Midweek has arrived and I am sitting here with coffee pondering the cruel nature of football and Irish summers. Yesterday was the longest day of the year and it really felt like the longest day of the year too. So much rain.
Last night we were undone in the final minute as a last minute, flukey winner crept in at the back post against a team who, while decent enough, had a big, lumpen mouthpiece playing for them. There wasn’t one of us who didn’t want to kick him up in the air. Being the well disciplined outfit we are, we did not. You know the type though, every time there’s a foul he’s calling for a yellow card. Is it wrong of me to wish a massive dropsy on him? I don’t think so. And his kids? Too far? Oh well. Can’t take it back now.
It’s a quiet day thus far in terms of Arsenal news. And I sense frustration. Actually, that’s a fib. It kind of implies I have supernatural powers, able to detect people’s moods from their auras, or something, but reading around the various Facers and Twitbooks and emails I get, there’s definitely a growing feeling that we’re not doing anything and people are anxious for us to get our deals done.
I know, in an ideal world we’d have all the players we wanted to sell sold by now and all the players we wanted to buy bought, but the reality is it doesn’t work like that. As Mr Stillman says in his latest column, it’s not just a case of pressing X on your control pad. Would that it were. We’d have dumped Denilson, dispatched Diaby, released Roderick Rosicky, vanquished Vela , ejected Eboue, bartered Bendtner and aborted Almunia.
And then we’d have bought … em … purchased … uhm … splashed out on … er … and acquired … yeah … see, there’s the problem for me. It strikes me that whoever we buy will be a disappointment. Personally speaking I am distinctly underwhelmed with the names of the players we’ve been linked with so far this summer. Gervinho, Samba, Cahill, Barton, Lord Algernon Quimmington III, all of them,
I think it’s because footballers in general underwhelm me these days. This week was the anniversary of the Dennis Bergkamp signing. No joke, I fell off a chair when I heard it. I was working in a radio station in Tipperary, of all places, and I was in the news room. The girl doing the news and sport said ‘You’re an Arsenal fan, right? Get a load of this’. And I did and it was great.
Bam, Bergkamp out of nowhere. Now that was a signing. And a most un-Arsenal like signing too. Not long beforehand we’d been asked to get excited about Hartson, Kiwomya and Helder. That was the level we were at. And all of a sudden we had Dennis Bergkamp. Amazing. Much as I love the club I did wonder if he’d had a stroke or something but it all worked out for the best.
These days though, I don’t know how that player is who could make me fall off my chair and make me wonder if part of his brain had stopped working. I look at the players we’re linked to now and I think they’re reflective of the state of our squad, that in times past we wouldn’t have even considered players like them. And then I remember Malz, Diawara, Danilevicius, and the countless others who arrived and never even came close to making it.
The difference then, of course, was that these guys were fillers, squad fodder to add some depth to a team that was ultra-competitive and chock full of quality. Beyond the first 14-15 there might well have been a gap but I think that exists at every club. United won the league this season using players many Arsenal fans would scoff at. O’Shea, Fletcher etc, but they do their job and do it effectively.
Now, we’re looking for players who are going to come in and do a job in our first team straight away. It’s not the squad that needs to be improved, it’s the first team. And those kind of signings are different. You can sign a young player and integrate him into a team slowly if you’ve got a team that can support that. At the moment we don’t. We have to add experience and/or quality to address some of the issues we have, but again I look at the players and I don’t see guys who have gone the distance.
Cahill and Samba may well be just what we need but neither of them know the pressure of going into the final third of the season when the expectation is to win the league. They know pressure, that is to avoid relegation, and while I’m sure that’s character forming it’s different. All you have to do is just enough to survive. At the other end of the table you have to win game after game after game. Maybe a move would liberate them, free them from the shackles of the dogfight and so on, but isn’t it a gamble in itself?
On the other hand, who are the players who have been there and done that and who are available to Arsenal this summer? If you can name them are they realistic targets for us? Remember, we don’t have guaranteed Champions League football yet. Are ‘big’ players going to move to us until that happens? Maybe they will but then maybe we’re not interested in or trying for ‘big’ players.
And that’s fine with me. I’m not advocating superstars, just trying to make sense of what’s going to be an incredibly busy transfer window for Arsenal. I’m not writing off any possible additions without seeing them play for us, just asking questions.
To those who are impatient, it’s only June 22nd, the transfer window is open for another 9 weeks. Yes, it would be nice to get everything done and dusted early but the reality of industries that make deals in the millions is that these deals are complicated. Two clubs (sometimes more depending on where a player is coming from), a player, agent or agents looking for a slice, agent or agents using the interest of one club to hawk a player to others, image rights, bonuses, sell-on clauses etc etc, all these things take time.
From everything I hear we’re working hard behind the scenes, there’s still the July 1st thing going on (many player contracts run until June 30th and often club accounting years end on June 30th so that has an impact on sales/purchases too), and there’s still plenty of time for us to get things done.
There’s nothing makes a football fan as impatient as transfers. The idea that it takes Arsenal longer than anyone to do transfer deals is a bit of a myth, I think. Situations like Nasri and Arshavin were hugely complicated, for all kinds of reasons, and don’t necessarily reflect things in general. There was no such delay signing Eduardo, for example, a classic under the radar purchase if there ever was one.
And to me it’s like those who feel there’s a media/refereeing conspiracy against Arsenal. We’re so wrapped up in our red and white bubble that we ignore the fact that fans of almost every other team feel the same. Not that there’s a conspiracy against Arsenal but against their own team. Referees, Sky and Alan Hansen are conspiring against every team in the league, it seems. And other clubs go through the same transfer traumas as we do, both in terms of players coming in and players going out. We are not unique or special.
I seem to have rambled on a bit here, but my point is this, some patience is required. I mean, you can use many exclamation marks to signify your distress that ‘we dunt sign fkn gevino yet, wtf!!!!!!!!!!!’ but you’ll just give yourself an ulcer. And then ulcer will burst and ulcer jizz will eat away at your insides to leave you looking like Lee Hendrie. Do you want to look like Lee Hendrie?
I didn’t think so. Till tomorrow.
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