It’s true, it happened and the emotional outpouring on Cesc’s arrival in the Russian Republic of London showed the extent to which the cult of personality has overrun the game. The anger, angst and general hand-wringing encapsulated the Premier League; the player, the manager, they mean more than the club to some people. All this over a man who forced a move away from Arsenal, paid money to get out of his contract and had such badly damaged hamstrings in his final months at the club that it was a miracle he can even walk again, let alone run around on a football pitch.
The reaction missed the point in one crucial respect: the only name that matters is the one in the badge on the front of the shirt. It’s the only constant in all of this. Players come and go, as do managers. Some shape the future as well as the present, dominating the club’s history when we look back. Others drift through the ether of time and are quickly forgotten. At the end of it, still standing somewhere are the Marble Halls of the heart.
Wenger’s decision not to exercise the buy-back clause was duly noted by Fabregas. Ruthless? Possibly but it was surely driven by pragmatism not vengeance. It was, however, a strong show of faith in Wilshere, Ramsey, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Özil. The players he currently has are the ones Arsène believes in. They are the ones he trusts to take the club to the next level and he was not prepared to let them down by signing direct competition for their places in the side. It’s a trust that needs repaying by each in the coming seasons.
In truth, Arsenal don’t need another attacking midfielder and have higher priorities in other positions. You could (rightly) argue that the club should have signed him given the extent to which injuries decimated the midfield last season but the hope has to be – on our part at least – that the severity of those problems will not be replicated. Whatever the reasons, it’s a choice Wenger has made in what he believes are the best interests of Arsenal Football Club.
It puts pressure on Arsène to act swiftly once the World Cup is over for his targets. Chelsea appear to have strengthened efficiently with two problems solved before the tournament gets into its stride, although there is still room for the deal for Diego Costa to fall through. Like Tottenham last season, they will only know whether their efficiency is genuine at the end of the season. The shambling performances from their acquisitions proved that you can buy in haste and repent at leisure; Chelsea’s risks seem less. Fabregas is returning to a city and a league where he is comfortable. Costa, even if you don’t think his style is suited to Arsenal, is a very good player, perhaps even world-class come the end of the World Cup. All this for a net outlay so far of about £12m following the sale of David Luiz which solved one of their defensive problems. FFP is not curbing the rich clubs in the way that some hoped.
Previous years would have seen Arsenal precluded from signing Cesc on the grounds of a crippling fee. With the new commercial deals, money is not a reason that will be countenanced; £27m from the pot surely leaves enough for a forward, right back and reserve goalkeeper and centre back? But that is to become too obsessed with the cost, their real value is what they bring to Arsenal on the pitch. It is an aspect Wenger and Gazidis will be mindful of though. If they address the squad issues and there is money left over, you cannot argue with their policy. If there is a substantial bank balance and the same problems on the pitch, that is when a backlash will be felt and the real concern is that it will be more poisonous than at The Emirates on the opening day of last season.
To me that is the crux of the matter; Arsenal, as always, have to be patient. We want them to sign players, to strengthen the squad and that breeds impatience. When the two extremes collide, the relationship becomes strained, particularly if rivals have completed their business in good time for the opening day of the Premier League season. It’s that which exacerbates emotions, that fundamental difference in clubs modus operandi which seems striking to the outsider in that eventuality.
And if at this point you are still feeling hurt by some imaginary betrayal by Cesc, you really do need to get over it.
Arsenal At The World Cup Day One
The dancing rhythms were over and the doves were released to nestle in eaves and press box. Prince drifted melodically through your head creating an unforgettable soundtrack for the moment. Me? I had Baldrick reciting, “Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom!”
Brazil’s performance reflected the pressure host nations come under in the opening game. Needing to avoid defeat and pleasing a country by winning is a turbulent footballing mix. They were far from the dynamic, flamboyant outfit that romanticism demands but then very few teams always live up to the hype. Their most important objective was to act as a valve for a nation that has been under pressure with negative reporting. That has been released with the win, perhaps a touch of Jogo Bonito can seep into the remaining fixtures.
It helps when the referee is so poor, presumably overcome by nerves rather than not being up to the occasion. It doesn’t bode well, as Niko Kovac observed; if reported Arsenal target Fred’s tumble is deemed foul play, there will be several penalties each game. At least Sepp will be able to stand in front of the world and proclaim it a festival of football when England beat Honduras 8 – 6 in the final.
Foul play is a central theme with a stronger official sending Neymar off for violent conduct, having lined up his opponent before delivering a forearm smash that brought a smile to Vince McMahon’s face. As it was he repaid the faith of the official with a pair of goals. As if to rub salt into the Croats wounds, they had a perfectly good opportunity to equalise halted when one-time Arsenal target Julio Cesar’s incompetence at dealing with crosses was carefully disguised with a plaintive sprawl after minimal contact with Olic.
Fortunately, Arsène was equally scathing of Hulk in his punditry thus killing Russian media reports of Arsenals desire to add him to the squad. The word ‘useless’ has been attributed to him but whether it was that disparaging remains to be seen; translation can be subjective with inflections and tones inserted that were never there in the first place.
And of course, it cannot pass without comment on the skirmishes outside the ITV studio in Rio last night. It seems Adrian Chiles is as unpopular in South America as he is in England.