Two days have passed since Arsenal lost, in the most frustrating of circumstances to Liverpool. Shorn of key players because they have either left the club, were injured or suspended, I think it always going to be difficult against a side that have made heavy investments over the summer. Especially when what little luck is going laughs in your face and then turns away, before running off with its hands down Kenny Dalglish’s pants.
Note: I am not saying for one second that Arsenal lost only because they were unlucky, but I am saying that when you are without your entire first choice midfield from last season and when you are deploying your, by my count, 4th different defensive combination in only your third game of the season, you need a little help. Particularly with a promising, but callow, 19 year old anchoring the midfield due to the stupidity of the “senior” player there. The game, however, turned on van Persie missing what was, by his standards, a sitter, Frimpong’s inarguable dismissal just minutes later, Raul Meireles not being given offside although he was and, even then, the ball could have gone anywhere as Miquel tried to flick it away, instead it hit Aaron Ramsey’s chest giving Szczesny no chance as it looped into the net.
But this isn’t about that. Not really. One of the observations I made on Saturday was that Arsenal played Liverpool in what is classed, for revenue purposes, as a “Category A” game, as if only a select few of the games Arsenal play are really important ones. A move, I have to say, I thought only pathetic little clubs, y’know, like Spurs made. So, if you were sitting in the upper tier on Saturday, you had paid a minimum of £70 to watch… well, you had paid that money to watch the likes of Miquel, Frimpong and Jenkinson in Arsenal shirts as well as a 20 year old struggling manfully to plug the ginormous, Cesc Fabregas sized, hole in our midfield. How can that be right?
That isn’t to say that I don’t think these lads are going to be good, very good players, but of course the emphasis is on “going to be”. Ryo Miyaichi is “going to be” a good player, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is “going to be” etc… Yet, when it came to it on Saturday, who was it that got the call to try and drag the game out of the fire? That’s right, wantaway Nicklas Bendtner. Miyaichi and the Ox sat on the bench, mute and unused.
My immediate reaction at the final whistle, sat with my grandfather, was that Arsenal are either approaching, or at, “the end of days”. At least as far as beleaguered boss Wenger is concerned. It was difficult to feel any other way as we sat watching Arsene Wenger, trying to clear, or dry, his soaked head and listened to the boos that greeted the final whistle. But this opening two weeks of the season was always going to be difficult, we knew that. We knew there was a real possibility that, faced with a very difficult trio of league fixtures and this Champions League qualifier, we might well be looking at 1 point, or 2, or none.
If, as seems likely now, Arsenal are merely waiting till entry to the Champions League group stage is confirmed to make additions to the squad, then it’s a dangerous game they’re playing. Not least because, with the state of the squad now, nobody is giving us much of a chance of going to Udine and getting the result we need, especially as Arsene has now been hit with a further, ludicrous, two match ban by UEFA. Even with Song and Gervinho available. It’s an interesting conundrum now, because obviously we would have a better chance of getting through with Samir Nasri on the pitch (as unpalatable as that would be to some- like me) but he would then be cup-tied and unavailable for Manchester City’s European assault. Which is being made to sound like a deal breaker by Roberto Mancini. Worst case: we play Nasri and cup-tie him but get knocked out anyway. Not only are we missing out on £25m of Champions League revenue, but we miss out on a transfer fee for a wantaway player. A double whammy that will cost us, well, you can do the maths, can’t you?
That said, in my opinion, there is no excuse for Arsenal not having firmed up their squad, preventing it being so stretched after just two league matches, by now. With the money we already had available, and having collected money from the sales of Eboue, Clichy and Fabregas, it’s unbelievable that all we’ve managed to add to the first team picture is Gervinho. It seems to me that Arsenal, having operated under a “make do” policy for much of the previous decade, still haven’t got used to the idea that you might need to speculate to accumulate. Had we done so, then we might have secured that qualification already. And, if this is Arsene Wenger’s doing then I think it is time that we ask, quite legitmately, whether he is the man to take us forward. If, on the other hand, he is operating under the constraints of an ultra conservative board, then that hints at worrying times ahead.
And points to a massive apology directed towards our manager from all concerned.