Having made a cursory tour of the blogosphere and the attendant media the common emotion one picks up after Arsenal’s no show at yesterday’s transfer deadline is that of frustration, of disbelief, and a sense of resignation that once again what seems so obvious to us is lost on the manager and the boardroom. Particularly, with Alex Song’s departure, there appeared to be an overwhelming need to fill his position. Nuri Sahin bypassing the Emirates in what appeared to be a sure shot deal. Or the cheap availability of Clint Dempsey after Liverpool gave up on him and Spurs bagged him. But here again, is a reminder as to why things are different.
Arsenal are not contending for the title: Arseblog leads with the belief that Arsenal cannot really contend for the title with this squad. The reality is that Arsenal gave up as contenders a number of seasons ago and the present philosophy is to finish fourth as an ideal or as Peter Hill Wood puts its, “its not as if we were relegated”, in response to Alisher Usmanov’s accusations of Arsenal lacking ambition. Wenger has backed this up by questioning the loyalty of fans pointing out they are spoiled having a great stadium, a good team that gets to play Champions League football year in and year out. This is an era of reduced expectations so what exactly is the problem?
Arsenal are a selling club: Too many examples to dispute this premise. Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, Robin Van Persie, Alex Song, are the marquee names moving out for most part attracted by more money offered by clubs with fewer qualms on spending. Fabregas is an exception, he was motivated by a return to his boyhood club for which he took a salary cut. We make purchases but not at market prices. It is a bit unnerving to think that Malaga’s financial difficulties opened up an opportunity for Santi Cazorla’s sale but only after negotiating for a lower price.
Wenger says he will buy but only if it is quality: When Wenger says this, he’s giving himself an out. Faced with criticism of a failure to buy, he can defend himself by saying he tried but there was no one he considered “quality”. It has become a mantra of his to protect himself from these recent transfer periods which are now a constant source of much angst and handwringing amongst fans. Just two days before the transfer deadline, he said there could be one or two arrivals if they happened to be of quality. Those words should warn us that there is a good chance reinforcements will not arrive.
The boardroom is invested in itself: There is a good reason to further the current policy. Stan Kroenke has not put in a single dime of his as investment but the stock of his 63% shareholding will keep going up. Alisher Usmanov will not make a move because he’s a shareholder with no boardroom privileges and he is not going to invest his money till he is given assurances he can increase his shareholding for a takeover. It is a stalemated chess match and each camp is trying to protect themselves. A self sustaining model is sound financial practise but it also benefits the status quo which borders on self serving inertia.
This year Arsenal acted more decisively before deadline: Last year was just chaotic with the Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri situation eating up all of Wenger’s living moments. With them gone, a fourth placed finish in jeopardy, he moved decisively on transfer deadline and did pick up some excellent bargains who played regular minutes in the starting squad. We managed a respectable third thanks to those replacements and RVP. This year, the frustration has been mitigated somewhat with the arrivals of Podolski, Giroud, and Cazorla well before and Arsenal holding well with Abou Diaby and Mikel Arteta working centrally in the first two matches till Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky work their way back to give more options.
Defence, an issue shows undeniable improvement: There appears to be an early assurance to Arsenal’s defense. Steve Bould’s imprint shows up in zonal marking on set pieces, less panic defending long balls, more tracking output from other players. Wenger probably sees this as encouragement they can keep things close even if Arsenal take their time get stuck in with their attack. RVP and Song’s loss is keenly felt but the defensive displays are proving to be the difference between frustration and outright angst. Of course, all could change with a crucial fixture against Liverpool tomorrow, Chelsea and United to follow in the next few weeks, in what could define Arsenal’s season early enough.