Stone Cold Friday: Keeping Your Eye On The Ball
Never one to be invisible in the cold moments, where’er ye go Darius is here to push it along…
In recent times I’ve formed a habit of taking a back seat after any Arsenal defeat and letting the waters run dry. Part of this is shaped and conditioned by my day job, which dictates that emotion has little place in decision-making, especially following key events that shape the direction of play. I work in the financial markets and more often than not, a disproportionate amount of noise follows certain key events. The markets run riot with volatility as speculators try to hedge their bets to make quick hay out of any sunshine or thunderstorm the events throw at them.
Experience teaches you that this distortion quickly passes and life does actually move on in a predictable direction once the noise and excitement dies down.
Whenever Arsenal loses or even draws a game they should have won, I get a sense of déjà vu as the noise-makers and doom-mongers sharpen their forked tongues and unleash the customary venomous tirade. They remind me of the twisted and demented father who wills on their child to fail so that they get the opportunity to tell the mother ”I told you so, this sprog is utterly useless”.
I get the sense that a lot of the myopic knee-jerk reaction that follows any Arsenal setback is symptomatic of a footballing ‘fast food, give it to me now‘ culture, where the loss of bragging rights and the humiliation of being taunted by rival fans throws perspective right out of the 8th floor window along with the baby and the bath tub.
What the two-legged tie with Barcelona taught us is that we have a benchmark to aspire to. The Catalans have been at it longer than we have, so it’s certainly no shame exiting the competition to the best club in the world at the moment.
The question for me is how we then bridge the distance between reality and the aspiration of being the best. The answer seems quite straightforward – to keep doing what we’re doing. We have to build on what we’ve achieved so far by grabbing the remaining 15 points in the EPL for starters. There’s no better place than at White Hart Lane to get back on the horse and ride.
New faces are almost certain at London Colney in the summer, with noises that estate agents in Hertfordshire are already clamouring for the signature of a certain Moroccan. A lot has been made about Arsenal’s alleged refusal to spend the big profits they wax lyrical about, to get new players. I would argue that this again is a distortion of the reality.
There was little, if any, movement in the January transfer market as players sought to fight for regular football at their existing clubs ahead of the World cup. There’s also the small matter of a reality check in the football world as the days of ’big money, cheque book’ management are well and truly over.
What people forget is that Arsenal has already invested a significant amount of money to shore up current player contracts and keep the core of this squad together for the future. Doing that is the first and most important task when building on what we’ve achieved. As and when the club finds suitable and affordable reinforcements, they will be added to the current squad, but not at the cost of bankrupting the club.
For those who are shouting for the head of Arsene Wenger to be put on a stick and publicly displayed outside Holloway Road tube station, the fact that at least 17 out of the current squad recently signed long term contracts makes it unlikely that Wenger is going anywhere in the foreseeable future.
This current Arsenal squad is on its way to being the greatest squad we have ever had. Many have said it on here, and it has been echoed by readers who have followed the Arsenal for over 50 years and have seen many a squad come and go. This is not the time to give up on this squad, especially for the sake of saving face and minimizing the taunting from rival fans when the team hits an obstacle in their development.
We will of course continue to hear screams about the need to get world class players into Arsenal. I would suggest though, that the Arsenal scouting infrastructure is better placed to make such decisions and implement them. We have to bear in mind that we will never be able to afford some players and the wages they demand, so a modicum of perspective as well as the ability to manage our expectations as fans is called for.
Besides, in Cesc Fabregas, we already have the 6th most valuable player in the world (according to transfermarkt.co.uk). That’s a good enough start considering we’ll never be able to afford the 5 in front of him (Messi, Ronaldo, Xavi, Iniesta and Kaka) who all play for either Barcelona or Real Madrid. And no; I didn’t leave Rooney out by mistake – the people who matter actually know that Fabregas is way more valuable and talented.
We all want Arsenal to do the best and I’m sure the players want to also do their best. It’s easy to forget that this is a journey and sometimes we have to take a pit stop and recharge our batteries for the journey ahead.
Barcelona has reminded us what we need to aim for in terms of excellence, and I’m confident the team will have learnt from that experience. My sense is that the quarter final tie of the Champions League this season was a watershed in the development of this team and even if you tried, it’s impossible to buy the experience they gained.
We’ve had a disproportionate amount of injuries through the season. The fact that we’re 3 points behind the pace with a shout at the EPL title speaks volumes of the strength and character of Arsenal.
Why walk when you can run, eh? ’til Tomorrow