Just a few days after Alexis Sanchez left Arsenal to sign for Manchester United, and pretending to play the piano in the process, Arsenal again were in crisis mode. With one world class star already gone, many wondered if Mesut Ozil, the world’s most gifted and talented playmaker, would take his talents elsewhere. Surely he could do better than Europa League football and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the talented yet mercurial midfielder acquired via swap deal. Considering Ozil’s contract situation, and the fact that the transfer for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang seemed to be stalling, a considerable amount of people wrote off this transfer window for Arsenal. With several reputable sources in Germany and in England reporting representatives from Borussia Dortmund were tired of Arsenal’s haggling during negotiations, and a few sources reporting Aubameyang might stay in Germany until the summer. Arsenal stood to lose their second best player, lose out on a world class player, and then lose their best player on a free in the summer. That would have been truly a world class disaster.
We say would have been, because all seems to be well in North London, in a sense. Just a few hours after losing 3-1 to bottom half dwellers, Swansea, Arsenal announced the signing of Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, and in stunning fashion Mesut Ozil put his pen to the paper and signed a new 3 year deal, earning £350,000 a week making him the highest paid player in club history. Mesut Ozil signed a new contract, even after relentless transfer speculation, because he is convinced of Arsenal’s ambitions. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has been one of the best strikers in Europe over the last few years, and who has scored over 98 goals in 144 games, didn’t sign with Arsenal to play Europa League football. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang signed with Arsenal because he couldn’t pass on a chance to play with the best playmaker in the world, Mesut Ozil resigned with Arsenal because he couldn’t pass on the chance to play with one of the world’s most lethal and clinical finishers. Arsenal have to be applauded for quickly replacing one world class player, Alexis Sanchez, with another world class star, Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang. Even though Arsenal already have a very good forward, Alexandre Lacazette, one they broke their transfer record for, it was essentially vital to immediately replace the goals and assists Alexis Sanchez offered.
There’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan too, a frustratingly talented midfielder, a player with all the tools a world class player should possess. Creativity, ball control skills, first touch, vision, movement, finishing, pace, these are all skills Mhki has demonstrated on many occasions, but only one manager has really been able to motivate Henrikh to display these qualities on a consistent basis. That manager being Thomas Tuchel during the 2015-2016 campaign for Borussia Dortmund. At Manchester United, Mkhi rarely demonstrated the quality, and performances required of a player getting serious minutes for a Champions League side. With Mkhi being consistently out of form, and even going through attitude issues and issues with Jose Mourinho, the vast majority of Manchester United fans were happy to see the Armenian midfielder go, especially considering the massive upgrade they were getting. The question is this: Is Arsene Wenger, at the twilight of his career, the right manager to revive Henrikh Mkhitaryan? If the answer is yes, then Arsenal certainly have a dangerous attack. Finding a formation to facilitate Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Lacazette, and Aubameyang, would give Arsenal their most potent attack since the days of Robin Van Persie leading the front line.
With the constant buzz of transfer rumors and transfer speculation, from agents, from journalists, and sometimes even players, real actual football games are sometimes reduced to mere footnotes. Some forget that these football clubs have competitive games to play, and perhaps, Arsenal may have forgotten that on Tuesday. News leaked that the Aubameyang transfer was essentially done however, it the deal could not be completed until Borussia Dortmund found a replacement. The deal hung on maligned Chelsea striker Michi Batshuayi heading to Dortmund on loan, Olivier Giroud leaving Arsenal to join Chelsea to replace Batshuayi, and then finally the Gabonese heading to Arsenal. All of these details were discussed at length, and in the excitement of discussing their potential new attacking line, a few fans forgot Arsenal had an actual Premier League match against Swansea. Arsenal ended up losing 3-1, a poor and leaky defense again making critical errors, an ageing goalkeeper in Petr Cech, making mistakes that he wouldn’t have in his Chelsea days and poor midfield play from Granit Xhaka, quickly reminded everyone how much transfer work Arsenal still has to do.
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