So CL qualification has been seen off in quite short order and after a first day loss Arsenal have now won three games in a row fairly comfortably. Twitter informs me that Arsene has overseen 12 CL qualification matches, scoring 29 goals and conceding three. I think it’s fair to say Arsenal (as third or fourth best team in England) are easily better than third or fourth placed teams from other leagues. That’s nice, and helpful for the bank balance, though not necessarily for winning the damn thing.
Several years ago Arsene was famously reported as saying that if he was given £100m to spend on players, he’d give it back. How we laughed. When we were winning trophies we had a right old chuckle about that. Well now we really have £100m that could be spent with no danger to the club’s finances or well-being, and at the moment it looks as though AW is stuck in the same mindset.
He doesn’t want to spend it. I am past caring about the exact reason. Is it more to do with his perceived value of players or is he somehow scared of spending big on a single individual, or some other mental block? Or is it just a determination to prove everyone wrong and build a winning team from parts everyone else had overlooked? Maybe it’s all of them.
The problem is we have now gone from a massive squad of largely average players who were
Premier League ready, to a very small squad of players who are PL ready. The talent level may be on average a little higher, but the numbers are well down. We simply don’t have enough players to mount a proper title challenge right now. We have reached the stage where we just have to sign players, and whether they are better than the ones we’ve got is less important than just getting them in. As long as they are in the ballpark talent-wise – the Cabayes of this world – then the squad will have more depth, even if a signing is not going to immediately push someone else to the bench.
I have never had much of an interest in whether any one player will stifle the development of another. I support Arsenal, not individuals. Obviously you have to look at the effect on players of any action (and the longer term effect for the club), but if they are good enough they will make it and if they’re not they won’t. Those are the hard facts in any job, and the overpaid world of football is no different.
Three months ago I was very much in the camp of “£20m for Benteke? Too much at this stage” and “Why would we need Cabaye? He’s not improving us much.” I wanted marquee signings, as most fans did. I wanted a Higuain or Cesc or Mata. But things have changed. Now I’m thinking, “We need players. I don’t care who, as long as they can play Premier League football.”
I don’t care if Arsenal have to overpay a little. I don’t care if they’re not superstars. I just want to see a squad that can compete, not just a first eleven. Injuries and suspensions will take their toll, that’s the way football is. To not prepare for that is ridiculous, and a disservice to supporters. The whole summer has been a shambles for Arsenal supporters and there are only a few days to sort that out. Get it right and we could conceivably have a very good season with a core squad that’s settled and has some very good (if not all great) players. Get it wrong and the season may be a long struggle for form, hampered by absences to key men at the wrong times.
Get it wrong and Arsene will depart in 12 months under a cloud. It doesn’t have to be that way Arsene, I hope you can see that.