Morning all. Don’t you love it when you get a new mug that you love? I got a new one for Christmas and its just perfect. Great, Goldilocks size, unique but still functional shape, aesthetically-pleasing design featuring some Frida Kahlo-inspired surrealist vegetation. It’s also filled with coffee right now, which makes it even better.
I usually try to mix up my topics as much as possible, but given that we are still in the first week of January my options are fairly limited today. The tennis season got underway yesterday, but as much as I love the game I’d be stretched to write 1,000 words on the first round of qualifying matches at the ATP 250 Delray Beach Open. Elsewhere, England’s cricketers have arrived in Sri Lanka but are yet to play any cricket, snooker’s Masters kicks off on Monday, while international rugby and Formula 1 are still a few weeks – at least – away from starting their respective seasons.
That leaves me essentially with one option: football. While all the other sportsmen have been doing normal festive season things like eating turkey and trying to keep the drunk uncle away from the whiskey, footballers in Britain have been travelling up and down the country to play in the snow, sleet and hail for our amusement. For giving me something to write about this chilly Wednesday morning, I salute you.
As well as plenty of games, January of course also marks the start of football’s transfer window in Europe. From an Arsenal perspective it has been a busy few days. Sead Kolasinac, the over-built bodyguard who has somehow managed to convince people that he is also a footballer, has returned to former club Shalke on loan for the rest of the season. Given that his touch is about as stiff as my right knee after a 10k run, let’s hope we have seen the last of the Bosnian in an Arsenal shirt.
William Saliba has also left on loan, to Ligue 1 side Nice. This looks like a positive move for all parties. The 19-year-old defender, on whom Arsenal spent a gargantuan £28m in 2019, has yet to play for the London club and is clearly – for whatever reason – not in Mikel Arteta’s short-term plans. He was supposed to go back to former club St Etienne before the start of this season but we somehow managed to botch the paperwork and the deal fell through. By all accounts he is a talented player – considering the transfer fee, Arsenal need him to be – so hopefully this move can help him find form, fitness and confidence ahead of his return to North London.
These developments are encouraging because, much like my belly after Christmas dinner, Arsenal’s squad is bloated. Neither Mesut Ozil nor Sokratis Papa..(something) – two extremely experienced players – are registered for the Premier League. Meanwhile, players like Shkodran Mustafi, who clearly have no long-term future at the club, are taking up valuable wage resources that could and should be allocated elsewhere. Arsenal’s priority during this transfer window must first be to continue shifting the deadwood. That will free up money and squad space for us to make a meaningful, worthwhile acquisition. No-one wants another Denis Suarez.
Thankfully, there appears to be lots of movement in the sales department. Let’s start with Sokratis. The 32-year-old Greek, who arrived from Borussia Dortmund for £17.6m in 2018, has fallen out of favour under Arteta and has apparently received an offer from former club Genoa. It is unclear exactly what this offer might involve, but given that Sokratis has only six months left on his contract I’d be amazed if it is anything other than a loan with a possible option to buy in the summer. I don’t have as big a problem with Sokratis as I do with some of the other defenders in the squad (more on that anon), but if Arteta isn’t going to use him there’s no point in him turning up to London Colney every day. If we can find a club to take him off our hands and pay at least part of his wages until June then I’m all for it.
Ozil is another one rumoured to be headed toward the exit door. Reports have emerged this week linking the German World Cup winner to the MLS’ DC United, who have stated their ambition to sign a Premier League star to replace Wayne Rooney. There are also murmurings about interest from Fenerbahce, although those are probably slightly more fiction than fact. Either way, an Ozil exit this month would be fantastic news for Arsenal. Like Sokratis, the 32-year-old is not in Arteta’s plans – for better or worse – and we simply cannot afford to pay his £350,000/week salary to sit on his arse. It would be a sad way for Ozil, who has mode more than 250 appearances for the club and won three FA Cups, to leave – ignominiously through the back door. But let’s face it: his Arsenal career is already over.
Finally there is Mustafi. The much-maligned German has made more blunders during his Arsenal career than Boris Johnson during the pandemic and is out of contract at the end of the season. While football can always throw up a surprise, I think the club is more likely to re-sign Andre Santos than give a new deal to Mustafi in June so it’s time to cut our losses. Apparently Genoa are interested in the German, so his and our nightmare might be reaching a conclusion at long last. Let’s hope so.
Those, I would say, are the priorities. The mannequins in the shop-front window, so to speak. If Arsenal can get two of the three out the door this month, together with their wages, it would have to go down as a successful transfer window. The capture of a long-term prospect – in the 22-26 years age bracket – that can add another quality attacking midfield option and compete with or compliment Emile Smith-Rowe would be the cherry on the cake, but let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.
Right, that’s your lot for today. Have a good day everyone and I’ll be back here with more on Friday.
—What do you think about Arsenal’s January transfer window plans? Let me know in the comments section below!—