The Size Of The Task Is Now Clear
Tottenham’s win over Everton last night was hardly surprising and it leaves Arsenal knowing exactly where they stand and what is required. There is no longer any element of guesswork. The gap is nine points to third. The goal difference is relatively unimportant at this moment since making up the nine point gap will move that fluid beast towards Arsenal’s favour.
It emphasises how much ground was lost – and how quickly – at the start of the season whilst a reasonable Christmas was not as good as it should have been.
Those two points should not be forgotten or overlooked. By the same token, the work put in by the players to retrieve the situation is being pushed aside. Recriminations over what happened in the Summer, whilst not pointless – and important in ensuring lessons are learned – are also not productive at the moment.
Those concerns have not been erased. Gervinho has not begged his captain to stay at the club, he has though underlined the importance to the side of Robin van Persie. Thierry Henry signing is not a signal of a lack of ambition or intent on the part of the club but it is impossible to deny that had Chamakh, Arshavin and Park been in good form, he would probably not have been considered.
As is normally the case, Arsenal’s transfer activity is not publicised in advance. According to Maxwell’s Mr 20%, Arsenal are not the quickest of club’s to put bids in. He is no doubt trying to sound out interest lest his client’s move to PSG falls through but I have no doubt there is an element of truth in that. Maybe the slowness is to some extent because they try to agree with the club that permission is sought. Some of it will be due to not wanting to get involved in a bidding war. It is a mixture of the three.
There are genuine concerns that Summer 2011 may recur with van Persie and Walcott, the Dutchman in particular with the similarity to Nasri’s situation this time last year in a desire to leave negotiations until the season’s end. With Euro2012, that means two or three months of frenzy fed by the silence of Arsenal.
The media inspired loan scenario around Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, combined with the sale of Luke Freeman to Stevenage, is being portrayed as an entropy at Arsenal; the fabled youth system is crumbling. Nothing of the sort is true. Neither of the players were products of the Academy, both signed from other clubs having already played first team football. In the case of Oxlade-Chamberlain, the player refuted the allegations entirely.
That this report appeared in the pet paper of Peter Hill-Wood shows how little fear is inspired by the media and PR department at the club. Journalists have complained that Wenger is less accessible than before; when he has to respond to spurious questioning based on reports of this ilk, it is little surprise.
The role of the Academy is changing. Whilst its primary function is to develop younger players for the first team, it is a revenue stream for the most part. From an early point, those who have real potential will be marked out, others developed and hoped that they will show the aptitude for a First XI place. Those who do not make it are effectively in the shop window, the loan system being the primary mechanism for this. Whilst some such as Song, Wilshere and Szczesny are sent for experience, most are sent in hope of a concrete offer. That is the fact of life. Simply because a dozen players are not graduating every year does not mean the system is failing.
Like all aspects of the professional game it is cyclical. The professionals role in this is to minimise the risks when that cycle is turning away from its’ peak.
The whole bath is depressingly familiar and not entirely surprising. Despite the squad embarking on a good run, there was a frailty in the support. Not a desire to stop supporting, more that the scars of August and September run more deeply with us than they do the players.
PR has never been the club’s strong point – is there any football club where it is? However, a lot of rumour is turned to an accepted fact without any substantial evidence to back it up, merely an interpretation of circumstance. Vague answers to the press from the manager and senior figures whilst protecting the club’s commercial and football business, do not quell or quash speculation. Neither would verbosity. Football thrives on the media which thrives on speculation.
It would be folly for the club to admit to holding surplus cash in case of a failure to qualify for the Champions League yet to not plan for such an eventuality is equally foolish. It needs to be carefully managed; failure to invest this transfer window might invite a failure to qualify, especially when there are readily identifiable weaknesses to be filled.
Making up the gap of nine points is less than ideal, especially since we have only just passed Christmas. It is not irretrievable and it would be nonsensical to suggest otherwise. The one thing I do hope is that the lessons have been taken on board. To not do so would be a reckless disregard for the club’s health on and off the pitch.
Today’s post on Arsenal On This Day is the FA Cup win over Bedford in 1956. As was observed earlier, if the events of that match were to occur today, you would think the world had ended.