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Travelling through the destructive panic-laden revolving door, it is easy to forget where we are

By Tony Attwood

I am increasingly reluctant to use the phrase “transfer window”.  A window, at least in my office, as in my house, is a fairly stable thing which has a purpose and, among other things allows the light in, and enables me to look at trees.  In fact I am lucky because I see trees both from my house and office.

Windows are nice, calming and only occasionally annoying (when they need cleaning).  But “nice” and “calming” are hardly the words that can be used for the sheer unadulterated panic that is football between the end of the season and August 31.  A revolving door which has come off its hinges (if revolving doors have hinges – I rather doubt it now I come to think of it) is a closer comparison.

Each day I look at the news accumulator services and slip into utter despair – not at Arsenal’s fortune but at the sheer monumental insanity that is being proposed as news.  The fact that Coventry City are going to play at Northampton Town’s ground and that Linfield has won away in the Faeroe Islands seems more meaningful than some of these untrue tales that go by the way of news.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and for once it is not the express train heading straight at me.  For this light illuminates two observations.  One is that last season Arsenal transferred in a number of new players who I thought were actually making a significant contribution to the club by the last few months of the year.  Santi Cazorla, Monreal, Podolski, Giroud…

Perhaps my perspective comes from the fact that I actually watched the birth and growth of the Unbeaten Team week after week, and I still have the programmes, and remember my thoughts as I travelled around watching the Unbeaten Away season which was part of the build up.  I watched us getting beaten at Everton as that particular run ended with a certain W Rooney coming on aged around 16 to score the goal that ended that first run.  I watched Pirès, Henry and Bergkamp from their earliest days, and pondered whether they would make it or not – and as I have mentioned before, of all those stars, the only one I recognised as being a total, utter and absolute genius who could transform the team from his first match, was Vieira.

But that was not just me.  Neither Henry, nor Pirès looked what they became.  In fact after one season I was still unsure about what Mr Wenger saw in Pirès.  Then in season two, I admitted my error.  It all became clear.

My point is that the key issue is not that we ended up fourth last season, but rather what happened towards the end of the season in terms of style and approach.  We had a bunch of players new to the squad, and yet they settled down and began to pull themselves into a team.

Let me cite one other player – Koscielny – and I hope my pal Ian won’t mind if I quote his comment after Koscielny’s first season, to the effect that he simply wasn’t good enough.  I thought that was rather strong, but I must admit I wasn’t sure.  Now I am.  And so is Ian.

The fact is that we have done a lot of rebuilding in the last season, despite the story that our manager only signs kids and won’t spend money.  But almost all signings take a while to work, whether they are at Arsenal or anywhere else.  (That’s another problem, we only see what happens at Arsenal, and ignore the trials and tribulations new players go through elsewhere – only catching the odd moments when they get it right, as shown on Match of the Day etc).  But I will also admit some prove ultimately not to be of the highest standard.  But I truly believe that even before we see this summer’s signings we have a first team that is growing and maturing.  I believe that this season coming we will see the fruits of the work done last season.

I believe that in central defence Mertersacker as well as Koscielny has blossomed.  True Vermaelen lost his way and I have no idea if he will find his way back, but we still have a very powerful duo at the heart of defence.  Monreal was a great signing, as was Santi C. and I do believe that Jenkinson is improving all the time.

In midfield we have the unsung Coquelin, who can also play in defence.  I’ve been mentioning him from the moment we saw him in a pre-season camp in Austria, and I continue to believe that he is growing in stature all the time.  Rosicky played like we have never seen him play since he got his season long injury, and even the regular Ramsey haters who sit near me changed their tune as Ramsey changed his position to work alongside Arteta.

But I think more than anything else we have to consider Jack Wilshere.  The last time he had a proper start to a season he was still an emerging youngster.  If his injuries and operations are now all behind him, he is going to run this team from the midfield.  The notion of Midfield General is not enough to describe him.  Midfield Field Marshal might be better.

According to the stats he was involved in more Premier League goals than any other player, in terms of winning the ball back, putting in the first pass that starts the move, and putting in the assist that led to the goal.  He’s Liam Brady Plus Plus (and yes I was there in the 70s too).  He is a defensive midfielder who can simultaneously play the Number 10 role.

Just think of what we had towards the end of last season when Jack was rested.  Ramsey and  Arteta as a defensive midfield pairing.  Santi Cazorla, Rosicky as an attacking midfield duo.  And the speed of Theo when needed.

The only issue is where to play Jack.  Arteta is 31 years old if my maths is right, so I suspect he will give way – at least part of the time.  And yet even as I write this I don’t really think the issue matters too much.  Jack can play everywhere, and what we are seeing now is that we have players to spare in midfield – and this is before the revolving door has started to revolve very much.

The one blot on the landscape is that while Arsenal have treated their prize asset with caution, England won’t.  They will throw in any half-saviour on offer even when only a quarter fit.  Making injuries and then making injuries worse is what England does, and in a world cup year they will certainly want and demand Wilshere no matter what.

I am not saying we wouldn’t welcome new players.  What I am saying is that the new players will, like all players, take a little while to get used to the system.  For every Vieira who can come in and dominate play for a new club from day one, there are a dozen players like Henry, Bergkamp and Pirès who take their time.

My guess is it won’t always be the newcomers who lead what I anticipate as being a real challenge for honours, it will be Wilshere, Koscielny, Walcott, Ramsey and Mertersacker who will be the giants this coming season.

Whoever comes in to join the giants will be the icing on the cake.  But the cake is already there and it looks delicious.

Recent posts

4 July Anniversaries

  • 4 July 1931: Tommy Black joined Arsenal from Strathclyde
  • 4 July 1990: Andy Linighan purchased from Norwich
  • 4 July 1998: Dennis Bergkamp becomes Netherlands top scorer

The books…

The sites from the same team…

 

29 comments to Travelling through the destructive panic-laden revolving door, it is easy to forget where we are

  • Rob C

    Great article and I fully agree with all that you say. I would add that all of the press are fixated with the Arsenal “demise” and keep going on about our barren years. Man City won almost nothing for for 50 years, the Spuds, when was the last time they won the league. I feel that with 2 or 3 additions we will be the team to beat next season.

  • Matt

    I think most fans agree with the idea that we have a good base to start with in terms of the squad. We have had that a number of times over the last 8 years but have not really built on that. This year we really need to build on that base and start to move forward on the pitch rather than keep worrying about whats going on off the pitch.

  • Ian Jenkinson

    Fair play Tony, my sentiments exactly. What the current Arsenal squad did in the second half of last season was produce Championship winning performances and results. If we had started the season as well as we finished it we would have come close.

    This is, let us not forget with a squad that had four players playing in England for the first time. We had Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud and then Monreal in January.

    Koscielny, Mertesacker, Ramsey and Theo have all become better players individually but they have also become better playing together as a team, they know each others game better, they have grown together which has always been the plan.

    The current squad can produce and next season they will be better and more experienced. So before we even put our hands in our pockets things are exciting. Add a few signings of the Higuain, Fellaini/Bender and Cesar types then things will get very interesting for us next season. I am sure of it.

  • nicky

    Yes, there can only be one Vieira in a lifetime. An instant success in what he was asked to do.
    And yet, I seem to recall at the beginning, he earned along with his colleagues, card after card. So much so that Arsene was accused of rearing a team of thugs!
    How things changed over the years!

  • Florian

    The attacking seems to me the one that gets mentioned the least. True, we lost the-one-that-shall-not-be-named, and his replacements Podolski and Giroud shared enough goals between them to cover the loss almost completely. I don’t have stats to that level, but given it’s their first season, both seemed to me pretty much on par with the expectations. I knew Podolski already a bit from the German National Team and his stint at Bayern, but Giroud caught my eye even more. I was impressed by his technique – his first touch was a lot better than you’d expect from a big guy like him, that besides started playing football quite late. I’m sure he’ll work on his finish, and especially his composure in front of goal. Add Higuain to the mix, and we’re going to have indeed a formidably efficient firepower.

  • Bootoomee

    Tony,

    I’m glad that you have finally decided to no longer be part of the stupid transfer window speculation crappola. It is a senseless waste of time with added burden of causing/spreading disaffection. I was disappointed that Untold got involved to begin with.

    I don’t care if Messi and Ronaldo are about to sign for Arsenal. I care when Arsenal have unveiled them officially as our players. Then I start salivating about what they can do, just as I am currently dreaming about Yaya Sanogo’s input. What I do right now is what this article is about: ponder about what we’ve got and analyse (as an amateur of course) how best we can use our current set of players, who despite been rubbish/deadwoods/unfit-to-wear-the-shirt still came 4th with 3 points better than last season. How can a team that is so utterly bad continue to be in the top 4 season after season, in the toughest league in the world? I know that top 4 means nothing to the trophy junkies but I think the rest of 16 teams’ fans would snap off your hands if you offer it to them. Ask Liverpool and Spurs fans!

    Let those who are dying to substitute the team’s achievements for their own in real life continue to bitch and moan. We are are gooners, trophies or not! The day that trophies or calibre of players signed by Arsenal becomes my sole purpose for supporting the team is the day that I stop calling myself a gooner.

    Again (and I cannot say this enough), everytime you see posts about “spending the damn money”, “buying world class players” etc, please remember that it is about one thing and one thing only:

    TROPHIES!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Adam

    There is a lot to be said about a settled side, but eve more to be said about a settled side put together by Wenger.

    The ground work has been laid, the positives taken on board and growth assured.

    I’m looking forward to the next decade of Arsenal playing ball.

  • From everything I know, I would say we have done well to acheive what we have despite restrictions in funds. We only need the right players now and we are flying

  • Gerry Lennon

    So much for having a ‘British core’ in a World Cup year then? Sounds like we will replacements for Gibba, Jenks, Walcott, and Wilshere while we nurse them back to full fitness?

  • uk

    for once, an article that makes so.much sense on untold, probably because it didnt have all that obsession with the phantom that is the AAA. i also hope for the best of our players this season. the performance at the end of last season is a reason for hope. for players like giroud,pod,monreal,caz, i hope their 2nd season is much more fruitful, and that they dont go the way of chamakh/tv5. and if new players do arrive, i hope they are ready and good enough to hit the ground running. personally, i feel if the quality is there, that more often than not will be the case. players like henry, pires, arshaavin had already showed their quality before we signed them. heres to hoping all turn out to be henrys and pires’, and none turn out to be arshavins

  • gouresh

    “Whoever comes in to join the giants will be the icing on the cake. But the cake is already there and it looks delicious.” makes perfect sense to me!

  • Stuart

    I imagine the AAA would claim it to be Wengers fault that our players get injured whilst on England duty.

  • WalterBroeckx

    oh look someone mentioned the AAA.

    another obsessed I think 😉 And it wasn’t you Stuart

  • Edda71

    Good article but there is one factor that u fail to mention and that factor is what makes me very positive looking forward to next season.

    I am not gonna argue if its a transfer window or a door, but for me the most important difference between this summer and the last 3-4, is not that we have a 70m pound warchest, but that it seems very likely that we will not lose any of our first 11-13 players. This alone will make the squad stronger because the players already know eachother and will fight for eachother.

    I am not saying that we dont need 2-3 additions to the squad and my favourite 3 would be Fellaini, Higuain and Ceasar, but neither of those 3 will in my opionion be 100% guaranteed a starting Place against Villa on August 17th. But imagine those 3 on the bench along OX, and Ramsey and Vermalen, that would be for me the best squad in the Premier League by far.

  • uk

    @walter
    i am glad to for once not mention tony and AAA in the same sentence, im sure i’d also be glad to mention arsene wenger and major trophy in the same sentence.

  • Bootoomee

    New rule: anyone who complains about AAAs being called AAAs is most likely to be an AAA.

  • 1NiltotheArsenal

    Admittedly, I can be one of those pathetic Gooners who sways and swoons at every silly bit of gossip during the “window” or “door” or whatever we want to call this period.

    Not always, but enough that I very much appreciate the balance and perspective this article brings. Thanks!

  • Matt Clarke

    Lovely read Tony.

    Interestingly (to me anyway) the origin of the word window is from the Old Norse. It literally meant ‘wind eye’ (see the excellent online etymological dictionary at http://etymonline.com/?term=window). The wind eyes (I read) were often set in the roof and presumably had the function of letting out a lot of hot air – so maybe not such a bad title after all.

  • Mick

    @uk
    ‘i am glad to for once not mention tony and AAA in the same sentence,’
    Errrr, you just did!

  • Adam

    The “transfer window” is actually a “registration period” for clubs to submit their playing squads to the appropriate association or competition organiser.

    It is a period recognised by law to overcome standard employment laws that the footballing industry has been exempted from.

    A transfer can happen at anytime but can only be registered at certain times, summer and winter. Hence the term window, as a narrow opportunity.

  • Andy Mack

    Bootoome, it’s about winning lots over a long period of time, not winning a trophy every 3/4 years like we did previously. You need to build very strong foundations for that, and that’s what the club have been trying to do over the last few years.

  • Bootoomee

    Andy Mack,

    I’m with you, but tell that to the trophy junkies. Here is there chant:

    “What do we want?”

    “Trophies!”

    “When do we want it?”

    “Eight years ago!”

    All their bitching about buying players is based on their assumption that it will lead to trophies. I don’t engage them with reason; they are impervious to reason! I mock and call them the pathetic loser that they mostly are.

    They don’t care about long term success, they want their trophies right now and they are willing to sell the Emirates to get it!

  • Pat

    Great article Tony.

  • weedonald

    Tony, as usual an insightful and rational post about some Gooners deep psychological dependency on hyperbole and exaggeration when dealing with the transfer madness. In actual fact, aside from UA and AA websites, the only other group who seem to be calm and rational in this period are the AFC management. They know what they want, they have worked for over 6to 12 months planning their strategy and they are now implementing it, unlike our panicky Goonettes whose shorts are rapidly filled with media-induced diarrhea.
    Here is my take on this transfer pantomime:

    1)We have strength in almost every position, and experience in most positions but not both. Our strikers vary too much but last season Podolski,Walcott,and Giroud fufilled their principle task-to score goals. Gervinho has experience but not strength (meaning talent a la Henry,Pires,and Anelka). The addition of someone like Sanogo and Higuain would make a huge difference in our striking rate and effectiveness.

    2)We have excellent strength and experience in the attacking midfield with The OX, Wilshere, Rosicky, Coquelin and Cazorla, all available now and eager to take up where they left off last season. Adding one more attacking midfielder would be useful but not essential.

    3)The team of Arteta and Ramsey proved their worth last season and with Coquelin also able to play the DM role, the addition of somewhat like Felliani would be really profitable. the idea of trying Vermaelen as a DM is also very appealing since he loves to defend and attack. IF Diaby can stay fit, he could be a great help in the 2nd half of the season but I have my doubts.

    4)Defensively we have the best back 4 in the latter half of the season in Sagna, Per,Kos and Monreal. What is even more reassuring is that we have Monreal,Gibbs and Jenkinson available for our fullback substitutes and Vermaelen as a backup CB, along with Sagna if needed.

    5)Now we have only 2 keepers, both Szcesny and Fabianski should be more than adequate. Szcesny matured a lot last season and if we could get Cesar, then we will have a very solid keeper situation indeed. In actual fact, if we bring in Cesar then Fabianski will likely want to leave.

    6)Finally we have a great group of youth and academy talent available once again: Ryo,Eisfeld,Gnarby,Miguel,Bellerin,Akpom ,Afobe, and Campbell. Any of these players could have a breakout season and depending on their desire, make the bench for the first team.

    My feeling is that Wenger will bring in 1-2 new faces but rather than pile up the benches,will have more kids go out on loan and use the remaining reservists sparingly but effectively as he does each season.

    A word about our misnomered ¨deadwood¨: Ask yourself what Chamakh might have accomplished if he hadn’t been replaced by Robin Van Persecuted 2 seasons ago. Ask yourself what Arshavin had accomplished but lost once he became indifferent to playing with AFC. Ask yourself what Gervinho might yet accomplish given more support and training from the AFC coaches. Remember what Bendtner did for 3 seasons and what might have been if his attitude and arrogance had been sublimated to his skills.Count the number of great signings Wenger has brought in versus those who have ul;timately failed to make the grade and check this ratio against any other EPL team (or for that matter against teams like Bayern,PSG, Real and Barca) and you’ll soon realize that this ratio is as good as or better than any of the top 7 teams in the EPL and far better than the other 13.
    While the AAA is a stereotype and not valid for more than a few miscreants, there are way too many pseudo-gooners whose principle purpose is to dismiss the positives AFC achieve each season and accentuate the rarer negatives, again a form of stereotyping and cheap confrontationalism they enjoy engaging real Gooners in.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Some great points. The way we finished the season was no accident it was team work from a team that had started to settle and maybe even a new coaching team that had started to settle. Some uk media are claiming the spuds have stolen a march on us this summer. Have a feeling that yet again the same media are going to be looking a bit silly. Hope you are right and we get to see more coq but have a bad feeling on his future with us but would love to be proved wrong

  • ARSENAL 13

    “”it will be Wilshere, Koscielny, Walcott, Ramsey and Mertersacker who will be the giants””

    How true. The things we have, we take it for granted. Same goes to the players that are with us. Some say we should have signed Paulinho, as they said a couple of years ago…remember Van Der Vart. Where is he now???

    Koscielny, Ramsey and Per were, towards the end, immense. And we can only expect, they will improve. Lets not forget the front, Poldi, Ox, Giroud……

  • Rupert Cook

    @Weedonald,Chamakh was and is far inferior to RVP. He was one of the poorest signings Wenger ever made. As for Arshavin I think he was played where he was not best suited. Possibly also he had a poor attitude. That we can only guess at. Otherwise, reasonable points in abundance.

    There is no denying that we had a great end to the season but we played cautiously and denied the cavalier instincts that I think Wenger favours. This suited our players better because we don’t have cavalier players any more. Our performances could have come from the George Graham era. Also we had one target rather than three or four and therefore more achievable. In that run in we only played two top clubs, both games at home, neither of which did we win. That notwithstanding we overcame lesser teams that in the past we sometimes lost to and also, it must be said, no game in the EPL is ever easy.

    As for this delicious cake I think it’s still in the oven, it might be ready in sixth months or six years, you never know with Arsenal.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    For the bearers of gloom , doom and outright rumours ; pause , learn and be saved .

    In ancient Greece, Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem. One day an acquaintance ran up to the great philosopher and said, “Socrates, do you know what I just heard about your friend?”

    “Hold on a minute,” Socrates replied. “Before telling me anything I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Triple Filter Test.”

    “Triple filter?”

    “That’s right,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you’re going to say. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”

    “No,” the man said, “actually I just heard about it…”
    “All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?”

    “No, on the contrary…”

    “So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him, but you’re not certain it’s true. You may still pass the test though, because there’s one filter left: the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be something I can use for my benefit?”

    “No, not really.”

    “Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”

    The man stared at him, and without a word turned around and left, dejected.

  • uk

    @mick, i said for once, didnt i? well that once was in my initial post, thereafter i could mention both in the same sentence. kapish?