Bloody Philippe Coutinho.
By the time the Brazilian left the field of play, midway through Sunday’s second half, it’s all too easy to imagine Arsène Wenger thinking the same thing.
You can imagine that, as we approached half time a goal to the good, Arsène would have been reasonably pleased with what he’d seen. Arsenal were on top of the game, if not quite in total control, a goal up and our youthful centre back partnership rarely troubled.
At a stroke, Coutinho’s brilliant free kick totally changed the complexion of the match. It gave Liverpool a foothold in the match they scarcely deserved, and boy, did they make the most of it. Just fifteen minutes into the second half, whatever feeling Arsène might have had of getting away with it was all messed up. Liverpool were sensational for about twenty minutes and it was enough.
First Lallana, then Coutinho again, before Sadio Mané put the game beyond our fallen heroes. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s instant response to Liverpool’s 4th ultimately proved to be a footnote in the match, but its timing saved Arsène Wenger from what surely would have been his most uncomfortable half hour in the Emirates dugout, perhaps even a mass mutiny. Certainly, the goal silenced the crowd’s clearly audible exhortations to, “Spend some f___ing money!”
New season, same as the old season. The collective euphoria shared the last time everyone gathered at the Emirates a distant memory; a great trip turned really, really bad.
All summer, I have been toeing a line, not wanting to hammer Arsène and the board for the lack of signings made to improve the first team. Ultimately, I’ve walked this line because I believed that those signings would happen. And I still think they will be – they have to be, right? However, we are now at a point where the signings even people who “have not worked half a day in football” can see are needed have not been made. And this inactivity has had an immediately detrimental impact on our Premier League campaign.
So, the transfer window is open for another two weeks- there’s still time to bring reinforcements in. Yes, we know all that, but we also know that with trips to last season’s champions, Leicester City, and Watford to come, we could very easily be nine points down by the time the window shuts and for what? To save a few million quid?
The further down the road we get with this Arsenal board hanging on every Wenger word, the clearer the conclusion becomes. We are never going to seriously challenge for the Premier League title with the man from Alsace in charge.
Arsène just doesn’t seem that interested in doing it, and if he is interested then it’s on his, outmoded, terms. And because we have an owner who, by his own admission, isn’t particularly interested in winning things, there is no pressure on Arsène to changes his ways.
If there was pressure on Arsène to win the Premier League title, would the board be happy to begin the Premier League campaign with a total fudge situation at centre forward?
Would we not have been looking to replace Per Mertesacker and Gabriel with centre backs of genuine quality – before they both got injured? Had we done so, we might not have had to play two kids at centre back on Sunday, therefore sacrificing intelligence in midfield for defensive cover.
If there was pressure on Arsène from above, would he really have stood in front of the media on Sunday and told them that we were not physically ready? And done so as if this fact was nothing to do with him? Who, on the Arsenal board, spent Sunday evening asking the manager, Mr Sports Scientist, exactly why his players weren’t ready to go?
There were tweets on Monday to the effect that Arsenal were looking to switch centre back targets due to the price Valencia want for Shkodran Mustafi. I get this, if it’s about having enough funds to sign the proverbial “worldie” up top, though I have no idea who they think they’re going to sign. That said, we have about 8 million midfielders at the football club. For example, the bench on Sunday was Ospina, Gibbs, Akpom – and four midfielders. This points to an ever so slight imbalance in the make up of our squad, don’t you think?
Might it not be possible to sell one, maybe two of these midfielders and create some more money?
Looking at Sunday’s bench, I found it difficult to imagine where a goal would come from if things went wrong. As it turns out, the Ox proved me wrong there, but I don’t see that we can bank on goals out of that midfield four on a regular basis. Arsène’s treatment of Joel Campbell, a player of no little skill and endeavour as well as an ability to put the ball in the back of the net remains mystifying.
“Get out whilst-” No, I’m not going there. Not yet anyway.
You have to think, ultimately, that Arsenal will make a couple of signings before the window closes, because not only does the alternative not bear thinking about, but the alternative doesn’t actually make any sense. Never mind cutting off your nose to spite your face, it would be akin to Arsène setting himself up on the guillotine (hey, as anyone who’s listened to this week’s pod knows it’s a week of bad taste references). With one year left on his contract and the morale of the fanbase at, another, all time low, why would he want to do that?
Oh, right, because it’s in his nature. Of course.
The question is now, will the signings we make be the signings we actually need? Or an Arshavin style sleight of hand? ‘Hey, we know we needed a centre back and forward, we couldn’t get them, so here’s another tricky midfielder for you all to admire. Oh, by the way, Mikael Silvestre is back.’
Oh God, wake me up when it’s over, please.
It’s got to the point where everyone I know who doesn’t support Arsenal can’t understand why Mr Wenger is still in a job. I can’t think of a convincing argument to persuade them otherwise.
I began this article whilst listening to PJ Harvey’s fabulous 1993 album, Rid Of Me. It begins thus,
“Tie yourself to me, noone else no/ You’re not rid of me, mmm you’re not rid of me..”
You’ve all read that interview where Arsène spoke of his fear of retirement, haven’t you?
I fear we’ll be singing this song for a while yet.