It’s good, but it’s not right

wenger unsure

Despite bringing in one player last night, it’s difficult for the majority of Arsenal fans to knock the feeling that this transfer window, like so many others before it, has been a disappointment. But just how costly could the lack of investment in the squad prove to be?

Arsenal have unerringly consistently sold their best players and released many more from the wage bill over the last few years. Okay, I appreciate there’s the stadium debt to repay but nevertheless, there should be money to spend – between £50m and £70m if the AST are to be believed. Money generated from those deals as well as from the pockets of the fans that pay eye-watering prices for tickets these days. They pay it to watch their favourite team challenge to be the best and ultimately to be entertained. Those things more often than not go hand-in-hand. One could argue by failing to compete at the top level, the product Arsenal are selling is not good enough, or at least doesn’t represent value for money; one of a number of reasons why so many season tickets were given up and passed up last summer. It sounds like the mantra of a glory hunter but unfortunately it’s a way of life.

What made Arsenal wonderfully unique was that even when they ‘failed,’ and I use that term loosely – I don’t consider finishing 3rd to be a crime against humanity – they still played some of the best football around. Sure, we’ve had flashes of it this season, but it has been significantly overshadowed by some ball-achingly bad stuff. We’re no longer ‘the great entertainers’ we once were and to use that as a positive is now nothing more than a lazy, outdated cliché. I used to watch my local non-league bit-on-the-side, Woking fairly regularly and I’ve seen them play more attractive stuff than some of the garbage we’ve been treated to this season. Performances against Bradford, Norwich, Schalke and Swansea to name just four were simply unacceptable.

Out of context it sounds like I’m a spoilt brat, and maybe there’s an element of truth to that; I have been brought up in a generation where Arsenal could indeed make a case for being the greatest team the world has ever seen. I’ve seen us play filthily attractive football that it feels like it should come with some sort of age rating. But when the club are charging astronomical prices and seemingly settling for mediocrity, it does sting just a little bit. Is it not an insult that this money is pocketed by Kroenke, or whoever you want to pin the blame on, and not reinvested back into the team in order to make us stronger and therefore achieve the purpose of the product being sold to us?

There’s a very good chance that Arsenal won’t finish in the top four this season and therefore won’t qualify for the Champions League which is becoming the most underwhelming of holy grails. As well as not competing with Europe’s finest, and therefore not being able to attract the crème de la crème of playing staff, we also lose the significant amount of reddies that comes as part of the package upon entering UEFA’s hugely popular competition. The line will of course be that we need not panic from a financial position because we’ve ‘kept our powder dry’ by not making the necessary investments; essentially, we can cover the costs incurred. Where is the sense in that? Surely you want to build on what you have when you can? I’m not going to list player names because this isn’t some Football Manager PC game, but surely someone who improves the squad, will cost less than what we will lose by not being in the Champions League? Said player(s) could well be the difference between us finishing 4th and 5th, or the difference between us winning the FA Cup and having to sacrifice it because we don’t want to risk overplaying our best players.

I don’t know much about Nacho Monreal but by all accounts he looks a good signing; a cynic would not be judged too harshly for simply pointing out the fact it keeps Andre Santos out of the team. With Gibbs injured, we needed another left-back and the club have done well to secure one in 24 hours. Proof there, if it were needed, that they’re not completely incompetent as some would have you believe. Normally, we’d all be chuffed with a shrewd Deadline Day signing out of nowhere, but sadly this year, it feels underwhelming. As Catchphrase’s Roy Walker might have said, “it’s good, but it’s not right.” Or ‘not enough’ would perhaps be more appropriate.

Wojciech Szczesny still has no respectable competitor for the number one jersey and there’s the fear that he could become too comfortable and therefore complacent if he’s not constantly being pushed. Whilst Aaron Ramsey has done well in a deep role to date, I doubt anyone is satisfied with the reliance on, and lack of cover for, Mikel Arteta who is currently out injured. Mohamed Diame was strongly linked, thus highlighting the need for another midfielder; particularly when fears linger over the prospect of overplaying Jack Wilshere in addition to the fact that Abou Diaby, as talented as he is, may as well be made of glass.

Strengthening in those positions would have been dandy but it was perhaps not essential. What surely was needed, however, was another striker. For all of Marouane Chamakh’s ineptitude, he was at least an attacking option, but the manager decided to let go of a player in a position we were already short in. Another forward had to come in, surely? Apparently not. I rate Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott as much, if not more than the next man, but I can’t even begin to fathom the logic in having them as our *only* strikers. What happens when one of them inevitably picks up an injury? Walcott’s come on leaps and bounds but doesn’t appear ready to play through the middle against packed, deep defences, which we will undoubtedly encounter on several occasions. Where is the alternative? Who can we bring on from the bench when the pressure gets cranked up but we can’t put the ball in the net?

I don’t even think a marquee signing like Edinson Cavani or David Villa as was mooted is essential. Just someone to add competition and give us options. What was wrong with Demba Ba? Not world class by any means but a good, proven Premier League goalscorer who has settled in well already at Chelsea. The boss’ stance throughout was that we would only strengthen if we could improve the squad. Does he really expect us to believe there was nobody out there who could add to what we have? Nobody? Not one single player?

If we do miss out on Europe, if the board think that most people are still going to pay through the nose during a recession for what, frankly, is a decent team and nothing more, then they’re even more deluded and out of touch than we thought. There will be more empty seats in the stadium, more money will be lost and what remaining top quality players we have will jump ship just as Fabregas, Nasri, Song and van Persie have done in the recent past.

What assurances do we have that we’re not going to be another Liverpool? I could be made to look foolish here, and I’ll gladly accept the humiliation: we may indeed finish 4th and everything will be relatively rosy. It’s not inconceivable either, considering our realistic challengers for the spot are Everton, who will surely fade away, and Tottenham who not only have an equally thin squad, but also have that notorious knack of choking whenever they get close to what they want. But I don’t think we can afford to gamble on this. How long do we rely on Spurs being more of a shambles than us? The knock-on effects of us failing this season could genuinely be catastrophic. Yet again, we’re our own worst enemy. I just hope we haven’t fallen too far behind already.

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  • Sid

    Very heartfelt mate. I too am left rather under whelmed by yet another TDD and the lack of business done. I think the striker issue is obviously now going to have to be solved in house. So that means Podolski being our back up striker. That should mean he gets a rest from playing left flank. Which makes the decline of Arshavin even more of a tragedy!

    I am more worried about the lack of CBs. What happens there if we get a serious injury? Then again the way they’ve performed this season, it might actually help! I really do not think the boss and board understand the feelings of a lot of fans this season. They have been too used to having the benefit of the doubt because we’ve been skintight for so long, not any more and I hope the atmos at the Grove doesn’t turn as dark as I think it could do if we fuck up. Starting Saturday.

    • Tom

      Yeah, I’d agree with all of that. Not sure on playing Podolski through the middle but it doesn’t look like we’ve got much choice. As you say, Arshavin’s rapid decline is a kick in the balls as well – the situation wouldn’t be as dire if he was in the form of two or three seasons ago. As for the CBs, I agree. We’ve got three excellent players in my opinion but you need four. Djourou got some stick but I thought he was fine for 4th choice. As you say, a win on Saturday is a must. It could/will get very ugly if we drop points again

      • Norris

        Good points, thanks.

        They are excellent defenders mate, which makes seeing them making so many mistakes even more concerning. It’s time for the boss to let Bould get stuck into the back 4 and time for us to get behind the team. No point booing them as its counter productive. The final reckoning ought wait till May!

  • Jed

    I’m feeling the same way. Nacho looks like a decent signing but, let’s not kid ourselves, if Gibbs hadn’t been injured on Wednesday, we would have brought in nobody this window.
    The club is sinking and nobody there seems able to halt the decline. Change is needed badly. I have 4 season tickets and right now I don’t think I am getting value for money. That’s not glory hunting, I have been supporting AFC for 4 decades, but I’ve not had to spend £8k for the privilege before we moved to the Emirates.
    The move was meant to allow us to compete with the top clubs in Europe, instead a yankee tightwad is pocketing our cash and buying ranches instead of investing in the team.
    Not a pretty picture.

    • Tom

      Think you’ve hit the nail on the head, there. It’s certainly frustrating. Are you keeping all four season tickets next season?

      • Jed

        I don’t know what to do – love the club, hate the way its being run. I’m a sad AFC addict so I’ll probably just keep up the habit however destructive it is to my wellbeing.

  • g clarke

    Arsenal has enough players what do you want 3 for every pos the prob is that back 4 are exposed Swansea play 2 holding in front of them condencing play goal keeper 4. 2. 3. 1 and it works

    • Tom

      The system might be flawed but I don’t think we have enough players either. Certainly not ones who are good enough to play in the CL. What happens if/when, say Szczesny, Arteta and Giroud are injured? We’d be down to the bare bones and that’s just not good enough.

  • Alex

    I believe the only other “realistic” and worthwhile signing we could have made this window is David Villa.

    As much as we need to make new signings, we also need to be careful not to buy players who aren’t of the requisite quality – Gervinho, Santos, and Park come to mind. Diame, as helpful as he could be right now, is a step down from Wilshire, Diaby, Arteta, and probably both Ramsey and Coquelin in a few years. A striker such as Demba Ba, who like Diame, would be a helpful addition for the remainder of the season, is not good enough to lead the line of the Champions League club.

    In the long term, buying “second rate” players is equally as great a problem as not buying anyone at all.

    • Tom

      I appreciate that and didn’t want us to go for just anyone. I saw some fans declare an interest in Anelka – don’t think he would have benefitted us at all. I think Ba’s decent; even if he can’t, as you say, ‘lead the line of the Champions League club,’ Giroud is quickly proving that he can, and someone like Ba would surely represent good backup, no?

  • goonerman

    It is right that Arsenal do not qualify for the ECL this year. I say that after 50 years supporting and watching the club. The club lack the ambition, the commitment and the managerial competence to succeed, They use ECL qualification as a profit generating mechanism only. There is no genuine attempt to produce a team that competes. Stan Kroenke and Arsene Wenger have taken and are taking the supporters of this club as fools if they think that with money available all they can come up with is a cheap left back signed at the last minute. The club is sick, has its priorities wrong and is in desperate need of a major over-haul.

    • Tom

      I’d love to disagree with that but I fear you’re spot on. Will be interesting to see how much changes in the summer

    • dog

      50 yeras of supporting? that means you must be atltest 60. the 60 year old nowadays huh? Using youthful slang and throwing youthful tantrums, even working their way around internet preatty well.
      Impressive :-)

  • ope

    Honestly, short of words, Arsene is making everyone sad, if arsenal should finish top four we don’t deserved it. Arsene love to gamble, those matches we’ve lost this season is due to the reason that we don’t have box to box player or a defensive minded player that will be a cover up for our back four,with our attacking option we are ok, with Girould,walcott,podolski&cazola. We just need a defensive player or box to box that will play alongside Arteta,wilshere,cazola.

    • Tom

      Agreed. Perhaps the sad irony is that we’ve got that box-to-box player in Diaby, but we just can’t afford to rely on him. If we’re going to get 4th this year it’ll be because Spurs, yet again, are worse than us, rather than us being better than them if that makes sense!

  • Terry Dactill

    Yeah yeah… I’ve been supporting Arsenal for 2 million years and have 164 season tickets and 13 boxes and have never been sooooo angry!!!

    • Jed

      Not bad for a dinosaur, well done.
      I’m sad, not angry.
      The worst thing about the current situation is that the same stuff keeps happening season after season, I’ve started to lose hope – and hope is the thing that keeps us football fans going. It’s the sheer frustration that nobody is dealing with the obvious problems.
      Are you OK with things how they are?

      • Norris

        Jed

        What I feel changes on a daily basis. What I do think is that due to being so restless, angst ridden, frustrated and having to put up with high profile departures and constant media scorn, some Gooners, including me, have lost some perspective and a sense of humour.

        Some times in games, despite everything, things don’t go our way. Take the Liverpool game, the first goal will never occur again as it needed a catalogue of errors and lucky bounces which I can’t recall seeing before! I am not saying we can’t defend better, just that occasionally it isn’t all because we are shit and haven’t signed anyone.

        Initially I was kinda pissed off about our lack of signings, but we potentially have the requisite players and ability to achieve something this season. Like I said earlier, Podolski can come in when OG needs a break, TV can play Lb in the CL and the much maligned Santos can be pushed (under a bus) further upfield.

        • caribkid

          What can we honestly hope to achieve this season outside of perhaps finishing 4th and perhaps winning the FA Cup?

          Hmmmmm! Maybe if we finish within 20 points of the EPL winners that would be considered another trophy. Or, just maybe, we are no longer truly competitive?

  • sammykins

    Ridiculous way to conduct transfer business. Gibbs has far and away been one of our better players this season and we go and buy arguably a first choice left back based on an injury. Nacho looks like a great buy, but ultimately the wrong buy. vermaelen could easily fill in there until gibbs is back. A centre back, DM and a striker would surely have been a bigger priority over a LB. Wenger then teases us with some bollox about how close we were to getting another player. Fuck off. You had months to identify targets and then an entire month to move for them. You waited until the end like usual. and like usual we missed out on our main targets. it’s now beyond a joke.

  • Terry DactillDino

    Go and read the North London is Red blog for a far more positive (a few might have to look up what that word means! Lolz) balanced and pretty in depth analysis of how we may be set up for the rest of the season.