MIKEL ARTETA'S Arsenal are sitting eight points clear at the pinnacle of the toughest, most competitive league in Europe, and it seems we Gooners are still able to find something to complain about.
Despite dominating the ‘old enemy’ at their place, securing a comfortable win and a clean sheet, some supporters are amazingly still attacking the club.
One person in particular taking flak is Edu, our technical director, for failing to secure Mykhailo Mudryk, who if we are to believe reports was stolen from under our noses by Chelsea.
Arsenal bid twice for this exciting Ukrainian and obviously had a top price in mind, based on their own assessment of a player’s value, and not that of the selling club or the media.
For my money – and thank goodness it isn’t – Edu and Arteta have made the right call.
Mudryk has potential, and current custodians obviously felt they could develop that, but the price, wages and length of contract offered by Chelsea is shocking.
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This is what a sensible club would offer for an established world star, not an exciting kid.
The Arsenal fanbase collectively labels Chelsea as classless, lacking in history, being without strategy and nouveau riche on the one hand – and then throw their toys out of their pram when our own club failed to act like them in this instance.
Our fanbase lauded Edu and Arteta for their negotiating stance and the transfer fees agreed for Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko.
Some sections of it are now complaining that we failed to overpay for Mudryk.
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Confusing and contradictory bunch, aren’t we?
I think the real underlying truth is born out of anxiety, that whilst riding high, with an exemplary first XI, we have a thin squad, and are one or two key injuries away from our ambitions derailing.
This is entirely valid and understandable, but we have to believe, as I do, that the board and management will have identified more than one target in each position they feel needs additional competition or first-class cover.
Even today, there are reports that Arsenal are talking to Barcelona about Ferran Torres or Raphinha, which I am sure will allay some concerns at least.
The worst-case scenario for many of us at present, is an injury to Eddie Nketiah, while Jesus is still on the sidelines.
It is a genuine worry and one, at present that might see Gabriel Martinelli played centrally, a position, the player himself does not wish to play and one where he has not excelled when asked to fill in previously.
However, the signing of Mudryk would only have provided cover for Martinelli, which we have in Emile Smith Rowe.
It was only in the second half of last season that the Brazilian became the first choice on the left of Arteta’s three-man attack, wrestling the shirt from Smith Rowe, who had finished 20/21 and began the last campaign in that role.
SMITH-ROWE CAN MAKE INSTANT IMPACT
At that time the Croydon de Bruyne had forced his way into the England squad and had added goals to his game.
In 37 outings last season, about a third of which were off the bench, Smith Rowe hit the back of the net 11 times.
This is a player that we as fans took to our hearts from December 2021 onward, after that Chelsea match, and who along with Bukayo Saka was deemed a player we could build our future around.
Yes, Martinelli has earned his position and Smith Rowe’s injuries have limited him but the club have been
cautious with him and he is back, fit and raring to prove his worth to us all over again.
And I for one cannot wait to see his cherubic face and beaming smile celebrating further Arsenal goals
between now and the end of the season.
Arteta obviously feels Smith Rowe has a key role to play between now and May, and to coin a phrase used with George and Arsene, Mikel knows!
The likelihood that Mudryk would make an instant impact was probably slim anyway having not played in weeks and coming from a vastly inferior league to the Premier League.
In contrast, the likelihood of a player who has not only played but shone in this league shaking off his rustiness and having a positive impact on Arsenal’s aspirations seem far greater, to me, at least.
The added advantage, keeping our fingers crossed that Nketiah stays fit until Jesus is available, is that Smith Rowe can provide cover, rest and rotation for not only Martinelli, but Saka as well.
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He is not exactly the same player as either but is more than capable of playing as a wide playmaker and we know he can score from either flank or arriving late in the area.
He may also be able to offer rest to Granit Xhaka and Martin Odegaard too and I simply cannot wait to see Smith Rowe's telling contribution which I both predict and expect.
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