28 October 2015

Maybe it's time to ring up Pulis about ending Gnabry's loan...

Once we set aside the result itself and realize that losing to Sheffield Wednesday should do little to impede our momentum, we have to face a cold, hard reality that presented itself in two forms on Tuesday and looks likely to menace us going forward: our first-choice XI is quite good, but it's awfully slim pickin's after that. It looks like we'll be without Theo, Ramsey, and the Ox for a few weeks, one position in particular looks awfully thread-bare—that right wing. The only player currently in the squad who has anything remotely resembling Prem experience there is Joel Campbell. Why do I not feel a surge of confidence?

Injure him, Serge, or you're benched...
He struggled to have any kind of impact against Championship-side Sheffield, and it's hard to imagine him improving on that against the likes of Swansea, Bayern, or Tottenham. His best contributions against Sheffield seemed to come after he had lost the ball and then had to track back, boosting his "tenacity" score by a few points. We might say that his offensive contributions suffered from being fed by the likes of Flamini and Glen Kamara, but he looked similarly toothless while playing with Alexis, Cazorla, and Özil, as he did for 25 minutes while we looked for an equaliser against Dinamo Zagreb.

In other words, the early returns on this 2011 signing are not promising. Work-permit issues prevented him from playing for Arsenal until 2013, and so he's been on loan hither and yon. His various loans have hardly been successes, and it's hard to see how they've helped him develop into the kind of player who can compete in the Prem. On the basis of one strong performance in the 2014 World Cup (in which Italy and England made "mailing it in" look like hard work), Campbell boosted his stock to somewhere between "we should sell him while we can" and "maybe he's worth keeping."
Sadly, his appearances since then seem to confirm ex post facto that we should have pursued Option A a bit more. Now, we're stuck with damaged goods until January, if not longer.

Speaking of being stuck with damaged goods, it might be worth exploring the terms of Serge Gnabry's loan to West Brom. Tony Pulis has decided that he hasn't been "at that level to play the games." At first, this might come as a shocking affront to those of us who saw how dangerous he could be in 2013-14 before a knee injury derailed him in 2014-15. When Pulis derides him, then, please remember Pulis's definition of "football," which boils down to little else than maiming opponents, hoofing the ball forward, and hoping something positive happens. If Gnabry isn't "at that level," in Pulis's words, he should work on his bone-crunching tackles or request a return to Arsenal.

I'll admit that I don't know the terms of his loan-deal. However, if Pulis is so dissatisfied that he's given Gnabry just 12 Prem minutes to date, Pulis might be willing to release Gnabry from his loan a bit earlier than those terms might otherwise require. Hell, we could loan him Campbell as an enticement, maybe Debuchy as well. At least Debuchy fits Pulis's mold (in both senses of the word) of the older, more-defensive kind of player. If nothing else, we have to recognize that Pulis owes Gnabry nothing; he (Pulis) is not in the business of developing players for the benefit of other Prem clubs; he is in the business of winning matches not getting relegated. If Gnabry is surplus to that need, it's to his advantage as well as ours to end Gnabry's loan sooner rather than later.

It's rare that we encounter a win-win situation that involves Wenger and Pulis, but when it comes about, all involved should seize it. Here's hoping we see Serge in an Arsenal kit in coming days...