As expected, Arsenal confirmed Arsène’s contract extension yesterday. Two more years and pleas for unity in the fanbase. The most optimistic of fans joined the crusade for another ‘summer of love’, which on the face of it, is not an unreasonable request.
These are not the most reasonable of times. You only have to look at the politics of the world today to know that. Fascism is on the rise, with a divisive, ‘Sod you, Jack, I’m alright’, pervading the atmosphere. We live in an era where hostility is the default mode.
The pleas for becoming friends again will likely fall on deaf ears. In some cases, it’s a personal antagonism but for the majority, it will be a repeat of the cycle of mediocrity over which Arsène presided in the Premier League and Europe.
FA Cup wins are great; I love the competition but we’ve been here before. Hoisting the FA Cup in May, new contract; you know how the story goes.
The manner of victory over Chelsea offers a hope for the future which didn’t exist in March. In every aspect, Arsenal were the better side at Wembley but repeating that performance level over 38 games – even 28 – is tough. We were similarly dominant against Aston Villa but the following season didn’t end well.
Yes, we finished second but we were runners-up because Tottenham collapsed. The warning signs were there; the warning signs were not heeded. Arguably, with the most complete squad at his disposal, Wenger managed fifth. You can point to Mourinho targeting the Europa League but I’m far from convinced United would have finished higher than us.
Some argue the absence of Santi Cazorla stymied us; I disagree. We missed him, that’s for sure, but his absence was not the reason for the dismal winter and spring.
Hope Springs Eternal
Arsène maintains the defeats against Bayern were the turning point. I’d contend consecutive defeats against Watford and Chelsea caused more damage. At that point, we knew the title was gone. Bayern just confirmed we were out of our depth.
It’s that mentality, the habitual collapses, which Wenger has to turn around. There are no obvious signs of how he will do that. Reports suggests that Gerry Peyton and Tony Colbert are to be thrown under a bus. Should there be more? A new second-in-command? Someone to challenge Arsène? That, I think, is a step too far.
His first test is Alexis and Mesut Özil. We’re repeatedly told they signed because of Arsène; if they leave, he holds similar responsibility. If they are to leave, Arsenal must have the replacements already.
It’s no good letting them run down their contracts or selling them without a scooby doo who will replace them. We used to operate that way. We can’t any more. Hint: If Riyad Mahrez arrives, Alexis is off.
It may be that a summer with national team does Alexis the world of good. He comes back, fully committed and raring to go. If Chile reach the Confederations Cup final on 2nd July, he won’t be back until the start of August.
The season starts on the 12th; he won’t be ready, just like last season and the season before. We’ve lost at home on the opening day for the past two years; is anyone (everyone) confident we’ll break that cycle this time around? We might lose away, just for a change.
The pressure on Arsène is enormous this summer. City are doing what City do best: paying over the odds because (a) everyone knows they are stinking rich, and, (b) like PSG, they spend more on transfers than the GDP of Third World nations.
PR Wins Bring More Than Three Points
It’s decisive though; PR is their strong point. Melding a team from a talented squad a flaw they share with Arsenal. To their supporters, it looks like they are dealing with issues, and that is half the battle.
Arsenal were never going to act that quickly, even without the protracted saga of Arsène’s contract. Henry Onkeyuru is a target; £6.8m fee agreed, medical to come and then, by the looks of it, the mother of all fights to get him a work permit; he’d better be a special talent.
He isn’t though, convincing as an immediate solution to our problems and I don’t think the club want him to be thought of that way either. Arsène recently commented that the squad was top heavy – probably called it “super heavy” – and he’s not wrong.
Below is my list of ‘out’s’ and how it looks like they will be replaced:
|David Ospina||Wojciech Szczęsny (from loan)|
|Carl Jenkinson||Calum Chambers (from loan)|
|Kieran Gibbs||Sead Kolasinac|
|Mathieu Debuchy||Calum Chambers (from loan)|
|Joel Campbell||Henry Onkeyuru|
The bold and red are positions where we must sign upgrades. Arsène is never going to publicly say six or so are for sale; it’s too unsettling but the platitudes about keeping the squad together are more about making players feel wanted than the reality we face.
It’s going to be a busy summer for Wenger and I feel, an important one. If he gets it right, he may convince people he still has his mojo. If he gets it wrong, you know the situation is going to quickly descend into farce.
Up In Smoke
It was left to Ivan, the club’s resident spin doctor to let us know why the board felt Arsène was the best man for the job:
“When you look at the world of football, and you think about the great candidates that there are – and there are many great coaching candidates in the world and Arsenal is a club that all of them would want to work for because of the things we represent in football – but when you look around and make that assessment, you don’t find any better candidates than Arsène Wenger.”
That boy has a faster spin cycle than my washing machine.
If there are no better candidates than Arsène, you’re not looking hard enough, Ivan. Why not just come out and say it: “Stan told us Arsène is staying and if we didn’t like, we should make sure the door didn’t hit us on the arse on the way out”.
John W Henry may have been right after all:
What do you think they’re smoking over there at Emirates?
— John W. Henry (@John_W_Henry) July 24, 2013
Finally, there’s a new post on Dad’s Jukebox this morning. Check the comments section for when it is live.