More in Hope than Expectation
By Gary Thwaites
The season ahead…
The new season is almost upon us and, at the time of writing, RvP looks likely to join United (Ed’s note – obviously this was submitted earlier in the week) and the ever-gracious Barça squad are openly tapping up Song through whichever Spanish sports hack happens to be hanging around the Nou Camp shower-room on any given day. I suspect that the former will go, and the latter will stay. How I wish it were the other way around. Such is our lot as Arsenal fans I suppose. We managed to offload Hleb to Barça few years back, so we would be very lucky to pull off the same scam again with Song. Why they want him is a mystery to me. He would fit into their tikka-takka system about as well as a hippo with a glandular disorder would fit into Mo Farah’s running shorts.
As for our soon-to-be ex-skipper, he will rightly be vilified by the faithful if he returns to Ashburton in a United shirt, but who can blame him for doubting our ambition. As promising as signings such as Cazorla, Podolski and Giroud are, we continue to sell our best players for £20 million plus, whilst replacing them for far less than that. It is all depressingly familiar but, like most football fans, a new season puts me in a reflective mood. The season-ticket renewal fee has been paid, no matter how begrudgingly, and I live in hope if not expectation. With that in mind, here is my five-point wish list for the next ten months or so…..
Steve Bould is allowed to do more at the training ground than put out the cones, and more on the touchline than practise his Pat Rice whistle. We have conceded more league goals, year on year, in each of the last four seasons, culminating in the appalling 49 shipped last year. This is not just an issue of personnel, although I would still like to see us bring in a left-back and better cover at right-back and goalkeeper. The issue is tactical. Just look at the 8-2 drubbing we received at Old Trafford last year. Plenty of teams go there with far worse defenders than even our injury-depleted squad could muster that day and don’t get shellacked in the manner that we did. It is not hard to understand why.
Most teams cut their cloth according to their circumstances. Whether it was a matter of tactical naivety or arrogance, I can think of no other manager who would send out a team with Traore, Djourou and Jenkinson in its back four with instructions to go for all-out attack against a rampant United team on top form. To start the game with such a reckless strategy was misguided, to say the least. To continue with it after we had come so horribly unstuck in the opening exchanges, even before the goals started flowing, was the football equivalent of dripping hot wax on your man-parts and begging for more. Our humiliation that day shattered our confidence and went a long way to derailing our season before it had even begun. Arsène is notorious for never working on the defence in training and refusing to listen to anyone else’s opinion. We can only hope the appointment of Bould signals an end to both self-defeating habits.
We start punching our weight in the transfer market. Every year, we are lauded as one of the richest and most profitable clubs in the world. We have not one but two major shareholders who are billionaires several times over, and we boast a 60,000-seat stadium charging the highest ticket prices in the world. However, on Wikipedia’s list of the 25 most expensive transfers (hey, its as good a source as any), Real Madrid feature five times, Barcelona, Man U, Chelsea and PSG three times each and Man City twice (although if the list was extended to 50, I suspect that they would feature a lot more often). We do not feature at all. The cheapest player on the list cost just under double our current transfer-record. When we were moved on from our beloved Highbury, we were explicitly promised that it was necessary in order to compete at the very top of the transfer market. It has been six years now, the debt is well under control and, perhaps by luck more than judgment, we haven’t had to endure a season without the Champions League’s pot of gold. Financial Fair Play is a busted flush, as PSG’s recent antics surely prove, if indeed that was ever in doubt.
I am not asking that we spend £100m every summer, just that we occasionally try to compete with the top clubs to buy players from the very top drawer, instead of just selling our top players to them. Van Persie told the club he wanted to do one at the start of the summer, so why didn’t we try for Ibrahimovic instead of, or as well as, Giroud. Last year, we could have had Mata, but settled for Gervinho. I could go on. It is time to start spending the cash that the club squeezes out of us fans at every opportunity. How much moustache-wax does Silent Stan need? If he doesn’t want to play the game, he should sell the club to Usmanov and let him have at it. It’s not like Abramovich has done Chelsea any harm.
We keep a tighter control of players’ contracts. In fairness, it looks like the club has finally started to resolve the first part of this two-part problem, in that we have said we will stop giving the likes of Bendtner, Chamakh, and Denilson (all still Arsenal players at the time of writing) long lucrative contracts. It is no surprise that we can’t find clubs to match their reputed £50k-plus a week salaries and, therefore, they remain on our books draining our resources week on week. I have no objection to awarding the loyalty of important squad-players, but not at the expense of being able to offer the star players what they can get elsewhere.
I know that we cannot match City’s grand salary giveaway, but why can’t we compete with the likes of debt-riddled Man United? The other part of this problem is that, when we have a player who can demand the bigger bucks, we wait until the last year of his contract before we start negotiating. I am sure that we intentionally do so in order to save the expense of paying higher salaries for as long as possible, but surely the board can now see how that backfires. We force players into a situation that naturally gets them to think about their options and invites suitors from home and abroad. Had we offered Nasri a contract a year earlier, I suspect he would still be in an Arsenal shirt now. Ugly, classless, mouthy git he may have turned out to be, but who would have noticed if he was still one of us?
The club stops treating us like idiots. Put simply, stop lying to us. Stop announcing full houses when there are thousands of empty seats. Stop pretending the ridiculous away-kits have anything to do with our heritage. Stop pretending that we are reducing ticket-prices to Category C games for any other reason than we know we will struggle to sell them otherwise. Stop pretending, as we did until after the season-ticket renewals had gone through, that we are still negotiating a new contract with our captain when he has told us long ago that he will not sign it. Just stop. We are grown-ups, for the large part. We know how the world works. Sure, there are lots of fans, at home and abroad, who can be talked down to because they have no sense of the wider long-term issues facing the club and who can therefore be placated by the propaganda machine, but those fans will come and go. The die-hards, the ones who used to turn up to watch us on damp half-empty terraces in the mid-eighties, the ones who remember that there was life before Wenger and know there will be life after him, the ones who have followed the club and will continue to do so their whole lives, those are the fans who deserve more than the constant stream of marketing-speak bulls**t that appears to be the only way the club feels able to communicate these days.
And finally, please, for the love of god, win a trophy. Any trophy. I’d bite your hand off if you offered me the Carling Cup now. Fourth place is not a trophy. A balance sheet in the black is not a trophy. I’ve been going to games for over 30 years, and the best days, those I look back on most fondly years later, all ended with a piece of silver at the end of it. More important than even the one of joy at winning, we must get this albatross from around our neck. Success breeds success, and failure begets failure. We seem to lose a different star player every year, all citing our lack of ambition. We have become the team that everyone respects, but nobody fears. Eight short years ago, we were the best team I have ever seen play in this country, and right up there with the best I have ever seen anywhere in the world. There was no need to dismantle that squad so quickly, but that ship has sailed. It is time to start a new dynasty now, before the position becomes irrecoverable.
I leave you with a note of optimism. We still have a long way to go, but I am more hopeful for this season than I have been in a while. Eight out of our last nine signings have been over 25. None of our domestic competitors have significantly strengthened their teams, yet. If we get off to a decent start and build some momentum, I doubt we will win the league, but a comfortable top-four finish instead of a last-minute scramble, a domestic cup and a decent run in Europe (maybe all the way to a Wembley final, with a kind draw) are all well within our grasp. At this time of the season, we can hope, we can even believe, that the corner has been turned and that this is the year that we get our great club back on track. So, hope for the best, my fellow Gooners, just perhaps don’t expect too much.
17th August 2012
User Comment and Reaction
User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.
ishumael jhb SOUTH AFRICA 9:29am 17th Aug 2012
All has been said and done,Gunners,this is our year.Though we have lost one of the best strikers in the world,we will surprise a lot of people. GO GUNNERS GO - Post No. 27848
Musa 9:58am 17th Aug 2012
Wow!!! you make the rest of us non-resident T.V. watching internet commenting Gooners feel like we are not fans at all. Seriously I can understand your frustration. At work the Man U, Chelsea and Now "outed" Man C fans all poke fun at me, so I feel the pain just as much. The thing now is that the EPL is even more difficult to win because in addition to three teams I just named, Liverpool, the Tiny ToTs and now Newcastle especially Newcastle ( if Man U had not lost to Newcastle last season....?) 7 teams want four places. Some years ago you could lose to Man U and Liverpool as long as you maintained a healthy record Vs. the other seventeen teams over the course of the season the title is as good as yours. Now you have six really difficult teams and thirteen potential banana skins and in the past six years Arsenal have suffered needless mishaps playing against teams we should be dispatching with impunity. In the days of Henry and the Dutch destroyer, you just knew you are in for a treat, great passing game and guaranteed victory after 90 mins. We need the good times back again and ticket holding fans need them even more than us. Wenger should buy two more players form the TOP drawer not the basement and perhaps we can smile again - Post No. 27861
MRMROD 10:11am 17th Aug 2012
RVP with his injury record, at his age and in the final year of his contract made great business sense for our club and the Podolski will slot right in in his place. I loved Overmars but he, Petit, Hleb and Henry to a lesser extent never achieved the success and the heights that they scaled with Arsenal (Hleb excluded!). If they want Song, who if honest, most Arsenal fans can take or leave, then they are free to take him off our hands for what will be another £15m profit...which should be used to acquire a QUALITY defensive midfielder. Expect a season of 'Bouldie flicks-on's' at the near post and our defence to concede less than last season with him in charge. I put it to you, would you happy paying hundreds of pounds to travel to watch an arrogant pr**k like Ibrahimovic, who wouldnt spit on you and who earns an unmoral £250,000 basic a week to kick a ball? I would not. That is unless we step away from our self sustaining model and into the unreal dream world that Usmanov would bring; but that, as Portsmouth, Malaga, Rangers et al would agree, is not without some embarrassing risks. I agree 100% that tighter control of contracts is imperative and not issuing longterm "small/ average" contracts of £50k a week to inadeqauate players...its unacceptable and its time lessons were learned. The club have been treating everyone like idiots, making promises they havent kept and reducing us from invincibles to a champions league candidates...it didnt have to be this way; it didnt have to be this way at all! Communication needs to improve as does the openess, honesty, transparency AND accountability of the club. I believe this season more than any other in recent years will win a trophy. - Post No. 27865
Peter Wain 10:17am 17th Aug 2012
The management is to be congradulated. From a squad which had several world class players we are now reduced to none. From a squad which could compete at the highest level for all trophies we are reduced for a scramble for fourth. Just think two injuries to Podborski and Giroud and our back strickers are Chamak and Park. Well done Stan certainly can see why you bought the club. Well done board still counting the money you made on the sale of your shares. Well done Arsene you use to say you were only interested in top top quality. And the you bought well any number of players. I dont expect any further purchases now so I just hope we start well. It is going to be a longer old season. - Post No. 27870
bob 10:52am 17th Aug 2012
There's a lot our great club have got wrong over the last few years but we've signed some serious talent this year and we still have a bunch of gifted youngsters and some more experienced pro's.Bouldy's addition is a huge plus.For me the squad looks better balanced than in recent years and should be better organised.Sure the players have to perform and we need the manager to pick the correct ones (less Diaby and Djourou, more The Ox and Coquelin). We could do with a bit more quality cover at the back and goalkeeper.But let's look forward and support this team and hope it's got more drive and ambition than previous ones. - Post No. 27879
Steve 10:53am 17th Aug 2012
I think we will finish 4th if.....We sign a back up keeper we are one injury away from Flappy/Mannone!!! We sign a LB.A DM to replace Song and another striker.If we dont we will fall out of the top 4.The top 3?easy the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea who have bought some quality players - Post No. 27880
Neil T 11:08am 17th Aug 2012
Great article. The reference to our board treating us like 'idiots' is the point that hits hardest for me...last year AW infamously states that you cannot convince anyone you are ambitious by letting your best players leave. Cesc departs followed by that horrible punk. This year, similar talk and our revered captain, 'was-an-Arsenal-fan-as-a-kid', badge kissing leader departs, and to THAT LOT. Through his website, Robin has recently told us of the 'huge respect' he has for us, the fans, which is nice to hear....cheers Robin, we respect you too...I wonder how much of that 'respect' factored into his decision to turn his back on the club that has supported him unequivocally for 7 of his 8 years on the treatment table...thanks for that Rob. Up the Gooners, roll on Sunderland... - Post No. 27884
Gary Thwaites 11:20am 17th Aug 2012
Musa - just to clarify, I am of course well aware that there are plenty of genuine fans out there who care deeply about the club, but who cannot make it to games, for one reason or another. I am also confident that those fans, like me, would appreciate an honest approach from the club. However, the club talks down to us all and, in my view, that the do so cynically in order to make sure we still sell replica shirts abroad to fans who have no real emotional connection to the club and to sell tickets at home, at ever more extortionate prices, to those fans who can afford it but might otherwise not be bothered if they paid enough attention to realise what a decline we have been in for years. Case in point is that, since writing my article, we have sold RvP and Wenger has all but explicitly confirmed that Giroud and Podolski were signed as replacements. He also claims to have had no choice. When we made those signings, however, we were explicitly told that they were signed to play along side RvP. Wenger also said in a press conference in May (replayed this week on Sky) that RvP was under contract so decision as to whether or not he left was entirely our own, so hardly "no choice" then. Of course I did not believe it when he said it, but it continues to infuriate me how the club can so shamelessly lie to their supporters so often. That the manager plays such a key role in the deception is even harder to take. - Post No. 27887
Ministry of Information 11:57am 17th Aug 2012
Citizens of Goonercity: There are no Leadership wrongs as there are no prole rights. Ambition is sedition. Criticism is Treason. Obey. Fourth is First! - Post No. 27893
James 12:04pm 17th Aug 2012
Its pointless anyway - us, chelsea, and spurs will finish 5th to 3rd. Mancs will be 1 and 2. Liverpool will be 6th to 8th, as will Newcastle and Everton. Done - why bother playing the games. Premier League... yawn!!! English football was great, what a shame its turned into this. - Post No. 27896
Rob 12:08pm 17th Aug 2012
Well said Gary ! Very good article. Particularly the bit about the Club not treating us like idiots. They will continue to do just that of course. But you plea is entirely correct. I think we need one more defender as we are always one injury away from disaster there. And I would also want an experienced keeper to push Szech hard for his place and allow him to learn from the more experienced man, at the same time. If Song goes - probable now ! - we must get Sahin. But otherwise I'm far more optimistic than last year. - Post No. 27897
Graham Simons 12:54pm 17th Aug 2012
To all those lamenting the exodus of Arsenal captains. No-one put a gun to either Cesc or RVP's head and made them move. They chose to and it's there perogative. The fact is we haven't won anything since 2005 and while I long for the likes of Vieira and Henry in an Arsenal shirt, these young players who Wenger showed faith in and whose faith was rewarded with a Thanks very much for all the cash but I'm off, well excuse me if I couldn't care less that they've gone. Get rid of Song and Bendtner and Walcott and Generation Fail will have almost all have been cleared out. Here's to the new regieme of signing players that can play now rather than bum-fluffed, ungrateful gits that have their heads turned as soon as someone with lots of money comes a calling. - Post No. 27900
Tony Evans 13:08pm 17th Aug 2012
I am so tired of Wenger now and when I read comments from him saying now he has Diaby fit and Wilshire a few months away, Song's departure would not be too much of a blow I don't even get angry any more. Not that I rate Song anyway as a defensive midfielder but how Wenger can put so much faith in the perma injured Diaby and Wilshire who has been out of action for a whole season and is still out is beyond me. Of course we may see Wenger sign a quality replacement if Song does go (forgive my little joke there) is that a pig flying over! The squad is wafer thin as usual and I am so fed up with players always being bought as replacements and never as additions to our squad. I am amazed we still have fans out there thinking 'we can surprise a few people'. The only surprise for me will be if we actually finish top four and I have to admit that I will not be too concerned if we don't as at least that might get rid of Wenger once and for all. - Post No. 27904
Ron 14:15pm 17th Aug 2012
Whatever my feelings of the Club and Wenger are, i can see why theyve cashed in on RVP. Declining asset, aging, perma crock. Last year was a flash in the pan for him and it was goals all round in a p--s poor league. Arsenal fc is a bit of a holiday camp it seems to me. The same demands of the players and staff arent there as they are in the truly top Clubs. Contrary to what ppl think just because of the glittering stadium etc, Arsenal arent a big Club. Sales are inevitable. Wilshere will be next unless hes forced to retire. Arsenal should hurry up and cut there losses by getting shot of Walcott, Song and Bendtner plus Diaby, Sqillacci and Co as part of any deal they can get. All useless and non productive. Do that and then get in a hungry Coach,DEMAND success and back him! Wenger is still scratching at the edges of the root and branch problems in that sqaud of losers hes cultivated with these signings hes made and throwing a bit of earth over the glaring weeds. Get some Weedol or a few gallons of Roundup Mr Wenger and exterminate them. - Post No. 27911
Moscow Gooner 14:23pm 17th Aug 2012
For the first time in forty five years of supporting Arsenal home and away I wll be willing on the opposition to put three or four past us tomorrow. The only way we re going to clear out this rotten lying regime at the top of the club - and the 20 000 or so AKB s who buttress it at every home game - is to see the club slip into mid table or below. Better we see the club finish 12th of 13th in 2012/13 and see the old guard purged once and for all - Kroenke, Wenger, Hill Wood , the whole corrupt gang of has beens - rather than finish 3rd and 4th again and have to endure this circus (at a thousand quid a shot) for another few seasons... - Post No. 27912
Fading Gooner Pete 14:53pm 17th Aug 2012
When my 11 yr old heard about RVP going he said "Dad, thats why I dont support them anymore......." and he doesnt, and i dont see that changing. How many more young fans/future income has been lost? We are happy with the signings made because we have lived on porridge for the past 3 seasons but these signings will not excite and attract our next generation of fan base, the kids just dont need the grief at school.... At least the modern Arsenal means I have saved a fortune as i have not bought match tickets, merchandise, kit, programmes or travelled to see them play for 2 years........ I salute those of you who remain optomistic in the face of strengthened United, city, chelsea and liverpool teams, we will be better than last year but still a shadow of what we should be.... many seem to miss the point that RVP has also secured a 4 yr contract where he would have only got, what 2 years at arsenal? - Post No. 27916
Dan h 15:56pm 17th Aug 2012
Well it all starts again tommorrow personally don't expect much difference from last year .Bould hopefully gets a chance to drill the back 4 into some sort of unit the way Keown did on our CL run 2006 organisation being the key.The goals will be needed to be spread around the team this season on the positive will be looking forward to see Cazorla play takes a mean free kick as well.For AW interesting that like last years'supermarket sweep'signings this year the three players bought are all coming into peak years the youth project he craves he has learned the hard way will work better alongside experience.Looks like Song-Billong may be on his way AW will be more dissapointed in that sale than RVP in some ways.Song a player he has developed his attitude has been terrible in training timekeeping poor if he goes the last first team player who's agent is 'Dein the younger' would be suprised to see him play against Sunderland.Walcott is now expected to sign a new deal this week talks have taken place but if no deal concluded will AW be consistent & move on a player in the last year of his contract? - Post No. 27921
Tony Evans 16:01pm 17th Aug 2012
Well said Moscow Gooner - I either want massive success this season (which I know is not going to happen) or massive failure. I do not want another season of just doing enough (i.e. qualify for the CL) to keep Wenger in a job and Kronke happy with his investment. - Post No. 27922
Highbury Boy 16:48pm 17th Aug 2012
Just like to pick up on one point in an otherwise excellent article. The club have NOT changed their ways about giving average players long term contracts. In the second half of last season on the back of a half dozen decent games Rosicky's contract was extended and although it seems impossible to believe Djourou was given a longer contract after a couple of not very good games at right back. All this did seem to reduce the wages kitty and make it more difficult to reward the star players when we had them. Problem seems to have gone away now we have no stars. - Post No. 27924
dave bird 17:00pm 17th Aug 2012
just heard song has gone is that right - Post No. 27926
maguiresbridge gooner 18:14pm 17th Aug 2012
Yes Gary he's gone and it's hand shakes and back slaps all around the board room and congratulation emails from denver on a job well done for getting the business a nice profit.Why would anybody want song but that will not worry our lot when they can see the $ signs flashing and more profit.We can only hope bouldy changes things at the back because nobody else is going to.The contracts given to the dross in the hope one day they'll come good is ridiculous RVP has been castigated for leaving for more money but it's all right it seems for bendtner and chamakh to hang around stinking the place out on massive wages that they haven't earned and their not worth.They give us that much bulls**t spin it's got to the stage where i think they actually believe it themselves.As for silverware the quest for that starts tomorrow and there can be no more excuses on that front. Good piece Gary. - Post No. 27929
RJ 18:46pm 17th Aug 2012
The pictures of RVP in a ManU shirt, sitting next to SFA MAKE ME FEEL SICK. It was the right thing to do to sell the turncoat glass-ankled geezer. BUT IT MAKES ME FEEL SICK. It also makes me feel sick that we benefit from ManU winning Prem or CL - I hope we do not get that last 1.5m of the fee. hahahaha. COME ON YOU GOONERS - LET'S SHOW 'EM THIS SEASON. GET IN! - Post No. 27930
norfolk gooner 20:31pm 17th Aug 2012
So here we go again 24m in, that cover's the Podolski and Giroud transfers, with the likely sale of Song that cover's Cazorla and with Arshavin and Bentdner leaving as well, yes you guessed!yet another net transfer PROFIT. So the same question has to be asked, is this squad now stronger than last season? NO. same old same old!!!! - Post No. 27937
Derek H 20:40pm 17th Aug 2012
If you gave Wenger Gazidis and Kroenke 4th place now before a ball is kicked they would bite your hand off.And that sums up everything that is wrong about modern Arsenal.Sod the trophies get that CL money.And fans wonder why our best players want to leave.Agree with the point about the club treating us like idiots but having heard and read some of the rubbish talked about RVP and everyone missing the real target Arsene Loser and our board it makes you realise why they do treat the fans like idiots - Post No. 27940
Rob 22:24pm 17th Aug 2012
Thanks Gary, for the brilliant article. You've pretty much summed up the sentiments of every long-term Arsenal supporter I know. The decline on the pitch may be gradual, but it's on-going and it seems there's no-one at board level willing to halt it. - Post No. 27942
Don 23:00pm 17th Aug 2012
Unless Wenger leaves soon the demise will continue.I cant believe some Gooners celebrated last season.We finished 19 points outside the top 2.Sadly i thought the AKB's were a dying breed i was wrong they are still there lapping up the lastest bull Wenger feeds them.In 8 years Wenger has taken us from the Invincibles to a top 4 finish team with as much chance of winning trophies as West Ham.While every summer our best players leave to WIN Yes WIN trophies.Isnt that what football is about winning trophies.Or have we turned into the mob down the road happy just to watch pretty football.I will watch tomorrows game in a pub near Highbury with hundreds of other Gooners who refuse to give the club any more money until Wenger goes. - Post No. 27943
Ronster 23:21pm 17th Aug 2012
Moscow Gooner.....the icing on the cake would be O'Neil gently headbutting Arse-ne when he refuses to shake hands! - Post No. 27944
Wombledin 7:08am 18th Aug 2012
You can hope all you want my son, but hope is the father of disappointment. Nothing's going to change until Wenger is gone. You can bet your house we will finish 4th again this year at the very best and get knocked out of every cup early. Why? Because we have exactly the same defense as last season. - Post No. 27946
12th December 2013
Online Ed: Late goals hands Arsenal a tough spring assignment