Saturday, December 3, 2022

We will buy players. Will we buy players? Bye, players.

Morning all, as brief a Saturday round-up as we can give you in the wake of some comments from Arsene Wenger which will certainly generate some discussion, shall we say.

On the one hand he says we’re trying to buy players, although there’s nothing imminent and he doesn’t expect any deals to be done before the Emirates Cup next weekend, but on the other says we can challenge for the title without new arrivals.

We are ready to do quick deals but all the transfers do not depend only on us, but we are prepared to wait. It looks unlikely before the Emirates Cup. We still have a strong squad but we are there on the market to try to strengthen our team. With or without additions we can be title challengers next season.

I know some folk will ask ‘What else can he say?’, and while he’s obviously not going to call his squad too weak to be competitive, he didn’t really have to say that. He doesn’t have to give everyone a run down or a schedule with all the details, but there’s no need to say we can compete with the squad we have when the league table last season makes a lie of that straight away. He could have just left it at the whole, ‘We’re ready to do deals’ or ‘What we want is not as name but as good player. The name is less important. What is more important is the quality of the player’, instead of putting the shits up everybody.

He goes on to say:

What has changed recently is that in Europe some countries like France suddenly have bought some very very talented players who two or three years ago would all have come to England. It makes the chase for talent very difficult.

Oh oh, the old lack of talent thing. Followed by:

Of course we want to do as many top players as we can. But we also have to focus on the players we have and develop them. We have plenty of candidates in midfield now and there is a big fight there. Bacary Sagna settles in well at centre-back with Thomas Vermaelen out.

So, while the fact we’re after Luis Suarez suggests very strongly that we’re ready to spend money, I wonder if this is deal so unusual, so huge and out of our comfort zone that it’s everything we’re involved in right now. If you’re a seasoned Arsenal, and Arsene, watcher then you can’t possibly read those quotes and not get a little bit the fear right now. This idea that he never says what he means about transfers has some merit, no good poker player shows his hand, but these are comments which are directed at the fans, not the other players in the game.

And very often he means exactly what he says. We are not close to signing anybody because, well, we are not close to signing anybody. There’s a lot of talk this summer of smokescreens. What if there is no smoke? Or any screens? I’ve worried that our chase for a striker means that we’ve ignored the other areas of the team which need strengthening. But perhaps Arsene genuinely feels we have plenty of candidates in midfield and Bacary Sagna can do the job at centre-half until Vermaelen is fit again.

Personally, I think we’re light at the back, light in midfield, lack creativity in the final third and definitely need a striker, but we seem in no rush to get anything done. The Asia tour has been a fantastic success for the fans there to see the Arsenal, and I’m sure it’s had a great effect on the team too. It looked like the players enjoyed it and from a bonding, team spirit point of view you can’t argue with it. I’m sure Ivan Gazidis has done some sterling commercial work out there.

Yet the concerns I expressed when we went out there about lacking focus in terms of our transfer business don’t seem that unfounded now. When we left it wasn’t as a question of if, but when, we’d sign Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid. Whether you like Suarez more or not, I don’t know how anyone could suggest that it wouldn’t have been anything other than a fantastic signing for Arsenal Football Club. Our inability, or unwillingness, to accept Real Madrid’s valuation of the player has seen him go to Napoli instead.

There’s talk now that Suarez might cost £50m to prise away from Liverpool. I don’t want to go into the ins and outs of all that again, but Higuain for £31m and a midfielder/defender in the £15-20m bracket makes us significantly stronger for the same amount.

All the talk of doing our business early and efficiently has proven to be just that, all talk. It’s the end of July now. Yes, still time to bring people in before the start of the season, but as each day passes there’s less time for those players to settle in and adapt before the new campaign begins.

We’ve cleared the decks quite efficiently, ridding ourselves of around 8 of the first team squad already, but having lots of space and lovely shiny decks will not win us a trophy next season. Whatever rationale you might have for what’s been happening, and more specifically what’s not been happening, you will not, at this point, convince me that we’ve made the best of what this summer promised.

Money in our pockets, no dramas or sagas about players leaving to contend with, the ability to get things done early, to make a statement, to get a settled squad, get the new new boys in, and give the players and team the lift they really want and need. The increasing regularity with which the current crop call for new signings can’t be ignored, yet we’ve done nothing of note. Which is no disrespect to Yaya Sanogo, but you know what I mean.

And with all the resources at hand, what do we do but involve ourselves in possibly the most contentious transfer of the summer with the most contentious footballer in England? It’s like we’re addicted to a turmoil. If we don’t have a difficult affair or our own to deal with, we’ll plunge right in to somebody else’s, even if the potential outcome is that we get a good player at the end of it (although I doubt the drama will end at the point of signing).

So, while I still find it hard to believe we won’t bring in new players, simply because it’s so blindingly obvious to everyone that we need them, there’s a part of me now that simply won’t believe any of it until I see them in red and white. I might even ask to see copies of the contract just to make sure. I feel beaten down by this summer. For all my que sera, sera attitude, which has re-emerged with a vengeance due to weary acceptance, I just can’t help feel a bit dismayed by what’s gone on and these latest comments from the manager.

Perhaps the most frustrating is that there’s the bones of a really competitive squad there, a group of players I like and believe in. The resilience shown at the end of last season, the spirit and character we displayed was fantastic, and with the right additions you can see how this is a team which really could have a good go at the title this season. Manchester City have changed their manager yet still brought in four good additions to their squad.

‘Nobody’s really spending’, is a line trotted out, but who cares what other clubs do? I know to some extent there’s a domino effect but it’s hard to think that at the end of last season we put together a cohesive plan to improve our squad. If so, we could have done deals by now. It feels like we’re flying by the seat of our pants, making it up as we go along, and if we’re not careful, we could find ourselves scratching our hands come the first game of the season, wondering ‘How did that happen then?’

Not so brief, I realise, but as somebody who can usually find some sense in what we do – whether I agree with it not is another thing – I’m genuinely concerned because this summer is a masterclass in procrastination and lack of focus. I will be more than happy to eat my words, in the humblest of humble pies. In fact, I want the pie, all the pie, but I’m just afraid there is no pie. Not even a crust at this point.

Till tomorrow.

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