Times, They Are A-Changing
I’ll start today by thanking the reliable stalwarts who have filled in so eloquently in recent days whilst we resolved broadband issues at the new home. The ACLF hat is doffed to Messrs Muppet, OOU and LA.
The sky I am reliably informed, is falling in. Arsenal can no longer take finishing in the top four for granted, let alone even challenge for silverware. Indeed, we may be complacent about such seasonal eventualities, this is Arsenal Football Club we are talking of but the players and management won’t , that is for certain.
What to make of the start to Arsenal’s season? A previously porous defence has discovered parsimony. A free-scoring attack finds itself firing blanks. Two games, the sum total of one goal; it is 1994 all over, albeit with a dash of style. And the same undercurrent of misery amongst the support, exacerbated by the global nature of the interweb.
The portents of the pre-season were not good, Cesc finally left for Catalan climes. Whilst it is disappointing to lose a good player there is more understanding toward his departure than that of, say, Emmanuel Adebayor and seemingly Samir Nasri, leaving for money. I am not going to cover old ground with Barcelona’s behaviour over the course of the past three seasons but I hope that Cesc’s Arsenal DNA will become as tiresome for them from around 2013 onwards. Assuming he is still there at that point, of course.
As for Samir Nasri, it is a difficult situation. Football supporters are curiously hypocritical creatures. We extend our loyalty onto players who feel no great affection for the club. We treat them as if they should be similarly inclined to spend eternity. Yet it rarely happens with clubs equally as capable of displaying no loyalty to the players when their services are deemed surplus to requirements.
The problem for Nasri is PR. He has failed abysmally to quell any rumours, allowing the media to gossip its way through the tawdry affair. We presume to know he is leaving, fake Facebook accounts aside. He has said nothing, his silence ensured by the uncertainty about whether City will actually meet Arsenal’s asking price. Yet if he stays, he will have done no wrong contractually. He signed for Arsenal as a player for 4 years. If he has no desire to continue in the club’s employ, that is his choice. He is free to do so. None of us would turn down the opportunity to considerably enhance our pay so why the negativity.
Principally because this is football and normal rules of employment do not apply here. Mainly though, there is a sense of being cheated by Nasri. He has tremendous potential but in his mid-twenties, surely he should be realising this by now on a consistent basis, not the sporadic showings so far. To think that he might become the player we know he can be in someone else’s shirt serves to inflame the feelings. To do so in the same summer that Cesc leaves intensifies everything one hundred fold.
To dwell on these though is negative. With a squad already being tested by niggles, knacks and strains, Wenger’s transfer pot must surely be tempting him out of Primark and into the warmth of John Lewis? The holes created by the departures of first team regulars need to be filled as the priority over the remaining fortnight of the transfer window, as do those created by the year long or more stays of Denilson, Eboue, Vela and co. Left back is becoming an issue with the fears over Gibbs’ fitness outweighing concerns of inexperience. Traore’s early departure from a recent reserve fixture merely serves to accentuate the issue. Versatility though may be Arsene’s overriding priority with central cover also a factor.
New signings may be crucial but Gervinho has impressed in his opening two fixtures. He is lively and his absence will be noticeable in the upcoming encounters with title rivals (real or perceived). His ban, thankfully not extended, was never going to be rescinded and to be honest, despite Barton’s jaw being the weakest possessed by an Englishman since Richard Dunn, is justified within the letter of the laws. As Barton, I refuse to give him the oxygen of publicity.
Alex Song’s ban is more infuriating, deeply unprofessional and borne purely out of retribution. I hope he has been fined by the club to emphasise the unacceptable nature of his actions. Whether the two combined cost points remains to be seen.
The huge positive has been the defence. Tuesday night’s clean sheet is being dismissed as lucky with the intervention of the woodwork being crucial. That is the case but luck plays a huge part in any run and should not be ignored. If that is a sign that Arsenal are getting the rub of the green, so be it. There is a credible argument that no-one of any note has tested Arsenal, di Natale changed that thought. It also misses the point. All that was asked of the defence was to defend, concede less. Two games in and that is the case, already -4 on last season’s corresponding fixtures.
Nothing can be read into two matches but it can be construed as the beginning of a trend. And why should it not be, what evidence of no improvement is there? Time will provide the answer and maybe a new defender will enhance that prospect but nothing is guaranteed.
More than anything though, the team has shown a willingness in the opening games to fight for each other, showing effort and desire which had been so palpably missing last term. Time away whilst moving house has given me a chance to recharge batteries, renewing enthusiasm for the coming campaign that the negativity had erased.
Time to look forward, assess where the squad is on August 31st. By then crucial fixtures will have taken place and the transfer window closed. When that has happened, a germ of an idea will have formed about where this season may end will form.
Posted on August 18, 2011, in Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Soccer, Transfer Gossip and tagged Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Soccer, Transfer Gossip. Bookmark the permalink. 470 Comments.