So The Sunday Times ran an article yesterday stating Theo Walcott was now giving serious consideration to his future at the club because of Arsene Wenger and his new strategy of coercing his best players into staying with the club.
This strategy may have been a good option with Robin Van Persie last year. He was 28, he was injury prone, he needed to prove his fitness for the big pay day. However, when you’re 23, the fastest player in the league and a marketing mans dream… it’s probably not such a good idea. Not many people like being threatened. It doesn’t cause a good reaction. As it goes, Theo has been doing all he can to prove that he can play as a striker. I’m not a fan of him there, but I am a fan of a hard worker and I am a fan of any player willing to change perceptions about them to get what they want… footballing wise.
Now, I’ve heard through the murky grapevine of rumour and counter rumour that Theo Walcott isn’t interested in money. It’s playing time and getting a go up front. Normally, in a top quality Arsenal side, you’d have to politely tell him no. However, we’re in a slightly weak position at the moment. Giroud has not adapted to the pace of the league yet, he’s got a bad bout of the Bendtners. Gervinho, love child number one, has crocked himself and looks to be out indefinitely. Aaron Ramsey is doing an appalling job out wide on the right because, yep, you guessed, because he’s not a wide right player.
So we’re in a desperate position in two areas of our team. What have we got to lose? We might as well get the most out of him… I can guarantee you one thing, we won’t get someone as good as him for £8million in January. Once he goes, we really are in trouble, there is literally no pace in our side anywhere… and I really don’t think Chamberlain is in the same league as him when it comes to speed.
How are we in a situation like this yet again? I’d say why is no one asking Ivan what the hell is going on… but I know people are. The shareholders, the away fans and the press are all asking what exactly is going on at a club that used to be feared for it’s incredible football. How has this rot been able to set in so deeply over what is a relatively short period of time?
I said at the end of the summer that Wenger is playing a risky game with his transfer strategy. The fans are breaking out into disobedience earlier and earlier. This season is going down the toilet and the reason it’s going down the toilet is that £70million of uncommitted funds. If you’ve got that much spare cash, it’s because you’re not investing. It means you’re gambling on your feather weight squad. You’re basically calling the whole football market thick (in some cases, a totally just accusation).
As a club, we think we can sell out best players then invest half the sum in the replacements. Except it’s mostly not even half. Sometimes that pays off. Cazorla was the equivalent of a repossession purchase. However, in other cases, when you’re replacing the best striker on the planet… there’s a pretty low chance that £12million is going to cover the cost of that. When you’re selling a player for £15million to Barcelona and you plan to replace him with a player you bought and played every week last season (Arteta), that tends to indicate there’s a space left in the squad for another quality player.
There is no such excuse as… ‘football transfers are not as easy as buying a loaf of bread from the supermarket’… you know why? Because watching other clubs purchase our best players seems as simple as buying a loaf of Hovis at a self service check out. Why? Because teams outside Arsenal don’t seem to have too much of a problem putting their hands into their pockets (that often aren’t as deep as ours) and making the right signings. Newcastle would have sold Cabaye for £20million had we wanted him. We might have been able to buy Chek Tiote. We could have snapped up Berbatov from United and he would be doing an effective job for us right now. We could have signed a solid back up keeper from somewhere in the league. Hey, how about Craig Gordon who is more than capable of putting in top class performances. He’s on a free right now.
All those players could have hit the ground running, all those players are within budget, all of them were very publicly available. So why are we looking at an average squad bereft of ideas, spirit and leadership?
Another point I want to raise is the one around the captaincy. I said at the time I’d have given it to Arteta. There was no reason to give it to Vermalen. We’ve been talking about dodgy performances from him for a couple of seasons now, he was our second best defender last year and it was obvious he wasn’t capable of playing with Koscielny, which kind of relegated him to third choice. Now we have an awkward situation where by we almost have to rest him because he looks mentally wrecked.
Wenger gives no thought to the captains armband. It’s either a bribe or an ill thought out back of a fag packet idea.
As for key injury news… we’re all praying on the return of a teenage Chamberlain who has yet to prove anything, Kieran Gibbs who has done well this year, but is far from the finished product and an aging Rosicky who was one of our star performers from last year. What has this squad become where we’re so desperate for these types of players to return? I’m not saying they’re not good players, but I’m pointing out that the players we’ve got in their place are so average we look on at the medical centre in utter desperation in the hope these returning bodies will save us.
As for Diaby? Well, what is the point? Our season has quietly collapsed since his departure. If he was fit, I’ve no doubt we we’d be suffering far less than we are right now. He’s a top player. However, two things in life you can guarantee… Arsenal will sell one of their best players each summer and Diaby will be out for three weeks and that will then double with no explanation. You know what we should do? Sign Fellaini as his replacement. Go out and spend the money on Premiership quality. He has that physical presence we need. He can attack, he can defend. No one beats him in the air and he’s 23. If not him, buy Cabaye for whatever he costs, arguably one of the best box to box midfielders in the league. There has to be a solution to our lack of presence in the midfield. There has to be a contingency plan for Abou Diaby. Constantly hedging our seasons on him coming back to fitness is ridiculous.
How long did United put up with Hargreaves injury issues before they sought a replacement? Not long…
For me though, as much as there is work to be done on the squad, it’s not players that are at the heart of our problem… it’s a management team who can’t see the problems or work out how to get the best out of their attributes. I fear Wenger could go out and spend £200million on our squad and we’d still be suffering the same problems. We have great individual talent, we just don’t have a team at the moment. Where as United have a lack of individual talent but a team galvanised by the love of winning.
Over to you Arsene and Ivan…
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