Arsene Wenger blundered this winter, not because he signed too many MLS players, but because he signed too few. Arsenal are missing six of their first choice 11 at the moment because of injury (Vermaelen, Sagna, Santos, Wilshire, and now Arteta) or absence (Gervinho). While no one can replace the stout Vermaelen, Arsenal desperately need help in the wing back positions. Arsenal at their best this season have looked like a potent but counterintuitive blend of Catalan and English football. In the offensive half, they look pretty English. Ramsey and Arteta play balls out wide, and often long, for the wingers to cross in. At the back, though they can play much like Barca, with one or both fullbacks pushing forward while a center half slides out and either Song or Arteta slides back into the middle (see Sergio Busquets). With Vermaelen and Koscielny in the lineup, they are perfectly positioned to do that, as Koz can go right and TV5 can go left. The fullbacks overlap the wingers creating chances (all too often untaken) for Walcott and Gervinho. The Spinal Tap-esque cascade of fullback injuries, coupled with Vermaelen's recent whatever-tweak, have crippled that attack. None of this is new information--I'm just repeating what Aidan Gibson said the other day.
Wenger saw the Gervinho problem looming, and found an immediate fix in Thierry Henry. Thierry Henry is already bronzed outside the stadium, so he's in a different class from any other player on earth. But the idea of reaching out for an MLS player is a good one, for a lot of reasons that I'll discuss after the jump.
First, the timing is perfect. You get them for two months to sub for an injured player. Injured player comes back, MLS dude goes home.
Second, they're cheap. I don't know what Everton's deal with Donovan looks like, but I'm guessing they basically just pay his salary for that period and pony up some insurance. No transfer fees, no wage commitments.
And it's the perfect time to get them. They've just been off for two months or longer. They are fresh and ready to start on a new campaign. That kind of energy can really spark a team depleted by England's holiday football grind. Umm, like Arsenal, for example.
Now I know next to nothing about MLS. But I know that Landon Donovan is very good but not dominant in MLS. I know from seeing them play on the national team that Donovan is at least close to Clint Dempsey's class. I know that Clint Dempsey is a very, very good EPL footballer. So can it really be the case that there isn't a single left back in MLS who could give Arsenal some temporary bite at that crucial position?
The problem with loan players, as the Arseblogger and Phillippe Auclaire discussed last Friday, is that they a) haven't yet proven themselves; or b) have been consciously snubbed by their current teams, either for poor play or attitude problems or both. But that isn't case for MLS players. MLS is a weak league by international standards. I get that. But it isn't crazy to think that the very best left fullback in the entire league could do 2 months of good work for Arsenal.