11 Arsenal Things and More to Look Forward to – Can You Feel It?!

I don’t know about you but I quite like it that Arsenal have not traveled to the USA and instead played a few local friendlies v Millwall and Watford.

A lot of time gets wasted by travelling so far away, and with all the Covid risks and disruptions this should ensure a more relaxed and focused preparation. Next up are the Chavs and the Spuddies and so we just stay local all the way till the opening game v newly promoted Brentford.

The mission for our team is clear: finish in the top four and try to win a cup. It is a bit ‘back to basics’ without the European ties but the good thing is that we will not be playing games on Thursday anymore. Spursday is for late shopping and getting all your crisps and beer in for the weekend, not for watching football.

Arteta is of course building something very big and I have a lot of trust in him to get it right. We really needed to strip things back and start again and I think that he is making fine progress. Since 26 December, Arsenal have played 22 games, won 12, drew 5, lost 5, scored 38 and conceded just 20 goals. This would have seen us finishing third in the League. Mikel can build further on this and he has made some good squad signings to strengthen the team in areas in which most of us believed the team needed strengthening. If he adds Ben White, a decent keeper and creative attacker in the coming weeks, we should indeed be in a good position to finish in the top four.

But that is enough talk about the end goal. It is of course all about the journey and the football itself. That is what I am looking forward to. So many things to look forward to and focus on:

  1. Will Auba and Laca have a super season?
  2. How will our ‘new’ nr.10 do in his second full season? And who will join in that position, if anybody?
  3. How will Partey do in his second season in the PL? And how and where will Lokonga play in midfield?
  4. Will Xhaka still be around and if not will Lokonga be his natural replacement?
  5. How will the full backs do this season and who will play right FB most of the games; Bels, Chambers or Soares?
  6. How will White fit in in a four or a three/five at the back? Or could he be used in midfield instead?
  7. Can Saka and Pepe put real fire into our attack this season?
  8. Will Eddie and Balogun be firing from all cylinders this season?
  9. What roles will AMN and Willock play in our midfield?
  10. Could Willian have a much better season – early signs in our friendlies are promising?
  11. How are we going to deal better with setpieces delivered into our box (lobby to ban all headers this season? 🙂 )?

Alas, so many questions and I have not even started about system of football for this season.

We have it all to look forward to fine fellow Gooners and I cannot wait for it to start again.

What are you mostly looking forward to?

Who is the one player you would like to add before the season starts?


By TotalArsenal.

28 thoughts on “11 Arsenal Things and More to Look Forward to – Can You Feel It?!

  • I’m confirming Xhaka leaving. The reason: the pattern of click merchants. First the stories link a player and team. The milk that as much as possible,and when the deal gets close, they send out stories about the deal falling apart for some bogus reason, this gets the fans of the club clicking like mad and believing the new wrinkle. Generally the deal is all but done at that point.

    TA, you know I have come to appreciate Xhaka more than most, especially how he’s played under Arteta, but I think it’s time for a change. I’d like a change up in the type of midfielder. I’d like a more active player, ideally like Nevez.

    Another reason is, I think Xhaka and Partey don’t really complement each other. Not an excuse for Partey at all. While everyone was saying he was our best midfielder in years, I was pointing out that he was a disappointment, and I only hope that’s mostly down to the injury throwing off his getting a good run. I like what I hear about Lokonga, and hope he’s a better Guendouzi, because we need someone. I’d say we had one of the worst midfields in the whole league. Painful to watch as an Arsenal fan.

    We still need 2 midfielders if Xhaka leaves. I’d consider AMN if he would be played in midfield, if not, he has to be sold. Almost as much as Willock… he needs to cashed in on… yesterday. I’d contribute cash to any club that would like to buy El Neny, but unfortunately, we’ll probably need him for Carabao games.

  • A lot of relevant, good questions. A lot more than to answer them in one sitting.
    I just try to respond to the attacker situation and the wish-list.

    Currently we have 4+1 strikers, as Martinelli s capable to spearhead the attacks if required. Without Europe we don’t need so many. Probably not even 3, but 3 should probably remain. Aubameyang could play on the left wing, so theoretically Arsenal can keep all 4, but there are a couple of reasons to consider:
    – we have better LWs (Martinelli, Saka, ESR if someone else play AM) than Auba, so that’s more of a contingency how to field the captain when we have better in-form striker
    – Auba is far from his peak form, which could be only a temporary state, but could also mean than even after a hopeful improvement he will not find his success hungry Golden Boot peak form since his new deal and wages

    So my take on question 1) is ‘not likely’. Lacazette has everything to have a super season, but he is a prime candidate for squad reduction. And even if he stays, I’m not sure he and Auba will continue to bring the best out of each other. The second candidate is Nketiah – our best in-form striker, who scored the 2 best goals in pre-season – who else? Kudos to Arteta for eventually giving Nketiah the chance to prove himself at least in the pre-season, but when/if we sell Eddie (for a bag of peanuts, obviously) that will be on him.
    So my answer to question 8 is a big no. I don’t see that either Balogun (who – contrary to popular misbeliefs – is not yet on Nketiah’s level) or Eddie getting 1500 minutes under Arteta (and even then there will be a good chance that they will not be playing as the single striker), so without enough minutes it’s hard to imagine any of them reaching double digits.

    However I seriously hope and believe that the rumors on Abraham is just trolling Tottenham. If they manage to sell Kane then the obvious player to succeed him would be Tammy Abraham, therefore I think the inquires are merely to drive the price and the salaries up – as they are doing with most Arsenal targets including Aouar.

    Getting back to the last 2 – unnumbered – questions.
    I know I sound like a broken record, but the thing I most look forward to is trimming the squad. Sell some of the deadwood – preferably for a competitive price – and loan the starlets who can become Arsenal regulars when we get back to Europe.
    My candidates for selling: Rúnarsson, Kolasinac, Soares, Elneny, AMN, Willian
    My candidates for a loan: Torreira, (AMN?), Willock, Martinelli, Nelson, Nketiah

    Who is the one player I would like to add before the season starts?
    – If money and ambition is not an issue and imagination can run wild, I would say Frenkie de Jong.
    – If I have to pick a high profile, yet not impossible CM/DM reinforcement, I would go for Camavinga or Locatelli
    – If we disregard ESR’s promotion to #10 and still look for a world-class AM then Odeegard and Havertz are my men.
    – However if we have to stick to economic rationality, than I would pursue Gravenberch, Aouar and Koopmeiners.

  • Well J, if you are saying it it must be true. I also expect Granit to leave, and with the fans we have he should, but it needs confirming nevertheless.

    Elneny should and will stay and if Granit leaves I expect no or just one new player to come in.

  • Thank you for your indepth response, PB.

    Agreed that we have too many attackers and yes few more players will be sold or go out on loan.

    I like your options for buying players.

  • TA, Interesting questions and will probably need a podcast to address the same :).
    Anyways assuming Xhaka leaves to ply his trade and dark arts with Mou, i would like one more addition in the midfield and a creator. If Laca gets sold i would like to see one another striker either Tammy or Martinez or someone younger than 25 to join the strike force. I dont see Eddie or Balogun staying. I have to say that Eddie looked more lively on the Left wing than centrally.
    What would i like to see the most next season. I would like to see a clear target of points between Aug-Dec and Jan-May. 18 games each and target 35-38 points each half of the season and just go for it. No excuses whatsoever, believe in the Squad, trust younger/hungry players, play aggressive and intelligent football. Concentrate on closing out games and in game management should be a priority. Take FA cup seriously and let kids play Carabao cup.
    I am bored and just cant wait for season to start. Thankfully from next week Test match Cricket will begin which will keep me entertained till the season starts.

  • Good stuff, Madhu. Interesting view re Balogun and Eddie. I guess this season will tell us a lot.

    Good to hear your boredom will be over soon. 🤗

  • Hi Total, thank you for another of your fine posts.

    I will keep my response short as I’m off in between thunder storms.

    I’m also glad that we never subjected our players to an exhausting overseas PR trip and stayed in our own backyard for our pre season games – it must be easier for all concerned in including the staff.

    I was able to watch the game against Watford and our new boys looked good – but the player who stood out for me was Partey, he can become a dominate mid-fielder for Arsenal. It was a lightweight game so not much can really have been learned except the Nketiah was on fire and we gave up another stupid goal while attempting to play out from our own penalty area.

    If we keep Xhaka and sign Ben White then I think we will have all positions/weaknesses covered – although only time will tell if we will be good enough to climb back up to a CL position or pick up some silverware.

    In my opinion the one major weakness will be in goal, we do not have the caliber of goalkeeping that we are accustomed to and we most certainly don’t have adequate back up for our number one keeper – selling Martinez was a major error.

  • Hi GN5,

    Good to hear Partey played well. He is pivotal to our season especially if Granit leaves.

    The White signing is taking ages, but with Robbo in good form there is no rush.

  • I just went back and read the post. Banning headers, for health reasons, cute, T.

    I can’t really imagine the team overall until some business is done. I understand that Arteta doesn’t have that luxury.

    Pb I love the idea of trolling Tottenham with Abraham, it’s a great point about how he might be good for them.

    I’m starting to get the same feeling about strikers as i did about defenders last year. How can we even contemplate having so many, or more? With no European games?

    We had Holding, Luiz, Mustafi, Mari, Sokratis, Gabriel, Chambers, Saliba.. am I forgetting any? Ridiculous wage situation. Now we have, until something changes, Aubameyang, Lacazette, Nketiah, Balogun, maybe Martinelli? People talking about Tammy? I hope there is a comprehensive plan.

  • J, one or two of Balogun, Eddie and Martinelli will go on loan. We need strength in depth in case of multiple injuries… If we sign a quality attacker then surely one of Auba or Laca will go.

  • I guess you’re right T. You know I hate an unsettled squad. I should be used to it by now, it’s an Arsenal tradition.

    I agree with all you say, except I want either 2 midfielders, or at least one very good one who can play CAM, and more importantly, deeper. In that case, even with no Europe, we’ll be still be too thin in midfield. To be so well covered up front and behind, it would be a shame. Especially after going through last season.

  • I understand the argument for having contingency plans in cases of multiple injuries, but I don’t find it enough to dissatisfy/unsettle the players not having enough playing time AND limiting their development as well as market value.
    Currently we have 3 left backs (Tierney, Tavares, Kolasinac), 3 right backs (Bellerin, Chambers, Soares) and a utility player who is proven to play as a full back on either flank (AMN). I’m not even counting Xhaka and Saka who can play LWB if absolutely necessary. So we have 7 players for the flanks. I honestly think that the ideal number would be 3 (!), but I’m willing to have a compromise at 4.

    And the same applies to midfield: besides Xhaka, Partey, Lokonga and at least 1 from our wishlist we still have Willock, Elneny, AMN and Torreira who obviously don’t want to sit on the bench (which is not the worst case scenario). So when we read that academy starlets might play in the Carabao Cup games, don’t forget that Elneny and AMN will be preferred over Azeez, Hutchinson and Patino. and rightfully so; they also need “food” to grow, it’s not their fault to be in an unreasonably large squad. Well, in some extent it’s their fault as they signed the contract extension, so we really shouldn’t be surprised when Nketiah or Nelson would rather not. Most Arsenal fans avoid cognitive dissonance by buying into the narrative that Eddie and Reiss didn’t perform on the required level so it’s the clubs best interest to sell them even for ridiculously low fees, but these fans are just as wrong as the Xhaka-haters.

    When we will (likely) sell Nketiah for 7-9M (he worth 14.4M but he is the last year of his contract and everybody knows Arteta wants to sell him) don’t forget that Eddie is the youth international scoring record holder with 116 minute per goal club and a 35 goals in 38 games international statistic, while Liverpool sold Taiwo Awoniyi for 5M. Don’t be ashamed if your first though was Taiwo Who? The 23-year-old Nigerian center forward has an impressive 10 goals per 24 games international statistic for Nigeria’s youth national teams, but for clubs scored only every 233 minute, exactly twice as rare as Nketiah. Yet there is a good to fair chance that they will be sold for for figures in the same ballpark, while Tammy Abraham (whom I would never swap Nketiah for – but I admit that is subjective) will get 7-8 fold of that money.

    By the way, money. I think it is hardly a surprise but high salaries can disrupt the peace in the dressing room. That happened with Sanchez at MU, and in some extent with Özil. (The cases of Auba and Willian are different, they’re just not motivated enough to constantly challenge themselves – like Ramsey.)
    According to https://www.spotrac.com/epl/arsenal-fc/payroll/ Mari is our highest paid CB, Chambers and Gabriel make 50k, while Holding is earning 25k per week. According to rumors White will make 125k per week, equaling the salary of Chambers, Gabriel and Holding combined. I hope that wouldn’t unsettle the players…

  • Chambers can also play CB and Kola is clearly on his way out. FBs are vital and injury prone, so four is the absolute minimum in a good squad.

  • PB, all top team squads are large and have these issues, but you keep presenting them as just ours. We need strength in depth and competition and your desire for a small squad doesn’t work.

    But the squad will be trimmed a bit more towards the end of the transfer window, as is usually the case.

  • My good sir, I have to respectfully disagree.

    In the last 5 years I think we sold 2 players for a decent price: Iwobi for 27M and Coquelin for 13M. On most of the other players we suffered a significant loss compared to their values (and I didn’t go back to the Fabregas, or van Persie transfers), plus their values were already far below their fair worth assuming proper player and squad management.
    We might argue if Szczesny was/is a top10 keeper, but the 12M price was an insult, especially that 2 years later he was valued at 36M. Same applies to Perez: we not only bought a 11M player for 18M, but managed to depreciate him to 8M and eventually sold for 4M (all figures from TransferMarkt, which is obviously not infallible, but the best indicator available). Nacho and Koscielny aside – as the low asking prices were connected to their long years of fine services – we went and released Mkhi (30M purchase price / 18M value when contract terminated), Mustafi (37M/11M), Sokratis (14M/5M) and Ozil (42M/16M). In some countries this would constitute as destruction of property. (Ramsey not included here as it is a different story.) However the Guendouzi deal and the Mavropanos treatment are both disgraces – and we don’t know what will happen to William Saliba.

    I don’t think we did that because whoever are in charge of the contracts just don’t care. I prefer to think that we didn’t have much of a choice. Mkhi was squeezed out from the squad by Saka, Sokratis hasn’t played in his last season, Mustafi had a handful of insignificant games. They were all seriously underutilized and demotivated players whose market values were already on the decline. But they wasn’t left out from the squad because they were unmotivated; on the contrary: they were unmotivated because of the lack of playing opportunities. No club on their right mind would pay top dollars for them, as they didn’t have to. And the same will happen with Kolasinac, Bellerin, Soares, Nketiah and Nelson. What money do you expect to receive from selling the Bosnian hulk who was worth 18M a year and a half ago? Bellerin used to worth 36M. Now a 16M deal could be a good one. Even if there will be any deal at all as both make 100k a week.

    No, sir, my take on the small squad is not ‘doesn’t work’, just never been tested. The large squad model was tested time and time again, the proofs of it destructing club property are overwhelming and undisputed. In fact the 2 players who were sold on a fair price were regulars, even though not necessarily at the Arsenal level. The 15M for Giroud was also half-decent for a 31 year old (we’ll sell the younger and more prolific Lacazette for less), but Oliver was sold after his replacement was purchased, which isn’t a good business strategy either.

    But you are right that this is not a solely Arsenal-specific issue. Manchester City is also guilty of squad value destruction. Pabo Mari (sold for 1.5M later worth 6.5M), Douglas Luiz (15M/31.5M), Adarabioyo (1.5M/11M), Sané (40M/80M) only from the last 2 years) and they also lost David Silva, Eric Garcia and Sergio Agüero on a free. Probably all – or at least most – because of too large squad and unrealistically intensive competition. The main difference that they don’t really care about value depreciation as they have seemingly unlimited pockets and their only goal is the Champions League.

    You say that “all top team squads are large”, in which you are right again. But unfortunately Arsenal is not a top team any more – hopefully only temporarily. Leicester City – as well the other “top” teams – need more player, because they will have 8-14 more games (20-25%) next season. It’s not about tradition, it is about performance, development and minutes. Leicester City has 28 players (signed 3, returned 2 and released 4 – they will probably sell/loan 1 or 2 and have 26-27 when the transfer window closes), Crystal Palace, Leeds and Aston Villa – it’s breaking my heart to say, but based on the last season they are our closest competition – have only 23. Arsenal already has 28 (again, without any European competition whatsoever), and are looking to add 5-6 further players to the squad (GK, CB, 2xCM/DM, AM, ST). Of course there could be outgoing players, but while it is still in a wishful thinking state I will keep complaining about the unreasonably large squad size.

    My apologies in advance.

  • Pfffff, PB, you are not a champion of brevity, are you? You make some good points but there’s always a counter argument.

    In a nutshell:
    1. Last years under Wenger v poor players were bought – not suitable for the PL
    2. We got good money for Iwobi, Ox, Martinez, though
    3. The market has been poor for over a year, this goes for all teams
    4. Arteta needs to build a top team, no time to select players just to keep their market value up and too many let him down (Kola, Mesut, Mustafi, Guendouzi especially).
    5. The summer TW is not closed
    6. We will need a big squad in 12 months time, so trim only through loans and a few necessary sales or ending of contracts
    7. Success plus improved markets will lead to future top sales again
    8. Remember that we only see the top of the Iceberg, so be humble with your analysis 😉🦒

  • Thanks for the post. The big question on Arteta is has he improved the team. I feel NO. Many players have regressed under his management. Bellerin, Kolasinac etc were decent players under Wenger and Unai but with Arteta they are unrecognisable any more.

    A team that finished eight must be making squad upgrade signings not players who are likely to be on the bench. Our midfield is very weak and we need to sell Xhaka, Elneny, Torreira and Guendouzi (not loan) whilst bringing in players like Maddison, Bissouma and Saul to improve the need. We already got numbers but lacking quality.

  • This used to a blog with glass half full people, but these days it is quite different…

    Simba, fair enough if that is what you believe then who am I to urinate against the wind.

    My view in a nutshell, we almost have top quality in every position…. and good back up to. Well done, Arteta.

  • On not being the champion of bravery I’m guilty as charged. 🙂

    I agree with some of your points, but while the market is indeed poor and players like Lacazette and Bellerin worth 15M – and you can buy a world champion for 30-35M we managed to buy a player for 50M – double of his market value.
    With a reasonably sized squad Arteta wouldn’t need to select players for keeping their value and spirits high. With this level of contingency he has to. I’m quite sure it is part of his job description – or if not, it bloody should be. And let’s not forget that in last season he didn’t provide the playing opportunities for the academy and squad players some of us demand and YET didn’t manage to deliver a respectable performance, so nobody could accuse Mikel of sacrificing team spirit and market value on the altar of efficiency.

    You are right, the TW is far from closed, so there is plenty of time for sales and purchases, so I’m not jumping to conclusions just yet, merely laying down the aspects for the future analysis. And I also agree with you that this trimming should be a short one so (quality!) loans should be preferred over permanent deals for our young talents.

    Nevertheless I kind of feel that you would hail Arteta and Edu if we buy Ramsdale for 30M+, even though Mat Ryan – who expressed his wish to join us as well as being a boyhood Arsenal fan and seemed like a reliable goalkeeper – joined Real Sociedad on a FREE transfer. And I’m 100% sure that the decision was not based on Mat’s desired salary.

  • Re last paragraph – How could you be 100% sure, PB. Come on man, you are not in the know of these things. It is just a guess!

  • OK, it is a guess, but it is really hard to imagine that if Ryan made weekly 35k with Brighton and Arsenal, and now makes 37k with Real Sociedad then this 2000 GBP would have been the decisive factor, especially when Ramsdale currently makes 43k, and Arsenal’s offer to lure him to the Emirates should be around 70k a week:
    “Arsenal would apparently be prepared to offer him a ‘huge’ increase on his salary and also the lure of Premier League football.”

    So by saying it wasn’t about Ryan’s salary increment is only obvious, but you are indeed right that obvious does not mean 100%.

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