There are a lot of ‘it isn’t’s’ this morning. Stories emerging from Spain about a buyback clause for Carlos Vela being invoked also mention one salient point; The player’s representatives are negotiating a new contract with Sociedad. It’s a time-honoured tradition to invoke the name of Arsenal when pay rises are being sought, this one no exception to that rule. It’s a bit like all the Cesc stories that emerged last year and recently; it’s all about someone wanting to feel loved. It isn’t about rejoining the club at which the pair either underperformed or sh@t on from a great height. As romantic as either returning might seem, it just isn’t going to happen. People need to stop acting like spurned lovers whose heart has been taken outside and pummelled into a bloody mess with a sledgehammer.
Whilst all and sundry were lapping up that appearance of transfer activity, Arsène was determined to make sure that everyone knew that it isn’t a mental block which has stopped Arsenal winning a trophy in the past decade. He didn’t offer any particular reason or theory as to why things had gone wrong in various league and cup campaigns, he didn’t need to. We all have our opinions on that subject and there is no sole cause. It’s been a combination of factors that change from game to game but in short, we haven’t been good enough.
Rightly, Arsène did highlight that Arsenal expect to be favourites in matches against the likes of Hull and Wigan. Dealing with it comes as part and parcel of being associated with a big club, be that as player, employee, supporter or official. To deny that tag is folly. It’s a bit daft really as is people getting het up because Arsenal have planned a victory parade. The same people would complain if the club had not planned anything or been barred from doing so. 2003 anyone?
All of which suggests pre pre-match nerves are beginning to shine through. Instead of enjoying the moments leading in to a Wembley final, some are becoming fractious at anything which might resemble overconfidence, almost inviting a plague upon the Arsenal house. Let’s set the reality out as it is:
- Arsenal are favourites. Beyond facing Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester City, in a domestic cup final, we will always be favourites. Get used to it.
- Arsenal have to plan a victory parade. Islington isn’t a sleepy hamlet in the country with a farmer, his wife and fields of cattle and sheep for company. It’s part of London, England’s capital city and a little bit of planning goes a long way to keeping the neighbours happy.
- I expect Arsenal to win. There, I said it, just as I did before the semi-final against Wigan which you may have noticed, we won. Stating that in public, like the second point above, does not jinx proceedings. There isn’t a little imp, elf, fairy, pixie, leprechaun or demon walking around that will take umbrage at that statement and think, “Right, for that Arsenal will lose and I will bestow superhuman footballing powers on Hull City’s players so that they become, for ninety minutes, the most skilful, athletic and luckiest sportsmen there have ever been”. Life just isn’t like that; Arsenal will lose if they are arrogant, unfit or unprofessional in their approach to the game. If they are professional, treat Hull with respect and play to the best of their abilities, Per Mertesacker will lift the FA Cup. Provided John Terry doesn’t beat him to the top of the steps and protect Jose from being labelled a “specialist in failure“.
So if there is a hex or plague on Arsenal’s house, I didn’t so much invite it in, more like giving it the key and telling it to run amok. It needs redecorating anyway.
Which brings us back to Vela. Well, no, actually it doesn’t because Karim Benzema is apparently Arsenal’s target this summer and the club want to do a deal as soon as the Champions League final is finished. in no way should Benzema’s imminent arrival be tempered by the fact that, (a) he has 12 months to run on his contract which means he is either sold or given a new deal, or, (b) despite intense media speculation, Luis Suarez has not yet signed for Real Madrid. Any delays in the deal can always be ascribed to John W Henry’s marvellous negotiating skills as had will no doubt succeed in persuading Real to accept the contract clause which prevents them selling anyone to Arsenal. Just like that nice Mr Levy tried to last summer because that worked really well, didn’t it?
Even if we don’t sign anyone, so many players are returning from injury that it will feel like the squad has been strengthened this summer. One of those is Jack Wilshere whose fitness is being proved just in time for Saturday’s final. Whether he will start, that is a different matter. Has Arsène told the squad his XI already? You can’t divine anything from the colour of the players bibs in training. Just when you think you can, along comes Laurent Koscielny wearing the wrong colour and throwing a perfectly good theory into disarray.
Speaking at the club’s media open day, Wilshere spoke about growing up in public. Not directly but certainly relating the tale about how he approached Paul Scholes following his comments after the Swansea match, suggest a thoughtfulness and maturity that bodes well for his captaincy aspirations, as well as for the present day. There’s nothing wrong with wanting yo lead out his country although admiration for Wayne Rooney does seem questionable on any level. It harks back to a time long ago in footballing terms, when representing your country brought a sense of pride and when talk of the right wing referred to Stanley Matthews. That is hardly surprising as the public has tired of the boorish behaviour of players whose egos are assuaged by a man whose behaviour is Korda in keeping with Steptoe and Son. Fair play to this mornings Guardian in their app edition for finding a photo of Scudamore that just shouts out, “You dirty old man. As opposed to the website which makes you wonder who is doing what out of shot.
Wilshere suffers from our expectations. Having come through the ranks, the ghosts of Charlie and Rocky haunted him, underpinned by a prodigious talent. To believe he should have developed more by this stage in his career ignores the disruptive influence of injuries. We saw how long it took for Aaron Ramsey to recover from a long spell on the sidelines but also how quickly he pushed on as soon as he regained his confidence. Wilshere’s trajectory appears more attuned to that rather than Eduardo who was never really the same player following his horrific broken leg.
For me, Wilshere is right to highlight his increased involvement in scoring and creating but we have to avoid the trap of solely relying on stats to gauge a player. He epitomises a problem Arsenal have had in recent years, that the midfield font scored enough goals. Aaron Ramsey’s one-man crusade to rectify that I’d most welcome but more need to follow in his footsteps, Wilshere included. The same criticism applies to Cazorla and Özil; creative, yes, bug they need to be more prolific especially when we are playing with one central striker. Arsène highlighted the difference in City’s goalscoring record yo our own; if the manager talks on a subject publicly, you hope he is moving to strengthen the squad in that area.
But that can be left to the transfer execs at the moment, Arsène has a cup final victory parade to plot.