Arsenal prepare for the biggest game of the rest of their season tonight by pottering around the training pitches in the Hertfordshire countryside. Chelsea and Tottenham meet at Stamford Bridge barely twenty-four hours after the pressure told on Andre Villas-Boas. It’s been a while since we’ve had a managerial meltdown so anything which provides something similar brings a giggle to the surface. Some, of course, chastised Wojciech Szczesny for his original comments; they would, the logic went, be inspirational to the Tottenham side, have carried out Villas-Boas’ teamtalk for him. If Tottenham need inspiration from the comments of an Arsenal player prior to a match which could all but decide their fate for next season’s European football, something is even more seriously wrong at White Hart Lane than the Pole suggested.
And that’s before Chelsea read Villas-Boas’ derogatory comments about their playing style. You see normally such jibes would be ignored but you sense this is his path to a Keegan.
Pressure? It struck me that Arsenal supporters were feeling it more than anyone, manifesting in a meltdown following the Premier League’s appointment of Mike Dean as the match official for the visit of Wigan to The Emirates next week. Apparently, Arsenal have won once in the last twenty matches in which he has officiated. Looking at our record in encounters with top four clubs, that is not hard to believe but do you really think he is the root cause of it? Get. A. Grip.
In an otherwise quiet week, the media has announced that Arsenal have signed a new kit deal with Puma, rumoured to be worth £30m per season. Daily Heil headline writers did their Poster Boy, Michael Gove, proud with their mathematical genius but I suppose £34m (£170m over 5 years before you ask) is just too accurate. The new deal – which will not officially be confirmed for some time yet due to a confidentiality clause – is the biggest in English football (until Manchester United’s next one, that is). The current Nike deal expires at the end of next season so Puma has a year to get their inaugural kits right. So, remember, that’s red shirts, white sleeves, red cuffs, white collar, for the shirts; white shorts; red socks for a home kit. The away, well, do yourselves a favour, win over the supporters with a yellow top with blue collar and cuffs; blue shorts; yellow socks. Nothing fancy; do away with your flashes, slashes, stripes, hopes and sashes; K.I.S.S.
In the meantime, I shall comfort myself with the numerous photoshopped kits that will circulate as the real deal, watching with vague amusement at the meltdowns which occur when they are dismissed routinely as just a Puma international kit changed to Arsenal colours. It’s a high pressure job being a football fan…
You know it’s a quiet time when a kit deal is the best Arsenal news around.
The only other part of that deal which matters is the money and the competitiveness it brings the club in the transfer market. Gradually deals are being struck that enable Arsenal to sign and as importantly, retain key players so that we do not face constant Summer speculation about who is leaving. Whether there is a mind to pay the higher salaries is another matter, a business philosophy discussion. First of all, the club needs to be in the position to think of the alternatives to selling players to be profitable, even if that is a part and parcel of a football club’s normal business cycle.
And where there is money, there shall be transfer speculation; that is the Gospel according to the football writer. This morning’s fare is a bit, well, disappointing. Where’s my Capoue? Not a whiff of M’Vila? In the name of our Lord, John Cross, please let me see something about Lewandowski!
I mean Ashley Williams is, I am sure, a jolly nice bloke and judging by his performances over the last season or so, a reliable performer, just the sort of player that Arsenal should be looking at to strengthen the squad and at £10m, decently priced. But where, oh, where is my £30m+ signing? According to the Italian media, heading north to Turin from Florence, he says hastily scrabbling for the atlas to make sure his geography isn’t askew. Phew!
Come on, you had twelve hours to get something interesting going. Sigh. Well, I suppose it is all about pacing yourself and facing a Summer without an international tournament of any note, there’s plenty of time yet. Maybe we supporters should recreate the scene from The Italian Job (the proper one not the Hollywood rip-off) where we bang our cutlery on the table, chanting the name of our favourite target instead of saluting Mr Bridger as he regally descended the stairs.