthur is likely to go through:
🚨 Arsenal chances of Arthur loan diminishing. They want him until summer, Juventus want 18 months. Edu & Cherubini eventually aligned on 18 months + buy option at ~€40m but #AFC hierarchy reluctant. As things stand it’s not happening @TheAthleticUK #Juve https://t.co/VfOZrDj8TR
— David Ornstein (@David_Ornstein) January 26, 2022
I have to say something about this worries me a bit. We want a player until the end of the season, yet our Technical Director is agreeing to a deal to bring Arthur in for 18 months. I don’t care about the price of the purchase option because it’s an option and you can simply not take it up, but how is it that Edu – who must know we only want a player until summer – is negotiating a deal which leaves us for another full season with a player we don’t want in the long-term? Surely at the meetings they’ve had this is all crystal clear?
I could be wrong, of course, but it suggests that when it comes to midfield, all our eggs are in this basket, and that in order to get something done before the deadline on Monday we have to compromise to make it happen. Which is another layer of concern because why is that after almost a month of the window, and all the time we had beforehand to make plans, it’s this guy or bust? I don’t mind the player, I think he could add something between now and the end of the season, but if we’re serious about adding someone of quality in the summer window, that burdens us with someone who isn’t going to play much, or someone who is an impediment to younger players getting minutes they should because we feel obligated to use him. Which is to say, I can understand why the Arsenal hierarchy are reluctant.
I also wonder if that’s part of the reason why, despite some long-standing interest in Bruno Guimares, we’re not in for the Brazilian this month. His agent? Kia Joorabchian. When you look at the players he’s ‘brought’ to the club and how successful they’ve been on the pitch (not to mention some concerns about his relationships with executives past and present), if there was an edict from on high that we’re not going to do business with him for the foreseeable future I wouldn’t be at all surprised.
Righto. That’s it for this morning. News on Arseblog News as and when it happens, more here tomorrow including a brand new Arsecast.