Gooners – (Try To) Keep Calm and Carry On
First things first, there is absolutely no justification for booing in a friendly. There are many ways of putting this but I’ll opt for the simple one; neither the match nor the tournament actually mattered. We dominated possession and showed some good signs going forward. We happened to be undone in the last 10 minutes of our second game in two days, this time against a side who are at peak fitness, given they’ve been playing competitively in a physically strong league since March.
All the booing does is show that some of our fans, content to partake of Mexican waves just half an hour earlier, are buying into an idea that Arsenal are rapidly losing direction. The dominant narrative around the club is one of stagnation, whether that is factually the case or otherwise. Some argue that our creaky defence has actually weakened despite the fact we’ve shed the greatest liability from last years back four and welcomed back Vermaelen from an extended lay off. Whilst the search for a centre half goes on, many of our problems back there could be solved by organisation and attitude, not exclusively through new personnel. Until we see competitive matches, how can we judge whether things are better or worse?
The air of stasis is fuelled by the media. The pre-season narrative follows a familiar pattern with Wenger cast as too tight to spend whilst premature season previews are filled with assumptions that everyone but us has improved and that our fall from the Champions League places is finally determined. The same prediction that has been made for the last six pre-seasons at least.
Despite the wide range of information sources at our fingertips the vast majority of hacks don’t actually know with any certainty what is happening behind closed doors. This of course doesn’t mean that the people that matter are sat around Highbury House snoozing at their desks. It just means we might have to keep a lid on our anger until something is confirmed as having happened. Or not happened as the case may be.
The complicated futures of Cesc and Nasri, to which a satisfactory conclusion to either saga has yet to appear, still loom over the club and mean that transfers have been harder to commit to. The players we need to sign depend heavily on the players which remain at the club. It’s fair to say that these cases could have been handled better but Wenger’s hard line on Nasri and insistence on not being taken to the cleaners over Fabregas are in place to protect the reputation – and future – of the club.
Whilst talk of imposing deadlines on Barca or board members communicating more boldly are all very well, I would assume that there are very good reasons why we’ve played it as we have. I wouldn’t pretend that I know exactly what’s happening in the corridors of power but, then again, neither do the vast majority of other commentators. I choose to reserve judgement until the first games have been played and the window has slammed shut.
As well as the uncertain future of two key players, we’ve also been criticised for an apparent inactivity in the market. With the business of transfers as it is, you can either pay well above what is reasonable in order to show intent, like Liverpool, or keep your powder dry, looking for players at reasonable prices who will improve your squad, moving when the deals are ready. Of course, the deadline is not far off and our first game is closer. Views will differ on this but I don’t see the value in spending whatever the seller wants to get a deal done early when the fee may well reduce as the deadline looms nearer. We need to improve certain areas but we are not so bad that we can’t manage the first few games of the season with the squad we have.
It often seems to be forgotten that the pool in which we are fishing is exceptionally shallow and is being trawled by every other top club in Europe. These deals are tricky hence there is no sense in Wenger saying that he really wants a specific player only to raise the pressure on the deal. Just imagine the deal he openly talks about doesn’t go through, Wenger would be left in an unmanageable situation of his own making. It is far better for the board to get their head down and do the work for the good of the club rather than to brag about who we’re flirting with this week. Would you rather the cautious Wenger approach or would you trade that for Harry Redknapp’s addiction to cliché ridden quotes garbled from the drivers’ seat of his executive motor?
It’s all well and good saying ‘look at United, they did their business early’, but they are the Champions – they can offer higher wages, and regarding Phil Jones, he’s a Lancashire lad! If he was from Potters Bar then he’d be a Gooner.
This lack of concrete knowledge about our club, coupled with the fact that a seat at Football is increasingly expensive and hard to come by means that some feel they have been alienated; reduced to the position of customers rather than fans. As a customer you pay up and expect something for your money; whether that be the parading of the utterly meaningless Emirates Cup or a routine 3-0 Premier League win. When punters see the team fail to win they feel that the right to be entertained has been replaced by the right to complain.
The problem is that there is no such thing as entitlement in Football. It doesn’t matter how good you once were, how expensive your seat was or how much money the club spends. There is never a guaranteed outcome. As a result, booing is about the least useful thing you can do at a game. If it is designed to urge the board to act and to hurry up a couple of transfers it is misguided. This is a pivotal season for Wenger therefore it makes no sense for him to rush in to a deal just to make summer more palatable for a few aggrieved fans.
Having said that, I really do hope that come September 1st, Ivan Gazidis has earned his salary and brokered deals that will have seen Wenger’s targets acquired within budget. Not being able to shed the dead wood has been a factor also, and maybe it would have made sense to lower our valuation of players that are obviously surplus to requirements. This, I believe the Board can rightly be criticised for.
Affiliation to a Football club doesn’t guarantee a certain number of star players, signings or trophies. Your Sky subscription or your season ticket means you get to watch Football matches, it doesn’t guarantee satisfaction. When it comes down to 11 v 11 this sport is unpredictable. Within reason anything can happen, any team can beat any other more so now than ever in the Premier League, so anyone coming to the ground, expecting to experience those advertised moments of fist pumping joy are more than likely going to be disappointed. If you want to guarantee an outcome or a return on your ticket price then I’m afraid Football isn’t, and never was, the game for you. The agonising defeats make victory and glory that bit more sweeter.
Of course, last season’s capitulation was crushingly familiar and the lack of certainty in the window isn’t filling many people with the optimism that pre-season should bring. We’re in a tricky time and yet more patience is required. At the moment we have plenty of training hours until the season kicks off and the best part of a month until business has to be concluded. Let’s reserve judgement until we know how this pans out. I might be proven wrong but it will only take a couple of positive moves in the next few weeks to get the disappointed faction back on side.
Keep The Faith. In Arsene We Trust.