A long time ago, I watched the Movie ‘Groundhogs Day’. At the time, I had no way of knowing how that title would come to aptly describe the fortunes of my beloved Arsenal. It is more than 3000 days since an Arsenal Captain last lifted a trophy. Our once proud club has now become a laughing stock, the butt of all jokes and a feeder club for ambitious clubs all over Europe. The fans have suffered heartbreaks, finals, semi-finals and near escapes from the disgrace that is the Europa League. There has been consistently and criminally lack of investment in the playing squad. Arsenal is always 3 players short of a very excellent squad, almost deliberately. The Invincibles were dismantled quickly and a young team was grown. Until the players whose very development the club used as an excuse not to spend money started flying the nest at the slightest whiff of money. Several left to win laurels elsewhere that have eluded Arsenal, over 40 at last count won by this somewhat hated lot. The fans were told every summer that there was money to spend yet we always made profits in our transfer business. The club passed into new ownership but nothing changed, we became complacent, mediocre and defined 4th Place as a trophy, the epitome of our ambitions.
The only positive in the last decade is the Emirates Stadium. We were told that the debt from the stadium crippled our finances and that we had to sell a star every summer. That was until this season. There was a clear out of the deadwood, players on big contracts who were not adding value and almost 20 youth players. The club also did some fantastic deals on the commercial side of the business and the CEO Ivan Grazidis told all that cared to listen not least the restless fans that the club not only had money to spend, but they were intent on splashing it. This message was repeated at every opportunity and looked to be true when Arsenal all but signed Gonzalo Higuain. Against all conventional wisdom Arsenal seemed on the verge of spending big money and finally join the league of big clubs and challenge for major honours. Names were bandied about on social media, Williams, Felliani, César and Higuain the more prominent. The Arsenal fans were excited, the Arsenal players on more than one occasion expressed their desire for new signings openly in the media and all seem set for a busy fax machine at Highbury House.
Alas, against all odds, in very much the manner we lost Juan Mata to Chelsea, Arsenal lost Higuain to Napoli (insert angry and sad smileys). The ineptitude of our negotiating team is infamous in the annals of modern football. Their ability to sell off star players is legendary, they lack stature in the game and hence can’t pull off transfers or even negotiate new deals with current players. Since the departure of David Dein the club has lacked the necessary personalities that all successful clubs need to do deals in the transfer market see Galliani at Milan, David Gill at United. When PSG got money the first signing was Leonardo and Man City just got themselves Tixi from Barca. We have a bunch of amateurs led by Dick Law. It is criminal that our only signing so far is a Ligue 2, 20 year old, injure prone player on a free transfer. To make matters worse, when Real Madrid upped their asking price for Higuain, Arsenal went for a more expensive option, Luiz Suarez. I will not bore you with the drama as this has been well covered by the press. Suffice to say Liverpool are not selling. So we are a week to the start of the season, with only 16 or so recognized 1st team players, facing a difficult Champions League qualifier, FA Cup and League Cup.
It is simply crazy that we should be discussing this in a season preview, but it is impossible to talk of Arsenal without a rant, totally justifiable. As arseblog wrote today, ‘we are an average team, which had an average season’. The teams around us have all strengthened annoyingly Spurs have smashed their transfer record twice already. We have a threadbare, average team and nobody seems to be doing anything about it. There is no way Arsenal will be able to compete with this squad as it is. The fans know it, our opponents know it, and the players know it. Perhaps the only person that can answer the queries of Arsenal fans is the man whose name is synonymous with the club, Arsene Wenger. He is the mythical ‘Oga at the Top’ at Arsenal. The club is in his image and he decides how long the grass blades and how much the tea lady is paid. He has overseen the most successful period in Arsenal’s illustrious history and qualified for the Champions League 16 straight seasons. However, time has come to openly question the reign of the beloved master as it is painfully obvious that he does not seem to have the solution or indeed the desire to do the needful and make Arsenal competitive again. Fans are simply tired of 4th and losing out of everything in February. Fans demand that the money the club has is used to improve the team. I fear the days of Arsene are numbered, but then again the owner is happy with the revenues and no one has the balls to call him to order or sack him so Arsenal may just be stuck in this emptiness.
So Arsenal need a Goalie, at least one defender, one midfielder and a striker; all World Class. With our current crop, we will get knocked out of all competitions in February and I do not see us making the champions league. I don’t see how we can honestly compete. Team morale will be down, the fans up in arms and the competition merciless. The only way we can avoid what is coming to us as a direct result of the incompetence of our transfer team and Arsene’s stubborn refusal to see the obvious is to spend the money we have to get the players we need. There is still time to do some business, far from ideal, but business that must be done for us to stand any chance. Santi Carzola, Laurent Koscielny and Theo Walcott will be off next season if we do not start winning things. Jack Wilshere and Ramsey deserve better team mates to learn from. In Mikel Arteta, Lukas Podolski, Bacary Sagna and Per Mertersacker Arsenal have a solid spine of experience to build on. The youth of Oxlade Chamberlin and Kieran Gibbs gives one a lot of hope. However, like I said without new and experienced players, we will finish our 9th season empty handed and most likely end up without Champions League football. It is a doomsday scenario that is playing out and it is all of our own making. Same old Arsenal, simply not good enough. There cannot be any excuse for a Manager like Arsene Wenger with 80mm Great British Pounds Sterling, with fans paying the highest ticket prices in the world and having not won a trophy for 8 seasons to fail this season. No sir, 4th is NOT a trophy and this rate 6th looks very flattering.
Written by Abdulmalik Mahdi