Pick a year, any year; even the good summers are drawn out affairs. Arsenal in transfer market lend themselves readily to the words “saga”, “tedious”, and, “frustration”. This year is set to be no different.
As with previous years, the cream of the crop is coveted elsewhere but now mid-level French teams fancy their chances of signing players in key positions. That’s not key players; there’s a difference.
The best players? The rich and the famous want them, as do Manchester City. Arsenal, according to flip-flop and his mate, are determined not to sell to Guardiola, even though the report claims that’s Sanchez’s favoured destination.
Instead, we are holding him hostage to his contract and letting him walk away for nothing next summer. Or selling him to Bayern for £40m, which feels like selling him for nothing.
When Sanchez returns to training, he’ll sport a henna ‘SLAVE’ tattoo on his cheek, with the Specials AKA rewritten version of ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ available at all good stockists at the same time.
Whilst I expect Sanchez to leave, there’s no doubt this ‘furore’ is media driven, not helped by the player’s absence – and relatively media-free trip – at the Confederations Cup. It allows speculation to grow and a story like this one gets a free leg transplant just when it seems to be running out of steam.
It’s a cycle that Arsenal under Wenger are doomed to repeat. There’s no hint of this being a wake-up call to the Frenchman about improving club’s performance in the Premier League. That may come with a raft of new signings before the pre-season training begins.
If anyone needed confirmation that FA Cup wins mean more to supporters, this is surely it. Were the competition highly valued by players, Sanchez wouldn’t be leaving, would he?
Plus Ça Change
As it did with last season, its a situation which hangs like a pall over the club. There are signs that we’re slipping back into the old routine which until a ball is kicked in anger, will remain.
According to The Times this morning, the much-vaunted “catalyst for change” is proving to be a defender of the status quo. The backroom staff, en masse, are being offered new deals with no new coaching staff foisted upon the manager.
Arsène’s loyalty to the coaching staff is admirable but it is also a weakness. New ideas or a different way of thinking is less likely than with new blood. A new manager coming in would have brought new coaches with him but retain some staff to stop change overwhelming the club.
David Moyes failure at Manchester United was due to the wholesale changes he wrought in the staff. As well as being out of his depth, of course.
It re-affirms Arsène’s hold over the club, diminishing Ivan’s influence. I suspect we’ll hear less of what Gazidis thinks over the next two years. On the surface, it looks like the manager routed him in the boardroom.
Talk of a director of football by any other name, is fluff. In typical Arsenal fashion, we’re dealing with the periphery, everything around the edges. At its heart, the beast remains untamed. That’s not to say we don’t need to do things better, just that too much power rests in Arsène’s hands.
He beat Ivan hands-down. None of the assembled media called Wenger out on his ludicrous description of a director of football so the narrative went his way. More importantly, he still doesn’t have anyone to push him, to question him. Instead the deafening wall of silence will sit before him.
Plus C’est La Même
That’s not to say Arsène doesn’t deserve credit for the end of the season form. Too little, too late it proved in the Premier League but as a pointer for how to get the best out of his squad, it’s key. The question is whether he will stick with three at the back or revert to the comfort blanket of his favoured flat back four.
Aaron Ramsey doesn’t think it should, admitting it suits his game. The Welsh international observed,
“That system suited us at Arsenal; it showed with the way we finished the season and winning the FA Cup in that formation.
“It gives us a lot more security defensively, [we are] not so suspect to counterattacks. But also it frees players up — and my game — to do more things, get into more dangerous positions.
“I’m confident it will [continue to be used].”
I’m glad you are, Aaron; I’m not.
Ramsey touches on an issue we’re seeing more frequently at the club: square pegs in round holes. Wenger’s stereotypical player – mobile, technically gifted – doesn’t suit the defensive side of the game and isn’t necessarily fitting with a defensive plan. The back four was frequently exposed by a lack of protection from those further up the pitch.
The key to moving to a back three is in the players minds. They believe the defence is less vulnerable and confidence in themselves is restored. That’s half the battle with Arsenal and has been for many years. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, Arsène but if it is, don’t wait so long to do what’s necessary.