This article has been written by leftcoastgooner, who will be taking on blogging duties for (at least) the early part of this season. A quick word to say a very personal word of thanks from me (Andy) and welcome to the new season.
It’s here finally and at last.
Three months and a day since we saved our Champions league blushes with an incredibly tense 0-1 win at St. James’ Park courtesy of a Laurent Koscielny goal from a Walcott free kick that pinged off the backside of the Magpie’s Yanga Mbia. That’s how close we were to NOT qualifying for the Champions League let alone bringing home any silverware.
So, with a stated transfer chest of 70-80 million pounds and one helluva scare you might have thought we’d go right out and start strengthening the squad forthwith and with haste, or at least reasonably promptly and with celerity. How about slowly but surely? Okay, how about hardly at all and with a good deal of fuss?
The plain truth is this summer transfer activity–maybe activity isn’t the right word after all–looks strangely like last year’s and the year before. Now before you Le Grove types start heaping on “and on the year before that and the year before that and of course the year before that” please be reasonable. You know we haven’t had the money. Sure the Gaffer and his erstwhile boss Ivan have done their best to assure that the team has been solid and solvent but that’s not like having money to spend–and you know it.
We bought our spaceship on Holloway just as the entire global banking system took a credit kick in the groin area. The culprit; poor real estate speculation and billions of dollars of debt repackaged, resold and lost. Face it, we took a hit too but we have had the benefit of good financial people and a prudent manager. Finally this season, we the help of some new sponsorship deals it looks like we had the clout to spend with the big hitters again or at the very least compete for the quality additions we need without having to sell our best players. Add to this the exits of (and I will only name) Arshavin, Chamakh, Denilson, Djourou, Gervinho, Mannone, Santos and last and certainly least Squillaci. Not only does this free up salary space for us but in some of these instances the “deadwood” effect had become stultifying.
Even today Arsene says “we will be active before the deadline”. But the season will be here before the deadline.
I for one will always associate a number of these names with that dark, dreary and utterly hateful afternoon known only as the “Beer Cup Final”. For those who don’t remember, this was the day we rewarded Birmingham for breaking Eduardo’s leg and costing us the Premiership by gifting them a trophy. Sure they were relegated, Alex MacLeish thrice fired since including a meagre 6 week-stint at Nottingham Forest served up with a greater plague of boils than ever but that’s small satisfaction for this Gooner. I wanted that cheap piece of silverware and remain embittered by the result to this very moment.
But a pre-season post should be about fresh starts and going forward with a positive attitude. We do have a good side indeed and it looks as if they have gleaned a formula for winning. Strangely enough with all last year’s talk about what version of “Wengerball” we might be treated or subjected to as the case might have been, the change came at the back. Kos and Mertesacker became a competent and established defensive pairing in the league. Sagna’s late season resurgence with relief from Carl Jenkinson and the platooning of Gibbs–who it seems is easily injured and could use the breaks and a surprisingly effective Nacho Monreal on the left–gave the backline the strength and flexibility we frankly haven’t enjoyed since Sol and Kolo weighed anchor in front of Crazy Jens.
The mental strength we had heard so much about but had previously seen so little of became more and more evident from the second Bayern tie until the end of the season. But there was more to it than that. Aaron Ramsey grew up and played like a man, The Ox contributed nearly every time he appeared from the pine. Van Persie was hardly missed. Giroud, Podolski, Cazorla and especially Theo more than made up for the Dutch skunk’s tallies.
We have many good reasons to be optimistic about the season. But we need more. We have not had a real holding midfielder since the departure of Gilberto Silva. Song did the job it’s true but he was never a holding midfielder any more than Arteta is. With no signing still of Luiz Gustavo and the 20-year-old Colombian Sebastian Peres apparently unable to obtain a work permit we are perilously thin in this area. In addition to our usual injuries to Diaby and Rosicky, Bacary Sagna picked up an ankle injury in a meaningless French friendly.
Already before the first kick of the old pelota we could use some help. But who has faith will we get it in time? Even today Arsene says and I quote “we will be active before the deadline”. But the season will be here before the deadline.
Will we be ready?