What in the world

Morning to you.

It feels a bit quiet today but I guess it’s calm before the storm territory as once we get into the swing of things and the games start flowing this month there’s going to be little time for anything. And what a month it is:

Sunday 13th – Man City (h)
Wednesday 16h – Swansea (h)
Sunday 20th – Chelsea (a)
Wednesday 23rd – West Ham (h)
Saturday 26th – FA Cup 4th round
Wednesday 30th – Mugsmashers (h)

Making the hopeful assumption that we get through the replay against Swansea, that’s a very tough schedule, topped off by a visit to our place by The Goblin King and his Orcs on Sat Feb 2nd. And it just highlights how costly that late Danny Graham goal was on Sunday. Instead of having a full week between City and Chelsea, we now have to face a replay against a team which always make us work very hard.

And, let’s face it, with a squad pretty short on options and depth, it’s something of a worry. The league is our bread and butter and you cannot do anything but play your best team against sides like the ones we’re about to face, but at the same time there can be no suggestion in any way that the FA Cup is of lesser importance this season. Under normal circumstances the manager might be tempted to focus more on the league games and throw a bit of squad fodder into the cup game, but it’s almost the last chance saloon for silverware this season. As such it’s got be taken just as seriously.

However, I would expect some ‘rotation’, I think that’s an inevitability at this point, and there’s time still between now and then to make that less of an issue. The transfer window is well and truly open but as pressing as I feel our need for new players is, it doesn’t seem as if that urgency is felt by the manager. The simple fact is that if we’d wanted to do business before this hectic schedule, we could have laid the groundwork for any potential deals well before the window opened, and then completed it once it did.

Without wishing to suggest that the Mugsmashers are some kind of example to live up to in the transfer market, they did exactly that with Dean Sturridge II, meaning he was available (to score) for their FA Cup game. Might another striker or a midfielder have given us enough to beat Swansea on Sunday? It’s impossible to say but it’s hard to imagine it would have done us any harm. Then you look at the players we’re linked with in the papers today and you realise that it’s all speculation, that there really is nothing concrete in terms of new arrivals and it’s hard not to worry that we might run out of legs this month.

Jack Wilshere has been talking about winning things. He says:

When you finish a career, you look back and see how many trophies you have won so we all want them and we know how much the fans do too. If we get a trophy this year or in the next couple of years we can really build something and be strong in the next few years.

It’s easy to sit here and say that when we get that first trophy it’ll happen but we know how tough the FA Cup. We’re still in the Champions League, so we’re in a good position and we just need to make sure we get the results now.

It would take something extraordinary for the Champions League to be the trophy that quenched the drought. In fairness, it’s not impossible, a small club from Fulham won it last season, but the reality, for me at least, is that the FA Cup is the one we should be really looking at. That we’re so focused on it in the early stages is a consequence of where we are in the league and, obviously, the horrendous night in Bradford. But it is what it is, we are where we are, and we ought to take stock of that.

Would adding players give us a better chance of winning something? I think so. If we have better players we can keep the squad fresher, we can rotate a little more, there’s competition for places which, generally, is a positive thing. And Arsene Wenger knows that January arrivals, while difficult, can provide a lift. We all remember Arshavin, but think back to January 2004. As I pointed out in a piece for ESPN, with Arsenal sitting 2nd in the league, three points behind Manchester United and four ahead of Chelsea, Arsene Wenger went out, broke our transfer record, and bought Jose Antonio Reyes from Sevilla.

That wasn’t an Arsenal side that was short on quality either. It had Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Sol Campbell and Dennis Bergkamp in their pomp. It had Lauren, Parlour, Ljungberg, Edu and Gilberto. And the Reyes signing was instrumental in us winning the league and going unbeaten. The manager added to a fine squad, in a way none us were really expecting, and reaped the benefits.

Now, we’re clearly not anywhere near as strong, the flaws that the team has don’t appear to be fixable with ‘internal solutions’, and we’re sitting on our hands and keeping our powder dry when we really should be more proactive. The players want to win trophies, the fans do too obviously, but you have to ask if we’re doing as much as we can as a club to match those ambitions. It seems bizarre to me that a manager as intelligent as Arsene Wenger can’t see how much he and his team could gain from using the money we have available in the transfer market.

If he could see it in 2004, with a brilliant team, and even in 2009 with a less brilliant one, why can’t he see it now? Of course if we go through January, and the rest of the season, with positive results then he’s right and I’m wrong and I’ll happily admit that, but I can’t say I’m exactly confident. Maybe it’s all being kept under the radar, maybe we’ll be surprised with an announcement before Sunday, but right now I’m struggling to see that happen.

On the day that David Bowie releases a new song (his 66th birthday too, feeling old?), and 41 years after one of his finest was released, let’s hope the situation ch-ch-changes and that Arsene is not Aladdin Sane.

Till tomorrow.


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