The parallels between Suarez and van Persie are uncanny, the Uruguayan ordering team-mates not to speak on the subject whilst in Japan on international duty in much the same way the Dutchman imposed a silence on his future this time last year. Out of respect for Suarez, I too will not mention his transfer wrangles today. Thank God for that. For that matter, Luis Gustavo is in the same boat with a transfer story that has grown its own legs without anything tangible in return beyond a double negative that sparked a lot more interest in the deal than would otherwise have happened. At this late stage, my suspicion is that this is another transfer being set to end in disappointment. It would be a good signing for the club were it too happen but the way this Summer has panned out, there seems little point in getting hopes up about squad strengthening.
And in any case, why let any transfer talk deflect proper attention from an England bowling performance that won The Ashes. Not just retained them, won them. Remember those times when Australia toyed with us, about a decade and a half we had to put up with that, noses being rubbed in the dirt. Not as emotional as Headingly thirty years ago but nonetheless, hugely impressive to skittle out the tourists in the space of 115 runs. And entirely enjoyable. As Tabs observed on Twitter,
It is almost embarrassing to link to the England football team from a successful national XI in another sport but we must as with the upcoming international against Scotland. Roy Hodgson offered this opinion on Jack Wilshere’s continued return to the squad,
We are pleased to have him back. We are aware of the fact that Arsène Wenger is careful with him at Arsenal and I will be careful with him as well.
A shame you were somewhat careless about Theo Walcott then Roy. Hodgson noted that reports about the ankle-knack suffered are exaggerated and that Walcott was still in contention for the team. Presumably this was an attempt by the England manager at humour since a meaningless – yes, it’s Scotland but frankly it is as meaningless as they come – friendly should have seen the player sent back to his club to receive treatment and rest as a precautionary measure. Should the knack turn out to be more serious, it puts pressure on Olivier Giroud’s shoulders. We have plenty of options for the right-sided attacking role but compensating for the goalscoring threat is somewhat more of a problem. As current reported transfer activity goes, it is not a situation which would improve with the #1 target still serving a six-game domestic ban. Fortunately for Wenger, his compatriots confidence in front of goal ought to be sky-high. Unexpectedly prolific in Asia, he continued to score as the level of opposition increased which bodes well for the coming season.
It might not be so good if reports of Laurent Koscielny being injured turn out to be true, the folly of Wenger’s inactivity in strengthening the centre of defence would be laid bare. As of yet, they are unsubstantiated and we are left with various appendages crossed – it’s a pretty neat party trick – hoping that mischief-making is a foot.
Once again, the inability to add new players will come under the spotlight, unintentionally brought into focus by Per Mertesacker as well. Talking about the Asian Tour, the German international observed,
We’ve had a longer pre-season and more time to know each other better, to prepare ourselves in training. I think we have a good team spirit and we’ve built it up, especially in Asia, where we were together for more than two weeks.
There is no doubt that the squad benefitted from that time, it has been less unsettling for many of the players without a key player departing. Understandings and bonds are forged, strengthened in those circumstances. The absence of pressure in the competitive sense makes for enjoyable surroundings to get to know people better. That time would have been hugely beneficial for new signings but it was a missed opportunity, typifying this Summer so far. Arsène may yet put that right with signings but no matter what happens, the bonding time with the rest of the squad at work and play cannot be replicated in such a short space of time.
That is the problem with the transfer window, why most hate it. It creates an unnatural environment in which football managers must work. Before its creation – in England at least – clubs could buy and sell until the end of March which made life easier to cope with on one level, planning could wait until the season began unless there was an already identified need. Poor form could be addressed with an open chequebook. They could still make a hash of it, Newcastle and Manchester City both making a hash of title bids by signing Asprilla and Rodney Marsh, are immediate examples which spring to mind. Nonetheless, the current rules are not new to Arsenal or Arsène so there are no credible excuses for inactivity.