By Tony Attwood
One of the things you can be sure of with football journalists is that they always behind the times.
If you’ve been reading Untold for a little while, you’ll have read so many stories where we have pointed out that the world doesn’t quite work in the way they say. Things move on, and newspapers don’t.
But eventually they catch up, as with today’s story on the Guardian web site that says…
Wenger in better place for new season
So while those of us who pay attention have look in excitement at the evolving new team of Alexis and Ozil as the big money signings, of Wilshere and Ramsey, as players who we have seen develop over time, of Bellerin and Coquelin come up from the youth teams… now suddenly the press say, oh, maybe there is something about this Arsenal project after all.
Of course they have not yet quite got the notion of the fact that half our players can play in a multiplicity of positions, but they move at a slow place. They’ve started to realise we have a decent team, and that’s quite a leap forward.
Of course I don’t know what the little blogettes will make of it, nor the Daily Telegraph, with the endless “Arsenal fans will be worried that…” – that annoying suggestion that they can tell us what we will be thinking tomorrow.
Because actually the chances are Arsenal fans – real Arsenal fans that is – won’t have too much to be worried about. And as the Guardian said in its little piece today, “Arsène Wenger was in a particularly upbeat and relaxed mood this week.”
Now admittedly what they talked about was the quality of the private airliner that Emirates Airlines put on, and how much better the Arsenal team hotel was this past week, than the team hotels arranged by the other clubs – or indeed available to anyone else.
But in between all that chit chat about where the players stayed, they acknowledged something that, in their sad, lumbering, out of touch way, the journalists are only starting to understand.
Arsenal actually has one hell of a squad. Not to mention the best ground, the best travel facilities, the best tactical scouting system of its own, and some very very exciting young players still yet to make their mark.
As the Guardian article put it, “He is not assured of success in the 2015-16 season but Wenger is clearly in a better place now he has weathered the financial restrictions of building a new stadium.” (See what I mean by how long it takes some of these journos to get the hang of what is going on.) “He no longer has to sell his best players and has an air of confident tranquillity brought about by the stability he has created around him.”
So, well, two years late on that one, but welcome nonetheless.
The article reaches the conclusion that “Arsenal do not need to spend as much as their rivals.”
And that is quite an interesting thought, for a newspaper. On Untold we’ve talked a few times about how Liverpool and Tottenham are having to play catch up on the stadium front, and that although money is never an object for Chelsea, they are still playing in a converted old ground that had seen better days even before it was turned into a football stadium in 1905.
Of course, one of the troubles with getting it so wrong for so long, is that it is hard to let go of old ideas, and so the Guardian holds onto “while he may need a backup defensive midfielder”, which is only true in so far as there is the word “may” in the there. He may, he may not. Probably not. Arsenal played the first match of the two in Singapore without one at all.
We are not going to get all the way there in one go, naturally, so the Guardian is not going to admit that Arsenal gets different treatment from other clubs under the ludicrously restrictive list of PGMO refs, but it does say, “Injuries have been Wenger’s curse in recent years,” without blaming the training methods, grass, lay of the land, magnetic north or anything else.
And then, “he has enough goals and creativity in Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sánchez and even the teenager Chuba Akpom to worry every defence in the league.”
But what of all these transfers. This is the transfer season after all. All those funny little transfer spoof sites that Sir Hardly keeps an eye on. What of them?
“Wenger might be keeping an eye on Karim Benzema’s situation at Real Madrid and could even have a Wenger-style surprise signing up his sleeve but he should not and will not lose any sleep if he does not get anyone else. The nightmare scenario would be if Manchester City suddenly bid £50m for Jack Wilshere or Walcott but that would now seem unlikely in this transfer window.”
And Arsenal of course don’t have to say “no.” They can just shrug and ignore those other clubs who are scrabbling in the dirt, trying to find a player, any player, who can make them click,
These crazy transfer sagas drag on because everyone knows that ultimately the club with the player is in a weaker position than the club that wants the player. If Chelsea bid for John Stones Everton are in the weaker position. Chelsea have the money, they won a trophy last year, they are in the Champs League. Most players would see the move as of interest.
But if someone offers £35m for Bellerin, will he go? Why should he? He’s got a first team place, a chance of a trophy as the club goes for three majors in three years, and the manager who brought him through when Barcelona wouldn’t. (Which incidentally continues to help us pick up some very interesting young players who might have thought of Barcelona, but now begin to wonder.)
(“You can’t win anything with kids,” said a passing idiot once upon a time, and that surely wins the all time gibberish of football award. Yes you can when they are like Bellerin.)
Apparently 1% of the population of Singapore turned up for the Arsenal swishing aside of Everton in the final match on Saturday morning. In terms of England that would be the equivalent of over 500,000 in the stadium.
The best seats were around £100. Thankfully when the pre-season tournament era moves on to the Emirates next weekend and thus the price is a lot, lot cheaper. The only worry is that this is all being set up for a return of the idea that some of our home matches each season will be played outside of the UK. Just like American football has been played at Wembley – and will soon be played at Tottenham.
But first they have to resolve the question of where they will play in the season when their ground is shut, and that, is turning into a slightly odd story.
More on that next time.