Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Champions League draw + Transfer Deadline Day

Good morning, happy Friday to you all.

We begin today with the Champions League draw which took place last night. Arsenal have drawn Sevilla, PSV, and Lens. On paper it looks a very ‘Europa League’ group, and before anyone starts, I’m not complaining about that. It could have been much more difficult, and the fact Bayern Munich will have to wait until the knock-out rounds – if we get there – is a relief at this point.

We have some recent history with PSV, they beat us last season, but I think we’re a bit different now, and they’ve certainly lost a couple of players who were very important to them. Our history with Sevilla goes back to the Champions League in 200-08 when we lost 3-1 away, but won 3-0 at home thanks to goals from Cesc, van Persie and Eduardo. And with Lens, we faced them in consecutive seasons in the Champions League (98-99 – is that when we wore that blue kit with yellow socks?!), and then in the UEFA Cup the following year.

Like I said, this could have been a much trickier draw, and I think we should feel confident about going through from this group. Which isn’t to take anything for granted, our European record under Mikel Arteta hasn’t been great, and this is an aspect of this season which is so interesting. Competing on two important fronts is challenging, but we ought to have to the squad depth and quality to come through this. So, let’s see how it goes.

Now this.

Transfer Deadline Day

The window closes at 11pm this evening, and it seems more likely that Arsenal’s business will be outgoing rather than incoming today. There are players who need to move on, and we’ll wait and see what happens with Rob Holding, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Nicolas Pepe and Cedric.

It looks as if Nuno Tavares’ loan to Nottingham Forest has been sorted out, and you’d expect that to go through today, but the others are still pending. I think this is particularly important for Holding and Sambi, because of their ages and profiles. The reality is that after the window closes, Arsenal have to submit a squad list and the likelihood is that neither of them are going to be on it, leaving them in a kind of limbo which is no good for them or the club.

I exclude Pepe from this because I wonder if the fact that Saudi Arabian window doesn’t shut until September 20th might give him more options, and I think it’s easier to see him there than the other two. As for Cedric, he’s still on big money from his Bosman and with a year to go and almost zero interest as far as we know, he could/should get a carriage clock, a bag of money, and a one-way bus ticket to anywhere else.

As for incomings, it doesn’t look as if there’s anything stirring, but if I was Mikel Arteta I would be asking quite loudly for a defender. Even if it’s just a loan deal – and I appreciate the difficulty of finding the right player in that market – I’d be more comfortable with the squad depth if we did that. Assuming Holding goes, with Tavares basically gone, and Cedric essentially useless to this team anyway, it leaves him with six first team defenders: Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel (over whom there are some questions as it stands), Jakub Kiwior, Takehiro Tomiyasu, and Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Given the injury issues the last two players have suffered, and taking into account Saliba suffered a serious back injury not that long ago, I would definitely feel a lot better if we had another body in there. I know there’s a decent amount of versatility in that group, and if push comes to shove both Thomas Partey and Declan Rice can play in the back four, but that’s a scenario you’d like to avoid given how much they contribute in midfield. Maybe, and it’s a big maybe, you can dip into the Academy for someone like Reuell Walters, but it’s unclear just how ready he is at this moment in time.

Whether it happens or not, I have no idea. We just feel a little light at the back for my liking, and I hope we’re open to the opportunity to make an addition. By which I mean, we’re actively trying to find someone, but let’s see.

As ever, you can follow the day’s stories on our Transfer Deadline Day Live Blog, we’ll be there until 11pm with news of any Arsenal related stuff, and the big stories from elsewhere too.

Right, let’s leave it there for now. Catch you throughout the day.

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