The last two weeks has seen some heated debate among the Arsenal fan base. The summer hasn’t gone as planned and quite frankly, I still can’t believe we go into our first league game in four days and we’ve only got a Sanogo to show for.
Before any of you come to the conclusion that I am a bitching and moaning Wenger hater, please understand that I still think Wenger is still the best man to lead Arsenal and that his performance over 17 years at Arsenal is absolutely amazing and I have tremendous respect for him and for what he’s done for the club.
That aside, I currently have no grounds to defend Wenger this summer. A lot of people believe there is time until September 2nd and yes, officially there is. But if there was anything I learned about club football, it is the fact that preseason plays a very important role in shaping the season ahead.
Preseason is where the basic ingredients of the season are built up. You plan default tactics, build up fitness, get to know your teammates, gain match sharpness and hone certain weaknesses you displayed last season and try to get them out of your game. What goes on in preseason is what we’ll see for a major part of the season. And with a game like football where cohesion and understanding play a huge role, this two month period becomes one of paramount importance.
Any signings coming into the team from now is into the league straightaway and the freedom you get in preseason where mistakes go unnoticed is not on the agenda. Especially for a team like Arsenal who so heavily depend on fluid movement on and off the ball, a deeper understanding of you teammates is a priority. Once the workload of a four competition season sets in, a majority of training is dedicated to planning for matches ahead and making tweaks to your tactics and game plan. The process of getting to know your teammates goes on at slower pace and hence we talk of a bedding in period all season.
The case is made stronger if you look at Arsenal’s summer last season. Our two strikers, Poldi and Giroud, were brought in before preseason and despite the luxury of a preseason, they still weren’t fully integrated and performing full throttle the entire campaign. That goes to show how our system and setup needs more time to get settled in and that’s why I believed it was vital Arsenal did their talking early and despite a lot of noise, Arsenal’s summer has virtually been one big cooked up story.
The fact that our squad is in need of huge additions couldn’t be more obvious. We at best have 15-16 senior players and even if you add some of our extremely talented youngsters, we at the most have 19 players who can be called first team. Not what you’d expect from a club of Arsenal’s stature. Every area of our squad is in need of an addition or two. We’ve sold or released so many players that while some of those names wouldn’t excite you much, I’d have been happier going into the Villa game with Gervinho rather than Gnabry or Zelalan on the bench. I am not saying the squad didn’t need a bit of trimming but I believed that we’d be welcoming replacements as we waved these squad players off. I’ve only ended up making a fool of myself.
Most importantly it comes down to how we’ve tried to improve on last season. We weren’t anywhere near the title and as things stand, we haven’t moved an inch. We scrapped fourth place and the going will get tougher this season. Teams around us have improved, the weaknesses in our squad are glaringly visible, we had to act quickly and decisively in the market and I think the manager knows all this. Yet, we’ve barely moved a stone and that begs the question, WHY?
And all this despite us looking closely at some big names. Higuain would have been a huge statement of intent and I still believe he was Arsene Wenger’s choice to join the squad. Real Madrid demanded too much and while I wouldn’t have liked us paying 40m for Higuain, Arsenal at one stage were pretty comfortable negotiating a much lower fee and we kind of blew the chance by drawing proceedings on for too long. And Rooney would be the last man we’d look at despite Wenger’s obvious liking for the Englishman. Now that leaves us with our chase of Suarez. This one is a double edged knife. On one hand, we’d be landing top class quality if we sign him and his ban give him time to settle but on the other, we are looking at a bad character, a possible Real Madrid target and importantly paying something close to 50m for him.
Here is where my frustration with Wenger becomes bigger. While I’d love a marquee signing any day, it probably isn’t as big a requirement as I believed it to be. You look at our threadbare squad and you can see there are some top players in there. Koscielny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Wilshire,Ramsey, Walcott, Arteta, Cazorla, Podolski, Vermaelen and Rosicky are all in my opinion players of very high quality. Giroud might join them as well. While a marquee signing could get the place excited and add individual brilliance, a few trademark Wenger signings would have quietly taken us up the ladder. Signings like Williams and Bender would have added depth and competition to the squad.
And that is where I end up. I think we’ve got a manager who is more than capable of doing things. He’s got all the qualities we need and also, financial backing and support from the board. I believe he knows where our weaknesses are and who could make this squad better but still isn’t acting. I can understand the difficulties and complicated nature of transfers but three months is enough time to make things work. And I don’t buy into the fact that there is no one out there who could improve our squad. We’ve messed up our preseason and that needs fixing.
I still think players will com in. Wenger isn’t so stupid that he thinks our present squad can get through the season. And the squad culling does leave room for confidence and optimism that we’ll add to the squad. But the big question is, have we left it too late?
I’d be happy to eat my words and apologize for being such a doomsday theorist because all I want to see a competitive Arsenal next season. COYG!