Arsenal at the World Cup

An International tournament can prove to be a difficult period for an ardent club fan. Firstly, it goes without saying that club passion overrides patriotism in a way that is difficult to understand let alone justify, but nevertheless the unavoidable truth. You may feel compelled to paint the cross of St. George on your face and heartily sing the national anthem, but no matter what lengths you go to in order to identify your national pride, the buzz will be nowhere near as strong as wearing the red and white of Arsenal and singing ‘let’s all laugh at Tottenham’ at the top of your voice. Of course I was upset on Sunday evening, but my sorrow would not even dine at the same table as that of losing at White Hart Lane or watching Diaby nod into his own net at Old Trafford.
It seems to me that we are therefore left in limbo, excited at the plethora of football and the coming-together of a whole nation, but nonetheless consistently compelled to check the BBC gossip column every day and delight more in seeing the launch of the new away kit than Defoe scoring against Slovenia. This piece is therefore a quick overview of what we, (and I mean we as in fans of Arsenal and not England or any other country for that matter) have gained or discovered from the World Cup so far.
It would be foolish to begin anywhere else than at the feet of Theo Walcott. Being the main talking point of two consecutive World Cups without even kicking a football is certainly quite an achievement, yet this time the consequences of such are far more relevant. The Theo Walcott debacle is an interesting one, because it is plainly obvious that he is not (yet) effective when he starts a match, yet frighteningly impactful coming off the bench. Whether this is down to a lack of experience, an accumulation of injuries or Arsene’s lack of coaching wisdom (psshh), a slightly good performance at home to Burnley is the only piece of evidence to suggest the contrary. Whether his presence at the World Cup would have catapulted England through the group stages and the early knockout rounds with aplomb is debatable, yet whether he would have had more impact than Shaun Wright-Phillips and Aaron Lennon seems to be a no-brainer.
One saving grace for club fans at a World Cup is of course monitoring the participation of the players we adore and worship throughout the club season. This is sometimes a fruitful exercise which provides bragging rights and untouchable pride, I give you 1998 and Arsenal (Petit, Vieira and Henry) winning the World Cup in Paris, and at others it is a less rewarding pastime. This year has provided us with a mixed bag. Nicklas Bendtner has seemed to tick all the boxes that he has been prone to ticking in North London, namely a lack of pace, a slight arrogance and an ability to score the occasional goal. Robin Van Persie has been incredible as ever, pulling the strings for Holland whilst scoring a wonderful goal- this is satisfying, yet frustrating for reasons which I need not mention. Others include Emmanuel Eboue, erratic, fiery and explosive, Alex Song, inexplicably only chosen for one out of the three Cameroon games, yet who gave a typically solid performance, and Carlos Vela, summing up his last three seasons in just one match, bags of potential, yet disappointing and injury-prone. However the most interesting performance from an Arsenal related player has surely been Gilberto Silva. The former vice-captain has had a fantastic World Cup so far, and is thought to be one of the first names on Dunga’s team sheet. How Arsene must be kicking himself for shipping out Gilberto for being apparently not good enough and too old to play the holding role at Arsenal, a position Wenger had filled only sporadically prior to the emergence of Alex Song, yet is still good enough to play for the best country in the world, in front of Lucio, and behind Kaka.
Finally, as I have mentioned, the World Cup provides some brilliant transfer gossip. There are the uncovered gems that suddenly become multi-million pound global phenomena after just one game. There are the ongoing internal sagas that will be concluded after the player has ‘focused on the World Cup’, and then there are the deals that take place in a separate dimension, far, far away from South Africa with players Arsene has discovered on Football Manager that no one has ever heard of. This year has provided us with each of these categories as well as the anomaly that is Joe Cole’s ongoing transfer saga, and so let’s start there. Joe set himself out from the beginning as one of those who prefer to focus on ‘their’ World Cup before deciding anything regarding the future, although his focus apparently wasn’t enough to merit a starting place. Personally I’m a huge fan of Joe Cole, and think he would be a great addition to the club for his all-round package of skill, charisma and Englishness. Although we have probably got quite enough attacking midfielders, his arrival would be welcomed by all, yet whether this materialises we will have to wait and see, with Daniel Levy apparently offering him a huge ‘package’ to go to Spurs. The uncovered gem of the tournament has already proven to be Mesut Ozil, a player I watched play about a year ago and who was clearly destined for big things. He seems to be the perfect Wenger player, and much of us would love to see Wenger snap him up in a similar fashion to how he grabbed Arshavin after Euro 2008. As for the unknown entity completely removed from the stir of the World Cup, this year’s is Laurent Koscieny, whose signature seems to be just around the corner, a player I doubt few of us had heard of before his name became linked with a move to the Emirates, yet one we would be foolish to dismiss based on the success of Thomas Vermaelen. Of course I can’t leave without mentioning Cesc and Sol. I’m sure very few of us would have predicted that Cesc would still be an Arsenal player at the end of June, and as of yet, I have been extremely proud of Arsene, signalling his intent by refusing to sell his best player. This is a bold move, but as long as he endures, Cesc will have to stay at Arsenal and even though he desires to go to Barca, he loves Arsenal and would certainly continue to put everything into the cause. In terms of Sol’s situation, I find it very hard to believe that he would choose Celtic, a limited club in a very limited league, over Arsenal, whom he has such passion for. This brings me to the conclusion that strangely, Arsene has told him he can look elsewhere, a decision which is extremely baffling based on his performances last season. His departure looks to be on the horizon, having visited Glasgow today to ‘look around’, but I would certainly not rule out a return as a Coach or even manager in the near future.
So for all the glitz, glamour and Vuvuzela of the World Cup, the Premier League remains our bread and butter, and I for one cannot wait for the new campaign to Kick-Off with a mouth-watering trip to Anfield.

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