You know, no matter how disheartening the season just gone has been, pre-season generally provides a measure of confidence. A page has been turned over like some kind of new leaf, and you go into the new one full of hope and optimisim.
It’s hard to feel that yet this summer, I have to say. I know that much of it has to do with the blanket coverage, the Twittering, the non-stop chatter about Arsenal when we might be best served stepping away for a little while and not analysing the ever-loving shite out of every single utterance made by every single person connected with the club.
Yet this is the world we live in now, like it or not, and it’s a two-way street. The club and the media feed us info which we gobble up via their various channels. Like the gluttonous little plumper in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory we’re never full and maybe one day we’ll fall into the chocolate lake and get whooshed away in a tube while little orange men (mini Deins? Deinpa-loompas?) sing and dance in a sinister way on the candy covered shore.
We examine these nuggets of information to see if we can extropolate and make ‘educated’ guesses about what the club, so famously secretive in the transfer market, might do to improve the squad. A squad I think most of us accept needs some augmentation, and some improvement, if it wants to seriously challenge for honours.
So when you hear Arsene Wenger come out and say the team is not weak defensively it is a little hard to take. Speaking at a press conference in China yesterday, the manager spoke about that side of our game, saying:
I don’t think we are weak defensively but we are an offensive team. Sometimes that exposes our defenders a bit more than other teams.
In open play, we were one of the better defences but we conceded too many goals on set-pieces and that is where we want to improve this season.
I get the point about conceding from open play, but open play and set pieces are all part of the same thing. You can’t say you’re a good driver but ‘just not that great at the whole steering bit’.
The fact is Arsenal are weak defensively. We have been for some time and, in my humble blogging opinion, unless we actively address this issue then we will continue to struggle to win things. I don’t think it’s just down to personnel either, we have tall players, but perhaps the tallest centre-half we have is the weakest when it comes to set pieces. Djourou is often the man who the opposition get the wrong side of.
That’s not to say I don’t want defensive additions, I do, but they’ve got to be part of an overall solution, which involves training, being more organised etc etc. Perhaps the return of Thomas Vermaelen will help to a certain extent but the fact that we’re an offensive team should have no bearing on whether or not we can defend corners. Especially as the manager says it’s the easiest thing in football to sort out.
It’s all gone very quiet on the defender front, even the press have gotten fed up saying the words ‘Samba’ and ‘Cahill’ over and over again. For me the former isn’t the answer and with Bolton looking for £17m for Cahill there’s just no way Wenger will spend that on a player in the final year of his contract (although he will eschew £20m+ for Nasri – and I do accept that situation is much more complicated than that).
I am still hopeful that we will add a central defender to the squad in the coming weeks – from what I can gather that is on the cards – but I have no idea who it might be. However, not doing so would be a serious error of judgement from the manager and would leave him absolutely no wiggle room if the same mistakes are repeated. Not that he should sign someone so he can say ‘well, at least I tried!’, he should sign someone to make us better.
He then went on to talk about last season and it all seemed a bit familiar:
What we did last year, considering the age of the squad and the problems we had with injuries, was a credit to the team. We are a young team and we can only be better. It demands the strength of character that the champions have. That’s what we want to show.
Reference youth of team? Check. Reference injuries? Check. Strength of character, check. Smash head off wall because fed up of hearing this spin over and over again? Check.
I know he’s at a press conference, I know he’s not going to go full Doombot Mk II©®, but to listen to it’s as enjoyable as when you’re at a party and some cunt takes out an acoustic guitar and plays some terrible fucking song and everyone goes quiet and looks as their shoes wishing the guitary bastard would shut up and die.
To say we’re ‘perfectly good enough’ to win the title when clearly we are not … I just don’t know what to say about that. Or I don’t know how to say what I want to say about that whilst retaining a modicum of sensibility.
As I said last week I will judge Arsene by what he does and not by what he says, even if what he says is quite trying at times. All the same, as he talks about last season being his toughest ever, he seems ignorant of the effect that his words have. We’ve been hearing about the youth of the team and how it can only get better for too long. They’re certainly getting better at making a complete cunt of things, as last season showed.
I know, I know, actions, not words, but so far Arsene has spoken more than he’s … erm … actioned and it would be nice for the balance to shift a bit, with the season growing ever closer. And is it just me who thinks Scooby Doo when he talks about injuries?
“We woulda won that league if it weren’t for you meddling kids injuries”
Just me then. Oh well. Anyway, as we hurtle down the road of maddening repetition, let’s finish with some more positive reading.
Matt Scott in The Guardian reckons Barcelona simply can’t afford Cesc (although I think we all know that), Arsenal are currently the 7th richest sports ‘franchise’ in the world – according to Forbes, Gervinho will be ‘exciting‘ and the Mail links us to Newcastle’s Jose Enrique who would replace Gael Clichy. I know, the same Mail who said Nasri had already signed for Man City and the same Mail who said United had signed Snjeijder. Yeah, that Mail.
Anyway, Enrique would just kill Armand Traore. [Insert your own joke here using the word 'literally'].
Finally, Patrick Vieira retired yesterday – what a player he was when he wasn’t tarting himself to Madrid and getting sent off all the time (I kid, I kid). Here’s a good piece by that blogslut Stillman on Vital Arsenal.
Till tomorrow, my always injured young friends.