Morning all – James here, tasked with trying to cheer you miserable lot up.
So, after a summer of clamouring for the manager to make substantial additions to our squad, the events of yesterday evening should have appeased the clamours, however the news which broke last night of deals to sign Deportivo’s Lucas Perez and Shkodran Mustafi was met with mixed emotions.
The first element of disgruntlement which I can totally empathise with is the lateness of the deals – I find it difficult to believe that Perez in particular was not attainable at the opening of the transfer window. My view is that Arsenal wanted to sign a megastar striker, but when it became clear it wouldn’t come off, Perez was there Plan B (or C, if you consider Jamie Vardy to be Plan A) striker. Several of the papers have come out this morning portraying Perez as a panic signing and that we have flip-flopped on him. Those far closer to the club than me say we have been scouting him for the last year or so. As far as I can tell, Perez represents a backup option, and I see very little wrong with that – we get pilloried for not having contingencies in place, yet are criticised when we implement our contingency plan.
I get that Perez is not the blockbuster striker we wanted, but the reality is if Madrid don’t want to sell Benzema, if Bayern want to keep Lewandowski, they are not the kind of clubs who can be strong-armed. Given the option of Perez or Lacazette, I think we have made the right decision (based on the little of Perez and substantial amount of Lacazette I’ve seen).
It may not be sexy, but sometimes pragmatism has to prevail. Perez’s career and profile is an interesting one, and as others have pointed out, he has trodden a similarly tumultuous path to that of a certain J. Vardy. He hasn’t followed the conventional route of the modern footballer, but has been something of a journeyman, plying his trade in the outreaches of Ukraine and more recently in Greece. Last season was the first in his career where people stood up and paid attention, with a seven game consecutive scoring streak bringing links to Barcelona in January. An outlay of 17 goals and 10 assists in the league in a struggling side is an impressive return.
His style of play is not dissimilar to that of Vardy, with a game based around high energy, speed and breaking the lines. My view is that whilst Perez is somewhat underwhelming in the context of the names some of bandied around, it adds depth and crucially a viable, more mobile alternative to Giroud. The risk he represents is that, ala Vardy, last season could be a one off. Time will tell.
The signing of Mustafi for a reported £35 million is one that makes a lot of sense, and one that we should be excited by. He has vast experience for a 24 year old, is a world cup winner, is fluent in English and from speaking with those who have followed his career far more closely than me, he seems to be the perfect fit stylistically too. He isn’t the tallest at 6 ft, but has a fantastic leap, he is an expert reader of the game, has a good turn of pace, and crucially he is a brilliant ball-playing centre-back. In a team like Arsenal, the value of this really shouldn’t be underestimated. He is also a calming presence and should be an excellent foil to Koscielny (and Gabriel *shudders*). Those who are non-plussed by this signing confuse me – we wanted a top-class centre-back, we have spent £35million on one and some are underwhelmed. It reeks of spoilt brats. Yes, it should have been done weeks ago, but it seems like we have got our man, and I for one am delighted.
I still think a winger of real quality is required in this side, which could also compensate for the lack of elite centre forward, but sadly I think it is unlikely in this window.
Nonetheless, there is plenty to be positive about. Granit Xhaka was one of Europe’s most coveted holding midfielders over the last 12 months, he captained Borussia Monchengladbach to the Champions League positions at the age of 23, he won three man of the match awards at Euro 2016, and crucially fills a problem position for Arsenal. He was signed in late May – if he was announced as an Arsenal player tomorrow, the fan base would be delighted. Because we actually got that piece of business done early, it has seemingly been forgotten by some.
Context is also important – we are susceptible to seeing only a red and white tinted vacuum, with little consideration for the travails of our rivals. The argument that what our rivals do is irrelevant is churlish – of course it matters. Look at Chelsea – miles off the pace last season, they have only brought in two players of note, with holes still to be plugged (centre-back, left back). Tottenham – they have brought in Wanyama and Janssen – two players who wouldn’t get near Arsenal’s starting XI. It shows it isn’t that easy to just “get it done”.
This summer hasn’t been perfect – particularly in terms of execution – but we have brought in real quality and the squad is in better shape than it was this time last season.
It isn’t a sign of weakness to just wait and see how these new players perform. It’s okay to be excited and see how the season pans out.
It may be Groundhog Day again, but until that becomes a reality, sit back and enjoy the football.
P.S. We have Mesut Ozil.
Follow and abuse me on Twitter @BeardofPires