Arsene on Transfers, The Summer And Those Comments…
The significance of tomorrow’s match at Wigan will be determined by the results in two local derbies this afternoon; defeats suffered by either of the top two can breathe life into the squad, knowing that a win for Arsenal will either stop the title chase being totally extinguished or second place being within their own destiny.
According to the tenor of Arsène’s press conference yesterday, neither of those possibilities exists, the manager ridiculed in some quarters for refusing to give up the notion of winning a trophy. Quite what is expected of him is beyond comprehension. Of course he does not publicly give up when the mathematics still makes anything possible, even if he privately acknowledges the reality to be different.
That the majority of his observations, reported at least, focussed on the coming months is the best indicator of the mood. Several are clear indicators of how he is planning his activity. The additions to the forward line are already taken care of he noted earlier this week, Chamakh has presumably been signed and sealed in a contract. The rationale for not announcing the move is in part to protect the player from accusations of not trying hard enough whilst the French title is to be decided.
More tellingly were his observations surrounding the goalkeeping position. Almunia was noted as being a ‘great goalkeeper’ but not assured of being the first choice next season. It is not the ringing endorsement that the player would like yet it is not the open condemnation that many seek. He has been far better than some believe yet unconvincing and suffers from inconsistency. As the last line of defence, his mistakes are magnified; inevitably a high percentage will lead to a goal being conceded. Others are not punished so regularly. In Almunia’s case, a number of high profile misjudgements have occurred. He would however, be a solid second choice as he was for Lehmann.
Alongside a change in goal will be a new central defender. This is the key area for Wenger. Talks with William Gallas have apparently stalled and it is hard to find fault with the player for wanting a final lucrative contract as his career enters its final stretch. The first sighting of the Golden Bredeland occurred this week, a signal that the summer madness is about to begin.
For Arsenal, it is a difficult position. They have backed themselves into a corner on the issue of age, not wanting to commit to long-term deals with older players. The justification for the policy is those who have gone before. Arguably Wenger has only got it wrong once; Robert Pires. That suggests it is not wrong yet rather than being rigidly adhered to, such policies should be flexible enough to allow manoeuvre in special circumstances.
Gallas has a part to play in this as well, balancing realism with his ‘pension’ deal. However, Arsène could use his experience over the next few seasons to allow younger potential to be realised. This season has shown that having strength in depth is crucial. Were he to go into next season with Vermaelen, Gallas, and Djourou with Campbell to take on the Carling Cup and Alex Song in emergencies, more confidence might be felt than this term which sees Silvestre and Campbell in pole position for tomorrow.
Elsewhere, Barcelona shot Peter Hill-Wood’s reported comments down in flames. They read as somewhat bizarre on Thursday and it was hardly surprising that the Catalans were quick to rubbish them. Arsène sought to do so as well, questioning their validity and putting forward a more plausible explanation of the supposed private meeting which seems never to have taken place: the pre-match dinner ahead of the Champions League tie, suggesting that off-the-cuff comments were made rather than an assertion of policy.
What I find troubling about the denial is that Arsenal has not sought to clarify, condemn or disown the media outlet involved. Manchester United rule the Press by fear, banning journalists with regularity. Perhaps Arsenal should do the same, clamping down on the outright negativity which infest the back pages. Dignified silence may be in keeping with the Arsenal ethos of not responding to press manipulation but sometimes outright indignation is the best response, ensuring that a message about boundaries is understood by reporters.
Hill-Wood’s observation that Cesc might not get into their first team are not inaccurate. Xavi and Iniesta are ahead of him in the national team but formations can be changed to accommodate exceptional players. Mischievous misinterpretation is the manager’s slant rather than disrespect to Fabregàs’ ability.
Wenger questioned the media’s desire to see players leave the Premier League for Spain. It is not that they want the best to play elsewhere, simply that the past few transfer windows were so moribund for new signings coming in, global activity took over, especially with Spanish teams doing well in European competitions at all levels.
The criticisms of Spanish football by Wenger can equally be applied here. The lack of competition in Spain is a reflection of the dominance of the ‘Big Four’ for the last decade or more in the Premier League. English clubs regularly fail to pay wages on time and the financial crisis which engulfs English football is replicated abroad with Levante in a similar boat to Portsmouth not so long ago whilst Valencia and Liverpool are rather more than distant cousins in their financial problems.
Football is a cyclical business and where once the Italians dominated, the English followed, the Spaniards taking over. Of course, Wenger’s distaste is more deep-rooted. Real Madrid and Barcelona have habitually planted stories in the media in Spain, tapping up his best players, all of which has been reported with indecent glee in the English back pages.
It is very wearing for the manager to constantly have to issue rebuttals which seem as ineffective as the denials of wanting to leave issued by the players. In this instance, Fabregàs can say no more than that which he has done on numerous occasions. We, as supporters, need to show some belief even though a transfer away from the club is inevitable at some point in his career.
The subject of contracts loomed large throughout. Wenger re-iterated his belief in honouring them, whether they are for players or managers, which has a slightly hollow ring to it given his own self-confessed dalliance with Real Madrid last summer. Only he knows the real reasons for staying at Arsenal but it is not hard to imagine that Real were the right club with totally the wrong owner and philosophy as being crucial to that.
His future it seems is not as clear cut as the Board hope. Perhaps it is but my interpretation is that next season is crucial for him, not simply because it is the last of his contract. This term has seen the team move up a level from last but not to that which Wenger believed them capable of. Defeats hit him harder nowadays – or that is how it seems, perhaps he is just showing more emotion than previously – a sign that the disappointment runs deeper because he is acutely aware of the abilities of his players.
His assertion that the past counts for nothing when considering his future is entirely correct. He must believe in his players otherwise motivation becomes a difficult task. He must believe that he can take them onwards. No-one should be in any doubt though, if this team wins something, I suspect it will give him more pleasure than any trophy before.
Posted on April 17, 2010, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer, Transfer Gossip and tagged Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, Football, Premier League, Soccer, Transfer Gossip. Bookmark the permalink. 385 Comments.