Tuesday 23 August 2011

When you walk through a storm...

Words: 480. Estimated reading time: 1 minute 45 seconds.
The lyrics of anthem adopted by our conquerors on Saturday have never been more appropriate for Arsenal than now – but Wenger must feel he’s walking alone at the minute.

With the rain pouring and Liverpool scoring, the manager looked a bewildered man. I felt more sympathetic towards his plight than I have done for a while considering the run of injuries and red cards (which ultimately he is responsible for but he can’t control players being stupid) he has had to contend with. But, even so, the mess we find ourselves in was avoidable and Wenger has played a major part in creating it.

A friend in need
I’ll give fuller thoughts on our transfer dealings come the closure of the summer window but, for the time being, let it be said things have not gone to plan. The real reasons for that are probably only known by Wenger, Gazidis, Kroenke and perhaps one or two other board members but it doesn’t stop people speculating. This article, for example, now denied by the club, cites an unnamed source in offering a new theory about our transfer impotence – that Wenger is arguing in favour of loosening the purse strings and that it is the board who are vetoing it.

It is one of many stories circulating on the web this summer which have claimed to provide insight into the inner-workings of Arsenal. Some have been downright wrong, some may have been deliberate attempts to cause problems (we should remember that certain people remain keen on gaining a place on the board) and others based on misplaced trust or perhaps just wishful thinking.

But despite their questionable validity, without concrete evidence to contradict them, what they all add up to is a growing sense of confusion about the direction of the club and a lack of harmony over transfer policy. And it leaves Wenger looking isolated for the first time since he joined the club. He’s running out of friends and advocates who agree with his claims about wanting to sign ‘super quality’ players and his refusal to change his ways.

The Italian job
For that reason tomorrow’s game at Udinese becomes even more important. Not only will it decide the budget for improvements we can make before the end of August, it will offer a chance for Wenger to prove his methods work. It provides the juncture for the team to finally change direction after the League Cup Final failure and the spectacularly awful end of last season.

Not qualifying would increase the pressure on Wenger to such a level that, like a Government minister fighting for his job in the face of scandal, the speculation about his future becomes the problem in itself. At that point, particularly as attracting players would become so much harder without the prospect of elite European football, it could become impossible to arrest the slide. On so many levels, it is win or bust.

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