Whatever way you look at it, the world of Arsenal is a surreal place at the moment.
Yesterday we saw the manager sit in his pre-game press conference and tell the members of the media and press that he expected nobody to leave the club. Within a couple of hours, Barcelona’s defensive cavemen Puyol and Pique were on Twitter gloating in a not very subtle way that the Cesc deal was done. Arsenal immediately denied this and to punish Barcelona for making news public against a non-disclosure agreement, refused to send them confirmation of the deal so they could announce it officially.
As staff waited in offices at the Camp Nou, Arsenal simply left them hanging. Then, just to let Barcelona know they were still around and working in London, they announced the agreement to sign 19 year old Costa Rican striker Joel Campbell. This is the Joel Campbell who we’d been after a couple of weeks back but who failed to turn up to a meeting with Dick Law. Even the announcement that we’d agreed to sign, rather than actually signed, is unusual enough for Arsenal.
So, to recap, on the eve of the new season, Wenger says his captain isn’t going anywhere when everyone knows he is, Barcelona and Arsenal are involved in an email stand-off which, while it amuses me greatly, is really quite petty, and as the manager rules out a deal for Juan Mata and says the media are trying to set the agenda for Arsenal fans, buys another teenage forward.
I’d say you couldn’t make it up but you could easily make it up. All of our goalkeepers could be killed in a tragic crossbar collapse and the manager would solve the problem by buying Billy fucking Whizz. Strange times, they really are. And lost amongst it all is the fact we open our campaign today at Newcastle, the scene of last season’s most remarkable and distressingly Arsenal result. I have no wish to relive any of it so I’ll simply say this is a good chance to lay those ghosts to rest nice and early in the season.
As for the team we’ll play today, if everyone who should be fit is fit, I reckon it’ll be: SZCZ – Sagna – Djourou – Vermaelen – Gibbs – Song – Ramsey – Rosicky – Gervinho – van Persie – Walcott
Even though I’d like us to be stronger than we are going into the new season that’s a team that should beat Newcastle in my opinion. There’s just one new addition so we’re not looking at blooding a host of new players in one game, hoping they adapt. Gervinho doesn’t look to me the kind of player that will take months and months to get used to English football anyway, I think he’ll hit the ground running.
I have no doubt last season will play on the minds of some of the players, especially if we go ahead, so focus, discipline and ensuring we don’t make silly mistakes at the back will be crucial. From an attacking point of view I think we’ve got plenty to trouble the home side, the only doubt I have is about whether we’ve got enough creativity in the midfield. That means chances, when they are made, have to be taken with a measure of efficiency.
Overall, I’m quietly confident of three points to start the new season and kick off this evening is 5.30.
Back to the manager now and his press conference, and subsequent briefing with the members of the written press, have thrown up some interesting quotes this morning (it was also interesting to note that it took an age for Arsene’s press conference video to be made available via the official site). Speaking about the widespread belief that Arsenal need to invest in the side, Wenger said:
I don’t listen to what people say. What I want is for our fans to appreciate our team and to support our team.
It’s unclear what he means by ‘people’. If that’s press, or fans, or everyone, I just don’t know. I’ve got no issue with him wanting fans to support the team, that’s entirely normal. However, it does feel to me like he’s got his head in the sand a bit and suggestions of a media conspiracy/campaign to colour the views of Arsenal fans are wide of the mark, in my opinion. He said:
If our fans go the way the media want them to go we have no chance. The people behind me and around the press box do not necessarily represent the majority of the fans. They are the ones you [journalists] hear the most but aren’t necessarily the majority. They make your opinion maybe but they aren’t necessarily the opinion.
I asked Henry Winter on Twitter this morning if Wenger’s tone was as belligerent as it comes across in print and he clarified that it was. I don’t believe there’s any media conspiracy against Arsenal. There might well be some shit-stirrers in the press who use the obvious and repeated failings of the team to bash out lazy articles but as Arse2Mouse pointed out, it wasn’t the media who sang en masse at Craven Cottage, urging the manager, the board, anyone, to ‘spend some fucking money’.
It was the away fans, the ones who follow the team not just to West London, but up and down England and across Europe, week in, week out. They’re not influenced by what they read in the papers, only by what they see on the pitch, and it was to that they were reacting last season. And the same goes for the majority of fans. There may be some who fall in the traps set by the talk radio trolls and the occasional wind-up in the press, but most of us form our opinions by what we see when the team play.
Arsene’s stubborn, intransigent nature can be a positive and negative, but in a summer when experience and defensive reinforcements have been needed more than ever before, the manager has added four forwards (Gervinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Miyaichi and Campbell) with an average age of 19. Three of them have yet to play a game of top level football in their careers. When you step back from it, it’s actually a bit mental.
Not that I’m unhappy with these guys or what they might bring to the team but it would be easier to take Arsene saying he doesn’t listen to what people say if he’d, for once, acknowledge the defensive issues and do something about them. Maybe we should all say ‘buy more forwards’, he might buy a centre-half.
I have huge respect for Arsene and what he’s done for Arsenal Football Club but he really does make things difficult for himself at times. If the young forwards make the difference this season I’d be quite happy to hear him say ‘I told you so’ over and over again, but wouldn’t it be easier for those forwards to make a difference if they had a better defensive platform too? 17 days till the transfer window closes, let’s see what happens.
In other ridiculous news, The Sun claims we’ve told Man City they can have Nasri if they give us Tevez. And apparently Tevez would be ‘delighted’ to join Arsenal. I’d suggest this is somebody putting two and two together and coming up with speedboat.
And finally, a quick reminder that there’ll be liveblog coverage of the game later. Check back later for a post with more info but this season we’ve introduced a £10 season ticket to take part in the live blog chat. You simply go here to register and if you want to upgrade to a premium account you can do so via Paypal. This gives you access to live blog chat and other features which will be rolled out across the site in the next week or two.
It’s also a place where you can chat away with other Arsenal fans without it descending into the crazy, abusive, YouTube-like mess you get in other places. The liveblog itself will remain freely available to everyone via their computer or mobile device.
Also, if you use the arses, registration will allow you to ensure your username for when the arses upgrade is rolled out in the very near future.
Right, that’s about that. We’ve just got a whole day to kill and whatever else, and however bizarre and surreal things are at the moment, come 5.30 there’ll be boys in red and white taking the pitch at St James Park. Let’s get behind them and remember, we might be frustrating and a bit heartbreaking, but the rest of them are cunts who need a good beating.
Come on Arsenal!