At a risk of overlooking our last two opponents, it’s worth looking ahead to summer business. One can walk and chew gum at the same time, after all. Yes, we’d do well to be wary of Nottingham Forest, who are still struggling to stave off relegation, and Wolves are always up for a feisty scrap (should we celebrate if we beat them? Hmmm…). Without ignoring those speed-bumps, it’s well-worth looking at some vital summer business that has nothing at all and also everything to do with key players like Xhaka, Smith-Rowe, and Tierney, among others. Let the culling begin.
The highlight has to be Granit Xhaka. I’ve written before about his apparent swan-song, and we’re all familiar with his redemption arc. Rumours continue to swirl around a move to Bayer Leverkusen, and one has to wonder whether those rumours suggest anything about internal discussions around the likelihood of us signing one or both of Rice or Caicedo. Either one would likely force Xhaka to accept a reduced role. Signing both, though unlikely, might relegate him to dead-rubber matches and mop-up minutes. Don’t overlook Arteta’s relationship with Xabi Alonso. They came through La Masia together, which might grease the wheels just a little bit.
On to Emile Smith-Rowe. This one is a conundrum. He’s been fit enough to be named as a sub for the last 12 matches but has only played a grand total of 99 minutes. This doesn’t add up, and I’m not just talking about my maths. If he’s fit, why isn’t he playing? He could have added another dimension to our one-dimensional attack, giving Martinelli, Saka, or Ødegaard a rest even if he’s not a one-for-one replacement. If he isn’t fit, why has Arteta so often added him to match-day rosters? It starts to feel like there’s something else going on…
Kieran Tierney. Is he this season’s Bernd Leno? Like Leno, he’d been one of the best in the squad only to find himself relegated to the bench. He’s stepped up in Zinchenko’s absence but hasn’t gotten the minutes that he must feel he’s earned. I’ve suggested a few times that he should have been given a chance at CB, where he plays for Scotland, but, apparently, neither Edu nor Arteta frequent this blog. Consider this post a polite but firm letter to Mr. Arteta’s underlings, who with some cajoling, will pass it along to him or at least give him the gist of it. Play the lad or sell him. Stick or twist.
Those, in my mind, are the big ones. Looking further down the list, only Reiss Nelson stands out as someone who poses difficult questions. He seems hungry, dynamic, and full of potential. He wants regular football but isn’t yet on the level to earn it—yet. A few more moments like that stunner against Bournemouth, or even the hunger and desire he showed against Brighton, when senior members could hardly be bothered, would clarify his situation. Let’s hope he gets—and takes—his chances in Martinelli’s absence.
Looking further afield will have to wait for another day. We have all sorts of players we really should sell at almost any price—Pepe, Soares, Holding….The bigger questions come around players who might come good if we’re patient. We’re talking here of the likes of Tavares, Lokonga, Vieira, Balogun, and Patino. On one hand, I want us to stay true to the ideal of making superstars rather than buying them. On the other, we have to swim or drown in the water in which we find ourselves. Who among these players will be the next Saka, the next Martinelli, the next Saliba?
We’ll have to make room for the next Partey, the next Ødegaard, the next Jesus. To do so, we may have to jettison a few players, maybe even one or two such as Xhaka or Tierney who have earned our respect if not our adoration.
It’s a cold, cruel world out there. To one degree or another, we’ll have to adapt or risk being left out in the cold.
Calling Xhaka deadwood after his best season is absurd but still sell to get pace n energy
Nketiah, 2 good games a season
Nelson, 20 mins v Bourne
Partey, loses focus
Tommi, sick note
ESR, no pace
Holding, not quality
Turner, joke signing
Vieira, could he be more lightweight
Jorghino, hit n miss, slow
Most of those on loan
If we want title major upgrades needed to squad
Aye, you’re right on Xhaka. I meant to add a disclaimer to that same effect. He’s not deadwood, but he’s likely to become superfluous if we can get Rice or Caicedo.
I was going to a “sequel” on those fringe players. I’m not ready to give up on Patino or Tavares yet. I’d like to see Tavares loaned to someone in the Prem, though. Like Balogun, it’s hard to get a sense of just how much he’s developed in Ligue 1.
I would be willing to see all those that your post mentions leave. Plus Ramsey.
Interesting that you’re willing to part with Ramsey. I’d like to keep him unless we can get a top-shelf replacement. Given our other needs, this may have to take a backseat until next summer.
There are several underlying assumptions in your post, Jon, and in some of the replies:
1) that we will be able to sign Caicado and Rice, let alone some of the other names being bandied about. What makes you all believe we will ever agree to pay what the sellers may demand let alone that someone else may not swoop in and outbid us? We have experienced this scenario for years, not just last fall, and I suspect we will probably not see both of those players at the Emirates (maybe one but not both).
2) that we will be able to sell, rather than give away, many of those players listed as expendable, not good enough, too old, too slow, etc. If we can see those weaknesses or detriments, why wouldn’t everyone else see the same? Obviously there are those sides with enough money to take a chance on a few of those, e.g., ESR, Tierney, Reiss, or those in such great need they might take others, e.g., Pepe, Holding, Turner, but the return on the entire list might not get us enough money nor clear enough weekly salaries to cover more than one or more new players.
3) that Stan and his son will ever choose let alone, afford, the vast and obscene funds needed to bid and buy all the players needed to get further than first round of CL, maybe win the FA or other silverware, let alone win the PL? Selling the marginal folks will not get us that much money.
4) that all the other European or UK clubs are just waiting to sell us their stars for cheap because they have no ambitions and are not going to be bidding against us, let alone standing in line to sell at Edu’s lowest offering price?
Also, even if we find one or two, versus five or six, first rate or top stars, we still need a deeper squad going into next year. That means we need even more decent players and where will they come from?
This wholesale dumping of players seems to be a fantasy scenario and I suspect that, come the end of the transfer window, we may not find as many changes or departures as predicted. Sadly, while we may strengthen the squad in some areas, it may take years to reach the level or depth of City. Meantime, while we may progress incrementally, unless we unearth a diamond in the rough, e.g., a Haaland who far outplays expectations, or if all the others with vast resources, e.g., United, Newcastle, Chelsea, Liverpool, stop spending and improving, we will still remain Achilles and the Tortoise.
I am sure that not all, or even most, of the mentioned players will be sold. However, the issue is who could be sold. Those players could all be sold. None are vital and non are irreplaceable. Those that are sold will be replaced.
I always think of the Bendtner saga whenever we’re trying to sell a player. It may take quite a lot of effort and generosity on our part to unload many of these players. Wherever they go will represent a backward step to them, not to mention the likelihood that they’ll have to accept lower wages. I foresee a few players going out on loan until their current contracts are up rather than being sold.
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