29 August 2013

Flamini's signed: Podolski's injury fits Arsène's transfer-policy perfectly

Pity poor Arsène. For the first time in years, he hasn't had to face the prospect of losing key players (with apologies to Gervinho, Arshavin, Squillaci, and all the rest) and so hasn't had any "real" reason to go out and spend in the transfer-market. In years past, we could count on a player having the good taste and upbringing to announce his future
unavailability; van Persie or Fabregas or Touré understood their manager's need for time to prepare (even though 75% of all business happens in the last days. Or something). They gave their manager ample warning, never once muddying the waters with passive-aggressive contradictions or ambiguity, so that he would have the maximum amount of time to find suitable, one-for-one replacements. Those were the good old days, when nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em. "Give me five bees for a quarter," you'd say. Now, where was I?

Oh yeah, Podolski. Clearly lacking good parentage, Mr. Podolski has decided it was appropriate to get himself injured for up to 10 weeks, failing to provide his employer proper notice or to leave behind contingency plans for his absence. All we need now is for someone to contract acute radiation poisoning or get arrested for every unsolved murder in our fair city. Three misfortunes? That's possible. Seven? There's an outside chance. But nine? I digress.

We've lost to Villa at home, and we've lost four players to long-term injury (Diaby, Arteta, the Ox, and Poldi). By my count, we've already lost 22.06 player-games to injury, and we're only four games into a season that could, if we're lucky, offer 50+ matches. None of these setbacks, in and of themselves, seems like it has been enough to force Arsène's hand. In past years, we could come to count on the departure of a key player just as we could look forward to the falling of autumn leaves. Old men in retirement homes had learned to predict the severity of the coming winter based on who was leaving Arsenal. "Van Persie's leavin'," they'd say, "could be as cold as it was in '37". This year, however, we've had no such single crisis to respond to; it's been the proverbial death by a thousand paper-cuts. Diaby went down in late March, but all was well from that point, for the most part, until major injuries to Arteta, and then Ox, and now Podolski. The various "minor" injuries to Monreal or Vermaelen have been disconcerting, but, again, none of this apparently adds up to a crisis large enough to respond to through signing a top-shelf player or two.

This is made all the more clear by the re-signing of Flamini. French and available for a free transfer, Flamini does, we must admit, add some depth, flexibility, and grit to the midfield and defense. He's a shrewd signing, to be sure, but even he would have to admit that he's not the game-changing or season-redefining player we've clamored for. He'll do well for us, and it will be valuable to have some cover for Ramsey until Arteta comes back. Presumably, he'll be available for the derby on Sunday.

However, we still wait with bated breath for a true signing. With Podolski and Ox out, we are now down to Giroud, Walcott, and Cazorla as out-and-out attackers—with Sanogo as the only sub available. If we could perhaps convince Giroud to pretend that his knee has gone akimbo for a day or so, this might finally force Arsène's hand. With no experienced striker left in the squad, he'd have to splurge on a striker, although all of the talk lately has been of midfielders: Özil, Di María, Cabaye, and so on. Then again, for all we know, Arsène has already gone ahead and signed one or two and is just reveling in the rumor-maelstrom, waiting until the last possible moment to surprise us all.

I'm sure that's it. Please let that be it...