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Loan Deals – Future Is Out Of Their Hands…

Youth players have a plethora of pitfalls to navigate around in order to remain on the path to success.

Established clubs do all they can to prepare them for the obstacles they will face, but it is a necessary rite of passage in order to see who has the minerals to really prove their top-flight credentials.

There are some things that these starlets cannot compensate or prepare for though. Some circumstances are completely out of their hands and their future, or at least a large portion of it, is in the hands of someone else.

They are on the verge of a breakthrough, but with established players ahead of them making it difficult to earn the gametime they need to progress, these kids will be faced with the prospect of joining another club, often one of lower stature, for a season.

This opportunity is the last hurdle before they become fully fledged, ensconced within the club they were schooled in. It is also the highest of hurdles, and it all hinges on the manager at the time.

They choose the club that the youth prospect will be farmed out to. They are responsible for setting the parameters of immediate success or failure. You see, if the club is the wrong fit, then their progress can be set back, or even worse, they could be sold.

Opinion will be based on how they fare. We have had countless players who have been given their big opportunity to show everyone, and the people at Arsenal, what they’re made of. Instead, through a mixture of injuries, an untenable situation with the regime at their loan club, or plain bad luck, have seen them sent back early with their fragile confidence broken, or they stay for the duration of their loan and warm the bench, making sporadic performances they could make at Arsenal.

A prime example of a potential career breaker was the loan move of Serge Gnabry to West Brom. The manager at the time was Tony Pulis, not exactly renowned for being the finest exponent of swift, technical football, we all scratched our heads at the destination for our promising German winger.

Serge-Gnabry-596830

Gnabry had made his debut and seemed to be ready to make the final leap from prodigy to first eleven candidate. Wenger opted instead to send him to the Hawthorns, Perhaps Wenger thought he would test the mettle of Gnabry, to see if he could mix it as well as bewitch opponents? Whatever the musings were behind the decision, it backfired spectacularly, with Gnabry learning pretty much nothing from his move – other than Tony Pulis doesn’t get a rough deal – he really DOES only know one style of play.

You see, managers really do have the future of these kids in the balance. Does the destination club play the right way? Does the kid have something specific he needs to learn? Is the managerial situation stable? Does the manager have a forward thinking style? What is the positional competition like for the youngster?

Also, will our appointment of a Loan Overseer of sorts, help with future loanees?

Emi Martinez last season earned practically no experience in his loan move in La Liga, and it wasted an entire year of the keeper’s career.

The recent loan move for Reiss Nelson in particular, there is a focus here that isn’t usually on a loan deal – with  the huge promise that Nelson possesses. A lot hinges on this season, and Nelson is so far delivering on it – but the season is long.

The destination club – Hoffenheim – is a progressive club, playing a blend of football that adapts to the given opponent. It means Nelson will be schooled as well as get the game time he needs, and our club needs in order to goague his progress and capacity. Julian Nagelsmann is a revered coach and will use him wisely, but there could be tougher times ahead, times that mean the bench or worse, the physio’s table, beckons.

We have the likes of Calum Chambers and Krystian Bielik on loan too, with both players Arsenal future’s very much in the balance, off-set by the potential success or failure of their respective moves to Fulham and Charlton respectively.

These fledgling players can fight tooth and nail, bleed for every minute on the pitch, but if the loan club isn’t the right match, then it won’t matter a jot. Their future is not just in their hands.

Just imagine that. Having the fate of a kid in your hands. Rather them than me.

Grass Is Greener For Gnabry

Serge Gnabry left our club in the summer of 2016. It appeared to be a brave, perhaps foolish move on the part of the youngster in a bid to gain more first team experience. He was on the fringes of the team at Arsenal, but this wasn’t enough for the ambitious German.

A quick look at his career whilst in London appears to justify Gnabry’s boldness in his career move however. Five years were spent attempting to break through into Arsene Wenger’s first team plans, but the winger made just ten appearances in all that time. 

A loan move to West Brom only exacerbated his woes in England, as Baggies boss Tony Pulis had nothing but disdain for Gnabry’s talents, using him less than sparingly and this set back any plans Gnabry had on pushing on.

There were a few who lamented the youngster’s transfer back to Germany, but there were precious few who predicted the immediate impact he would make in his first season back in his homeland with Werder Bremen. 

His new club are currently as I write, level on points with the threshold of the Bundesliga dropzone. Bremen fans are understandably in low spirits, but Gnabry is providing a spark that the rest of the Werder squad seem unable to. 

Ten goals in 21 games as I write represents an excellent goal ration, especially for a wideman rather than a striker. When you take into account how young Gnabry is – the German is still only 21 years old – then his blistering season appears even better. Gnabry has exploded onto everyone’s consciousness, including German coach Jogi Low.

Arsenal had fair warning about what potential Gnabry had. The Gunners were given a timely reminder of what a precious commodity they had in their ranks just weeks before Gnabry was allowed to leave. 

Gnabry was part of the Silver medal winning German football team in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Gnabry was a vital part of the eleven and ended the tournament as joint top scorer. Gnabry couldn’t do much more to show Wenger and the club he was ready to jump into the team. Instead, Gnabry opted to leave. . 

Our club are obviously struggling at present, with the Champions League exit at the hands of Bayern Munich only compounding the misery around our malaise this campaign. Could Gnabry have changed things if he were still on the scene? 

His dynamism appears to be sorely missed and a weapon we could have really utilised, but instead we get to see his talents on a different stage. 

There were reports that Gnabry had a buyback clause in his contract, inserted via a request from Arsenal as a condition of his sale. If this was the case, his move to Bayern Munich burns just a little. 

Now that Gnabry has decided to leave Bremen after just one season to move to the giants in Munich, this whole fiasco leaves a bitter taste, and yet another talented player has swapped their Arsenal shirt for another club. 

The Transfer Window – Walking the Finest of Lines

Originally posted on Goonersphere

Amidst the plethora of reporters lurking in car parks, impromptu interviews with players and managers via a car window like a montage of Drive-Thru orders, and the garish sea of yellow on your TV screens, there was plenty of departures and shock purchases during the transfer window.

Transfer Deadline Day – the title which now seems to bring with it a whole smorgasbord of promotion and shameless worship of big-money buys – saw Sideshow Bob lookalike David Luiz surprisingly rejoin Chelsea from PSG and give Antonio Conte’s defence an instant weakness, and Moussa Sissokho hilariously lure foolish clubs to bid £30m – spurs won the right to his signature……

Clubs scrambling desperately to improve their ranks, whilst maligned and forgotten squad members slinked toward the exit door. The same players who once were heralded as much as their replacements.

Managers walk the finest of lines.  Implored to spend by the baying masses who fill the stands each week, they search for the marquee signing who will suddenly unlock the potential in the team and ensure a rush to the club shop to buy a jersey with the new boy’s name on the back. 

Bolstering the amount of players inevitably means cutting the squad somewhere – unless you’re Mike Phelan at Hull City and have three players and some free-kick barriers from training in your lineup – and unpopular decisions must be made.

The voices calling for Arsene Wenger to spend money go from fans to pundits, journalists to TV personalities. Memes flew around cyberspace poking fun at Wenger’s apparent reluctance to splash the cash. It is now a reputation that has stuck. Our French manager is now synonymous with counting beans rather than recruiting talent, it seems.

This summer, most could see the glaring weaknesses in our squad. Our defence needed a player who could partner Koscielny, with Mertesacker reduced to capable understudy. We needed a midfielder who could be the dynamic force between defence and attack. We had Coquelin, Elneny and Santi, but another wouldn’t go amiss. Then there was the issue with our dearth of strikers….

So, Wenger defied expectation, and reacted early. Granit Xhaka was brought in, and his class is undeniable, and his potential is frightening. The money involved may be high, but Wenger has always maintained he will spend for the right player – and Xhaka fits into our team like a glove.

Then, we went for our second target – Jamie Vardy. The xenophobic, cast-wearing sriker was the revelation of a strange 2015/16 season, and Wenger identified that the England man’s strengths would be a perfect match for his side.

A bid was made, and Vardy had a choice to make. He chose to stay, and now looks like he has competition for his place at Leicester, but regardless, Arsenal had made another early move, but they were rebuffed.

A move for a player takes time. To ensure the cohesion of the team and squad, the research must be done, so it was back to square one for Wenger and his team.

It was also revealed that Wenger made another early move, this time for Manolas – the Greek defender at Roma – but the Italian club played hardball in negotiations and it meant that Jack Wilshere ended up at Bournemouth instead of Rome. 

So, Wenger did exactly what was required, but only one of the three targets he had, ended up at London Colney.

By the end of the window though, the positions he sought to strengthen had indeed been reinforced. Lucas Perez came in from Deportivo, and adds an alternative in the strikers berth with his pace and movement. 

Shkodran Mustafi eventually joined from cash-strapped Valencia, and the 24yr old German is tailor-made to be Koscielny’s partner.

Both players came in for a combined 52.1m. Money has been spent, and our squad looked healthy. Another problem arose though – we now had too many players.

A player who isn’t playing regularly cannot hope to be at his best, and Jack Wilshere was down the pecking order thanks to repeated injuries. Purchases meant that his prospects for this season were not healthy, and he needs first team football. Bournemouth is perhaps a surprise destination, but he will play for a forward-thinking coach, and will play enough games at the level he needs. 

It is a good move, although it is being derided in some quarters. Why couldn’t he stay and fight for his place? Why didn’t he go to Italy? Well, no-one can answer for Jack, but there are a host of mitigating factors for his decision, not merely the squad he will play with. At the root of his choice though, would have been gametime.

At Arsenal, he was behind Santi Cazorla, Elneny, Xhaka, and Ramsey. His talent is such that he needs to play, and he would not get into the side. The drawback of buying players is that the competition for places is so fierce that it will make some of the men in the ranks disgruntled and look for the exit door. 

Jack simply wanted to play – and if he can stay fit and have a good season, then a place in our team is assured.

So, Wenger buys players – he is criticised. Wenger lets players leave who are merely squad filler, such as Joel Campbell and Serge Gnabry – he is criticised. 

It seemed Gnabry forced his way out of the club to move to Werder Bremen, and Wenger has always had faith in the young German, but the lure of home and regular minutes on the pitch was too strong. 

We have a healthy squad, and adequate cover in all departments. Wenger has acted to strengthen, cut the wheat from the chaff, and give players he believes in room to play elsewhere. He should not face vilification for his transfer window actions if they are adequately improving the squad.

Where our Manager should be judged, is how his chosen men perform during the season. He has decided that this team is good enough, and every change was his to make. So, if we fail to make the grade, the blame should fall at his feet alone. 

Spend some money Wenger!  

He has, and our team looks good. 

It is a fine line all managers have to walk, but it isn’t merely transfers that ensure their longevity in a position. Victory is the ultimate ambition.

Let’s see how this season unfolds now that Wenger finally has a squad equipped for every eventuality. 

Serge Gnabry – Back to Germany?

Look back to a short time ago,  Serge Gnabry barely registered a raised eyebrow – now he is on his way to Werder Bremen, according to Sky Germany.

Gnabry has signed for Werder Bremen

Last season he was consigned to the Arsenal reserves after being rescued from a nightmare loan spell at West Brom which was meant to last the length of the season, but Arsenal recalled Gnabry in January as he rusted with disuse.

Gnabry valiantly played the second half of the season with the Gunners youngsters, in a bid to not only gain match fitness – but confidence. 

The young German’s standing in his home nation was still high however, and this summer saw Serge travel to Rio with Germany as part of the their Olympic football team – and remind everyone why Wenger has held onto him for so long.

Gnabry scored six goals in Germany’s run to the final, earning a silver medal and using the worlds biggest stage as a personal showcase for his talents. His rapier runs into the box, constantly looking for space and his enviable talent of taking on and beating defenders meant that he wreaked merry havoc, and saw him appear on radars at other clubs.

One of those clubs was mid-table fodder Werder Bremen. A return home may be a prospect too hard to refuse for the German native, regardless of Bundesliga standing. 

According to major news sources, including Sky Sports, Gnabry has signed for Bremen, and mystifyingly, Bayern Munich has been the fiscal force behind the transaction.

When Arsene Wenger allowed Joel Campbell to go on loan to Sporting Lisbon for the season, most – including me – thought it was to allow the Costa Rican some football – and also to make room in the squad for the return of Gnabry.

Wenger has always backed his man, and it would be strange for him to suddenly veer 180 degrees and agree to discard with him. Has Gnabry expressed his desire to leave? Wouldn’t a loan suffice? There are questions that must be answered, but Gnabry may just have had his head turned by advances from back home.

Serge has one year remaining on his contract, and the lure of Germany may just be too strong. It does leave our options out wide a little short, but with wide forwards Alexis and Lucas Perez, there are options to utilise. 

Either way, the kindly reminder Serge gave to all with his wonderful efforts in Rio ensured that most fans are not keen on dispensing with his services. Gnabry has made his choice however. With the fee being as low as is reported – some stories say it looks to be between £5-7m – the youngster looks to have forced Wengers hand somewhat as Arsenal will not have been keen to lose him for such a frivolous figure. 

One year left on his contract, with a player keen on a move? Arsenal have been forced into a corner, and it is down to Dick Law to ensure a buy-back clause is inserted, as Serge may just have a stellar future. 

The Return of the Loanees – Part Two

Continuing on from the previous instalment, this article places all of Arsenal’s players who were farmed out on loan last season under the microscope.

How did these players do, did they fully grasp the opportunity they were given whilst on loan? Did they enhance their chances at Arsenal with their performances? Or did they show that a career with the Cannon on their chest is just beyond them?

Read on, and hopefully you can decide –

Continue reading The Return of the Loanees – Part Two