Daily Archives: February 1, 2023

Midfield Substitution: Jorginho In, Lokonga Out

The winter transfer window is finally over and now, we can concentrate on some sweet football from now till the end of the season. With Arsenal out of both domestic competitions rather prematurely, all hands are on deck as the club aims to win its first Premier League title in 19 years, as well as its first Europa League trophy.

One essential feature any team challenging on all fronts need is squad depth, as last season’s Champions League qualification shortcomings proved so. With Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey suffering major injuries in the tail end of last season, Arsenal lost vital games against Crystal Palace, Southampton and Brighton, before getting some good results, which included a win at Stamford Bridge, but when the going got really tough and results were needed at White Hart Lane and St. James Park, the Gunners failed woefully and settled for a fifth placed finish, despite being odds on favorites to finish fourth.

A new campaign has commenced and the Gunners recruited smartly this season, signing players that have come into the first team and made massive impacts, as well as galvanizing the ones already in the squad. The Gunners were desperately short up front with the acrimonious departures of their usual goal getters, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette – Gabriel Jesus resolved that. Nuno Taveres showed that he was not up to scratch when Tierney got crocked, so getting Oleksandr Zinchenko was a touch of genius. Talk about killing two left back and central midfield birds with one Zinchenstone.

Central midfield, however, remained a problematic position that needed to be addressed, due to the gulf of quality between the first teamers and their deputies. Besides the issue of quality, Granit Xhaka is a fart away from his next undeserved suspension and Partey’s bones are probably made of glass, so the pursuit of Youri Tielemans seemed worthwhile, but the Arsenal hierarchy didn’t get the move over the line. Seeing how efficiently the Gunners signed Porto’s Fabio Vieira out of the blue, it seemed evident that Tielemans wasn’t a priority, or maybe it’s the fact that he could be signed on a Bossman that played a role in the decision making.

With Partey suffering an injury scare in the FA Cup loss to Man City, coupled with the fact that the club confirmed that Mohamed Elneny has gone under the knife to mitigate a niggling issue on his knee, and of course, the underwhelming form of Albert Sambi Lokonga. Signing a central midfielder in the January window was an absolute priority.

With the failed pursuit of Moises Caicedo from Brighton as well as the limited time available, Edu and the recruitment team must be hugely commended for signing an experienced player like Jorginho at such short notice.

Yes, I have my reservations about him as I expressed in yesterday’s post, but he is certainly a stop-gap measure that will hold the fort in the next six months and probably the year after, while the Gunners go hard for Declan Rice this summer.

While I was a bit puzzled by letting Sambi Lokonga go to Crystal Palace on loan with Elneny injured, it is a transfer that makes a lot of reasons. Lokonga has failed to nail a first team berth since he arrived at the club and his performances haven’t also helped his cause. He’s a young lad that needs consistent game time to really develop, like William Saliba, and at this present time, he cannot get that at Arsenal. And finally, he’s going to play under the tutelage of a midfield legend like Patrick Vieira, who can turn him into a beast like Conor Gallagher when he arrived from Chelsea.

With Jorginho arriving, Lokonga departing and Elneny out injured, Arsenal still looks short in the middle, but one can assume that Mikel Arteta is probably seeking short term solutions like deploying Smith-Rowe in central midfield to play the left 8 Xhaka role. The club also has a natural replacement in Zinchenko, who can be deployed there to allow Tierney play as a left back.

So it’s not all doom and gloom.

Jorginho arrives at the club hungry for a new challenge, despite winning major trophies at club and international level. This is the sort of mentality that Gabriel Jesus and Zinchenko rubbed off on the team, so I’m keen to see what the Italian has to offer in his time with the club.

It’s time to return our focus to the football, and all hands will be on deck to continue the winning run in the league, against an Everton side refreshed with Satanball’s ambassador, Sean Dyche.