Sunday, April 21, 2024

Column: Not quite golden brown

Thankfully, we are in the sickly sweet methadone arms of Euro 2012. I’m no huge fan of international football, but I have to admit I’m really enjoying the fare that has been on offer so far. It’s been nice to watch competitive football with a fair amount of chin stroking detachment. It’s particularly a welcome relief following hot on the heels of the climax of the league season.  From March onwards, you get those feelings of gut shredding anxiety when watching your own team, but you also end up supporting everybody that plays your rivals.

Somehow they fill you with the same exasperation and wall thumping hopelessness that your own team do. Even if your adopted side let you down, there’s always a suspension to a key player to pine for or the forlorn hope that someone, somewhere, will boot Didier Drogba into another stratosphere. It becomes quite stressful, so in that respect, being able to watch a competitive tournament outside of that pressure cooker has enabled me to lance a few boils. Doubtless this time next week, I’ll come to you gazing at my navel, whining about the lack of intensity to sustain my interest.

There has been a high level of Arsenal participation to pique interest too and it’s been interesting to see some of the reactions from Arsenal fans. I’ve seen Andrey Arshavin variously described as “rejuvenated” “reborn” and “on form”, which has understandably led to the question as to whether he still has a future with us. Andrey has certainly caught the eye but one has to consider the different environments in which players operate as governing their form. Following a match winning performance for Mexico against Brazil a fortnight or so ago, I saw a Spurs forum ask the question as to why they couldn’t get the best out of Giovani dos Santos.

Arshavin was operating on the left side of a front three for Russia, the same as he did for us. He showed plenty of form in the position when he first arrived at the club too. So I don’t buy the arguments that Wenger had misused him. We have a holding midfielder that registered 11 assists last season and a centre half that has scored close to a goal every 6 games for the club. We’re hardly the most shackling of sides for creative talents. Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg operated from wide positions and neither suffered with the balance of a) protecting their full back and b) influencing the game centrally.

I don’t think Arshavin is necessarily more motivated for Russia either. They play a counter attacking style, which gives him time and space with the ball in the confines of the slower pace of the international game. Arsenal are a front foot side that faces ten man defences most weeks. He doesn’t get the same time and space and he doesn’t have three central midfielders that cover him the way the Russian side does. For the majority of our games, to have two midfielders that do nothing other than defend would be unnecessary. (The frustration is that when we do need to forge a game plan that requires that sort of discipline, we tend to come up short).

What these questions basically begin to ask, is not how can Arshavin fit into our team, but how our team can accommodate Arshavin. Given the fact that he’s 31, one of our highest earners and far too fitful to build a team around, my own view is that it’s not unfair to expect more than a luxury player. I think his time at the club has run its course and we should be hopeful that a continuation of his form at the Euros can drive his selling price up.

How a player performs for another side isn’t always the most reliable guide in any case. One could look at the frustrated figure van Persie often cuts in a Holland shirt and make inaccurate representations on his actual quality. But this of course doesn’t acknowledge that the Dutch side isn’t built around him in the same way as the Arsenal side is. Plus, van Persie has to contend with the fact that Arjen Robben is greedy enough to make Gordon Gekko a hardened unionist. Different systems and different styles can produce altered results for a player’s performance. It’s worth considering when salaciously eyeing up potential transfer booty on our TV screens.

Speaking of which, there are plenty of rumblings on that front from the club this week. I won’t bore you all again with my sense of detachment from the whole transfer gossip scene, but whispers appear to be giving way to low murmurs with forecasts predicting an outbreak of the transfer klaxon in the coming days. Whilst I offer no defence of the club’s dithering and make do and mend approach to the market over the last few seasons, I do often think we wind ourselves up.

The mixture of forensic knowledge of every facet of a deal, blended together with a potent cocktail of bullshit can give us false impressions. If indeed Arsenal do close deals for M’Villa and Giroud (assuming Chelsea don’t whack a load of cash under their noses and steal them at the last minute), by the time any signing is announced, it will feel like old news and we will ravenously demand the next transfer fix. Stupid rumours and fabricated concoctions also hit the newswire, creating a miniature furore before they are quickly dispelled.

Once these reports are doused with the fire blanket, it can leave people feeling frustrated and give the illusion that a deal has become convoluted. It’s not exclusive to us. How long ago now were Tottenham supposed to have crossed the I’s and dotted the T’s on the Vertonghen deal? However, as I’ve said, that’s not to defend the club’s reticence over recent summers. From the noises emanating from N5, it looks at least like we’re trying to be proactive, which should be pleasing to us all.

The summer’s very young yet, but it’s safe to say the last minute trolley dashing that has punctuated windows past isn’t judicious. Neither is the ‘make do and mend’ policy that has come up short in the past. Letting three defensive midfielders go (for varying reasons, all of which I think were understandable) and hoping against hope that Denilson could pick up the slack, or losing an international goalkeeper to the whims of age and crossing our fingers that his deputy might just be up to the job.

Podolski and whoever else follows might be horrible flops, but doing something (in a considered and timely manner) gives you a better chance than doing nothing. Or else doing something in a terrible hurry. Like a sweat caked superhero snipping madly at coloured wires whilst the clock counts down from ten. I’ve said before that I had the feeling that the club has struggled to shake the more parsimonious mindset that was necessary in the early years at the new stadium.

It’s clear we’ve got squad flab to peel away and to some degree the futures of forwards such as Bendtner, Vela, Arshavin, Benayoun, van Persie, Walcott, Park and Chamakh are either uncertain or being concierged gently to the door. So it makes sense to augment the forward line. It looks as though we’re trying to strengthen our hand before we get on the treadmill and sweat out the squad fat. This would possibly weaken our position in selling some players, but the whole reason we moved stadiums and observed such frugality was so that we could take occasional measured, sensible speculations that prioritised the team on the pitch. Let’s hope the grapevine ferments. Till next time. LD.

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