18 November 2014

Szczesny forces £18.5m Man U move—and forces a moment of reckoning

In a stunning reversal of fortunes ahead of Saturday's epic clash, Polish goalkeeper Wojiech Szczęsny has forced through a jaw-dropping, £18.5m move to Manchester United, continuing an appalling trend of the London club losing its best and brightest to league rivals. As if it wasn't enough to lose to Chelsea thanks in large part to the efforts of former talisman Cesc Fabregas, or laboring to a tough draw against Man City thanks, again, in no small part to the labors of Clichy and Nasri, Arsenal now face the unsavory prospect of watching van Persie score on them at one end of the pitch while Szczęsny denies them at the other. Instead of looking forward to exploiting the absence of de Gea, Gooners will have to hope for Szczęsny to go on one of his foolish forays if they expect to find the back of the net...

By now, as I'm sure you know, I'm referring to Szczęsny's cheeky video fin which he sells himself to Manchester United for £18.5m—on FIFA, mind you—to raise funds for us to purchase a proper defensive midfielder, the kind of player we've been pining for since the days of Vieira. However, we somehow had to settle for Zlatan "Zlatan doesn't do trials" Ibrahimovic", which does less than nothing to address our defensive needs—unless Arsène has a master-plan for converting the Swedish Striker into a defensive midfielder, a plan so diabolically fiendish in its intricacies that I wouldn't put it past Le Prof.

If I may be allowed to get down to brass tacks for a moment, I do have to question the motives behind the move. The swap does nothing to address our dire needs orthographic needs. Can anyone here honestly say that it is any easier to type, much less pronounce, Ibrahimovic instead of Szczęsny? If you believe that, there's a bridge in Brooklyn I might want to sell you.It leaves unaddressed our obvious shortcomings in the back. With Koscielny and Debuchy still out, we're forced to play Chambers as RB and Monreal at CB, with the ageing Arteta or Flamini shielding them. Are we to somehow believe that this Ibrahimovic character, who has never played a day in the Prem, will magically enable us to outscore our opponents? Sure, he might offer something going forward, but I think I speak for us all when I say we have quite enough players who are all too eager to get too far forward when what we need is a burly protector who can spring forth to protect us, breaking up attacks before they can develop.

Okay.

Enough. To get back to something serious, Szczęsny may have been having a bit of fun with this, but it's about time all of us take ourselves a little less seriously, isn't? We're all hurling handbags and brickbats at each other over Arsène's tactics and tenure—as if (and I hope I'm not bursting your bubble here) he or Gazidis or Usmanov or Kroenke frequent this or any other blog hoping to glean some kind of insight into how to run a club. No, instead, I take my cue from Szczęsny himself. Have some fun with it. Rather than rue the ruins or the rut we're in, find something to revel, if not wallow, in.

We might fault Szczęsny at times for an excess of cheek off the pitch (not to mention on it...), but you have to admire the confidence behind it. While the rest of us are bickering and back-stabbing, he's thrusting his chin forward and thumbing his nose at the doubters, critics, and haters. We've lacked that kind of confidence and swagger for far too long, and that belief, that cockiness, just as much as any other quality, is what we lack. We don't take to the pitch believing or knowing we'll win; we've come to settle for mitigating factors or minimizing disasters. That's not who we are.

I don't know if Szczęsny or Wilshere or Alexis will be around long enough to become legends. They carry themselves with the kind of bravado that suggests that they could do just that. I'm not saying that simply believing more fervently or clapping more loudly will magically lead to success. I am saying that you are what you believe yourself to be.

Saturday sees us host a wounded, wobbling nemesis. Do we believe that we can drive the knife in deep, or do we continue to worry that we'll somehow stumble?