These are happy days for many Arsenal fans. Excellent to beat a Spurs side who are on the one hand unable to score from open play right now and on the other bulging with exciting new talent thanks to the money they extorted from Real Madrid. Excellent to win back the Emirates crowd with a gutsy performance and of course excellent to have secured champions league football. Again. And since Monday night it seems happiness rains down from heaven’s limpid pools to refresh the parts other celestial downpours cannot reach. Even Arsene’s fiercest critics are forced to raise one eyebrow and sip their drinks in a thoughtful manner following his coup at the fag end of the worst and most hateful transfer window in living memory.
Everybody’s happy nowadays.
Except a few wet blankets of course. Those who wish our team to fail and transfers not to arrive in the belief that the board will be backed into a corner and jettison the hottest property in football management anywhere in the world today. Actually it isn’t only the masochistic self harming hate mob who find themselves conflicted right now. I am a bit of a conflicted wet blanket myself. Maybe bemused is more the word. Cards on the table upfront: I have been an admirer of bey Özil since the world cup of a few years back. Having given up on international football as a tedious waste of time where our players get injured for a cause in which I no longer believed and despising nationalism in all it’s petty small minded nastiness, I found myself able to watch the young and talented German national team in a whole new light. I confess I liked what I saw. I admired especially the close control and audacious inventive speed of thought and movement of the boy from Gelsenkirchen. I remember one breathtaking piece of skill caused me to turn to a friend and say “I haven’t seen that kind of thing since Bergkamp played for Arsenal” and I allowed myself a brief frisson of pleasure as I imagined the likes of Özil, Podolski and the elegant Mertesacker gracing the red and white. Then I shook my head clear of the thought knowing that such talent was these days merely cherries picked from the football tree by a few über rich sides to amuse their sugar daddies. I dared not dream that our great club, mired as it was in economic recession and paying for the daunting optimism of the Emirates Stadium, could ever hope to afford them and their genius.
Well. Here we are.
So why am I conflicted? Perhaps conflicted is too strong a word. I am of course delighted when our squad is enriched by great players be they purchased at either huge or minimal expense or when they have grown up at the club, nurtured from boyhood to blossom on the stage before us. Concerned is perhaps a better word. My delight and excitement are tempered with concern. Concern mainly at the way in which many people are reacting to the news. When they happily share links to news stories, the essential thrust of which is that at long, long last Arsene has spent some money can they not see that these hacks are using our record signing as an opportunity to continue perpetuating a myth, to simply beat our manager with the same stick they’ve used for years? When people say that now things will start to happen, now the dark days are behind us, they are simply hammering another false brick into the wall of denial that the haters and the media have been building around the very real achievements of the last decade. Above all I have an instinctive fear of too much hype, too many raised expectations and the idiotic adherence to the belief that the transfer fairy sprinkles her magic dust and the whole world is suddenly made of champagne and chocolate for ever and ever.
What will these people say or do if (Dennis forbid) the young man gets injured? Presumably they have failed to notice the stories of Van Persie, Rosicky and Diaby. Enormous talents who lost their best years on the treatment table. Hey – I hope he won’t and I know we should never assume he will. It’s like my three legged dog. When she lost her front leg I was too scared to walk her. My wife told me I had to. Dogs need to walk, they like to walk, it’s bad for them not to. But what if she hurts the remaining front leg? She’ll never walk again. Happily wise counsel prevailed and I do walk her and she runs and has a full life and of course my wife was right you cannot live in fear of bad shit happening or you might just as well give up on the whole boiling and hide under the covers. So I’m not doing the three legged dog thing where our new boy is concerned, not at all. He must play and face down the injury Goddess just like every other player. My point is that some people’s over reaction to his signing makes him sound like Jesus, Moses, Allah and Bill Hicks all rolled into one. They now seem to follow the original one man team and I fear for their sanity if anything happens to him. Football is a group endeavour and it is the whole squad will win us things and not one man.
You all know by now how I hate the ridiculous media circus that is the transfer window. I hate it because it causes a spate of crystal ball gazing and soothsaying and I can’t bear all that psychic fortune telling bullshit. If we sign player X then we will win trophy Y. That is the mathematics we are faced with and it sucks. The tedious, mundane truth is very few transfers tell us of their worth until an age after the ink dries on the contract and the journalists’ crisp and crinkly Kleenex has long since been flushed away. We can sign one of the world’s most significant players as we did with Andre Arshavin, he can look like the missing piece of the jigsaw for a while and then inexplicably fade away to a quiet, sad, ignominious exit from the club. Or we can sign an unknown centre back from the lower divisions of French football and he can, in a few seasons, effloresce into one of the best defenders on the planet. Or we can take a very good, solid player like Mikel Arteta from Everton and turn him into a maestro, the country’s leading midfielder by any measure. The future is unknown and I loathe people who claim to be able to see it.
Here’s why. Oh and by the way here’s also why I am emphatically not being a killjoy about this wonderful player coming to play for us. The greatest excitement, the most pleasure you can hope to derive as a football fan when a player is signed or breaks through from the youth or reserve teams is this. It’s the journey we travel with them as their careers unfold. It’s seeing hints of what might be and then being wholly surprised when something else happens. It’s wondering if they’ll ever be good enough only to be confounded by them suddenly playing to their potential because they are teamed up with the perfect on field partner. Or it’s agonising with them after a bad injury and willing them to prove their detractors wrong then being moved to tears as they burst through mental and physical barriers to realise their true potential. I don’t want to be told how this player or that signing will affect my club any more than I want you to tell me what will happen in the last episode of Breaking Bad or who is going to die in the Christmas Eastenders. I want to enjoy it as it actually happens. Also I want our new boys to come to the club and be given time to adapt to their new surroundings, their new team mates, and not to suffer the boo boys when the media inevitably tell them that the wunderkind is a flop. Which they will. They will build him up based purely on his price tag and then try to demolish him. Don’t believe me? They did it with the greatest of them all. They told us Bergkamp was a failure after a few games so don’t believe they won’t do it with our new number 11.
So I say rub your hands together with anticipation at the prospect of a truly skilled and proven talent adding yet more mouthwatering ability to our already great squad. Look forward to his début, his first assist, the first piece of trickery to bring a simultaneous gasp from 60,000 throats but for God’s sake give the boy time and enjoy the journey with him, don’t be in too much of a rush to get to the end. Hopefully we will have many years together to admire the scenery and maybe, just maybe he can become one of the greats. I for one am more than happy to wait and see.