I've been trying to make sense of Arsenal Football Club this season. I don't know where to start exactly, so I'll start from the obvious: Arsenal have not made the best use of this pre-season period. We have offered some youngsters the chance to play first team football, and made some extra cash from the Asian tour, which is good. It's also good that we had some very positive results, including the last one against Manchester City, which was a well-earned 3-1 victory. But the talk of the minute is about (the lack of) signing new players. We clearly (at least clearly to us, the fans) struggled through last season and played out of our skin to secure a 4th place finish. The common thread among talking fans was the need, in the next season, for reinforcements. We'd just gone on a strong unbeaten run and showed some real grit in our final fixtures. Surely we were a couple of world class players from being title challengers. Maybe somebody was listening because a week after the club axed over a dozen youth team players, Ivan Gazidis announced that the club were ready to compete financially with the big teams in the world - 'we can do some things which would excite you' he said, addressing the press. This announcement was widely reported on the 7th of June. The 8th of June was the last day you could renew your season ticket. Related? I dunno. Anyway, the next part of the story is a summary of our transfer activity, which we all know well by now. Here's a summary:
- We're interested in Higuain, but no transfer (Higuain is signed by Napoli)
- We're interested in Suarez, but no transfer (Suarez resumes service at Liverpool)
- We're interested in Luis Gustavo, but no transfer (Luis Gustavo is signed by Wolfsburg)
No players we're linked to are signed, any bids we make are rejected (Sanogo was free, ok? Shut up!). To date, nothing has been done that will 'excite' me - quite the contrary in fact.
The general perception among all the outraged fans is that Arsene Wenger is the source of all our transfer ills. WE all know how to sign a player (one that is interested in joining the club), or at least how WE would do it if WE were permitted to 'excite you':
- Make an offer close to the market value
- IF it's not accepted, make a higher offer
- Repeat the above until a bid is accepted
Eventually they'll say yes. Money may not buy class, but it certainly buys 'amicable'. Of course, there are fans that stand by 'the Arsenal way', they say we're a club who's motto is 'Victory Through Harmony', this is not how we operate. Victory Through Harmony. Harmony. Try saying Harmony and Suarez in the same sentance, let me know how you get on... Back to the manager, HE says:
- we are trying 24 hours a day to sign someone
- we look for quality not just for price
Why doesn't a journalist ask him: 'since when has your 24 hour search been conducted?' I'd love to hear him say since the end of last season. Maybe someone should share my 1, 2, 3, guide with Mr. Wenger and his hard-working team. The point here, which is evidently shared by many other Arsenal fans, is that the business of signing was left far too late, as it has been in previous season - this is a trend. As a result, Arsenal fans generally believe that Wenger WON'T spend transfer money because of a notion of value for money.
Whatever the reasons, we have a squad that is severely depleted of experienced players, we are injury hit after the first game of our season (we all saw it coming, maybe not this soon, but we saw it), we have a Champions League game coming up, we have the League Cup and the FA Cup to look forward to. However good our squad of players is - and there is quality there - they will need rest time between games if we are to remain competitive. I just can't see us going through a season with this group of players without more injuries, being forced to rely on absolutely inexperienced players. The solution to this problem: sign some players to add depth.
So to summarise - and here is where a lot of recent confusion and anger in the fanbase has stemmed:
- we ended last season with a need to sign a small number of star players to raise our squad to a really competitive level. A point which has been repeated more vigorously as the transfer window has developed. To no avail.
- we start this season having sold or injured a big chunk of our Senior and Youth players, resulting in a lack of depth and a need to sign some squad players.
So, from needing a few additional players to seriously challenge for silverware, we somehow ended up without enough players to last a season or barely see us through the week! In this situation you or I might identify any players even just to sit on the bench as backups (to put it another way, we might spend some ucing money). Instead Wenger speaks carefully with every utterance. He says we're trying, as if he's covering his arse. Gazidis informs us (and all the selling clubs of the football world) that we are minted and ready to spend, but when push comes to shove, a deal can't be agreed? Gazidis, too, speaks carefully when he says 'we can do some things which would excite you' - maybe he forgot to add 'if we knew how', or 'but we won't', or 'can't'. Arsene with all his years of managing this club, his record number of consecutive Champions League appearances, his Invincibles etc. is a great manager and deserves some respect. In the past he's been afforded the benefit of the doubt as we've acknowledged that our transfer team are worse for David Dein's absense. But, maybe more things have been exposed at Arsenal this transfer window:
- Arsene Wenger is not suitable for managing at a club that claims to aim big with transfer spending
- Arsene Wenger is afforded too much respect for past achievements and experience to the point that no one at the club will challenge his decisions and/or actions.
Like I've always said during transfers windows, but with Arsenal news in particular, don't believe an announcement unless it includes the word 'signed' somewhere, the above just supports my feelings. Here's to hoping that we strengthen the squad before the deadline, qualify for the CL and win as many league points until then.