It’s hard to know where to start. A few weeks back I promised a return to daily blogging along with the season start completely forgetting I’d be in London for the Premier League kick-off. Home to Aston Villa, what could possibly go wrong?
Sitting in the pub beforehand there wasn’t much talk of Arsenal. Old friends caught up with what they’d been up to over the past few months and what Arsenal talk there was centered on how it didn’t seem like the start of the season. A bruising and frustrating summer left many of us feeling like we were already midway through a campaign and the optimism with which many of us great every season was as absent as the new signings we all believed would be blessing the Emirates this season.
People seemed exhausted before we’d even kicked a ball in competitive football.
The match itself you all know about. A refereeing display as inept as our performance in the transfer market heaped pain on top of injury on top of chickens that had not only come home to roost but were partying up a storm while they crapped all over the place.
As Kieran Gibbs was led from the field with blood gushing from his head, an injury referee Anthony Taylor didn’t deem worth stopping play for, I turned to my friend to highlight we were one injury away from having to play Aaron Ramsey in defence. It was that obvious and given that we aren’t exactly known as a side who manages to go through a season unscathed not exactly soothsaying of the highest order.
Of course, it was a red card that brought about that eventuality, although Sagna’s injury would have prompted it had we not already had to replace Koscielny with the Welshman due to Anthony Taylor’s complete incompetence.
We finished with a back four of Podolski, Mertesacker, Ramsey and Jenkinson. We will probably go to Fenerbahce with three fit defenders. Fun times eh?
When we got back to the pub discussions, after the trashing of the referee and confirmation that it hadn’t been a penalty and therefore not a yellow [or second yellow] conversation turned to what, exactly, is going wrong at the club.
There was no consensus to be found because the truth is we just don’t know. We talked about how if we could see the problems with the squad then surely Arsene Wenger could see them too. He is, after all, an incredibly intelligent man. Surely he couldn’t be the only person on the planet who couldn’t see we were wafer thin blowing in hurricane and hoping we didn’t get shredded to pieces? If he couldn’t then surely there must be something wrong with his mental health. I don’t say that to insult a man I admire more than most others – it’s just that obvious to everyone can there be any other explanation if you think he can’t see it?
I spoke about how in previous summers we were told there was money to spend only to be told in future summers that there had been no money to spend after all. Oopsie.
Have they done that to us again? Are they telling us there is money when there isn’t? But surely the accounts don’t lie.
We wondered why we would let all those players go and not replace them. Surely that pointed to a plan. How could a business hope to strip itself of assets and then play Russian roulette in the transfer window?
Nobody had any answers.
Not long before I was getting ready to leave the pub Tim Payton from AST sat down at our table. I’ve spoken to Tim before in real life on one occasion and found him a lot more moderate than his twitter persona would have us believe. All summer he has told us to practice patience, so much so that many people have remarked at what seemed to be a very obvious chance of tack from him.
Taking his seat uninvited, he didn’t even say hello before he asked me if I had the power would I pull the trigger on Wenger tomorrow. ‘No’ I replied. ‘I would’ said he.
I asked did he genuinely believe that Arsene Wenger was the only person on the planet who couldn’t see that we needed reinforcements desperately and he said he did. He pointed to how Arsene doesn’t have football people around him on the board to point this out to him. I replied that my sister who doesn’t know much about football could see our squad wasn’t strong enough; I won’t accept Wenger can’t see it.
And what about Steve Bould? Is he not a football person? Do you not think that if Arsene is so blind that he can’t see the great big empty squad elephant which is sitting on his head that Steve might give him a bit of a nod and say ‘Hey? Arsene! We’ve ran out of players!’
I said to Tim that if Wenger couldn’t see the squad was in desperate need of reinforcements that I would be seriously concerned about the state of his mental health and that surely something else must be playing its part here, something that we don’t know about. Tim didn’t agree.
Something is definitely up and I haven’t a clue what it is and I don’t think any of us do despite theories and assumptions and media lines.
I’m not saying Wenger is blameless, far from it, but I don’t believe that he cannot see the problems and believes that we don’t need to buy in the transfer window. I also don’t buy that he won’t spend the money to improve the team.
Watching Sunday Supplement yesterday they banged on about how Arsenal account for every penny and will not spend £1 more than they need to. They never mentioned the three players Arsenal let leave the club for free this summer, forgoing transfers fees for Santos, Denilson and Chamakh. Regardless of what you think about those three players they would have commanded even a nominal fee. Hardly the actions of a club obsessed with every penny.
Arsenal have been accused of insulting Liverpool by offering £1 over the £40m which they believed activated a release clause. I don’t remember other clubs being accused of being insulting when they bid the exact amount needed to activate a release clause because they didn’t go ‘one or two million over it – million. These aren’t sweetie mice. They are millions of pounds we are talking about here.
Regardless, that’s a discussion for another day. For now we look forward to Fenerbahce with half a squad and a lot of anxiety. Our Champions League season could be over before the transfer window shuts and the club will have no-one to blame but themselves.
Will we ever know the reasons why this summer has played out the way it has? I very much doubt it.
[I'll sneak this bit in as it broke after I'd finished the post but the Mail are reporting that the Ox could be out for the season. More on that here.
I'm pretty sure this is how a coversation went a week or two ago:
Me "We need to replace Gervinho"
You "Don't worry, we have the Ox"
Football Gods "HAHAHAHAHAHA"
Going on the first team squad listed on Arsenal.com we have 15 players who don't have injuries, two of those are goalkeepers, two are Ryo and Yaya, three are Bendtner, Park, Frimpong.
Who can't see that? How could *anyone* not see that?]
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