By Tony Attwood
Yesterday afternoon Blacksheep and spent a while in the British Library, during which we discussed (not for the first time) the fact that the British media, when contemplating football, is generally desperate to avoid any questions starting with the word “Why?”
Yet it often seems to me the most interesting question in football, and was the one that immediately came to mind when I got home and found that Arsenal had, as widely predicted, signed Lichtsteiner. A quick flip through the online articles covering the event revealed little that answered the question of why Arsenal had signed him.
A few options however did spring to mind…
1: Bellerin is leaving and so a new full back is needed urgently. So far this transfer window we have not had that story which has been a staple part of the last few windows: Bellerin is going to Barcelona, or indeed has already gone to Barcelona. If that were true, we’d have our answer in one: Lichtsteiner will play for us for a year while we find a new full back.
2: Bellerin suffered a dip in form last season, but the manager, on looking at the squad, doesn’t think we have anyone good enough to take over from Bellerin if that happens again or if Bellerin is injured.
3: The new manager has a formation in mind that could accommodate both players.
4: Lichsteiner brings an additional role of motivator and driver of the team from within the dressing room which is felt to be missing at the moment, especially with Koscielny being absent at least until the new year and with Mertesacker now focused on the youth players.
5: There is the thought in the club that the difference in home/away form is a key issue to be addressed, and Lichsteiner could be part of the defence in certain key away games where snatching a 1-0 win is going to be the central policy.
There were snippets of several of these thoughts in Emery’s statement issued by the club after the signing, in which he said, “Stephan brings huge experience and leadership to our squad. He’s a player with great quality with a very positive and determined attitude. Stephan will improve us on and off the pitch.”
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There were however different issues highlighted by newspapers and other websites yesterday evening. Arsenal Analysis led with “Stephan in Hector out?” for example, while the Daily Mirror piled in with, “Juventus ‘confident’ of signing Hector Bellerin”
The theme that Bellerin might well be on his way out with Lichtsteiner having Ainsley Maitland-Niles as an understudy was also expressed, alongside the notion that selling Bellerin could bring in £50m which would be used to “strengthen the squad in the problem areas that Wenger refused to tackle.” Yes, always good to put the boot into Wenger at these moments – just to remind us of the raison d’être of the bloggettas.
Countering this, goal.com had the view that it is ‘Difficult to see Hector Bellerin leaving,’ (according to is agent apparently). Sky Sports concurred, as did other reports – although none managed to mention that they had spent all last summer, and the summer before, telling us that he had been spotted at the airport if he wasn’t already long since gone. Remember the house he bought for his family in Barcelona; whatever happened to that?
But things are never that simple. One report has the agent saying, “If Italian clubs were interested in some of my clients I would listen…”
It is all so different from just three months ago when the Metro told us (2 March) that Bellerin was “determined to leave Arsenal this summer with Juventus confident they can win the race to sign him, according to reports.” That race seems to have lost its runners somehow. Or maybe it never existed.
Indeed it was just a year ago that the tide turned with one of the first reports (8 June 2017 in the Independent) ran the headline “Hector Bellerin hints that he is not set to leave Arsenal this summer.” So maybe the story is “If it is the summer we need a Bellerin headline.” Indeed I begin to wonder if next year the Times will replace its traditional “I’ve just heard the first cuckoo of spring” headline with news of the first “Bellerin leaving story” of the year been sighted.
In fact it was the Independent that came in with the first serious comment about what was behind the Lichtsteiner transfer in writing, “The 34-year-
The Express however saw a different complication in that somehow the arrival of the new man will mean that “Jack Wilshere’s playing time could be limited even further.” The Standard however thought that Lichtsteiner will bring a “winning mentality” to the club – given that he has just won the Italian league seven times in a row. Does that mean that the PL is now copying the Italian League? Certainly seems likely.
Anyway we now know exactly who is going to the world cup (Mesut Ozil, David Ospina, Alex Iwobi, Nacho Monreal, Mohamed Elneny, Danny Welbeck and Granit Xhaka) and the Arsenal warm up games they will miss…
- Jul 26 – Arsenal v Atletico Madrid, 12:30pm, Singapore.
- Jul 28 – Arsenal v PSG, 12:30pm, Singapore
- Aug 1 – Arsenal v Man City. Dublin.
- Aug 2-4 – Arsenal v Chelsea, 7pm.
Times are BST. Not too sure of the kick off time in Dublin nor the location or date of the final game. Maybe that depends on where the owner of Chelsea is. Or even who he/she is.
But before then, the word is that Arsenal will sign more players. In fact that second player could be signed today. And that player is Sokratis Papastathopoulos. At least that is what the blogs say.
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