forecasts, fears, hopes

Here’s a good tactical preview of the forthcoming Arsenal season. I am made a bit nervous about this passage:

Outside of the top contributors there are myriad other uncertain situations spread throughout the squad. Petr Čech is 35, with his closest possible successor Wojciech Szczęsny having just been sold to Juventus after spending two seasons out of sight and out of mind on loan at Roma. Per Mertesacker is retiring at the end of the season and his best partner Laurent Koscielny is 31. Jack Wilshere is clearly not long for this club. Calum Chambers, despite being only 22, doesn’t seem to be in Wenger’s plans in any serious way.

These examples could go on but you get the point: there’s a lot of deferred outcomes and holes that will soon need filling in the current squad. Özil and Sánchez could both very well leave at the end of the season, meaning the club would somehow need to recruit two elite players out of nowhere if they desire to retain their current level. Convincing them to stay, if that’s even a possibility, also seems pretty unappetising. Do you really want to be giving pricey long-term contracts to two 29-year-olds? Especially considering Sánchez has played international football every summer dating back to 2014 and is notable for the fact that he is always running? These problems would be lessened if there were comparable talents waiting in the wings to inherit the responsibilities but there just aren’t many. Finding such talents is obviously difficult yet Arsenal have avoided making preparations for too long and will likely suffer for it.

Some thoughts:

  • Here at the end of the preseason I’m feeling better about central defense. I think Koscielny has a few more good years, and I see both Mustafi and Holding as solid, possibly better than solid, defenders. Also, Kolasinac looks like he can play on the left side of a back three as well as at wingback.
  • I’m now inclined to believe that Xhaka will be better this year, and continue to be impressed by Elneny’s intelligence and workrate; I’m also not ruling out improvement by Coquelin. So I’m less worried about defensive midfield also.
  • After several months of breaking into a cold sweat every time I thought about the possibility to Alexis leaving, I am now, half the time anyway, wishing for him to be sold right now. I fear that he’s the sort of player who could suffer a dramatic drop-off in performance if injuries and fatigue catch up with him (Özil, by contrast, has the kind of game that could flourish into his mid-thirties.) I am also concerned that his evident disgruntlement will affect morale. If you can squeeze a healthy fee out of a big club for Alexis, even if that big club is a rival like Man City, I say: go for it.
  • But keep Ox and play him every game you can. Kolasinac steaming up the left side and Ox flying up the right can terrify defenses.
  • And give some of the kids a chance. For heaven’s sake. Let’s see what Nelson and Maitland-Niles can do. I think they can do a lot.