Arsene Expects. So Do We.
Arsene’s first major press conference brought forth a slew of opinions ahead of The Emirates Cup this weekend, unsurprisingly forthright on squads and Cesc’s future. The friendlies mean that the season edges ever closer and Wenger admitted that he already had a strong idea of what the starting line-up will be at Anfield in a fortnight’s time. This weekend and perhaps more importantly the trip to Poland, will give us an indication of what that will be.
Personally, the only thing that excites me about pre-season friendlies and a thumping win should be greeted with the same scepticism as a defeat. Neither indicates anything more than a performance on the day. The key things to emerge out this weekend will be fitness and understandings. Some players have things to prove to themselves, the manager and us, the goalkeepers for example will want clean sheets and solid performances to enhance their case for inclusion as the first choice. Centre back pairings will want understandings to develop to bring confidence into the Premier League fixtures.
Once more though the focus turned to the squad and its potential for the coming season. Wenger had earlier in the week shown his belief and re-iterated that yesterday. He spoke of the cyclical nature of developing the squad and was at pains to remind everyone that this is the beginning of the squad, previous seasons being the evolution. There are those who would tell him quite the opposite, that this is the last chance saloon for many of the squad if silverware is not delivered.
And to some extent that is true although not in the wholesale numbers that those who desire immediate change want. With financial advantages, some clubs could quite contentedly stockpile players. The number of those who are deemed surplus to requirements is well-documented in the press, albeit erroneously in some cases. To force clubs to develop ‘home grown’ players is not as disadvantageous as Wenger would like to suggest, for Arsenal anyway. That is a process which the club has been engaged in for a number of years. Indeed, Arsenal are the template for others to follow.
It is a process which is alien to English football at the highest level since the inception of the Premier League and perhaps since the late 1970s / early 1980s. Looking back over the list of Champions, perhaps George Graham’s title winning side of 1989 was the last to have followed that route, mixing one or two major signings with a group of players who have been brought through the ranks or purchased young from lower divisions. A sign of the economic progression in football we are told yet the reason for the continued decline of the national team.
The new squad system is not likely to improve that in Wenger’s opinion. I would disagree; twenty-five players is an ideal number for the Premier League. It does give opportunity for younger players outside of that core figure and Wenger is in a prime position to exploit that. He will not want to tread the path of doing this en masse but has the flexibility he needs for occasional dips into the Reserve squad.
The key losers will be clubs lower down the leagues. Arsenal will be more reluctant to allow players who have been identified as having first team potential to leave for loan spells so readily. Some, like Randall for example, appear to have failed to capitalise on earlier progress and departures on loan will be a prelude to a sale. Others, such as Wilshere, are more likely to be kept at Arsenal and developed internally.
Ideally, there would be at least one more addition to the squad. Four centre backs is a risk, especially since Djourou is susceptible to niggling injuries at the moment following his year long enforced absence. Tweaks and strains are prime threats in players at this stage of their return as we have seen with Eduardo and Rosicky. One more, experienced, headcount would be the solution. This would allow Koscielny the time to adjust to the English game and younger players to become accustomed to the change in demands for the game at the highest level.
On Cesc’s situation, Mathieu Flamini gave his two-pennethworth, impressively contradicting himself in the same sentence:
I would tell him to do what he feels, because it’s a very personal choice and I cannot advise anything.
Which is exactly what he did.
Contrary to The Guardian‘s assertion, the situations are entirely dissimilar, Flamini electing to rundown his contract and exercise his right to talk with other clubs. Cesc does not have that luxury and the distinct impression is that a formal transfer request would be rejected out of hand. Quite rightly so, not just for the player’s importance to the squad at this moment in time but also as a signal that being rewarded handsomely twelve months ago with a contract extension and bonuses brings obligations which should be honoured.
As expected the Catalan media is outraged, reduced to weak-willed moralising over the ‘stealing’ of Cesc as a teenager which gives them right to steal him back for a reduced fee. Wenger has forgiven the youthful exuberance of Pique following the Barcelona shirt incident, something that is easy to do when a multitude of squad members have made complete fools of themselves by speaking so openly about how Cesc will be joining them this summer. As expected, the current regime has blamed the former regime who have sought to deflect attention away from themselves by suggesting that Wenger should bear the brunt of Catalan ire rather than throwing ‘shit‘ at each other.
Arsenal strongly and continually asserted rejections of the overtures has been a welcome reversal of stance from English clubs. Aside from Chelsea, all have lost prime assets to the Spanish duo and to see them fumbling around like teenagers on a first date – knowing the objective but lost in the dark along the way – has been refreshing indeed.
Equally, ensuring that players know contracts must be honoured may suggest that the tide is turning more towards equilibrium in the balance of power between player and owners. That is only good for football. The true test however comes next summer. Whether the same outcome occurs is to be seen. In the meantime there is a season of football to enjoy.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.
Posted on July 31, 2010, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer, Transfer Gossip and tagged Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Soccer, Transfer Rumours. Bookmark the permalink. 237 Comments.