I don’t know about you, but once the pre-season friendlies are over and we have less than a week until the kick off of a new season, I get the warm glow of anticipation. It’s usually nervous anticipation, granted, but it’s there all the same. This year feels different though. I wouldn’t say it is apathy as I have done my usual check of the fixture list, carefully trying to work out how many points we will pick up in the first five games. I’m sure most of you have a similar ritual? I think the transfer sagas are taking their toll on me!!
Perhaps it all stems from the complete lack of spending. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see a big name star arrive and I guess it could still happen, but it isn’t just that. It is deeper, I am concerned that unless we bring in some reinforcements that we could find ourselves in real trouble with only a couple of injures in key positions. Our first team squad, according to our official website, says we have twenty five players. Of those, Chamakh has left yesterday, Bendtner, it can safely be assumed, will never play for us again, Park similarly. That leaves twenty two players. Our midfield includes Frimpong and Ryo Miyaichi who are unproven plus Rosicky and Diaby, who with Frimpong have spent more time injured whilst on our books than playing. We have seven defenders, four full backs and three centre backs. We start the season with Vermaelen injured and we all know that an Arsenal six weeks is often code for six months. Our goal keeping situation has also got a similar thin edge to it with just the two options. I am glad we shipped out some of the deadwood but you can not expect to improve by making the squad lighter. As it stands, a couple of injuries and suspensions, especially in central defence, would be disastrous and we all know that Wenger does not panic buy well.
Maybe it is the feeling of being strung along by the club that is tempering my anticipation? Those early days of the transfer window where we were assured that funds were available and led to believe that some top players were coming in to help us push on. The big names mentioned just before season ticket renewal deadline day were so blatantly planted in the media by a PR company it’s a wonder there hasn’t been more uproar. We have been fed years of nonsense from the big stadium – big revenue lie to the current favourite of, I am happy to go into the new season with our existing squad. Along the way we have been assured that certain players wont be sold, that big teams don’t sell their best players and the old classic, when FFP kicks in we will be in a good position.
I read lots of articles on various internet outlets and talk to lots of fellow Arsenal fans in person. Opinions on the manager and board vary, some see all the Champions League qualifications as a success worthy of celebration but most just look at the last eight years and see it as failure. I know some readers will suggest that Wenger has had his hands tied and perhaps to a certain extent he has, but, that doesn’t excuse being knocked out of domestic cups by lower league opposition? I suggest even the most devoted Wenger fans take a step back and ask themselves a few questions. Are you happy with finishing fourth place in the league and barely making an impression in any of the cup competitions or would you prefer to see us challenging for everything we enter? Are you happy for our manager to sanction the sale of our top stars to rivals who go on to win the title? Most importantly, are you happy to watch us slide backwards every year?
The hierarchical nature of football dictates that clubs at the top take players from below – eg – Arsenal will always take from Everton and Everton will in turn take from the next level, perhaps Sunderland or Stoke. If we are now happy to sell to United and City it tells me that the club is resigning itself to the second tier rather than investing to cement a place at the top table. This is shameful and completely undermines the legacy created by Herbert Chapman, who was in fact our greatest ever manager. His vision saw us at the top in terms of football, finance and general standing within the game. We were, and have been until recently, the snobs of football. We were a rich club with a rich history. We had a grand stadium and an aloof attitude that would have precluded selling our biggest star to a rival unless it was felt it was in our best interests. Everything was done on our terms. Other clubs didn’t bully us. We wanted players who wanted us and although we were welcoming, we called the shots. It is time we got back to some of these common values and put ourselves back where we belong. We have the money, the stadium, which although it may a monstrosity, is certainly imposing and we have passionate fans. The longer we let ourselves rot in mediocrity, the further we will fall. I, for one hope I never see us fall in the way Liverpool or heaven forbid Leeds have.