Summer turmoil for Arsenal
As another transfer window slams shut and a new season has already begun, I've been asked to review the summer and speculate on the future for my dear Arsenal and my first thought was "do I REALLY have to?!" But in truth I wanted to, so be warned, I'm going in. Where do I begin though? Do I start with how around July when we signed the magnificent Alexandre Lacazette for a club record fee of £46.5m things actually began to look like they were changing for Arsenal? Or even a month earlier when we'd secured the services of the Bundesliga's best L/WB of the 2016 season, Sead Kolasinac, on a free no less? Or do I dive straight in to how the club had just bought some stronger glue than usual to pavé over the cracks again? Because I mean that is the crux of all this, isn't it? At the end of last season things were close to being at an all time low for the club and although there are some that say we've been in worse situations than this, we are headed down one slippery slope to implosion (in my opinion at least) and I make no bones about it. There are still a few "Wenger defenders" out there but as we finished fifth and out of the Champion's League for the first time since his arrival, even many of his staunchest supporters believed now was his time to go, myself included. But he didn't and low and behold not only did he decide not to walk, or step aside for the good of the club, he signed a further two year extension. Ok I thought, I'm a Gooner and I'll support whatever personnel we have and whoever is at the helm, we know what we need this summer and I'm of the utmost belief we'll get it. We had just sold Szczęsny to Juventus for £10m and Ospina was looking as though he was pushing for a way out which left us with only Petr Čech and Emi Martinez between the sticks. The club was actively trying to move on the likes of Mathieu Debuchy, Carl Jenkinson and Calum Chambers. Koscielny has an ongoing achilles issue and Per is in retirement phase. In the midfield Xhaka was showing signs of needing a partner other than Ramsey, whilst the club still weren't sure what was going on with Jack Wilshere and Mohamed Elneny was being used as backup in the center of defence. At the same time we were still none the wiser what was going on with Alexis, Oxlade-Chamberlain or Özil and their contracts. To put it bluntly we were in a shocking state. By the middle/end of July, Arsenal were caught in the midst of two massive transfer stories, both of which involved players from AS Monaco; Thomas Lemar and Kylian Mbappe. Mbappe fondly described by Wenger as "possibly the next Pele" was being sought after by many big clubs including Barcelona, Real Madrid and PSG and there were already several rumours at this stage that Arsenal had made bids ranging from £79m to £120m for him. Lemar was also being monitored by the big clubs and Arsenal had officially had two bids for the player rejected. Then the clubs found a tentative agreement for around €58m (£51m) on the day Arsenal flew out on their Australian tour, under certain variables (Monaco replacing and Arsenal making a Non Home-Grown spot available among them) but both these stories went very quiet as the month progressed.
On the other side of this coin was the thought of Alexis leaving the club. As with all summer, Manchester City had been slyly tapping him up and there were reports coming from everywhere (mainly Chile and Manchester) that he had told friends and teammates he wanted out of Arsenal and that he couldn't wait to join City, even their Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was dropping hints, but to this point City still hadn't made a formal or official bid. Stories of Oxlade-Chamberlain drawing interest from clubs such as Chelsea and Liverpool were also doing the rounds as his contract situation had also not been resolved. Lucas Pérez was actively seeking to get away from the club and go back home to Deportivo and quite randomly, Shkodran Mustafi was also wanting out with Inter, Juventus and a couple of Spanish clubs wanting to sign him.
Move forward a little way, to the end of August. All the aforementioned was still clear and yet all we had managed to do by now was shed a bunch of youngsters (Chris Willock to Benfica, Kaylen Hinds to Wolfsburg, Dan Crowley to Willem II, Savvas Mourgos to Norwich City, Glen Kamara to Dundee, Stefan O’Connor to Newcastle U23, Kristopher de Graca to IFKGöteborg, Kostas Pileas to Anorthosis Famagusta and Ismaël Bennacer toEmpoli) whilst bringing in one (Jordan McEneff, signing scholarship terms) And offload a couple of the fringe players (Yaya Sanogo signed for Toulouse, Jon Toral joined Hull City, Cohen Bramall and Carl Jenkinson both went to Birmingham City on loan, Emi Martinez ended up going on loan to Getafe leaving us with Čech and Ospina, Gabriel to Valencia, Asano back to VfB Stuttgart and Kieran Gibbs signed for WBA. At this point in time it looked increasingly like nothing was going to happen for Arsenal that would benefit the club in the long run, the business perhaps, but not the club. Mbappe was being heavily touted for a move to PSG after they had already signed Neymar from Barcelona and Monaco had apparently raised Lemar's price considerably since the July talks and now Manchester United (according to certain journalists) were in the mix, as were Liverpool who were still monitoring Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who astonishingly by now Arsenal had just come to a £40m agreement with Chelsea for. Manchester City were still pushing hints that they were about to lay money down for Alexis but Arsenal? Still nothing came in. Cue deadline day, Oxlade-Chamberlain had rejected a move to Chelsea and signed for Liverpool for £40m+, City had just made a £50m bid for Alexis which Arsenal rejected. Debuchy and Chambers were still at Arsenal as were Pérez and Mustafi, the latter now confirmed to be staying at the club. Arsenal fans were waiting with bated breath to see if the club could pull something out of the hat and around midday it was being reported that they had accepted a £60m bid from City for Alexis, providing a replacement could be found. This was intriguing as surely this meant something was in the pipeline? As time went on, Arsenal let another youngster go, in talented Donyell Malen (to PSV Eindhoven) and around 2pm it was being reported everywhere that Arsenal had a £92m (€100m) bid for Thomas Lemar accepted by Monaco! Everybody was in hyped up mode as this surely meant The Gunners were going to get the man they'd been trying to get all window, right? Wrong. This euphoria lasted literally the length of a football match and suddenly it was now being reported that Arsenal had decided to retract their offer as they didn't feel, what with Lemar playing in a World Cup qualifier that same night, there would be enough time to sanction the deal... As you would expect Arsenal Twitter went into meltdown, surely there must be more to it than that considering they accepted an offer from City for Alexis beforehand?! Then rumours began circulating that Lemar had rejected Arsenal because he preferred Liverpool, a confusing report as only a month earlier he'd stated his desire to play under Wenger and that Champion's League wasn't a factor... So Lemar stayed at Monaco and Alexis didn't get his move to Manchester City. During this time it had been reported that Arsenal had also been discussing with PSG for Julian Draxler and even considering Ross Barkley at Everton, however neither of these moves remotely materialised. Joel Campbell and Lucas Pérez did get moves away (both loans to Real Betis and Deportivo respectively.) Now... To say that it was a disappointing window for Arsenal would be being overly kind to them. This is yet another notch in what has been a shambolic series of transfer windows for a few years now, where the club has failed to address key issues in the squad! And whatever games were being played on deadline day we seem to be left with a player who, regardless of his talent, apparently doesn't want to be at Arsenal any longer and who his fellow teammates would rather see gone. If anyone remembers Chelsea Pre-Abramovich, that's where I see Arsenal now. Not so bad as that they'll be sold for £1 no, but something is terribly wrong at my Football club and it goes from top to bottom and starts with an owner who just doesn't care about the sport. Arsenal used to be a family run Football club and now it's some rich American businessman's playground. Ask a fan of any other sports franchise Enos Stanley Kroenke owns (The L.A Rams, The Denver Nuggets, The Colorado Rapids, Crush, Mammoth or Avalanche) they'll tell you they're just ventures to him. Hell the man himself stated just this when he said “For me, being an individual owner, I have to have some sort of reality involved. If you want to win championships then you would never get involved." And that says it all to me. Then you have the Arsenal board, who other than Ken Friar OBE who's been at the club in one capacity or another since he was fourteen years old, know absolutely zero about Football. This weekend even the Chairman, Sir Chips Keswick, said “Let’s rejoice in racing. I much prefer it [to football] at the moment." Now arguably this could be looked at in a couple of contexts but as the Chairman of the board in a struggling club, and we are just that, it's probably the last thing you want to be saying in public. Arsène Wenger does not escape culpability here either, don't worry. As much as I admire and respect "Le Professeur" he has as much to answer for as anybody. Arsène Wenger to me was a legend in this sport, I mean he still is, but when he stepped foot into the driving seat behind Arsenal in 1996, he revolutionised the English game. But since we left Highbury and moved into The Emirates it all changed. Wenger began to act more like a fan, than a Manager (self admittedly) his knowledge and education in the game had filtered through to other Managers and everything Wenger did, everything Arsenal did, became predictable. The game passed Wenger by and he didn't even attempt to catch up with it, to readjust, he became stubborn and set in his ways. Wenger's biggest strength is also his greatest weakness, loyalty, he has his set players who he'll play despite how bad they may be. I also believe Wenger is too nice for his own good sometimes and I said at the end of the season, he just isn't commanding the respect he once used to and despite stories in the last week of the window that Wenger was about to remove any players who couldn't be bothered to play for the shirt anymore, this is left as a case of being seen to be believed because other than Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, nobody else that may have shown negative attitude, has gone anywhere. Speaking of Ox and players generally, it has actually felt a lot in the last season that these guys don't wanna play anymore, or IF they do it won't matter if they're not playing at 100% or fluff lines because (going back to the aforementioned Wenger point) they'll be met with loyalty and to me, this is a massive issue. Theo Walcott for me personally is an extreme example of this very situation.
Have the Arsenal players stopped playing for the manager?
This started out as a review of our transfer window but it turned into a truthful insight into the turmoil Arsenal Football club is in and has been in now, for some time. It's infested with negativity and poison from top to bottom and unless something is done and soon, we won't just be finishing fifth, we won't just be finishing in a Europa League spot, we'll be finding ourselves on the second page of the seasons final table. Lacazette and Kolasinac were brilliant signings but were they enough? I very much doubt it, but I'll continue to support through my fingers covering my eyes, watching every moment with delicate desperation and the feverishness supporting Arsenal (in a good way) brings you...