Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. The injury gremlins are in the works again. Our Catalan Kid Cesc Fàbregas will be hors de combat for AT LEAST a couple of months. Many believe he’ll be on his bike this summer in any event, although I personally wouldn’t bank on it. I’ve always thought that he’d go back to Catalonia at some stage in his career. I just hope we hold on to him for at least a couple more seasons.
With many including me wondering whether Tomáš Rosický will ever play again at the top level (he’s currently seeing a specialist in Germany) where he underwent surgery last month, we’ve lost the width and guile he gave us, along with a great attitude to the game.
The only silver lining on the injury front is the imminent return to first team action of Eduardo, our very own “fox in the box”. The team now has to REALLY dig in and show its maturity and quality in the next couple of months. A mate of mine thinks that Le Boss has lost the plot since David Dein’s departure. I should say that my opinion on this is coloured by my complete loss of faith in the man. Selling his shares to Alisher Usmanov, a man he hardly knew, smacked of opportunism of the worst sort. “Mr Arsenal” had come to the ego-fuelled conclusion that what was good for him was good for the club.
So let’s analyse the Wenger/Dein years. Dein is often credited with bringing Arsčne to Arsenal. He deserves full credit for introducing him to Arsenal. The rest of the board had to sign off on his appointment though. They did. It isn’t as if a foreign manager at the club was a new idea. Before the 1976/77 season we actively tried to recruit Yugoslav/Serbian manager Miljan Miljani?. At the time this was a revolutionary move. Foreign players (at least from outside Great Britain and Ireland) were still all but banned. The only way in was via playing in Scotland – which never had a ban on foreigners – for two seasons. Managers from outside Britain and Ireland were unheard of. David Dein was still seven years from joining the Arsenal board. Miljani? was at Real Madrid at the time, where he won back to back titles having had a stellar coaching career with Red Star Belgrade.
Dein certainly had and has good contacts in the football world. He’s a cosmopolitan man, unusual in Britain and is a fluent French speaker, again rare in these sceptred isles. In the transfer market was he ALL that successful however? He certainly was a closer and a deal-maker. He delivered big money signings in Dennis Bergkamp during Bruce Rioch’s one season in charge, a wonderful coup for Arsenal and one of our all-time greats in his eleven seasons. David Platt was less of an unmitigated success but he did his bit.
He also delivered Emmanuel Petit, Patrick Vieira, Marc Overmars, Sylvain Wiltord, Nwankwo Kanu, Sol Campbell and José Antonio Reyes. There were other signings of course in the Dein/Wenger years, not least Nicolas Anelka. Of those however only Patrick Vieira was an unqualified hit. Petit had one absolutely fabulous season for us, as did Marc Overmars. Nwankwo Kanu had his moments, not least a fabulous hat-trick at Stamford Bridge but was in and out. Brilliant one moment, infuriating the next. His heart problems also deterred a lot of clubs from taking a punt. As did Marc Overmars’ knee problems. Sol Campbell was a great signing for my money, especially on a free from Spuds which made it ever more delicious. He was a lion in his last match in Arsenal colours in the 2006 Champions League final in the Stade de France.
Reyes flattered to deceive. He seemed to be a fish out of water culturally. Likewise Sylvain Wiltord who had one very hard working season mainly playing on the right in 2001/2. He seemed to lose interest after that. All in all, as with any manager Arsčne has had his hits and misses on the transfer market. Even the greatest managers don’t get it right all the time. I honestly don’t think that Dein’s departure has made the difference. The fact is that for three seasons cash was VERY tight (in relative terms) with the building of the Grove. It’s only been since we moved in to our new home that there’s been substantial cash available.
The failure to replace Dein is another issue. That did take FAR too long. Then again, his departure wasn’t planned. He was booted out because he tried to bounce the rest of the board into selling up. He looked across town to Chelsea and thought that firing volleys of fifty pound notes was the way to go. He was also luke-warm from the start on building a new ground. His solution was to buy Wembley from the FA, tart it up a bit and move there. I was always DEAD against this. I’ll admit there was a bit of self-interest in this. I live in Islington. The thought of flogging across town to Wembley for home games did not fill me with joy. I didn’t enjoy the two seasons we played our Champions League games at Wembley AT ALL. The old ground was a dump. Fantastic history, great playing surface (no longer I’m afraid) but a dump.
We shall have to see what Ivan Gazidis can achieve once he’s in post. I’m convinced money is available if Arsčne wants it. January is not usually the time to pick up players you really want however; it’s more of case of ringing around and seeing who you want who might be available.
Merry Christmas to all of you out there in the Gooner Nation.
Keep the faith!