In precisely one month from today, Arsenal will open their 2016-17 Premier League campaign.
It seems like only yesterday that we were laughing at Tottenham for coughing up second place…….oh, we’re still laughing? That explains it.
But after a summer filled with football, with games scheduled at three or four times per day, we now face the horrible prospect of having nothing meaningful to watch for a month. A full month!
What are we supposed to do now? Talk to family members? Do that bit of DIY that we’ve been promising to do since Christmas? *shudders*
Unfortunately for Arsenal fans though, there has been little else to be cheerful for so far this summer. Not only has there not been the transfer market splurge that so many hoped for, but many of the club’s current players have had summers that could severely impact the start to Arsenal’s season.
Alexis Sanchez may have helped Chile to retain the Copa America, but his ankle is so swollen right now, it’s taking gigs as a stunt double for Kim Kardashian’s ass. Aaron Ramsey was superb for Wales, but he’s going to need a long rest to help recover from carrying Gareth Bale’s reputation to a Euro semi.
Granit Xhaka looks like a top talent, but is going to have to deal with the disappointment of missing the penalty that knocked Switzerland out. Mesut Özil missed two penalties. (Why can’t he just pass them in?)
Laurent Koscielny is going to have nightmares of seeing Eder breeze past him before scoring the only goal in a Euro final. Olivier Giroud played really well against Iceland, and not so great against anyone else. Jack Wilshere didn’t play really well against Iceland, and looked well short of match fitness whilst doing so.
That’s pretty much the spine of our best starting eleven that is currently dealing with either physical or psychological trauma. It’s a far from ideal starting point to a season that will need us to have everyone at full strength to deal with our rivals who have all spent a lot of money to reshape their squads.
If none of the outfield players that participated in international competitions this summer are available for opening day, then here’s the best eleven that we could field;
Cech; Monreal, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Bellerin; Coquelin, Elneny, Cazorla; Iwobi, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The midfield is fine. The goalkeeper and full-backs are fine. The rest? Not so much. And this is the ideal scenario, if nobody picks up an injury during pre-season. If Theo picks up a knock, then Chuba Akpom is next in line.
It’s no wonder then that a lot of Arsenal fans are on edge at the moment.
Just look at the reaction to one of our under-18 coaches deciding to work on TV instead of committing full-time to the club. You’d have thought that we’d decided to wear white kits instead of red ones, such was the anger directed at the club for such a minor HR move.
Thierry Henry may well end up being Arsenal manager one day, and we all know how badly he wants the job. But you can’t half-arse it.
The most successful managers are the ones who dedicate as much time as is humanly possible to their jobs, and the same applies to those who work in TV. I’m sure that Sky are delighted that the bloke who they pay £4m a year to is now available full-time to them.
Even if Henry did stay at the club, he wasn’t going to be next in line to replace Wenger. You can only employ a rookie coach, like Real Madrid did with Zinedine Zidane or Chelsea did with Roberto di Matteo, if you are confident in the knowledge that your team has enough players on the field to organise themselves whilst the coach gets used to the enormity of the job.
Those clubs had such players. Arsenal don’t.
Whoever succeeds Wenger will need a lot more on their CV than accomplishments as a player, no matter what those accomplishments are or where he won them. If we’re not going to use Wenger’s past accomplishments as reasons to keep him on, then we can’t use Henry’s to hire him.
But as long as Arsenal are silent in the transfer market, then fans’ concerns over trivial matters like this will only escalate, and watching clubs like Manchester United and Manchester City continue to bolster their squads with quality talent, whilst seeing Crystal Palace and West Ham bid €40m for strikers, could tip a lot of folks over the edge.
It’s still too early to predict Armageddon, as there still is a month before that opening fixture versus Liverpool. But if, for some reason, we still haven’t bought anyone of significant quality before kick-off, then memories of opening day three years ago against Aston Villa will no longer be memories, but re-enactments.
It’s going to be a long few weeks for Arsenal fans.
We can all see the problems that lie ahead, and we all fear what will happen if nothing is done to prepare for them. All we can do is sit, read every single gossip column we can find, listen to any podcast or phone-in show that may or may not talk about Arsenal, follow any sort of ITK account on Twitter or Facebook, just so we can get even the faintest piece of information that might help allay our fears.
It’s either that, or we get around to finally putting up that bookshelf above the TV in the living room.
I hate summer.