After yesterday’s 3:0 thumping of the oilers of Manchester by the financially invigorated Arsenal, both the commercial media and the army of “wannabes” on twitter are having a hard time putting a spin on the event without losing hold of a comfortable narrative they already sewed.
Pre-game, the consensus was to grudgingly admit that Arsenal now had money to spend but they didn’t acquire the right players. These were the exact words of Robbie Earle, ex-pro, now doing punditry for NBC Sports Network in the US. According to experts like him, Arsenal had simply replaced Sagna with Debuchy, added a back-up right back with Calum Chambers and Alexis Sanchez is simply a luxury purchase who is not the big clinical central striker needed by the club.
Other pundits have a slightly different variation from the theme. Their spin is, it is good and well to spend on a striker but Arsenal will not win the title if they fail to bring in a “monster” defensive midfielder to sit in front of the back-four. Pointedly they claim Mikel Arteta is too old, slow and lightweight to do the job. To support their argument they reprise with glee those big losses last season to Chelsea, Liverpool and City, conveniently glossing over the fact that Arteta didn’t play in the City game and that he was instrumental in helping the club win two of three games against Liverpool.
As usual Wenger and Mikel failed to read the script. After a masterful performance vs City, dominating as the deepest lying central-midfielder, our handsome Spaniard was named team captain for the 2014-15 season.
The table was therefore well set for the weekend’s narrative; should Arsenal win the game it would be inconsequential as it was pre-season and most of City’s top players were missing, and if we lost it would be further proof of our inability to beat any of the teams in the top-three which by the way was the only reason we failed to win the title last year, not the injuries to our top players i.e. Ramsey then Walcott.
Unfortunately for the pundits, they have a long track record of underestimating the modern Arsenal. Eighteen (18) years ago they ridiculed the appointment as manager of the bespectacled Frenchman with the famous headline by the Evening Standard “Arsene Who?” Before the 2002-03 season, Arsene-Who had the temerity to suggest “Nobody will finish above us in the league. It wouldn’t surprise me if we were to go unbeaten for the whole of the season.” We all know how that went in 2003-04.
I would therefore suggest the best man to give a proper assessment of our performance is Wenger himself:
“I felt we had a complete performance in the first half as long as we had the legs to sustain what we wanted to do. In the second half our togetherness and the third goal got us through. We defended well, we lost a bit more of the ball than in the first half and our movements were less fluent but we kept the spirit and organisation.”
In terms of forecasting the season he opined:
“I have more attacking options than I had for a long time – that’s for sure. Three, four, five years ago, every year we lost a big player. In the last two years, we added players like Ozil and this season like Alexis so of course that strengthens the squad. I am of course very ambitious but I’m a bit cautious because I have quite a good experience. I look around and see the other teams have strengthened as well so it will be interesting to watch the Premier League because it looks like all the big teams will be very strong.”
As for Crystal Palace:
“To win today gives us a positive platform to prepare but now the Premier League starts and we have to start well at home because it’s a derby, it’s a very uncomfortable team [we face in Crystal Palace]. It will be a different kind of game as well.”
In terms of additional transfers:
“What it does in my head is [make me think that] Chambers is among the best three and if I can find another one I will do it. But to find another one of that quality will not be easy because… Vermaelen left us and had the choice between two massive clubs. That means these clubs have looked everywhere as well and that means it’s not easy to find.”
Can Wenger be any clearer? How much more can the spin doctors, moaners and mischief makers cloudy the water as we enter into the new season. Stay tuned.