Alexis, Ramsey, Szczesny

(Sometime in 2014, Arsenal pub, man singing to My Fair Lady)
“Wojciech Szczesny built my house! Built my house. Built my house. Wojciech Szczesny built my house. He is Polish.”
“Hey, isn’t that racist or at the very least play into racist stereotypes about the Polish people? Stereotypes which stoke the anger of the British working class?”
“Shut up you wanker!
(singing again) “Fabianski tore it down, tore it down, tore it down. Fabianski tore it down. He is Polish!”
(Sometime in 2016, Arsenal pub)
“Huh, Brexit.”

Wojciech Szczesny made his Brexit in summer 2015. He had just secured his second straight FA Cup title but had come off a poor season in which he had been dropped by the manager following a row after a match in which he dropped two clangers. Arsenal sent him on loan to Roma and at the time, Wenger left the door open for his return:  “He will have a future (at Arsenal) because I rate him highly. He already has huge experience.” Szczesny, it turned out, didn’t have a future at Arsenal.

He stayed on at Roma, through two successful loan periods, and is now going to be sold to Juventus where he is apprenticing to take over from the greatest living goalkeeper in Italy, Gianluigi Buffon. Juventus have won the last six Serie A titles; they went 49 games unbeaten in 2011-12; they have been to two Champions League finals in the last three years. In short, Szczesny is moving up to a club with an impeccable pedigree to take over for a legend.

We don’t know what happened between Szczesny and Wenger that night after the match against Southampton. There are reports that he was smoking in the showers and that he had a fight with Wenger. What was said? And probably more importantly, what was done? We don’t know. All we know is that the fight was fiery enough that he dropped this talented player and then got rid of him.

By all accounts, and judging by the interviews he’s given these last few weeks, Szczesny has grown up and settled down. He’s a married man and a career professional. He has worked his way up, both on and off the field, to and finally joined one of the elite clubs in Europe. There, he will have a chance to win many league titles and perhaps even a Champions League trophy. Congratulations and best of luck.

What does this say about Wenger? It says that they had a falling out and Wenger chose to get rid of him. It must have been one hell of a falling out, though, to get rid of such a talented player.

Meanwhile, in this other corner, Alexis has made a decision but knows that the final say is up to Arsenal. Sounds to me like he wants to go but that the only clubs interested are the two Manchester clubs and Arsenal have said all along that they don’t want to sell to those clubs. It would be “selling Cesc and Nasri in the same season” silly for Arsenal to go back on their promise now.

Instead, I say we (Arsenal) start a bidding war between the two clubs. Then we drag the whole process out for the next month, until the transfer window closes, and then refuse to sell. That way, they can’t get a striker, we keep our striker, and the Arsenal fans get the “show of power” that they want from the club. Sure, the club loses out on £50m or something like that but what’s £50m really worth in an economy where Kyle Walker costs £50m?

And finally, Ramsey. Ramsey’s contract expires in 2019. He scored a great goal in Australia the other night. And given that Arsenal are not really in the market for another midfielder*, will probably be Arsene Wenger’s number one choice in central midfield alongside Granit Xhaka.  Meaning that he will probably have a career season (which won’t settle fan divisions over him as a player) and we will be back in this situation, griping about contracts, in January. YAY!

*This talk of “Arsenal’s interest in Lemar cooling” today is pretty funny. I’ve said it for weeks now: we made an inquiry, were rebuffed forcefully, and haven’t gone back in because Lemar was going to (and still will be) a replacement for Alexis. Now that Alexis has said that “the decision is in Arsenal’s hands” and Arsenal would look silly selling him to Man City, I expect that Lemar is no longer an option. Unless… Alexis goes full strop.



  1. You mean if he goes full Van Persie and writes a letter to us you guys. I don’t see it happening. I have maintained all along we should keep him. I am not even sure City will make to the CL next season with their current squad. I hope the club sticks to its guns.

    1. Wenger said he would keep him regardless of whether he signed. But Arsenal are not the kind of club to leave money on the table. We will see.

    2. total sidebar but i never had a problem with van persie’s letter. when he left for the euros without announcing a new deal coupled with arsenal hastily signing two left-footed strikers, the writing was on the wall. the letter was merely a formality. how else was he supposed to announce that he wasn’t signing an extension? i’ve never understood why arsenal fans were so upset about that letter.

      1. I believe he wrote that letter because Arsenal were going to hold him to his contract rather than sell to ManU (Arsenal did accept a lower offer from Juventus) He made his situation untenable especially because he was captain and the way he did it was unbecoming (attacking the club and Gazidis personally, and with a hollow attempt to play to the gallery – ie fans. Most people saw through it straight off)

        It was noticeable that Arsenal were miffed even by how they left out any good wishes to him for the future when they confirmed his departure. That seems like not much at all, but Arsenal are often understated and diplomatic in their output, and in diplomatic terms that was a f*** you to Van Persie.

      2. RVP is a snake. He’s not worthy of discussion on this fine forum. But seriously, where was the “attack” in that letter?

        The letter perfectly mirror the frustrations that many Arsenal fans had with the club. He had a meeting with Gazidis and Wenger and found little common ground in terms of ambition. Gazidis in particular gets the same criticism from both sides of the Wenger debate – he over-promises and under-delivers.

        I hate RVP because he went to Utd (if he’d gone abroad I could care less). But I respect the fact that he gave us an inside view on stuff we often speculate about from the outside.

        Ultimately Arsenal had two choices: keep a world-class striker for the last year of his contract, or sell him abroad. They chose the insane 3rd option, and that’s why we call it “the banter era”.

        1. There is seriously nothing to appreciate since “you guys” were the last thing on his mind when his agents pen that poison letter.

          All he wants is for the club to know that he will continue playing the fans against the club until he gets his way.

        2. That letter precisely closed the first option and RVP refused the second option because he wanted the third (ever since he was tapped up by Ferguson during the season). If it were today, I would say we should have let him rot in the reserves if he wouldn’t go abroad. But we could not take that kind of financial hit at the time. (Hence with Alexis we should not sell to City and he’s not nearly as toxic anyway)

          And he only said the same things that fans complain about not because he was giving an honest inside view, but because he wanted to force the club to let him go to ManU. The attack was on Gazidis by referring to his holiday (Again mirroring the fans’ complaints about Gazidis being paid for doing nothing.)

          1. More of a sly reference to Gazidis than an attack, but the letter itself was dramatic enough that I don’t think it’s content needs exaggerating. You pointed out that Arsenal made the decision based on finances – we couldn’t take the financial hit. Which means the letter was not the deciding factor. You can’t have it both ways.

            He was an asset and we made a very healthy profit on him. And I have no doubt that part of the reason a section of the fanbase lost or began to lose confidence in Wenger, is down to moments like having to give that snake a guard of honour 12 months later.

          2. It’s not ‘having it both ways’. You think only one aspect goes into making a decision?

            Of course money was a factor, but not the only one. If it were the only factor why would they have accepted a lower bid from Juventus? Or indeed be willing to not sell at all? The letter was the deciding factor because it meant we couldn’t keep him and play him. (We could keep him in the reserves if we’d want to cut off our nose to spite our face)

            The club made the best of a bad situation.

          3. Honestly can’t think of a bigger mistake in terms of transfers between big Premier League clubs. It’s on the scale of us signing Sol Campbell from Sp*rs bad. We chose the worst possible option and it wasn’t because he wrote a message to the fans.

            The question was asked above and on the scale of it, I agreed the letter didn’t bother me. It basically said he wasn’t renewing his contract. And nearly everything else he said has been borne out by our failure to win the title since.

          4. Ok Kaius. So the letter had nothing to do with RVP’s transfer to ManU. He was just telling it how it is to us guys. Gotcha.

  2. Slightly off-topic, a word about Giroud. He reminded me in the two games in Australia of the older child when the newborn arrives. His cold shouldering of Lacazette on the pitch is obvious and disappointing. Understandable up to a point (Laca as Arsenal No.1 increases his chances of more game time with France), but still disappointing.

    Disappointed in Scczesny leaving, because the quality gap between him and Cech is tiny to non-existent. He’s good enough to displace Cech. Heck, we may even save a penalty. Arsene probably realises that they both need to be someone’s No 1, and he’s making a straight up choice.

    With Lemar, timing is everything. We made our first bid (a too low one) when the Bakayoko transfer was three-quarters of the way down the track. Silva had already been wrapped up by City before the window even closed. Unless Monaco wants a full-scale riot from its fans, they were always unlikely to sell another first team regular. Lemar is more important to how they play than the other two. He’s already very good, and has massive room for getting better. He’ll be a heck of a player in 2 years. Silly money will always cause a club to rethink, of course, but the ones they really don’t want to lose are him and Mbappe

    1. I tried to keep my emotions out of the article, but I’ll let some out right now: selling Szczesny to keep Cech is the stupidest piece of business this season. Sell a world class 27 year old, to keep a guy who looked hella weak last season and is certainly in the last two years of his career?

      Yeah, that gets on my pecs.

      1. Agreed. If this goes through, it’ll be the part of the Silly Season that I like the least. To my mind, this is bigger than whether Alexis stays or not. Cech is clearly ready to move into the Cups role, and Schezzer can step right in to the League games. Any other option is going to wind up costing us points, one way or another.

        1. I like Cech, too. I think buying him was a great bit of business, as was demoting Szczesny and sending him off to Italy. It all worked out perfectly. We got a world-class, top-form keeper for his last couple years, while our next-best and potentially future world-class keeper got plenty of game experience and matured away on loan. Now that it’s all about to come good, why on earth would you toss it away?

          1. Has none of you considered that Szchezny might have refused to stay? We blame arsenal but keep in mind he might have decided learning from Buffon everyday is better for his career than working with Gerry Peyton. He might even feel bad about leaving arsenal, but is making a choice that seems better for his career.

          2. I hear Gerry Peyton is a disaster. I have no idea why he’s still at the club. Szczesny said not long ago that he had learned more from Guido Nanni (Roma’s goalkeeping coach) in four months than he did from Peyton in ten years.

            I can understand if he didn’t want to return to Arsenal. Wenger, it seems, is as loyal to his backroom and coaching staff as he is to players.

        1. I read his Guardian interview with Amy Lawrence. If he doesn’t want to stay at Arsenal then he was sure kissing the badge for no reason. Which he could have been doing, but why? So he can be liked?

          1. Tough…it’s decency to stick with two men who’ve performs and conducted themselves well. Would have required some ruthlessness to get chesney back

          2. I like Chezzer but I think he has made up his mind to leave.

            He loves Arsenal but he prefers to work somewhere else. I think some of us can understand where he comes from.

            Plus Cech is not exactly an old dude. And I heard he got in touch with his old trainer, Loli-something, to work with him at a personal level. That trainer was at Chelsea but I think he is no longer there.

            If Cech can have that kind of dedication, I think we should keep him.

          3. You’re right, but he still seems to be under contract, at he’s still listed. There was talk of Lollichon joining Arsenal when Cech joined. I hope they’ll go for him, we really need a shake up and I suspect Lehmann is a Gazidis PR ploy that Wenger won’t give much to actually do.

          4. Dark Hei

            Lollichon and Courtois weren’t getting along. Courtois wanted his coach in Belgium Guy Martens to join. There were reports Mourinho allowed Courtois to train separately. Hiddink hinted at there being problems, and Conte apparently tried to get the Chelsea hierarchy to replace him last year and they initially refused.

            But I think they did replace him with an Italian guy who came as part of Conte’s team. So yeah, I think Lollichon might be available. Unless they are just holding him to his contract without keeping him in and around the team and hoping he resigns or something. Hey, it’s Chelsea.

          5. emob

            At what point do you reckon you might just be wrong about Wenger not wanting strong characters or be unwilling to listen to any dissenting opinions? I mean Lehmann is now just a PR appointment, and Pat Rice and Steve Bould are famously timid yes men in character.

          6. You’re right insofar that my attitude is not necessarily based on any certainties but impressions of past experience. There’s no way back for me concerning Wenger save him winning the title. My impression is: this is part of the fallout of the power struggle we’ve seen last year and Lehmann is Gazidis’ token addition. Wenger is famusly stubborn and Lehmann’s position hasn’t even been defined properly, so I don’t have much hope there. Maybe I’m wrong and the pessisim is clouding an addition that should be brilliant – and it is in theory, I loved Lehmann ever since his time at Dortmund. And he is in theory exactly wehat we needed. But I don’t think he’ll play any significant role and up until now it all seems to be business as usual.
            Well, we’ll see, but I’m mostly checked out. (Which of course I realize is bullshit, as I’m sitting here commenting on an Arsenal board, but well…)

          7. Interesting.

            I have been rather underwhelmed by Lehmann’s signing but maybe he was the glue that made Arsenal’s famous back four champions league run work. Though why he was unable to replace that glue the next season is a good question.

          8. I would have put it differently, the way you put it is too polemic. But the things that made Arsene stand out are now part of his failings and he’s seemingly not willing to change much. Of course that’s based on impressions, but that’s what it is, the information we get is always imcomplete. In isolation adding Lehmann is a brilliant move, however to me it seems part of the fallout of the power struggle we’ve seen this summer. This seems to me more like a token Gazidis addition that he’s cramming in. Lehmann has been hanging around trying to get in coaching for a while now and Arsene could have added him anytime. I mean I love Lehmann, ever since he played for Dortmund, he’s fiery and weird. In hteory he’s brilliant.
            I might be wrong of course, that’s a given, but his position wasn’t even defined properly, so I’m not so sure that this was Wenger’s idea who is famously stubborn.
            To me there’s no way back save for some phenomenal success, which of course I don’t think is possible. We might make it back into the top which is absolutely crucial, but that’s the ceiling. There’s no way we can win the league with the central midfield we have right now, relying on the fitness of Ramsey.

          9. Eh? So the only way Lehmann is anything other than a photo op is if Arsenal win the league?

          10. Of course he would do it to be liked! Basic PR to be tactful and not burn your profile with what is probably still your largest fan bas, don’t you think?
            In the interview, he confessed to being a fan, and there was no more badge kissing in my view. He was non commital about his future, and did no “I would love to stay” type badge kissing.

          11. My point about Lehmann was refering to a larger context. The point about winning the league or just going for the league and competing was refering to my faith in Wenger in general.
            There’s no specific way to qualify Lehmann signing on as an effective way broadening of our gerneral way of coaching or change in coaching philosophy. We all work here with impressions and insuficient information. But his signing happened in a larger context of (potential) upheaval and promises of change which to my mind was basically squashed in the summer. Frankly I found Gazidis talking of bringing ex-players Bergkamp, Overmars or whoever too populist to be truly driven by a concept of how to effectively change for the better. I think Lehmann is a token signing. What would it take to qualify as something else? A feeling of general change in methods, in attitude. It’s impossible to quantify anyways. Maybe he gets on with Arsene and he finds a specific role for him, but too me it’s too little too late and the one area we would have needed change even more was on the business side of things anyways.

          12. Wenger said Lehmann’s role is to coach the keepers and to assist with defensive coaching.

            Did Gazidis actually mention Bergkamp and Overmars? I highly doubt it, but maybe I missed it.

            Anyway, I doubt there’s any point to talking further about this.

          13. He did? Okay, I must confess I’m not up to date on this. I haven’t followed the news coming from the tour. If Wenger himself formulated his role like that I’m much more optimistic. It just seemed at the time when it was announced or leaked that there was no specific role for him.
            I don’t think Gazidis explicitly mentioned Bergkamp, Vieria or Overmars but as it’s common with these things some interest was leakedu through various sources. Ivan has always been very active in letting everyone know what they could eventually, potentially do, see also “war chest”. So I think these rumours about various club legends taking roles were some active club PR.

  3. Also, it’s all well and good to give Ramsey and Xhakha a chance improve their chemistry in midfield but we are not challenging for the title with those two as our only working partnership. It shouldn’t even be our first choice partnership if we are serious about the challenging for the title.

      1. Imagine Ramsey being out for 6 games with injury (happens every year). Now imagine Xhakha getting sent-off and punished for 3 games during the time Ramsey is absent. Our choices in MF will be Ox, Coquelin and Elneny. Given our luck, this will probably happen right before the trickiest part of our campaign.

      2. It really depends on whether Elneny can fare better in a back 3.

        Xhaka’s weakness are very similar to Elneny’s. They are both poor defenders and not that good on the ball (Elneny is slightly better)

        So if Xhaka can work in a back 3, hopefully Elneny can do so as well.

        1. You don’t mean “in” a back three, but in midfield in front of a back three, right (not trying to be pedantic, just clarifying)?

          Xhaka’s a better defender than Elneny, even though he’s slower. Elneny has been a defensive liability (gets close to the ball without ever making a tackle), and in general too weak to contest 50/50’s and hold up the ball in tight situations in the Premier League. This, to me, does not have to be an unfixable flaw. I think he needs to beef up a little, work on that part of his game in training, and then get a run of games where he can build up his confidence and match sharpness. I’d prefer to bring in a new midfielder, but if Wenger isn’t going to do that–and the fact that he seems intent on keeping all our midfielders suggests he’s not going to–then I think Elneny’s probably got the biggest potential to improve of the current group (assuming Jack can’t stay healthy long enough). But will Wenger give him the game time? I doubt it. I think he’ll only throw him in there when we’re in crisis mode because he has no one else, and he’ll display the same deficiencies.

  4. What’s the noise about Alexis open to a new contract? Is this gamesmanship from one, or both sides? Is he the locker room cancer that many accuse him to be? I’m on the fence. One day I’d like him gone, to City even, if the price is right. I do feel he’s not irreplaceable. If we could a Lemar or even Mahrez I think it may be addition by subtraction.

  5. So, as things stand now, we are only one player short from having a “complete” squad. That player could be Wilshere, or it could be someone else, or this being Arsenal, it could be no one.
    One thing about Sanchez though. If he doesn’t want to stay (and apparently he is set on leaving), I really can’t see a point in making him stay, aa much as I would like him to.
    I understand that 50 mil doesn’t buy you a replacement, and here are those saying is better to have him an entire season and then lose him on a free then selling him now.
    But what makes you think we will have him focused for an entire season?
    According to the rules, he can start negotiations and sign an agreement as early as January. What makes you think he will want to risk it all? He can just Nasri his way through the second part of the season straight towards a mountain of cash, especially if we are struggling in 6th place or something.

    1. 1. I agree we are not far from having a complete squad–assuming Alexis, Ox, Giroud, and Ozil all stay–but unless Wilshere can resurrect his career by finding something close to his best form, that hole in midfield is going to be pretty costly, as we discovered both of the last two years when Santi got injured.

      2. If we sell Sanchez we have even less of a complete squad, obviously.

      3. He might not have the same mountain of cash on offer in 12 months time, as he’ll be almost 30. He’ll still get a lot of money, but WE’RE offering him a lot of money already. Someone will want him next season, and they’ll pay a lot of money to get him, but it won’t necessarily be City or anyone as attractive from his perspective, as they might switch their focus to other, younger targets if they can’t get him now.

      1. 30 is not some magic number or anything though. His payday will increase considerably without a transfer fee. The former fee will be converted into his salary or signing bonus. So he holds all the cards in this.

        1. Meh. It’s not about Arsenal vs Alexis. It’s about doing what’s best for us. If we can find an agreement, great. If not we either sell him or hold him to his contract.

          In both cases, it is going to cost us money (able replacements will cost more), and in both cases we risk poor performances.

          But I think it unlikely that Alexis is going to down tools. The bigger risk is that he goes about stat stuffing and being selfish so as to get the big payday at the end of his contract. Both are personality issues and as such the manager will have to take the call. I’m leaning heavily towards keeping him at this stage.

          1. Absolutely. I’d rather keep him even if it’s for just one year. I don’t think we have any chance of getting a ready-made replacementfor him and I’d rather keep him for that crucial next season. I was just objecting the idea that his position would be weaker after this season just because he’s one year older.
            All in all I’m fairly sure that dressing room harmony is absolutely overrated and Wenger is not the coach toi instill a do-or-die bunker kind of squad attitude anyways and Alexis is not Adebayor who sat around mopping. There are good examples of players being kept and being effective, see Lewandowski e.g. Another 40 or 50 mio we’re doing relatively little with won’t help us much.

          2. emob,
            I agree with everything you’re saying. My point is just that if going to City is his “dream move” (if it’s just about cash, he could get a lot of cash by staying with us or going to Bayern or PSG), that move may not still be available in a year’s time, as they’re less likely to sign him up to a gargantuan 4 or 5 year contract on insanely high wages the older he gets (even assuming he plays just as well this year as last and stays injury free, neither of which are givens). They might turn elsewhere. So in a year’s time, he’ll get a massive pay day, but not necessarily to a club he really wants.
            So we hold one important card in this: we can hold him to his contract and scupper the ideal move for both him and City, i.e. letting him move this summer. Maybe he’ll still end up going to them for free next summer, but if he plays well for us and isn’t disruptive, it will probably have been worth it.

    2. The plus side of holding Sanchez to his contract is that he seems like he’s the sort of lad who’ll actually continue to play during that last year, rather than go walk-about, like a couple past *bleeps* I shan’t name.

    3. I think it is a great idea to whole him for the final year.

      He is literally playing for a new contract from every potential sugar daddy.

      You can expect the performances to be top notch.

      Ox on the other hand, I would sell. Can’t let a guy like him walk for free.

  6. I haven’t seen reputable reports about us “cooling” our interest, and I still think we’re interested regardless of what happens to Alexis (though if we were to get Lemar, Wenger would be mighty tempted to take the City money and run). What Ornstein said is that we’re pessimistic about the chances of signing him. That rings true, and I don’t think we’ll get him unless he throws a fit and/or we put in a “silly” (70m+?) bid for him.

    So while I read the situation a little differently than Tim, we come down to the same conclusion: we’re unlikely to get Lemar, and indeed, unlikely to see any more big incoming signings (zero reports about interest in central midfield, and with Arsene seemingly intent on keeping Ox and even Wilshere, it seems like he’s erring on the side of mostly keeping faith with the same players for the umpteenth summer in a row; just once I’d like him to err on the side of taking risks with the squad by shaking things up and having a bit more turnover in order to significantly improve us, but there you go…).

    What I don’t get (or I do get it, because this is Arsenal after all) is why they seem so intent on focusing on Lemar to begin with, given that folks in the press (off the top of my head, I think Jason Burt in the Telegraph, among others) were reporting over a month ago that Monaco were highly unlikely to sell given that both Silva and Bakayoko were almost certainly leaving. This is not new news. It’s not like the Bakayoko deal to Chelsea suddenly came out of nowhere and scuppered our deal. Plus, although Monaco are resistant to selling anyone else, it looks increasingly likely that Mendy’s going to City. So City and Chelsea can both get their deals done in spite of a resistant selling club, but apparently Arsenal can’t. WHY IS THAT?? Is it because we don’t offer as much money? Silva went for under 45m for crying out loud. Plus, we have the money, so let’s up our offer. Is it because we don’t have CL? Well, we have only ourselves to blame for losing out on it by one point thanks to comedy performances like losing at home to Watford 1-2. Remember who was to blame for at least one of those goals that night? Our starting CM Aaron Ramsey. Remember who was partnering him in that embarrassment? The guy who will almost certainly be partnering him again whenever something happens to Xhaka: Francis Coquelin. These are not bad players, but they need to be upgraded on (or at least supplemented with competition that doesn’t suffer their particular weaknesses).

    Yet Wenger’s doing it again: walking into the season with our squad under-prepared, trusting in the same players with the same deficiencies, not working to significantly improve us despite finishing 5th last year. And yes, I know there’s lots of time left in the window, be patient, blah, blah, blah, but I’ve seen this show before, too many times, and you’ll forgive me if I’m a little cynical. Even if we somehow keep Alexis, and one or both of Ox and Giroud, if we bring in no other top quality additions we won’t have improved ourselves enough to make top four especially likely, much less challenge for the title.

    1. I suspect the reason behind our obsession with Lemar is because he is one of those rare, highly talented French youngsters who actually WANTS to come to Arsenal and work with Wenger. I think it’s fair to say that players who fall into this bucket are increasingly rare these days.

      I am okay with not getting Lemar this year provided: 1. We keep Sanchez and 2. We get a world class mid-fielder. Pretty sure I’m setting myself up for more disappointment.

    2. Lemar interest cool courtesy none other than the most trusted Arsenal source, the Ornsteinacle of Arsenal transfers, David Ornstein.

      It’s been obvious that our interest in this player was done the minute they quoted us £80m. We can come back with £70m but Monaco don’t need money. They just won the league, they sold a bunch of players, and they have a bunch of money. Plus they have a delicious young attack force which is going to make them interesting for years to come. I have argued this with people here and on Twitter and I’ve yet to be convinced that they are selling us Lemar for anything less than the firm £80m they responded with. And we aren’t paying £80m for Lemar.

      As for why we struggle to get deals done early?

      1. We don’t pay agents. Or we have historically refused to pay agents. I think Arsenal finally published receipts for paying agents just last year (meaning two years ago). I say this all the time and I’m going to keep saying it: agents decide where players go. We saw this with Gustavo and Arsenal and just this season with Lukaku and Man U. The agents need to be basically bribed to allow you to negotiate with the players. This system is seriously corrupt and hugely problematic. It’s one of the things I’d like to see overhauled.
      2. We don’t offer enough to the players to make them throw a fit. BUT
      3. Teams are no longer just rolling over when a player makes some noise about leaving – especially to a Premier League club which they know they can bilk for extra money.
      4. Arsenal don’t like paying those premiums, though given the Mustafi, Xhaka, and Lacazette prices I think they have acquiesced lately.

      Anyway, I agree with you that it looks like Wenger is going into another season relying on his current squad. In CM he’ll tell you we have Xhaka, Ramsey, Cazorla, Coquelin, Elneny, and The Jeff. Too many players already! I bet he mentions Ozil, Ox, and Iwobi as well!

      By the way, Ramsey was the reason why Western City Wanderers scored against us the other night: he made the backpass that set up the indirect free kick.

      1. The blame for a back pass infringement lies with the goalkeeper. Quite why Martinez picked it up is beyond me and it showed a lack of quick-thinking/judgment. Not super thrilled that he’s now our second-choice keeper…but maybe Ospina is staying after all?

      2. Hair-splitting point: as I said above in my initial response, I understand “losing confidence” and “cooling interest” to be two different things.

    3. I know you recognise that there’s time left in the window, and I also recognise that we’ve been here before. Your reply to teampossible left me with a feeling of deja vu with Wilshere’s fitness and whether another player leaves being the difference between a complete or a short squad.

      But we’re not signing anybody while Wenger and Gazidis are on tour (Doesn’t mean talks aren’t on) Maybe when we get back to England, we’ll have sold some of the players we want to sell. Debuchy looks like he’s on his way out as does Szczesny – sadly. I expect Jenkinson, Perez and Gibbs to follow. And by then maybe there’ll be some movement.

      If Arsenal are being smart from a PR point of view, they’d want to present a new signing at the Emirates Cup. But even if not, I would still expect us to sign a midfielder before the window closes. We’ll see I suppose, but there’s a lot of work to be done before then including tying up contracts (which again will happen only once we’re back in England)

      On Lemar, Wenger obviously likes him and I think he’ll take him if he can, but won’t push the boat out to get him while we still have Alexis. Especially if he’s not a CM candidate (which based only on highlights he doesn’t look like to me)

      If I were planning our transfer business right now, I’d sell the surplus, buy a midfielder (and tie up contracts if possible) and only then if I have the budget, buy Lemar or another luxury player, even presuming that I’ve determined to hold onto Alexis.

    4. Jason Burt’s report was last week, but everything else you say is on the money. Glad we all seem to agree that midfield is short — not in numbers, but quality.

      That said, I have a sneaking feeling that Elneny will improve significantly next season. He has said that Wenger told him not to attack as much, but he had a scoring from distance dimension to play at Basle. With him, Xhaka, Ramsey, Wilshere (when he returns) and Santi, we look sorted for goals and attacks from midfield. It’s on the D side that we lack depth, quality and competition for Coquelin. Of the other midfielders that have stopping ability, Ramsey is the best, and that’s not his strong suit. Add to that the fact Ozil, Ox, Walcott and Iwobi are indifferent tacklers, we are light on defensive assertiveness. EVERYONE got stuck in and we defended asa team in the FA Cup final, but we can’t play like that every game.

      I told myself I wouldn’t say “elegant brute” again, but….

      Lastly, does Bielik offer us options there, or is he pretty much a centre back now?

      1. I believe he would be an option, especially if we’re keeping both him and Chambers around. Plus there’s also Maitland-Niles. As you said, it isn’t numbers that’s the problem, but the quality on the defensive side of things. (and I agree with your feeling that Elneny will be better this season)

        1. A few weeks ago, Bielik said himself that he expects to go back out on loan. I think we should consider keeping him, as he looks ready, and as he looks to me like a more than decent defensive midfield option, but the Arsenal coaching staff know better, presumably…

          1. Yeah, but he cut short his holiday after being involved with the U21s (I think) to be a part of the tour squad. Typically Arsenal keep some youngsters around till January for the League Cup, and this year, maybe for the Europa.

          2. bielik isn’t ready. i watched him in the first game and, for the most part, he played well but he made some huge mistakes that would have been punished in the bpl. his time will hopefully come soon but i think he’s right. he needs to go out on loan again.

        2. I don’t hate Elneny or think he’s terrible, like many Arsenal fans apparently do. But will he be given enough playing time by Wenger to improve his game and build up the confidence required to play his very best, or will he be a stop gap like he was last season? If the latter, than I don’t think his presence really helps all that much.

      2. I know for a fact Jason Burt (and others) were saying a month or so ago that the Bakayoko/Silva sales meant it was highly unlikely we were going to get Lemar. But it’s silly for me to insist on this when I’m too lazy to back it up with the evidence!

    5. Doubt Wenger would be impressed if lemar throws a strop to join arsenal, not sure why i have that impression…

  7. “Sure, the club loses out on £50m or something like that but what’s £50m really worth in an economy where Kyle Walker costs £50m?”
    The big difference is that the Gunners don’t have deep pockets like City, and it’s made worse by the lack of Champions League money this upcoming season. If the club can keep Perez, then selling Sanchez wouldn’t hurt Arsenal as much. Lacazette and Perez are pretty much like Sanchez: they have pace and great footwork like Sanchez, score a lot of goals and can make assists. All three players have a similar profile in fact, technically they are second strikers not pure centerforwards like Giroud.
    “Now that Alexis has said that “the decision is in Arsenal’s hands” and Arsenal would look silly selling him to Man City, I expect that Lemar is no longer an option.”
    I don’t understand why Lemar is seen as a replacement to Sanchez. Lemar is an attacking midfielder playing on a wing like Pires or Rosicky. He makes a lot of assists and occasionally scores goals while Sanchez scores a lot of goals and occasionally makes assists. If Ozil leaves, Lemar would be his replacement for assists.

  8. i said last summer that i’d like to see szczesny compete with cech for the starting gk role. cech has been benched before, hence the reason for his move from chelsea. losing szczesny for chump change is stupid.

    i agree with tim that ramsey is likely to have a career year this season. this new formation suits him. we’ll have to let time tell what our midfield looks like. personally, i believe chamberlain can do everything that ramsey can do but i think ramsey will get the nod.

    many are worried about alexis potentially being a disruption if he’s denied an opportunity to leave this summer. i’m not. first, as pfo already mentioned, alexis turns 30 next year. that factor alone is likely to cost him money. he’s going to want to get paid so i’d expect him to play out of his mind. second, if the management and senior players focus on developing a good team spirit in the locker room, alexis won’t want to be ostracized.

    i share everyone’s concern about our midfield. strategically, i don’t fancy the 4-man midfield this new 3-4-3 formation calls for. an option would be to invert the front three. instead of playing with two strikers behind a center forward, play another man in midfield behind two strikers. first, it eliminates arsenal’s need for a center forward; players like perez, walcott, and a few others who seem to be minimized can make a more telling contribution. while giroud and welbeck serve as center forwards, all center forwards know how to play as strikers so they can play as well. second, an additional midfielder makes arsenal more resolute. the primary concern is whether wenger is doing this 3-4-3 to hide mesut ozil, defensively. if so, i believe iwobi and the jeff can do their thing. we’ll see.

  9. Even if Sanchez stays (in my opinion, he won’t), I don’t think the additions of Lacazette and Kolasinac make us a significantly better squad than the one that finished fifth this past season.

    I wish Wenger would change the record. We have a porous midfield, and have for a while, and we all know Wenger will not address this with a transfer. And so, predictably, internal solutions that were wanting before will be wanting again. With that said, yes, I expect Ramsey to have a great season going forward, if he can stay fit…

    My feeling is that our hopes for finishing fourth come next May rest on City / Liverpool / Spurs having a poor season relative to the standards set by their last one, which I think is highly possible.

  10. I reiterate my position on Alexis:

    If he’s told you that he does not intend to sign a new deal, you must sell him. I get the arguments that acquiescing and paying him 400k a week is still a bargain when compared to the transfer fee costs for a similar player, but every analysis I’ve heard to that effect ignores the knock-on effect on other players salaries and the precedent that gets set. We already have the 3rd highest wage bill in the league and it got us 5th place.

    Shows of power are useless and pointless. A) You miss out on recouping a large part of your investment in the player, B) You miss out on being able to reinvest that money in a younger player and C) You are just encouraging the drama around the team, especially come January, over Sanchez’s contract situation.

    If there’s any lesson from last year’s saga over Wenger’s contract it is that this club cannot tolerate drama. Ozil, Sanchez and Ox need to sign new contracts before the start of the season or they have to be sold.

    And as for Ramsey… why on earth would we make him central to any plans for our future. We are talking about one of the top 5 or 6 most perpetually injured players in our team’s history. Rosicky, Diaby, Walcott, van Persie, Wilshere… Ramsey. No way should he be in the long term planning for our club.

    1. IF he’s the difference between finishing top 4 next season and not–or even, between winning the league next season (har har) and not–wouldn’t you keep him and lose out on 50m?

      1. For us to get into the top 4, who is slipping out of the top 4? Rationally, Spurs and/or Liverpool are the top candidates, I think it unlikely that Chelsea or City drop given their managers and their resources. And then we have United who are surging – let’s not let our hatred of Mourinho cloud our assessment of what he does; he usually wins the league in his second year with any team. His second season is typically his high water mark. So, based on what I see so far, we have United, City, Chelsea in the top three. Liverpool has a good team with a very good manager. And Spurs have been getting better season after season, why would that stop now?

        We’re not leapfrogging anyone and we have to look in our rear view mirror at an Everton team getting massive investment and who also has a very good coach.

        The drama of letting Sanchez, Ozil and Ox run down their contracts will only be a distraction in probably one of the tightest top 6 seasons ever. I think the opposite; keeping those three will suck points off of us when what we need most is team unity and consistency.

        Don’t forget the players in Wenger’s past who have been written off – Wenger doesn’t play them. He won’t trust them.

        The very best scenario I see with Alexis is convincing him to sign a modest deal with the handshake promise that we’ll sell him next summer. I say modest because if we sign him to a huge wage then that will put off suitors next year. But if I were Alexis why would I do that? The risk is the same either way. Politely indicate that you want to go to City or you’ll play out your year. This is all in Arsenal’s court.

        1. I think you’re being overly defeatist about the top 4 race. The only team I’m convinced will definitely not fail to make top 4 are City.

          But in any event, the real issue is whether you’re right that the instability of having Sanchez in the dressing room outweighs the positives of having him in the team. I respectfully disagree. For one thing, I think we can have players committed to the cause for one year even if their contracts are running down, without most/all of the drama. The problem last year wasn’t that Ozil and Sanchez weren’t committed (in my opinion); the problem was the uncertainty and speculation around them and Wenger (and potentially Sanchez’s (alleged) bad attitude, which potentially WOULD be a reason to let him go, so Wenger has to assess that issue and the risks of it flaring up again, but that issue isn’t necessarily connected to whether he’s tied to a longterm contract or not). In the event that we keep him and it’s clear his intention is not to re-sign, then we need to come out and make a statement saying,

          “Yeah, we know he’s almost certainly leaving and we’re ok with that; we’ve talked to him and he knows what we expect of him on and off the pitch and he’s given us every indication that he will meet those expectations. There’s a contract still on the table should he decide to sign, but we expect him to leave next summer, and we’ve made a strategic decision to hold him to his contract in spite of that fact. We’re a big club who can financially absorb the hit of letting him go for free. This isn’t a decision being made in haste or with emotion. We’re always planning ahead and looking to the longterm interests of the club, but at the current time, with the make up of our squad, we are choosing to prioritize short-term success, and we believe keeping Alexis improves our chances of that success.”

          A little transparency, and forthrightness, and acting like grown-ups who aren’t to be pushed about, would do us good and cut off a lot of the drama that the press will try to stir up.

        2. I not following your logic for selling Alexis. Are you saying we should sell him because we have no way of making top 4 so we may as well cash out on him and invest in young players? That’s a terrible way of thinking even if true.

          I agree that we run the risk of dressing room disruption if we keep him but it’s a risk well worth taking. Let’s not forget things that the off-field issues came about only after we had a run of really poor results on the pitch. Big players who are obsessed with winning have big egos. That’s for Wenger to manage. There is no way Alexis will derail the season if we are having a good season. What CAN happen is Wenger might fail to improve the midfield and we will go through this downward spiral in the middle of the season all over again. That could set Alexis off but again, that will be on Wenger.

          As a fan I don’t really care if we stand to lose £50MM if he goes on a free. We have enough revenue coming in every year and our reserves are still high enough where, if we really wanted to, we could blow £150MM on two world class players without the money from that sale. Selling Alexis, our most naturally gifted attacker and our most dependable player in big games is basically shooting ourselves in the foot. What’s even the point of buying talented players, equip them with all the skills and experience to play in the premier league and then selling them to a rival? We won’t have any chance of winning the league if we keep selling our most experienced players. You need young players to come in and learn from these guys. It’s as if some of us has never learned from the failed youth project. No point in buying Lemar if we are just preparing him to sell to one of the Manchester clubs 4 years from now. Players already look at us as a stepping stone for Barca and Madrid. I can still accept that. If we sell Alexis to City, more and more players will look at us a stepping stone to win the league with City or United. We need to nip this at the bud, and that starts will playing hardball with Alexis.

    2. Agree with all of that, particularly the parts about drama and setting bad precedents. If we keep Alexis, we would be encouraging future situations in which more players would hold out and run down their contracts. That’d be a total loss of control by the club, and it can’t afford that. We keep forgetting that while Ozil wants to stay (unlike Alexis), he’s almost quietly moving towards a Bosman. Having more than one player in that situation would be very bad for the club.

      And yet, 5th scrambles the normal equation. Arsenal need to be in a position to effect serious liftoff and losing Alexis would be a huge, huge setback. And make the title or Top 4 less likely. We still finished where we did despite his astonishing productivity. This is a tough situation for the club, and I empathise with manager and CEO.

      1. Actually I have the exact opposite take on this situation. I think letting Alexis’ contract run down sends a very strong message that the club is not going to be held to hostage to unreasonable wage demands. Look, Arsenal are not alone on this. Bayern dropped their interest on Alexis because of his unreasonable wage demands. How many players in the world do you think will turn down a £300K/ wk salary?? Player salaries are out of control and a line needs to be drawn. We have drawn ours and I am fine with it. I don’t think it makes us look weak in any way. Sanchez has said the ball is in our court now. This is true. Selling him at this point will not be a show of strength.

        1. I really struggle with the idea that we can “afford to blow” any amount of money. Is our club a charity?

          Let’s play this out; We don’t sell Sanchez and stand our ground. Sanchez doesn’t sign a new deal. The first rough patch we have – and we will have one, more on this below – the paper/interweb speculation on his being sold in January ramps up big time and becomes a huge story as we get into December. January comes and offers for a player who has only months left on his current deal are now halved. We don’t sell yet again. Sanchez is off, maybe even has signed a pre-contract deal with another club. I can guarantee you Wenger will not play him at the end of the season if this is the case. What will then have been the point of keeping him when maybe we could have taken City’s 50m and ploughed that into an absurd offer for Lemar or some other younger player?

          I don’t get the falling in love with players. Sanchez is a great player. But he is just one player. Last I checked it was a team game. He doesn’t want to be here anymore. Great, let’s sell him on, take the money and find another player, maybe not as great admittedly, but one who wants to be here.

          And this idea that suddenly, with just TWO signings and the SAME MANAGER, that suddenly if we just keep Alexis we’re going to make this grand title push is quite frankly just fantasy. It’s not rational if you look at the topography of the league.

          1. Jack,
            I think you paint the worst possible scenario in your description of how keeping Alexis for a year will affect our campaign. I’m not saying we’re gonna win the title if he stays, but the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

            There are really two issues here, which we need to be careful not to run together. You say that you’re opposed, seemingly on principle, to “blowing” money on keeping a player to the end of his contract and letting him leave for free. But then your argument for this position focuses on all the ways that Alexis will be a destabilizing presence if we keep him for the campaign, which is an entirely separate point.

            Of course, if you’re right that Alexis will have a negative effect on our coming campaign, then we should sell him now. But to back up your initial position, the real question you should answer is the following. Suppose we keep him for the final year of his contract and he has a significantly positive effect on our performances (this is surely not unthinkable!). He isn’t too petulant or destabilizing, he plays great, and we hold it together for a top 4 qualification, at least (maybe also a cup win, maybe even a serious challenge for the title). Then, he goes to City on a free. Are you really committed to thinking that even in that (not insane) scenario, we can’t afford to “blow” the money City are offering for him now???

            I confess that just seems not at all an obvious position to hold (I’m being diplomatic here).

          2. I’m trying to be pragmatic and think long term. Sanchez seems to want out. He’s 30 and wants exorbitant wages. Practically we cannot keep him at his asking price without incurring huge costs.

            We keep him for this season. Let’s say he plays well and does in fact help us get restored to the top 4 and/or the Europa Cup and we back-door our way into the Champions League. Then what? Hope that he resigns? Or we have to then go out and spend money to replace him on what will be an even more inflated market next year? I just don’t see it.

            Perhaps my opinion is coloured by my view that our path forwards should be as an Ajax or Monaco on steroids; use our resources to build a young, deep talented squad. Selling Sanchez and taking the proceeds to invest in Lemar or Pulisic or someone of that nature makes 100% sense to me.

    3. We had the 5th highest wage bill last season. (Reported in the Guardian from the official Premier League figures).

      1. We’re both wrong – Arsenal were 4th in 2016/17 with 200.5m in wages. Liverpool were 5th with 165m.

        1. Checked article in Guardian published on 1st June 2017 on the current state of finances of every club and it actually isted information from the available full company reports for financial year ending 2016. Arsenal were 5th with wages of 195 and City 4th on 198, Liverpool 3rd on 208, Chelsea at 224 and United on 234.

          Lists for last season fluctuate depending on where you read because it looks like information is not fully disclosed as yet and hence the Guardian publishing their list only based on the full records for the previous season but it seems from various less scrupulous sources that Liverpool must have somehow dropped their bill dramatically but Man City moved up with Chelsea and United to create some separation with the rest and Arsenal indeed moved to 4th.

          Regardless we will need to find a way to out perform the wage bill because the top 3 will remain the top 3 as far as wages are concerned.

  11. 1st Szcz is counted as homegrown if he kept or sold in the EPL.
    At this stage he is better than Cech and his career arc is just starting. Do people not Realize that Roma was second and qualified for CL this next year.
    If the Arsenal let our best keeper go for $10 mil, then the whole negotiating staff needs to be fired.
    Get a darn holding mid, pick up another scorer to add to our front line, and move some more deadwood!
    Sanchez needs to play out of his mind this year no matter what. If the Arsenal keep him, and his attitude gets in the way of production, it will not help his cause going forward, and quite possibly raise questions about his age and ability to play at the top level. He has played himself into the ground.
    4th place is worth 50 mill in CL money that could be used to get another striker.
    Counting on Jack or Santi for anything is ludicrous, and betting on Ramsey for a full season is suicide too.
    Arsenal need another DM and striker.
    Just make it happen Arsenal.

    1. Striker? We have Lacazette, Giroud, Welbeck, Perez (for now) and Walcott. That’s 5 guys for 1 (or 2) positions without going into the youth. Midfielder yes, but striker no. As long as we keep Alexis that is.

  12. I like Szczesny and I really hoped he would stay, compete with Cech for a season or two, and be our long term No.1, but not to be it seems. But why does every disappointment have to lead to anger?

    I think a lot of people are counting Cech out too soon. (And also, might we be playing up Szczesny’s abilities a tad?) He didn’t have a good season, but that’s true of most of the team. I think he’s still hungry and has got more to offer. Part of that goes beyond the field.

    And its the off field issues that might have led to Szczesny leaving, both in terms of what the club wanted and what he wanted.

  13. Meanwhile in Italy, Milan have a few teams worried. It seems the new Chinese owners want to make an impact and unlike the Chinese owners of Inter Milan are actually building a good squad. They even bought Bonucci from Juventus. Something tells me Juve aren’t going to have it all their way in Serie A now, even if this season might be too early for Milan.

  14. Lots of good points made above about reasons to be concerned this year, especially the quality shortfall in midfield. But… but…

    This is the thing with Arsenal – I have heard this kind of appraisal of the squad every single summer for the last 10 years and most of the time it’s turned out to be an underestimation of the squad’s talent and ability. Every year we’ve had predictions that we would finish outside the top four, and only once have those predictions been accurate. Of course the irony is that last season I was more bullish than usual about our chances, and felt pretty vindicated right up until the new year, then it fell off a cliff. This year I am much more circumspect so I guess we’re winning the league then.

    My point is that there are many unknowns – if Lacazette hits the ground running and if between them Ramsey, Xhaka, Elneny and Coq put together a solid platform we could really fly.

    P.S. I’ve been immersed in systems thinking for my masters the last couple months and the interrelationship of subsystems is a big part of it. If you have a problem in midfield, you can fix it by changing the defence. I.e. it’s worth bearing in mind 3 centre-backs and 2 wing-backs when thinking about the Elegant Brute problem.

    1. Systems thinking!! That’s how I try to look at things as well. Never did study it formally though. Any pointers on what you’ve been reading for it?

      1. I’m looking at it in an organizational setting, so the key text is Images of Organization by Gareth Morgan. Also Stafford Beer who was a deeply underappreciated man but it’s pretty dense. Loads of good resources on the web though

    2. agreed, concerning the change in sub-system helping arsenal fix a cazorla-less midfield problem. that change seems to suit just about everyone and the midfield problems aren’t as significant as they were 6 months ago. perhaps there is no need for the “elegant brute”.

  15. jack, it’s nuts that you don’t believe arsenal can finish in the top four next season. they did for 20 straight years. besides, who’s ahead of arsenal in the bpl? it’s not barcelona, real madrid, fc bayern, and juventus.

    chelsea had a good campaign last year but this year will be far more difficult. they just lost a world class center forward and are unlikely to be able to replace him. hazard will be injured until after the season starts. fabregas came off the bench and won like a third of their games late; that’s unprecedented and he’s very unlikely to do that again. chelsea didn’t have europe last year. lastly, let’s not forget arsenal beat chelsea two out of the 3 times they played. chelsea were lucky to win the title last year and will not repeat.

    man city has brought in some good attacking players but still have an awful defense and an inconsistent goal keeper. there’s no guarantee that they’ll play well once kompany goes down. arsenal beat man city last season, also.

    you never know which liverpool will show up; they were as inconsistent as arsenal.

    man united and tottenham are for real and are the only teams that look as solid as arsenal with alexis.

    i believe arsenal have every chance to win the league this year. besides theo and welbeck, they have a fantastic group of attacking players that can all score and create. signing sead and alexandre may only be two players but those two signings are both upgrades. the change in formation seems to suit everyone and saw arsenal win like 8 of their last nine games including wins against man united, man city, and chelsea. arsenal have depth and i’m hopeful. we’ll see.

    1. You have more faith in Arsene Wenger than I have. I lost all faith these past two seasons.

      I believe that Conte, Guardiola, Pocchetino, Klopp, Mourinho and Koemann are all better managers at this point in time.

      Kolasinac an upgrade on Gibbs isn’t saying much. Lacazette an upgrade on Giroud? Maybe. We’ll see.

      I’m sorry, last season just proved to me that Wenger has lost the plot. I used to be a big Wenger guy, but I think the evidence is there for all to see that he cannot out-manage his top tier contemporaries and his players realize this.

      Honestly, if Alexis was settled in London, enjoying his time at the club, understood the team mission and believed in it, why wouldn’t he stay with a nice modest pay increase, not an outrageous one? It’s because he’s lost faith in this club’s ability to deliver the goods. That starts with the manager.

      1. fair enough. your concern is not the team or the teams arsenal need to beat to get to the top. your concern is with the management team. right on. btw, so is mine.

        1. The issue for me, to repeat comments from earlier this season, is that previously Wenger has demonstrated an ability to make a team greater than the sum of its parts. Last season for the first time I think the opposite happened. We played without belief, confidence, spirit, unity, purpose, all those intangibles that can raise a team performance by as much as 50%. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this happened when Wenger’s contract was up in the air and uncertainty was rife.

          I have quiet confidence I suppose that this year, with stability, additions to the squad and a bit of reversion to the mean, we will see a much better campaign. I have a feeling the fearlessness and vitality of youth will be blended in to keep fist teamers on their toes and to help those intangibles.

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