A lot has been written on this year’s summer, and even more has been said. Right from the end of last season, we have heard endlessly about all the money we now had to spend, and how we could compete with Bayern Munich for players in terms of finances. As Arsenal fans, we are no strangers to being promised something, only for things to work out in a different way (Both Cesc and Nasri would NOT be sold, remember?). However, there seemed a confidence in Gazidis’ comments when he said the Club would be very ambitious – it wasn’t just empty words. According to some, it was designed to put pressure on our manager; according to other it was a signal that Arsenal were back in the big leagues.
What remained beyond doubt, however, was the fact that the money was there. This was further proven by the brilliant SwissRamble in his fantastically detailed blog. We are swimming in cash. Okay, maybe all of it isn’t available at any one point for various reasons, but nevertheless we could quite easily afford a Wayne Rooney at £200k a week and £30m pounds. In fact, as Ivan was keen to point out, we could do more, much more.
But have we? No. Our only addition has been Yaya Sanogo – no doubt he will be our next Thierry Henry and Ian Wright all rolled into one, but what about this season? We certainly have been “active”, that is for sure. 22 players have been released by the Club in an effort to streamline the squad, and make no mistake, that is admirable. Such a cull has rarely been seen in any season at Arsenal, let alone in the Arsene Wenger era. Surely, though, such a cull is only a good idea if we plan on recruiting a massive number of squad players to replace the sheer quantity we have lost. A 20-year old striker, and a couple of 16 year old kids, however talented, simply aren’t enough.
|Yaya Sanogo has been the only player added to the first team.|
At this point, in our first team, we have 24 players. Now realistically, we can leave out Nicklas Bendtner (I hope) and Chu Young Park as players who are either up for a quick-fire sale as in the former case, or simply missing, as in the latter case. So that leaves 22 players to field a starting 11 from. Already, that is not enough. Now these 22 players are players who absolutely want to be at the Club, and whom I have grown to love and cheer for, whatever their faults. But let us, for a second, forget all that and try and be objective.
Of these 22, Frimpong, Miyaichi, and Sanogo cannot really be expected to start a game because they have neither the experience, nor, at this point, the quality. There are questions about their fitness too – speaking of which, we can safely leave Abou Diaby out of our calculations. He is such an immense talent, absolutely brilliant to watch on his day, but his injury record is dire. It is one of football’s tragedies, but he just cannot manage more than 2 days without rupturing a ligament or tearing a muscle. With those 4 players excluded, we are left with 18 first team players. As far as I remember, no Club has won anything of note with 18 first team players in recent history.
The lack of a proper transfer strategy is appalling. It seemed impossible at the end of last season that we would have a squad that is worse than last season, and yet that is the direction in which we are headed. I’ll illustrate with an example - Chamakh wasn’t good enough to play for the Arsenal. That much we all agree on. However, with him gone, who is our striker if Giroud gets injured? Chuba Akpom? Chuba is another great talent, but he is one for the future. Chamakh, even if you hate him, is better than Akpom at this point. United have four strikers right now of varying quality - Van Persie, Rooney, Hernandez and Welbeck. We have one - Giroud, not including Walcott and Podolski who don't really work there.
We have lost the deadwood, but we have failed to replace that deadwood with some fresh blood, leaving only empty spaces behind. Well, empty spaces and a fat cash balance with a total of about £20m a year off our wage bill.
Arsene Wenger is a man whom I admire and love and respect. Yet no gooner, in his right mind, can absolve him of all responsibility in our transfer dealings. The 2011 summer was an absolute wreck, and was only salvaged by a stupendous last minute panic-stricken rush to buy players. And we all know how that worked out! That summer, we failed to replace the quality we had lost. We then built a team around that man Robin van Persie. Well, it turned out he is a massive cunt, so he leaves the following summer, where we finally have some good players in. However, the departure of our star man leaves us with no quality striker, and a system that needed changing once more. Again, no adequate replacement was brought in. We certainly had the funds to do so, but we didn’t. The summer of 2012 also left us worse off. Another failure. I am not claiming, for a second, that the sole responsibility of the last two summers rests on Arsene Wenger – that would be naïve and way too simple. It rests on the Club hierarchy, starting from an aging board that remains out of touch with the football environment, to a CEO that appears to be a little powerless and seemingly a bit incompetent, to an owner who cannot possibly care less about the Club and in all probability cannot explain the offside rule if his son's life depended on it, and finally to a manager who insists on going by his principles to prove a point which perhaps is best left unproven.
(That said, I think Arsene Wenger is a fantastic, fantastic manager. His consistency is remarkable, and I believe at times that he is one of the few sane people in a footballing world that has slightly lost it. However, I do believe he has his faults, and the Club bosses must try their best to balance his faults whenever possible).
|Stan Kroenke - at a loss to explain the offside rule.|
The summer of 2013, too, appears to be hopelessly unplanned. Say we do get in the “two or three players” that Arsene wants. Is that enough? That would mean we have about 21 players for the season, or at least until January. It means we can’t field two whole teams with first team players. It means that we do not have two reasonable quality players for every position. It is not enough. I won't get into specific cases - I have neither the confidence of the ITK, nor the inclination, at this point, to suggest players the Club should buy.
But here is what really hurts – the feeling that we are not doing all we can to achieve what we want to achieve. Let’s say, by some miracle, we find ourselves in the title race, only to end up losing in the end. On one level, that is all I want. I don’t want us to specifically win this year, or that. I want us to be in the mix, as Arsenal should be. I want us in there with a realistic chance of winning trophies. If that happens, then sooner or later the trophies will flow. I am certainly not satisfied competing for fourth place, given the resources we have. That last clause is the reason why it wouldn’t be acceptable, this season, to be in the title race and then not win the title, however unlikely that scenario is at this moment. I hate, absolutely hate, what-if scenarios. What if we had 3 more players to support this squad – maybe we could have gone on to win this title. And the fact is, here and now, we do have the money to get those 3 players that will erase the what-if scenario of the future, whether it be for the title, or for a top-4 place. If I honestly feel that the Club has given it absolutely everything it has to challenge for the Premier League title, I wouldn’t mind losing it that much, but it hurts really bad when we are told we’ll do everything to compete, and then don’t.
Well, there’s still a little over two weeks to go, and we can salvage a lot even at this point. A few marquee signings would not only boost the squad with quality, they would also lift the supporters. And I do believe we will do it, boy I sure hope so! I just wish it had been sooner.
|A new season beckons. Are we ready?|
Today, of course, we start the season against Aston Villa, at home. There is nothing that is more exciting than the whiff of the first game, the excitement of the first kick of the match, and the butterflies in the stomach until the first goal of the season is scored. The players who are at the Club, who will start the game today, are all top class in their own right. I can’t wait to get behind the team and fidget in nervous excitement this evening. So here’s to three points, and as always, UP THE ARSENAL!