Our opening day draw with Sunderland feels like such a long time ago. In reality it was only 11 days ago, but as we know a day in football is a long time, so 11 days feels like an eternity. Since our stalemate with the Black Cats we have sold Alex Song, drawn 0-0 with Stoke, got ourselves into a frenzy over Theo Walcott, and continued to speculate over how many signings we still require.
I’ll start with the football and our second 0-0 of the season. I haven’t seen any of the game, as I was attending my cousin’s wedding in Norwich, so I can’t really comment on the performance. What I can comment on is the result, which is a solid one. Stoke away is certainly one of the more tricky fixtures and there’s no shame in only picking up a point – I’m pretty sure some of our rivals will also drop points there. The problem is that people no longer assess results in isolation; they view them as a mini series of form. It’s for this reason that a second 0-0 has caused some concern, with many lazy pundits continuing to bang the Van Persie drum. If we had beaten Sunderland on the opening day then most people would have been satisfied with a point on the road and a defensive performance, which from what I’ve heard, was very solid. The poor result was therefore Sunderland, not Stoke. This time last year, with Van Persie in the team, we drew 0-0 at Newcastle and lost 0-2 at home to Liverpool, so I refuse to join the Van Persie bandwagon – Podolski, Giroud, and Cazorla are all excellent signings who given time will score us goals. However, with Stoke, Liverpool, and Man City being our first three away games it would have been ideal to beat Sunderland and is now even more important that we beat Southampton. Any points we pick up on the road will be a bonus at this stage. If we can beat Southampton and snatch a victory at Anfield or the Etihad either side of it (to make up for the Sunderland draw) then I think order will be restored…albeit briefly.
Away from the field, the biggest story was the sale of Alex Song. It terms of Song’s ability he is replaceable and at £15m has been sold for very good money. In terms of Song’s personality and recent behaviour it appears we’ve again done what’s best for the club. However, as I said in my squad review our options in midfield were about right and I only saw new additions if we sold someone. Well that time has come, someone has been sold, and not just any old someone, but someone who was a regular in our starting eleven. It’s therefore important that Song is replaced; with whom I have no idea, but what I can tell you is that a player for whom we’d have to pay a £5m loan fee, large wages, and have no option to buy at the end of the loan period is not what we need – so I won’t lose any sleep over Sahin going to Liverpool.
Then there is Theo Walcott, for whom the latest news keeps on changing. One minute Theo is told to sign up before deadline day or be sold, the next he’s had a one to one with Wenger and will stay despite not signing as everyone is confident he will sign in due course. I really don’t know what to make of this situation. I can’t help but feel Theo’s expectations, as to what he is worth, are somewhat over inflated as a result of the football world we currently live in. Should he be blamed for this? Or does he have every right to ask the going rate? The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. Either way I’d like to see Theo stay, but if a deal cannot be done he needs to be offloaded; letting him leave on a free isn’t acceptable. Like Song his ability is certainly replaceable, but again it’s a case of us leaving things to the eleventh hour which is all rather frustrating. I said in my squad review that I didn’t seen any new additions in attack should one of Robin or Theo stay, but I didn’t say this would be the right approach and I think we definitely need another forward option, two if Theo does leave.
So by my mind we need a back up goalkeeper, a solid midfielder, and an attacker or two between now and Friday 11pm – others will also have a defender on their list. There is then the small matter of still having to offload 5 or 6 of our unwanted players. Deadline day, much like last year, will be a busy one and will really shape our season. I remain optimistic however, and stand by my belief that we can finish at least 3rd (like last season) and that we will win a trophy – most likely the FA Cup. Time will tell. There will be plenty more bumps in the road, so stand strong Gooners and stand together, side by side. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
I’ll finish with my non-Arsenal update. Over recent weeks I have visited my Dad’s side of the family in France, become unemployed after nearly 9 years service with the organisation in question, and seen Mum’s side of the family at my cousin’s wedding this weekend just gone. I’m now all packed up and ready to go; Sydney is waiting for me. My flight is midday Friday, with a scheduled landing time of 6.50pm Saturday evening (Australian time). This means I’ll be offline for pretty much the whole of deadline day and the day of reaction that will follow it, which I think is probably a good thing. That said, my former season ticket buddy Paul is collecting me from the airport and I’m hoping to hear some exciting news from him upon my arrival; “What were our ins and outs?” will certainly be my first question for him!
And last, but by no means least, tomorrow (30th August) is my Dad’s birthday, so I’d like to wish him a very happy birthday – have a great day Dad. A family meal to celebrate the occasion (and my departure) takes place in the evening; I can’t think of a better way to say farewell to my family and to London.
2012/13 is going to be a rollercoaster, but I’m bloody excited. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for The Arsenal and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for me in Sydney. Next time you hear from me that’s where I will be. Until then… “We love you Arsenal, we do, ooh Arsenal we love you…”