‘Always ahead of the game’
These words are printed on the key ring from my members’ pack from a couple of years ago. Motto’s such as ‘Forward’ and ‘Victory Through Harmony’ also spring to mind when thinking about how the club tries to define itself. Let’s analyse.
‘Victory through harmony’: I have never seen so much disunity among Gooners as in recent years
‘Forward’: We have released a record number of players from the squad this summer without replacing them. That’s not forward movement.
‘Always ahead of the game’: The first game of the season is on Saturday and we haven’t signed anybody. Plans A-Z have fallen through. Others around us have strengthened.
We are not ahead of the game. We are a long way behind it.
Where did it all go wrong?
You could answer this question by going back many years. Dein’s departure, the refusal to spend the going rate on world class players, gambling on unproven prospects from the continent and the world over and the inability to retain the few top class players we had actually produced. I am going to spare you the stories you already know and focus on this summer in particular.
A few months ago the CEO came out and publicly stated that we have a lot of cash at our disposal, and that we will be spending it. The game that we are supposedly ahead of was over right there and then. We were doomed from that point on. In a market where clubs continue to demand outrageous fees for players, we immediately put ourselves in a weak bargaining position for negotiating transfers.
Liverpool’s valuation of Suarez is the easiest example to use. A player who is undoubtedly one of the top three in the league, Liverpool’s valuation of him in their negotiations with Arsenal reflect both the market and our openly admitting we have great sums of money to spend. If we want the player, we will have to use most of the kitty to get him.
It would also mean we can’t buy as many players as we want, let alone need. Most will agree that we need at least three signings, not one or two.
That calamity of a PR exercise proved to be our downfall this summer. Designed to ensure season ticket renewals, we are left in the uncomfortable (to put it lightly) position of having to wait until the brink of the transfer window’s closure to obtain the best possible price for players. Well, those who are left to buy anyway.
We have been duped. Again.
The problem we have is we are so addicted to this great club, that we submit to the promises made because our love for the team outweighs our hatred for the PR game played by the club. And so the cycle continues.
So where do we go from here?
There will be mutiny if no signings are made. The crowd will let that be known at the Emirates on Saturday, of that I am sure. However, we should give it until the end of the window before passing final judgement. Today on Arsenal.com Arsene Wenger is quoted as saying:
“There are 18 days to go in the window. We are active. We will be active until the end, that is for sure.”
He goes on to say:
“We are in a situation like Manchester United, like Chelsea, where everybody expects signings and at the moment not a lot has happened.”
Manchester United and Chelsea have won the Premier League and Champions league between them over the last eighteen months. Arsenal have won nothing. It is disproportionate therefore to compare ourselves with teams who already have squads that can and will challenge for major honours regardless of what transfers they may or may not make in the coming eighteen days.
Nonetheless, the intent to do business is there. Everyone at the club will be fully aware of the consequences should nothing significant be done. So we wait. Judgement day takes place on September 2nd and until then there’s not much we can do about it other than hope something happens.
In the meantime, there’s a game on Saturday against Aston Villa which everybody is excited about. Ultimately, and quoting a tweet by @fkhanage on Twitter, it boils down to this:
“Whatever your opinion on the owner, the manager or CEO, don’t let it ruin your support for the eleven boys wearing the shirt on Saturday”.
Regardless of what happens between now and September 2nd, our love for the team won’t change. The trauma and anxiety of another new season as an Arsenal fan beckons. Bring it on.