In days of olde, when knights were bold, so the playground rhyme began. The version I knew proceeded to ‘discuss’ the absence of portaloos on what passed for roads in those days. Other parts of the country told different tales while Billy Gilbert (I think) used the phrase on the opening lines of a song. Do not confuse this with the BBCs dreary Good Old Days music hall variety show. That dampened the atmosphere ahead of Match of the Day, make no mistake.
It feels that in days of olde, Arsenal were brave in the transfer market. No longer; Raul went in hard for Willy Saliba and spent £26.9m of next year’s transfer budget on the young centre-back. No Free Willy from Saint-Etienne this year.
That the club is thinking ahead is commendable, particularly since the fee is being ignored in terms of this year’s budget. Brickbats are equally deserved; two transfers this summer, neither of which strengthen the first team next season. Martinelli is a long-term project, while Saliba is a marketing tool for BT Sport if they have any sense. Quite a few of Les Verts matches will be televised if they have any sense; we lap up anything Arsenal-related.
As of yet, the weaknesses which derailed last season remain intact. None of the transfer activity addresses the dismal defending, eradicates individual errors or provides inspiration in attack. We are, at the moment, the same old, same old.
Promoting youngsters is good, don’t get me wrong. However, relying on them to solve problems caused by experienced pros is naive at best, a gross dereliction of duty at worst. It is too early in the transfer window to reach a definitive judgement. Not that it will stop that happening.
They Seek It Here, They Seek It There
This season is big for Unai Emery. His army of critics grows even when we’re not playing. The summer’s failure so far is being laid at his doorstep, even though he appears to be a relatively minor cog in the process.
A fair assessment of his season in charge is that we don’t have a particular style of play. In itself, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We complained for years that ‘Wengerball’ was a one-stop shop; there was no Plan B, C or most just no plan.
Emery had a plan, certainly in the early part of the season, with full-backs bombing on. It’s not much of a plan but he was willing to change it early in a match if he didn’t see it working. The problem is that plan went by the wayside as the season wore on and he ran out of ideas while the team ran out of steam, heart and most stadia with their tails between their legs.
This is what must be addressed this summer. Steve Bould paid the price of last season’s failure and returned to the academy. It’s amusing to see Freddie Ljungberg lauded for developing youth, exactly the same reason that Bould was promoted to the first team coaching staff all those years ago. Does the same fate await the Swede?
Ljungberg’s reputation may prove more durable because in the electronic warzone, his playing career ended more recently and as a goalscoring midfielder, was more exciting. Which is ironic given Arsenal is a club which thrives when the XI has a solid defence. ‘Boring, boring Arsenal’ wasn’t always an ironic chant.
Replacing Ineptitude With A New Attitude
And we desperately need it to be a serious chant once again. We must rediscover the ability to defend a lead rather than the ineptitude which culminated in throwing them away time and again. Arsene in his heyday recognised the value of a strong defence; Emery after a couple of years on Ligue Un’s easy street must also appreciate the same.
It’s hard to do that with Shkodran Mustafi in the squad, I know, but sometimes we must overcome adversity in whatever shape or form it comes.
Elsewhere, Krystian Bielik is the latest Arsenal player lined up by Ivan Gazidis. If we are to sell anyone to Milan, we must insist that Mustafi is part of the deal. Payback, Ivan, is a bitch…