It seems that Arsène’s vague language has beaten the media. The concentration on retaining the services of Theo Walcott and using words which suggest prevarication, mean that no longer are Arsenal consider newsworthy for the transfermongers. At least not for the usual suspects, that is. Wilfred Zaha, it seems, has been designated as a future Manchester United player even though they have shown more back page interest in Frank Lampard whilst the emergence of a £22m escape clause has caused a stampede of English clubs to Goodison Park to sign Marouane Fellaini. If one club, Chelsea, can make a stampede then yes, that is definitely the case. Long time destination club Arsenal are nowhere to be seen. Perhaps that is due to the transfer team – or the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) as I like to think of them – are in warmer climes, luring Eduardo Vargas to a Neopolitan Ice Cream parlour with the use of implausible masks and a contrived story. Meanwhile Lucas Biglia has sent a coded message, so fiendish to decrypt that only Spike can crack.
Jack Wilshere would no doubt like to see the squad strengthened but is too well-schooled by the club to say anything controversial on that subject. Instead, like Per Mertesacker, he is pushing the optimistic view about remaining in the FA Cup,
If we get a trophy this year or in the next couple of years we can really build something and be strong in the next few years. It’s easy to sit here and say that when we get that first trophy it’ll happen but we know how tough the FA Cup. We’re still in the Champions League, so we’re in a good position and we just need to make sure we get the results now.
The path to progress in both competitions is not going to be easy. FC Bayern offer a stern test which many believe is insurmountable for this squad. You can see why given the differing domestic fortunes of the two clubs this season – someone needs to tell Jack that we don’t have a couple of games in hand – with the Germans being nine points clear at the top of the Bundesliga. Swansea won’t capitulate at The Emirates although it is difficult to see Arsène fielding the first choice XI for the replay, coming as it does between this Sunday’s clash with Manchester City and the visit to Stamford Bridge. The route to Wembley might need to be forged by a weakened team.
Understandably Wilshere wants to win trophies, as he acknowledged in that ‘interview’ earlier all players do. However I am not too sure that any trophy will open the floodgates. Part of me understands where Wilshere is coming from, Arsenal are in a limbo almost, rated as challengers for the knockout tournaments but never favourites. And when they are favourites, they contrive to waste that opportunity. Whilst he is right that the mix of experience is there, something is missing, something preventing them from breeding any consistency in their game. If you take the nascent unbeaten Premier League run as an example, West Brom and Reading were disposed of comfortably, the scoreline reflects Newcastle the same although it was closer until Arsenal got their noses in front. Southampton and Wigan pushed Arsenal more than you would reasonably have expected but that is often the way, the unconvincing performances build to a point where the squad realise that they have not lost for some time.
However, all the while there are doubts retained about progress. The match against Swansea encapsulated those games in a single ninety minute nugget. Lacklustre in the first half, dynamic, concede, fight back to take lead, concede, almost win it; who knew where that match would end up? That sort of form though is the sign a cup run can be built but I would not bet on this team winning the trophy at the moment, there is not enough depth. If confidence goes, who will drag them back into the fight? We have seen already how detrimental one bad result can be – not always – but there needs to be additions to make the transition from also-rans to winners.
To win the FA Cup is better than the League Cup, no doubt about it, but would it convince the players they are ready to challenge for the title? Is that the missing link, the key ingredient that the squad needs to transform themselves? I cannot see that being the case, the demands in winning are completely different. You can win a knockout tournament by not turning up and scraping by in the seven or so games. In the Premier League, you need consistency, that is what is missing.
The squad is a work in progress, they all are at every club with the difference being that some are closer to the finished article. Without additions, this current crop will always fall short. There are too many question marks against them collectively. And that is the issue. Whilst they are all talented individuals, as a group they do not work. It is not unique to Arsenal in that sense. There are plenty of squads around in other leagues where the same can be said. That should mean that the manager and the club are looking to plug the gaps. Silence does not equate to inactivity in the transfer window. However, a failure to have strengthened the squad by the end of January will be an opportunity wasted, almost criminally so.