Maybe it is the on-going frustration after the all-too-familiar failings of last season, infuriation at the now customary collapse as soon as the pressure was notched up, or the inescapable feeling that things have gone stale around the club thanks to the seemingly out-of-ideas manager and the not-really-interested owner; but I am finding it incredibly hard to generate any semblance of excitement or optimism heading into the new season.
Yes, we have a shiny brand new striker who cost a reported club record transfer fee of £46.5 million, but even that signing doesn’t seem as exciting as when those of Mezut Ӧzil and Alexis Sanchez were unveiled. I have nothing against Lacazette and hope that he proves to be an upgrade on the striking options currently at the club’s disposal, namely Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck; note I am not including Alexis Sanchez in this despite his impressive performances there during the opening part of the last campaign, as I fully anticipate him to be plying his trade elsewhere (heaven forbid it be City!) or deployed with a roaming brief from the left. It is just that, despite the fee, his signing feels slightly underwhelming. To me it seems puzzling that we have been prepared to splash near on fifty million quid on a player that last season we didn’t deem to be worth half of that fee and who has failed to oust Giroud from the France team up to this point.
The Lacazette signing feels like a case of making do, of accepting our place away from the top table of European football and perhaps even that of the Premier League; this year was the first summer that I can remember that we weren’t linked with any of the top name strikers, unless of course anyone actually believed we were realistically in the race for Mbappe!
In many ways though the Lacazette debate is moot as there are bigger issues with which to concern ourselves, not the least the one as to whether our two previous record signings, Mezut Ӧzil and Alexis Sanchez, will still be with the club after the close of the transfer window?
Largely due to a lack of discernible interest elsewhere, it would seem that our maverick German playmaker will sign a new contract by default and if the rumours are to be believed this is likely to be at rate significantly lower than the one being demanded around the end of 2016, when he seemingly held all the cards, and before his late winter / early spring period spent AWOL.
The future of the Chilean is the one that brings the biggest amount of consternation amongst the Goonersphere. If Wenger and the club are to be believed, then they are not prepared to sell and will force Alexis to see out the remaining year of his contract in North London; noble and valiant proclamations indeed, but I for one remain to be convinced that a club who has made it abundantly clear that it places financial reward at a higher priority than success on the field is really, truly prepared to wave goodbye to more than £50m in compensation.
Beyond keeping hold of our two key assets, surgery is needed on a bloated, underachieving squad, a squad that seemingly adds up to less than the sum of the individual parts; the deadwood needs to be shipped out and upgrades brought in. Opinions differ amongst supporters on which players to keep and which to get rid of, but a number of individuals have been afforded chance after chance to prove their worth to the squad, yet they continue to offer scant contribution, if indeed they are actually fit to play in the first place that is! Whatever your feelings on the individual players themselves, Messrs. Walcott, Gibbs, Debuchy, Jenkinson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Chambers and even Wilshere must surely all fall into consideration of whether they have a future at Arsenal?
That list of course ignores the curious case of Lucas Pérez, a player who impressed for the most part despite being given very little opportunity by a manager who simply doesn’t seem to fancy him, and looks destined to join Joel Campbell in being jettisoned for no apparent reason. We must however remain thankful that we have finally seen the back of Yaya Sanogo!
Arsène got lucky at the end of last season, he stumbled upon a more effective tactical setup almost by default, a system that more innovative and tactically astute managers had adopted some time ago; and his team then managed to raise themselves and actually put in performances in the two big matches at Wembley which ultimately saw him claim his get-out-of-jail-free card as he hoisted a record 7th FA Cup. Looking at those two victories within the context of the entire season inevitably raises the question of where that team was between January and April. Further they suggest that the manager is incapable of motivating his players for the more routine fixtures, the bread and butter on which title challenges are founded.
Heading into the Charity Shield (for that is what it will always be known as for us pedantic traditionalists!) it is difficult to see where any major improvement is going to come from? Worse if we were to lose Alexis it could be argued that the squad has become weaker despite the long overdue addition of a proper striker.
Many of us Gooners reached the point last season, if we hadn’t before, where we realised that if the club is ever going to mount a credible title challenge then a change was needed in the manager and the approach from the owner and chief executive. While there is still time for us to be proven wrong, it does however increasingly feel that as enjoyable as another Wembley win was, it may well have condemned us to two more years of the continued stasis.
Twitter – @GazFootballNerd
Football Nerd musings – https://footballnerddotorg.wordpress.com/