It’s been a while; almost 10 months. Not since our 3-2 defeat at home to Olympiacos in last season’s Champions League group stage have I written about The Arsenal. There have been various reasons for the absence, but I thought it time to dust of the quill and have a ramble. A word of warning, it may not be pretty.
What I’m about to say isn’t said easily, nor lightly. Until Arsenal Football Club has a new manager I will struggle to raise my interest and excitement levels in The Arsenal. So much love and admiration for the greatest manager in our club’s history, it makes the end all the more painful. And the worst part of all? It doesn’t have to be this way.
Since day one of the transfer window every Arsenal fan I know has agreed, to a large extent, on what we require. First and foremost, a centre forward. Secondly, defensive reinforcements. Beyond that, a wide forward for the right hand side would also be nice. Then, any young prospects (such as Rob Holding, who are there to bolster the numbers) are always welcome.
So why can the man closest to it all, with such vast football knowledge and experience, and with such heartfelt love for our club, once again leave the squad going short on numbers and seriously stale? I’m tired of hearing how fans only want £50m signings. Or new signings in every position because ‘new is new’. It simply isn’t true.
What we want is a neglected squad given the TLC it desperately needs, using the resources we quite obviously have at our disposal. New signings, at prices within our means, that will provide some much needed quality and some much needed depth.
With regards to prices, I’m tired of talking about them. When the likes of Crystal Palace can pay £27m for a centre forward there can be no more doubt. Without any question we comfortably have at least double that capability. Our commercial revenue is far greater than theirs. Our match day revenue is the biggest in the league. We have Champions League income on top of the ludicrous new Premier League television money. And yet we keep hearing about money, how there are over 600 staff to pay. Enough, Arsene; we’re not fools.
I’m also tired of hearing the required quality is hard to come by. I cannot believe that in the world of football there isn’t a single player who cannot better the contributions of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Or those of Gabriel and Chambers. Or who could play more minutes than Welbeck and Wilshere. And this is not to attack any of the individuals listed; they all have their strengths and they all have their weaknesses. But to claim a club the size of Arsenal Football Club cannot find better? Or even find players with an equivalent level in order to boost squad depth? I simply cannot believe it. Over ten years of Theo Walcott and we still can’t find better? Please. (Ok, I’ll admit, that one was a targeted attack, on a player for whom my patience has expired!).
But then comes the real problem. Even if we did sign the required players, would it really make a difference? Would it make securing a top four finish easier? Probably. A good cup run more likely? Sure. A semi decent Champions League run? Possibly. But would it win us the league title we all crave? Unlikely. And why do I think that? Our life sapping style of play.
It’s slow, it’s pedestrian. I cringe every time I hear pundits bring out the cliché that “Arsenal are great to watch, but it’s all about results”. Because let’s not kid ourselves, we’re not even great to watch anymore! I noticed my good friend Simon Rose tweeted before the Leicester game on the weekend that he was happy to see a front three of Alexis, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain as he likes pace. But what good is having all that pace when none of them use it to their advantage?!
What has happened to the fast, scintillating, one and two touch football? Where’s our devastatingly fast counter attacks? Everton away last season saw such a goal. That it was greeted with such astonishment and joy was thoroughly depressing. We’ve become deprived of such a simple beauty that used to be so common. Now we are slow, we are ponderous, and we struggle to breakdown the defensive walls we see week after week. Oh for the days of 4-4-2 and fast, flowing football (not to mention a squad littered with world class players!).
And I don’t think I, or we, are the only ones that are bored. The players look bored too. They too appear ready for fresh ideas, a fresh approach. The problem is that the man in charge does not. Arsene revolutionised not only Arsenal Football Club, but the entire English game. And his morality for how the game should be played, and the confines in which clubs should operate to play it, is to be greatly admired. But sadly, despite being right, he is also wrong. Because the game has once again changed. It may not have changed for the better, which makes Arsene’s predicament all the sadder, but change it has and a certain element of go with the flow is required. Or, in the words of Omar Little: “The game’s out there, and it’s play or get played. That simple.” Sadly, we’re getting played.