Start by doing what’s necessary;
then do what’s possible;
and suddenly you are doing the impossible
– St Francis of Assisi
A morning where all and sundry continue their onslaught against Arsenal, Arsene in particular bearing the brunt of the criticism. Questioning the decisions of the manager is part of a healthy debate into the state of affairs at the club and should not be discouraged otherwise complacency sets in.
Where I take issue is when abuse becomes part of the ‘game’ which is counterproductive in both analysis and resolution. Put simply, if you do not have the mental capacity to put forward cogent arguments, do not bother; abuse means your input is instantly devalued and ignored. Indeed, this aspect erodes the pleasure many of us derive from watching and talking about football.
Sanity is in short supply. The media love a good transfer story and when they don’t get their fill, as happened in January, the only solution to all ills which may afflict a club is that they should have signed someone. In Arsenal’s case, a centre forward. Or industrious midfielder. Or centre back. Or goalkeeper. Therein is the problem. No-one could agree on which position needed most urgent attention – if any did – and how the multi-million pound spree required to satisfy everyone’s desires was to be funded.
Undoubtedly Wenger has money to spend. A lot of his transfer pot – Arsenal admit that this funds both new signings and contract extensions – was spent tieing down the current squad to long-term deals. Accusations that this has led to complacency and arrogance are without foundation; none of us knows the individuals involved and therefore you cannot say with any degree of certainty that these traits have suddenly risen to the surface in any player. You can assume that but at the same time, you will presumably not mind if we make some assumptions about you.
We simply do not know how much there is available. Arsenal has a ethos of not talking transfers until they happen although at times talking about it several days after deals are known to be completed is a touch too secretive. Wenger created a rod for his own back after recent transfer windows by mentioning failures in transfer negotiations, something that started with the attempt to sign Xabi Alonso. Open-ness has its pitfalls as well.
These are testing times for the squad. In years to come, it can be looked back upon as character building for them. Unfortunately, the Premier League’s creation eradicated long-term views; it enhanced focus on the short-term where resolution is simple: sack the manager, allow their replacement to spend a sum equivalent to the GDP of a small nation and then sack them when they do not bring in trophies.
Arsenal stand firm as a mote of rationality in this maelstrom. Transfers are funded from the business. It might change if ownership falls into one pair of hands but at this moment in time, cloth is cut according to that which is available, rather than nipping in through the back window of the tailor shop next door and stealing theirs. Is it the correct route? Yes. Only Chelsea and Manchester United has won the Premier League title in the last decade, aside from Arsenal. Aston Villa, Tottenham, Manchester City; they have all spent vast sums in recent seasons but are with the exception of the latter, no nearer to the title than they were last season.
Buying a player or two will be necessary in the summer and depending on the nature of those incoming, moving to the next level may occur. It might not and then we will be where we are now. A top three side with an outside chance of the title and a 1 in 16 chance of winning the Champions League.
Wenger’s problem this time around is that he has admitted to putting his eggs into two baskets: the Premier and Champions League. Domestic cups are highly valued in the press for they save effort, stories almost pre-written before finals and no sniffing around hunting for tattle to fill column inches. The FA Cup is losing its shine, saved this season by the exploits of Leeds and Reading. Looking at the upcoming fixtures, there are few shocks which can have a reasonable chance of occurring, it might even be a shock if Southampton do not dump Portsmouth’s run into the depths of The Solent.
The media are unforgiving if cup competitions are disrespected, losing little chance to lambast Manchester United for their failure to compete at the turn of the century. Ironically, the same hacks who criticise Arsene for not fielding his strongest team at Stoke wanted United to do the same whilst the first team competed for Fifa’s World Club Cup.
Liverpool represents the same opportunity as Chelsea. A chance to get back to winning ways. Victory coupled with the failure of Chelsea and United to take maximum points reduces the nine-point gap to the top which currently exists. No doubt that this would make the world around Arsenal seem less grey. Crucially, it offers hope. Without that, what is the point of following a football club?