Arsenal may have three great signings but what about the defence – And who must go?

What does the potential signing of Pepe mean? by Konstantin Mitov

Well, well, well, I’ve been quietly excited about next season and it looks like we might sign a proper player on a permanent deal. Of course nothing is certain until I see it on Arsenal.com, but if we land Pepe, it’ll be the kind of signing people would like to see.

He’s expensive, had a good season and he’s still young. He is left footed and he can play wide. It’s no secret Unai Emery wants wingers and we don’t have many. But the signings of Gabriel, Cabellos and now Pepe, mean some players will find it hard to get any game time.

I’m looking at Iwobi, who could be sold and honestly, despite his improvements I think he hasn’t been good enough for Arsenal. This can be said about a lot of other players unfortunately, but we must be ruthless if we want to progress.

Another player in great danger is Mikhitaryan. The problem are his huge wages. Ornstein reports that we would need to sell to balance the books and offloading him or Ozil would greatly help.

Getting rid of Elneny and Jenkinson would also be a boost, but it’s incredibly difficult go find suitors for average (at best) players on huge wages. Reports suggest we’re looking to offload Chambers too, which will be a shame, since our defense is in dire need of improvement.

This is what worries me, although I expect us to buy Kieran Tierney. This should forecast the end of Monreal as our wage bill is huge without champions league money. Koscielny should leave and I ask you to pick our defense for next season?

What is the formation first and then who do we play? If we go 3 at the back, there’s a huge chance to get more of Mustafi. Holding looked decent, but after shuch a long injury I’m not sure he’ll be able to just slot in and steady the ship.

Truthfully, I think there’s a more general problem with the defense than just the players. We’ve been defensively shaky since 2006 and we changed quite a few players since then. Last season we signed 2 defensive midfielders and 2 defenders and we still leaked 51 goals, so I’m hoping that the new signings will help build a solid system.

Part of our problem was the constant rotation of formations and a lack of mental stability. If we manage to start the season decently and keep a few clean sheets, some confidence can grow perhaps. It is extremely difficult though, when we ship goals against the smaller clubs and make average players look like Messi.

But again, not just the defenders are to blame. A lot of mistakes come from the likes of Xhaka and Guendouzi in midfield which doesn’t help. The lack of real wingers who help defensively is also part of the problem.

Also, it was the first season of Torreira, Matty G and Sokratis, who arrived into a squad stripped of defensive coaching for years. Things will not change instantly, even though we had all the chances to get champions league football last season.

One thing the board people said, and is true, is that we’ve employed quite a few people, and as good as they are they won’t become a winning machine instantly.

I understood this the hard way, when I was moved in my job to assemble a team from scratch. I asked to be part of the employment process, but instead I saw 6 people hired without my knowledge and half of them had little experience.

It took months before we could deliver anything and I had a rough ride, being the guy everyone asks about everything. Now look at the fact that we’ve replaced the people who did everything – Wenger and Gazidis – and we’ve employed a system full of people, who’ve never worked together and a lot of them don’t speak the language. And even so, we lost Diamond eyes midseason and most of the signings were his suggestions. Basically out of the 3 man to lead us forward only 1 remained, which is like starting over again.

Now add the massive pressure of the Arsenal fans and achieving success instantly becomes increasingly difficult. I’ve been a massive critic of the hierarchy and how this club was ran, but in reality since the change began, things are different.

We’ve started to sign players in a better manner, still not perfect, but better. We’ve changed the manager finally and we’re emphasizing on the group effort rather than the individual.

There is still the problem of all the mediocre players earning 60k/week who basically don’t play, who damage our wage bill, but it’s what it is. Years of ignorance led to this mess, but I do think the club is trying to change that and adopt a more modern system, but this will practically be the first full year that this system will start working together.

So I’d like to be optimistic. United and Chelsea are not much better than we are. Those are the 2 clubs we should be aiming to eclipse this year and we now really need to get back to champions league football. We are a great football club. You’d be surprised how many Arsenal fans there are in the world, even in small countries like mine, I meet them. Our office of like 35 people has 7, who read every Arsenal news and watch the game. They live and breath Arsenal.

If we go back to Europe’s elite competition, we have all the tools to attract the best players and managers. We’re based in a great city, we have a huge fanbase, a great stadium and finally a great kit.

This season will no doubt be difficult, but I hope to see the change in better effect on the pitch. It might be another foolish hope, as many seasons before, but this is football. It’s about being excited. The human idea of starting fresh is strong. And shiny new signings should only help.

That’s it for now people. Keep your heads up and enjoy your summer. Lyon is coming up and we can see Cabellos in action and even though he’s on loan I have expectations of him. Let’s see what happens.

Konstantin

66 Comments

  1. Dan says:

    At last a article that is addressing the real issue our defence one which we continue to ignore we can have all the attacking players you like but when you defend like this team does you will loose more than you will win and until we sign 2 top quality cb we will continue to stay a million miles away from challenging for anything!!

    1. lol says:

      We need wingers who can penetrate as much as we need CBs.

      If we continue to expect our fullbacks to be our main source of width in attack, we can expect to leak goals like last season, even with new CBs

  2. Sean Williams says:

    When we have nervous, less skillful players in the team, like Mustafi, it’s not possible to win anything. He and Xhaka are so slow at distribution that there no chance of intelligent movement. Assuming we will play Xhaka (Arghhh) we CANNOT play Mustafi. He single handedly loses us games. He is dangerous….to us.

    1. lol says:

      Xhaka has lots of weaknesses, but to slate him for distribution is absurd

      1. Sean Williams says:

        lol
        Xhaka’s mind is tooo slow for the top level.The proof is in what most say about him. Many say it. We see it. Don’t know what you watch.

        1. lol says:

          Think you watch but don’t fully understand football

    2. Maks says:

      Xhaka, Mustafi, Elneny, Jenks, Chambers, Monreal and Kos but I am afraid only two may leave.
      At least there is no more Wenger boy with is

  3. Church says:

    Pepe or whatever you call him to me I prefer Everton who seem to be cheap and talented then you the remaining money to get good defender instead of wasting the whole money on one unknown player

    1. Vyash says:

      I agree with you but pepe will put goals and run with his Pacé

      The League will be afraid

      Everton will be maybe next year he needs physical préparation

    2. gotanidea says:

      Everton Soares is a right-footed LW that predominantly plays on the left side, whereas Pepe is a left-footed RW. You cannot compare them, because they have different positions, specialties and skills

      80 M may sound a huge gamble for a winger from Ligue 1, but the team really need a left-footed RW to balance out the squad. This move is better than spending 60+ M on another right-footed LW that will be 27 years old in this year

      I’d prefer Arsenal to spend maximum 70 M on Pepe. If Lille reject the offer, there are younger and cheaper left-footed RWs like Chukwueze and Malcom

      1. Daniel says:

        You are right

      2. Nero says:

        Lol

        Gotanidea…be sincere, chukwueze is your r relative? Lol dont lie.

        Anyways i like the way you analyze your left footed, right footed winger cut in and cut out etc …though its dizzying sometimes

    3. lol says:

      Both Pepe and Everton are talented. Pepe is more costly. Everton is more unknown

    4. Josh says:

      Honestly, I would rather have a proven premier league player in Zaha than have a one season player yet in Pepe. Zaha for me makes sense,… Then let me be in dreamland by hearing that we already signed Koulibaly, or Umtiti or even Everton’s Keane. We need a van djik type of defender that can organise our defense and also make an instant statement. Arrrrgghhhhh!!!!! ?

      1. Yogesh says:

        It’s a good opinion but let’s mot forget Zaha is £80m and his price should be paid in lumpsam as compared to Pepe who’s price is distributed for 5yrs.Zaha is older with no resell value

    5. Alatari Douglas says:

      Did you even know Arsenal had such an amount to spend this window?

  4. Innit says:

    Mustafi on a daily

  5. gotanidea says:

    Iwobi must stay, because he has the most adept left leg among the right-footed LWs/ forwards. I don’t think Aubameyang, Lacazette, Mkhitaryan, Nelson and Martinelli can play as good as Iwobi on the left side

    Ozil can be offered to the rich Gulf football clubs, whereas Mkhitaryan can be offered to German clubs. Xhaka, Mustafi, Sokratis, Elneny and Jenkinson still have some values if Arsenal want to sell them with discount prices

    If Arsenal executives manage to sell those underperformers, we would have enough money to buy a 50+ M LW and an expensive CB

    1. lol says:

      Iwobi was patchy last season. Nonetheless, he was still our best LW. Unless we sign another LW, he should stay

    2. Dan kit says:

      Iwobi doesn’t even have an adept right leg

      1. lol says:

        Even without an adept right leg, Iwobi is still the best dribbler and LW in our team. Really speak volumes of our squad

    3. ozziegunner says:

      gotanidea, just remember while they still have Arsenal contracts, the players have to be willing to move. The buying club/location has to be attractive.

  6. Le Coq Monster says:

    Anyone with the name Mustafi……………

  7. Raja Danish says:

    Pepe signing seems to be a well smart piece of business and now hopefully tierney as well another very good signing which will fix left back issue for many years to come and now if we play smart again and get rugani on season long loan with an option to buy at the end of season then that will be shrewd piece of business then if we edu can use his links in brazil and sign everton soares on an installment like pepe that would be some transfer window this season if we dont afford to offload fringe players then signing soares on installments will be a very good move because edu can use his links well so if we sign pepe tierney soares rugani plus already signed ceballos we may end up competing for the league title because our attack is one of the best if not the best(on par with man city and liverpool with Pepe coming and hopefully soares next a) and with tierney and hopefull a CB like rugani and we have a good goalie in Leno we will have a solid defence than last year yes not better than liverpool and city but arguably better than remaining premier league sides. We can easily get 3rd place and europa with these right and smart signings.
    COYG!!!

    1. gotanidea says:

      If Pepe scores a lot of goals and assists, he would be a smart deal like Hazard and VVD. But if he gets injured a lot or fails to live up the expectations, he would be a flop like Dembele and Malcom

      I prefer Chukwueze because he doesn’t always rely on his stronger left leg to cut inside and he is younger, but he has never set a top league alight like Pepe

      I believe Pepe would shine though, because he performed well in big games like Ndombele and Lacazette. There is a doubt regarding his consistency because of AFCON, but Chukwueze didn’t play consistently there as well

      1. GunnerForLyf says:

        One more time you will bring this left and right foot I swear I will put your left foot in the right and right in the left and after that you could choose your favourite wing.

      2. Ayo says:

        Chukwueze is low budget, good at beating players but his end product is not that good, his shooting esp.

        Pepe is direct, with better finsihing and shooting that chukwueze and even Zaha. Good at passing too.

  8. pires says:

    Holding comeback is a welcome one and i have a lot of expectations for Mavraponos so we need to buy a world class centre back and we ‘r ready to go.That Being said offloading Mustafi is a must

  9. Declan says:

    I think Sokratis is our biggest liability in defence because while being a very committed and at times a competent defender, he’s a hot head and will give away more free kicks and penalties and get sent off far more times than Mustafi has brain farts. Regarding Ozil, I think he will have a good season playing with Cabellos and with Pepe if he arrives. Mhiki is finished and whilst Xhaka has a good range of passes and a good shot, he’s slow physically and mentally. I’m hoping Holding And Chambers will start the season together if Holding is fit.

    1. Targaryen says:

      I don’t think we both ozil and ceballos should be starting matches together, especially against physical sides as they lack the necessary physicality. The team is bound to suffer the same way it does with ozil and mhki in same line up.

      1. ozziegunner says:

        Targaryen, Ceballos in the deep lying playmaker (Cazorla) role with Ozil behind the front 3 will be good against less physical teams, particularly those that will put 9-10 players behind the ball.

        1. Protiq says:

          My thought exactly. Xhaka is going to be phased out as he cannot bench lucas

  10. Joe Jackson says:

    This Chikwueze boy has not proven himself apart from one good game against Barcelona. We need someone who can chip in with goals and assists on a regular basis, and I don’t think Chikwueze is ready atm. In an ideal transfer window, we would get both Pepe and Everton, and our wings would be sorted for the oncoming years.

    1. Joe Jackson says:

      This is for you @gotanidea

    2. Ayo says:

      He dribbled more than half of the Madrid team only to blast the ball over. That is his weakness right there.

      He is from my country, his finsihing almost poor. Iwobi’s is better. I think Pepe is the best if we are looking for Productive winger.

  11. Break-on-through says:

    Lacazette and Auba would not have had that season if someone back there wasn’t doing a very good job. That someone more often, was Xhaka. Others at times but with Xhaka consistently peppering that ball into forwards feet it was a big help to those strikers. He was one of the leagues stand out midfielders at firing it into the final third, he also played more passes than his rivals, he’s good at the one touch two touch and forward pass ..definitely one of our best that’s for sure.

    1. ThirdManJW says:

      Yes, but how many times as he also made key mistakes for us? He gets caught in position all the time, constantly gives simple passes away to the opposition, and is beating so easily as he has no pace to recover.

      1. rkw says:

        i dont recall him playing critical passes … he is even more lateral than ramsey which is saying something and he has the annoying habit of playing passes to players who are not in a position to do much other than pass back to him … so number of completed passes is as meaningful as the us counting the number of dead vietcong as an indicator of the success of their failed strategy in south east asia .. xhaka still being a regular player at arsenal is my biggest worry for coming season assuming we get tiernay … am hoping he will be dropped for a midfield of cabello torreira/the kid and ozil

        1. lol says:

          He is a better passer than Ramsey and I’m not talking about lateral passing or completed passes. He’s able to pick out a player better because of the accuracy and weight of his passes

      2. Joe Jackson says:

        Couldn’t agree more. All I remember are mistakes he did that cost us games, being caught out of position, and losing the ball to our opponents in our own half. His flaws far outweigh his strengths, and I wish Emery would allow Torreira, Willock, and Ceballos to play as our midfield trio. Xhaka’s not gonna cut it!

        1. ozziegunner says:

          Joe, you may get your wish, given Joe Willock’s performances in the Europa League final and preseason games. Emery appears supportive.

      3. lol says:

        Be fair to Xhaka. He’s slow, can’t hold the ball and gets caught in possession, but he doesn’t misplace passes more than our other midfielders

    2. tony says:

      Xhaka is woeful. One odd pass in a game does not offset the error strew midfielder. Too often his passes are misplaced and countless times his errors have led to goals for the opposition. He is slow in possession, and many of our attacks break down because of him. The occasional forward pass that’s good doesn’t offset his errors which include giving stupid free kicks away, bad positioning and constantly losing the players he is meant to marking. Xhaka is an awful player!!

      1. lol says:

        Xhaka doesn’t misplace passes more often than our other midfielders. His errors were mainly from losing possession when under pressure

    3. Welbeck says:

      You’re one of the few people that recognise Xhaka’s ability to spray a pass and recycle the ball. Who else has his passing range in the team?

      Another one I don’t get is why people prefer Mustafi over Sokratis.

  12. Igwe says:

    Can you please mention 3 deep lying midfielders in the league last season with better Stats compared to Xhaka, it was obvious we missed out on champions league football because or those matches he missed at the tail end of last season. Appreciate what you have as a fan, look at his numerous positive and stop dueling on his shortcomings

    1. Targaryen says:

      @ Igwe, You can’t be serious man..We missed on the Champions league cos xhaka missed a couple of games? Very funny. If u ask me, we missed out on top 4 cos we played him more often than not. Very limited player

      1. Nero says:

        @targaryan

        Spot on…if any ones memeory fails them, at least recall second to the last game of the season against briton..i believe,his direct error which are so many lead to their goal..which sealed our fate in europa

    2. ThirdManJW says:

      We messed up at the end because of Ramsey’s injury. Our form nosedived during his absence.

    3. lol says:

      Xhaka’s positives:
      1) Good distribution. Our play through midfield generally flows better when he’s playing
      2) Set piece taking. He’s able to hit dead-balls with good direction and pace

      Xhaka’s shortcomings:
      1) Weak ball control. He’s prone to losing possession when pressed and due to his position, comes with deadly consequences.
      2) Lack of pace. Too slow to recover or provide cover for the defense when the opposition counterattacks, making him an ineffective DM

      Overall, he needs to improve his ball control and avoid being caught in possession. Otherwise, he may be more of a liability for a top team

      1. Rkw says:

        Good distribution … lol by name lol by nature … Whatever you are snorting you should be distributing to all us jaded gunner fans and for sure you will be doing better on that front than xhaka

        1. lol says:

          Anyone who tells me that Xhaka has poor distribution should watch more football and snort less

  13. Gworm says:

    Great if this happens, but no-one’s mentioned the possible effect on AMN. I don’t know if he would be happy to stay as a backup for Bellerin. He has his eye on a central midfield spot and the new players make his inclusion there much more difficult. With Pepe in front of AMN does that improve things or not?

  14. Roshan says:

    Pepe is gonna take the EPL by storm! He was Sven number 1 target for a reason and is gonna be the next dembele. He’s gonna be lethal

  15. antonioro says:

    Is Ceballos,not Cabellas….what’s so hard?

  16. Samson says:

    Phil,Sue,Dan kit,and admartin I think I’ll have a bet with you all on iwobi starting more games than ozil/mlkh as I foresee laca coming from the bench mostly iwobi ain’t going anywhere yet please admin keep your evil eye/click bait off him if he is not good enough for you, he is good enough for other pples Wilshire always run into the brick wall and yet ppl see him and judge based on one good against Barca yet he never have any major impact on the team I love Emery and the recruitment team for not bringing in zaha whom I believe iwobi will reach his level on the lw and when the time comes we can sell him for the same amount palace are asking with out paying a dime. It is pure wisdom and business

    1. Sue says:

      Ha we shall see!! When it doesn’t happen, I shall seek you out ??
      Laca coming from the bench?? Sheesh, what are you on?!!!

      1. Dan kit says:

        ??
        Not even going to respond to this

      2. Joe Jackson says:

        Haha Sue, He lost me too when he said Laca coming from the bench. Regarding Iwobi, I don’t think he will see any games next season if we buy Pepe. It will be a front three of Auba, Laca, and Pepe. If we bought Zaha, that would make matters even more complicated for Iwobi since they play in the same position. However, I think we should keep him as he can be a good asset coming from the bench.

  17. antonioro says:

    Gareth Bale arriving in China for 1 mil/week….why not Ozil?

  18. Tom says:

    I so much enjoy reading ur articles konstantin…..more grease to ur joints.
    I can only hope for a better season considering the pepe and Tierney rumours…up Arsenal

  19. Samuel Akinsola Adebosin says:

    GKs:
    Leno,
    Martinez,
    Macey.

    RFBs:
    Bellerin,
    Jenkinson,
    AMN.

    CHBs:
    Sokratis,
    Mustafi,
    Holding,
    Chambers,
    Mavropanous.

    LFBs:
    Monreal,
    Kolasinac.
    Tierney?

    If Tierney is signed, I think the above 10 specialist defenders will be okay and fine for Arsenal for the first half of next season’s campaign imo.

    DMFs:
    Xhaka.
    Torreria.
    Elneny,
    Guendouzi,
    willock.

    MFs:
    Ozil.
    Mkhitaryan,
    Iwobi.
    Ceballos,
    Nelson,
    Pepe.

    STRIKERS:
    Aubameyang,
    Lacazette,
    Nkethia.

    My above Arsenal first team squad of 28 Gunners is over bolted by 3 Gunners as only 25 are allowed. But yet we want Everton Soares signed and I support it wholeheartedly. But for this to further happen if Arsenal will sign him this summer which they ought tp do. 4 first team Gunners in my above 28 Gunners list will have to be dropped from the squad. But I wouldn’t want to see any of Nkethia, Nelson and Willock dropped but be kept in the squad because they were terrific for Arsenal in the pre-season games in USA.

    Mavropanous, should be loaned out.

    Macey, should go to the U23 but can be called to play for the senior team in the PL.

    Elneny, should go out ot a half season loan. He could be needed during the second half of the season.

    Iwobi, he has to be offloaded out on loan unfortunately if Everton is signed. But if he’s not, Iwobi stays.

    But I am not Emery.

  20. David Rusa says:

    The hate of Xhaka by some fans is rather puzzling! I don’t know what Xhaka can do to appease some fans. I believe the better thing is for him to continue playing as he did last year. Let those who appreciate do so and the sceptics continue as they have been doing. What matters is that the coach has faith in him. This season I expect Xhaka to perform even better as he is likely to be our captain. It has always been rightly argued that football is a team sport and as such you can’t put all the blame for failure on one individual. Even the other top teams like Barcelona have their weak players. However what makes teams successful is the ability to detect the weaknesses and act quickly to prevent the opponents taking advantage of such loopholes. The effect of the fans cannot be overemphasised especially in home games. We, as Arsenal fans, need to develop a more positive attitude towards all our players instead of disparaging them. We also need to learn that there is more to football than winning EPL because it is becoming hard and harder to win it. Can you imagine Liverpool with 97 points being runners up? We need to appreciate other trophies like Europa cup, FA trophy and being in Champions League continuously as Arsenal was doing previously. If we win EPL one day that will be great but winning other trophies should not be considered a failure.

  21. Agu Emen says:

    What does the potential signing of Pepe mean?
    Remember the wording on the outside of Emirates stadium
    “We don’t buy stars we make them”
    Yet 21 of the 22 starters are non English.
    Arsenal are paying 70m for an Ivorian/French 24 year old from French League 1.
    We may also be buying a 22 year old KT from SPL for 25m.
    We have already bought Saliba a French 18 year old for 30m+
    We have also already bought a 17 year old Brazilian Martinelli for 7m.
    Before these Mavro (Greece) and Guedouzie (France/Morocco) were awarded contracts.
    We spent 120m on non English players this summer.
    Walcott Ramsey Chamberlain Gibbs Welbeck Wilshere Jenkinson Chambers Holding
    were supposed to form the English core which would lead Arsenal to a decade of glory.
    Only Jenkinson Holding + Chambers remain but as quota players.
    So is Arsenal an English club?
    The owner is American
    CEO Vinai Venkatesham is British/Indian
    The manager UE is Spanish
    Assistant manager Freddie Ljungberg is Swedish.
    The senior coaches are non English.
    Technical/Sporting director Edu- Brazilian.
    The Major sponsor is an oil empire from the middle East.
    The majority of the supporters live in Asia and Africa.
    70m for Pepe proves that Arsenal has become a multi national team
    with half a dozen token English quota players.

  22. Tommogun58 says:

    spot on admin not much to add to that, but a big signing for central defence has to be a priority now surely.

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