A guest post from
On Tuesday night I watched United take on Club Brugge in the Champions League qualifier. I enjoyed the early goal against them, of course I did, but any hopes of further embarrassment were stopped short by an excellent performance form their new player, Memphis Depay. Although the rest of the team creaked a bit, and although it still took a late, late intervention from Fellaini to ensure a comfortable platform, it was Depay who made all the difference. It pains me to say this on an Arsenal blog, but I enjoyed seeing him play. He had a swagger and confidence about him that seemed entirely justified. He scored two great goals, and provided the last-second assist: he also made the crowd come alive every time he was on the ball. I know it was only against Brugge, and sterner tests lie ahead, but he had an aura about him that must excite all United fans.
Or at least, you’d like to think so, especially as there must have been a few who were a little underwhelmed by the signing back in the spring. He wasn’t exactly cheap – 24 million or so is a lot of millions for a 21 year old who, despite his excellent track record in Holland, has yet to prove himself in English football – but he wasn’t the galactico signing that many United fans would have hoped for, or even expected. But no, here he was in August, suggesting that van Gaal was exactly right to buy him, and promising great things in the future. Will he be worthy to wear the famous No 7 shirt? Only time will tell, but he has certainly started well enough. And yet, hardly a day later, it transpired that Pedro, strongly rumoured to be another United target, had signed for Chelsea. Cue Twitter meltdown, social media awash with moans and groans that United could no longer compete, that Chelsea were the new force, that Mourinho and Cesc Fabregas’s girlfriend had hoodwinked Ed Woodward. And in all the furore Memphis Depay and the promise he brings was swiftly forgotten.
If you ever wanted a definition of football’s habituation principle this was it in spades. The quest for the new overshadowing anything already possessed. If every new acquisition so quickly becomes familiar that only an even newer purchase can satisfy then madness surely beckons. For the purposes of this argument it does not matter that Pedro and Depay are different players who both play slightly different roles, for my point is that much of the excitement about the transfer window isn’t really about football at all. I used to think it was more about macho posturing – mine’s bigger than yours sort of thing – but now I think it is about spoilt and entitled tantrum throwing and an absence of good parenting. If it wasn’t so sad it would make you smile. It should certainly make you realise that as Arsenal’s transfer dealings are subjected to the same lack of perspective and common sense then it is unlikely the media will allow Arsenal fans to think their squad is actually rather good and doesn’t need much, if any, tinkering with. And that it certainly doesn’t need the kind of full body replacement that some seem keen suggest.
Giroud scored a wonderfully athletic and predatory goal in our last match, but that has done nothing to quell the daily demands for Arsène to do what it takes to sign Benzema. Coquelin produced the ‘on the edge of dismissal’ defensive performance that many have been calling for since the days of Vieira and Petit, but still the call goes out for a new pair of Doctor Martens. Ramsey near enough ran a marathon for us at Selhurst Park but is apparently too selfish to wear the shirt while I also understand there is no hope of the defensive trio of Mertesacker , Cech and Koscielny ever forging the Fort Knox security that proper title challenges are built on. Only new signings can put right these glaring deficiencies, but of course, the moment those signings become flesh and blood Arsenal they will prove never to be quite enough. Pinter knew all about this in The Caretaker: Davies was always travelling to Sidcup where apparently salvation lay. But if you are relying on Sidcup, or a new signing, to make everything OK in your life, then you will forever be disappointed. This is of course the point: if you need your Football club to win every match to bring all good in your life, if you are always waiting for the sparkling armada of promises then you will be waiting a long time. Next Please, observed Larkin, much as those United fans said who were no longer content with Depay. I’d rather be happy with what I’ve got, and to be honest, in football terms I’ve got an awful lot: my team on the TV nearly every match, a nice stadium to go to when the children don’t need new shoes, some wonderful players to watch, more wins than losses over the last many years and always the faint hope of a Premier League title or Champions League success to keep the Davies in me happy.
Now, about those new signings Arsène …..