Arsenal's Shoddy Transfer Policy Is Going To Let This Season Slip Away
I’ve been riding the Özil high for a while now. Sometimes when I’m feeling down I’ll stare at a picture of him and for a while the world falls back into alignment again. Mesut Özil! That one. The German one. The really good one! Here! Be still my beating heart.
There’s an unpleasant symmetry to it being another transfer deadline day that finally dulls the euphoria. Arsenal are doing alright. It’s the end of January and they’re one point off a City side so rampant they can only be days from their first customised sex toy. Mourinho is sandpapering his way through the season as is his tendency but Chelsea have slipped up in places this season against smaller teams and are still stuck with Boggis, Bunce and Bean up front. United, Spurs and Liverpool are either too crap, too far behind or too Liverpool. This is the best time in years for a title push and while January isn’t always a good time for a marquee signing it’s important to pitch a few pop-up tents for the holes in the squad that inevitably start being shown up at this time of year.
Arsenal’s holes are obvious. That a title chasing team should be desperately pinning their hopes on the just-about-adequate Olivier Giroud as if he was some sort of talismanic game-winner speaks to quite how pants Nicklas Bendtner is. The Dane has been farting around various unsuccessful loan spells for the last few years and his contract is up in the summer, so Wenger’s clearly identified that he’s no good, but for some reason he’s still lurking in the periphery ready to step in and miss a sitter in a 1-1 draw away at Hull.
Mathieu Flamini has been shown up a couple of times already this season before he decided he wanted to nip into the showers early to use all the nice shampoo against Southampton and Arteta is very good at looking statuesque and Busquetsy against teams which don’t pressure hard but looks all of his 46 years under too much duress. He isn’t bad by any means and will probably do as a first choice but his stamina isn’t what it used to be and him and the Frenchman are a pretty weak defensive midfield pairing all things considered.
Centre back is also a problem. Koscielny, Mertesacker and Vermaelen are an solid first 3 but there’s a gaping void behind them, with only an improvising Sagna (which would result in Jenkinson at right back, God help us) there to fill in if there’s more than 1 injury.
So; these are the holes. The title chase is at a crucial point now - the draw at Southampton has meant Arsenal have slipped off the top and there is an intense and difficult run of games coming up. Seasons are made and broken in periods such at this. To ignore the very obvious holes in the team is unforgivably negligent, especially in a league which may not be as weak for another 10 years, but ignore Wenger has. His sole acquisition this transfer window has been Kim Kallstrom. The ageing Swede will be useful cover in the middle with Ramsey out for another 6 weeks and Flamini getting himself suspended but the looming spectre of having to play Jenkinson, Bendtner or Flamini in a game of even middle importance is filling me with more than a little trepidation.
Arsenal have been working in the long term for a long time now – financially and in terms of developing players. This season could well be the time that planning bears fruit and it’s playing a dangerous game to do anything but throw all possible weight into the title push, especially since the chances are that half the teams currently below will get their act together and be far more formidable challengers in the coming season. 8 years is too long, and I’ll be furious with Wenger if this year slips away because he couldn’t bring himself to fill the gaps in the squad when it really mattered.