Ah, August, that time of the year when we used to hopefully look to the start of the new Premier League season and wonder if this is the year Arsenal get back into being title contenders. Except, this year. This year there is an entirely different feeling.
Coming on the heels of arguably its worst season in the last 20 years and the air of frustration and anger Arsenal fans were feeling in its there was a modicum of hope that maybe, just maybe the club leadership had heard our pleas for change.
Then the extension happened.
At the outset there was anger followed by resignation. Then a slight twinge of hope as Arsenal brought Sead Kolasinac and then stumped down for its biggest signing (in terms of fee paid) for Alexandre Lacazette.
Then nothing happened.
Sure, stories of a second, third, and now fourth bid for Thomas Lemar of Monaco were reported. But still nothing has materialized. And in a world gone made with money, others continue to reinforce and strengthen and Arsenal, well, we still look like Arsenal that just ended its worst season in 20 years.
As we look ahead to the season start, you wouldn’t be blamed if asked this question – Who exactly is Arsenal?
In the past Arsenal were equated with class, the proper way of doing things, silky football and wonderfully gifted players. All led by the smartest individual in the land who made all other managers look second rate.
Now, we let players learn of number changes via social media, we let players (A LOT OF PLAYERS) run down their contracts to the point where it could cripple the club next season, can’t unload players who really shouldn’t be here and can’t seem to address the basic needs of the club on the pitch.
So let’s ask the question again – Who exactly is Arsenal?
Are we the club that competed relentlessly for titles winning 13 titles along the way along with 13 FA Cups? Are the club that had players who before the stepped on to the pitch had their opponents beat before a ball was kicked in anger?
Are we the club that made superstars out of the likes of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp?
Or are we the club that dwaddles away in the transfer market ignoring the realities of the modern game, unable or unwilling to do what is necessary to get us back to our lofty standards? Are we the club that doesn’t know how to move its unwanted players effectively, establishing good fees for them and getting them off the rolls so new, fresher talent can come in?
Arsenal seemed to have forgotten it is a big club. For every story we see about Arsenal it comes across as a big club trying to manage itself as a small club.
Let this not be mistaken for trying to live within our means. Our club should be applauded for living off of what it makes. But we are and remain one of the richest clubs in Europe but you’d never know that the way we operate.
If you were new to watching football/soccer, you likely wouldn’t know that Arsenal were at one point of the established leaders of English football or even one of the great clubs in Europe.
Our commercial dealings are sub-standard (still) when compared to clubs we (our board) consider our (again our board) peer set. We’ve been outpaced by the nouveau riche oil teams and are being caught by teams we would at one point consider ‘lesser’ than us. And while the club continues to tell us it is doing things to address this, there is little evidence that this is true.
We’re simply being left behind on all fronts. For all the talk of what the move to the Emirates would bring it has brought none of it. We aren’t competing with the likes of Bayern Munich or Real Madrid as we were told. We seem more intent on operating as teams 1 or 2 rungs below that. And if we’re not careful we could be operating at a level of 3 rungs below that.
We’ve been told repeatedly we are working on transfers, but our ability to bring in our targets seems remarkably slower than any other club at our supposed peer set. And while I do believe clubs like City throw money at their issues in order to resolve them, they are still identify targets they want and do what they feel is necessary to get the target they desire.
Conversely the Arsenal way is to identify a target, make a couple of bids and then walk away and tell the fan base we tried. Our erstwhile manager will tell us at some point each season that he can’t wait to write the book about all the targets he could’ve had.
Problem with that story is that we could’ve had them had we more resolve in getting what we want and taking the necessary steps to do what we need to do, to conclude the deal.
As for players running their contracts out or those dead weight players who don’t want to leave because of their hefty paychecks – I say tough. If we’re trying to move you, we’re going to move you. If not, you won’t even get time with U23s. Arsenal has to move its players that need to be moved.
Look, I get we aren’t entitled to anything. Everything has to be earned. Especially silverware. But to quote Denzel Washington in Malcolm X – “we’ve been hood winked, we’ve been bamboozled.” We aren’t acting like the club our leadership told us we’d be.
I love my club (as do you all I am sure.) I religiously look to every season with a twinge of optimism – that’s why we are fans. But for the first time that I can’t remember I have no expectations at Arsenal, except more of the same.
I want nothing more than Arsenal to remember and reclaim its stature in football. Even in the way football is viewed today (as a business not entertainment) there is still a way to be the club we have always been. But it has to start at the top and it has to start soon lest we totally lose our way.