Love the one you’re with
Emmanuel Adebayor is not going to date Beyonce Knowles. I only bring this up because he recently claimed that being pursued by AC Milan was like hearing that Beyonce is interested in you. After his performance on the massive Champions League semi-final stage, I don’t think he’ll have to worry about interest from either party.
What makes this story nauseating is the recent gag-reflect-inspiring statement from Adebayor regarding his love for Arsenal. Now he claims that this club has given him so much and made him one of the world’s great strikers and he owes the club a debt of loyalty. Well, aside from the part about being one of the world’s greatest strikers, he’s probably right. But most Arsenal supporters would settle for Ade simply showing a decent work rate on a regular basis. Loyalty is only an important quality in players we want to keep. There’s no doubt in my mind that Ade’s amazing feat of back peddling is a small acknowledgment that his options this summer might be limited. If AC Milan was once a probable destination for him, now he could find himself shipping off to the Ukraine. Arsenal doesn’t seem like such a bad place to play your football when you’ve suddenly returned to anonymity.
Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, but I just don’t see how we can improve with Adebayor leading the attack. The one thing I admire about Manchester United besides their trophies is their effort. I’ve rarely watch a United match and thought that their committment was lacking. Maybe that’s down to the manager, but it’s mostly down to the players. Wayne Rooney is a nutcase, but he’s one hard working nutcase. And I would take Carlos Tevez in about one-tenth of a second if I thought he was available. These players give everything to the cause and that’s what you should expect from a top-class player. That’s what you get from men like Gerrard and Terry and Essien and even the silly looking Dirk Kuyt. It pains me to praise the players, but it pains me more that I can’t think of too many players on our team with similar qualities.
If we missed anything by losing Flamini in the summer, it was his consistently dogged effort. Too often this season we have all lamented the lack of focus or commitment by players like Diaby, Eboue, Adebayor, Gallas, and others. We might lack some quality in our side, but we certainly lack some character. Arsene Wenger has convinced himself that you can have “eleven captains” on the pitch, but that’s utter nonsense. In ever social circle or professional environment, there is a hierarchy. People know who to look-up to and who to respect. It’s the same in sports. Within the dressing room, certain players command respect from their peers. It’s those players that are able to compel their fellow teammates to play with the proper attitude. As much as I love Cesc, I’m not sure he’s that player at the moment. Some of this problem is down to youth, but regardless of the reason, it’s a problem that must be addressed.
We have a lot of players that “someday” will be the best in the world. That’s what we’ve been promised. But when does “someday” become today? It needs to happen soon. As it stands we are no different than teams like Villareal and AS Roma. Perennial also-rans in the league that make a little splash in Europe from time-to-time without really challenging the status quo. It’s hard to even right that because the truth hurts. What we need to decide is whether that’s really all that Arsenal can be considering the current economic caste system in European football. I hate to say this, but it really might be the best we can expect. In some ways we have to thank our lucky stars for Arsene Wenger. Name another manager that could have had the same success with a starting lineup that often read: Bendtner, RVP, Nasri, Song, Denilson, Eboue, Clichy, Toure, Gallas, Sagna, and Almunia. Frankly, it’s no wonder we looked doomed for fifth place. You could say that teams like Sp*rs, Villa and even Everton have eleven players that might be better top-to-bottom. Kudos to Wenger for getting us this far.
So now the question is whether the lack of quality in the squad is something Arsene overcame, or something he created. It’s a chicken-or-egg debate. Did Arsene’s lack of summer spending put us in this situation, or did our lack of funds require Arsene to spend parsimoniously. Let’s face it, Arshavin probably wouldn’t have been on the menu if Arsenal were in 2nd place in January and not suffering injuries. If he was really destined for Arsenal all along then he would’ve come in the summer. Someone wasn’t willing to spend the money in the summer. The question is: who? If it was Wenger, then he needs to rethink his team.
Here’s the real problem for Arsene right now: he might not be able to be objective. When you sign older players you don’t necessarily develop any true connection with them. When you build a team with young players you scouted, and when you help that team develop against all odds, and when you protect that team in the face of criticism, how do you turn around and evaluate them honestly. There’s bound to be some paternal instinct developing in Arsene Wenger for his young recruits. Unfortunately, it might be to the detriment of the club.
I will be a heart-sick man the day Arsene Wenger leaves Arsenal. I love what he’s done for the club and I love the way he’s done it. I believe his time at Arsenal has not even come close to running its course. But Arsene Wenger faces the very real challenge this summer of cutting the umbilical cord with his young team and putting the fate of the club first. Players like Nasri and Theo and Cesc and Arshavin clearly have the talent to be the best. Vela and Eduardo and Bendtner may ultimately have the same abilities. But Wenger must accept that we will never be champions of Europe with players like Denilson, Diaby or Song playing major roles in our midfield. We will never ascend to the top with the lassez-faire attitude of players like Adebayor. And we will never win the biggest titles with the kind of shambolic defending that has dominated our season. There’s a lot of work to be done with the personnel and the attitude and Arsene Wenger must approach that task honestly.
Recently Arsene was candid in acknowledging that despite our good run of form, we haven’t produced the quality in the big games, against the big teams. He said that it’s something he has to consider. Perhaps this is a nod to the fans that changes are coming. Perhaps it’s nothing more than disappointment talking. Either way, Arsene is correct. We rediscovered what it takes to beat the also-rans of the league, but don’t seem to have the quality to challenge for titles.
It’s going to be a long summer without Arsenal in our lives. Hopefully the transfer activity will bring hope for a brighter season in 2009-2010. On Sunday we play the only team in England more deflated than us; Chelsea. It will be a battle of two teams with broken hearts. I hope that we play with passion and show our quality, but I’m not sure that my heart will be in it. Third place would be a massive boost to our European ambitions next season, but it’s probably not going to happen regardless of the outcome on Sunday. We still have United on our plate and Chelsea have a bit of a cushion. It’s going to be very very difficult to even take the field at Old Trafford for that match. Frankly, I fear for our team in that game, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if we see a very young team start that day.
Andrei Arshavin was once again named Arsenal player of the month. It’s telling that in a month when we played three crucial European matches, our player of the month wasn’t eligible for those games. It’s also telling that he’s been our best player this season and we’ve had him since January. And he’s 27. In his prime. Something that most current Arsenal players won’t experience for quite some time.
Sorry if this is all sounding a bit depressing. Hopefully I’ll find some gusto before Sunday and we can get back to uplifting Arsenal blogging.