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Monday 10 August 2009

One Egg Is An Oeuf, But Will It Be Enough?

Pre-season is the one time in the year when all footie fans are entitled to enjoy a little optimism, believing anything to be possible until all that delusional euphoria disappears, with the first defeat. For most Gooners it feels like Groundhog Day, as we approach yet another campaign hoping le Gaffer can pull it off, despite putting all his “ouefs” into our Young Guns basket.

I don’t think anyone was too disappointed to see the back of Adebayor but this was on the assumption that Man City’s “financial doping”, by way of an exorbitant transfer fee, would provide Arsène with the funds required, if not to replace the striker, then to strengthen the squad elsewhere.

The debate rages over whether Wenger’s actions (or lack thereof!) are dictated by necessity or choice. The board went to great pains to assure us that their foray into the property development business was ring-fenced. But it’s hardly credible that there’s been no negative impact on the affairs of the football club from the building and sale of the apartment complex that has become of Highbury and all the blocks of flats around the new gaff .

A walk along Avenell Road or Drayton Park reveals the sad sight of so many bare white walls of the vast majority of vacant apartments. You certainly don’t need an economics degree to be able to appreciate that instead of realising huge profits, as would’ve previously been expected when the project began, the club are now lumbered with a massive financial burden.

I guess in some respects we should be grateful to have a manager who appears happy to assume the burden of responsibility and who even appears to relish swimming against the tide, as he once again attempts to field a competitive side, with both hands tied behind his back. Most managers wouldn’t give a monkey’s about being prudent, in order to preserve the club’s long term future, preferring instead to risk the coffers and all they contained, in the hope of short term success and personal glory.

Arsène could speculate on a couple of players and I certainly hope he does before transfer deadline day. But there’s no way we can compete with the King of Spain’s seemingly bottomless pockets, to buy proven quality such as Ronaldo, Kaka and Benzema. With there being no guarantees of success from the sort of players Wenger can afford to bring to the Gunners’ party, one might reason that it’s better to be unsuccessful, than both unsuccessful and bankrupt.

What bothers many Gooners is their perception that le Prof is on some sort of personal crusade, to force the Premiership to bend to his will. Personally I just don’t swallow this nihilistic image of the pragmatism that is one of Arsène’s greatest assets and perhaps his Achilles heel.

Gooners around the globe are holding their breath, in the hope that Cesc remains sufficiently indebted to his mentor for Fabregas not to want to go any further than Celtic Park in the near future. However Arsène is no fool and he must know that Fab can’t be expected to mark time indefinitely. I’m sure Wenger would love to be able to break the bank, in order to stump up for the sort of world class holding player, who could convince our midfield maestro that the club’s ambitions match his own.

Our one and only arrival to date, Thomas Vermaelen, has yet to demonstrate that he has the capacity to be the Arsenal’s answer to Nemanja Vidic and we’ve witnessed little in any of our pre-season displays to suggest that our defensive frailties have been addressed. Still there was entertainment aplenty in the Emirates Cup, where, over the course of the weekend, young Jack Wilshere firmly imprinted himself on public perceptions (inc. Fabio Capello).

In concert with Arshavin, this diminutive duo demonstrated the sort of skills that really should’ve reminded spoilt Gooners everywhere, no matter what ultimately transpires on the tin-pot front, compared to the prosaic fare likely elsewhere, we should be grateful to be on the precipice of another feast of fabulously entertaining football.

Although I must admit to having some worrying concerns about Wenger’s recent fixation on playing 4-3-3. A system which appears to be forcing a square peg striker like Bendtner, into a round hole, playing out wide. I imagine Arsène has amassed plenty of statistical data, to prove that this is the most efficient use of our resources, when it seems patently obvious that the current Arsenal squad contains the sort of horses for 4-4-2 courses?

It’s probably fortunate that the buoyant mood after beating Atletico and Rangers, was somewhat deflated by the defeat to Valencia. It’s no wonder that Wenger was so animated on the touchline at the Mestalla, considering the crap-shoot 24 hrs prior had resulted in an imminent outing to Celtic Park and potentially a season defining encounter with the Hoops.

To my mind, there are only two possible denouements to the daunting first two weeks of this campaign. If after overcoming Celtic, we can manufacture a rousing triumph against Man U, there will be a groundswell of optimism, which could just be the springboard for us to kick on and mount a genuine challenge. However should we exit the Champs League prematurely, our young squad might struggle to recover from such a kick in the teeth and with the resulting dent to our confidence, our season might be all over bar the shouting by the time we depart Old Trafford.

Watching the Community Shield proved something of a reality check. I remain confident that on our day, the Gunners are more than capable of giving any side a run for their money. Yet seeing Fergie turn to the likes of Giggs, Scholes, Owen & Fabio and Ancelotti bringing on Ballack, Bosingwa, Deco & Kalou , when it comes to the unrelenting grind of the Premiership, I can’t help but feel that compared to Chelsea, Man Utd & perhaps Liverpool, we continue to lack the physical and numerical strength in depth, to compete week in, week out.

Who knows? Perhaps with another season under their belts, we are about to witness a dramatic improvement in this Arsenal squad. However Sunday’s game showed both Man Utd and Chelsea to have the aura and presence of genuine contenders and many of their opponents will be beaten, psychologically, before a ball has been kicked. Whereas without the sort of additions who might lend some much-needed stature to our squad, it’s easy to imagine opponents fancying their chances, as they line up against some of our pint-sized players in the tunnel.

At the end of the day, it’s all about confidence and perceptions. If we get off to a flyer that puts the fear of g-d (and the Gunners) into our opponents, anything is possible. Meanwhile, in light of the concerted “at any cost” efforts of other clubs to filch our seat on the Champs League gravy train, if you asked any of those Gooners who were disappointed with 4th place and two semis last term, at this precise point in time, I’d guess they’d bite your hand off for a repeat performance!

Unless the kids are about to step up to the plate, many will argue we are only three players away from an all-conquering outfit. It’s just that those three happen to be a world-class keeper, defensive midfielder and a 30 plus goal striker! Myself I’m always happiest when everyone else is writing us off.

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GoonerMatt23 said...

I think we are well equipped for this season. Almunia and Fabianski have proven themselves to be great keepers. As for our midfield, we have Abou Diaby who is a quality player. As for our attack we have Arshavin, Eduardo, Van Persie, Walcott, Nasri and Rosicky (when the duo are fit) etc. Granted we should sell Bendtner and Denilson and get Vieira back, but apart from that I'd say we are all set.

Anonymous said...

man utd away is a great match to have so early - we either get a result which gives us a lift or we don't, which will be no disgrace. even getting a hammering wouldn't mean anything - man u got hammered at old trafford by liverpool last season i seem to remember.

Michael Hattem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michae Hattem (Arsenal Station) said...

You know I'm with you Bernard in not believing this image of Wenger as on some sort of personal mission to prove his way is best. I've even read some Gooners say things like "he doesn't spend the money so he can keep it for himself." Which, for many reasons, is an absolutely ludicrous statement.

Football has become more and more money-centered and, consequently, so have the supporters. I have a friend who feels that the club and Arsene not talking about possible transfers in the press is "misleading" and "insulting" to the supporters by "keeping them in the dark." But we all know that Arsene can not just come out and start throwing names around because it drives up already inflated prices, especially considering that everyone knows we are 40+m pounds richer this summer.

We can only be patient and optimistic. I believe that Arsene will spend the money though some or most may have to wait until the January window. It all depends on who is available. Arsene and the board will not splash the cash for its own sake or to please impatient supporters. They will wait for the right player to become available at what at least resembles a fair price.