Laugh it up. If you haven’t already, then you’re the only one who hasn’t; including Arsenal fans.
Although in the case of the Gunners’ supporters, they were not chuckles of joy, more like mild hysterics to mask the pain. Did the club actually just announce that? Were the decisions that were made genuinely done by the people in charge of running the club? It would appear so.
Yes, on Wednesday morning it was confirmed that four new deals were agreed for members of the Arsenal squad: David Luiz, Dani Ceballos, Pablo Mari and Cedric Soares.
In a world were supporters of whichever club are constantly scrambling for an opportunity to gloat, ridicule and label other clubs as ‘Banter FC (laughing emoji x50)’, it appears as if Arsenal have opened the door so far wide the rest of the baying public can walk right on in for a closer look.
Without further – unfortunate – ado, let’s take a closer look at each one in its own right.
With four penalties conceded, two red cards and at 33 years of age, Luiz is first in the firing line.
This deal in particular has drawn widespread criticism (spoiler: they all have) and there is little scope to offer any resemblance of a counter-argument. Having already ripped the idea to shreds, instead let’s focus on what conceivable reason the club have come to in order to sanction this move.
It can only be for what he offers off the pitch, can it? He’s a mentor to the younger players – Gabriel Martinelli in particular – and a well-liked character in whichever squad he plays for. He has respect among his peers, is professional in his manner and hard-working. The general consensus is as such.
Which, obviously, rewards him with 12 months in the city he’s called home for a number of years and a (reported) £120k-per-week salary.
Even using that thin logic alone, there is no reason whatsoever to warrant such an insane outlay on a player who is supposedly ‘a nice bloke’. This is all ignoring the fact he’s been diabolical in central defence on far too many occasions this season, to the point where he becomes the target by opposition as a means to wreak havoc.
The only thing that this writer can possibly think is that they’ve tied him down for 12 months so they can shift him off to Benfica for a profit when the window opens. HA! Wouldn’t that be great?
But to credit the club with that much cunning? Yeah, fantasy stuff.
This…is the only one that makes some sense.
It’s a simple matter of having their hands tied. He’s essentially the sole creative force in the midfield with Mesut Ozil – again – being outcast from the starting lineup, and he was supposed to be on loan for the whole season anyway.
But his return on the pitch has been frightfully underwhelming. He’s got two assists and a goal in his 26 outings to date, with those assists both coming in the same match earlier in the season against Burnley – which was his debut.
Following on from that it’s been nothing but running around in circles, getting caught out of position and an apparent lack of interest. His head is already elsewhere and he’s eyeing up his summer move, but the club are paper-thin with new injuries and losing more players makes no sense…regardless of whether they’ve contributed with anything meaningful.
Mikel Arteta made it abundantly clear that a left-footed central defender was imperative to the style of play he wants to stamp on this Arsenal side. For balance alone it helps the back four, while it also eases the burden on the midfield who need to compensate that little more in their positioning to account for a central defender needing to adapt his game.
He got him. It cost £4.2m, and he’s played three games for the club. Sorry, 2.2 games(ish).
Has he conceded a goal during that time? No, he hasn’t. Has he shown glimpses of being a top centre-back who can produce in the Premier League? Heck knows. He’s played 2.2 games, one of them was against Portsmouth and the other against West Ham. Against the Hammers, the Gunners were out-shot by David Moyes’ men.
This is a decision clearly being made on Arteta’s instinct. He believes Mari can make the grade in England – despite failing last time – although he looked well off the pace in that heavy Manchester City defeat. You have to back the manager on this one. Mari is his guy, and he trusts him.
But on a FOUR-YEAR DEAL? For crying out loud, the guy is going to be missing for up to three months, and will play less than three matches before costing £18.2m combined. Coming from the Brazilian league – where the general consensus was that he wasn’t great – this is an almighty gamble that just screams of desperation. They’ve just settled with whatever they could get.
Maybe, it’s a four-year deal so that the club won’t have to worry about him running his contract down and undoubtedly leaving for free until 2024? One less thing to worry about.
La crème de la crème. It’s genuinely hard to formulate words for this one. It truly is.
He. Hasn’t. Played. A. Single. Game. For. The. Club. Nada.
Yet, somehow, this warrants another FOUR-YEAR DEAL? The loan signing of Cedric in January drew widespread condemnation, but this takes the biscuit. When he initially joined he was injured, Southampton wanted rid since he simply wasn’t up to scratch to play for the club anymore and they gladly handed him over to the Gunners with their wage bill earning some respite. In total it cost over £3m.
Now, a player on the decline, turning 29 in the summer (yes, he’s 28 until he’s 29, we know) and yet to kick a sodding football in north London has been signed for four years. It defies belief. It defies logic. But it’s so Arsenal.
He’s not going to usurp Hector Bellerin in the starting lineup, so will he simply be warming the Emirates bench until he’s 32?
The club to have a need for right-back cover. There simply isn’t much backup at the moment with Arteta not favouring Ainsley Maitland-Niles in that position and Calum Chambers still sidelined with a long-term injury. Yet if you’re Cedric, and his agent, in this position then you’re counting your lucky stars. Your horse has romped its way down the final furlong. Because the deal is FOUR YEARS LONG.
Has a player ever signed two deals with a club without playing a single minute? It’s insane.
The idea that an injured Cedric, who has contributed with nothing in six months, is part of a ‘rebuild’ is simply baffling.
There are the ardent supporters who will never see the club in a bad light, classing these deals as shrewd moves to bolster the squad without dipping too deeply into their pockets. However, there is nothing shrewd about settling for mediocrity.
Sure, Arteta has seen Mari, Luiz and Cedric in training and knows them individually, but the standard of player this club are bringing in is setting the tone for club’s aspirations. Is Luiz going to steer Arsenal into the top four next season? Of course he isn’t. It’s lunacy.
But what you can say, on the other hand, is that Arteta’s hands are somewhat tied. He’s got seven bang average – if not terrible – central defenders at the club, and he clearly sees Luiz and Mari as better than the rest – or at least good enough to contribute. It’s too hard to judge Mari just yet, but £120k-per-week Luiz is putting round pegs in square holes.
As noted by David Ornstein, Arteta still wants to add further with whatever shoddy finances he has available. A central defender, midfielder and wide player are being targeted, and the belief is that neither Mari nor Luiz satisfy those requirements.
Players will have to go in order for those desires to be fulfilled, but it doesn’t mask over the shoot-yourself-in-the-foot dealings confirmed on Wednesday. The squad is lacking desperately in quality, so the port of call was, for whatever reason, was stick with what they have?
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