You’ve just woken up. The date is Tuesday September 3rd. You wipe the sleep from your eyes, look at the sun flowing through the blinds, and go to check your phone. Just as you are about to, you realise that there’s something that is pressing but you can’t quite remember what. There’s nothing at work that’s outstanding, you haven’t annoyed your girlfriend and the trains are running fine. Then you remember it’s the morning after the Transfer Deadline has closed.
On deadline night, unable to bear Jim White’s hyperbole, the transfer league table that has us in the relegation places (they wish) and the fact Bryan Swanston has two phones, one of which rung once whilst he pretended to talk to an agent about a high-powered deal – not to mention a litany of haggard looking Sky Sports News reporters that have been hanging around deserted football grounds. Mostly in regions where there seem to be a preponderance of rough looking youths clad in the entire JD Sports range - and you decide to leave the madness, and retire to bed.
Your last thoughts before you go to sleep are confused. You recall that fact back in May (just before you renewed your season ticket for the 30th year) that Ivan Gazidis said Arsenal had a transfer budget of £70 million. He also said: “This year we are beginning to see something we have been planning for some time, which is the escalation in our financial firepower”, adding, “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.”
You also recall that the papers had linked us with Wayne Rooney, Luis Suarez, Gonzalo Higuain, Mesut Ozil, Karim Benzema, Cesc Fabregas, Leighton Baines, Marouane Fellaini, Yohan Cabaye, Juan Mata, Iker Casillas et al, as they say. But didn’t get any of them.
Or the fact that for years without the proverbial pot to urinate in, nor a window to throw it out of, we somehow managed to make ourselves look a laughing stock, even when we bid a club record £40m - simply by adding a quid. You wouldn’t have thought a pound would have offended people so much but it was what it stood for: parsimony and a smug satisfaction from Dick Law and Ivan Gazidis that they thought they were being clever. Which they weren’t.
You also put to the back of your mind the fact that although we have had three months to sign players in the window, the fact that an organisation with a multi-million pound budget and a world-wide reach and influence, it would appear that there is no apparent evidence of a coherent transfer strategy. This despite paying extremely large bonuses to our corporate head-hunters to execute this fact, and have left vitally important decisions to the last second, let alone the last minute.
So you sit up in bed on the morning of Tuesday 3rd September.
And you hear Arsene Wenger speak.
You hear a man who you used to love and admire greatly and with a deep respect bordering on reverence, and you hear him talk about our injuries and reality of our paper-thin squad, and the fact that having Diaby back will be like having a new signing; that Sanogo has the potential to be a great player; that he is hoping Podolski will be back quicker than the ten weeks he suggested after his unfortunate injury; that he is concerned that Jack Wilshere will be playing two 90 minute games for England in the space of five days; that Aaron Ramsey is playing well but doesn’t want him playing in a meaningless qualifier in Macedonia (unless you’re a Wales fan who is concerned with the UEFA international co-efficient).
You then hear him proudly announce that we now have Bendnter for the season, that we have Flamini – who to be fair is a good signing, if only we had another five or six quality players in the bag to complement him, not simply as the second free of the close season – and although you are glad that Chamakh has gone you can’t help wonder why he scored such a good goal for Palace at Stoke when he couldn’t do that for us.
You also hear the Frenchman bemoan the fact that Daniel Levy, by leaving the Bale transfer to the last minute has effectively scuppered any chance we had of buying di Maria, Ozil or Benzema, or if we did buy them, then the fact that we had to pay a massively inflated fee because it was such a last minute deal – despite the fact that the window was open from June 1.
You listen and you feel genuinely fearful.
Not just for the immediate future, after all the next window is only four months away. No, you feel apprehensive about the fact that our club - who we love without question, with passion and with a care that we don’t even extend our friends or family at times – is drifting towards ignominy, towards disrepute, towards a shameful outcome that betrays our successful past, but more than anything you fear for the future prospects of our team – simply because we do not appear to be able to buy football players to strengthen our squad.
If it had been a question of buying bad players, ala Harry Redknapp, or Mark Hughes at QPR, then you could understand it far better. It’s then simply a case of being a poor judge of a player (Bosingwa and 20 others), or not being able to get the best out of them (Bosingwa and 20 others again), or simply paying too much for an average player (er, Bosingwa and 20 others). But to simply not be able to sign players speaks of a far deeper malaise than merely being an incompetent manager like ‘arry and Hughes.
You then look at our squad and realise that although Kieran Gibbs is an athlete with a good technique – who although still needs to learn top class positional play – he is a player you would have happily join the pantheon of great Arsenal left backs from Bob McNab, to Kenny Sansom and Nigel Winterburn - were it not for the fact that he appears to be made of balsa wood. Of course we have Monreal but who wouldn’t have thought that Leighton Baines wouldn’t have made a great signing and addition to the team and squad?
Or the fact that as our captain Vermaelen appears to be permanently injured and/or constantly out of form and hence signing someone like an Ashley Williams would have bolstered the defence, not to mention the fact that if Kos or the BFG is injured or suspended, with Ignasi Miguel on loan to Leicester –then another body would have left us less than us wafer thin at the back.
You then look at our midfield and wonder how Jack can get through a whole season uninjured, ditto our Welshman who is running into form. You consider the fact that Arteta is out for 8 weeks. The fact that the Ox is out till Xmas at the earliest. You speculate how long Diaby will be out for. And it makes you weep with frustration at the fact that with £70 million in the bank, our stasis in the market - or is it incompetence - now amounts to a dereliction of duty.
You observe our forward line, and look at our rivals and wonder how they identify a target, agree personal details and a price and then buy him - and simply wonder why we can’t do that. It can’t be that difficult. We are not saying that we have to buy from our rivals, there are clubs out there that need to sell or will relinquish their men if a decent bid is made. It’s not that difficult is it? Is it. Is it?
So on September 3 you wake up and realise we have bought five players for a decent amount of money, but can’t quite work out how they will fit into to side, and you wonder if there really is no coherent strategy to our transfer dealings. You remember the 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford and recall Arteta, Santos, Mertesacker, Park and Yossi being signed on the deadline and thought such chaos couldn’t happen again. Before realising it has. Or hasn’t - which I’m not even sure is worse anymore.
Either way you feel bloody fearful for the season, and despair at our inability to sign players that could turn a decent starting 11 (if fit) into genuine title challengers.
And you wonder just what the hell is going on.
Follow Layth on twitter @laythy29