27 August 2015

With UEFA draw done, Arsène turns to confirm SHOCK transfer...

As you've no doubt read by now, Arsenal avoided a Group of Death draw for the Champions League group-stage, joining Bayern Munich, Olympiacos, and Dinamo Zagreb in Group F. In other words, yes, we're again locked in against the Bavarian Behemoth, but we've dodged (for now) the threats posed by AS Roma, Wolfsburg, and Borussia Mönchengladbach. While we've earned ourselves a bit of a reprieve from the perennial palpitations over how we'll qualify for the Champions League before deciding whom to sign, we've merely postponed the angst until the actual draw. Now that we know who we'll be facing, it's only a matter of time before we learn of our latest signing.

In seasons past, the argument went, we had to qualify for the Champions League group-stage before we could secure the services of players of a certain calibre. Would Özil or Alexis agree to leave the all-but-guaranteed silverware on offer at Real Madrid or Barcelona for a club content to squabble over the spoils of the Europa League? Hardly. For the better part of the last decade, we've had to twiddle our thumbs if not spit into the wind offered by the transfer-window, believing that we would sign someone who could elevate us to the upper echelons of European football. Özil, Alexis, and Čech have all been world-class signings, it's true, but we still crave one more signing—just one more—to elevate us to the ranks of Prem contenders and beyond the ranks of Champions League pretenders. With the Champions League draw out of the way, I suspect that Arsène will unveil a signing on the level of Özil.

Nevermind Newcastle. Yes, we do have to mind the threat they pose, after almost defeating Southampton, losing to Swansea, and then drawing away to Man U. However, to those who suggest that our transfer-dealings depend on Saturday's result, I suggest you take the longer view. Rarely has Arsène decided his deals on the heels of one result. Even if you wish to appeal to the Aston Villa abomination, I'd suggest you consider the moving parts. Would Arsène initiate a move for Özil only after losing to Aston Villa, and would Real Madrid really part ways with the likes of Özil after just ten days of negotiation? Unlikely. A move of that magnitude has to involve innumerable moving parts and stretch further into the past than that.

Between the loss to Villa and the tranfer of Özil, we secured our place in the Champions League group stage by battering Fenerbahçe to the tune of a 5-0 aggregate. The stakes are higher this time through. No one is content with merely making a group-stage appearane; it's time to set our sights a little higher. Knowing now that we'll face Bayern, Olympiacos, and Dinamo Zagreb, we have to believe that we'll advance to the knockout stage. That's far from a promise or guarantee, but it should be enough for us to approach various players and clubs with a new promise. In seasons past, we've had to worry over despatching this or that Turkish side before qualifying for the Champions League. This time through, we're in, and it was merely a matter of finding out who we'd face. Now that we know, we might very well see another signing—but not before we travel to St. James'.

Without disrespecting Newcastle, they might represent little more than a hiccup between the Champions League draw and the closing of the transfer window. With a somewhat-easier path to the Champions League knockout phase, it gets a bit easier to look past the likes of Newcastle and towards a signing or two. This is not to say that we'll simply snatch all three points on Saturday (more on that match tomorrow), but there are bigger fish to fry...