The front page of Arsenal.com today is a picture of a thoughtful, if slightly pensive, and perhaps vaguely constipated, Arsene Wenger, with the headline – “I could write a book on this summer”. Heh, no shit. He said:
I think it would quite be an interesting one. Not because of me but because of all that happened, it was quite unbelievable. And you would see that it was not as easy as it can look from outside.
I don’t think anyone doubts that for one second, and without going to down Blame Avenue and taking a short up Fingerpoint Lane, there’s little doubt that the summer and all that happened had a pretty terrible effect on Arsenal Football Club. It culminated with the 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford. That we qualified for the Champions League in the middle of it all seems somewhat remarkable now.
Arsene says that dark day in Manchester was a once-off and that the signings were not made because of the defeat there. The defeat there just made the need for the signings more urgent. Well, that and the fact the transfer window was closing. Questioning why we left it so late is reasonable, in my opinion, and Arsene said:
We had the fact that we could only complete the transfers very late. It was only possible then, and it was unbelievable how it happened finally.
And he made the point about what new faces, and experienced new faces, bring to a club and to the existing players:
They could be a little bit worried about our ambition because they see big players moving out and not big players coming in. If you look around you when you are a big player, the confidence you gain is as well by when you look who is around you. That is important for a football player.
I feel it has given the team a lift because everybody knew we were a bit short number-wise with ones we lost at the beginning of the season. Other players have left us too and we were too short to compete on all fronts.
It would be easy to go over all this again, the timing of the deals and all that, but, frankly, I’ve no gumption to go over it again and I’m now much more interested in seeing what these new players can do. The most important thing is that they’re here, regardless of how and when they came, and that they’ll pull on the red and white shirt today is far more worthy of discussion than something that’s been done to death already.
I suspect we’ll see at least two debutants in the starting XI today. Mertesacker at the back and Arteta in midfield as we stick out a first XI of: SZCZ – Sagna – Mertesacker – Koscielny – Gibbs – Frimpong – Ramsey – Arteta – Arshavin – Walcott – van Persie
Santos hasn’t played since the summer and while I do think there’s a chance Benayoun could start ahead of Arshavin, I think he’ll keep him in reserve as he is a player who can make an impact and provide something different from the bench. As for Park Chu-Young, he was apparently in Paris last night awaiting his international clearance, so his participation today seems doubtful, but you never know.
It’s interesting, when you look at that team, to go back just three seasons and look at the starting XI for the equivalent game then. It was: Almunia – Sagna – Gallas – Toure – Clichy – Eboue – Denilson – Cesc – Walcott – Adebayor – van Persie.
The changing face of football, eh? Only 3 of that starting XI remain (I’m not counting Almunia) remain at the club and will play today. Not sure what my point is, to be honest, I just thought it was interesting.
Anyway, onto today and normally you would look at Swansea as something of a banker, even taking into account our record against newly promoted teams in recent seasons. Under the current circumstances though, it’s anything but. You can’t just look at this season, you have to include last season to get a true picture of our situation and our form and it is, and has been, dismal. No two ways about it.
The new signings will definitely have given everyone a lift, from fans to the players, but it’s crucial that the feelgood factor is backed up with three points today. I’m not even slightly interested in our performance, only that we win the game. If we’re shaky at the back and toothless up front but score a goal deflected in off Frimpong’s arse in the final seconds of injury time, I’ll take it. I’m not sure I’ll enjoy it, but I’ll take it.
We’re in a real slump at the moment and although the squad is in better shape it would be unrealistic to expect vintage, flowing Arsenal. We’re going to have to scrap our way of it, I think. Swansea might face a backlash from the Old Trafford defeat, and I have no doubt those involved want to put that right, but this is a team short on confidence and that doesn’t return easily. The manager says there’s enough character in the squad now:
I think we have counted six or seven [international] captains in the squad now. So they’re all big personalities.
And there’s certainly enough experience. The youngsters at Old Trafford were overwhelmed but the additions to squad should ensure we keep things calm today. I don’t know a great deal about Swansea other than they’ll come to the Grove with absolutely nothing to lose. Nobody expects them to get a result so there’s no pressure on them at all.
Conversely, the pressure on Arsenal is huge. August was a massive disappointment. If we feared it might go badly none of us could quite have envisaged how badly. Take into account the awful end to last season and it all adds up. So today we need to see a professional, disciplined Arsenal. No sendings off, no silly mistakes, do the simple things and do them well, and above all else show the drive, energy and committment that we expect from Arsenal Football Club. If we do that, I think we’ll win. It’ll be the first step on the road to recovery, so to speak, but its importance cannot be understated.
There’ll be live blog coverage of the game later on – and if you fancy a flutter on the game, Arseblog has teamed up with Paddy Power to provide in-game live odds. If you have an existing Paddy Power account just check out the live blog later on, if you want to register one, simply click here and do the necessary. There are free bets and bonuses for new accounts so do take advantage of that.
Check back for the live blog closer to kick off. In the meantime I need me some breakfast to help cope with the kick this beer gave me last night. Holy moly.