Yes it is exciting to be linked with the prolific goal scorer and assist producer, Pepe. It looks like the deal will go ahead even though there is a big Mata-feeling about this one; we could still be Pepe-pipped at the last minute. It would be a coup to sign Pepe and bolster our attack significantly nevertheless, even though it may mean that either Laca or Auba will be sold soon to pay for him.
Whether the latter happens or not, the mature question to ask is why are we investing in our attack when our defence was so incredible leaky over the last two seasons ? Why are we not doing an, admittedly less sexy, ‘Liverpool’ and spend our money on a top quality Van Dijk-esque beast of a defender? Is this because of Emery’s philosophy of rather winning 6-3 or 5-4 than more predictable and safe 1-0s?!
Imagine a Van Dijk in our defence. Leno is coming good and I predict a great season for him. Bellerin, once back, is a safe pair of hands at RB. Big Sok will play his part again this season, but maybe more as back up than automatic starter. Koz has gone AWOL. Mustafi is a good squad player to have but not to be banked on in the centre of defence. Chambers is unlikely to make the grade. Nacho is good back up but not a season-long first teamer; and Kola is Kola: full of bubbles up front but porous at the back. Mavropanos is most likely not ready yet.
My big hope is for a massive season for Holding. He has the calm and intelligence, leadership and passing skills, and aerial dominance to be our next Campbell or Adams. But the man is coming back from a big injury and it is likely to take time for him to establish himself in the team. It will be a gruelling season with 38 PL battles and many a EL game in the furthest corners of Europe during our national late-shopping nights: we really cannot bank on him to be our much needed rock as yet.
As it stands, I foresee a lot of pressure on Super Sok to hold the defence together until Holding is able to help him. The Hold-Sok CB-pairing is one I believe in. But how long will it take before they are fully fit and up and running together? Will Chambers or Mavropanos fill the void? Will Koz do a U-turn and become Sok’s reliable partner for a while?
For all the Pepe-excitement, and let’s not forget the potential of good seasons for Eddie, Nelson and Martinelli in attack, I would like us to take our defence much more seriously for once. As Pool and Citeh have been shown us recently, progress is made by taking both areas of the pitch – defence and attack – equally serious (and that includes the all important balance in midfield of which I have written a lot on BK). Being hard to beat whilst full of attacking endeavour is the best strategy, but Arsenal seem to think that defending is a dirty word, and will most likely go into the season with a naïve believe that we will outscore our opponents in every game.
We need a left back and we need a quality CB to become the long-term partner of Holding, and however excited I am about the prospect of Pepe-peppering up our attack, if we don’t invest in these I reckon we will make little to no progress. There is a reason why the football pundits are predicting an average of us finishing sixth this season…
So let’s make a real paradigm shift and do the mature thing…