I THINK it would be safe to suggest that Arsenal fans on social media have been in degrees of meltdown in the past few days.
The anxiety at the lack of arrivals to balance the exits as the end of the window approached reached fever pitch as the final hours confirmed a further departure and no new faces.
Being as passionate a fan as the next Gunner, it is hard to take a measured view when there is so much anger but the situation merits it.
The departures of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on a free and Folarin Balogun on loan leave Arsenal with only Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah, both due to leave in June, as their only recognised central strikers.
Given how woeful and disinterested Nketiah seems, an injury to the skipper could be disastrous.
The departure of Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Calum Chambers – when we could have triggered a one-year contract extension in December – have left us with only Cedric Soares to cover right-back.
Given how different the Portuguese’s style is from the integral Takehiro Tomiyasu, Chambers seemed a far better stand-in alternative.
Allowing Chambers and also Pablo Mari to depart leaves Rob Holding as our only senior, experienced cover for Gabriel and Ben White.
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Without being disrespectful to Holding, he is a different proposition from either of the first-choice pairing and we have seen that the popular Englishman’s poorer distribution is noted by our opposition, and it limited us badly.
The fanbase justifiably wonders why, when it became apparent that the moves for Dusan Vlahovic and Arthur Melo were doomed, the club – and most notably Edu, who seems the main individual blamed – had no secondary targets, a plan B.
Literally, none of the players sold or loaned were regularly featuring.
Whether they should have been can be debated but they weren’t and therefore the current first-choice XI and regularly used substitutes are all still available and crucially all fit.
The main need for central midfield cover was due to the Africa Cup of Nations and suspensions.
Mikel Arteta was certainly not aided by the idiocy of his two senior midfield generals but both Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka are now ready.
Arsenal’s recent poor results were without these two and the good run until January 1 was built on the platform they provided.
Their absence gave Albert Sambi Lokonga more experience and it was not his shortcomings that let the team down, more a lack of a genuine central midfield partner.
I feel the Belgian further proved his value.
The core the club has retained will take us into Europe but only after 17 matches will we know if the gamble was educated or reckless
Arteta, far from being bereft of goal-scoring options, actually has Gabriel Martinelli, who can still drift infield with Emile Smith Rowe returning to the left.
In addition, there is a strong possibility, although I may be hopeful, given Arteta’s stubbornness that the attacking departures might give a chance at re-integration for Nicolas Pepe.
Lacazette needs to step up, however.
A combination of assumptions and a few conversations leads me to the unenviable conclusion that Arsenal, the management in conjunction with KSE have taken a huge punt, a colossal risk or an almighty gamble.
However, we describe it, that is what we as fans have witnessed.
The question is why, and will it pay off?
The reason is to massively reduce the club’s wage bill, which has for several years been at Champions League level without the financial rewards derived from that competition.
It is my belief that this will allow the owners to ‘go big’ in the summer window when I would expect three marquee signings to supplement the fabulous young core that Edu and Arteta have assembled to date.
The real gamble element to this strategy is that whilst they will be in a renewed position to sanction high wages for any stellar additions, there is still a need to have European football.
Big salaries, Arsenal, London, a respected young coach and Europe is hugely appealing but removing the carrot of European competition reduces the allure.
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We have seen the team get into a position to attain Champion’ League via the top four this campaign and feel the club and management have gambled by not adding to the squad and allowing its depth to be lessened.
Conversely, I think the club’s objective was top six and the Europa League – they feel this will be sufficient to attract the stars needed to take Arsenal back into Europe’s elite the season after.
With better discipline, good luck on the injury front, some tactical flexibility from Arteta, the core the club has retained will take us into Europe but only after 17 matches will we know if the gamble was educated or reckless.