As you will know, this is a blog about Arsenal. Hence the name.
Obviously I have a keen interest in all things Arsenal. I want the the club to do well, to win things, to compete and to sign good players. When we sign those players, I will welcome them (unless they’re one of these signings in which case I’ll hedge my bets and make a ‘this tastes yukky’ face whilst suggesting we should wait and see how they do), and players we don’t sign don’t interest me in the slightest.
Such is the way of the summer that there are ‘must sign’ players that people get fixated on then get utterly depressed/outraged/psychotic when we don’t. Recent examples might include a gigantic ex-Blackburn centre-half who is so perfectly what we need and such a good player that he’s now in the Russian Premier League, alongside such greats as Aidan McGeady. You couldn’t open a newspaper without somebody saying Chris Samba is exactly what Arsenal needed when in fact Chris Samba was just a very, very tall man who had some reasonable games for a team which flirted with relegation every season.
Perhaps what we exactly needed was Laurent Koscielny but then that’s not something people write about too much, only the perfect players that we let slip by. Like Scott Dann. Or Joe Cole. Or the countless others to whom maximum qualities and skills are applied as long as there’s some vague rumour linking them with us. Not going for these players shows lack of ambition. Or, to put it another way, it shows common sense because the people that bemoan our lack of ambition also want us to sign Blackburn players. That confuses me, you know.
That’s not to say we can’t show a bit more in the transfer market, and I think most people would like to see that this summer. Lukas Podolski is a good start but it’s still not even the end of May and the knicker wetting has started over the fact that Eden Hazard is joining Chelsea. Here’s the way I look at this:
1 – Hazard is a good player all right and would improve us
2 – He’s about to join Chelsea, therefore he’s a dick and I don’t care about him
3 – You can’t accuse Arsenal of a lack of ambition or a lack of stature because we didn’t sign him because you’d have to apply the exact same criticism to Man City and Man Utd who were both after him. And remember, this is a player who said he’d join Sp*rs – so clearly the stature of the club he’d join isn’t a big deal to him.
4 – You can accuse Arsenal of a lack of resources, which is spot on. We can’t afford to pay a £32m transfer fee, we can’t afford to pay wages of £200,000 a week (let’s say) for 4 years, nor can we afford to pay his agent a reputed £6m fee, bringing the total outlay over the course of his contract to £80m. And that’s making the assumption that he’ll hang around for that long because anyone who didn’t get a whiff of the Na$ri, the footballing ultra-tart, from the way he’s behaved since this move was announced is deluding themselves.
So to conclude:
5 – He’s about to join Chelsea, therefore he’s a dick and I don’t care about him
Now, as a small boy who prayed for us to sign Charlie Nicholas from Celtic, with Liverpool, Man United and others sniffing around him, I understand the transfer saga and what it means when there’s a player you really want. But just because we can’t afford to buy Eden Hazard doesn’t mean we can’t sign good players this summer and doesn’t mean we can’t improve our squad.
We have to be smarter and more efficient and show that there is another way of building a winning team without just throwing around as much money as it takes because money is no object to you. And if you don’t look at this particular transfer circus – and it has been a circus – and find the whole thing slightly distasteful then I don’t know what it would take.
For me it’s not a reason for us to follow that path, or to be reliant on the generosity/hubris of one man (or even two men) to make our football team competitive. It’s a challenge for us to work better as a club, from top to bottom, and to realise that although the playing field is becoming increasingly less level (can you imagine a world a few years ago when Man Utd were in danger of being left behind financially?) we can definitely improve what we do.
Even the staunchest critic would surely accept that adding two or three good quality players to this squad would make us better. Increase our defensive efficiency, cut out some of the mistakes, be a more cohesive unit – which is something the good quality players would help us do – and we’d be better team. And the one thing I keep coming back to is using all of our resources to their maximum so we can compete.
That means having a squad of players who can all contribute something. Perhaps all is a pipe dream, but more. Maybe that’s what we need to focus on. Last season there were seven, eight, nine players who contributed nothing much to what we were trying to do. With 25 man squad rules in place that’s far too much. There’ll always be ‘deadwood’ (the latest buzzword) at any club, it’s not just an Arsenal malaise. It’s the nature of the game. But there’s no doubt we can do better.
When deals like Hazard to Chelsea go through I understand why people are frustrated. Some of it is hype, of course, and I don’t believe there are as many Ligue 1 fans out there who watch him week in, week out as there appear to be. But Hazard is not an Arsenal player and therefore is now completely uninteresting to me until such time as we play against him.
His transfer, this £80m deal, does interest me because of what it means for Arsenal. As FFP approaches I wonder how this will impact on Chelsea (Swiss Ramble’s February assesssment of their finances suggested they were on the right track but this kind of outlay must surely have make a dent in that), but most of all I wonder how we’re going to react.
This is a summer in which we’ve got to prove – for more reasons that just the future of our captain – that we’re serious about building a team to compete for the league title and the Champions League. Those trophies have to be our aim and signings like the one above increase the pressure on the owner, the manager and the board to produce that kind of a team. And maybe that’s not a bad thing in itself.
I don’t need to see us spend £32m on a single player – anyone hoping we do will be waiting a long time – but I want to see us do the right kind of business and to make Arsenal a better team. Which is something we can do with what we have available to us.