So, off into the summer we go after a day of relative peace and enjoyment across Goonerdom.
There was much to bask in, those who belittle celebrations of where we finished miss the entire point of being a fan. When the papers write you off, when opposition managers do likewise … so prematurely too, and when the same manager has a pop at your goalkeeper for speaking what turned out to be the truth, there’s a lot of fun in gloating.
It doesn’t mean we’ve lost sight of the bigger picture or lack perspective about the season in general, but it’s as part and parcel of the game as goals and cards and tackles and fixture congestion and certain players celebrating in games they didn’t even play in. If you could find no enjoyment from the outcome of the final day (distinct from the day and the events as they were unfolding), then you might need to think again about why you follow football.
In the wake of that finish came a statement from Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis, who made it clear the club have greater ambitions than that and have plans to make things better this summer. He said:
It is important to reiterate that for everyone at the Club, qualification for the Champions League is not our ultimate ambition. Our majority owner Mr Kroenke has made it clear that while it’s an achievement to make the Champions League our ultimate objective is to win the major trophies. We all share that clear ambition and will be driving the Club forward to achieve it. Arsène and I have already been planning what we need to do to strengthen so we are better placed next season.
In terms of what he said, I don’t know that anyone could argue with the sentiment, but there’s certainly a credibility issue here. I know that gauging reaction to a piece online doesn’t provide you a definitive view of how fans think, but many people simply don’t believe him. The fact that below the statement came a link to renew gold level season tickets provided perfect fodder for those who think that this is all just cynically timed talk to get people to renew before we sell everyone and replace them with cheap, injured imports from Ligue 3 (is there a Ligue 3?).
While I’m convinced that this summer will see a change in how we spend and the quality of players we target, I can understand the other point of view also. Once bitten, and all that. We’ve heard the talk many times, but until people see Arsene and Ivan put the money where their mouth are they will remain skeptical. Actions speaking louder than words and all that.
I think the changes in our financial situation, along with the ever-increasing pressure for the club to create a team which can, at the very least, challenge for the title, will see us do more in the transfer market this summer than we have in any year under Arsene Wenger. We already have money to spend, the coffers are boosted by new commercial income which provides stability and increases spending power, plus we know we’ve got another year of Champions League income too, so there really are no excuses not to improve the team.
All three of the teams above us are about to change their managers, we’re now in a stronger position than we’ve ever been since the move to the new stadium, and while I’ve understood some of the caution of recent years, there comes a time when you have to speculate to accumulate. I don’t mean going out and just spending money for the sake of it, but using this financial power to purchase wisely and properly.
I don’t think you’ll ever stop Arsene Wenger trying to unearth the hidden gems, but you can take a gamble or two when you’ve brought in established quality. I’ve got no problem whatsoever with a free Yaya Sanogo as long as we draft in somebody with experience to immediately improve the team. Already we’ve seen names like Lewandowski and Higuain bandied about. Yes, please. This is the calibre of player we should be looking at in the first instance, and there’s no harm adding some depth to the squad with a Sanogo-esque deal once that’s done.
Maybe it’s just me and my glass half-full ways, but I think there’s a real chance for Arsenal to kick on to another level next season. That’s part of why finishing 4th was such a celebration because it makes it easier for us to do it. You have to be blind not to see the potential. Champions League football is a big draw for the kind of players we, hopefully, want to bring in, and although what we needed to wouldn’t have changed with a 5th place finish, it would have been so much more difficult to achieve.
We’ve come through some years of pain and austerity since the move to the Emirates, but the club have been very open in recent times about how they can do things differently now. The money is there, there’s some medium to long-term assurance about off-pitch income and how that can increase, we’ve maintained our place at Europe’s top table, and there is, in my opinion, the core of a good squad there.
I fully understand those who have doubts, but I really believe that with the proper additions, I don’t see any reason why we can’t fight properly for the title next season. And isn’t that what everyone has wanted all along? The trophy-less years are a frustration but the bigger issue for me is our lack of competitiveness and the inability to go the distance in a season. We now have what it takes to address that issue.
It’s easy to talk about how ambitious you are, it’s another thing entirely to show it. We’ve worked so hard to get to this point, it would be almost criminal not to take advantage of it. The money’s there, go spend it and spend it properly.