So we lost the Emirates Cup. On a scale of tragic events to have befallen this great club of ours, it’s right up there with the worst of them. Losing cup finals to lower league opposition, blowing league titles, the lot. Oh, wait. No, it’s not.
You would have thought it yesterday though when the final whistle went. There were boos, at a pre-season friendly, in a game in which Thierry Henry had returned home. Personally, I don’t see any justification for it. The game, the whole tournament in fact, is a training exercise. That it’s covered on the telly and it’s dressed up all nice like, well, maybe that gives it a veneer of importance, but it’s not. It’s about fitness, some match sharpness and putting into practice things which have been worked on over the summer.
That’s not to say those things aren’t worth talking about or discussing/debating, of course they are, was it so bad that it merited that kind of outburst at the final whistle? I’m surprised enough people were awake such was the soporific nature of the game. What the reaction at the final whistle told us is that there is simply no wiggle room for the manager, or the board, at the moment. If this is the reaction to a 1-1 draw in a friendly, what on earth is it going to be like when we drop our first league points? I shudder to think.
The frustration that we haven’t yet been ‘very active’ in the transfer market, as Arsene said we would be, is growing. The frustration is borne out of a familiar fear. We hear things in early summer about how we’re going to do improve and strengthen but as the transfer window draws nearer and nearer to its close we find ourselves desperately hoping that we can find that ‘one player of quality’ Arsene is now talking about. Thus far no defensive reinforcements have been made bar the promising but inexperienced Carl Jenkinson, despite our obvious need.
I didn’t think defence was really the issue yesterday though. We had most of the ball but created little. Our lack of attacking cutting edge meant that we were just one goal away from being hauled back and so it turned out. Arsenal, with lots of the ball, not making it count and getting caught out by one moment of carelessness in defence. All too familiar really and it’s a road well traveled by this Arsenal side.
The club can ease these frustrations easily enough. Investment in the squad would demonstrate ambition, willingness to change that which isn’t working, and that we can take Arsene and Ivan at their word. We know what Wenger said about being active, and just last month Ivan Gazidis assured us there was still business to be done:
We still will be active in this window. We haven’t finished our business at all. We’re just not conducting it publicly; we’re working hard privately. We understand where the weaknesses have been. Financially we’re in a strong position, we have resources to spend.
And I guess we have to accept that and hope that they can deliver on what they’re promising. Because here we are on August 1st, the new season now just 12 days away, and if the Emirates Cup has told us anything it’s that the squad can be, and should be, improved. If we go into the first few games of the season without a new centre-half and a defensive error costs us the game then I can’t even imagine what the reaction would be like. Poisonous as it is now, it’d be ten times worse then.
And the thing is, if we don’t invest and that lack of investment costs us points or, even worse, a place in the Champions League group stages, it could make the manager’s position almost untenable. From some quarters there’s little or no patience for him as it stands, it would test the patience of many more if we failed to bring in recruitments and results suffered because of it. Yet surely they know that? Surely, the manager and the board are aware of the atmosphere but, more importantly than that, they must be aware of the needs of the team. Gazidis said so above, so it’d really, really surprise me if they didn’t do something about it, and soon.
Jack Wilshere, injured slightly yesterday, wants them to spend some money too. He’s quoted in the Mail:
We are not a spending club but we still managed to stay up there with the top teams. And we have to win things this year. Maybe if we had a few more faces we could really push on. If we get a few more players we can really challenge for the title.
It’s a big week now for Arsene. With just one pre-season game left – this coming Saturday against Benfica in Portugal – there’s little time to integrate any new signings in anything other than competitive fixtures. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, per se, but I think the sooner you bring in new players, the better. Especially if there are going to be one or two from abroad, give them time to find their feet in a new country, a new club, a new language etc.
The Cesc situation has to be sorted this week once and for all. If the latest from Barcelona is true, that they want to pay Cesc less and use that money to pay Arsenal (essentially asking a player to fund his own transfer), it’s ludicrous and typical of the small-time way they’ve acted all summer. Unfortunately, I think their relentless cuntery might work and that we end up doing a deal for less than Cesc is worth simply so everyone can move on. Either way though, we can’t let it drag on until August 31st.
If there is genuine interest in Mata, Jagielka and others, let’s get it done. As I’ve always said signings shouldn’t be made simply to placate fans, regardless of how loudly they might jeer, but to improve a team which is in serious need of improvement (especially with the potential loss of its best player and captain).
It’s never nice to hear boos, it’s saddening that we’re in a position where boos ring out at the end of a friendly game, but we are where we are and the only people who can fix it are Arsene and the board. So far, I think the way we’ve managed the summer has been unconvincing. Let’s hope the new month brings the improvements we need.