Introducing Notes from a Gooner

On August 28th, 2011 Arsenal were left for dead. An 8-2 beat down by Ferguson’s henchmen confirmed what Arsenal supporters had suspected, but loathed to admit. Arsene Wenger did not adequately address the departures of Cesc Fabregas, Gaël Clichy and Samir Nasri during the summer transfer window. The additions of Yossi Benayoun, Mikel Arteta and others weren’t sufficient for a team expected to challenge for a spot in the Champions League at the very least.

I watched that game at a lounge in Incheon International Airport surrounded by United fans. Along with the belly laughs and songs (which were sang in unison by people from Brazil, England and South Korea, it was quite impressive) came eulogies for Wenger’s reign in North London.

The patrons at that bar weren’t alone. In October, Wenger himself admitted ‘half the team wanted to leave’ during the summer exodus. Money constraints at the club led the manager to go public with his concerns regarding the exit of more players.Some of the more dim amongst the fan base called for Wenger’s exit, believing his arrogance in refusing to acquiesce to Nasri’s wage demands sent a negative message to current and prospective players.

More importantly, did he want to stay? The angular man from Strasbourg looked worn out.

As we enter May the outlook is considerably different. A push in February galvanized by the return of favorite son Thierry Henry and continued excellence from Robin Van Persie saw the Gunners rise to third. The contributions of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Laurent Koscielny and Alex Song (who is still only 24) have been hallmarks of an exciting second half.

While he’ll still make decisions that leave you scratching your head, Thomas Vermalean has been the backbone of a club that sorely lacked one eight months ago. Bacary Sagna’s return from a broken leg couldn’t have come at a better time. Sagna’s return corresponded with an uptick in the play of Theo Walcott, who was isolated on the flank much too often during the absence of the French Defender.

Mikel Arteta was immense in the deep midfield, as he helped fill the void created by Jack Wilshere’s injury and allowed Song to move forward and play a role better suited for the Cameroonian international. Tomas Rosicky displayed the quality that helped the Czech Republic qualify for the 2006 World Cup.

With the season coming to a close, difficult questions remain. Can a club with the history and success of Arsenal call a third place finish (which isn’t exactly a sure thing) a success? If you asked me that question in October I would say yes.

Will Robin Van Persie stay? The question has been hammered to death amongst Arsenal supporters. There are pictures of Robin in an Arsenal shirt when he was young –entirely possible he was a big Dennis Bergkamp fan as a youth, who wasn’t. There is also the relationship he has with Wenger. How much will that mean when another club throws the proverbial blank check at him – I don’t know.

AFC has the money required to pay Van Persie. According to Forbes, Arsenal is the fourth most valuable club in all of football, coming in at $1.29 billion. However, American billionaire Stan Kroenke, the holder of 66.7% of the clubs shares, refuses to ‘throw money against the wall‘- whatever that means, seriously.  Last year, Kroenke was locked in a power struggle with Uzbek Billionaire Roman Usmanov, owner of 29.25% of the club’s shares. Under British law Kroenke must make an offer for all the remaining shares he does not own, including Usmanov’s.

Kroenke’s spend thrift approach fits well with Wenger’s eye for relatively inexpensive talent, as evidenced by the signings of Arteta, Benayoun and Lukas Podolski, whose transfer was confirmed today. Will the German support RVP up front, or replace him?

And perhaps most important of all, how long does Wenger want to keep doing this? Rumors of his ascendance to the board have hung over the team since that disastrous day in Manchester. Could Pep Guardiola, a long time admirer of Wenger, take over at a club that’s been deemed ‘Barcelona lite’?

I do not pretend to write this objectively. This season has been a mix of peaks and valleys. My memories will include the good – the comeback against Spurs, the Van Persie hat trick against Chelsea and Thierry Henry’s winner against Leeds, to name a few – and the bad.

For my fellow Gooners and I, this summer will be defined by the contract negotiations with our Dutch talisman. I’m nervous already.

Comments (6)

  1. What a load of horse manure! I kid, of course. Great article.

    We end the season with as many questions as we started with. Wenger has consistently stated that he will see out his contract, which runs until June 14th, 2012. With Pep Guardiola likely taking a one year break from futbol management, I can’t see a scenario where Pep takes over at Arsenal. Add to that the fact Pat Rice will be retiring as Le Boss’ #2 this coming summer, and Steve Bould rumoured to be his replacement, it all points to the former defender taking over for Mr. Wenger in 2014.

    In regards to RVP’s contract status, no one knows how this will play out. Robin has stated that he will not negotiate until after the Euro’s, as he is likely waiting to see what the Gunners do in the early part of the transfer window. With one year remaning on his contract, I’m not worried.

  2. You read my mind, and I’m sure the minds of many, with regards to the Pep replacement. Although my Goonerism makes me slightly biased, I feel that he would be a more than adequate replacement for Wenger.

    As for Kroenke, I’ve never understood his, nor the boards refusal to allow Usmanov to spend some money on this team. We don’t require Man City-esque spending, but we’re too close to the top and too far away from it to not justify making a splash, or four.

  3. Nervous already too. Ughh I just want quality players, for RVP to stay, and to actually challenge for some trophies :/. As for Kroenke, can’t stand the guy. Seems like none of the Board members, besides Usmanov, are ambitious at all

  4. I think it has to be deemed a ‘success’ when you consider Nasri, Fabregas, & Wilshere have all departed this season and they should still manage to finish 3rd. I’m not sure how many other teams could cope with 3 of their best midfielders absent from the previous season. At least one of them will be coming back though.

  5. I don’t think Pep is coming. He’s a great manager, but I don’t think either side is thinking about such an appointment 1/10th as much as the media is.

    But after Podolski our next two most talked about targets are M’Villa and Vertonghen. We’ve never been a club to sign everybody we’re linked with or not at least get a player or two not even linked with us until pen meets paper. But if we were to sign those two players, those are three established players that could play for nearly any side in the world. They show intent to win now, even if they aren’t the 30m+ signing on the level of a Hazard, Goetze or other “superstar.”

    This is a good team, but when we don’t have adequate backup for two of our three premier performers (Song, RVP, with Mertesacker being adequate backup to Koscielny) this season, we’ve always been one injury away from a sixth place finish this season.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *