It struck me yesterday that Arsenal’s starting lineup against Sunderland was almost an entirely different team from even two seasons ago.
After years of being fairly quiet in the transfer market (apart from selling the occasional top player and signing the occasional teenager), Arsenal have now gone the other way: last summer saw Clichy, Fabregas and Nasri leave, with Gervinho, Santos, Mertesacker, Arteta and Chamberlain being added to the first-team; this year we’ve seen van Persie and now Song leave, with Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla coming in. Of the players that started yesterday, only four were first-teamers two seasons ago – Vermaelen, Gibbs, Diaby and Walcott.
It’s a new team, and sadly that showed yesterday; players didn’t click as well as they should, and as a result our attack never really got into gear. At one point Podolski and Cazorla even got in each others’ way! Gervinho was on a quite different wavelength from everyone, and while I like us to have at least one player who runs at players and does something other than pass pass pass, he needs to work on his decision-making, and learn to get over his Hleb syndrome and have a shot every now and then.
I’m glad we’ve been active in the transfer market, because often the team has needed investment, there’s no denying that. However, with the latest news regarding Song, it looks like our purchasing of players has only come about because of how much money we make from selling others. With Nasri and van Persie we were left with little choice, admittedly, but Fabregas and Song had years left on their contracts and really didn’t need to be sold. I’ve covered the Fabregas situation enough times, so I won’t go into it again, but the Song situation is interesting.
I’ve said before that he’s hardly the best player in our squad: he doesn’t strictly do the job he’s supposed to, (although he does make up for it with the occasional Hollywood pass); he’s certainly replaceable – a position you look at and think ‘we could do better’; but at the same time, there is something to be said for having a player who knows the club, knows the other players, and knows the league; something our newcomers are always going to struggle with at first.
Of course there are other factors to take into consideration that we might not know about. Questions have been raised about his attitude and if Wenger feels his heart’s not in it, then he’s probably not a player we should be desperate to keep. Then again, how many players have we had over the years that this has been true of? Isn’t it more likely that there’s something slightly rotten at the heart of the club that we continually end up with players who think they’re above Arsenal somehow? Especially when they’re average, inconsistent players like Adebayor, Bendtner and Song, who have never won anything in their lives.
And how many years have we put into developing Song? For so long he looked a lost cause, like the Premier League was simply a level too high for him. It’s strange to think now, but it was only a couple of years ago he was still pretty much at the level of Eboue and Denilson. And yet, we stuck with him and finally in 2010/11 and 2011/12 he showed himself to be reliable, and added goals and assists to his game. He wasn’t perfect, but he had finally improved and could surely only continue to do so under Wenger’s guidance?
But, once again, as soon as we start to see the fruits of our labour, we let the player go. Even when we don’t have to. He won’t be the biggest loss, but he’s another player of ours in this pattern that simply can’t continue. Even if we bring in M’Vila, Sahin or De Jong, there’s going to be another adaptation period before we see the best of them. And what example does it set to our other players? If you somehow think you might be good enough for Barcelona, we’ll make sure your dream comes true! (On a side note – I really have no clue how Song features in Barca’s plans, even if they feature in his. I definitely see another Hleb scenario unfolding here)
Just one more bone to pick with the club – why announce this sale just after the game yesterday? I know it’s only Song, but it’s still another pointless sale of a first-team player and it really rubbed salt into Gooners’ wounds yesterday. Sort out your timing, Arsenal. It’s not that much to ask, is it?