So I’ve been off the grid for two weeks, swallowed by acting work, and have emerged to a rather different Goonersphere.
This is not to say that things are all sweetness and light, or that the transfer window has given us the shiny presents we all wanted, but things have obviously changed.
The news of impending transfers helped improve the atmosphere going into the Watford game and the quality of the first half performance provided some much needed encouragement, even if Oxlade-Chamberlain still appears to have a significant confidence and concentration deficit.
Being reminded of what the personnel already in place can put together certainly provided a little much needed buoyancy going into the international break.
Then it became all about the transfer window.
It’s quite hard to form an objective opinion about the business concluded by the club, because of the combination of relief at the shoring up of key positions and the comparative difficulty in assessing how the new boys will fit in. Certainly the fact that Mustafi has lived and plied his trade in the UK before, and Lucas’s experience of adjusting to both Greek and Russian football, not to mention both speaking, at worst functiona,l English, does bode well for a quick integration into the squad.
Xhaka looks to have settled in as well as we suspected, and Rob Holding’s ability to step up to this level is heartening. Sadly the club’s historical inability to have the same power over work permit provision as Manchester United (not at all bent that!) continues, so Asano and Nwakali will have to prove their mettle elsewhere.
Crucially the spine of the team has added pace, strength and work-rate which can only be a good thing, so at least in terms of positions and tactical profiles we have to be happy with the arrivals, even if the Holy Grail signing did not materialise. Obviously the jury remains out on the new boys, but for various reasons, they are all signings that make sense.
Looking in the other direction, it’s a more confusing picture.
Jack and Calum leaving on loan, as with Wojciech makes a lot of sense, even if the lack of recall clauses are a concern. For different reasons both desperately need a good run of first team football to get things back on track.
In Jack’s case, to return to the pre-injury level that can allow him to genuinely compete for a regular slot for Arsenal and for Calum, just a chance to nail down a run of games in a single position will be vital for him. Despite people wanting to write him off, he’s still very young and has all the tools, but without a run in a first team will just stagnate. I’m happy with the club sending these three guys out and am happy that they remain Arsenal players.
Gnabry’s departure (and whatever dodgy deal exists between Bremen and Bayern) is a big disappointment. We wanted to keep him, his family and agent wanted him to stay by all accounts, but we all know that as a German footballer, unless you are Marco Reus, loyalty means nothing once Bayern get involved.
Having finally got back to full fitness after a terrible injury, he was supposed to break into the team for real this year, but much like his national manager, he seems to blame Arsenal for the lack of games he played for the club while injured or on loan. Perhaps this is the price we pay for being stupid enough to loan a genuine talent to Tony Pulis to screw with, but frankly he’s treated the club badly, and I hope he achieves the same level of post Arsenal failure as most of our ex-prospects. Or that we negotiated a BIG sell-on clause.
More curiously, the Joel Campbell loan makes a lot of sense for the player but not a great deal to anyone else. But it’s clear that for whatever reason the manager remained unconvinced, while most fans would agree with the Costa Rican’s assertion that he deserved more opportunities than he got. With the Ox still struggling and Gnabry forcing his way out at the last minute, I hope this doesn’t bite us in the rear too much.
Of course, most bizarre of all is the fact that Mathieu Debuchy remains an Arsenal player, despite wanting to leave and us having seemingly no intention of using him.
All in all, things seem more cheerful than at the time of my last scribblings, but still not quite enough so to inspire genuine title challenge optimism. Wenger has resisted the temptation to cut off his nose to spite his face, but there still remain many questions about the season ahead, whose answers remain beyond us.
Plus ca change, I guess.