Things Ivan Gazidis said in May 2013:
“This year we are beginning to see something we have been planning for some time, which is the escalation in our financial firepower.”
“We have a certain amount of money which we’ve held in reserve. We also have new revenue streams coming on board and all of these things mean we can do some things which would excite you.”
We play Aston Villa tomorrow, buoyant from keeping their best player Benteke by simply refusing to sell and giving him a far bigger contract. (Here’s one Arsenal, next time an RVP or a Cesc wants to leave, how about we just say no. Just a thought).
Yet over two months later the only player we’ve bought is Yaya Sanogo from Ligue 2 Auxerre. And he’s injured. As is Diaby. Again. If I didn’t know better I would say that Arteta deliberately injured himself so that Wenger would be forced to buy someone. Anyone. Anyone?
Whatever you think of David Dein the fact was he acted a valuable bulwark against Wenger’s innate conservatism. The story goes he practically forced the Sol Campbell deal through. Alas those days are gone. Kevin Whitcher, editor of the Gooner put it succinctly in a tweet: ‘In a world of Premiership sharks Dick Law is a goldfish’. Well said that man.
Which leaves us playing the Villa with a 4-2-3-1 shape. Not a bad system. But with all due respect to Villa who I know will give us a hard game tomorrow, I am more concerned with Fenerbache in the forthcoming CL qualifier. (And let’s forget for a moment that Arsenal are sponsored by Fly Emirates and have Thomas Cook as their travel partner, but can’t provide travel to Fenerbache as it is “the holiday season”). Our squad simply isn’t strong enough.
For Villa, Ramsey may sit in the deep lying role if he recovers from the ankle injury that kept him out of the Wales v Republic game in midweek. Walcott is expected to play after the knock he took at Wembley – nice finish by the way Theo, wonder what Alan Hansen made of it.
A lot rests on the broad shoulders of Olivier Giroud, not just for tomorrow but for the season. He has been accepted by most fans at the Grove for his normally hard working and persistent performances. The fact he misses chances is more indicative of the fact that he actually gets in a position to miss rather than any reflection on his quality or lack of. Yet the feeling persists that he looks what he is: a £10 million striker. Not a £20 million. Or for that matter a £50 million one.
Villa struggled away last year, so I will be interested to see whether the addition of Jores Okore and Antonio Luna will strengthen their defence. Andreas Wiemann looked dangerous at the Grove last year scoring in a 2-1 defeat. His movement, touch and shot for his goal was good. Chesney’s out of form attempt t stop it less so. So there’s no denying the team (and their hopeful first day of the season fans) will be up for the challenge.
Our challenge on the other hand is to take three points from a stable and potentially resurgent Villa stocked with hungry young players led by a tough and impressive young boss. (Sound familiar Arsenal fans?), but for me the real test is the massively important CL Qualifier with Fener the week after.
Forget the fact Arsenal haven’t lost an opening home PL game since improbable footballer Mickey Quinn scored an even more improbable hat-trick in a 3-0 defeat in August 1993.
Forget the fact Arsenal haven’t lost against Aston Villa in their last five games. Or the fact that Arsenal scored 47 goals at home last season, the highest in the division. Or even the fact that we are unbeaten in our last 10 league games and have a far better head to head with Villa.
Come 3pm tomorrow statistics count for nothing. It’s the playing squad that counts.
Which is why I’m worried.
Follow Layth on twitter @laythy29