Monday, January 24, 2022

Wenger signs new deal + Liverpool preview

Morning all. The main news this morning is that Arsene Wenger signed a new deal with the club which extends his current contract by three years, taking his deal to 2014.

The stability and continuity is welcome but the news was not met with the same glee as previous announcements. Arsene gets the crux of it himself:

In the last four, five years we have gone for a young team, to bring them up, while we built the new stadium and I believe we have managed quite well to stay in the top four. But we need to deliver trophies now.

From a personal point of view the frustrations I have with the manager aren’t necessarily tied to trophies. I know that things go in cycles, peaks and troughs and all that, and there’s no divine right to win something every year. What frustrates me is the fact that nearly every season since this decision to go with a young team we’ve been one or two players away from having a complete squad and at the end of every season we ask ‘What if?’ with regard to those players.

At the beginning of the next season we say ‘If we can just …’ and then we end up with ‘What if?’ again. We know his hands have been tied by the stadium move etc but this season we’re in a similar position going into the first game of the season. The manager acknowledges that:

Let’s still not be fooled. We are short at the back, and we need to add.

He also reminds people it’s not like going to the supermarket to pick up a loaf of bread:

For years we have no money, now we have money and we cannot find players to buy. Many teams who have good players do not want to sell. Germany for example is in a very strong financial situation. Clubs in France are well managed and don’t need to sell. In Italy you have less players who can strengthen Arsenal now. In England the transfer market is flat.

It was interesting to note that the signing of Koscielny was ‘unbelievably difficult’. Not that we should expect clubs to make life easy for us when we try to sign their players. They don’t want to lose them, something we all understand given what’s happened this summer, but you would expect a signing like Koscielny to be relatively hassle free. As I’ve said I don’t doubt we’ve been working behind the scenes – again Arsenal’s wall-of-silence when it comes to transfer dealings is both admirable but can give the impression we’re not doing anything at all – but we’ve had all summer to try and sort out the defensive issues which essentially cost us the title last season.

I believe he’s trying, it’s just hard not be nervous as the season begins and we’re one or two injuries away from a central defensive partnership of nobody and his brother. Anyway, let’s keep fingers crossed we things get done, not because we’re all greedy for signings, but because they need to be done. I’d like nothing more than to see Arsene bring us back to silverware.

Ahead of today’s game against Liverpool AW spoke about the goalkeeping position, saying:

The guy who plays on Sunday will be No 1. It is never for definite but it will be a consequence of what I have seen in pre-season.

Interestingly the article mentions Wojciech Szczesny but I think his comments about needing experience at the back point towards Almunia starting today. I hope that’s the case. All the training ground whispers this week have suggested it’ll be Fabianksi but if what he’s seen from Fabianski is enough to convince him he’s ready to be number 1 at Arsenal then I will be absolutely staggered. Unless he’s had some kind of stroke and think he’s managing Keystone Cops FC.

I wonder as well do those comments rule out a signing? Fulham have confirmed Schwarzer’s transfer request and he didn’t play yesterday because of an ‘injury’. Yet they also say no contact has been made by Arsenal, a rather important part in any transfer deal. Shay Given will be looking to get out of Manchester but as mad as Citeh are I can’t see them selling him to us.

It does seem a fairly definitive statement to make. Perhaps it’s to bolster the confidence of whoever gets the gloves today, perhaps not. Time will tell I suppose. And it was interesting to note just how many goalkeeping errors there were in yesterday’s matches. I suspect Arsene paid them all to drop clangers to make Fabianski seem more acceptable.

The team for today is really anybody’s guess. I have a sneaky feeling it will include Cesc Fabregas. Man City played Nigel de Jong yesterday and we all remember him trying to impale Xabi Alonso on his studs in the World Cup final. And he played more football than Cesc in the tournament. David Silva also played and he was part of the Spanish squad that travelled to Mexico.

To my mind, even though the preparation is not ideal, you can’t go to Anfield without your best player. Certainly not one who makes the team tick the way Cesc does. It might be a bit of a gamble but with the uncertainty at the back it would be a bigger gamble not play him, in my opinion. I’m sure he’s ready to play as well.

Beyond that what can you say about the opening fixture? You want a performance that sets a standard for the rest of the season. If you can’t go out there and bust your bollocks on the first day then there’s something wrong. Liverpool have a new manager, they’re boosted by the fact Torres and Gerrard are staying, and they’ve added a couple of decent players to their squad. It’s going to be tough today and we need to be about 503 million better than we were against Legia last weekend. Yes, it was just a friendly but it exposed the flaws we all know exist in this team. Hopefully it was a big wake-up and those things will be put right today.

I have no doubt we can score goals today. I have serious worries about our ability to keep a clean sheet. I suspect a draw might well be on the cards. I’ll be watching with the Mugsmasher. I hope to be able to turn to him afterwards and pretend to be sporting when I say ‘Hard luck old chap’. He’ll know I don’t really mean it.

The opening day nerves haven’t quite kicked in yet – I think there’s rather a touch too much Woodford Reserve still kicking around my bloodstream for that to happen – but come 4pm when the teams are lined up and the new season is about to begin I’m sure I’ll be as giddy as a kid at Christmas.

For better or worse, for richer for poorer, for Seaman for Fabianski, football is back. Arsenal are back.

COME ON YOU GOOOOOOOOONERS.

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