I intentionally try to avoid the newspapers at this time of the year, having endured several summers tearing what's left of my hair out. My head knows not to expect any seizmic announcements, but my heart can't help but be bouyed, as I grasp at every groundless glimpse of the Gunners involvement in the relentless merry-go-round of tabloid tittle-tattle.
Personally I find myself laughing at the preposterous criticism of all those who seem to want to paint Le Gaffer as some sort of ego-maniac, hell-bent on a blinkered, do or die strategy to force the Premiership to bend to his will, when it seems patently obvious to me that we are merely witnessing Wenger's prudence, in his valiant efforts to maintain the Gunners competitiveness, whilst guarding the club's best long-term interests. When many other managers in his all-powerful position, wouldn't give a monkey's for where the Arsenal will be in ten years time, but would merely be pandering to the fans demands for instant gratification and their own self-glorification, by mortgaging the club up to the hilt in the HOPE of short-term success.
Sure, as it stands at the moment, it might appear that the likes of Man City are spunking up millions, in an effort to make an immediate, massive leap up, to join the elite group of four teams chasing Champions League qualification, but theirs is no long-term strategy, they are merely fortunate to be in a position where they can throw together the most expensive available talent, in the hope that they might instantly bond, to form a team capable of producing immediate success.
By contrast, in the face of the malaise of modern day football, which conspires at every turn to put a spoke in the wheels of Wenger's best laid plans (with agents constantly whispering in their client's ears, enticing players away with offers of the sort of exorbitant but tangible pay packets, which will inevitably turn their heads away from the promise of Wenger's long-term vision), our manager really deserves a medal for having managed to maintain the Arsenal on a competitive level, whilst he endeavours to build another successful team.
Above all, Arsène is a pragmatist and having understood the financial constraints that would be inevitable as a result of the massive scale of the new stadium project (but which unfortunately have been magnified by the misfortune of the climax of the project coinciding with cataclysmic economic climate, where instead of realising expected profits, we've ended up being encumbered by additional debt!), Le Gaffer chose the only course available to him, by using his limited budget to try and build a squad, which might mature together into formidable team unit that's capable of competing with and beating all those clubs made up of star-studded mercenaries.
I don't know about anyone else, but from my personal point of view, I'm happy to have seen us tread water these past few seasons, whilst savouring some sumptuous footie along the way, where on our day, we've been a match for anyone (eg. I can't imagine there were many more entertaining games than last season's 4-4 at Anfield), just so long as we witness evidence of continued progress. Last summer I think we were (Wenger was) particularly unfortunate to take one step forward (in terms of maturity) but two steps back (unexpectedly losing half of our midfield), with both Flamini and Hleb not having learned the lessons of those who'd gone before them, in chasing the money, to the detriment of their footballing careers.
I don't really blame them, as for example, it's easy for me to say that I'd much rather be earning £70k a week and playing regularly, than to be getting £90k a week as recompense for the splinters in my backside, from spending the vast majority of the season warming the bench. But loyalty needs to cut both ways and you can't expect players to buy into a manager's vision and the promise of rich rewards by way of bonuses a couple of seasons down the road, when they know full well that as far as the clubs are concerned, they are only as good as their last game and that they are nothing more than "fixed assets", to be peddled on the transfer market, the moment their form begins to wane, or their bodies begin to break down, before they depreciate in value completely.
My biggest fear is that while Arsène can count on my patience and the loyalty of all those Gooners who truly appreciate how incredibly privileged, we've been during this past decade of incredible entertainment during Wenger's tenure, I'm concerned that the club's failure to make a statement of intent in the transfer market this summer might precipitate the departure of our greatest asset, Cesc Fabregas. My feeling is that it's not a matter of if Fab is going to return to Spain. but when, as I can fully appreciate that with Fab having never played senior football in Spain, he's bound to want to go back and do the business on home soil at some stage in his career.
My instincts are that up until now Cesc has been able to resist the undoubtedly lucrative lure of the likes of Barca and Real because of his loyalty to Le Boss and his desire to repay the debt he owes to Arsène for developing him into a world star, by seeing Wenger's vision through to it's conclusion and leading the Gunners on to glory. So for example, say if the fates smiled upon us, to the extent that we were to win the Champions League this season, although Cesc might decide to stick it out with a winning team, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he felt that his debt was "paid in full" and pissed off to Spain, to prove himself in front of his own people, while still performing at his peak.
However, as one of only two or three truly established world class talents in the current Arsenal squad, there is a lot of responsibility on Fab's young shoulders and if we get off to a good start this season everything will be hunky-dory, but if we fail to hit the ground running, I can't help but wonder how long it will be before Fabregas begins to feel frustrated with the calibre of some of those playing alongside him and with the relentless grind of trying to win games for the Gunners, when he could be making hay playing alongside the likes of Messi. I'm worried that if things should begin to go awry, Fabergas' fealty could be seriously tested, as a player of his quality really deserves to be winning trophies and can only be expected to survive on promises for so long.
As a result, unless Arsène is about surprise us all, by going on a spending spree, it feels to me as if we've rarely needed so desperately to get off to a good start to a campaign, as otherwise, a couple of bad results and the tabloids are guaranteed to be tearing Arsène a new arsehole, with the media in general laying into the lack of spending, that it's bound to have some impact on the morale of the squad and in the continued absence of any real leadership figures, capable of rallying the troops, if we start off on the back foot, we could end up struggling to cling to the coat tails of the top three again, with perhaps City & Everton, joining Villa in challenging for that crucial fourth spot.
That said, with this young squad having another season under their belt, with Shava having the potential to be the Arsenal's own Ronaldo, coming up with those match winning interventions at crucial moments, with Van Persie well overdue a big (20 plus goal) season and having shipped out Adebayor, if we can get off to a flyer, hopefully we're going to witness the sort of team spirit developing in our dressing room that was patently absent last term. If the smile returns to their faces on the pitch, there's no telling what we might achieve, as we all know that on their day, this squad is a match for anyone and everyone would soon forget the fact that we spent f**k all this summer, in fact we'll probably be taunting everyone else with our penny-pinching parsimony :-)
Meanwhile, with Róna travelling to Dublin for her Da's 80th birthday, I dropped her at Stansted at the crack of dawn this morning and came home without any Sunday newspapers. But instead of heading back to bed, thanks to the marvels of the iPhone, I ended up in the library, retiring to the smallest room in the house, for a good cra...wl through the headlines on the NewsNow website.
I don't know what qualifies Usmanov's supposed pal, Farhad Moshiri to comment on the state of play at the Arsenal. He only demonstrated that he doesn't know his arse from his elbow, in moaning on Radio 5's Sportsweek about us selling Adebayor to Man City, because you don't exactly need to be a brain surgeon, to work out that City are absolutely the only club to be bonkers enough and sufficiently loaded to be blowing such batty amounts of money for the Togolese mercenary. Still it was quite amusing to see the "mistake selling Adebayor to City" headline, just above the one announcing "Adebayor misses sitter for City"!
The next story to catch my eye was one detailing our interest in Salomon Kalou. I'd forgotten all about the Chelsea player, but it was only back in May that one of my pal's was telling me that his WAGlette daughter was off, with some of her mates, a posse of Arsenal youngsters, to a party that was supposed to be Kalou's leaving do! Back then I can recall making the corny crack that the wisdom of Salomon was hardly what was required at the Arsenal, but following the departure of Adebayor and with Nasri biting the dust, before a ball has been kicked in anger (at least by anyone except Diaby, as apparently it was Abou who did for Samir's fibula), I certainly wouldn't turn Kalou away, especially since he wants to play for the Gunners and already appears to be good pals with many of our lads.
However it wasn't long before I was regretting my first foray into the mass of largely unfounded transfer gossip, for a long time, as I alighted upon a tale from Channel 4's Football Italia site:
which would have us believe that the Viola are about to inveigle Manny Eboué over to Serie A. I can believe that this story has some mileage but I somehow doubt it's quite the done deal that the bloke from Fiorentina would have us believe, as according to Gazetto De La Sport, personal terms have been agreed with the player and the Gunners are eager to end the matter!
It seems that Eboué was originally the makeweight, in our efforts to prize Melo from the Viola and it's a fairly typical irony of the transfer market, that in our efforts to obtain Melo, it's likely that we bumped up the price that Juventus were eventually forced to pay (as £21.5 million turned out to be too rich for our manager's blood), thereby playing an unwitting part in providing Fiorentina with the sort of funds that might now enable them to be able to afford Eboué, with us gettting the money but no Melo!
The fact of the matter is that after the shameful treatment of Eboué last season, by some sorry excuses for Arsenal "supporters", Manny is undoubtedly aware of the fact, if he was indeed proposed as the makeweight in any deal to try and lure Melo to the Arsenal and so he's hardly going to be feeling particularly wanted by the club at this point in time. So if there's a serious offer on the table (and if Arsène is actually going to be able to reinvest the money), it is perhaps a good time to cash in, as otherwise we're only going to end up with a repeat of the Adebayor episode, with another disruptive influence in the dressing room, as Eboué spends the season resenting the fact that he wasn't allowed to leave, certain that the grass would've been greener on the Continent, or that the rewards would've at least been greater - because while Manny might envisage it would be all sunshine in Serie A, if some reprobrate Gooners were able to bring the Ivorian lad to tears, it's probably nothing, compared to the sort of racist treatment he's likely to experience over in Italy!
It wasn't long before I was regretting my mistake, in getting myself caught up in morass of transfer tittle-tattle, as the media goes into overdrive with the approach of the August deadline, latching on to various other unsubstantiated gossip on the Arsenal page on the NewsNow web site, my iPhone working overtime as I Googled various names of players who I've never heard of before.
However after being told a couple of weeks back that the word on the Gooner grapevine was that Arsène had no specific targets and at that stage, even if the Adebayor deal went through, he wasn't likely to be splashing the cash, while I left the karsey this morning having done all of my business, I was somewhat reassured that the Arsenal have yet to do all of theirs this summer. I only hope they don't all turn out to be quite such a load of crap :-)
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Sunday, July 26, 2009