I joked during the game last night that Karim Benzema’s public rejection of a move to Arsenal was the only explanation for our dreadful first half performance against Liverpool on Monday.
Karim Benzema rejection blues, I called it. I think it’s quite a catchy title for a song, maybe I’ll write it one day.
Or maybe not. I certainly wouldn’t be singing it anyway. In the interests of fairness, and before you, dear reader, throw your keyboard at your monitor; or, more realistically, your phone across the road in frustration as you scream, ‘WE WERE NEVER GOING TO SIGN HIM ANYWAY!’, I feel it’s only fair to point out that, well, we were never going to sign him anyway.
Madrid didn’t want to sell him, he didn’t want to come here and, really, how serious were Arsenal? As I have repeatedly said, it would take really, really, stupid amounts of money to sign the fabled world class striker that we all would love Arsenal to sign.
The world we live in
You know, we live in a world where Burnley have just spent between £6-9m on Andre Gray. Gray scored 20 goals in 52 games in the Championship for Brentford last season and was also playing in the Conference Premier up until last summer. So if he’s worth, or more to the point, someone’s prepared to pay, that money for an average Championship striker what lengths do you go to to secure that fabled world class talent?
Anyway, does Benzema fall into that bracket? Don’t get me wrong, I think he has to be an upgrade on Olivier Giroud. However, his goalscoring record for Real Madrid, a team who, let’s face it, have a generally easier time of it in Spain than we do do over here, is hardly one to inspire confidence that he was, like Neo in The Matrix, the one.
Don’t believe me? Look. Thirty two league goals in 64 games is, handily, a goal every other game, not a bad ratio. Until you consider that his team mate, the sainted Cristiano Ronaldo scored 48 goals in just 35 league games last season. Clearly, that’s an insane rate of goalscoring which even the great Lionel Messi couldn’t match and if he couldn’t do it, what hope a mere mortal like Benzema?
I guess my point is this; it feels to me that Karim Benzema has been built up into the solution to all the world’s problems. Or, at least, Arsenal’s. However, I don’t think his goal ratio is exactly suggestive that he would have been.
Speaking of the world we live in, when Manchester United are reduced to handing Marouane Fellaini a striking role, it’s obvious that there aren’t many strikers out there for the clubs who need them.
It’s easy for people to sit at a keyboard and say, oh we should just throw money at him until he opens his legs for us and beckons us thither, but I’m not sure that’s how transfer dealings work. I mean, I’m sure they have worked like that and will continue to do so. However, if someone really doesn’t want to join you, offering them all the riches in the world (and we don’t have a bottomless pit from which to bargain) probably won’t persuade them otherwise. Anyway, young Karim has yet to show us even the tiniest hint of thigh. Unless you count those on display in his “clowns” tweet. Which you shouldn’t, as they clearly weren’t meant for Arsenal.
I also happen to think that, if you’re really having to bribe someone to join you, the chances of it working out for the best are fairly minimal.
I’m not saying I don’t want a world class striker, of course I do. On the evidence of last night, we do need one. You know, someone with a bit, okay, a lot of physicality (Welbeck), pace to burn (Welbeck) and the sort of dead eyed finishing that Ian Wright once treated us to on a regular basis (errrr…), but that sort of signing feels like a fantasy right now.
Probably because it is.
The chicken and the egg
All that said, we are where we are because of a variety of factors. The rather static Olivier Giroud is in the middle of what feels like the worst run of his Arsenal career; only the, rather incongruous, beautiful volley at Crystal Palace last week to show for his last ten games. [Editor’s note: And one in the FA Cup Final.]
I feel that Giroud is sort of the cause, but yet also a victim, of our recent travails. Yes, Mr Chicken, meet Mr Egg. His recent impersonations of a lamp post mean that defences don’t seem too overly taxed in their efforts to contain him.
However, with the continued shoehorning of four central midfielders into one football team clearly isn’t helping either. On Monday we had the mitigating circumstances of an entirely new central defensive partnership which saw the most panicky 45 minutes ever witnessed at the Emirates. However, as I noted a couple of weeks ago, whilst Özil, Cazorla and Ramsey can often combine to devastating effect (as Cazorla and Ramsey did early on Monday, in our one good piece of play in the first 45 – bloody linesman!), they can equally often cancel each other out. This has largely been the story of the last six games at the Emirates Stadium.
Put it another way, how would Olivier Giroud fare if provided the sort of crosses that began to come in once he left the pitch last night? Forgetting about Giroud for a second, how much better would Arsenal look with the Ox terrorising his opposition full back? I can sort of understand the reluctance to use the Ox. For one thing, Arsène clearly wants to keep Aaron Ramsey in the team. For another, I wonder if Arsène has a concern about playing the Ox and Alexis, who have similarly high risk, high reward styles of play, in the same team.
If he does have that concern, then he should probably park it. It’s worth remembering how pivotal both players ability to rapidly transition from defence to attack was in our brace of Manchester wins earlier this year.
As Theo tweeted when Alexis Sanchez arrived for training last summer, “#SpeedMatters”.
As someone else, just a bit more intelligent but probably not as fast as Theo, once said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
Arsène would do well to remember these things ahead of what is bound to be a tricky Saturday lunchtime fixture in Newcastle.
Yes, it’s Karim Benzema rejection blues…