Planning and preparation.
I am not even going to try to guess what the plan at Arsenal was this summer. Ivan Gazidis let it be known that the club was prepared to spend with both himself and Arsène planning the attack on the transfer market. It has not worked out that way at all – with over a fortnight of the transfer window left, it yet could – and the club’s impotence has come back to haunt them with a vengeance ahead of the Premier League opening day fixture against Aston Villa.
If reports are believed, supporters will be given a medical as they enter the stadium such is the state of the injury-ravaged squad at Arsène’s disposal. Mikel Arteta’s “slight tear” turned out to be more of a rip with the Spaniard likely to be missing for six weeks as a result. It was food from the gods for headline writers, quickly releasing the cats into the unsuspecting flock of pigeons and watching the carnage unfurl by adding into the mix Aaron Ramsey’s injury which kept him out of Wales friendly this week. It has gone very quiet over the Welshman’s fitness, enabling speculation to take hold and become perceived as the truth. We will probably know later today if he is available. Unsubstantiated rumours suggest that Arsenal are looking to complete a transfer today before the Premier League’s noon deadline so that the player can be considered for tomorrow. I like the notion of the club being able to conduct a transfer that quickly until you think back to that summer and the realistic prospect that the player in question is likely to be the won’t cost anything option, namely Mathieu Flamini who is training with the club. It would be another commercial stream I suppose, the Arsenal Retirement Home For Former Players.
And later today, Mikel Arteta will be declared fit for the trip to Fenerbahce, missing tomorrow as a precaution. Business as usual.
The scenario of entering a season with two fit centre-backs, one right back and most of the midfield hobbling would be typical of Arsenal, bumbling their way towards a crucial fortnight, somehow emerging through the other side. It should not be this way and little wonder that the manager, CEO and owner are suffering scathing criticism for the way this summer has panned out. Redemption may come in the next fortnight yet even then, suspicions will remain that it was more by luck than judgement and certainly not the plan three months ago.
The manager could not tell anyone how many players will be coming in before the end of the transfer window. It is an entirely understandable statement to make given the club’s policy of not commenting before a deal is completed. Or deals, it won’t just be one player. Will it? The nagging doubt is that he doesn’t know because they are “not close” to signing anyone. The club’s silence on transfer matters is at odds with the rest of the game, out of kilter and admirable in many ways, particularly with the insatiable demands for action or failing that, information. It does expose a flaw though, agendas are set by others and perceptions quickly become accepted as the truth. This morning highlights that with the emergence of a £6m bid for Ashley Williams, rejected by Swansea. As opening bids go, it was not a bad one, quite close you sense to what his real worth probably is. Yet the perception is that Arsenal low-balled their offer. Of course they did, it was an opener to see if a deal could be done. That it has not and the media report the Swansea chairman is “fed up” with us, is not surprising. It echoes of the failed transfer bid for Gary Cahill. What is largely forgotten is that Cahill was sold for the value of Arsenal’s bid not the one placed on him by Gartside. Low-balling or refusing to be bullied? There is a balance to be struck between the two, one we have yet to find in the domestic market.
And little wonder Huw Williams is fed up, a quick tot up shows we have, in the past twelve months, been linked with the spine of his team for a total of about £35m. Rumours abound that his voicemail message is, “No, Ivan, we won’t be selling today. Anyone else, please leave your name and number and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”
Elsewhere, Luis Gustavo still hasn’t signed for anyone.
There is plenty of space in the Arsenal squad. Wenger yesterday explained his reasons for letting Gervinho go to Roma. His contempt for the situation that the Ivorian found himself in when playing at home, was barely disguised. Personally, I don’t agree with barracking your own players, others do, I understand that, legitimacy of protest, etc. Where the manager’s comments were awry was the lack of culpability on his and the players part; supporters did not create the environment in the first place, inconsistent team and individual performances did. That was never going to lead to a nurturing atmosphere and Wenger has been around the club, the game, long enough to know that one player will always be the focal point of dissent, no matter how unfair that is. Tellingly, the manager had lost confidence in the player which he did not acknowledge. Arsène has a history of protecting his charges, of standing by them – a good example is Aaron Ramsey – if he believes in them. Selling Gervinho is a sure sign he no longer had that confidence.