By Tony Attwood
I am going to try an experiment, and see if it is possible to write a series of articles about the next window’s transfers (ie Jan 2018), with commentaries that are not based on rampant negativity (“Arsenal must plug this gap now!!!”) and outright fantasy. An antidote to the make-believe gossip.
Of course I don’t have any detailed inside knowledge of what the club is about to do; the last person they would ever tip off is someone who writes a blog. But even so, a little voice inside my head says it must be possible to produce a preview of transfers based on facts, statistics and reality.
So I take as my starting point this little gem from the Independent today about the Arsenal: “There was scant improvement to the playing squad in the summer.”
Just to remind you we gained Kolasinac and Lacazette while out went out the Ox, Szczesny, Gabriel, Gibbs, Lukas, Jenkinson, Sanogo, Martinez, Campbell. None of those nine players who left either permanently or on loan were regulars in the first team through the season, while Kolasinac and Lacazette have become just that. The Ox is the only one who could have been seen as about to make it all happen, but he wasn’t really making it, and his time at Liverpool thus far suggests that maybe he was not a superstar waiting to happen.
So that’s my baseline: I have to do a bit better than that comment above, as well as a bit better than “Arsenal fans will be worried that…” and a fair bit better than “Arsenal will sell Mustafi who is desperate to leave and buy Mbappe”, which was the staple diet of last summer.
The question is, how is it to be done? If we don’t have inside information and don’t have fantasy and make believe, what do we have? The answer must be logic, analysis and need. So that is what I will use and in this episode I am going to start at the back with the keepers.
Last summer we were told in no uncertain terms that we were going to sign Kasper Schmeichel to “solve our goalkeeping crisis.” Wojciech Szczesny didn’t come back either, as we were told was certain to happen. Iker Casillas from Porto was also firmly tipped but he didn’t appear. Pontus Dahlberg of Gothenburg was “being keenly watched” but he didn’t sign and the bid that we were told would happen “in a day or two” for Jordon Pickford of Sunderland did not emerge.
There was some feeling last season that Cech was past his best, although he started getting rave reviews again this season, especially in the Burnley match, so maybe that feeling has been bypassed. There was a lot of talk of Ospina going because of his lack of consistency. Turkey was the destination only that too didn’t happen.
Cech is one of 14 keepers in the PL who has started each league game thus far, and to date has kept more clean sheets than any other keeper except De Gea. In Ospina we have a player who seems happy to play second fiddle, picking up appearances in non-PL games. He is also the most capped goalkeeper in the history of the Colombia national team..
Third in the list is Damián Emiliano Martínez currently on loan to Getafe CF as their second keeper, and not actually getting much playing time. It is a one year deal, and he has played once thus far. Behind these three keepers are the over 21 academy players Deyan Iliev and Matt Macey.
So what do we need? In time we need either Ospina or Martinez to step up into Cech’s shoes, or to buy a PL ranked keeper to replace Cech who is now 35 and will be 36 by the start of next season. But remember, David Seaman left Arsenal aged 40, so age alone is not enough to move him on. Thus only a serious decline in Cech’s ability or a serious injury could cause us to buy a new first XI keeper, plus a decision that neither Martinez nor Ospina are ready to step up to permanent first team duties.
Of course Martinez or Ospina could decide they have had enough and move on, or the club might decide that they are not good enough to keep, even as a backup keeper. But it should also be remembered that two of our positions in the 25 list are occupied by backup keepers beyond these first three of Cech, Ospina and Martinez, so in terms of the production line it looks like we are quite well provisioned.
Thus I would say, in relation to “Cech to go and have a new keeper in to replace him, as was proposed in the summer transfer rumours…” such a development is very unlikely.
Ospina to move on? If he has had enough of being a backup keeper (like Łukasz Fabiański before him, after he won his FA Cup winners’ medal), then possibly. Otherwise no; excellent backup keepers are hard to find – and we’ve potentially got several.
Martinez to move on? Much depends on what the thinking was with his loan. If the agreement was that he should have a year of sitting on the bench in Spain, then that could be a prelude to him returning to Arsenal as the new number 2 keeper next season, if Ospina does leave.
OK, this is not as exciting (or insane) as Arsenal to buy Leicester City’s keeper, but I suspect it is more realistic. All in all, the chances of us buying a new goalkeeper are small. The most likely chance would be if Ospina wanted to play lots of games, and Martinez and the other academy graduates are not considered good enough to be an Arsenal back up keeper. That is several “ifs” all at once.
Next time I’ll have a look at wing backs. Sorry for the lack of drama, but that’s reality for you.
- Arsenal v Huddersfield Wednesday 29 November – The Match Officials
- Huddersfield at home: what the facts and figures tell us
- Why do football pundits wear jackets and ties?
- Why is it becoming so difficult to find a sponsor for new football stadium?
- Corruption flares up again in Italy, as Premier League figures don’t look too clever
- How much does a club have to spend on transfers to get a trophy?
- Does the team that is top after 14 games usually go on to win the league?
- How the Taliban infiltrated the World Cup and used it to maintain its war on women