Another Thursday rolls around. I swear it is like the weeks are blurring into one right now, doesn’t it? I don’t want to wish my life away but I’m kind of at the stage of wishing this season would just blur away to nothing, given how it’s gone for us, which is mad when you think about it. I mean we are still in European competition and whilst European football qualification via the domestic league route is probably beyond us now, it isn’t completely impossible and so we find ourselves still with something mathematically to do in the Premier League.
Yet here I am just wanting a fast forward until May, when hopefully there are most of the population vaccinated, as well as some kind of plan to return to grounds for the 2021/22 season.
Imagine the excitement when that rolls around for the first time. It’ll be epic. That first Arsenal home game of the season if fans can return will feel like the hottest ticket in town. And even if the stadiums can only return with limited capacity, it’ll make that ticket all the more precious. Sod Charlie and his Golden Ticket, The Arsenal at home to Burnley or Crystal Palace will be where it is at.
I’m probably dreaming though. There won’t be a full house and it won’t be the same by August, but if we can get people back in to grounds to at least add some kind of atmosphere, well I’d take that right now. So whilst the form of our team this season is a big reason for me to want it to be over sooner rather than later, the ‘product’ that is this season’s Premier League is something that I want gone more than anything else, as it stands.
I think the hope is also there for Arsenal to finally get the house in order too. This summer there are no excuses for journeyman free transfers who are looking more and more like Winston Bogarde’s with every passing week. Let’s hope Mikel and Edu can breathe new life into this squad with some clever signings. Look to the bright young talent emerging in the Championship, see what our academy could potentially bring, give some game time to players like Azeez as this season draws to a close. Let’s see who might be able to handle the pressure for playing for The Arsenal. Can there be some ‘internal solutions’ for us to look at?
Can I let you in on a little secret? I’m kind of starting to think that not being in Europe next season might be the reset that the club needs. Financially it would be a disaster with our high wage bill and in terms of attracting players, but part of me wonders if it would be better for the longer term health of the club. This summer we will have weeded out a lot of ageing big earners. We already did that in January. We will also have a number of saleable assets who we should be collecting cash on; the likes of Torreira, Guendouzi, Kolasinac, maybe Maitland-Niles and Nketiah. All players that could bring in some pounds and pence to the coffers. And if you are not in Europe, you don’t need a massive squad build.
I’ve been looking at Villa and they tend to play the same team every week. Sheffield United did that last season. That’s because they played once a week other than the occasional League Cup game until January, when the FA Cup started up. That affords them to have a smaller group of players who are playing regularly. We have effectively had to rotate every game due to volume of games and injuries/suspensions. Imagine if we played just every Saturday between August and January, with the occasional midweek game for domestic cups and the odd Premier League match. It would mean Arsenal do not need as many players on the books because frankly we wouldn’t be using them as much. We’ve tried the big bloated squad look and it wasn’t a good one. Maybe Mikel needs to try the smaller group now and see if that works?
We don’t have Man City or Chelski’s money and so we can’t just buy two players for each position for £30million+ and hope to compete on multiple fronts. We’ve seen this for the last five or six years. Maybe it is time to try something different and maybe that is no European football. Maybe that would help to springboard us back up the table, instead of the gradual decline that we’ve seen every year since 2017.
If we do offload a number of the above players I mentioned, and get half-decent money for some of them, if we only need a small number of top quality additions, maybe it means we can spend that cash on fewer players but of high quality? If I was to ask any Arsenal fan now if they’d rather take the money that would be made on Lacazette, Torreira and Guendouzi and invest in one top class talent in a position we need to strengthen, rather than two or three replacements for those positions for those players, I suspect many would choose that ‘big ticket’ player. Think like an Alexis-style signing. That is what we need this summer.
So maybe the answer lies in mediocrity. It pains me to say it, but it feels like unless we win the Europa League – which I think is unlikely given the quality of teams in it this season – it would be better to just sack off Europe completely for next season.
Perhaps this is just a mental self preservation. But it’s just how I’m feeling at the moment.
What about you?