Most deadline day signings are met with a degree of anticipation and excitement that is largely unrivalled in football.
But when Arsenal announced that they had signed Cedric Soares on loan from Southampton for the rest of the season, the overwhelming sentiment among Gunners fans was: “Really? What’s the point?”
The Portugal international is 28 years old and has hardly set the world alight during his four-year stint at St Mary’s. He also arrived at London Colney to complete the deal wearing a knee brace, and it has since been confirmed that he won’t be available for selection until at least March.
As if the move wasn’t already curious enough, Cedric is available on a free transfer in the summer. Given that Arsenal already have Hector Bellerin and Ainsley Maitland-Niles to choose from, it surely would have made sense to wait until the summer to get Soares on a free if they really wanted him.
Instead, they’ll now pay Southampton a £1m loan fee and cover the former Inter man’s £65,000-per-week wages for the rest of the season.
The bizarre turn of events brings back memories of another one of Arsenal’s legendary January loan signings. No, not Denis Suarez, but Kim Kallstrom.
With the Gunners challenging at the top of the Premier League at the start of 2014, it seemed like all they needed was an incoming striker to secure their first title for a decade. Rumours were rife that Demba Ba would be signed but instead Arsene Wenger brought back fond memories for Football Manager 2002 players by opting for 31-year-old midfielder Kallstrom.
This wasn’t to be the most frustrating part though, as just a day later it was revealed that the Gunners’ doctors had somehow managed to miss the fact that Kallstrom had a broken back in his medical. Ah, the glory days of peak ‘banter era’ Arsenal…
Kallstrom did very little in a Gunners shirt apart from scoring a penalty in the FA Cup semi-final shootout against Wigan, helping the north London club on their way to breaking a nine year trophy drought.
While Arsenal are a long way off challenging for the title this year, the parallels between Kallstrom and Cedric are clear to see. It raises serious questions about how the Gunners are conducting their transfer business.
Soares is the client of Jorge Mendes, and in the photo announcing that he had joined Arsenal another ‘super agent’ – Kia Joorabchian – was seen to be involved.
Why Cedric Soares I was wondering樂
I finally get it.
Its Kia Joorabchian on the left…. We didn’t buy Kurzawa, so we had to take another of his client.
Welcome to Joorachian Football Club ⚪️嵐
(欄Edu, Luiz, Soares….to be continued)#AFC #Cedric #Soares pic.twitter.com/gJv5mF6vdA
— Kingslayer ⚔️ (@M4nu59) January 31, 2020
Historically, the Gunners have refused to get involved with this elite group of representatives who hold the keys to some of the best players in the world. Arsene Wenger simply did not trust them to have the club’s best interests at heart.
But now, with Raul Sanllehi in charge of the club’s upstairs operation, that hard stance appears to have softened somewhat.
This can clearly be seen in how Joorabchian was involved in bringing Arsenal’s new technical director Edu Gaspar to the club. The Iranian agent now has a direct influence on the Gunners’ transfer business. Proof of this can be seen in the signing of David Luiz, who is also a client of Joorabchian.
If the club does decide to go down this path then they should be wary that it is a high risk, high reward strategy.
Joorabchian previously had close connections with Chelsea, and was responsible for bringing Ramires to the club. The Brazilian midfielder was a hit at Stamford Bridge and was a key part of their 2012 Champions League-winning side.
At the same time though, Kia was also responsible for the Blues signing Alexandre Pato. The former Milan forward was one of the biggest striking flops in the club’s history – which is pretty impressive when you remember the likes of Mateja Kezman, Fernando Torres and Radamel Falcao – and played just twice in his time in west London.
Gooners will hope Cedric is more like the former than the latter, and it does seem slightly harsh to judge a signing before he’s even played for his new club. But the deal does call into question how fit for purpose the Arsenal board is.
In recent times the Gunners have been criticised for their short-term decision making, like signing Henrikh Mhkitaryan and giving Mesut Ozil a £350,000-per-week contract. More long-term thinking is what’s necessary at the Emirates.
Right now a 28-year-old injured right back doesn’t seem to fit the bill, just as it didn’t with a 31-year-old injured midfielder five years ago.