Relief for the player has finally left, having wanted to for much of the summer. It puts behind the club a destabilising and unnecessary saga. The question now is what next?
With Samir Nasri likely following the Spaniard out of the exit door, Arsenal are in need of a new creative midfielder. The draw with Newcastle at the weekend showed that short of the duo, and Jack Wilshere, Arsenal, strangely, actually lack some creativity. Tomas Rosicky is not the player he was, whilst Aaron Ramsey is talented but inconsistent in his youth.
Attention now turns to Jadson, a Brazilian linked with Arsenal this week, who it has been claimed is close to signing for the club. The player is currently plying his trade for Shakhtar Donetsk, and is arguably the best Brazilian in the Ukrainian league. Of all Shakhtar’s south American signings, Jadson is the one who has had the biggest impact, with his passing and goals from range helping them to the Europa League in 2009.
He is one option. Another is Juan Mata, but he seems less likely now, as the clause in his contract which allowed him to leave for 25 million euros expired on August 1. Arsenal’s indecision means they must now pay more for the player, which seems unlikely with alternatives available.
One of those is Marvin Martin, who is possibly the best option available to the club. Martin was sensational for Sochaux in France last year, and was the top assists provider in Ligue 1. His ability not just to pass and create but to actually lay on goalscoring chances is precisely what Arsenal need. They already have players who can pass the ball around in triangles. What they need now is a player who can supply the final pass before the goal, and for that, Martin is the perfect fit.
But there is also a signing to be made at the back. Arsene Wenger has insisted that he will buy a centre back before the summer transfer window is finished. But who? He has already baulked at the asking price for Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill, thought the latter’s superb finish against QPR at the weekend surely requires a rethink. Cahill is a superb defender and not only is he the leader, organiser and presence who can clear high balls, but he also has the technique Wenger demands of his defenders.
For Arsenal, these are crucial weeks. The defence, though a major weakness, is not far off. It provides goals, pace and anticipation, most of the crucial ingredients. What it has lacked for many years, is a figure at the back who is difficult to get past, who can organise the defence, and who can dominate in the air. Cahill can provide that. So can Jagielka or Scott Dann, Wenger’s back up choice.
These are days being depicted as critical ones in North London. Such melodrama is the norm in an age of a sensationalist, short term, knee-jerk media environment. But Wenger would be wrong to dismiss the media he rightly claims are going over the top too quickly. Exxagerated their points may be, but there are crucial kernels of truth in there. There is a need to invest, and that is what Wenger doesn’t acknowledge in public, though in private perhaps he realises this. Yesterday he suggested there was no need, and Arsenal would look for exceptional players only. But the reality is that this Arsenal team, whilst not as far from glory as many think, does require crucial significant changes to win the title. Wenger’s signings in the next fortnight will dictate much.