Even the most ardent detractors might not have expected it to go this poorly. Arsenal are officially in a crisis, and it is up to Arsene Wenger to stop the team he has lovingly built over the last 2 decades from collapsing into an uninspired heap. There are players on the pitch who don’t want to be there. There are players on the bench that the manager doesn’t want there. The product on the pitch is as shambolic as it ever been under the Frenchman and the fans have nearly all, for the time being at least, turned against him.
Arsene has 1 day. He must emerge from this transfer window with a championship contending squad. As any angry fan or smug pundit will eagerly say, this is Arsene Wenger’s fault. After such a promising start to the transfer window, signing a stud of a left back (despite his nonsensical reluctance to play him against Liverpool) and the striker that fans have been craving for years at the Emirates (who again, could not find his way into the starting XI against their Merseyside foes)—nothing. While rivals lit up news feeds around the world with marquee signings en masse, Arsenal were repeatedly linked to quality wide men, midfielders and defenders, but that is as far as they seemed to go.
There is still time for Arsenal to come away from this transfer window, if not better exactly, at least partially restocked and rejuvenated with new players eager to don the Arsenal colours with pride and effort. Whether that means retaining players that appear all but gone today, or whether that means letting those players leave for the highest return possible: cash, or cash and players. Whatever money raised from sales could then be turned around into additional players, should there be any time left to do so. Fans will all but expect Wenger to replace any significant members of the team with exciting talent before the window closes. The Frenchman’s level of success in next 24 hours will heavily influence the fans’ reactions towards the team and its manager the rest of the season.
This one might hurt most of all. Alexis Sanchez is a great player, but hardly any fans were under the delusion that the Chilean was some great lover and admirer of the club. From the way he arrived from the then best team in the world, Barcelona, to the ruthless and relatively selfish way he plays the game, Alexis is a mercenary. It never seemed that Oxlade-Chamberlain was that way.
Since moving to Arsenal from Southampton as a 17 year old in 2011, Oxlade-Chamberlain has both tantalised and disappointed fans in much the same way as the man he followed from Southampton 5 years on, Theo Walcott. More than once in his young career has the Ox looked poised for a breakout campaign, only to find an injury or a perplexing evaporation of form in his way. Over the last 12 months, he has become far more consistent and avoided major injuries, forcing his way into Arsene Wenger’s first team plans.
The Frenchman’s faith and belief in the young star have never wavered, even at the Ox’s lowest points as a professional. That makes the news of his impending £35 million switch to hated rivals and defending champions, Chelsea all the more painful. Arsene Wenger has got to be wondering, with his generous rewarding of bumper contracts to excelling youngsters, his penchant to protect his players from the wrath of the media and the fans (with incredible success), and his faith and patience through injuries and dips in form, what he must do to keep these players he has invested so much time in. That is the nature of football, however, and if the Chelsea deal goes through, Arsene Wenger will have to find a replacement quickly. He will be missed by Arsenal this season, particularly for his versatility.
Without much in the squad to replace Oxlade-Chamberlain at Wing back, Wenger would have to either go for youngster Reiss Nelson or stock up on defensive minded starters and restore Sead Kolasinac to the XI at wing back (not altogether a terrible idea given the Gunners’ shambolic defence thus far).
If there was hope among the fans and the club that Alexis Sanchez would be convinced to stay as long as he got back to playing and Arsenal strung together some wins, looking like a real title threat. Alas, it was not to be, as the Gunners look far more pretender than contender thus far. To make matters worse, in his debut at Anfield on Sunday, Sanchez cut an angry and frustrated figure, spending the whole match in a state of annoyance at his teammates. He was wasteful in possession and seemed to scarcely look for all but a select few of his teammates when passing. He showed glimpses of his extraordinary ability, but he looks all but finished giving maximum effort for Arsenal.
News on Tuesday suggested that Arsenal have turned down a £50 million bid for Alexis, with the Gunners holding out for a huge fee in addition to a player in the exchange. Speculation thus far has winger Raheem Sterling as part of a potential package. In a normal situation, especially given the astronomical fees this summer, neither of them would be enough to get the deal done, but Arsene Wenger may be forced into doing business with a bitter rival, or risk losing Sanchez for free next summer with little to no contribution from him this season.
The Sanchez situation has been simmering for a while, and if he is to be sold, Arsenal MUST find a replacement to bring in this summer, particularly if they are also going to be losing Oxlade-Chamberlain to Chelsea. Not to be outdone, Manchester United has registered their interest in the Chilean, though that could just be an attempt at tossing a sneaky spanner into the deal between 2 rivals. Ultimately, Arsenal may have to say goodbye to their talisman, and like the Ox, must face the indignity of both players leaving for direct rivals. Do you suppose Arsene has learned his lesson about expiring contracts?
Inter Milan have reportedly returned with an improved bid for the Arsenal centre back, with the Italian side offering a €5 million loan fee plus a €25 million purchase obligation after the season should Mustafi play more than half of the team’s games. This move came out of nowhere earlier this week, and it has left some fans wondering whether it is the player who wants out so desperately, or is it the club having buyers remorse after an up and down first season from the German. He has seemed like a hard worker since arriving and some fans will be sad to see him go before getting a chance to develop at Arsenal. It would be foolish to let one of the best defenders at the club walk without having a replacement lined up for him, so perhaps a Wenger has more of a plan than he gets credit for.
Bit Part Clear Out
It seems that West Bromwich are going to beat Watford to Kieran Gibbs, with reports claiming the Baggies have agreed a fee of £7 million with the Gunners. The whole business smacks of disappointment: the fee paid, the team in question, and the once international calibre career, all are well off of what would should have been expected from the now 27 year old. In many ways, Kieran Gibbs is the poster child for the inefficacy of Arsenal’s socialist wage structure. He will likely live out his days a wealthy man, but somewhere along the line at the Emirates he lost his drive. Hopefully He finds success with Tony Pulis and his Baggies, but he will be remembered with indifference by many in North London.
Lucas Perez still needs to go, and it will likely still be Deportivo la Coruna. As for Mathieu a Debuchy, there is still no word on his future, but his compatriot, Olivier Giroud, did reaffirm his commitment to the club after the Liverpool match. Jack Wilshere is also likely to stay at the club now due to the horrendous performances from Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey in central midfield.
Last Minute Replacements
Within the last couple of days, as Arsenal’s lopsided loss to Liverpool convinced many in the media that the want away stars would shoot their way out of town before this window closes. As a result, there have been renewed reports of Arsenal interest in Marco Asensio, Julian Draxler, Thomas Lemar, Virgil van Dijk and Jean Michel Seri. Of the bunch, Draxler, whose agent has allegedly travelled to England this week and van Dijk, who has been linked repeatedly to Arsenal and other ‘big 6’ clubs.
So looking at this list, what is Arsene Wenger’s plan? One of replacement if necessary, obviously, because the targeted positions are the same as the ones currently manned by want away players. Additionally, despite the nauseating performance of the centre midfield, Wenger is obviously more satisfied with his options there than many fans are, instead focusing on talent in wide positions. Virgil van Dijk could quickly become a reality for the Gunners should Shkodran Mustafi head to Italy, but I do not get the sense that Wenger is focusing much on his leaky defence at present. One would think that Calum Chambers will not continue to spend his time wearing a suit during matches if his teammates continue to perform as they currently are.
1 day left. For Arsene Wenger, it could mean the difference between his last great master stroke and the crumbling of the precious team that he has built. The annual dithering of the club during the summer transfer windows of past years has only prevented the team from perhaps signing as many marquee names as they could have. This year, the repercussions of Wenger’s stubbornness and indecision could be so severe as to still be felt years down the road.
You have 1 day Arsene.