Thoughts on Arsenal’s Potential Departures to Italy

 

Lucas Torreira attempting to pick up Sokratis is exactly the level of  ambition I aspire for in 2020. : Gunners

Football, first and foremost, is a business with dealings in the transfer window playing a major role in the club’s finances. Arsenal is no different as the club swiftly swooped for Chelsea’s experienced maverick, Willian, on a free transfer before signing the highly-coveted center back, Gabriel Magalhaes, and securing a successive loan spell for midfield maestro, Dani Ceballos. 

There are some departures that have been expected with the Italian Serie A being the expected destination.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

With some additions, it only makes sense to expect some departures and the goodbye wagon started rolling with the club confirming the departure of Henrikh Mkhitaryan to AS Roma by mutual consent.

The decision to swap the Armenian attacking midfielder with Alexis Sanchez remains one of the most puzzling deals in football history, bearing in mind that Arsenal rejected a lucrative offer from Manchester City to sign the Chilean forward. Mkhitaryan joined the squad with a fat pay check and was quite inconsistent and underwhelming for a player of his calibre.

Things went sour and he joined AS Roma on loan where he managed to pick up some decent form to the point they offered Arsenal 10 million euros for his services and the Gunners rejected that as well – only to allow him leave for free a few months later. Good business indeed. The only positive I can think of from Mkhitaryan leaving, besides watching him of course, is the wages that have been freed up, which will be offered to those more deserving, like a certain Gabonese talismanic forward.

Lucas Torreira

Switching from permanent to potential departures, it seems like our love affair with the diminutive Uruguayan defensive midfielder, Lucas Torreira, is coming to an end. He came to the club and offered us something we had missed for a while – that dogged, swashbuckling, hard tackling, combative style we craved and we certainly loved it, as he missed only four Premier League games from 38 in his debut season.

His second season with us didn’t have the same zest as expected and he even lost his place in the team to a younger Matteo Guendouzi under Unai Emery and Dani Ceballos under Mikel Arteta. This led to him voicing his thoughts about not playing regularly and giving green lights to his potential suitors about his availability. It is believed that Italian Serie A outfit, Fiorentina, have declared their interest in signing Torreira in some sort of loan with mandatory option of buying kind of deal.

I am certain that Torreira will not pass on an opportunity to return to the country he started his football career, having played with Pescara and Sampdoria before joining Arsenal in 2018. In as much as I would love Torreira to stay, I understand his sentiments if he wants to leave for regular playing time, especially with the fact that he featured sparingly went football returned in June 2020. 

Sokratis Papastathopoulos

Finally, we visit the situation of Sokratis Papastathopoulos who has clearly fallen out of favor with the manager. Despite the fact that Calum Chambers has been injured for a lengthy period and there were fitness concerns with Rob Holding, Arteta still preferred to feature full backs like Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac as center back options with Sokratis watching from the bench.

The fact that he has also entered the final months of his contract with no hopes of renewing makes him a prime target to be axed this summer and his wishes might come through with Napoli declaring their interest in acquiring his services.

With their key asset in midfield, Allan, already departing to Everton and star defender, Kalilou Koulibaly, a long-term target for Manchester City, Napoli will want to bolster their defensive options and I am elated with the fact that the potential exists for Sokratis to be sold to them, even though it will certainly be for cheaps.

Sayonara.

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What Willian Brings to Arsenal Football Club

Report: Arsenal offer Willian three-year deal to sign on free transfer

This morning, Arsenal announced the signing of former Chelsea attacker, Willian Borges da Silva, on the three-year deal for free of course. I shared my thoughts about Willian in a previous post but I will like to focus on the attributes the Brazilian sensation brings to Arsenal football club. 

Little or No Adaptation Period

Those that saw the exploits of Nicolas Pepe last season can attest to the fact that adaptation is critical for any footballer joining a new club, as challenges such as learning the language, adapting to change in tactical management among others take center stage. Arsenal will face no such issues with with Willian as he spent seven years in London with the Gunners rivals, Chelsea, excelling admirably in the West London outfit. This means that Arsenal fans can expect Willian to hit the ground running from the get-go with the new campaign resuming in just 28 days.

Well Publicized Versatility

Every football manager hopes to have a player or two that can feature in several positions to allow him make tactical changes before and during matches. Arsenal is in luck as Willian is such a player that is adept in the left and right wings as well as the attacking central midfield position. The player himself declared that he is available to compete in any position with the sole aim of helping the team excel,

“I come to help in every position. I can play on the right, I can play in the middle, I can play on the left side as well. So I want to help – in any position where they put me to play, I will try to do my best.”

Excellent Injury Record

In a career that spanned for 14 years, Willian has made 618 appearances and scored 103 goals. In his seven years at Chelsea, the lowest amount of appearances Willian made was 41, and he made 34 league appearances in that campaign. If you check his injury history at transfermarkt, you will see that Willian was injured just three times in his entire career, so Arsenal will be assured that they have a player that will feature consistently for them in the coming seasons.

Dead Ball Specialist

Every team needs that player with a proven track record of set piece taking as it offers another perspective in a teams quest for goals. Last season, Arsenal scored a handful of free kicks with the most notable being Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goal against Aston Villa and Pepe’s double salvo against Victoria Guimaraes. However, Willian is a seasoned dead ball professional and will certainly earn the trust of his teammates to take a dead ball when the chance arrives in a favorable position. He’s also adept in taking corner kicks and swinging in dead balls from deep lying positions which will be an important asset for Arsenal in the forthcoming season.

Trophy Winning Experience

Willian enjoyed a distinguished football career winning six league titles (four at Shakhtar Donetsk and two at Chelsea), seven domestic cups (five in Ukraine and two in England) as well as two Europa League titles with Shakhtar and Chelsea. On the international scene, has won the 2007 Youth Championships with Brazil U-20s and the 2019 Copa America, so its fair to say that he has won his fair share of trophies. This will help with his mentality, and he has stated his intentions to carry it into this stint with Arsenal.

Much Needed Creativity

Whether he is cutting in from the flanks or making his short bursts past his opponents, Arsenal can count on Willian to provide that much needed creativity lacking in the side in recent campaigns. Mesut Ozil is the player tasked with that responsibility but he has not been featuring on the side. Sky Sports did an analysis on Willian’s creative numbers last season and it was very impressive to say the least. He created 76 chances, completed 51 crosses, notched up seven assists and scored nine goals. The likes of Aubameyang, Eddie Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette will lick their lips at the prospect of working with such a creative player in the club’s ranks. 

Attacking Output

Willian’s entire career has seen him score 103 goals in 618 games. 63 of those goals appeared in Chelsea colors from 339 appearances. In his last five seasons with Chelsea, Willian scored 11, 8, 13, 12 and 11 goals respectively in all competitions, which are very decent numbers from an attacking midfielder. Arsenal will be expecting the same from him and we expect him to deliver.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal Stuck with Ozil, so Arteta Has to Make it Work

Emiliano Martinez, Mesut Ozil and the huge financial imbalance in ...

I remember the fanfare that arrived with Arsenal’s club-record signing of Mesut Ozil in September 2013. If I recall, we just defeated Tottenham with a deft Olivier Giroud finish which settled the contest and we had the international break to bask in the euphoria of the signing of the German superstar from Real Madrid, while some players on the Spanish outfit, notably Cristiano Ronaldo, expressed their displeasure with his departure. It took him just 11 minutes into his Arsenal debut to record his first assist for Giroud in the 3-1 win against Sunderland. After 26 games in his maiden campaign with the Gunners, Ozil notched up five goals and 10 assists. He crowned the campaign with the biggest prize in world football when Germany dominated the world stage in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. 

In the following seasons, Ozil continued his fine form with his best assist haul (19) coming in the 2015/16 season while his best scoring haul arrived the season after with Ozil scoring 12 goals for the club, which actually turned to be his personal best in terms of goal scoring in his entire career. Then 2018 happened. Ozil struggled with form and fitness and with grumpy Alexis Sanchez close to the exit door, Arsenal had a big decision to make on his future, which ended up making him the highest paid player in the club’s history. That fat salary came with its fair share of expectations, and Arsenal fans can attest to the fact that Ozil isn’t the same player that he was in his early days with the club. The injuries certainly increased and the form was shabby as well. Then there were the off the field activities that raised a few eyebrows.

The man that brought Ozil to our beloved club left after 22 years of service and we expected Unai Emery to make the best out of his situation. Sadly, it was pretty much the same as he was ostracized from the team with the Spanish gaffer having little or no faith in the German playmaker. Their exchange when he got substituted for Joe Willock in the 2019 Europa League final proved to be the last straw and it was evident that Ozil was only going downhill from there. The shitefest with Emery ended in November 2019 and the young and vibrant Mikel Arteta joined the club, offering everyone a clean slate. Ozil looked like he had found a new lease of life under the new manager, featuring consistently as the creative hub in his 4-2-3-1 setup, and even notched up three assists (Norwich, Brighton and West ham) as well as a goal in the win against Newcastle. His work rate and distance covered also increased under Arteta’s tutelage. These are not staggering numbers by any margin but Arsenal was struggling from the depths Emery plunged them into, so every player had to pull their weight for the new gaffer, since he offered them a blank check, forgiving their previous footballing transgressions.

The COVID-19 pandemic took center stage and football was brought to an abrupt halt with the most faithful of fans having little optimism that we would see the beautiful game again, but it resumed in June with much excitement, even though Arsenal’s defeats against Man City and Brighton dampened the spirits, one thing that stood out was that there was no Mesut Ozil in the match day squad. With the games coming thick and fast, and squads heavily depleted from a fitness standpoint, one would expect that every manager would want to utilize the entirety of his squad, let alone, its highest earner, but not Arsenal. Ozil remained in oblivion as fans wondered what was really going on – footballing reasons or chronic back pain, bottom line was that Ozil was unavailable for selection, and we continued to struggle to create chances.

It was only expected that the fans would be expecting the club to cash in on an out-of-favor player with a huge salary and at least some worth in today’s transfer market this summer. However, Ozil’s recent interview with the Athletic (£) has revealed a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes but the conclusion we have gotten from the German playmaker is that he’s going nowhere and is still determined to prove his doubters wrong and make his mark on the team.

He has come to the public to share his thoughts on his situation and it’s clear that Arsenal have been pushed to the same corner similar to that of Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck, but with Raul Sanllehi declaring that we will be faced in such a situation again, it is going to be a very dicey situation to say the least. 

Let’s stick to the realities we are clearly aware of – Mesut Ozil is still contracted to Arsenal for one more season before he’s going to be available on a free transfer, and we are certain that the likes of Fenerbahce, Istanbul Basaksehir and co will be licking their lips at the prospect of having such a talented footballer in their ranks. However, the onus is on Mikel Arteta and the club to steer the ship in the right direction and make this upcoming campaign a sort of make-or-break type for Ozil, that’s if the executive decision is not to sell him despite his recent comments.

He’s still a very valuable player to the squad, capable of scoring a goal or two and most importantly, creating chances for his teammates. This is a player that has notched up 28 goals and 53 assists in 155 appearances for the club – and we know that he creates a whole lot of chances that don’t get converted so those assist numbers don’t do justice. Yes, we are clamoring for Philippe Coutinho and the magic he can bring to the side, but we still have a player in Ozil that is still capable of so much more – but he has to be given that chance to prove his worth.

Arsenal is stuck with Mesut Ozil, so Arteta has to make it work.

Sayonara.

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