11 June 2013

The problem with being as good as we are

We're good. Pretty darn good. Good enough to finish 4th in the Prem, arguably the toughest and best football league in the world. We haven't finished lower than 4th in the Prem since 1996. We've qualified for the Champions League 16 years in a row, beaten this year's Champions League winners on their pitch, and we progressed further than every other Prem club in the Champions League. It is the dream of countless players from all over the world to play for this club.

Yep. We're pretty good, alright.

The trouble is, as many of us sensed about seven words into this post, we're not as goo as we need to be. I'm not talking about being The Invincibles again, and I'm not appealing to a sense of entitlement, as in "we're Arsenal, we should win the Prem every year" and so on. I believe we should win the Prem every year, but I hesitate to say it's somehow our birthright.  Maybe that's not sufficiently Gooner-ish of me, but I make no apologies. We're rooting for a football club, not, say, gravity, and there's bound to be some ups and downs, a degree of uncertainty from time to time. You win too much and you get jaded. You stop feeling it as deeply as you once did.

I'm not saying we should just sit back and wait and hope and pray that silverware will someday magically fall in our laps; I'm just saying that, when it does, it'll be like...like...I'll let Eddie Murphy explain:
"If you're starving and somebody throw you a cracker, you gonna be like this: Goddamn, that's the best cracker I ever ate in my life! That ain't no regular cracker, was it? What was that, a Saltine? Goddamn, that was delicious. That wasn't no Saltine. That was... That wasn't a Ritz, as it? That was a Ritz. God, that was the best cracker I ever ate in my life."
He's talking about sex, of course, but the comparison still works. The next trophy we win, whether it's the league cup or the FA or the Prem, will be like eating that Ritz cracker. At the risk of stretching the simile to the breaking point, I worry that we have a squad with a few too many Saltines. Don't get me wrong--I love our squad and wouldn't make too many changes. We all seem to agree that we need a more-lethal finisher at center. Most of the rumors have centered on that position--Villa, Jovetic, Higuain, Benteke, even Rooney.  On one hand, it's an odd obsession for a team that scored the 3rd-highest number of goals in the Prem and conceded the 2nd-fewest.

However, people can use statistics to prove anything. Forfty percent of all people know that.

Here's the nub, then. We are pretty good. Our record, our goal-differential, and many other barometers support that. However, in order to get better, we may have to stop playing the game our way and start playing it a little more like it's being played by Chelsea, Man City, and Man U. Are we willing to sell our souls in order to outspend them to guarantee the signings of a few top-flight players like Fabregas, Lewandowski, and, say, Cahill?  After all, if we're going to keep with the Joneses and the Abramoviches, we might as well go all in.

Maybe signing Jovetic or Higuain isn't ambitious enough. Maybe we should leave behind the last decade or so of financial sanity (or tight-fistedness?) and go on an absolute bender. All that money's just sitting there, begging to be spent. But on whom? As long as we're doing a full Abramovich, whom should we rent for a few seasons before FFP kicks in? Your suggestions below the fold...