Hello everyone, how are you? Hope you’re well and ready for the weekend. It’s funny to think that were everything normal, we’d be heading into our final Premier League game of the season against Watford.
What position would we be in? What would we have to play for? Would there be the possibility of Champions League football next season (slim), or Europa League (much more likely)? What would the mood be like? I suspect there would probably have been a sense of relief that this particular season was over, and hope/expectation about what was to come during the summer.
Would Cedric Soares have played a game? Would Pablo Mari’s performances have been good enough to hope he and William Saliba will take the Premier League by storm next season, becoming our new Koscielny/Mertesacker partnership? Would there be clarity about the future of captain and leading goalscorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang? Similarly, would Bukayo Saka have signed a new contract?
Then we’d be thinking about transfers.
“So, if we sell Mustafi, Sokratis, Lacazette and Xhaka we could bring in enough money to fund deals for Partey, Upamecano and Lazlo Thunderfarten, the German whizzkid that we discovered. Sure, we’ve got to give 10 year deals to all of Kia Joorabchian’s players to make it happen, but that’s just the way you have to do business in the transfer market, get with it, old timers.”
The excitement and anticipation of Mikel Arteta’s first summer of recruitment would have been quite something. I have to say, I was genuinely fascinated to see what might have happened and the kind of players we’d have brought in. One of the things I like about Arteta is the fact he is so single-minded, and in some ways he reminds me of Arsene Wenger in that he appears to be wedded to the idea of doing things the ‘right way’, and focused on what he feels is getting the club back to the level he believes it should be at.
He talks consistently about raising standards, so I was really curious as to how that would tally with the way we’ve done things recently in the transfer market. I don’t want to say it has been agent-led, but it has most definitely been agent-influenced. I think when we look back at the Unai Emery situation with a bit more distance, we might consider the idea that he was a more compliant character than Arteta. Whether that had any influence on the support he had at executive level for way longer than he should have is a question we might find out the answer to in due course. Did it suit the Head of Football to have a manager who wouldn’t be as demanding or ask too many questions about the signings that were made?
In Arteta, I feel like we’ve got a manager who will want to ensure that the resources he has available to him are used in the best possible way, and first and foremost for the benefit of the team/the club, rather than feathering the nests of agents. So, that was something I was genuinely looking forward to seeing this summer. We won’t get it now, of course, because of the financial impact of football’s shut-down, games behind closed doors and the way it’s going to affect the transfer market.
It might even make it more attractive to do deals with friendly agents because things are going to be very complicated financially. As well as that, we don’t really know how it will affect the thinking of players/agents, particularly if the assumption you can just move to another club on the same wages – or even better wages – is now unlikely. Anyway, we’ll find interesting things to discuss when football does come back, but despite the fact I firmly believe the transfer market needed a big shake-up, I’m slightly disappointed about this one.
Then there would have been pre-season and seeing what we did there. My understanding was that Arsenal were going to be playing a game in New York, and possibly one in Canada (among other fixtures), but obviously with travel restrictions and the ongoing spread of Covid-19 this is no longer the case. Oh, and the fact that the Premier League season isn’t going to start again until June 12th at the earliest, so the games will be played throughout the summer months when typically we’d have been on our pre-season journeys.
In time, the 2019-20 campaign will be looked back on in different ways by different clubs, but I think in the annals of the one we support, it will go down as one of the most stressful, annoying, bizarre, surreal and complicated ones in our long history. From the moment captain Laurent Koscielny refused to go on the US tour last summer, it was like the foundations started crumbling. We got a lovely new Spanish builder in eventually, but so much damage had been done beforehand. The landlord’s inaction as he ignored the warnings from all and sundry contributed massively, and eventually he had no choice but to act. Then we were hit with a worldwide pandemic, Arteta contracting the virus precipitated the shutdown of football, there was the wage cut issue that played out so publicly and so much more. It’s genuinely mad.
What does provide hope is that, if anything, confidence in Arteta has grown. We’ve had no football to judge him and his work on, but every time he speaks you feel reassured that we’ve got the right man in. This weekend, when we’d have had the cojones to beat Watford, we’d have been able to step back and take stock of where we were and what we had to do.
That’s some way down the road now, but we’ll get there eventually.
For some extra reading this morning, make sure you check out Tim’s column this week on Ian Wright. It’s superb.
Right, I’ll leave you with a brand new Arsecast. Listen/subscribe below, share if you like it, and I’ll be back tomorrow with more.