The communications age has changed football. Time previously spent reading CEEFAX and the ITV equivalent before falling for the sucker punch of Clubcall is all we had until the back pages were feverishly scoured for the latest morsel or hint of what might be happening in and around the club in terms of its transfer activity. Now the impact of social media is seen through the number of people In The Know whose claims are recycled through the websites and back pages; the truth is out there, it’s just nowhere to be seen when it comes to football transfers.
This morning, Arsène dampened the hopes and dreams of many when it comes to recognised names. David Villa is not coming to The Emirates nor any French players, presumably including those who play in this country already. Having been severely criticised by Alan Pardew following the team he fielded in the Bernabeu in 2006, when the opportunity arose to be critical, Wenger finished with some aplomb, advising the assembled hacks to go to Newcastle for any transfer information on French players.
A misplaced conception has arisen that we are entitled to know what players the manager is trying to sign. Agents and clubs brief the media when it suits them but is naive to believe that Wenger will tell the press that he is in negotiations about specific players. Even the before his reign, Arsenal rarely allowed news to emerge prior to signing of a player unless it suited them so I am not sure why this is suddenly an issue. It strikes me that a lot of the time – like attendances – it is a stick with which to beat the club.
The logic goes that if there is no news in the back pages, there is no activity. That may be the truth but seems unlikely. The question then turns to why it takes so long for transfers to complete at Arsenal, presuming that there are any incomings this month – and that is a big presumption to make. We cannot rely on the manager in his press conferences and today’s was no different,
What I worry about is to get the players who are out injured back fit and to get the players who play for this club to perform at their potential. If we perform we can potentially not expect any miracle from outside, we have got to make things happen from inside
If somebody else can strengthen our squad we will of course do it, I have said that many times but we have the resources inside to do well. We have two players in every position and that should be basically enough plus the young players we have in behind.
But if we find the top class players in every position we will never refuse to strengthen our squad.
Frequently I find that his words do not tally with his actions; the games with the media obscure some of the points he is making and often phrases seem to be aimed directly at the players. In this scenario, he has admitted that he has a squad which is lacking in confidence. Would, you have to ask, the manager talking of bringing this striker, that midfielder or a certain defender into the fold, be a counter-productive move? Do the players respond better to gentle chiding or encouragement that the manager has belief in them? The latter would reinforce any messages delivered on the training ground, irrespective of private thoughts.
Or are we saying that we want an open assessment of the squad, or even something which falls between the two extremes: the squad is good but not good enough to win titles. The latter is a painful truth and the question to ask is whether that would be motivational for the players to prove their worth and produce what might be considered title-winning form over the remainder of the season? Given the brittleness of their confidence, I am not sure it would be the best course of action to follow. Better to let events unfurl than pronounce publicly on them.
This is an entirely separate issue to strengthening the squad, something which it is my personal belief that should be happening. I struggle with the concept that the signing should come at the end of the month although it is a futile argument to suggest that new players would have changed any interim results; it cannot be proved at all.
Depending on your inclination, it is either brave or foolhardy of the manager to fail to bring someone else in, possibly both. Time will be the only judge, one or the other is the right answer. Recent matches have seen that there is a noticeable lack of depth in the forward line with only an out-of-shape Arshavin available if a change up front is required; that is almost as worrying a prospect as relying on the fitness of Abou Diaby in midfield for the rest of the season. As much as I would like the Frenchman to be seen as a pivotal player, crucial in this season’s redemption it is a huge risk given the manager’s public utterances on the player’s healing capacities.
There is less than a week away and no evidence that nothing is changing at the club. Until the deadline is reached, we will not know whether or not Arsène is bringing in new faces and as such, rushing to judgement now is counter-productive. Thankfully there is a busy footballing spell to take our minds off it, starting at Brighton in the FA Cup.