Why having to read between Arsene’s lines is increasingly frustrating + Arsecast 261
Morning all, welcome to Friday.
So, Arsene has been talking about transfers. And as time goes by, listening to Arsene talk about transfers is steadily becoming one of the most infuriating things about life as an Arsenal fan. One day we’re going to be active, the next we’ll wait and see. One day we’re looking everywhere, the next it all depends on a bloke signing a new deal – the same bloke who has steadfastly refused to sign the new deal on offer for 18 months now.
Jan 1st: I will be active [in the January window] yes. We are looking everywhere. We are open-minded. We want to strengthen the squad everywhere.
Jan 3rd: First of all, what I have said is that we have to make sure the players who are here stay here. After that we look outside, so let’s try and finalise the deal with Theo Walcott and after if we need something else we will look outside.
Er, first of all he said that he’d be active, and busy, looking to strengthen all areas of the squad. Then he says it all depends on what Theo Walcott does. How does that impact our need for something in midfield, for example? And what will Theo Walcott signing, or not signing, do to our defence if Djourou and Squillaci leave? And of course there’s the whole thing about ‘Oh, you should never pay attention to what Arsene says about transfers’, something I’ve often thought myself, but why shouldn’t we?
Nobody’s asking him to name names, to spill out his plans, to play out these deals in public, but if he says one day he’s going to be busy – something which most folk are more than agreeable with – and then pretty much reverses his position a couple of days later, why shouldn’t people become perplexed and frustrated. Which one does he actually mean? Does he actually mean any of it? It’s difficult to understand, more than anything else, and while I fully accept he often says one thing and does another, more often he says something we don’t particularly want to hear then does that.
Then he got to talking about players and the expectation of fans about new arrivals:
It’s very difficult because the level of expectation is very high. People want to see Lionel Messi. They don’t want to see a promising guy.
First of all the name gives hope. When a guy has no name people are already sceptical. So it’s much more difficult for us.
Personally speaking, I couldn’t give a fish’s tit if the player we sign is a big name or not, once he’s a good player. I’d never really heard of Bacary Sagna when we brought him in, I very much like Bacary Sagna. Same with Eduardo. But I’d heard of Francis Jeffers and Richard Wright, I’d heard of Arshavin, heard of Chamakh, Sylvester, Squillaci and plenty of others.
The transfer market is complicated, no question. It’s not like buying a car where you pretty much get what you pay for. The more you spend, the better your ride. It’s not the case with footballers. It’s not an exact science. Ask Liverpool fans who had heard the names of Downing (£20m), Carroll (£35m), Henderson (£20m) and so on. They also knew the name of Luis Suarez (£23m), so sometimes you get value for your money, others you don’t. But for me, unless you’re shopping at the very, very top of the market, and even then it’s a risk, there’s no guarantee that name and/or reputation will get you what you pay for.
I just want Arsenal to sign good players. I don’t really care how much they cost, where they come from, who they’ve played for, whether they’re an international, or if I’ve heard of them or not. Once they improve the squad and the team then I’m fine with that. It’s why when Arsene says he’s only looking for top quality players, or ones better than what we have, it’s like nails on a blackboard. You can’t have your squad littered with guys like Squillaci (never plays), Arshavin (wasted his career), Chamakh (hapless), Park (hopeless), Gervinho (whoever scouted him should be fired) and even Diaby (fine player but like a car whose back left wheel falls off every 50 miles) and then say you can’t find anyone to improve it.
But if you can’t find anyone perhaps that’s down to your scouts, maybe that’s somewhere we need to look because we’re struggling to find the bargains and the hidden gems we did before. Arsene touches on that by admitting the competitive edge he had in France is now gone, not just because other clubs have the knowledge, but because the quality of player has shifted from there to other countries, like Spain and Germany. And I get that, but, if you look at the players other clubs have brought from France – I’m thinking Newcastle in particular – compared to some we’ve brought in recently and it shows that there’s still quality there if you know where to look. Which suggests we’re looking in the wrong places.
I don’t hear any Arsenal fan looking for a Messi, and I know the manager might have been using an extreme example which isn’t a bad one really. Look at the recent signings who have been a relative success. Arteta, Podolski, Mertesacker, Cazorla, Giroud – all well known, all experienced, all above 24/25, ready to slot in and play straight away. Would you prefer a signing like that as opposed to a punt on an unknown 21 year old? Probably. If we’d paid £2m for Michu in the summer people would certainly have asked questions about the player and the ‘level of ambition’, but it comes back to the point I made earlier: will that player produce on a consistent basis and make the team and squad better. If he does, nobody cares how much he costs or what wages he’s on.
Every club has wastage, every club has players who don’t play as much as they should for one reason or another, and maybe it’s just the fact I’m so focused on us, but only Arsenal seems to be stuck with players they no longer want but simply cannot get rid of. Denilson, Bendtner, Squillaci, Park, Chamakh, Djourou, Arshavin, Fabianski. And whatever you think about those players, if by magic we got rid of them all tomorrow, our squad would be so weak in terms of numbers and options it’d be genuinely scary.
So this is why people get fed up with the flip-flopping, the changing of position. ‘Arsene’s poker face’ drives people gaga. I’d just like to see some better players come in and the ones who haven’t performed and don’t merit a place in this squad go somewhere else. If he signs all those players for £3.50 from the Loch Ness goddam Monster I genuinely don’t care once they do what they’re supposed to do. Play well for Arsenal, give 100% in every game, and not become so corpulent and comfortable that not playing football isn’t really a problem. But maybe that’s just me.
Anyway, time for this week’s Arsecast and I’m joined by Philippe Auclair to discuss recent form, transfer window, the team’s contradictory displays and more.
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Right then, news throughout the day on Arseblog News, more here tomorrow. Until then.