The transfer window closed. The international break is done. So tomorrow it’s back to business with a game at home to Stoke City and I can’t help but feel nothing but a win will do.
I wanted to avoid dwelling on our lack of transfer activity; it’s been done to death already elsewhere in the Arsenal sphere. However, my hand is somewhat forced as I firmly believe a lack of three points tomorrow would result in the return of over the top emotional meltdowns we had to endure on deadline day.
With Petr Cech our sole addition, we were the only club in Europe’s top five leagues not to have acquired an outfield player and, like it or not, that is a sentence that will continue to rear its head every time we fail to secure victory between now and the winter window.
We’ve failed to score in 5 of our last 6 home games. If that becomes 6 out of 7 tomorrow you know exactly what the headlines will be. Equally, if we are opened up too easily in defence, or caught too easily on the counter, then you know questions will be asked about the lack of a new Coq.
It was interesting to read the stats from @Orbinho about the number of forwards across Europe’s top leagues to have scored 20 plus goals last season. The number was 11. The 11 were Messi, Neymar, Ronaldo, Aguero, Costa, Kane, Tevez, Toni, Icardi, Bacca, and Griezmann. If you exclude penalties that number becomes just 5, Messi, Neymar, Ronaldo, Aguero, and Griezmann.
Those 5 players, for one reason or another, were simply not realistic targets or realistically obtainable. If you look at the 6 who made the list with penalties included then Costa and Kane would also be deemed unobtainable due to being at rival clubs. So fundamentally there were 4 players in Europe’s top leagues who scored 20 plus goals last season; not exactly a plethora of options! And it’s exactly the reason why a summer in which Arsenal, United, Chelsea, and Liverpool all wanted a ‘new number 9’ ended with the only deals being Falcao, Benteke, Ings, and Martial; three very uninspiring options and a ridiculously expensive gamble on an inexperienced winger.
But to many, including those who write the headlines, the above reason and rhyme will count for nothing if tomorrow does not end in an Arsenal victory. They will argue it’s not our job to identify realistic and obtainable targets. They will argue Arsene is paid handsomely enough, and has a vast scouting network at his disposal, to provide the unexpected answer. Very few knew of Gabriel before his arrival in January, but we knew we needed a centre half and we like what we’ve seen so far. So were there really no defensive midfielders or centre forward equivalents available this window?
That, rightly or wrongly, will be the question raised if three points are not secured. That is the question that will be raised if we fail to score. That will be the question if Mathieu Flamini or Joel Campbell have to be used as desperate last resorts. Not just tomorrow, but every game between now and January.
For me, however, the questions would be different. What I’d like to know is how a team that was functioning so incredibly well in the second half of last season has failed to inspire so far this season. I’d like to know how we can ensure the right balance in our team. I’d like to know (see) how Wenger adjusts his line-up and approach from opponent to opponent, between home fixtures and away.
Signings would have been nice, don’t get me wrong. We’d all love another 30 plus goals a season forward like Henry. We’d all love a player (captain) in the mould of Patrick Vieira dominating proceedings. But people need to remember that Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira (and the others many greats of their era) are the exceptions, not the rule. As such, their greatness should not be used as a stick with which to beat our current squad of players. Their greatness does not automatically mean our current squad is not good enough. Their greatness does not mean certain players, who seem to be the easy scapegoats, are bad players. Granted our current squad may not contain once in a lifetime legends, but it does contain some exceptional players and back to back FA Cup winners, so let’s stop demoting them all into the Kaba Diawarra bucket.
I guess what I’m trying to say, in a long-winded and inarticulate way, is that we have a very good squad of players. If Arsene can get them playing to the level he did last season (December to May) then there is still no reason why we can’t challenge for honours, the league title included.
So, come Saturday 3pm tomorrow, let’s make sure everyone is behind this group of players. Let’s raise the Emirates roof. Let’s get our first home goals of the season. Let’s make sure those goals secure our first home win of the season. And in the unthinkable event it all goes Pete Tong, let’s try to remain positive, after all one man or one signing doesn’t make a team. Up The Arsenal. Victoria Concordia Crescit.