Good afternoon Gooners, today I am re-visiting a piece that I wrote for Sabotage Times, August 10th, 2013. It was my six fears for the upcoming season. So how has that worked out?
As an Arsenal fan, I can rely on three things in life; Death, Taxes, and Arsene Wenger treating the Club’s transfer ‘war chest’ like his daughter’s inheritance. Yes, Arsenal’s Groundhog Day Summer came around again…and as it has been since 2005, Arsene Wenger has kept his hands firmly in his pocket at the time of writing…despite all the talk (pre-season-ticket-renewal) of some serious spending being lined up…
Here were my six fears for the forthcoming season back in the summer:
Failing to capitalise:
The football planets have aligned this season; Manchester United have changed manager, with David Moyes – famously a manager who hasn’t won away against any of the ‘top four’ teams – taking over Sir Alex Ferguson’s battered old armchair in the dug-out (one suspects that there are decade’s worth of Werther’s Originals secreted down those cushioned sides), Manuel Pellegrini taking on Manchester City’s poisoned chalice and Jose Mourinho arriving at Chelsea for a second coming (in both his eyes and those of his adoring press hacks), chastened by having his reputation and character sullied by a catalogue of disgraceful behaviours during his combustible tenure in Madrid.
All of these changes should, in theory, benefit a managerially stable (of sorts) Arsenal; the team who of course, narrowly brought up the rear of the top four. Add to that Tottenham almost inevitably selling their best player since Jurgen Klinsmann (or Sol Campbell, tee-hee!) to Real Madrid and it really could be Arsenal’s season to finally push on and mount a serious challenge that lasts past February. Ifs…buts…maybes…Arsenal cannot capitalise as they are…
Well, arguably the title challenge lasted past February – but only just – but once again, Arsenal and Arsene Wenger failed to capitalise on the three major managerial changes last summer.
The resurgence of Liverpool has been maybe a little unexpected, but it is fair to say, with Arsenal now perhaps scrapping it out for fourth place, again, that our best bet for feasible title challenge has been wasted through dithering, injuries and tactical blindness.
Arsenal have perhaps missed their best chance to sustain a title challenge for the next few seasons; Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City are going to build on the strides made this season, and you just know that Manchester United won’t be as bad next season, and will spend a fortune backing up their man. What will Arsenal do? If it is anything different from the last few summers, we’ll all be shocked.
Failing to spend:
As mentioned, and you may have seen this on Twitter, Arsenal have yet to sign the superstars that Gooners have craved to see since Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie left N5 for greener pitches. I am adamant that Arsenal need a solid, international class goalkeeper; one of Asmir Begovic, Andujar or Rui Patricio would suit me, as the two Polish ‘keepers are good, but not they’re not in Jens Lehmann or David Seaman’s class.
Having watched Carl Jenkinson being taken out by the sun like a rookie pilot in the Battle of Britain against Napoli, I would also say right-back is a position that needs reinforcing, especially since Bacary Sagna is stalling on a new deal. Again, one of Sebastian Corchia or Gregory van der Wiel would be great. Arsenal’s soft defensive and midfield centre was brutally exposed by Napoli in The Emirates Cup (I was there…) and the team are a Laurent Koscielny, Mikel Arteta or Jack Wilshere injury from being horribly exposed.
If Matthias Ginter arrives from Freiburg (as is being suggested) then these three outfield positions are nominally covered…but he is no Lars Bender, Marouane Fellaini, Luiz Gustavo or Sami Khedira. I’d love another dedicated centre-back added too, so if Wenger could prise one of Sakho, Mangala or Alderweireld from their clubs (or in fact, any central defender who isn’t going to be savaged, tricked and fooled by a 35 year old striker currently playing in football’s equivalent of a Saga holiday league, eh Per?!).
And of course, a class act up front is needed. A player who isn’t afraid to shoot…Gonzalo Higuain would’ve been great, but faffing, penny-pinching and cheeky Spanish Presidents put paid to that dream…I am not convinced, nor excited by the prospect of Suarez signing, especially for a crazy price, so I’d like to see a player every Gooner can get behind (Huntelaar or Leandro Damiao perhaps?!) and importantly, can help fire the team to glory. I don’t think Sanogo alone will help bolster that frontline.
Okay…okay. Fellaini. I’ll hold my hands up to that recommendation. But I wasn’t the only one…
Okay…okay. Suarez. He has been electric this season. But I still don’t like the person and I still think his previous misdemeanors are severe enough to say that he hasn’t got that ‘Arsenal Class’. Would most Gooners care about that when he is destroying opposition back lines…probably not.
Did Arsenal spend? Yes. A broken, nay, shattered transfer record is testament to that. However, there was not a world-class striker, nor powerhouse midfield anchor to be seen and January’s window – the perfect opportunity to make up for Summer’s shortfalls – was utterly wasted. Would could have happened if Arsenal were re-enforced in January whilst top of the league? Targets were identified, lost and Arsenal fans left utterly underwhelmed until a certain German #11 sauntered into the club at the latest possible time…
What galls the most is that the money is there and it has been there for a while. What has happened to the scouting department? Why can’t deals get closed? Why are Arsenal so afraid to rival other club’s bids for players that have been scouted for – you’d imagine – quite some time? Why this inferiority complex?
As mentioned above, an injury to one of Arsenal’s key players, as it stands, is far too awful for Gooners to contemplate. I winced every time Wilshere was tackled this weekend and Koscielny was pretty much the only player stopping Napoli run riot in a chaotic first half. Diaby is spent, sadly, tragically, and the club do not (and should not) need to rely on another player’s permanent ‘only six week’s out’ spell on the sidelines.
Oxlade-Chamberlain…Walcott…Ramsey…Gibbs…Wilshere…Ozil…Koscielny. Injuries affected Arsenal, just like every season. Death, taxes, Arsenal dithering in transfer windows and an Arsenal injury crisis. Arsenal failed to replace injured players and as such, the scintillating form that propelled Arsenal to the summit of the Premier League hasn’t been sustained. Was this utterly predictable? Of course it f**king was.
Good grief. The perennial problem that Arsenal suffer: Lack of spending = a small squad. A small squad = over worked players. Over worked players = injuries. Injuries = weak squad. Weak squad = losses. Losses = you’re not competitive.
Failure to qualify for the UEFA Champions League proper:
The prospect of Arsenal failing to negotiate the qualifiers for the group stage is enough to send me into hysterics. So I won’t think about it. Damn it, I have. That is my sleep shot then. Obviously, Arsenal need to get the quality core of players in to help them scrap their way through what is bound to be a tough qualifying draw. There is a promising young team being built at Arsenal, it just needs to be added to. Thank goodness the driftwood has been cast away this summer…
Luckily Arsenal negotiated the Fenerbahce ties, but the annual fourth-place-finish shoot-out looms large on the horizon…was this utterly predictable? Do I need to say anything here?!
The ‘Arsene Knows Best’ brigade versus the ‘Arsene Out!’ gang; infighting, Twitter spats and general discontent have marred being Gooner of late. I hope that the club can, for the good of the fans (you know, the people who sustain the festooned riches of the luscious mahogany boardroom) unite them through shrewd purchases, open and truthful PR and communication that doesn’t treat us as gullible sheep. Although, I fear, we’re too late on that one.
However the new Wenger contract is on the table and tipsontits.co.uk reported that Wenger is 5/2 not to return to the Emirates this season
Any Arsenal fan on Twitter can see the abuse meted out to rival ‘factions’ and it is fair to say that unless Arsenal can win the FA Cup, Arsenal in-fighting could reach a nasty climax this summer…Arsene Wenger’s future is very much the causal factor of this angst.
Maybe a return of one D. Dein could help alleviate my fears..?!
Thanks for reading,