In the wake of Arsenal’s stunning come-from-behind victory over Tottenham, the Gunners’ ability to secure a much-needed spot in the top four is still quite a valid concern. Arsenal fans are once again compelled to rejoice in a win that may or may not ultimately end up making the significant difference we would all sincerely like to believe it made. And yet, the real excitement at the moment involves the not-too-distant future for the club, the summer of 2012. For the record, Arsene appears to be staying, and with the vocal and financial support of the club’s top executives and accompanying virtual carte blanche to spend a significant amount to invest in the future and reinforce the team, he is prepared to battle some familiar names in order to secure some quality talent. If Arsene wishes to silence his outspoken detractors and avoid being chased back to Paris by pitchfork and torch-bearing Gunners fans, he’s going to have to act both wisely and quickly to pick up the support we know we need.
According to the most recent reports, Arsenal is not yet finished waging war against Tottenham. Oh yes, it is indeed true that Arsenal came from behind in order to decisively defeat Tottenham at the North London derby, and the collective community of Arsenal fans sighed in relief that the team could still rise to the occasion when it obviously mattered most. The current battle just referenced is that between Arsenal and Tottenham for the possession of Stéphane Sessègnon. The Sun is reporting that Sunderland’s Stéphane Sessègnon is on Arsene’s list of most-desirable players. The Benin International comes with a somewhat steep price-tag, to be sure, though his exact net worth is the stuff of gross speculation at this point in time. When Liverpool was interested in Sessègnon, Sunderland was demanding £16m for him. There are indications that Sunderland may be willing to accept a lesser amount, but the simple fact remains that Sessègnon started out his career at Sunderland in a dynamic fashion, and he has only continued to improve with time. In sharp contrast to the rumours, his asking price may have actually risen, and for that reason, Arsenal is going to need to exercise good judgment in pursuing him. Arsene needs to do what a good manager always does when it comes to recruiting: sell Arsenal for its legacy and attract him to the team for reasons that supercede money. The last thing Arsenal needs is a bidding war against Tottenham, what would surely translate to a moral victory for the highest bidder, if nothing else.
It has been surmised that Arsene must act fast this summer in order to acquire Sessègnon, though it’s still hard to say in which direction he’ll ultimately lean. In sharp contrast, 25-year-old French striker Olivier Giroud (of Montpellier) badly wants to be at Arsenal, and he’s not hiding this fact. Giroud’s feats on the pitch have been well beyond impressive, and now he’s making it known in the press that he’s wanting to relocate to North London. Several clubs have been closely monitoring Giroud’s progress at Montpellier, assessing his value as it were, so Arsenal will potentially be competing with Newcastle, Bayern Munich, and Napoli. Anticipating the pending battle over Giroud, his current team is quite literally and unscrupulously cashing in on the prospect of his imminent departure, strategically raising his contract release fee from €10million to €16million. Giroud has himself further indicated that, with several of his fellow Frenchmen on Arsenal, and with Arsene at the helm, Arsenal already has a “Frenchy feel” that he appreciates. Giroud’s price tag is still considerably less than that of Sessègnon, and with his talent, he may yet prove to be a real bargain. Giroud was interviewed in the French newspaper Onze-Mondial, where he was quoted as saying the following about the opportunity to transfer to the Premier League and specifically Arsenal:
“I like the ‘Frenchy’ side Arsenal. I love the atmosphere, the fans of English football but also the mentality and the mood on the ground. For me, this is the best league in the world. Germany, with its beautiful and full stadiums, it’s very nice for the attackers. Italy and Spain are fine as well, but I more prefer England.”
Rumors continually abound about Robin van Persie. He has been supposedly been “linked” to a new contract offer valued at £40million. Arsene is clearly committed to keeping Van Persie on the squad, and the above mentioned transfers acquired this summer would surely be brought on board not to replace but rather to support Van Persie in the goal-scoring department (and relieve RVP the burden of pressure to put the ball in the net personally.) RVP is willing to discuss the potential for a deal, but he has kept the nature of the discussion quite ambiguous. By all estimations, he wants to stay at Arsenal, and it appears the team will negotiate an offer to his liking. For the time being, he’s just trying to be the best Captain he can be, and he’s staying every bit as focused as he needs to be to consistently contribute in the way he always does.
Once again, news outlets throughout the world are observing Arsenal and attempting to analyze the team’s current predicament. On the one hand, the team is posting incredible profits in the financial arena. On the other hand, the team’s financial strengths are undermined by its performance. CNN News just reported about an hour previous to my writing this article that Arsenal’s financial report indicates that the team made a whopping $ 78 million. One might immediately wonder how Arsenal managed to post such impressive gains, but it all actually boils down to the fact that Arsenal sold off a pair of players early in the season.
Add the name of Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal’s chief executive officer, to the laundry list of names coming out in support of Arsene.
“We hear the noise, we understand the concern of the fans, we know that there are issues, we know we’re not where we want to be.But I can tell you that this team, our manager, the players, are absolutely united in what we have to do for the rest of the season, which is to finish in the top four. It’s very much in our hands. Victory through harmony. The strength of this club has always been its unity and our fans and our players need to come together in this fight for the rest of the season.”
Arsenal’s thorough thrashing of arch-rival Spurs on Sunday helps to boost both the morale of Gunners fans and tentatively strengthen Arsene’s precarious position. The candid (i.e., ugly) tone of comments on www.arsenalinsider.com provide evidence that fans are growing weary of losing, of seeing the team they have long loved and supported fall into disrepair. Fans seem ill-inclined to give Arsene much credit these days, but as long as Arsenal can at least secure a spot in the top four and preserve a spot in the Champions League, the chants of “off with his head” may die down, albeit temporarily. Arsene’s long history with Arsenal may grant him a reprieve, but if Arsenal ends the season falling short of a Champions League berth, his days will most certainly be numbered unless he secures the talent the team needs to reverse the trend.