I don’t know about you fine fellow Gooners, but I have been pinching myself occasionally during the last few days: A ‘wake me up please from this rotten nightmare’ sort of pinch. Unwisely, many Gooners including me, consciously or subconsciously, tend to wish away the summer time in order for proper footie to start again as soon as possible. And when the moment finally arrives, we want to be filled with (very often unrealistic) hope to win silverware again: we like to see a strong squad, a good pre-season, a nice new shirt, and a few new players we can get really excited about.
Whilst travelling through Norwich on Saturday, I was amazed by the number of Canaries wearing a nr.9 ‘Van Wolfswinkel’ shirt in town. I counted seven in just five minutes: the Norwich new record signing has become the embodiment of hope for the Canaries (and boy, did he deliver for them this weekend).
It made me mad at Gazidis, Kroenke and Wenger for seemingly not understanding/wanting to understand the very basic nature of football and its supporters, especially after promising so much at the start of the Torture Window.
Arsenal football club were in great position a few months ago: the team fought back to finish in the top-four, a strong core-team of young and experienced players was coming together, the main competition was going through major change, and we did not have to sell any of our star players but would be able to add to our squad with considerable funds. Strategically, Arsenal were in a superb position to make significant steps towards breaking into the very top of the PL again.
Three months later: no core players have been sold (as yet) but also nobody was bought, and the squad is depleted – in terms of numbers, and possibly, morale – after suffering a number of bad to very bad injuries during pre-season; and seeing no quality additions will also not have helped. We also lost a game, but that can happen and the season is long; although, the timing of it is very painful.
Rather than having every reason for real optimism for the new season, the club finds itself in considerable turmoil right now: a squad lacking strength in depth (no midfielders who can defend, not many defenders left for example) and not enough quality players who can make a real and sustained difference; and a disgruntled fan base who feel let down and to some extent manipulated by the BoD.
The management of the club have, until now, over promised and totally under delivered, and only a small miracle of quality transfer dealings could possibly turn the situation round again.
The mood could easily have been so different, and that’s what is so frustrating.
Most supporters wanted a quality addition in all four lines: GK, defence, midfield and attack. An experienced back-up goalkeeper, or for some the new nr.1, was high on the list, but most of us really wanted Arsene to finally get a quality DM who could play a bit of footie as well. Many of us also felt that we needed either a quality ‘third or fourth’ CB, or if Sagna was to be moved into central defence, an experienced RB. Many of us also believed we needed to add more fire power to our attack, and it appears that the club have been trying to achieve the latter as their first priority.
So what went wrong – who is to blame?
The problem is that despite the media’s attempt to desperately fill in the holes, we lack tangible knowledge of what has really happened in terms of transfer dealings this summer. It is one big, black box for us. We know the input: £70m to spend; we know the output: no players signed; but we do not know the throughput, other than the club making a few bids for players during the summer – and very little has actually been confirmed by the club on any of these bids.
But as supporters we can only be understanding for so long and the facts of the matter are there have not been any signings, and the season has started already.
So why did the club not spend the money and sign players this summer, and why did Gazidis come out so noticeably with his statement that we can compete with the best and have lots of money to burn in the process?
It did not seem very clever to be so public about it at the time, other than perhaps an attempt to convince top player prospects that the club is entering a new era, AND/OR to put some pressure on Wenger to buy a different calibre of player this time round. Some will argue he did it to get supporters to renew their season tickets, but I reckon that is far too cynical and Gazidis is too clever a man to underestimate the incredible damage this could do to the club long-term.
No, something is not right here. Of course, each and every failed attempt to sign up a new player could be down to causes beyond the control of the club: other clubs not prepared to sell (yet) or simply wanting unacceptably high sums of money; players not wanting to come or too many contractual complications, etc.
But usually money talks and as we have seen many times with clubs like Liverpool, Man City etc, if you are prepared to pay the right price, AND individual packages, quality players will come. Key in all of this is not to set your sight too high but go for realistic targets.
Despite having considerable funds, the club will still negotiate hard to get their targets for the ‘right’ price; but the right price in football is very hard to determine as there is lots of (oil) money about to constantly inflate the prices and undermine our negotiations, and this could be the main reason for missing out on all our apparent prospects until now.
Some have argued that the club is simply not negotiating astute enough; that we are dithering too much. If so, who is to blame for this: the negotiators, the manager, the final decision makers (Gazidis, Kroenke?). We just don’t know, and as long as we don’t, we have to blame them all, including Arsene Wenger.
It could well be that the management believed they could survive till the end of the transfer window with the existing squad and bring in players right at the end if need be, when negotiating can be a lot easier with those clubs who are desperate to sell to make ends meet. But this would always have been a very risky strategy, and losing on Saturday, combined with the depletion of our first team squad, have left the club in an embarrassing predicament right now.
Whatever the reasons, the facts are the season has started and we signed nobody; we have a weak squad, AND first team, for the foreseeable future; and it could and should have been very different right now.
The management need to take responsibility and act accordingly. If you treat our football club like a business – something I can understand to a certain extent – you also need to act like a proper business when those in charge over-promise and under-deliver; whoever that is. You also need to put things right pronto.
Your ‘customers’ demand it.
Written by: TotalArsenal.