So, the summer’s been fun, then?
It has been some time since I last wrote anything, for a variety of reasons. There hasn’t been an awful lot to talk about, unless you count commenting on the speculation of those who know nothing new in the myriad of transfer ‘sagas’ we’re involved in, but make up nonsense anyway because they have to fill pages. Beyond that, I’m not always that interested in anything other than concrete stories in July – the matches are relaxed kickabouts, the talk is endless, and even the official Arsenal site is packed with banality. But most of all, I just needed a break, from all the whining and complaining about a lack of transfers when there were still eight weeks left of the window. Frankly, I found it all a bit pathetic.
All summer, I’ve been saying ‘wait for the start of the season‘, because I’ve been convinced that the ‘busy summer‘ we were promised would kick into gear at some point, and breathe new life into a squad that was devoid of confidence and belief at the back end of last season, and have shown few signs of change in the warm ups. But with just six days to go until our trip to Newcastle, which holds all too relevant memories from the last encounter, I’m getting worried.
Our summer business hinges entirely on which of our players leave, and it has always been clear that our signings are intrinsically linked to our departures. And therein lies the problem – the futures of Cesc and Nasri remain unresolved, which is nigh on unforgivable this close to the opening game, because it has such an enormous impact on all our preparations. Cesc hasn’t even been involved in any friendlies, which suggests that a deal is close, but even if Barcelona raise their bid to a level we find acceptable, the window of opportunity to rebuild is closing by the day. Any new arrivals will certainly be absent for the rest of August, which leaves us without those who may leave and those who may arrive for games against Newcastle, Liverpool and United, not to mention our vital Champions League qualifier against Udinese. Not ideal, by anyone’s standards.
That said, I am still confident we will see new arrivals by the end of the month, and there is one overriding reason for that belief – if we weren’t going to, then why would we be making space in the squad by loaning out established players? Denilson has already gone in that manner, and Eboue and Vela may soon follow. With the sale of Clichy and possibly Cesc also making spots available, any such thinning would be counterproductive. So, for me, the question isn’t whether we will get players in, but who and when.
Those in the Arsenal hierarchy certainly know the mood of the fanbase. That was never more evident than at Members’ Day, when they ditched the usual routine of bringing the squad out one by one, perhaps fearful of the mixed reaction some would receive, and then heavily neutering the questions allowed in the subsequent Q&A. Wenger even alluded this week to the frustration he knows we all feel, so those who believe the club to be oblivious to the growing divide are mistaken. The question is – can they make the moves that will bring people back on board?
Looking at the squad, the holes are fairly obvious. Up front, Van Persie is increasingly vital, unless Bendtner can be convinced not to leave, but to play second fiddle. Chamakh is a shadow of his former self, a baffling situation that becomes even odder when you watch the games from the early past of last season. It is easy to forget how well he did back then, before losing all semblance of confidence and becoming a total passenger. Without Cesc, we still look devoid of ideas against ‘park the bus’ opposition, although Gervinho is at least a breath of fresh air, and with pace that we’ve been sadly lacking in recent years (Walcott aside). And in defence, we are still short a centre back, while the left back situation is fragile at best.
But then, none of this is new, nor is it is a surprise. And given the mooted transfer targets, the flaws are well known, and attempts are being made to address them. The issue is simple – because in similar situations in recent years we’ve made do, the fear is there that we will fail with our primary targets and choose instead to promote from within. No matter how good our kids are (and some of them are very very good), you can’t replace Cesc with them and expect to improve.
In a way, this summer is demonstrating exactly why a summer transfer window should end before the season begins, otherwise you end up with farcical situations where players play a couple of games for one club before moving on, or spend the whole of August nursing ‘niggles’ on the sidelines. Right now, we risk starting the season on the back foot because none of our summer action has been concluded, which would have the knock on effect of making the atmosphere even worse.
The next three weeks are incredibly important, and busy for everyone involved – a lot of business needs to be sorted (Cesc, Nasri, Eboue, Bendtner, Vela and Almunia all need their futures sorted, and then we need to bring players in), and all the while we’ve got a sequence of very important football matches.
The summer action should always be assessed at the end of August. Right now, it really could go either way.