28 August 2013

Nope. No signings needed after all.

In the only possible conclusion to be made after a 2-0 dismissal of Fenerbahçe, eight goals in three matches, and a three-game winning streak (and undefeated in 13 of 14 official matches stretching back to last March), it's now abundantly clear that everything is fine and dandy like sour candy. Sorry, all you transfer-targets to whom we've been
linked; show's over. Go on back to the Bernabeu or Anfield or wherever it is you've called home lo these many years. We don't need you. We don't want you. Frankly, we've found the whole sordid business more than a bit irksome, if you don't mind us saying so. All this tawdry back and forth involving family members, agents, managers, hangers-on, twitterers, and sycophants? Well, it's worse than sorting who has a crush on who in fifth form maths (I'm practicing my British-ish).

After all, our defensive midfielder now leads the team in goals scored. Our keeper has kept three clean sheets in a row and hasn't conceded a goal from open play except once, after our best defender was sent off. Our #1 striker is off and running, with three goals in four matches. This is the squad that defeated Bayern. Away, for crissakes. We chose to lose to Aston Villa. Didn't want to disrespect the Invincibles and all, so we lost the first one just to get that off the table.

 I don't mean to oversell the point, but we have seen a string of solid performances that offers enough evidence to suggest that we can hold our own—if not against Man U or Chelsea, then certainly against other pretenders to the throne. Now that we have qualified for the group stage of Champions League play, it should be easier to sign a few players. However, if we don’t, I think there is still reason enough for some optimism. Key players are finding form that had deserted them, whether through injury, confidence, maturity, whatever the reason may be. Giroud is off to a fine start, looking confident and putting shots on frame, not to mention in the net. Ramsey is running opponents ragged, creating chances, and scoring goals. Cazorla is simply a joy to watch, even if he hasn’t scored. It’s a veritable hit parade, and the hits keep comin’.

I know we can’t and shouldn’t simply wait for our best and brightest to find their form, and we need to bolster our squad, but I like this squad a great deal, and if only to prove once again why I’m not qualified to manage a team, I have a hard time with the idea of replacing any of our regulars. Yes, part of that is soft-headed sentimentality, but on the other hand, casting a colder, appraising eye across the pitch is legitimately reassuring. When all fit and in form—a rather large qualifier, to be sure—I believe we do have what it takes to contend.

What this squad seems to lack, more than any other single factor, is pedigree. All of our players are on the callow side, having not yet had enough time to establish the kind of reputation that precedes them. They’re young and exciting and capable of dropping our jaws, but their names don’t yet inspire fear or antipathy among our opponents in the way that, say, Drogba might. That will change with time, something I know we’re rather short on. Sooner rather than later, however, we’ll be able to utter a name and it will reassure and inspire us instead of merely tantalize us. Someday soon, we’ll see one of our current lot with the ball at his feet and just know he’ll do something crucial, something game-changing, something memorable. I know that it’s hard to wait on who among them will be “the next _______” and that this is shaky ground on which to compete for silverware, and this is not a call for us to sit back, ignore the transfer-market and the thinness of our squad.

Maybe I’m suffering from acute Wengeritis, or maybe it’s just the way that transfer-window has gone for us so far, but maybe we don’t need £50m striker to lead the line. It’s August 28, and there are only a few days left, so yes, I’m preparing myself for the possibility that there won't be such a signing. We have Sanogo. It looks like we have Flamini back. What’s your call? Will there be a major signing, and if so, who will it be?