(this post was written by @thesquidboylike. He’s a fantastic follow on twitter and regular contributor to Arsenalvision.com!)
Before I begin, I must admit to feeling like Carlos Tevez when he was owned by two parties. Why, you ask? Because this post is appearing on both Arsenal Vision and Yankee Gunner’s blog.
I feel I must introduce myself to frequent readers of Yankee’s blog. Hi my name is Squid Boy and like the rest of you, I’m addicted to Arsenal. I blog semi-regular on Arsenal Vision, alongside the head honcho Mean Lean, the always humorous Wenger Boy, the realistic Iron Man, and the passionate Omomo. Head on over to http://www.arsenalvision.co.uk when you can, it’s good stuff.
I am temporarily filling in for Mr Yankee himself for a few days as he embarks on a secret scouting mission with Danny Karbassiyoon to unearth the next Freddy Adu. What? It was meant to remain a secret?! Oh.
So the first part of this three-part bonanza I’ll pick up where I left off from my last Arsenal Vision blog – on the verge of the deadline day rollercoaster.
As I sit down to type this, it is 11pm UK time on Thursday, exactly 24 hours after the transfer window slammed shut. I’m still feeling a bit groggy from it all. Like many of you I was sat in front of my computer screen all day, refreshing various news sites and my Twitter feed like a reprobate, with Sky Sports News playing in the background and my ears pricking up every time our name was mentioned. By the end of it all I became no more than your standard Neanderthal, my finger rhythmically hitting the F5 button and dribble running down my chin as we waited with bated breath for Arsenal.com to confirm the Mikel Arteta deal and release us from the pleasure and pain that was deadline day.
And then like manna from heaven, it arrived.
I remarked in my last blog that we were 2-0 down in the transfer market for the majority of the summer. Then came the signings of Park Chu Young, Andre Santos and Per Mertesacker; the equivalent of a consolation and an equaliser. All we needed was to secure the signature of a Cesc “replacement” on the final day to turn the result around. And although Arteta wasn’t quite the big name we had hoped for at the beginning of the day, he was certainly better than nothing. In time I believe he may even turn out to be the best solution. The Spaniard was up for grabs, and Arsene’s twenty-man transfer army charged through the minefield to get him (and the rather unfancied Yossi Benayoun). The final whistle blew and it ended 3-2 to The Arsenal…just. And after a day of high drama too.
D-Day began with none of the excitement of the previous day where we virtually sealed deals for Santos and Mertesacker completely out of the blue. In terms of paperwork etc, I’m sure the Club wanted to get these rubber-stamped before the search for a midfielder or two began in earnest. And so Santos and Mertesacker were announced at 3pm and 4pm respectively, leaving a good seven hours for us to sweat on the final piece of the puzzle.
Having been linked with all and sundry from the French league, these names seemed to dissipate and it came down to two players closer to home – Messrs Benayoun and Arteta. Benayoun’s name had been bandied around the previous evening but it sounded very much a last resort, with a plethora of sexy young things such as Yann M’Vila, Marvin Martin, Eden Hazard and Mario Goetze ahead of him in the pecking order.
And then Arteta appeared on our radar, with reports first stating that we had an offer rejected for him by the notoriously difficult to deal with Everton, and later that we hadn’t matched his wage demands. Either way, it seemed to be a question of money as it tends to be with Arsenal.
Now in the past I have defended our prudence, but with many millions burning a hole in our pocket, I was flummoxed as to why we wouldn’t get the deal done. There are times when you haggle to drive down the price as much as possible, and there are times when you bite the bullet and say: “you know what, we’ve had a shocking summer in the midfield department, it might be time to fork out the extra few million to give ourselves the best hope of success instead of risking our fortunes on a callow youth”. This scenario definitely called for the latter. Why could we not just defer the extra 20k per week that was on the table for Samir Nasri to Arteta?
Then Benayoun’s name re-surfaced as a very viable option, and the edge of the cliff awaited virtually the entire Goonerverse. In isolation, Benayoun is a decent player who had a good spell at Liverpool and was unlucky that injury reduced his playing time for Chelsea. We owe him one too, for helping us qualify for the Champions League way back in 2006 as he scored the winner against a decidedly brown-shorted Spurs outfit. But having sold two of our most creative players and seeing only Benayoun come in would have been galling to say the least. If there were two words I could use to describe the reaction to Benayoun possibly being our only midfield recruit on D-Day, they would be “meh” and “underwhelmed”.
But alas, the Arteta deal still had life in it as the player seemingly had second thoughts and REDUCED his wage demands in an effort to join us and play Champions League football. That sentence alone crystallises the massive important of beating Udinese last week. David Moyes has a habit of driving a hard bargain when selling players (see Joleon Lescott), but this time there was no need to bump up our offer to the player’s supposed £15 million valuation. Everton accepted they could not fulfil Arteta’s Champions League needs, accepted our £10 million gambit and the path was clear to agree personal terms with time ticking away.
Just before the 11pm deadline, Benayoun was announced. Never had the reaction to a signing of one player depended so much on the potential signing of another. Thankfully for Yossi, Arteta’s arrival was confirmed just after the 11pm deadline. So instead of Benayoun being welcomed with sympathetic applause and a shrug of the shoulders, he is now greeted with happiness in the knowledge that he is a very good supplement to the man who emerged as our main target. And had we missed out on said main target following the summer we’ve had to endure, then I honestly feared for the sanity of many fans and the atmosphere at the Emirates for the Swansea game in just over a week.
So this is where we stand after two whirlwind days. Mertesacker to ensure Squillaci never dons the red’n’white again and to allow Djourou to recover his confidence. A positive. Santos to make sure that we don’t have to field a right-footed left-back in the, sadly, inevitable event of a Gibbs injury. A positive. Arteta to bring swashbuckling Spanish good looks and domestic experience to our midfield which means that Ramsey doesn’t need to play every game. A positive. Benayoun to offer versatility and creativity across central and wide midfield positions. A positive. And Park to fill in across the frontline a la the outgoing Nicklas Bendtner. A positive. And that’s forgetting the earlier signings of Gervinho, Carl Jenkinson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. All positives in their own way.
We know it was a bad summer for the Club in the transfer market. In hindsight we know that we should have either sold Cesc and Nasri earlier or at least had their replacements firmly lined up. However, our precarious standing in the Champions League probably dictated that this wasn’t wholly possible, both fiscally and in terms of attracting players.
But I’m tired of looking back and wringing my hands over what happened in the summer. We have all done just that for the past month or so.
Instead I’d like to applaud Arsene and the Board/transfer army for somewhat salvaging our summer.
Firstly Arsene for disbanding the myth that he is stubborn to the point where he would only put faith in ‘his’ youngsters. People – mostly the media – see this as failure, that Project Youth has finally been acknowledged as a pipe dream and that Arsene’s ideals are shot to pieces. I disagree vehemently, for Arsene’s greatest achievement would be to adjust accordingly to the situation and rescue us from the horrible start to the season we’ve had domestically. And in bagging five massively experienced players over the last few days, he has given himself the very best chance.
And also the much maligned Board and transfer army, led by Ivan Gazidis and Richard Law. Gazidis came to us with all the attributes required for a CEO except the experience in dealing with transfers that his predecessor David Dein was so expert at. That is a role that Law has now been entrusted with. Whether or not our perceived inability to seal certain deals is due to Gazidis’ or Law’s relative incompetence compared to Dein, we probably won’t know. But you certainly can’t fault their efforts and results as the window drew to a close. Arsene identified his targets, and these guys went out and secured them. In turn, we have made the very best of what could otherwise have been an apocalyptic summer.
So take a bow, Arsene et al. You have restored the feel-good factor around the Club. The fans finally believe again – even those who had dwindling faith must applaud our actions of the past few days.
The most accurate barometer of the feel-good factor? The fact that we simply can’t wait for the next game.
Squid Boy – http://twitter.com/#!/TheSquidBoyLike