Firstly, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all readers a happy new year. The blog has had a quiet few days after a busy start to the year for all our writers. My first post of 2013 may not be pretty reading for many. Eleven days into the new year we find ourselves discussing two serious concerns on the forums and twitter. One affects football as a whole, the other is a common problem that Arsenal fans have been pulling their hair out over in recent seasons.
The first concern is over ticket pricing and it has reared its ugly head again after Man City returned 800 tickets from their allocation for this weekend’s game, with some of their fans refusing to travel to away games in London due to the prices being charged from clubs in the capital. Good on them, I say. However as one blogger pointed out recently some 20,000 Arsenal fans have bought tickets in the same price category (£62) for this fixture. Football supporters as a whole are suffering from overpriced tickets. Arsenal fans in particular are feeling less and less convinced that such prices represent value for money. The quality of football on display at the Emirates has deteriorated in the last few seasons, and many feel that the money the club is receiving from ticket sales is not duly being reinvested into strengthening the squad.
The quality of football certainly is not what is expected. Gone are the days where we routinely break away from a corner with pace and devastation to score a goal of our own. The counter attacks of old just don’t seem to happen anymore. Also gone, are the frightening passes in between the lines, carving defences open in the Barcelona-esque dismantlement that used to see us create goals out of nowhere. Now it seems as though most of the game we play the backwards/sideways passing game, waiting for an opening to appear. With most Premier League teams now able to play a disciplined defensive game, we find ourselves frustrated at a lack of creative openings and opportunity.
The bottom line is that we have suffered immensely from not being able to fill the void left by Cesc. His ability to find the pass through the eye of a needle is missing in midfield. Arteta is a great footballer, but he doesn’t seem able to add those passes to his game. Santi Cazorla has shown he can be capable, but he lacks the consistency that we had with Cesc in the side. Jack Wilshere is undoubtedly going to become an important component in our midfield. But he is not there yet, he is still young and learning the game. We rely on him too much to perform a task he is not quite ready to perform.
Which leads me to the second concern – transfers. As stated above, many if not all of us are fed up with a lack of activity in the transfer market, especially given the amount of money we spend to support the team. The manager has come out with the predictable ‘we only buy top, top quality’ line once again and us fans are left scratching our heads. He has said this for the past few seasons, and the signings we made include Gervinho, Squillaci, Bischoff, Chamakh and so on. Top, top quality? The bottom line is we refuse to spend on players at market value. Yes, £20 million is an absurd amount to fork out on a transfer fee. But ambitious clubs at the top of the league spend that kind of money on players, and if they are willing to spend that money then it must be considered ‘market value’.
I am a supporter who is prepared to stay quiet and see what happens when FFP comes in. Gazidis promises a brighter future in and around 2014, when FFP takes full force and when the club can realise its true commercial potential, something it has been unable to do since moving to the new stadium. I am prepared to offer my support to this cause because, on the face of it, it seems like a feasible objective. However, the club needs to go into that new phase in a healthy position. Not just financially, but ‘footballistically’ too. We need to, at the very least, be a champions league team going into this phase. It would be a shame to spoil the chances of things going to plan because we dropped into the Europa League just before we head into this new era. A Europa League team does not attract the type of player needed to challenge at the top, and it would be a bad idea to start the age of FFP in a worse position than the one we are in now.
However, if we do not strengthen the squad now, we are playing with fire when it comes to finishing in a top-4 berth come May. We have been here before in January. The season has shown familiar inconsistencies. Moments of attacking brilliance overshadowed by inadequate defensive frailty. In the past, we had the players to pull us through. Henry, Cesc, Nasri, RVP. Now we look at a squad where a contract rebel is being tasked with the job and we wonder if, finally, the task at hand is too much for the players we have at our disposal. It’s too much of a risk to rely on this squad without reinforcements.
Please Arsene, for the love of God, make a couple of big signings.