yesterday’s piece got quite a reaction. I’m glad the majority of you took it in the spirit that it was meant. A deadly serious, well thought out strategy for the future of this football club. Those of you who thought I was taking the ever-loving piss? Well, you’ll suffer for your lack of foresight and vision in the future, oh yes.
Today sees Arsene host his final press conference of the season. The way things have gone he’s probably quite happy about that. His relationship with the press has become a bit more tetchy in recent times. In one way I understand it. If you had to put with that annoying Scottish bloke from Sky, even once a week, it would certainly be frustrating and put you off your duties. On the other, there’s a sense that journalistic access has been restricted – there were games this season before which no press conference was held – and that, I think, has been reflected in some of the coverage he’s received.
Which creates a bit of a vicious circle, I suppose. Arsene more reluctant to speak to some journalists who have stuck the knife in a bit. Some journalists have stuck the knife in a bit because they’re unhappy at the way they’ve been treated by the club. It’s all a bit unhappy really but hopefully, at a time when the club need all the good PR they can get, common sense will prevail and a clean slate will be in place for next season.
I imagine today’s agenda will hardly be sunshine and lollipops though. The loss against Aston Villa, the reaction of the crowd at full-time and half-time, the pitiful ‘lap of awkwardness’, the unrest that clearly exists at the club, the broken down relationships, the futures of certain players, transfer targets (‘when we sign a player I will tell you’, just getting that one in early) and more will crop up and it’ll be interesting to see how Arsene reacts.
At this point nobody wants to hear how ‘overall we had a good season because nobody expected us to even be in the top 10 let alone the top 4’. Nobody wants to hear that this is a young team which will get better. They were a young team and, if we finish fourth this season won’t have got better at all. Last season we finished with 75 points, the most we can attain this season is 70. Under no circumstances can we claim any kind of progression.
I would like to hear an acknowledgement that we fell short, that we have problems defensively and with our mentality and that the manager and his staff will be doing everything in their power to fix them during the summer months. I would like to hear an honest appraisal of our season from the manager in the context of where we were just 7 or 8 league games ago, not using some straw man regarding other people’s expectations in August 2010. I would like to hear him say that the squad will be strengthened, using all the resources available to him, to ensure that next season is better than this one.
I don’t expect to hear that, but I’d like to. In his column today John Cross suggests that the manager’s methods won’t change much this summer, particularly in the transfer market. Those expecting superstar signings will be disappointed. To me that’s not really an issue, superstars aren’t the be-all and end-all. You can sign quality players without them being world stars. Names like Cahill, Parker and Samba are thrown around daily, the problem being that folk get so hung up on signing them that they’re disappointed if another name comes in. Or doesn’t come in, more to the point.
I know many will look at the article as speculative, which it is in a way, but would it surprise anyone if that were the case? If Arsene wanted ‘one more year’ to prove he can do it his way? It seems as likely as anything else. That said, from everything I’m hearing this could very well be the busiest summer for an age in terms of our transfer business. There is a long list of players available, I can’t remember a summer where the futures of so many were in the balance. It’s almost easier to go through the squad and pick out the ones who definitely won’t be going anywhere.
It’s what he does when it comes to adding to the squad that’s the real issue. If there’s a focus on youth and inexperience again then it’ll feel like we’re waking up at 6.00am with I Got You Babe playing. On the other hand, Arsene plays his transfer cards very close to his chest, even inside the club the number of people who know our real targets is very small indeed, so I won’t make any judgements until we see the kind of business he does. Anyway, that’s all to come this summer so I’m not going to get my knickers in a twist just yet.
In other news Robin van Persie is set to be offered a new 5 year deal by the club. His current deal doesn’t expire until 2013 so there’s still plenty of time, but I imagine they want to act quickly to ensure a situation like the Nasri one does not occur. His form this season has been fantastic and one can only hope that the injury problems, and the bad luck he had in picking up so many knocks, are behind him. When he’s fit and well he’s shown just what a great striker he is.
As for his comments on the season and where we’ve gone wrong, I think we’ve been over that plenty of times already. I’d rather write a 2000 word profile on Moo-Moo Toure than address it again. At least at the moment.
Alex Song talks to the BBC and says the buck stops with the players and not the manager. I’ll let you make your own minds on that one, to be honest, but it’s very rare at any football club. Usually what happens is that the manager goes and the new one is asked to do better with the players than the old one (allowing for a purchase or two to help him kick things off). If what we’re hearing is right, then this summer Arsene is being allowed do the very opposite, ship out the perennial underachievers and put things right. We do like to do things our own way, don’t we?
Bonus reading for you this morning: Tim Stillman’s new column – The people spoke on Sunday, while over on the real ANR Leopold takes a look at the squad from a hooch related point of view and tells you his plans for the summer – Arsenal are stuck in Death Valley.
Right, that’s about that. The sun in shining, have yourselves a good Thursday, back tomorrow with the penultimate Arsecast of the season.