By Tony Attwood
It struck me as Blacksheep and I walked back from the game to Archway underground station, what a warped vision of football is created by the arrant nonsense that is pumped out by so many blogs and the newspapers each day, with their endless story that the only thing that matters is the BIG BIG transfer and the transfer window.
Of course BIG transfers are great when they happen – Ozil and Alexis being cases in point. But that is not primarily what Arsenal is about. People who expect big transfers for us each window don’t understand the club they purport to report.
A major part of our story of late has been players who never featured on the transfer news. I think of course of Coquelin – a player who cost us nothing and who was even written off when he came back from loan – there was talk of “desperation” in the Arsenal camp at bringing him back rather than a tactical move to give the player more games to get him ready for the big show.
And there is Bellerin – Arsenal were damned in many quarters for playing “kids” in games where the top quality was needed, and our defence in depth approach was described as non-existent.
But now we see that in him we have a player of the highest quality, who just needed to get going. Had he not had his chance and had we brought in another full back, he would undoubtedly have left, and Man U, Chelsea, or Man C would have snapped him up.
Or Koscielny – whom Arsene Wenger recently described as his best buy in money value terms among the current squad. He is said to have cost us around £8.5m – a fair old sum, but not the megabucks the fans wanted at the time.
£8m for Monreal seems these days to be fairly modest too – a real smash and grab looking at his performances now.
Giroud at £9m was regularly seen as not good enough, yet seven goals in 8 starts in the Premier League this season in a team that contains numerous other players expected to score is not such a bad return. (That’s 0.88 goals per league game. Henry in Season III averaged 0.72 goals a game in the league).
And all this before we think of the players who joined us young and were nurtured: Ramsey, Ox, Theo, Gibbs. And we are still just learning what Mr Wenger sees in Akpom, chosen from an array of young striking talent to be the one who comes through the ranks.
But no, the only thing that matters is transfers. Even when the transfer window “snaps” (or if you prefer “slams”) closed the rumours won’t stop. Even though 98% of the rumours were untrue they won’t stop. Even though most of the people who read them and take them seriously, must know they are being treated like mugs, they won’t stop.
Even when we have had another transfer window of us buying a goalkeeper and Suarez, they won’t stop.
What knocked us back in the first half of this season was not the size of the squad, but the injuries and curious decision making by the tiny bunch of refs that PGMO chooses to employ.
OK, we are still not even in the top four (we are one goal from being there, and one point from being third) and top four is not a trophy (although come to that the FA Cup is not a trophy either according to the anti-Arsenal Arsenal.)
But we can see the difference between having just Alexis, Arteta, Debuchy, the Ox, Gnabry (who I thought was back from injury but seemingly might not be) and Wilshere out of the team, and what we were suffering last year.
Note – that was “just” those players. Six first team players out of the team and we are thinking “luxury”. Compare and contrast with most clubs.
Plus it is done without sinking into a defensive style of the Graham era. 13 goals in the last four games. Rather jolly in fact.
So what of Villa? Their supporters, let us admit it, were very good. They took all their allocated space (recognising a good deal in seat prices when they see it) made quite a bit of noise in the first half, as their team had (amazingly) 52% of possession.
But I think Blacksheep and I were able to ascertain what Villa’s big problem is. Paul Lambert, the Villa manager, spoke to Five Live after the match, and we listened intently or the car radio. And neither of us could understand a single word. I think he needs a translator. At least for the English speaking members of the squad.
The other point proven by this match was how instantly the media will change their views. Every week the mantra that you are only as good as your last match is made clearer and clearer. Here is the Guardian today, on Arsenal.
…”few, if any, sides in the country better equipped at slicing through opposition,”
Compare and contrast with everything said about the club in that paper in the first half of the season.
I think we should also consider a word for Özil. As I say I haven’t yet watched the film of the match but there was an extraordinary moment as our lackadaisical (I do love that word now) midfielder got the ball to Giroud so he could go a-wandering, half seem to lose the ball, regain it and score. The Maestro scored the second himself. Two in two, all seemingly without breaking sweat.
As for Gabriel, he got warm applause and cheers, but in case he is wondering how he breaks into the team perhaps we should tell him:
We get kicked to bits and as long as the score is 0-0 or even 1-0 to us, the refs do nothing. Six players out is luxury for us. Your time will come Gabriel. But it will hurt.
And so back to where I began. Does the January transfer glass panel matter? Each time we poke fun at the latest saying (“seen arriving at Heathrow” has more or less vanished since we did the Chambers “seen driving round the M25” article,) others pop up to take their place.
And yet, despite all the fuss, in the past four January transfers there have been under 75 transfers, and under 50 of the players are over 22 years old.
And not all of those have quite worked out. Fernando Torres for example cored 20 goals in 110 games which makes it £2.5m a goal in transfer fee (£3.4m a goal when you include salary).
Andy Carroll, scored six in 44 for Liverpool after costing £35m. Which is about £800,000 a game or £8m a goal.
January transfers are in fact only interesting if you look at few minutes many of these transferred players actually get on the pitch.
So let me leave you this morning (or at least this morning in the UK where it is bright, sunny and bloody freezing in the East Midlands) with this, again from the Guardian…
“rather than chuck several million pounds at a player – and a perceived problem – a better option might be to blood a youngster from the reserves. Who knows how many other Harry Kanes and Francis Coquelins are out there.”
Ah. If only they had been reading Untold on 25 July 2008 when we said…
“And what about Francis Coquelin? Aged 17 from SASP Stade Lavallois Mayeene MFC of whom you have never heard (and nor had I) he looked amazingly sharp in the game this week.”
Funny old business, the media.
- 117 players tipped as coming to Arsenal before the window closes
- Why Arsenal recruited a new defence first, then a new attack
- After two games we can start to make one or two judgements
- Winning the opening two league games is not that common for Arsenal
- Arsenal? Nothing to see here. It’s only news when they’re losing.