By David Swaden
So here we are, over two months into the close season and with little over 3 weeks to go until the whole crazy thing starts all over again.
Last season ended on a high. Whereas the previous campaign had finished with maddening inconsistency and a haul into third place by a teeth skin’s width, 12/13 saw a final flourish. An understanding formed in defence, Ramsey really stepped up and Theo weighed in with some important goals. Indeed, had we started and middled the campaign as we ended it, we’d have been looking at a title challenge as opposed to a fourth placed “trophy”, again by the narrowest of margins.
But with the marathon ending in a sprint, there was, and is, real reason for optimism. Clearly this is a squad with talent, and as we have seen in pre-season so far, there are some new bloods in the form of Zelalem and akpom who are showing enough to suggest they could help augment the squad along with Sanogo.
And it will need augmenting. For finally, thankfully, Arsenal are ridding themselves of some horrible, obstructive mistakes made over recent years. Exit stage left Squillaci, Santos, Arshavin, Denilson, Djourou, likely followed by Park, Bendtner, Chamakh and Gervinho. If the youngsters are half as decent as they are hyped up to be, they could add some valuable depth.
But depth is not all we need, and this is where so much attention is currently focused amongst fans, the media and the twitterati. Whilst the signs were good last year, a team with champions league, along with a lightened wage bill and over 70million pounds confirmed spending power should be now be looking to move beyond its current status.
For a long time, longer than eight years in fact, we have existed in a sort of limbo, football’s version of chicken where we survive at elite level for just long enough to see our next phase of the financial plan realised. Luckily, the Wenger effect of “never say die” rubbed off enough to see us over the line once again, and we have now seemingly made it to our strengthened spending status whilst retaining top four positioning.
But the self congratulating must end. It’s clear we require some significant reinforcements to truly compete at the very top again. Say what you like about Luis Suarez, and believe me I have quite unashamedly, but he is the kind of player, in terms of a ability, that we need. A magician who can turn and win games alone or create something out of nothing. A creator and a finisher. Looking at our weaknesses last year, we didn’t create enough and weren’t deadly enough when it mattered. We relied upon players who were getting used to life in England and some, like Giroud, who whilst thoroughly good players simply aren’t elite class as yet.
And so, with an accepted need, funds available and a champions league to qualify for, we have of course got our business done early and have a fearsome squad assembled ahead of August, haven’t we? Evidently not, so what to make of it?
Firstly, a sustainable club with more money is rather a different proposition than a sugar-daddy plaything, so don’t expect to see Arsenal in Torres or adebayor esque dealings. Anyone who imagines that we will start overspending just to make a statement are likely to find themselves wide of the mark. The disinterest in Higuain at 32 million seems to support this. Clearly a good player and a deadly finisher at a reasonable fee, but a match-turning magician? Unlikely and for such a large slice of cash, not all we need.
And when we find someone we do like and our committed to paying up for, bear in mind how much preparation, negotiation and diligence needs to go into a deal of that size. Anyone who works around financial services or the Law will tell you how long major deals elsewhere can take. Why should 50 million on one human happen overnight?
So perhaps we can forgive the club for not pursuing Higuain, and taking its time over other targets who may or may not be well in the pipeline. But on the other hand, I fundamentally disagree with Wenger’s suggestion that Arsenal can compete at the top without signing more players. For a reasoned and sensible person like Le Boss, I simply don’t believe he really feels that way. What possible change could happen in three short months to transform us? It must be positioning, I hope.
And with that, I’m back where I started, as the club is basically where it started the close season, Sanogo notwithstanding. It promises to be an important few weeks until we get going again and hopefully some arrivals to welcome in that time too. Whether Wenger and the club has indeed dithered too long and we are damagingly slow to start only time will tell. But before I close, I just want to make a final point:
You’ll have noticed that nowhere in this post have I criticised our “underbidding” slated “ivantheterrible” or the like regarding transfer activity. Why?
Because Arsenal is a club who conduct its business in almost complete secrecy. Even the “ITKs”, or at least the more genuine ones, will tell you that commenting on transfer activity at The Emirates is largely a game of guesswork and educated calculation. So, for the sake of your sanity, I would urge you to take twitter and media rumours, which after all sell papers and accumulate followers, with a pinch of salt. Like Eastenders or Coronation street, transfer silly season is a soap opera, a story told that takes its inspiration from real life without being a total reflection. We’ll see what happens at the end of August and pick the bones out of the truth when it becomes clearer.
Until then, lets just sit back and enjoy the show.