27 July 2013

Arsène talks up new "signings" to bolster defense

This may come as little comfort to those of us starving for a high-profile signing to strengthen the offense and spearhead the attack, a sure-fire 20-goal scorer, but it's better than nothing. Despite getting beaten to Gonzalo Higuain by Napoli and making little progress with Liverpool's Luis Suarez, it looks like our defense will get a dramatic boost with the arrival of two new "signings". Their names and faces will be familiar to most Gooners—Nacho Monreal and Thomas Vermaelen. Each is set to join the squad by October at the latest.

Sorry for the pessismism, but it's beginning to look less and less likely that actual signings will occur, and we'll have to content ourselves somehow with the classic "return from injury is like a new signing" line. Speaking the other day, Arsène had this to say:
We are ready to do quick deals but all the transfers do not depend only on us, but we are prepared to wait. It looks unlikely before the Emirates Cup. We still have a strong squad but we are there on the market to try to strengthen our team. With or without additions we can be title challengers next season.
I don't necessarily disagree with that last line about contending. No one above us has made any dramatic moves to improve their squads, unless of course we account for Mourinho's arrival. Aside from that, the only significant player-movement has been at Man City, but none of those scare me (yet).

However, it's the first line from Arsène that gets my blood boiling. To say "transfers do not depend only on us" is certainly fair to say because there are, after all, a lot of moving parts, but the attitude it reflects suggests that we feel ourselves to be at the mercy of other clubs instead of trying to seize our destinies. We could have had Higuain if we had pushed a little harder. Instead, we dithered and dilly-dallied until Higuain himself apparently got frustrated; then, we bid £40m for Suarez; then, we saw Higuain go to Napoli for something close to £32m, a figure we could have easily matched if not exceeded for a player whom I believe to be well-worth it, given his accomplishments and relative lack of boorish behavior.

There's still a little more than a month to go before the transfer-window closes, but each day that passes closes the window of opportunity that much more. There's a shortage of top-notch players available for a move, unless we want to pay a premium for a player who wasn't already on the move. At this point, despite my previous skepticism, I would have been content with signing Jovetic. I'm not high on him, but at least it would have shown some aggressiveness on our part. We currently seem to lack any ambition, and that's a double-edged sword: of course, we haven't actually signed anyone noteworthy, but it also communicates to available players (not to mention current ones) that we're not all that serious about climbing to the top of the Prem.

Having said all of this, I don't necessarily disagree with Arsène. I think we could be title contenders next season. I don't think Moyes can keep Man U on top, I haven't seen much from Man City that makes me nervous, and even Mourinho may not be enough to elevate Chelsea. We may have finished 16 points behind Man U, but we did sell them our best scorer. We managed to stay close to Man City and Chelsea, finishing just 5 and 2 points back respectively. With Wilshere and Podolski fit, Walcott and Giroud ready for break-out seasons, the defense rounding into form, and a number of other factors, maybe we will do just fine without additions. Maybe. However, that's a hard sell after all of the bold talk going into the transfer season about how much we had, who we could afford, and so on. I'm not going to go so far as to say that we've painted ourselves into a corner and therefore have to sign someone just to prove we're not all talk, but it would be a depressing outcome indeed if we haven't signed someone who can turn some heads and make jaws drop.

I've been a solid supporter of our manager, but even I am starting to feel some nagging doubts. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I worry that the real damage from our parsimony in previous transfer-windows is that it's become a mentality that prevents us from knowing how to conduct bigger deals. I just hope I'm wrong. Please, let me awake on Monday to find that I'm wrong...

Last but not least, I believe this is the final weekend for voting in the 2012-13 YAMA Awards for Arsenal writers, bloggers, and tweeters. Woolwich 1886 is nominated as a Best New Arsenal blog, which is a great honor. Go on over and vote for whomever you believe to be most deserving. Thanks!