It is highly tempting as an Arsenal fan writing this column now to focus on the end of the transfer window with no outfield additions for the squad.
Particularly when the closure of said window was immediately followed by the announcement that Danny Welbeck, who we all expected to return next week, would instead require an operation that would keep him out until the New Year.
However, so much has been written about it already and Wenger’s decision not to buy combined with the knowledge he had at his disposal about Welbeck, is further driving a wedge in-between a divided fan base. My own views, elaborated on, would only serve to add fuel to the fire so all I will say is that I sincerely hope that Welbeck’s misfortune and Wenger’s apparent short sightedness gives an opportunity to Joel Campbell.
It would be fair to say that the young Costa Rican has not been given a true opportunity by the management and has spent the most part of four seasons away on loans around Europe. I have followed his progress and championed his cause leading up the point when he was finally given a work permit, only for Wenger to loan him once more. After performing well for Olympiacos and then for Costa Rica in the World Cup in Brazil, Campbell did begin the season for Arsenal last August and his chances were talked up his manager, only for him to be loaned out once again.
There was talk of a selfish on-field attitude and a poor work rate at that time, but the truth of the matter is that we don’t actually know if the player has what it takes to succeed in the Premier League. What I think we do know, or I would be confident enough to say, is that technically he has all the attributes of an Arsenal player. I have seen him train and I have watched him frequently for Costa Rica and for his various clubs over the past few years and he is skilful and direct, the latter being a quality we can lack at times. His performance for his country against Uruguay in Brazil was a top level performance but, as they say, can he do it on a wet night in Sunderland? We may find out but I suspect his first start may be against the old enemy in the Capitol One Cup and what a great time to truly announce himself as a Gooner.
The other matter that has taken my attention away from the woes in the attacking department has been the solid reintroduction of Gabriel into the Arsenal backline. I am not Per Mertesacker’s number one fan and I wrote this last week covering my admiration for the Brazilian and the potential partnership he may build with Koscielny, still for my money the first name on the Gunners’ team sheet. Interestingly, after his call-up to the Brazil squad by Dunga, Gabriel was an unused substitute as his team beat Campbell’s Costa Rica 1-0 on Saturday. I hope he will make his debut against the USA this Wednesday.
I see Gabriel as a traditional English style central defender in the Martin Keown mould and it is this aggression and bravery that perhaps Arsenal have lacked in recent years. Let’s make no mistake though, the lad is Brazilian and he can play. Wenger has talked him up and it will be fascinating to see how and when he uses Gabriel or Mertesacker in the coming months. Of course when added complication that comes with this transition is that the German currently wears the captain’s armband.
I would like to see the change made sooner rather than later and see no issues with the ‘Koscielny and Gabriel are too similar’ observations. The Brazilian is just an out and out defender who relishes the arts of defending, both classic and dark, and in truth Arsenal have not had this type of stalwart since the partnership of Sol and Martin.
If this does happen it will be the final part of a quite incredible transition for the Arsenal backline. If you consider that we could end this season with only one survivor of an established back five from as recently as the end of the 2013/14 season, or indeed the start or 2014/15 campaign. Szczesny, Debuchy (having only just replaced Sagna,) Mertesacker, Koscielny, and Gibbs began the last campaign and it is quite conceivable that Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny and Monreal will end this one.
It is potentially a fabulous back line with a blend of youth and experience that gives Arsene a solid base from which to build from. I accept the comments that Arsenal needed a better spine but in Cech, Gabriel and Kos, we have the lower spine in place. There is also strong competition for places and for the first times in years I go to games not fearing corners each and every time. I do of course still moan at our own corners but that is another story………