Thursday, 16 August 2012

The summer of raised expectations

In a few years people will probably look back on this summer and wonder what was different from previous years at Arsenal.

If and when Van Persie and Song are sold, the club will once again have sold two of their best players late in the transfer window.

But it has been a very different summer. The signings of Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla created hope - an ephemeral hope, but hope nonetheless.

Of course it makes sense that we'd sign three top players because we would lose two two, but the sums paid this summer are far greater than ever before. When Sagna and Eduardo were signed, although they were top players, they came for relatively small sums.

And that underscores the crucial point: although Arsenal are still somewhat hamstrung by sponsorship deals struck years ago, the club is starting to spend more than before. It was understandable that Thierry Henry wanted to leave because the club didn't look like it was particularly competitive. It was understandable when we let Adebayor and Toure go because we were offered silly money for players who in Adebayor's case had a bad attitude and in Toure's case was over-weight. Even selling Fabregas at a reduced price was understandable, because keeping him at the club was probably impossible. 

But with Van Persie something sticks in the throat a little. I never believed he was any more committed to the club than Flamini, Toure or Fabregas had been. I actually expected him to be sold this summer because - as was much discussed during the season - if he was going to sign a new contract, why not do it sooner and earn a great deal more money? But selling him to a club who in our pomp we were arch-rivals with stinks. People point to the example of Sol Campbell, but the difference there is Tottenham couldn't stop him. In Robin's case, we could have. 

Even so, the bigger issue is we're selling two players to clubs where they're either not needed or won't fit in. What United desperately needed was a midfield play-maker; instead they have an instinctive Dutch striker. When Arsenal played Barcelona two years ago, the defensive midfielder who shone was Denilson not Alex Song. La Liga is far more about anticipation and interceptions than tackles (in comparison to the Premier League, anyway) and Song's unsuitability was highlighted when he was almost sent-off at the Emirates against Barcelona in 2011. And that's not even to mention the folly of a team which plays tika-taka signing a player with as poor short passing as Song. Song is an excellent player, but not in any way a Barcelona-type player. That might seem like a good thing, but it's hard to see the allure - apart from the Dollar signs - for either player to move to their respective new club. 

And it's all the more odd, because we're now able to sign three players in one summer who cost ten million pounds plus, and show real ambition. In 2008 we came incredibly close to glory but with an incredibly inexperienced squad. Now the squad looks ready for trophies. Barca will struggle to win La Liga, and I think United over-performed last year. 

That's what's so odd about the Van Persie deal. Sure, without him, Arsenal will do well to finish third; but with him I think we stood a better chance of winning the League than Manchester United. I retained hope all the way through the summer that he would sign a new contract precisely because he's so important to us. 

I like Giroud but even if he does phenomenally well and scores 20 goals, that's ten fewer than Robin last year. Robin would be a great player for any team, but the system was built around him at Arsenal and he won't get that up north. He set fire to his bridges with the club with his ridiculous statement, and he's fully burnt them by moving to United. 

People will point to the squad being better than last year, but some of the football I witnessed last season was beyond dire. And yes we had injuries etcetera etcetera, but it's hard not to feel like we've been given hope by the club all summer only for it to be dashed at the end. I think there's a hell of a lot of pressure on the new signings, and whether they can deliver is a gigantic question.

If not, it's going to be a miserable old year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You've forgotten to add your favourite endnote, which I grew accustomed to seeing whenever I read Arsereview. Please add it, for my sanity and continued belief in this current squad going into the new season.

Hint: Keep the faith