Andre Santos has stolen the headlines, at least he hadn’t stolen the car. The Sun Says he’s off to do time if it goes to Crown Court, if he’s found guilty, if the judge has woken up on the wrong side of the bed or been caught waking up in the wrong bed. That’s a lot of ifs although the buts are curious by their absence. It is all very reminscent of the 1980s at Arsenal, particularly in the middle of that decade when at one point five of the squad were banned from driving for a variety of offences and the captaincy changed because of run-ins with The Law. His brief will no doubt argue that his client is being subjected to another British institution, You’ve Been Framed.
Perhaps this is the real reason for the delay in finalising the deal to take Nuri Sahin on loan, Arsenal require proof of his bad boy credentials, making sure that the points on his licence are not for parking on double yellow lines but in a space reserved for those with blue badges.
The arrival of the Turkish international will be one of the last this transfer window. Departures is a different matter, with Andrey Arshavin the latest to be moving, returning to Zenit St Petersburg which appears to be based on his website statement which says he is “in St. Petersburg on a working visit“. It’s as damning of Arsenal as I can remember a player ever being. One down, fifty-two to go.
These changes will take some time to be fully absorbed into the squad. Despite this, optimism and determination abounds. Gervinho noted,
There’s great belief that we can contend for trophies. This is important, not only for the players, but also for the Club in general. There is real hope that we can bring trophies to Arsenal. Every player is conscious of this and we’re going to do all we can to achieve it this season. We’ve had a few changes at the Club and there’s a good spirit among the group – we’re all enjoying playing together. Everyone is happy and it goes without saying that the group is up for having a good season.
One thing about the modern Arsenal is that the players are very well schooled in media and PR. Pre-season optimism is certainly not misplaced but having heard those words a number of times before from various players, they can be wearing. Yet this time, I think there is a difference. May be the change is that the club is on the front foot in the transfer market and has been all summer. The van Persie distraction did not divert them from their course – or seem to, at least – and rejuvenating the squad continues. This is the first summer for a few years where the club has, to me, felt like they were in control of their activity. Even if that has not how the reality has been, it is the perception and this is key with supporters – PR is king.
It does of course, depend on who is talking and if anyone is going to say the Arsenal is looking good, it has to be Mikel Arteta, a man whose hair is never knowingly out of place. Even in a swimming pool. I am not sure I want to know how he achieves that unruffled look. It isn’t even unruffled, his hair has the tensile strength of graphene. Surely it cannot be long before slate is replaced as the roof tile of choice.
“Some storm last night. How come your roof isn’t halfway down the street?
The tiles are made of Arteta Hair. No matter how bad the weather, Arteta Hair stays in place perfectly. Protect your family TODAY!!!“.
He raised a valid point regarding Saturday’s performance against Sunderland. Once through the initial phase of the match, Arsenal held their positional shape well. The defence and midfield were aligned for longer periods of the match, preventing Sunderland from creating when they had their little shares of possession. Holding that shape is easy when you are dominating a match and the real tests are yet to come, when away performances embroil the side in attritional battles, needing the midfield and attack to work in tandem with the back four to protect the goal. This has to be weighed against the need to counter effectively.
Too much is being read into the home draw with Sunderland, the media attitudes are telling. United in losing to Everton – a ground where they had only lost twice in seventeen previous League visits before Monday – are having a slow start. Arsenal are a club in crisis. It doesn’t ring true and the judgements made in haste at the weekend may well be regretted before Christmas. Being undefeated in twelve opening day fixtures is relatively meaningless but Arsenal were susceptible to a slip at the weekend because of the new faces. They avoided that, a positive from the start of the season. We know all sides will drop silly points at home each season; no team is immune from that. Minimising that is the trick.
It seems strange to read of players asking for time and it sums up football – and society in general – that if results are not good, the utmost negative attitudes of the mob prevail. Life is apparently, either good or bad, with the grey of reality nowhere to be seen in the rush to make snap judgements. They will sap the joy from every situation if you let them.