Arsenal fans always need a scapegoat.
For as long as I remember, there has always been a player in the team who everyone grumbles about. Who they blame for defeats regardless of if they were at thought.
This is not a new thing. But has been going on for decades. Pre-social media attention seeking. And even when we are successful.
The baton seems to have been passed from Granit Xhaka to Cedric Soares in recent weeks.
People have been going a bit OTT about the quality of our 2nd choice right back – everytime he plays, people moan. They say he will cost us. Some go as far as saying they “won’t bother watching the game” – although this is probably just social media postering.
Cedric being the scapegoat was highlighted in Watford’s first goal last Sunday.
Watford engineered an overload on our left hand side with Emmanuel Dennis drifting out to create a 3 on 2 in Watford’s favour. It was a good move which gave them the space to whip in a cross, which was actually a poor cross.
The ball in went behind Cucho Hernandez, who twisted his body to score a stunning overhead kick.
Rather than respect a brilliant piece of play by Watford, and by Cucho Hernandez, fans needed someone to blame.
The finger of blame was pointed at Cedric, who fans blamed for not being tight enough and slow to react.
Sometimes you need to applaud the opponent rather than go out of your way to blame someone in your team.
People have listed Cedric as deadwood, but this is unfair consider he is a back-up right back. He was a cheap transfer, is not on high wages, and actually does do a job.
Those who are calling for Cedric to be shipped out this summer and a new right back purchased will be in for a shock. He will likely remain at the club for the rest of his contract – set to expire in 2 years.
The reason for this is a young man currently out on loan – Brooke Norton-Cuffy.
Norton-Cuffy joined Lincoln City on loan in January and has quickly established himself as the League One’s side first choice right back – starting their last 6 games.
The young Englishman is on the fast track. He was loaned out just a few days after turning 18, highlighting that those at Arsenal already felt he was ready for senior football.
He will follow a tried and tested path. 6 months on loan in League One, and then next season he will likely join a Championship or Premier League team.
In 18 months time, he will be a teenager with close to 50 senior games under his belt. If all goes well he will then be promoted to Arsenal’s first team.
At this point Cedric will have 12 months left on his contract.
Arsenal will keep Cedric around giving Mikel Arteta the choice between youth or experience to back up Takehiro Tomiyasu depending on opponent.
If Norton-Cuffy then continues his progress, we can expect him to be competing with Tomiyasu for a first team spot from 2024 onwards.
Of course, there is a lot of ifs, buts and maybes over the next 2 and a half years, and he might not progress how the club expects him to.
But the knowledge of him coming through is enough to stop Arsenal going out into the transfer market this summer to replace Cedric.
Why spend money on a back-up right back, to replace someone who does an adequate job there, when you know you have got such a talented kid coming through who can take that position in 18 months.
Better to keep Cedric, funnel those funds into other positions, and continue developing Norton-Cuffy.
Brooke Norton-Cuffy is one to watch.