Arsenal at the Crossroads? The January Window

Arsenal’s ‘Russian Dolls of Evolution’

We need to delve into the market for the right buys. At the same time these group of players we have should be able to give us more. There is this feeling that they are stuck in gear 1 afraid to venture. Its all sideways and backwards and two meter passes in our own half. However there are some players who have the right heart.

GUENDOUZI …  the youngest but the bravest. He is always searching for the penetrative pass. He wants to be the protagonist. He is so keen to take it to them. No wonder, in spite of his inexperience, Emery loves to play him.

LACAZETTE …  is an angry man on the field. That is a right attitude. This team needs fighters. I mean the fight that is a fight for the ball and for a win. Emery should play him more often. Without him to engage the defenders, Aubameyang is a lonely and fairly ineffective man.

TORREIRA …  might not be the player that we hoped he is. Yes he’s got the garra charrua, plenty of it but his inability to run fast and particularly his small size work against the beast of a defensive midfielder that we have been dreaming of. In my thinking we still need to acquire that beast and one of it’s fallouts would be to liberate Torreira into becoming not only the team’s metronome but also the deep lying playmaker. There is so much intelligence in his use of the ball that he needs a more influential role going forward.

SOKRATIS  … the armband should be his for keeps. He embodies the fact that football is a serious business. He gets angry not dejected or nonchalant when things are not going right. It is easy to see that the players would respond to him. What the team needs to know more than anything else is that from the tunnel it is nothing else but hostilities. Papas would ram that message home.

There are one or two other names but these four represent the bench mark we should always aim for.

Liverpool walloped us 5-1. Give it to them. They are fighters. They fight for the ball. They fight for victory for the team. Individual egos have merged into the group will. When a player is substituted his faith in the larger design is evident. There is no sulking. No display of rebellion. No me, just the team. It is admirable and in these areas exist the main gulf between them and us. They are a wonderful orchestra under the maestro Jurgen Klopp who even knows how to play the willing Anfield voice. But it must be said that behind him are forces full of ambition. I salute the Fenway Sports Group, USA.

We are stepping into the January window. My worry is that our club is getting satisfied with just getting bye or just missing to get bye. The men at the top should be ambitious and bold and the quicker their response to the hard facts the better because our rivals are not resting on their oars. We start today otherwise tomorrow would be a steeper hill to climb.

We like to talk about the Liverpool three-year revival under Klopp. That is all fallacy. Mighty Liverpool have been in the wilderness for 28 years. That is the number that should be scaring us and it is that scare that should be fuelling our ambition. Do the men at the top have in them the penetrative passes of Guendouzi? Or would it be the sideways and backwards passes in the form of cheap nondescript signings? The January window is upon us. When the bell rings the ring shrinks and there will be no place to hide. We’d soon know if they have any fight in them.

By PE.

24 thoughts on “Arsenal at the Crossroads? The January Window

  • Thanks PE. Let’s see what will happen during the January transfer window. Core team is a lot bigger than your favourites in the post. We need a central defender of quality, around 26 years old or so. The rest will then fall into place, with Holding the up and coming talent and Sok and Koz the experienced back up. The midfield is great, just need back up for Xhaka and Torreira which is not Guendouzi. I would turn AMN and Kola into back up. We could do with a winger of quality. Memphis Depay may be tempted and would be ideal.

    BUT it really is not just about buying players and spending loads of money. It is about system of play, discipline, and working with the current squad. I have no doubt that Klopp or Guardiola would be competing for the title with our squad, but it would also take them time. So let’s give Unai time and a bit of money to find those few quality players in the next eight months or so.

  • I was working yesterday. I recorded the game. I will not watch. Life is too short to add unhappiness. But I will watch the next one.

  • Good write up, PE. I fear this (my post) may end up being off topic and a rant, but why not?
    If we still have the malaise of shaky/poor defending, after blaming Wenger for poor coaching all these years, our goals conceded stat (after a change of coaching and addition of personnel) suggests there may be a more fundamental (‘mental’, being a fine pun for this purpose) problem to be overcome. Emery started well, benefitting from the “new manager bounce” and excitement from the new methods he brought with him; that 22 match unbeaten run papered over some of the cracks as we won (or drew) games without playing too well, even getting lucky on occasion. So, it was important to see whether the team reacts well after losing the ‘run’, or collapses with the absence of that motivating factor (the run).

    It would be foolhardy to use just this match, against a league-leading Liverpool side, as a barometer to slam the quality of the squad. The problem(s) has(ve) been there, just watered down by the focus brought about by the new methods and the unbeaten run being something to play for. As we went along and the manager started to insist on his style/will on erstwhile leaders of the team (Ozil, Ramsey), drop or sub fan favourites like Lacazette, coupled with injuries to key players and then defeat, I feel the honeymoon period ended and the Emery myth was removed in the players minds, so they became beset by the old fears and frailties.

    To the game yesterday, it was galling to be so well beaten by a Liverpool side that wasn’t at its best; the goals they scored were gifts, in every sense as our defence was all over the place. Basic errors were made and the difference was Liverpool’s ability to punish each one. As a positive, Mane had a quiet game while Salah wasn’t his incisive self either. Firminho was the difference as he retained composure when he saw an opportunity.

    The point, therefore, is do we blame it solely on the quality of personnel, and so need the transfer windows to get this team challenging? Do we need a big overhaul or just a tweak here and there? Is this about coaching and building (rather than killing) confidence in the players or are our players just that bad? Let’s not forget this same team outplayed Liverpool in the reverse, the only difference being we had Ozil, Laca and Auba on; plus a healthier back line. So, why not at least play for a respectable result at Anfield? As an example (and I know they have only played mid-table to relegation threatened sides since), can we see the freedom with which United is playing under Solskjaer? Which brings me back to an earlier expressed view that the players look over-coached and appear to be over-thinking instructions they’ve been given, even as the manager keeps barking out instructions on the touchline. If we played with both Auba and Laca yesterday, with instructions to Xhaka and Torreira to stay on the job (marshalling Salah, Firminho and Shaqiri), I feel we would give their defenders problems too and slow the barrage we had to endure.

    Don’t get me wrong. I look forward to new signings too, but the transfer window should be used to improve us not as a way to change it all up, as no club can survive that except in phases.

  • Eris .. I worry too about over coaching. Unfortunately we are all still overreacting to Wenger to the extent that anything that is un-Wenger is immediately embraced. Yet Wenger was able to make a 20 successive (the now very valued) top 4 finish. The stories had it that Wenger does very little coaching and that naturally has blinded us to the fact that coaching beyond a certain point only brings diminishing returns. Even Emery has wondered publicly if he over coaches.

    Am not saying that he does as am not in a position to know. The much I know is that if you plant a seed, all that you need do after is watering it plus occasional weeding around it. It would germinate and grow.

    One other important thing is coaches are there to get the best out of the players available. That entails that the coach has to adapt to the players as much as they have to adapt to him. That’s why my post of a few months back talked about the coach and the players meeting half way. Adaptation is survival or if you like is success. Of course adaptation is progressive and in a case like this should lead with time to a pre-conceived goal.

    I believe that the squad we have can do better. Maybe they just need a little more room to breathe.

  • TA ….. yeah a top quality central defender would be welcomed but my top priority would be a left back. I worry that Monreal would have an injury riddled season because of his age and I don’t rate Kola as a defender at all. In my thinking Kola should just be used as a winger. Around the box he is always an accident waiting to happen. He’s already caused us two goals, Man u’s equalize and Liv’s 2nd penalty. The referee ignored one clear shove of his in the penalty box in our match against Brighton(?). But he is very good as a winger.

  • Somewhat taken aback.
    Mostly from the comments from the previous post– but even for the theme of this one. A bit short-sighted per the reality of the job Emery took on just 6 months ago. Same for those roles that became formal for Mislintat and Sanllehi less than a year ago.

    The knock on Wenger at the end– was his flying seat-of-pants with no true squad depth. With Emery brought aboard in June during a World Cup Summer– I felt that depth needs were addressed sufficiently to get to this new braintrust to January’s TW– for decisions that would be two-fold.

    First, targeting players that suited the Newman’s style. Second, to determine which of the remaining AW group might be sold or exit on their own accord. Well? We’re here. Sven, Raul, and Unai likely have targeted needs. Probably more than they’d anticipated, now that all save one of our starting defenders has a short- or long-term injury.

    No doubt, that 23-match unbeaten run was fun. A joy to see Emery pull rabbits-from-a-hat for nearly 3 months. If you thought that Arsenal had somehow ‘turned a corner’ with this personnel? I can appreciate your enthusiasm. I’m among the biggest optimists when it comes to this club. But no. There’s much more to be done. Getting healthy– and getting specific help in the upcoming TW is a reasonable first-step and expectation.

    I’ve oft-stated that Arsenal is in a transition year. No matter how much we fans would like to hurdle the hard work– there are no short-cuts. So, it’s level-headed to separate the team’s needs and roster shortcomings from what happened at Anfield.

    Arsenal played against an undefeated team on their home ground. With a decimated defense. Several playing either just back from the injured list– or ready to go on it. There were simply no rabbits left in Emery’s hat.

    Comparing what occurred on Saturday with (comparatively ancient) past results is ludicrous. It’s lazy condemnation– placing the outcomes of completely separate groups of players and manager– with years in between– on the shoulders of this team and this manager.

    Hey. Sh^t happens. It happened Saturday.
    Emery has more rabbits on order. See if they arrive by Tuesday.


  • Good post PE, yes I like Guendouzi as well, considering that he’s still only 19 and still a novice, albeit an impressive novice, it’s still amazing how Unai Emery trusts him so much, maybe more than he even trusts Ramsey and Ozil, which I guess poses a few uncomfortable questions about them…

    To me Hector Bellerin has been exceptional this season, he’s really responded to the new regime, has become a key figure in the team once again and we really miss him when he’s absent.

    Oh how we’ve missed Rob Holding since he was clobbered at Old Trafford, another young player whose really taken to the new Emery methods, Bellerin and Holding are the future, we need a couple more with their quality and energy to replace Monreal and Koscielny.

    Hopefully Mavropanos and Medley will also develop into top talents with the quality to become part of the new Arsenal defence.

    Saka, Amaechi, Nelson, I’m keen to see that trio of technical wizards, with breathtaking close control, evolve into the senior squad on a regular basis. Next season is going to be the season for our Three Musketeers to graduate into the EPL I believe.

    In the meantime Sven and Raul have to do some remedial work on our creaking senior squad or the top four will become too far like Arnhem Bridge.

    I’m really hopeful that the links to Banega prove fruitful as we need some experience and fresh thinking in our engine room.

    I’ve got mixed feelings about the Cahill rumours, I mean would Chelsea allow a good player to join a major rival in the top four race? Demba Ba anyone!
    Cahill on loan until the summer would make sense, he’s played in a well drilled, championship winning defence so he knows his job and as the loan would only, it seems, last until the summer, we’re not tied to a long, expensive deal and can look elsewhere for a younger alternative later next year.

  • Kev, you and me both, re: looking forward to those three young guns in the 1st team. You like Banega? I have reservations because of his age and lack of speed but if Emery likes him that much, I’ll be willing to welcome him and see what he wants to make of him. Hope it doesn’t turn out like the case of Grzegorz Krychowiak, who Emery lured to PSG only to use him so sparingly, the man had to go out on loan to WBA and now, Lokomotiv.

    The pace of the EPL may be too much for Banega and we may have an unhappy player on our hands after a few months.

  • Jw … you are so well anchored in the longer term view of things. A Warren Buffett. Rubbing off the noises. Calming the sea. 👍👍

  • Kev/Eris … Am looking forward to ESR particularly. Am yet to watch Medley, but they say he is very good and composed with the ball. That’s the modern defender. Saka is another one that excites me. Looks like he excites Emery too.

    We obviously need to recruit this window. The quality we have at the back is not trusted and in the forward areas the numbers are short if we factor in the doubts on Ramsey and Ozil. Ideally, imo, in this window, we need a left back and an attacking midfielder (both top class and not over 26 yrs).

  • Hi JW.
    I get it, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the 22 game unbeaten run was largely due to the kind sequence of fixtures, which covered many deficiencies in our thread-bare squad, most of whom attract injuries like manure attracts flies.
    But the general consensus is that Arsenal are a massive club, and as such they shouldn’t be getting hammered with the regularity they do.
    They shouldn’t be going to Anfield nearly five years after getting beaten 5-1, and suffer the same humiliation.
    Even during our years of famine and frugality Arsenal out-spent Tottenham (there’s a far less extreme comparison than Liverpool), but they appear to know how to get good team balance.
    And despite our recent NLD triumph, they are significantly better than us on a much lower budget.
    There were plenty of warning signs that it could happen, but we ignored it and watched them overtake us without any response.
    Arsenal released Harry Kane from their youth set-up when he was eight years old because Liam Brady said ‘he was too chubby’. When that’s the level of intelligence that is the heartbeat of the club it is easy to see why so many calamitous decisions were made, and why they often look sloppy on the field. When one wrong decision is hidden by a multitude of wrong decisions, it spirals out of control, and instead of being the powerful leader Arsenal needed during the transition, Wenger shrunk and became a metronome working from memory and bad habits. He publicly admitted that he stayed on too long.
    But all that aside, I believe if Unai Emery is given time and substantial money, he can turn our fortunes around and have us challenging again. And with his track record in Europe, I haven’t ruled out the Europa League either.
    But as one of the world’s major football clubs, JW, there are a lot of times when Arsenal behave very oddly, and always at the expense of supporters, and it can be extremely infuriating.

  • Happy New Year to all Gooners, especially TA and 17ht. Without both of you this blog will be a mess like the others.

    Hopefully our first match of the new year will be a win. We have to stop losing points from now on.

  • Herb– I get your frustration. It is yours to express. Myself? I espouse a different take from a longer-view. From a couple of things that I see differently than club supporters. Probably also differing from our other internationally-based BKers.

    I have the impression a mindset change is underway at Arsenal. As has occurred elsewhere in the KSE orbit of sports franchises.

    Won’t do the full-dissertation. But has to do mostly with the way that KSE has handled managerial, executive and fiscal change within it’s US-based sports franchises. In each case (NFL LA Rams, NBA Denver Nuggets, NHL Colorado Avalanche) those clubs ‘cleaned-house’ 2 years ago. They’ve avoided retread coaches (managers), hiring younger forward-thinking types. They’ve also loosened the purse-strings on free agent signings. Where 2-3 years ago each of those franchises were considered the worst in their respective leagues? The Nuggets are currently rated #1– the best team in the NBA nearing mid-season. The Rams are rated at 3rd of 32 teams– entering the NFL playoffs next weekend. The Avalanche are 3rd in their division– and upper-third of NHL teams.

    By dint of the nature of (world) football? Arsenal’s changes will occur less rapidly (mostly due to the mechanism of relegation which does not exist in US pro sports. No threat to finishing ‘last’ or nearly so). The largest hurdle for AFC? Replacing the manager of 22-years. Which occurred sooner than I’d expected. The executive offices have been cleaned out. Last January’s transfer window was an insight to the capabilities of the new team– under pressure.

    Now? Patience is required. We’ve the Newman in place. He was no one’s top choice. Not even on the radar. The signings last Summer? Stopgap would be the best description. Nor, is every player the team requires to compete for top-4 available this January (still holding out hope though!).

    IMO, it will take until next Summer’s transfer window– to fully measure whether the new KSE mindset will actually extend to Arsenal.

    That’s my view. And I’m sticking to it.
    Cheering the club on faithfully and patiently. Warts and all. 🙂


  • Best wishes for 2019, one and all! Hope the new year ushers in joyful memories for us all; and may the club’s fortunes reflect our keenest desires for it.

    Cheers, Y’all!

  • Jw1, thanks for bringing some perspective to things. You are good for my heart… after these kinds of results.

  • Xhaka, Auba and Sokr need some rest. They should start on the bench against Fulham. Lich too for the same and other reasons. Jenko should have, maybe, his last fling.

    No idea what team we would see. Uncertainties remain over Bells, Nacho, Musti, Ozil, Ramsey. Would like to see two of Saka, Medley, Nketiah or Willock start.

  • Good Afternoon, and a Happy New Year to All.
    Some very, very good comments above.

    I too agree, with others, that your 18:36 p.m. on the 31st December was particularly balanced and sage.

    I sometimes have to wonder why the views of some respected bloggers seem to have opinions on certain players that are so different to my own.
    Take the view expressed by AK above, as an example, in which he believes that Belli Button has had an excellent season for us.

    I am not saying AK is wrong, these matters are very subjective, and it is quite possible that I could be wrong, but I think Bellerin is a ‘flim flam’ player who hares up and down the pitch with little effect, and leaves acres of space for opposition wingers to attack, and even when in position seems to have no ability to tackle and never (?) wins an aerial challenge.

    Two very different assessments, honestly held, but unlike the coach we only see Belli during a game and not while strutting his thing on the training pitch, so Emery is in the perfect position to make a better judgement than any fan — and it looks as if he does not agree with me! 🤪

  • It is probably obvious, but I should have said my ‘agreement’, above, was addressed to jw1. 🥺

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