Sunday, December 10, 2023

One out, sagas continue, spinal trap

Tim Stillman column - Arseblog

Greetings friends. You find me reinvigorated this week, having spent much of the last week on a remote, sun kissed Channel Island, watching the sun set over the English Channel from cliff tops and supping upon beer that costs £2 a pint. But most crucially, for four whole days I had no access to my phone, the internet, newspapers or television.

This meant I was blissfully cut adrift from the inane chattering of the ITKs, the doom and gloom emanating from the “well connected”, no “sources suggest” or “Sky Sports News understands” caterwauling. That my young droogs, was fecking paradise.

It was a meditative form of vacation that I would recommend to all Gooners. I feel like a character from a Kerouac novel. I’ve broken on through to the other side! And whilst I was picking my way through these walls of cosmoses, Gael Clichy slipped through the cat flap to seek pastures new. The first thing to say is that Clichy deserves immense credit for his contribution to the club for the last eight years. He’s been a consistent first choice for the majority of that time and served the club with humility and dignity throughout.

Remember he took the first choice left back berth under the uncomfortable soda light of the Cashley saga; eyes were fixed on his firmly. He met that challenge with his consistency and also by adopting the sort of manners Cole never could. He realised that the less said the better; proving Sophocles’ beautifully worded adage that “The wise man speaks when he has something to say; the fool speaks when he has to say something.”

That said, I think we will fight harder battles with regards to players eyeing the exit door this summer. There is a consensus that Clichy, whilst not the terrible full back revisionist Gooners are now painting him to be, hasn’t progressed in the last three years. A move was probably in the best interests of all parties. I recall a dawdling error he made at City in 2008 to allow our opponents a goal. I remember being struck by what a rarity a Clichy error was at the time.

Gael Clichy goal

They have become slightly more commonplace since. Again, not as frequent as some are suggesting, but it still represented a slip from the high standards he set himself in the embryonic stages of his Arsenal career. Under a more defensive coach in Mancini, I think he’ll flourish. How Arsenal react to his departure however, is going to be a key indicator of our faith in the manager. Clichy was an integral part of the side for a long time; he needs to be replaced and improved upon. A side that has just finished 4th and trophyless cannot afford any more make do and mend replacements.

If we store an uneven amount of faith in the fitness and experience of Kieran Gibbs or Armand Traore, the very best we can possibly hope for next season is to have stood still in that area of the pitch. The manager needs to do his utmost to improve that slot; not the bare minimum and hope it pays off. In the past we have gambled on Almunia making it as our number 1; we gambled on Rosicky and Vermaelen coming back to fitness on schedule; we gambled on Denilson being the heir apparent to Gilberto and Flamini. Any new addition of course represents a risk too; but if he’s been well scouted (and the sale of Clichy has been on the cards for over a year) and has quality and experience, the odds on that punt are shorter.

The future of Samir Nasri remains unresolved and, in truth, I’m at about half past give a shit whether he signs or not. I just plead that whatever is decided, it happens quickly. I couldn’t be arsed with the whole circus back in May, but now it’s come to an all too familiar stage where the whims of a single player are dominating our preparations for a season ahead. It really is time for him to shit or get off the toilet seat now.

Sign up, or else fuck off and don’t let the door hit you on the arse on the way out. It’s all gravy to me at this stage. I know the deal, I know players aren’t wedded to clubs; nor do I expect them to be. I know they’re entitled to seek the best deal they can, but once pre season preparations have begun and the focus is on the team; one individual cannot be allowed to burgle the focus from that.

What’s important for the future of this team is to keep the spine together. Szczesny, Vermaelen, Wilshere, Fabregas, van Persie. That’s a backbone that can challenge for a title and, although not systematically part of our spine, I’d include Bacary Sagna in that. The rest of the window dressing, I can take or leave to be honest with you. Nasri is a good player with the raw materials to be an excellent player. He’s shown flashes  of what he’s capable of, but I’m in full agreement with blogger that he wouldn’t be an insurmountable loss at this juncture.

I’m wary that most supporters allow their judgement of a player to be clouded when they begin shuffling through the exit door. I’m convinced I’m not doing that with regards to my estimation of Nasri. We all become enraptured in those abortive stages of loss; anger, denial, acceptance, blah, blah, blah. But Nasri hasn’t hit Robert Pires vintage by a long chalk, I see him more at a tipping point akin to the grade Hleb and Adebayor had reached when they decided their futures lay elsewhere. He may well go on to be a better player if he does decide to move, but he won’t be the sort of crushing chasm that his wage demands suggest he thinks he will be.

The never ending story that is the Fabregas saga appears to have cooled down; if not quietened down. (Largely because those pious arses in Catalonia are incapable of hush). I’m just not convinced Barcelona will make an acceptable offer this year because their need for him isn’t crucial yet. Arsenal know that, so long as Barcelona aren’t willing to fish down the sides of their sofa cushions, Fabregas will stay, put in 100% and produce the freakish consistency that has made him worthy of the sort of price we’re demanding.

O.K. That’s it from me this week. I’m off to psychoanalyse the pre season training pictures on and spread bullshit analogous diagnoses on them on twitter. Like “OMG, Miyachi is wearing Number 93 on his shorts, that means he must be on £93k a week! Wtf!” You laugh, but you believed that utterly bullshit rumour about Bendtner’s squad number didn’t you? Hmmm. LD.

Follow me on Twitter @LittleDutchVA

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