There are still plenty of Gooners clinging on like grim death to the hope that the greatest manager our glorious club has ever known, might yet prove he’s not become entirely presbyopic - seemingly to the point of not being able to see the nose on his own face.
In the knowledge that the blow of losing two of our most virtuoso stars has been a problem, which has been on the horizon for so long, it seems inconceivable that Arsène has carried on regardless of this worst-case scenario, without any contingency plans? Recent rumours contend that the club’s failure to plug the most obvious gaps is a direct result of le Boss being at loggerheads with the board, both in his efforts to strengthen the squad and to provide the wage parity, which could prevent our remaining world class talent being cherry-picked at will in future, by those with deeper pockets.
With Arsène being such a steadfast company man, we'll never be privy to what goes on behind the boardroom’s closed doors. Nevertheless, while the media delights in portraying British football’s increasingly endangered Captain Sensible, more and more like a deranged Mr Magoo, we continue to clutch at the straw which protrudes from our manager’s sleeve, so long as the transfer window remains open, praying there’s a masterstroke up there which might stem the Tsunami of criticism.
Never mind the opportunity offered by the trip to Udinese of being able to see Venice before it sinks, I’m more concerned with the potential scuttling of the good ship Arsenal. The mascot for tonight’s game in Italy might’ve been best advised to pack his boots. Or perhaps better still, a bucket, so long as we continue taking on water with the disastrous deluge of injuries that threaten a premature Champions League exit. Far from being a much-needed fillip, survival in Europe is paramount, if the Gunners’ season isn’t to be grounded on the rocks on its way out of port.
With the rash of naïve crimes that have resulted in the suspensions that will see us travelling to Old Trafford on Sunday with a gossamer thin squad, if ever there was an outing that’s guaranteed to sift out the loyal wheat from the glory-hunting chaff, it’s this daunting trip, where only the bravest masochists amongst us will fancy the prospect of facing further ridicule in the North-West.
Even in the event that we scrape into the Champions league proper, with the lucrative cash-cow of the group stages providing welcome respite to what looks likely to be a season long struggle to keep pace with the domestic competition, with each passing day it becomes harder and harder to defend our esteemed manager, in the face of the mounting hysteria.
They were taking bets in the pub before Saturday’s game against the Scousers, on how long Manny Frimpong would last before being booked. But so long as the young Ghanaian tank remained on the pitch, there was a glimmer of hope that, combined with Vermaelen’s resolve, the Gunners have begun to acquire a long-awaited air of robustness. Sadly it’s not like we haven’t grown all too accustomed to dropping crucial points on home turf, but what was most disconcerting about this display was the patent absence of the glue that binds the Gunners disparate parts and which has in the past at least enabled us to dominate possession of the football.
While Arsenal fans have spent so long obsessing about our frailties at the back, suddenly without Fabregas at our fulcrum, there’s an apparent disconnect everywhere else on the pitch; seemingly with Jack Wilshere’s vision as our one and only hope of stitching the Arsenal back into a viable team unit. Not to take anything away from the Scousers first league triumph at our place in 11 years, but compared to the utterly demoralizing massed ranks of Mancini’s mercenary star turns, and in spite of Dalglish spunking up £43 million, Liverpool are still some way from looking anything like genuine contenders.
To my mind, there was no greater admission of our squad’s limitations than the involvement of Nasri and Bendtner, players who are likely to be pulling on a different shirt by next week. But with the inability or unwillingness of the likes of Ramsey, Walcott and Arshavin to stamp their mark and maintain control of the ball over Lucas, Henderson and Adams in midfield, you have to fear for how we might fare in the face of a stiffer test.
Whether Wenger is browbeaten into a bout of panic buying by the circumstances, or the mounting pressure (when he’s never buckled in the past!), what baffles most Gooners is how the likes of Fergie managed to conclude much of Man Utd's transfer business, even before last season ended: while our increasingly forlorn leader is left looking like the kid in the playground, picking over the left-overs, forced to choose from the ever diminishing bunch of ungainly bozos, who no one wants on their side even as a makeweight.
Silent Stan’s arrival was supposed to offer the Arsenal the same sort of success of some of his other “septic” sporting franchises. Who could’ve imagined Gazides’ “sustainable business model” would mean that after all these years of waiting for the pay-off, the Gunners would morph overnight, into the footballing equivalent of Walmart.
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