30 August 2015

Chelsea, Liverpool, and Man U will seek massive transfers after shock-losses...

What a brilliant weekend it was. We kicked things off with a somnambulent win over Newcastle—but a win's a win, after all. From there, Chelsea lost at home to Crystal Palace for the first time since 1981. Liverpool lost at home to West Ham for the first time since 1963. Then, to top it all off, Manchester United choked on a lead and lost to Swansea for the first time since the last time they played six months ago. The only black mark on the weekend was Man City's win over newly promoted Watford, but what are you gonna do? The real question, though, is what our are rivals going to do before deadline day

Mourinho has got to be incensed. Two losses from four matches, nine goals conceded...Is this the traditional third-year funk for the Specious One, the point at which his passive-aggressive bullying chafes and irritates his own squad so much that they tune him out? Chelsea have been uncharacteristically quiet in the transfer-window, loaning in Falcao and signing Begović and Pedro, but they haven't splurged to the degree that they're so infamous for...yet. I've suggested that the loss of Petr Čech could undermine Courtois's performance. I won't say that I've been proven right, but maybe there's something in it all the same. Will Mourinho tolerate the indignity of having been overruled by Abramovich with regards to Čech and put up with looking up at the likes of Leicester, Bournemouth, and Aston Villa? Unlikely. If anything, Mourinho and Abramovich agreed to a quid pro quo: we will sell Čech to Arsenal, but we will buy late in the window. Losing to Crystal Palace is likely to pour petrol on the seething cauldron that is Mourinho's insatiable insecurities.

Liverpool may be an ever bigger mess. After having been gifted points wins over Stoke and Bournemouth and a draw with Arsenal through dodgy calls or non-calls, the Scousers were roundly thrashed by a West Ham side that seems bound and determined to win at each of last season's top six while losing at home to each of the last two season's promoted sides. Enough of the Irons, though. The additions of Benteke, Firmino, and Clyne could signal the end of Liverpool's dealings even after the £43.75m sale of Sterling to Man City (on behalf of everyone in the Prem I say thanks for that, as I'm sure we all agree Man City sorely needed more attacking options. Couldn't find anyone in La Liga to sell to, could you?). What's more, they might still be smarting from last year's lessons, when they sold Suarez for £57m, reinvested the proceeds, and finished sixth. Rodgers' reign has been pock-marked by some odd (to say the least) transfers and loans, and I'd wager that Fenway Sports Group will curb these oddities rather than continue them.

Man U present the icing on the cake. After deciding that Angel Di Maria should be sold at an £8.4m loss, they've brought on Schneiderlin, Depay, Schweinsteiger, and Darmian for a total of £56.4m. What do they have to show for it? Not much. Their recent setback to the Swans highlights the apparent emptiness of Van Gaal's approach, which was initially sold on his tactical acuity and philosophical purity but which has quickly devolved into purchasing players with the wanton abandon of the gals grabbing for items at a clearance sale. Van Gaal has vowed that there will be no panic buys, but with his squad struggling, Rooney misfiring at best, can he count on some kind of magic coalescence, or will he or the Glazers (or both) decide to go big? At this point in the transfer-window, Man U's biggest business might simply lie in keeping de Gea, who single-handedly (figuratively speaking) kept Man U relevant last season. Still, I wouldn't be surprised to see a late spree, Van Gaal's claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

Where does this leave Arsenal? After all, we're level on points with Liverpool and Man U, and Man City look likely to make it to mid-December undefeated (ahem). Our only signing to date has been the £9.8m deal for Čech, which might be just as much psychological as it is tactical. Seeing Cole and then Fabregas end up at Chelsea has stung, and to secure the services of a club-legend like Čech does offer a bit of a boost. It wasn't until the Liverpool match that he really seemed to find his footing after years of playing from behind a parked bus. As he and the defense adjust to each other, we should see some stablisation, but that's not the same as saying we're ready to contend. After all, our lead scorer to date is "Own Goal", which is hardly a recipe for success—even if someone suggests that the two own-goals to date were quality shots that were redirected, rather than the more-heartbreaking, Laura Bassett variety. We need a better finisher than we have. Giroud is serviceable. Walcott is either rusty, not a true striker, or both.

If we're looking at the presumptive contenders for the Prem (second place, it seems...), this weekend's results bode ill for Arsenal. Our rivals—Chelsea, Liverpool, and Man U—have suffered shock-losses that might inspire them to make panic-buys. Whether those panic-buys amount to anything is a legitimate question, of course. By contrast, though, our indifferent win over ten-man Toon might offer Arsène just enough cover to claim that we're strong enough not to need additions. We are, it must be mentioned, an injury away from relying on Arteta or Flamini to shield the back four, or an injury from needing to play Walcott or Alexis at striker. Neither of those is a position that a legitimate contender should find itself in.

At a minimum, we need depth. Coquelin and Giroud will hold down the fort, but if we're serious about improving on our third-place finish, one or both positions need an upgrade. It's a seller's market, and this means that Arsène will have to pay above and beyond his own valuation of this or that player. I haven't given up hope on the idea that he'll do that, now that the stadium-debt is under control, but old habits—whether these be Arsène's spendthrift ways or Gooners' skeptical ways—die hard. Will we see one more signing on Özil-Alexis level, or will we have to make do with what we've got?