For a moment, I forgot that we were in the winter transfer window.
You know, when your team is playing so badly in games and struggling like we are, you can only shift your focus to the next available game with the hope for a much improved performance from the previous show. Arsenal’s cause isn’t helped with the fact that we go to Stamford Bridge next, a ground where we haven’t had much joy in recent seasons. We did earn a creditable draw and might have even had all three points if Alexandre Lacazette remember where the goal actually was Aaron Ramsey’s shot clipped the post and fell kindly to him. More on the Chelsea game tomorrow.
My focus for today would be on Francis Coquelin, a player that signed a long term deal with us but lost his place in the term due to Granit Xhaka’s emergence in the squad. I can still remember his breakthrough performances on his return from his loan spell at Charlton. This swashbuckling tackling and passionate style of play endeared him to the hearts of the fans but deep down we saw him as a stop gap option in defensive midfield, rather than a long term plan. The club thought otherwise, or so we thought, when they offered him a new deal last season, alongisde Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud.
This season, the Coq has found games hard to come by, as he had to stick to substitute appearances in the Premier League with the only start coming at the Etihad where he played in central defense. However, he featured consistently in the Carabao Cup and Europa League. I expected him in midfield on Sunday against Nottingham Forest and I certainly raised an eyebrow when he wasn’t on the bench as well but with the Mirror reporting that Valencia Mestalla has made a 12m bid for him, it made some form of sense. However, I remain a bit confused – if Coquelin wasn’t part of Wenger’s plans, why did he offer him a long term deal? For a player that has such a new contract, isn’t 12m too small? Well, he was one of the guys considered as deadwood but will his departure give the manager the opportunity to properly invest in central midfield? Aaron Ramsey is a regular name on the first team sheet but his fitness remains a problem as he’s currently nursing a hamstring injury. Xhaka looks out of sorts and can do with a breather. Mo Elneny is such an average footballer and can offer us nothing beyond moving his dreads from side to side. Or does the manager have plans to play Ainsley Maitland-Niles in his natural position, allowing Sead Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal to do their jobs?
Either ways, it seems like its the end of the road for Coquelin. 10 seasons, 159 games and three trophies with the Gunners, he served to the best of his abilities and never grumbled over lack of consistent playtime. Just like Kieran Gibbs, he needs a new challenge and La Liga would be an interesting proposition for the French midfielder.
On the other end of the pendulum, the Sun has reported that Arsenal have stepped up their chase for West Brom’s Jonny Evans and are also planning to use Matt Debuchy as makeweight to seal the deal. It’s also believed that Manchester City are interested in the Northern Irish defender as a replacement for the ever-injured Vincent Kompany. I know the Gunners recently bought Kostantinos Mavropanos but that’s a lad for the future. The current state of the Gunners defense is in shambles, and the performance against Nottingham Forest proved how bad things have become at the club. Per Mertesacker is past his prime and is probably day dreaming of his academy job at the end of the season, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal are in their 30s and are struggling with injuries, Calum Chambers and Rob Holding are still very raw, leaving us with just Shkodran Mustafi as the reliable defender.
Adding a player like Evans wouldn’t be a bad option – he’s 30, very experienced in the Premier League, has won major trophies with Manchester United and can stake a claim for a place in the side, and of course provide some much needed depth as our players tend to drop like flies every season.
More on these players in the coming days.
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