Signings, numbers 2s and tickets

Psychology can be a very peculiar science. Last week I wrote about my increasing impression that Arsenal were crawling over the finishing line in the manner of a man searching limply for water in the desert. The game at Stoke did little to stymie that suspicion. Then the boss admitted, rather candidly, that we were almost totally relying on van Persie to nudge us over the line (Because he clearly hasn’t contributed enough already this season).

Nobody with a set of functioning eyes [insert generic Premiership referee gag] would deny that this is very much the case. But it still seemed like an uncharacteristic admission for the manager to make. When we so desperately need others to step up to the plate and accept some of the goalscoring burden, here Arsene was publicly pleading for his talisman to be a one man show just until the final curtain. “Why not openly encourage the supporting vast to get all vaudevillian on us too?!” I thought to myself with furrowed brow.

Then less than 24 hours after that news item appears as the banner headline on Arsenal.com, the signing of Lukas Podolski is announced. Maybe I’m overanalysing, but I can’t ignore the chronology. Now Arsene’s plea looks slightly different. It’s a tacit admission that our other forwards aren’t being as assertive as they could be, followed up immediately by tangible action. Now it reads almost like a warning. Robin’s support cast are now fully aware that the new boy is waiting in the wings and that the manager is not satisfied with their work. Two important games now become a mini audition of sorts.

As for Podolski himself, it looks like a very positive signing. Though many will try, nobody can judge how good a signing is until he has represented the club a fair number of times. There are so many factors that govern whether a signing is any good that are not realised immediately. Sometimes good players still turn out to be bad signings because of circumstances unallied to their quality. I remember when Liverpool signed Fernando Morientes. It looked like an outstanding signing on paper. But for whatever reason, it didn’t really work out. There are countless other examples.

As with any other decisions taken by the club, with transfer dealings it’s important that supporters at least appreciate the thought process behind it and why decisions are taken at the time they are. Hindsight can cast us all into the role of the know it all at times. For instance, certain contract decisions – both player and commercial – taken by the club in the recent past can look ridiculous in hindsight. But the levels of complaint at the time those calls are made are usually notably lower in both volume and ferocity.

All that accepted, the signing of Podolski looks to be a positive one. It’s an assertive attempt to correct a big deficiency in our squad. He’s a player at a good age with excellent credentials. He has the capability to fit into our system, either as a wide striker or as a centre forward, having played both roles before. He can both back up and partner the overburdened van Persie. He only need put the cones out at training to be an upgrade on Chamakh and Park.

Speaking of which, it looks increasingly likely Pat Rice’s retirement will be confirmed before the end of the season. That means Arsene will have an appointment to make and an important one too. I’ve speculated on possible successors elsewhere, but for the time being I hope that Pat’s legacy is treated with the respect it deserves. The “cones on the training ground” crack above accepted, I think it’s unfortunate that Rice has been portrayed as a “yes man” over the last few years. I think it was a germ of a theory raised on an internet message board that somehow went viral and passed into received wisdom.

Firstly, since training sessions at London Colney are guarded more closely than the crown jewels I’m not sure how people would have the first idea as to how challenging Rice is to Arsene. My guess is that Pat became a kind of innocent bystander –an unwitting voodoo doll if you will – for people that had a gripe with Wenger but felt too scared to implicate him directly. Secondly, it’s quite a disrespectful target given the man’s 42 years of service to the football club. My hope is that that is held in the reverence it deserves when he hangs up his shorts.

On a decidedly sourer note, membership renewals for red and silver members have been released and I think the club have some explaining to do. For the privilege of merely holding a silver membership, the club are now charging £55. That represents a 73% increase in total in two years. We already know, though there has been little fanfare about it, that Club Level prices rose a further 2% this season. I’m sure the club’s justification for Club Level prices is that, when the asking price is so large, a little increase every year is preferable to a massive hike once every four seasons.

Red members are also now being charged £33 to hold membership. Considering it wasn’t long ago that being a silver or red member was free of charge, this is a quite astronomical rise and I’m not sure I’ve seen any justification for it. I understood the club’s stance of introducing the fee for being a member on the basis that it discouraged people from simply holding anaemic memberships that they rarely used. But a 73% rise in two years requires explanation.

If I were being cynical, I’d suggest the club looked at the furore created by raising season ticket prices last summer and plumped for a different strategy. They kept the headline cost of season tickets down, but hit other forms of membership with stealth charges that evade the same levels of scrutiny. I’m sure as fans we’d be receptive and open minded to any reasoning the club offered as to why the prices had to go up. But in lieu of an explanation, it’s difficult to arrive at an alternative conclusion.

Finally, I wanted to address some of the mini furore from the Stoke game. The booing of Ramsey was, of course, totally illogical (and they accuse Arsene of being a bit precious!) But it was nothing to get too bent out of shape about. The fact that it attracted a small amount of attention almost certainly confirms that Stoke fans will do it again because it got to some people. That was its sole intention really.

Incidentally, I thought Arsene – far from being angry or raging as the media depicted him – was very level headed and brilliantly dismissive in his post match comments. Particularly the “they have a relationship with me, but I don’t have one with them” riposte when quizzed on the very simple amusement derived by the Stoke fans at his expense.

Tony Pulis did not hear the booing of Ramsey, but was “more concerned” by the booing of Shawcross by those of us in the away end. Of course he was. Because he is a cunt. We all knew that. That’s why my man @superswe decided to wear the charming cap you can see above en route to Staffordshire. I also saw Lineker’s aping of Wenger’s exasperated pose on Match of the Day. It was cringe worthy, but again, nothing to be overly annoyed about.

That’s what the BBC are. They’re like the weedy kid that helps the bullies taunt one of his nerdy brethren in a desperate attempt to curry favour. It’s clear to me that few other managers in this country would be the target of such mockery. However, letters of complaint and demands for apology simply serve to fuel the fire. It’s total playground politics. Demonstrating large levels of annoyance simply ensures you’ll be a target again. So, you know, fuck ‘em. LD.

Follow me on Twitter @LittleDutchVA

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