It’s been a pretty poor few months for us Arsenal fans. Most of us didn’t seriously expect to be competing for the league last season so our title challenge, while ultimately depressing, did sow the seeds of hope. Our squad looked only one or two players short of a league title. Sure there were questions that need to be answered but overall we looked in pretty good nick. We needed to know if Thomas and Robin would ever play more than 10-15 league games a season, the Gallas and Toure partnership still did not convince and the question of who would be captain was still very much open but these were problems that could be corrected with only a little tweaking right?
Then came the end and things got bad fast. First of all our best player last year, Flamini, went and fecked off to Italy. Now we argued that he had only one good season in four but the problem seemed to be that we were being a bit mean on the wages and for the sake of £10k a week (or there abouts) we lost half of our very impressive central midfield pairing. £10k a week is only half a million a year, if anyone out there can find a player of Flamini’s quality, drive and passion for that price please tell Wenger as we need one badly. Still we all remained calm, if Wenger was willing to let Flamini go then he surely had something else lined up because Arsene knows right?
Then came Hleb. Now I am not nor never was a big fan of Hleb. Sure he had quick feet and great dribbling skills and all that but for a attacking midfielder he just didn’t produce either enough goals or assists for me. So take the money and invest it in someone else. We did and while it is far too early to judge our new French winger at least knows where the goal is an is not afraid to shoot. Arsene knows right?
Ade next played his stupid game all summer long, allowing his agent to flirt with anyone who was willing to listen to him. I think there was a real chance that he could have gone but in the end Wenger seemed to think that the £25-£30 million or so that was on offer did not quite match up with his own valuation. Now Berbatov at Spurs is available for seemingly less than that and I know which one I’d rather have in my team but Arsene seemed to think that Ade still had something to offer the club and Arsene knows right?
Next on to our captain. Gallas is quite simply a dreadful leader and I don’t think he is even all that popular within the squad. His motivational skills are next to none and what’s worse is that his defending getting worse as well. If you had a straw poll of the fans, pundits and reporters I would get that 95% of us would feel that Gallas is the wrong man to lead this team but Wenger seems to think otherwise and Arsene know right?
Now, to match our two first choice defenders who are quick on the ground but poor in the air (not to mention prone to the odd mistake) we have added another carbon copy. Silvestre was cheap and experienced but there is a reason he was cheap and that is (surprise, surprise) because that is his market value. We are not getting someone who is suddenly going to become world class we are getting a 31 year old injury prone player who our rivals were willing to let go. Are these three players suddenly going to become expects are dealing with crosses? Will our goalkeeper suddenly start to command his area like a true keeper? From what I’ve seen so far I’d say no but Arsene knows right?
Up until yesterday I kept things calm. Up until yesterday I felt that maybe something was going to happen, that the boss was going to reveal all the aces up his sleeve and that we’d all once again celebrate over how lucky we are to have such a great manager. But then we went and shipped out the one defender we have who is the type of defender we need. Big Phil gets a lot of flak, some of it deserved and some of it unwarranted but there are two things we should always keep in mind when slagging him off. The first is that he is only 23 and that is very young for a defender. Imagine how unreliable Terry, Ferdinand and even our own Adams was at that age. Even fan favourite Toure was far from complete at 23. Sure Drogba killed Senderos in a few games but Drogba scored twice in ten minutes against us last season and Phil wasn’t even playing. Did everyone call for the heads of Toure and Gallas after that game?
The second thing to keep in mind when knocking Phil is that when he played in the centre of defence we conceded less goals per game, had a higher percentage of clean sheets and (this is the most important one) returned a higher return of points per game then when Toure and Gallas played together. You can say that he is error prone and useless but the data suggests the opposite.
We can dress up ‘potential’ anyway we want but looking at the squad we have at the moment you would be hard pressed to remember a worse squad over the past ten years. At the back Toure and Gallas are becoming bad defenders. Eboue is crap. Denilson is simply not ready, Theo is grossly underperforming, Thomas R, Diaby and Van P are never fit and Ade and Nicolas B cannot play together.
We have Clichy, Sagna and Cesc who consistently play at the very top and after that we pretty much have nothing. Maybe Nasiri will turn out to be the new Pires, maybe Robin will play in more than 26 league games in a season (for the first time ever) and maybe Thomas R and Diaby will suddenly become fit and stay fit. Maybe Toure will learn how to attack a cross and maybe Gallas will learn to lead. I want Wenger to prove me wrong and pull magical signings out of thin air but I am really beginning to fear that the magic hat is starting to slip. And maybe this season, we will learn that after more than ten great years at the club that Arsene no longer knows?