Disoriented, I stumble back into the outside world. The shock of sunlight stuns me. As my eyes struggle to adjust, my brain struggles to reconcile reality with the dreamword I just left. Gripping for my senses, I look back at the theatre from which I emerged.
Unreal. Mesut Özil? You couldn’t have written a crazier ending to the annual blockbuster known as the summer transfer window. What a fantastic plot. The promise. The defeat. The controversy. Every moment building up to a sensational last-second climax, like a deftly constructed film. Drama at its finest.
Or was it?
As Arsenal fans, we’re used to things not going to script. But this window wasn’t like any before it. It may have had some vintage AFC hallmarks: missed targets, stubbornness, reactionary moves… but whoa. What a twist ending. A massive victory despite everything. In fact, it was such a turn of events that looking back on it, you question the motives of the writers. Approached cynically, the whole thing actually seems downright formulaic.
Picture this: Arsenal, the stereotypical Hollywood college comedy, starring one Arsène Wenger as the would-be grad who squanders all his time hanging on to the past. He was supposed to graduate eight years ago, but he’s trapped by his own complacency. And he’s happy that way. Arsène’s too cool for school. He’d rather befriend the newest freshmen (Sanogo) or relive his glory years with his old buddy (Flamini) than go out and achieve anything. He’s having a great time, so why be ambitious?
Well, one problem: nobody’s having his shit anymore. Mum and Dad threatened to cut funding (contract on hold), and Dean Gazidis–who’s fed up with him and his free ride–is determined to push Arsène to move on to the next level (compete!). It’s now or never to make something of himself.
Yet old habits die hard. And all summer the precocious Mr. Wenger fucks around and neglects his duties. His marks suffer so badly it looks like expulsion is imminent. But just when it looks like the gig is up, wouldn’t you know it? There’s a loophole! If Arsène can just pass one final test, he’s home free!
A little deus ex machina never hurt, right? No audience can resist The Big Deadline Day Signing.
Cue the montage of studying transfer targets, nonstop SSN, and making phone calls round the clock. And suddenly, it’s deadline day. We’re on the edge of our seats here–what will old Wenger pull out of his bag of tricks? Is it… is it… *gasp*. Mesut Özil!!
Our hero is carried off in celebration amid the legions of the faithful. They knew he could do it! Take a bow, Arsène! We never doubted you! The crowd cheers, and even the super hot girl from French class (Giroud) smiles and gives him a huge kiss.
A magnificent ending to an otherwise absurd comedy. Except, as I’m walking away from the theatre, eyes still adjusting to the harsh sunlight, I start thinking back on what we really learned. True, the film was about redemption in the end. Yes, it definitely had a satisfying climax. But did the prodigal Mr. Wenger actually learn any lesson?
I mean, hasn’t he actually been rewarded for one triumph after months (or years) of sheer neglect? How does one piece of brilliance counteract dozens of daft choices? When the confetti settles, we’re looking at mostly the same squad we all know has a very slim chance of making it through a full season.
What do we do if Giroud goes down? It’s painfully obvious that Sanogo isn’t ready for the Prem or Champions League, so what then? Open our arms again to Nicky B? What happens should Mertesacker pick up an injury? We’ve seen firsthand Vermaelen-Koscielny is a mostly disastrous partnership. So what, we hope Sagna is the centrehalf to carry us through?
I suppose I’m being overly harsh here. To be fair, aside from the pure glory of Özil, grabbing Flamini was a wise signing. Due to our financial strength the move itself came off as a little pathetic, but nonetheless the player addresses a need in the team. One hopes maybe Wenger is biding time until he can go back in for Bender.
Most of all though we have to give credit where it’s due for absolutely annihilating transfer records. Just the willingness to go all-out for a player is huge. It shows we can be serious about playing in the big leagues and it’s encouraging to future targets.
And I can’t overstate how insanely good Özil really is. If you’re going to cap off a summer of idle mediocrity with a coup de grace, you really can’t pick a better one. I don’t always agree with Wenger’s decisions, but the fact is he was able to make the richest transfer in football history the second biggest signing of the day. Özil might be half Bale’s price, but he’s twice the player.
So maybe, just maybe, Wenger has learned some lessons after all. Objectively, he did only part of the work he needed to, even if he did do it in stunning fashion. But maybe we can take it as a sign of encouragement. Maybe he’s turned over a new leaf. Time will tell if it was an anomaly or the start of something beautiful.
For now, we sit back and enjoy the show.