By Sir Hardly Anyone
I suspect, from a reading of the blogs and the runes, that if that axis of evil, the combination of Sky Sports commentators and anti-Wengerian bloggers, who appear to lead most commentary these days, were to be asked who should leave Arsenal this summer along with Mr Wenger, leaving aside the Sky Sprouters who would say “all of them”, there would always be a couple of names that would come up.
Xhaka always seems to get criticism, although not everyone agrees, Mustafi gets blamed a lot, Koscielny is obviously needing to be nurtured through his injuries and so could be seen to be in need of replacement. Cech is considered too old.
Elneny on the other hand has had a reprieve – he was heavily criticised (although not here) including when he got a new contract, but now things have changed.
I go through the list today because I’ve just seen quite a different approach on Soccer Souls which instead of just saying who should leave actually builds a new team. It is of course fanciful because it is based on the old notion that if Arsenal want a player he will come to Arsenal despite the fact of fans’ behaviour, the ceaseless, remorseless criticism on Sky, and the lack of money to compete with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City and Chelsea in the transfer market.
But allowing that to pass, here’s the team they came up with…
Jan Oblak (from Atletico Madrid)
Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal
Mkhitaryan, Nabil Fekir (from Lyon), Ozil
What this selection does is leave in what is considered by some to be the crumbling heart of defence and the derided Xhaka, while taking out Cech, Lacazette, Ramsey and Wilshere. (I’ll leave Santi Cazorla out of this because obviously all of us wish him the very, very best in his rehab, but none of us know how good a player he will be on his return).
Of Elneny the site says he “brings a lot of stability and calmness to Arsenal’s midfield. His presence makes the team tick in the attack. The Egyptian is a silent performer, providing pin-point passes and defence-splitting through balls when it matters the most.” I’d go with that, and it is refreshing to see someone picking up on the young man’s skills.
As for Xhaka the writer makes the point that “Xhaka needs a midfielder with top defensive qualities to express himself. Alongside Elneny, Xhaka would get the freedom to play his natural game and help the Gunners more in the attack.”
Again I’d go with that but this leaves the issue of where Ramsey and Wilshere fit into the side.
When we turn to the forward line we have Nabil Fekir who is touted as a player for Arsenal having scored 17 goals in 26 league games this season. And this is where the problem arises – because although that is a great statistic, the fact is, as we have shown time and again, players don’t automatically transfer such results to a new team when they move. Our rough and ready figures suggested 25% carry on at the top level in the first season at the new club, 50% take two or even three seasons to get back to their top performance and 25% never make it to their previous level after the transfer.
My thought would be that we have been through that adjustment process now with Lacazette, so why replace him just as he is coming good? Laca has scored 13 in 30 – not as good as we might have hoped but not bad for a first season in a new country. In his last year at Lyon however he scored 28 in 30, so if next season sees him step back up to anything near that we’ll have an absolute top centre forward. Why replace him now?
But can Aubameyang and Laca play in the same team? I think so, and keeping both means that when one is injured or needs resting, the other can carry the load.
However this still leaves the issue of Wilshere and Ramsey. For me Wilshere did shine for a while at his very best, but then slipped back a little, and if either of the two had to go, I’d say let it be Wilshere, although I’d be sad to see him depart. But Ramsey is that rarity – a man who really can play box to box and make it happen with goals at one end while playing deeper when the need arises.
However that leaves the issue of where to fit him in the team above. I think the answer is to fit Xhaka, Ramsey and Elneny, around the issues of injury and individual games. Ramsey does get injured, and another season of the long trips that can be involved in the Europa will mean we need the full set of players. I’d say pick two from three game by game as available.
As for those central defenders, we have two star youngsters in Holding and Mavropanos. Holding has shown us on several occasions that he is just on ready to step up and Mavropanos was impressive in Manchester. Buying a new central defender now will be a kick in the face to them.
Now I know this will horrify many people because it is suggesting that we don’t actually have to buy anyone except the one position I haven’t covered – the keeper. I really don’t know if any of the young talent is ready to step up as yet… I can see a couple who might well be good enough to be back up keeper, but first team? I don’t have the knowledge to say.
Of course if the new manager came in and did not make a total overhaul of the squad the anti-Wengerians would become very excitable and the bloggettas would undoubtedly use a couple of their fake accounts to have tweets raining down saying “We didn’t get rid of Wenger to have a transfer window like this…”
But it could be possible. Our article the other day showed what a crazy transfer window it is going to be, with hardly any time to recruit players, what with the window closing much earlier than normal, many players being in Russia, and little time for the new man to get his feet under the table before the world cup players are away.