It is a lovely problem to have, but it is a problem nevertheless. The decision to stick or twist is usually something deliberated in blackjack places such as the Maria Casino, but it is one that could determine Arsenal’s season. A season which could in turn define the club’s short and long-term future. Of late, The Gunners have gone into transfer windows needing to fix a problem, rescue a season or try to make additions in an attempt to secure or steal fourth place. This time of course the ambition is to hold on to first place and win their first title since 2004.
Of late the team at the top at Christmas, as Arsenal will be with the league restarting on Boxing Day, have more often than not, gone on and won the title in May. It is not always the case, however, and of all the teams who have managed to claw back titles from seemingly losing positions, Man City have the best track record. So what does Arteta do? Does he risk upsetting what is obviously a winning formula and spend in January, or settle with what he has got and with the players who have got him to where they are today?
Twist: The argument for spending in January
In football, and especially in the Premier League, standing still is the equivalent of going backwards. Even if Manchester City don’t strengthen, it is unlikely they will drop as many points as they did in the first half of the season. As mentioned, they have a history of pulling off and maintaining very strong performances down the home stretch. They will have the distraction of trying to get Guardiola’s first Champions League for the club, but they are more than capable of closing that five-point gap.
On the other side of the coin, you have to think, or at least prepare for the fact that the second half of the season may not go quite as swimmingly for Arteta’s men as the first half. Injuries to key players like Jesus and the almost inevitable loss of form of other players, as well as the sheer amount of games in what is, don’t forget, a truncated season, all point to the fact that additions should be brought in in January.
The Spaniard has gone on record saying he considers the squad at his disposal to be thin, so it is extremely likely that he will be looking to add to the 22 if not the starting eleven. There is also the spectre of burnout or injury from the raft of players (10) in Qatar, many of whom are likely to go very deep into the tournament.
Stick: The argument with sticking with what we have
Perhaps more than anything else he has done during his time at the helm at The Emirates, the way Arteta handled the Aubameyang situation was a fantastic piece of man, team, squad and club management. It was a gamble, but one that paid off one hundred per cent, and set the foundations for the current team mentality and philosophy. Arsenal is playing as a team, with every single player, even those coming off the bench, obviously having completely bought into the – to use a horrible modern footballing term – project.
That in itself is worth multiple points over a season. Is the equivalent of a new player or two. It is essential if you are to get the best out of every player in the first-team squad, and that, almost to a man, is what has happened in the first three and a half months of this season.
Bringing in new faces is always going to endanger that togetherness. For one, you never know what a person is like around the training ground or in the dressing room until he is through the door. There is also the issue of someone who has been pulling up trees all season suddenly seeing himself falling down the pecking order.
All these are problems that first-class managers have to face, and there is little doubt that Arsenal have exactly one of those. It will be intriguing to see which way he chooses, and how he handles the results.
Do you think Arteta should Stick or Twist?