It’s something of a relief. Genuinely, it is. After all, there would be nothing worse than a generation of journalists being lost to self-analysis and I think Arsène deserves considerable respect for recognising that if he doesn’t make Jack Wilshere sit on the naughty step, it will have a devastating effect on sports reporting around the globe. So Jack, you’re not the messiah, you’re just a very naughty boy.
Training was moved a couple of miles from London Colney to Borehamwood and both sets obeyed Arsène’s instructions on not tackling, to the word. Kriss Olsson took his goal well from Tomas Rosicky’s gloriously delivered pass and Benik Ofobe, well, he buried his penalty with ease. A good runout and that’s it; nothing to be read into anyone’s performance at this early stage of the programme. Indeed, the positive is that Abou Diaby managed to play more than 45 seconds without injury so positives all round.
Prior to the match, Arsène noted that this season was built on the solid foundations of last. His post-match comments were concerning with the real prospect of needing two centre backs, one that he acknowledged he is looking for and the second to replace the departing Thomas Vermaelen. If a manager says that he doesn’t know the player’s intentions, it is a fair assumption that he is only staying if he can’t find a new home. The Belgian no doubt, has had his head turned by Aloysius’ interest.
Wenger noted that the spending spree was not over, Morgan Schneiderlin this morning finds himself at the centre of renewed claims that Arsenal have been quoted a price of £18m for his services. As an alternative to the Southampton midfielder, the club will reportedly have to pay £15m for Lars Bender, this morning acquiring the sobriquet of “one of the toughest tacklers in the Bundesliga“; God Bless the good ship Daily Star and all the hyperbole that sails within her. Arsène could buy both; Iker Casillas is once more heavily touted to join but he will be on a freebie which satisfies the narrative of a club which is careful with the money.
Targeting three or four other players suggests that there is little inclination to address the lack of depth up front. Unsurprisingly, Yaya Sanogo attracted criticism for not scoring yesterday, reinforcing the already held prejudices against him. It’s hard not to feel sympathy with both the player and critics. He didn’t ask to be thrust into this situation by the manager; he ought to have been the signing to replace Bendtner, given time to develop with a mixture of cup, substitute and occasional starts. He works hard enough, there can be no complaints about his contribution to the team beyond the fact that he has yet to score for the club. It’s a fairly fundamental flaw in a forward’s game but I would be more worried if we didn’t have alternatives and if Sanogo wasn’t getting into the positions to have opportunities to score in the first place. Do I think Arsenal should buy another forward? Yes. Do I think they will? No, not at all.
With the season upon us, the inevitable article appeared about the cost of season tickets and Arsenal topped that table quite comfortably. There was a discomforting reassurance in seeing other clubs – QPR, Burnley and Hull – capitalising on their success by cashing in on season ticket prices. The problem with these tables is that they take the headline-grabbing figure and make a mountain out of a smaller one, in doing so missing the wider issues over ticket pricing. Arsenal have never been at the forefront of cheaper seats; during the 60s, the club pushed for the removal of the maximum ticket pricing agreement, looking to set their own agenda. That mentality has not changed now and will not do so in the near future.
Support cannot be taken be for granted and the constant fear for the game is that they are pricing future generations out of attending; it has yet to happen to the extent where the clubs are forced to react and there is little incentive for them to change their behaviour all the while grounds sell out or are full enough for the owners to still see a profit. It doesn’t mean that pressure on keeping ticket prices as low as possible should let up. News reports consistently reinforce the message that the recession is over yet the pressure on pockets remain. Football was impervious to those problems.
The contemptuous relationship with its customer base continues unabated with broadcasters riding roughshod over sensibilities. Combining with the poverty of the transport infrastructure in this country, they get more subscriptions by assigning hideously inconvenient kick-off times to fixtures. For the television companies it’s a win-win; showing the high-profile games to suit their advertising revenues, they get more money from subscriptions and are able to take more control of the game by paying more for the broadcasting contracts. All this safe in the knowledge that home supporters and hardy souls will turn out in sufficient numbers to give the impression of a well-attended game.
The views of supporters have never held stock with the rulers in the past and with the death-knell sounding for the Fanshare scheme, Arsenal and other clubs are not showing any sign of altering the habits of a lifetime soon.