With the transfer window coming to a frenetic and frankly hilarious end, it’s time to assess how well Arsenal have done in regards to putting together a team that can win trophies, both in this season and in the future.
(£30m for Moussa Sissoko is truly awful; a player with the work rate of a comatose sloth, to play for a team that demands constant pressing and running. Spurs have outdone themselves with this one.)
Let’s start with this season.
There are plenty of criticisms that can be made of Arsenal’s work this summer; they could have signed Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez earlier in the summer, they didn’t buy a true ‘world-class’ player, they didn’t get in top shape for the opening day of the season, etc etc.
However, even with all of the above considered, it’s hard to look at Arsenal’s squad and not think it’s strong enough to at least contend for silverware this season. In fact, when was the last time that the spine of our starting XI as strong as it is right now?
Cech, Koscielny, Mustafi, Xhaka, Cazorla, Özil and Alexis. That’s an incredibly solid base to build around. Their replacements in the squad are Ospina, Holding, Gabriel, Coquelin, Elneny, Ramsey and Perez/Giroud/Welbeck. Arsenal has the deepest squad in the league this year in terms of quality.
We haven’t had that luxury since moving to the Emirates Stadium a decade ago.
The only weak spots in the squad are at full-back. Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin are more than good enough, but their back-ups………….hmmm. Kieran Gibbs’ inability to stay fit has derailed his career to some extent, whilst Mathieu Debuchy’s transformation into a lamp-post needs to be reversed immediately. But apart from that, the squad is full of players who can contribute to the team.
Again, when was the last time we could say that?
As for the outgoings, all of them are completely justifiable.
Calum Chambers needs game time badly. Rob Holding looks great because he just spent a year defending for his life at Bolton. Chambers needs a similar experience at Middlesbrough.
Serge Gnabry might be great in 2-3 years, but can Arsenal afford to give the games needed to get him there? There’s already a log-jam at right-wing as it is.
As for Jack Wilshere?
It is frankly impossible to imagine a more complicated, nuanced, layered situation than the one Jack finds himself in right now.
Here is everything that is involved;
- Is he good enough to play for Arsenal? YES
- Is he good enough to play for Arsenal right now? NO
- Can Arsenal give him the game time that he desperately needs to regain peak fitness? NO
- Is it worth losing him for a year to see if he can get back to 100% fitness and form? YES
And those are just the basics.
Wilshere is being criticised for choosing to play for Bournemouth instead of a European ‘giant’ like AC Milan or Roma, for example, with the implication that he’s being a ‘Little Englander’, and that he’s choosing the easy route by staying at home and not taking the challenge of going to work in a foreign country.
If Wilshere was a single man looking for a new adventure, then he should have absolutely moved to Milan or Rome. But, he isn’t.
He’s a man with two young kids and a fiancé. Moving your family to a different country for work purposes is stressful enough, doing it with the intention of returning home in nine months is simply just not worth the hassle.
Then there’s the whole point of loaning him out in the first place; to get him ready to play for Arsenal. Both Wilshere and the club need to be sure that he can handle the rigours of playing through a whole Premier League season. We make a big deal about how physically demanding it is to play in England, how there’s no winter break, etc.
How will playing in Italy, with better weather and a less physically demanding style of football, help inform either party?
The only way they both will be able to figure that out is to play in the Premier League. It’s the ultimate break test.
As for choosing Bournemouth as the team to play for, can you blame Wilshere for wanting to be within commuting distance of his family, whilst not being too close to Arsenal so that it feels less emotionally distressing to be away from the club that you grew up loving?
Bournemouth is the best of both worlds in this regards, and they play good football too.
It’s the ideal solution for a far from ideal situation.
As for the future, well, have a look at this list:
- Alex Iwobi and Rob Holding are 20
- Hector Bellerin is 21
- Granit Xhaka and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are 23
- Mohammed Elneny, Jack Wilshere and Shkodran Mustafi are 24
- Aaron Ramsey, Gabriel and Danny Welbeck are 25
- Mesut Özil, Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Lucas Perez are 27
The vast majority of our squad are either entering their prime now or on the cusp of doing so. Add to that the experience of Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny and Santi Cazorla, and it’s hard to come to any other conclusion other than Arsenal are in the best shape they have been in, on the field anyway, since 2006.
Will we need some luck with injuries? Of course. But any team that wins the league does so by getting 30+ games from its best players.
Instead of asking what would happen if Arsenal finds itself in the middle of an injury crisis, we should ask what might happen if everyone stays fit? Because Arsenal have the players to win the league this season.
Giving our rivals a five point head start wasn’t ideal by any means, but if that’s what it took to put this squad together, then I’ll settle for it.
Now, all we can do is sit and watch to see what happens.