If defeat in Sunday’s pre-season clash with Chelsea taught us anything it’s that there is a lot of work to be done between now and the season opener on 13 August.
Quite apart from the work required to bed in a new higher defensive line and the extensive drilling needed on playing out from the back, there is still vast amounts to do to complete the overhaul of the playing squad.
During this pre-season campaign, we have given extensive minutes to Mohamed Elneny, Hector Bellerin, Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson and Sead Kolasinac and some of that number featured again at the Emirates for the Mind Series match against Thomas Tuchel’s men.
While I understand that even players not necessarily destined for the starting XI need match sharpness while others are building fitness or, indeed, are still on holiday, many of the aforementioned should be headed for the exit door and, frankly, should in no way be a part of our plans for next season.
Kolasinac is a case in point. This is a man from whom we have already moved on. Giving him minutes is of almost no benefit to us as a club and yet he remains in north London, collecting wages and taking up a squad spot. This is not his fault, I hasten to add, he is perfectly entitled to do these things but he continued presence in the squad is indicative of our struggle to get done what we need to get done.
Getting people out of the door this summer has proven fiendishly difficult. Clubs across Europe have all-too-happily quoted obscene prices when Premier League sides have come knocking while simultaneously recoiled in horror when asked to actually pay for some of the players offered to them by clubs in England looking to sell. It is by no means a situation exclusive to Arsenal but the effect has been marked.
Our inability to dispense with the half-dozen or more players we doubtless hoped to wave off this summer must be impacting on our plans for new arrivals and I could sense that in yesterday’s line-up and performance. Nowhere is this more keenly felt than in midfield.
By now, I think many of us would have hoped to see Elneny, Lucas Torreira and Xhaka move on to pastures new, with resolutions also found for the likes of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson, and Joe Willock – be they sales or otherwise. Instead, all six remain with us and, until such time as we can move them on, we can’t expect to seriously and consistently improve.
Ben White aside, the signings we have made, I would assume, were meant to be replacements for departing squad players, not as immediate starters. It may well transpire that Sambi Lokonga is an revelation and lights up the league with his brilliance but that seems unlikely given what we know about the time it often takes to adapt to life in the Premier League.
I don’t want to get swept away on a tide of negativity this season. There has been so much rancour around the club these last three years or so that any more is unwelcome and unnecessary but the more time passes, the greater the task of overhauling this side becomes and the harder it seems to be to get anything done about it.
The pandemic has had a devastating effect on the football industry and our transfer window travails are just another part of that. There is still time to get some small bits of business done before the season gets under way but the scale of the task looks to be beyond us this summer.
Expectations must be adjusted accordingly.