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The antidote to transfer rumours: real insights into who we are signing in January

By Tony Attwood

I recently wrote a little piece trying to show how journalists create a piece of fantasy transfer news ahead of a transfer window, and did this by looking at our goalkeeping situation, the insane tales from last summer relating to keepers, and then adding in what I thought would actually happen.  A sort of antidote to transfer rumours.

That seemed to work all right so now I’m moving up the pitch.

Last summer the Guardian heralded the FA Cup final with “Petr Cech set to keep Arsenal place for FA Cup final amid defensive headaches” and the Mirror had “Arsenal’s defensive injury crisis leaves Arsene Wenger with few FA Cup final options”.    The Independent went with “Arsenal facing wingback crsis ahead of FA Cup final” and the Standard ran “Arsenal defensive crisis hands Arsene Wenger formation dilemma vs Chelsea”.

It was utterly extraordinary and amazing that we won.  In fact reading those headlines I had to go back and check that perfidious Chelsea hadn’t actually changed the result retrospectively.

But with the defence one can see that something is wrong, in that we are half way down the defensive league table equal with Liverpool having let in 19.

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Manchester United 15 11 2 2 35 9 26 35
2 Manchester City 15 14 1 0 46 10 36 43
3 Chelsea 15 10 2 3 28 12 16 32
3= Burnley 15 7 4 4 14 12 2 25
5 Tottenham Hotspur 15 7 4 4 23 13 10 25
6 AFC Bournemouth 15 4 3 8 13 17 -4 15
7 Southampton 15 4 5 6 15 18 -3 17
7= Swansea City 15 2 3 10 8 18 -10 9
9 Liverpool 15 8 5 2 33 19 14 29
9= Arsenal 15 9 1 5 29 19 10 28
9= Brighton and Hove Albion 15 4 5 6 14 19 -5 17


But that doesn’t mean that last summer’s predictions that we were going to be decimated with most of our defenders getting ready to leave, even if they hadn’t done so already, has come to pass  In the end we only lost one wing back – Oxlade C – but gained another, and he was a real upgrade, Sead Kolasinac.

However with Bellerin, Debuchy, and Mustafi all departing (according to reports) we were indeed in the deepest of deepest problems.   Except that they didn’t depart, despite headlines like, “Hector Bellerin questioned why he left Barcelona for Arsenal” (Metro) and “Hector Bellerin tells Arsenal he wants to quit this summer ” (The Sun).   In fact the Sun were stilling running “EMIRATES EXODUS Arsenal stars Hector Bellerin and Shkodran Mustafi both DEMANDED to leave the Gunners this summer” after the transfer window closed, although the impact was a little reduced by the “according to reports” phrase part was through.

However despite this past weekend’s defeat I am not sure the problem lies with the wing backs.   Obviously we have a pairing of first choice wing backs: Bellerin and Kolasinac.  Backing them up we have Monreal, Chambers, Maitland Niles and Reiss Nelson.

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When I have seen Maitland Niles play in that position I have been very impressed indeed.  I’m not saying he is 100% ready to play every game there but that’s always the problem: if you have a superb top level replacement and he is waiting on the beach all the time he is going to ask to move.  Maitland Niles seems a great back up just now.  I not sure about Nelson in the wing back position however: all the talent (and then some) is there but when he has played at wing back he has occasionally gone walk abouts.

So what does this mean for the transfer market?

The only big tip for a full back transfer that arose through last summer was Virgil Van Dijk.  He was announced on the grounds he would help us “play a back 3 all the time”.   He was a prime target because “Arsenal’s defence is so fragile”. The Sun announced a last minunte bid – which actually seems to have been a fantasy.  Fancy that!

Arseblog found wing back to be the prime problem coming into this season saying, “it’s clear we have something of an issue when it comes to our wing-backs. It’s not as if we didn’t know we’d have these kind of fixture pile-ups, and the need to rotate to keep players fresh for the Premier League, so obviously the manager felt he had those famed ‘internal solutions’.”

But their worry was playing Maitland Niles and Nelson out of position.  My question is what sort of player of the highest quality are we going to get to come in as a wing back when he knows that he is behind Bellerin and Koscielny.

So could we sign a new wing back?  First off, it is clear that at least for the moment such a person is very unlikely to get into the Arsenal I squad, given that we have two fine wing backs at the moment and some solid backups.  If a player is particularly good he’s not going to be happy to be sitting around waiting for someone to be injured, especially with all the other options the club has.

Likewise we need to keep Maitland Niles and Nelson happy with some games so I am not sure we need an extra player for Arsenal II.   Arsenal II is a brilliant way of making sure that we keep our youth players happy – they know it can take years to break into the first team, but they know there is this reserve XI playing in front of big crowds, and they rather fancy that.   So no chance of a transfer there, I think.

In short any January transfer window story about Arsenal signing a wing back, just as any story about Arsenal signing a keeper (as per the last article in this series) is going to be make believe.

Still it is always fun to collect such stories, just to show how incredibly gullible the newspapers think their readers are.

Next up: the central defenders.

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7 comments to The antidote to transfer rumours: real insights into who we are signing in January

  • JP

    OT: Did anyone see this from Mark Clattenburg?

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    After our home PL lose lo Man U last Saturday, What I believe is of paramount to Arsenal now is for Le Boss to motivate his Arsenal team I whivh is his current strongest starting XI of this season sp far to regain their lost confidence back and be efficient in their game away to Southampton in the PL next Sunday after he must have motivated his Arsenal team II to get back to the winning ways in their Europa League final group match against FC BATE Borisov at the Ems on Thursday night’s. Right?

    Arsenal are right now like a wounded Lion. They’ve been seriously wounded in their League campaign by Man U and lightly wounded in their Europa League campaign away to FC Klon just in a space of few weeks. And as a result of which I don’t think Arsenal are in the transfer mode at the moment. But they’II happily switched to the transfer mode as soon as their on the field results improved considerably. More so, if they beat BATE in the Europa, beat the Saints and the Hammers at away in the PL,. then beat Newcastle at the Ems in the PL and beat the Hammers again in the Carabao this time at the Ems. Then beat Liverpool in a big PL game at the Ems before beating Crystal Palace and WBA all at away in the PL. 8 games all in all Arsenal have to win in all competitions to be in high transfer confidence mode before the year turnaround. For, it will not be good for Arsenal to enter the coming January transfer market in low confidence as this may lead them to buy wrongly or panic buy.

  • Ben

    I would be surprised if any action was taken against Mark for what he said.

  • Kenneth Widmerpool

    Tip of the iceberg? The lookouts of UA have been spotting icebergs for ages…

  • Polo

    Thanks for the link JP.

  • Flares

    Astonishing. Any semblance of impartiality reduced to zero by an egomaniac purely concerned with saving face.

  • Peter Kemp

    Waiting on the beach?? maybe bench ….. and wing back ‘Koscielny’ ?? still suffering from the head cold Ha Ha