A bit later this morning than planned but a theatre trip for Mrs YW took precedence. It means I have a day of childminding duties. Sorry, spending quality time with the boys.
The eve of the match, it feels a long time since the win over Wigan. Newcastle‘s arrival at The Emirates tops off the longest week in football since the last international break. Concerns have been raised at Highbury House that there may be a shortage of directors available to greet Mike Ashley and his Barcode confederates since news broke of Barcelona’s willingness to part with David Villa if Arsenal can come up with £16m. Dick Law has arrived in the Catalan capital to negotiate the fee downwards, seeking a cash discount, whilst Ivan and his motley crew of top executives empty the carrier bags, coffee machines and piggy banks to see if they can come up with the £298.74 that the club are prepared to offer.
Arsène is meticulous about getting value for money in all aspects of the club’s business. The rationale for either signing is clear; they will not strengthen the squad but with Lukasz Fabianski now the only injured player requiring treatment, the manager is concerned that the medical staff will be under-utilised. Rather than lay anybody off in these tough economic times, he has decided to be frivolous with £25m of the £1bn transfer kitty that he has to spend.
Seriously though, in my humble opinion, only one of those players would improve the Arsenal squad and he does not currently play in the Premier League. The problem with both is their injury records. Can Arsenal afford to take the risk in either case given their past? Well, yes, they can. Football is about risks and at times I wonder if Arsenal have become so risk averse in the transfer market that a paralysis engulfs the club when opportunities, such as Juan Mata, arise. The reasons for deals falling through is rarely as clear cut as is portrayed in the public domain, the likelihood being a number of factors scotching a signature. Blame, when it is apportioned, often falls at the manager’s door. He is the easy target and those whose job it is to bring the players in evade criticism.
Wenger is not entirely innocent in this but neither is he entirely at fault; a convenient scapegoat for those who want the big signings. It does bring a smile to my face when people scoff at the Manchester City’s, Chelsea and PSGs of this world though. How do you think Arsenal won the silverware in the 1930s? With a squad full of youth players? Not without good reason were Arsenal known as The Bank of England club. Do we devalue our own history because of that or is it just pre-Premier League (pre-Wenger) so it doesn’t count?
All sections of the support devalue something about the club, to an extent it is the nature of football supporters to cast envious glances elsewhere. The squad is not as bad as is made out but nor is it without weaknesses. Personally I am not so sure that Gervinho going to the African Cup of Nations is going to be as big a loss as the manager thinks, publicly at least. The Ivorian has been inconsistent this season – improved on last time around though – but he has to avoid disappearing entirely as he did after the respective tournament last season.
It comes down to consistency. The team need to find it, the players must find it individually to make that happen. Arsène noted that United and City showed they could be caught this season; not by Arsenal though. Anyone who thinks that sixteen points will be made up between now and the end of the season is mad. Arsenal are in the race for third and fourth, no more. Second potentially but that needs Chelsea and City to start dropping points on a regular basis for the nine point gap to disappear. Oh, I know we overhauled that gap last season but this is something else altogether more difficult.
Wenger is of course stating the obvious with his comments about reward coming from stringing a run of results together. I find it interesting that people are observing that getting the performances right means the results will come. Personally, I take the opposite view. Grind out results and performances will come from that confidence. It is clear that confidence has been rocked, that’s why the result at Wigan was important. Yes, they are fighting relegation but Arsenal did not play well. The clean sheet proved to the players that they can hold their own when not at the peak of the form or in difficult conditions and that is an important factor. Crucially, they did not sit back and become content with the point they had, they still pushed forward until the breakthrough came. For all of Theo Walcott’s faults in his contract talks, he deserves credit for chasing down Gibbs errant cross. That spirit needs to be typical for a long run to be forged.
Strengthening the squad will help that, injuries may have abated for the moment but this is Arsenal, we know that they will come back. The worst thing in the world would be to fail to act now, becoming complacent because a problem has gone away. Maybe we will not suffer any serious injuries between now and the season end, that would be nice. But you can’t rely on it. Can you?