In 2014 when Arsène signed his last deal, there was a genuine feeling around some of the fanbase and people that I speak to, that it was probably worth giving it to him. We’d got the trophy monkey off our backs, we’d come out of a period of self imposed austerity and now we could compete financially and on the football field with the best. There seemed to be a genuine appetite from a lot of people – me included – who though “go on Arsène, show ’em you’ve still got it”.
In 2017 certainly from those same fans I see in real life at work, the games or in friendship circles, that cannot be said to be true any more, I’m afraid. Which is why yesterday’s announcement whilst being something we all knew was coming, has still been met with disappointment. That fire has been equally fanned – in my opinion – by the stage-managed way in which it was presented to the media. Even as I watched the impartial BBC News at Ten last night Dan Roan, Sports Editor, sounded like there was a little subtext in what he said when he announced “Arsenal, who did not speak to any media networks, preferring to use their own in house TV channel instead…” and this morning all I feel is a sense of “yeah, yeah, whatever” when I think back to the announcement.
Stan Kroenke and his expectedly brief “we want to win titles” probably should just have read these are the expected words of Kroenke, who could not be interviewed, so the Arsenal Press Team have written something for him. As usual it all sounds good enough, talking about titles and being competitive, but we’re now at the point where nobody actually believes him. Everybody knows he doesn’t really give a damn and for sure, everybody knows that he is ‘Mr Average’ when it comes to his sports franchises. Remember the gem about not getting in to sports to win trophies? That’s Stan Kroenke, not the garbage the PR team fed us yesterday.
Then we had more from Arsène, who again talked up about only needing one or two players, how the squad was a little heavy and some might have to go, which appears to be Lucas Perez after his agent said he wanted out. You can hardly blame the guy to be fair to him. He’s scored goals, worked hard and looked good when on the pitch, yet he’s been shunted down the queue for some of the favourites like Theo or Giroud. Imagine giving a player like Walcott more games over somebody who genuinely has impact on the overall game? Lucas will move on and you’d think Arsenal would get what we paid for him, because he’s shown how good he is and he’ll show it again at whatever team he’s at.
As for Arsenal and Arsène, right now all we’re left with is more promises of greatness. More assurances that the club is constantly looking at how it could improve and utter clap-trap from people like Gazidis, who had the temerity to reference Özil and Alexis as an example of how we’re in an era of attracting the big players. The same Özil and Alexis who are yet to sign deals because they don’t look convinced about the club’s ability to compete.
Quite amazing really from Gazidis. That statement on those two players stood out for me a mile because if neither sign a contract this summer, he’s essentially proven that as a club we might have more money, but we’re not delivering anything different from what we were doing six or seven years ago. That is the very definition of stasis. That is with a manager, board and owner who have not changed. They swapped some of the playing names around but that is it. They’re still delivering the same lines, the same promises, the same hopes. It doesn’t even feel repackaged any more. It wouldn’t have surprised me if you’d have told me that Gazidis’ interview was from 2012.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating and we’ve had the same dessert for a long time. There have been plenty of people who are now saying “I wanted Wenger out, but now it’s done, we just need to get behind everyone”. Make no mistake about it when Arsenal first kick a ball in anger I’ll be there singing up for the Arsenal, but right now, at this moment in time, I have no faith that we won’t have seen another summer of missing out on players through most likely inaction, followed by the usual trolley dash at the end of August as Arsène and Dick have left it until the last minute because they have some warped sense of reality that there can be bargains to be had.
And as for those who are saying “I wanted him out, in behind him now”, I wonder how many of those people last the summer, after opportunities have been missed, teams have been strengthened and once again we go in to a campaign undercooked? I’d wager a fair few of them.
Look, I don’t want to see Arsène fail, I never have. But I’m looking at the data behind seasons past and all I’m seeing is two more years of the same. I’m not even going to patronise you and say “perhaps if this summer is different” because I don’t believe it. My expectations after the PR served to us yesterday are zero. We are starting from a very low base and until something happens that changes that base, I’m sticking in that default position. Call it self preservation if you like. Call it whatever. But until we physically witness a club willing to demonstrate change instead of endlesssly talking about it whilst delivering more of the same, then I’d suggest you start to manage your own expectations.
This feels like it’s going to be the start of a long, long, summer.
Catch you tomorrow.
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