Saturday, March 2, 2024

A huge month for Edu + thoughts on Henderson

Happy Friday, everyone. With the US tour done for the summer and the season fast approaching, there’s still plenty of work for Edu to do before the transfer window closes. Mikel Arteta is more than aware of that too.

“We have 30 players here which is unsustainable,” he said after yesterday’s win over Barcelona. So 30 is unsustainable and we know Arteta would ideally have 22 outfield players, at least that’s what he told us back in April 2022.

“If you can afford it — and we don’t have to do the turnaround in the squad that we’ve had to do — if you ask me what I want, it’s 22 outfield players and three goalkeepers.”

Including the players not taken on the tour — the likes of Cedric Soares, Nuno Tavares, Sambi Lokonga, Nicolas Pepe — that’s a hell of a lot of work for Edu to get through. So what would a 22-outfielders Arsenal squad look like for the new season and who does that leave behind? Let’s start with the certainties from back to front.

Defenders: Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Jurrien Timber, Jakub Kiwior.

The first choice back four from last season and the signings from the last two windows. Let’s add Takehiro Tomiyasu as well and that’s seven players.

Midfielders: Declan Rice, Thomas Partey, Jorginho, Martin Odegaard, Kai Havertz, Emile Smith Rowe.

Next up would be Fabio Vieira to take it to seven, and with Mohamed Elneny would be an eighth player. Looking at the number options in defensive midfield compared to further ahead, Elneny is really unlikely to play at all but I think he’s likely to stick around. But with four potential holding midfielders and then just four players for the two more advanced positions, I still wouldn’t at all be surprised to see Rice play a more box-to-box role at times.

Forwards: Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli, Leandro Trossard, Reiss Nelson.

And then let’s assume we keep one of Eddie Nketiah and Folarin Balogun.

That leaves us with … 21 players so far. And a lot of senior players omitted. I think we’re so over-indexed in defence, and there doesn’t seem to be that much interest in players there (Tierney aside — but not at the price we want for him) that we probably end up keeping one of Tierney and Rob Holding to take the squad to 22.

Which still means exits for: Tierney/Holding, Auston Trusty, Cedric Soares, Nuno Tavares, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Nicolas Pepe, Marquinhos, Nketiah/Balogun.

Plus potential loans for the likes of Amario Cozier-Duberry and the work that will go into determining the futures of younger players who have had loans already, like Charlie Patino and Brooke Norton-Cuffy. I hope Edu has more than one phone on the go because he is going to be a busy, busy man once he’s back in London.

Maybe we get enough done to make another signing — selling both Nketiah and Balogun, for example, or chasing up some of the interest that has been shown in Thomas Partey, though that now seems less likely. But for now the focus has to be on slicing this squad down to size.

On a very different note, it was such a disappointment to see Jordan Henderson complete a move to Saudi Arabia. He has done and said some fantastic things during his time as Liverpool captain and an England player, he has genuinely been a model ally for the LGBTQ+ community and a stellar example of how footballers can take a positive, public stance on a desperately important issue and provide light for people who may need it most.

In 2019, talking about the fantastic work of Stonewall and the Rainbow Laces campaign, he said this:

“I’m a parent, a husband, a son and a brother and the idea that anyone I love and care about wouldn’t feel safe or comfortable coming to watch me play if they were part of the LGBT community makes me wonder what world we live in.”

Henderson has now signed for a club where, as a parent, a husband, a son and a brother, anyone he loves and cares about cannot comfortably go to watch him if they are part of the LGBTQ+ community.

This is different to, say, Idrissa Gana Gueye refusing to wear rainbow coloured numbers while playing for Paris Saint-Germain (we don’t need to get into unpacking just how complicated that is) because Henderson has made incredibly clear that he not only holds a positive stance on LGBTQ+ issues but that was repeatedly willing to take that stance loudly, in public.

In a video announcing of his signing, Al-Ettifaq turned the rainbow armband worn by Henderson at times as Liverpool captain black and white. A slideshow of images of Henderson with the armband, the place players so often adorn those rainbow colours, and only the armband in black and white.

The message is clear: with enough money, allyship can be bought. The support can be distinguished. That is now the legacy he has to live with and it is bitterly disappointing. I sympathise with the Liverpool fans his views have resonated with in the past because I would be so angry and so gutted if this was one of our players.

I’ll leave it there for today ✊🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍⚧️

For something else to read this morning, check out Tim’s superb account of his time on the tour and how special it is that we all have this club connecting us no matter where in the world we are.

And for your ears: the Andrews have recorded an arsecast the morning after the win over Barcelona, you can find that below and in all the usual places.

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