Next weekend, the butterflies will be beginning, the gentle excitement of the opening weekend of a new season. A familiar feeling, one I’ve know for four decades but one I never tire of. The same could be said of this morning’s playlist, You’re Nicked, a celebration of songs which are, ahem, heavily-influenced by other songwriters. You can listen in your browser here (and get the answers here), in the right sidebar on Dad’s Jukebox or find it, with its’ siblings, in the archives.
The playlist is apposite for this weekend’s Community Shield. Arsenal do a passable impression of a relegation-threatened team when Wenger faces Mourinho. It doesn’t matter, according to Arsène, as he caught his reflection in the window, making sure that everyone thought he was being serious. On the other side of London, Jose tittered and offered the view that it doesn’t matter to him, he just wants to win before chirruping that if he had a record that bad, he would be asking why and finding a solution.
There is an answer of course; Arsenal haven’t been good enough to hotwire the bus and move it from the pitch. It has reached the point where the record irritates and amuses. The former for obvious reason but latter? It’s gallows humour, that the match has become almost irrelevant, a sideshow to the main event of Wenger versus Mourinho in the media. Which works in the players favour; they can get on with preparing for the fixture and leave the circus to be run by the clowns.
Arsenal ought to be in good heart. The pre-season has gone well and generally speaking, there is a far more positive air around the club than has been evident for a number of year. With that comes pressure, a desire for the squad to live up to their nomination as title challengers which is not an easy task and will no doubt at some point, be two steps forward, one sideways and one back.
Tomorrow isn’t really relevant to anything. It’s considered an honour by the clubs simply because it is an FA-organised fixture but it is nothing more than a pre-season friendly. I suppose it’s more prestigious than a Hospital Shield…
Arsène was right in asking for perspective on the outcome. It’s about getting understandings but as Manchester City proved last season, losing doesn’t necessarily harm your season as they finished higher than Arsenal. Winning would help the players, giving them confidence going into the big matches in the coming season but beyond that, it is ultimately meaningless.
Continuing the ‘feelgood’ factor, came the news that Theo Walcott’s deal is done and dusted, sooner than everyone expected – including the manager you suspect. Meanwhile Santi Cazorla has committed to another couple of years in the asylum. Reports emerged from Spain that Nacho Monreal’s move to Bilbao was nothing but a ploy in negotiating a new deal. Like Cazorla, it would have been – and may yet be – a surprise if the Spaniard was allowed to leave this summer; why would Arsène create more work for himself?
There can be no complaint about Cazorla’s deal and generally there wasn’t. That came with the reported salary being paid to Walcott. There was a logic applied to the deal which was almost perverse. Arsenal have been roundly criticised for years over money.
Many of us believe there was more available to be spent than was, others hold a different view which is fine but the ground has shifted; the club is wealthy by most standards although perspective was offered with the kit deal Manchester United have agreed with Adidas. The key to the penthouse floor remains resolutely out of Arsenal’s reach.
But Arsenal are damned if they don’t and now find themselves damned because they did invest in the playing staff. Walcott is an established player for club and country. He is a player capable of scoring twenty-plus goals a season and if he doesn’t do that for Arsenal, he will do it for one of our rivals, most likely Liverpool.
What price do you expect Arsenal to pay? I know the reputation for parsimony, it has hurt us badly in the past, not just in the Wenger era but in the decades before. We have seen key players leave for higher wages for many years. Now, with the money available, they are paying market rate for one of the Premier League ‘stars’.
You and I may find footballers salaries obscene compared to others but that is a different argument from the club acting in the way we want – have demanded previously. You can’t have your cake and eat it. Well, obviously you can if you are a Premier League footballer, you can afford to buy the shop and cake factory but I’m not going there today.
It’s been a busy week with younger players leaving for loan spells. Chuba Akpom will be keeping Isaac Hayden company in Hell, sorry, Hull, whilst not too far across Yorkshire, Dan Crowley is going to Barnsley. All to learn their trades, you hope, and return to the club more prepared for the Premier League than when they left which can only be a good thing, particularly in Crowley’s case as a sense of expectation is building over the youngster.