Transfers, Wenger's Management & Chinese Takeaway
Greetings, Arsenal aficionados and haters alike, are you sitting comfortably? Well then let’s begin.
As I sit here writing this delectable piece of writing I am in fact waiting for my Chinese food to arrive, they are at least 10 minutes late at this point so kindly excuse me if my hunger affects my writing. As a pretty proficient orderer of takeaways I have put together quite the feast, including but not limited to an array of crispy spring rolls, various voluptuous chicken dishes and a scrumptious set of Singaporean noodles. Yet oddly enough despite my knowledge that these goods are most probably on their way (if they aren’t you couldn’t possibly imagine the hissy fit I would throw) I still find myself thoroughly underwhelmed. And this quite aptly summarises my feelings towards Arsenal this season.
So what has he done wrong, what still irks me and what has any of this got to do with waiting for my Chinese food, which incidentally may just have arrived (I heard someone at the door). I’ll be right back. It had arrived, it was pretty good actually and I would feel quite content now had they not forgot my starters but let’s continue.
The process of ordering and waiting for my Chinese food felt a lot like watching Arsenal this season. On paper they look good and I know what I want from them but they just haven’t delivered yet…
We followed last season's efforts - where I thought we were actually quite close to winning the league - by making a set of pretty stellar signings in the summer. A bright, young, up and coming English defender, a perfect replacement (arguably upgrade) for Sagna, a pretty handy forward who works hard and of course the signing that has lit up the Emirates and every other stadium he visits. That “marquee” signing was the one that fans had been craving and at the price of £35million he was an absolute steal. Yet somehow we find ourselves in a significantly worse place compared to last season and we have really struggled to look like convincing title challengers. So what’s gone wrong and is Arsene to blame?
Quick side note before I address the mistakes I believe Arsene has made for this season I’d like to address the usual anti-Arsene spiel.
The main criticism I see of Arsene is his reluctance to spend money, now you can believe whichever Twitter messiah that takes your fancy but here’s my tuppence worth on the matter. These last two seasons Arsenal have the power to spend, Gazidis came out with words to the effect of this – Arsenal now have the finances to supplement one Ozil-esque signing every year, thanks to the infrastructure and sponsorship deals that have been made. This self-sufficient model is what every PL team without a sugar daddy should be striving for and now that it is finally built we will begin to reap the rewards. It does irritate me sometimes that fans are so impatient to not give our manager who helped facilitate this stability by way of consecutive top 4 finishes to go out with one final hurrah (which as United proved last season is not as easy as it sounds). Give him his three years; he deserves that much at least. For all the criticism in the world he is still a word class manager and I still think he has a trophy or two in him. But then again I am a sentimental sod and maybe I’m blind to his senility. Notwithstanding this there are still areas that I feel could do with improving.
Signings aside I still think there is actually one monkey that deserves to still be left on Arsene’s back - our form against “top clubs”. This season we lost leads against both City and Liverpool. We were also unable to dispatch a pretty shoddy Spurs (even by their exceptionally poor standards). Not to mention that we also lost to both Chelsea and a United side who were in poor form at the time. A poor return all in all if we’re being honest and whilst we avoided any capitulations this is an area that needs to be improved.
Football is a game that among trophies and marquee signings is also all about derbies and bragging rights. It is this department that Arsenal have failed to deliver in in recent years and it is something I don’t understand in the slightest. Our “leaders” seem to go walkies, we always seem to get poor referees (obvious bias is clearly evident) and we just seem to get unlucky. It really does make for an infuriating watch and the day this Arsenal team comfortably turns over a “big team” will be invaluable with regards to uniting our fan base but enough of that – let’s talk signings. (I should also stress that whilst I profess to being #ITK this is only truly applicable while I’m cooking.)
The infamous DM and CB. Almost sounds like an old record at this point but I think we needed both. With the knowledge that Arteta’s body can’t handle 2 games a week and that Flamini lacks the ability to orchestrate play it seems slightly ludicrous (in my humble opinion) that for all the talent in the world a replacement could not be found. Though in fairness to Arsene (despite being famously stubborn) he doesn’t strike me as a fool and I do believe he is hesitant to spend for the right reasons. We aren’t Chelsea who can plug £50m into a player (Torres), then send him out on loan after deciding that we no longer needed/wanted him and laugh off the money as chump change. Every signing Arsene makes is almost required to do well and we simply can’t afford to plug in money to every player that is touted to be the next Vieira.
Objectively I can appreciate the need for such hesitance and the fans would crucify le Boss if he shelled inordinate amounts of money on a signing that “flopped”. Despite this I do still feel (as many Arsenal fans do) that we lack physicality in our midfield and whilst it isn’t a tacit requirement for a “perfect” squad it would be nice to have the kind of midfielder who intimidates the opposition and through presence alone would dissuade our opponents from attempting to kick our players. Given the precedent set through signings such as Alexis and Ozil I am optimistic that this position will be addressed during Arsene’s tenure I just hope it is sooner rather than later. (The only reason I haven’t mentioned the Coq here is because I haven’t seen him play enough to comment on whether he would be an adequate stop-gap. Though I did enjoy the FlamingCoq pivot that we employed against West Ham).
The CB. First of all I’d like to say this, stop crying about Vermaelen - he still hasn’t played competitively for Barcelona and therefore Arsenal did not weaken their defence by selling him. Second of all I’d like to say this, CBs seem at the moment hard to come by, look at how much United spent and then look at their defence. Look at the prices for Mangala, Luiz etc and consider whether you think that amounts to good value for money. We are in need of defensive cover, Mertesacker seems unable to play confidently without Koscielny’s pace beside him and this gives cause to worry given the recurrent nature of the latter’s injury problems. In my opinion we need a third choice CB who can play ahead of Chambers and challenge Mertesacker.
Though it should be said that losing Debuchy in conjunction to this did further emphasise our apparent lack of defensive depth. Given that he also demonstrated his ability to cover CB (quick shout out to my boy Nacho as well) further highlights how massive a loss he truly was for us. The numbers also back this up and as is stands at the moment I don’t believe we have actually lost a competitive game that Debuchy has played in so he was a definitely a tremendous loss.
In football there are no certainties with regards to signings succeeding and they aren’t so easy to pull off in the first place; there are countless agents’ fees, sponsorship agreements, player contracts etc but hell it isn’t my money so I’ll keep wishing for Pogba and Benatia. If nothing else they’ll improve our team on the latest FIFA.