Today will be Arsenal’s third game as a part of Project Restart and the completion of the Premier League season. Mikel Arteta will pick a lineup, Arsenal will play against Southampton, and this will be one of the most normal days of the week for Arsenal. Maybe not when it comes to how the game progresses, after all, Arsenal have struggled since the return and will go up against a team that has routinely been a thorn in their side. No, it will be normal because every other day has felt chaotic.
If you kept up rigorously with the news coming out of Arsenal, then you’ll have felt as though you were catapulted from one story to the next on a rollercoaster of ups and downs and double backs.
On Monday, Arsenal fans may have fun a little bit fresher after a hungover Sunday thinking back to their poor display on Saturday against Brighton. It was a new week. A fresh week for Arteta to work with his team to put things back on track. Many would have had about a hundred questions hoping to be answered like where was Gabriel Martinelli?
The week of news started to flood in. First, that Guendouzi wouldn’t see any retroactive punishment for this post-game fight with Brighton’s Maupay. It was a good way to start the week for some, although the internal battle raged over how the club should handle the young Frenchman. Suspend him for a game on your own? Sell him as soon as possible? Make him the captain? All ideas lobbied for by different supporters, but the chaotic feel to the week was just starting.
Tuesday, marked deadline day for Arsenal to either extend, make permanent, or terminate their contracts with loans like David Luiz, Cedric Soares, Pablo Mari, and Dani Ceballos. It promised to be an interesting day.
Arsenal were tossed into the line of rapid-fire news. Arsenal are interested in Kia Joorabchian’s client Neto as a goalkeeping replacement for Bernd Leno, who could be out for a year. A full year? That would likely mean Arsenal would need to seek out a new goalkeeper in the transfer window. Wait! Bernd Leno’s injury was announced to not be nearly as bad as many speculated. He would only need to miss 4-6 weeks. What a relief. Except in that same news brief, it was announced that Martinelli picked up an injury during training and was believed to be likely to miss the remaining weeks of this season with meniscus issues. Alright? Seems like for every good news, we are returned a volley of bad news.
That afternoon, Mikel Arteta took to Zoom to give his pre-match press conference where he talked about Bernd Leno, Martinelli, Southampton, and…what’s this? Sokratis and Xhaka are back in training and potentially available for selection! A much-needed pair of options to add to Arteta’s dwindling list. Good news, but still nothing on completed contracts.
Fast forward to the final hours of the deadline. Ornstein lifts the lid and announced word that Arsenal have signed David Luiz to a new 1-year contract, Pablo Mari to a permanent 4-year deal, and Cedric Soares to permanent 4-year deal.
Wow. Even after his diabolical display, Arsenal attach themselves to Luiz for another year, although the financials of the deal have not been released. Possibly more interesting, or worrisome, is the long-term attachments to Cedric Soares who hasn’t kicked a ball in a competitive match but now has four years at the club. Arteta openly stated that deal has always been in the plans.
Yesterday, Dani Ceballos was added to this list, but only through to the end of the season. It is widely agreed that he is likely to return to Spain in an effort to try to make Real Madrid’s squad or be moved along to another La Liga side.
The topsy-turvy day had a disorganized feel to it all, but it’s a feeling that seems to be consistent with where Arsenal are at these days. Everything feels disjointed, labored, or in disarray. While plenty of teams are coping with the rigorous compact schedule of Project Restart, Arsenal feel as though they are floundering a bit. Nothing goes smoothly, nothing done with relative grace, and it fits with in the product on the pitch during matches.
A big game against Southampton and a bit opportunity to put an entire club back on the tracks it came from. The dream of reaching top four may be over for this year, but simply returning to some level of consistency on and off the field feels crucial. Why “contract guru”, Raul took so long complete these deals, the Bukayo Saka deals, come to consensus on Aubameyang, sort out the chaos of David Luiz’s one year, plus one option deal, is beyond many but from top to bottom Arsenal seems in an unstable place and when things get hectic you can feel it in everything they do.
I’ll be back later with some gut reactions from the match against Southampton.