Talking Reds by Kevin Whitcher
Iwrite shortly after Arsenal’s promising unbeaten run in the Premier League came to an end at Eastlands. The defeat was no great surprise, and the team played creditably. With the current make-up of the side, there are grounds for optimism that the loss will prove a mere blip and that they are soon back to winning ways, which has not always proven easy in recent campaigns.
There is a different feeling about Arsenal now, after experienced signings were made and the approach to defensive coaching changed as a result of that game at Old Trafford back in August. The team now seems to have something of a spine, with big or experienced and confident players from the keeper through to the forward. And there is a sense of frustration at what could have been achieved had the manager’s youth project not been given so long to bear fruit.
As it is, the main fruit it has borne is financial, and the club have done so well on that front that they enter the January transfer window with around £50
The self-sustainability that Ivan Gazidis bangs on about is ultimately more important than taking even a slight gamble for glory million to play with. What happens over the course of the month is anyone’s guess. There is a lot of talk of Lukas Podolski coming from the Bundesliga, and there is no doubt that the club can afford him and are over-reliant on the continued fitness of Robin van Persie. It seems to me a signing that would make perfect sense, so fingers crossed it happens.
I was able to have a few words with Ivan Gazidis at the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust/AISA Christmas drinks at the stadium a few days before Arsenal drew Milan in the Champions League first knockout round. It was ironic because one of the subjects I raised with him was that I felt the club now undervalued the potential contribution of players over 30, and offered Milan as an example of how they could help a club win trophies. The CEO dismissed the Italian outfit as a model of inefficiency, propped up by Silvio Berlusconi’s money. This in spite of their winning the Italian title last May and appearing in three Champions League finals in five years not so long ago, utilising players that Arsène Wenger would regard as past their peak and no longer worth retaining for the wages they would demand. Ominously, in spite of remaining confident Robin van Persie would sign up for a further period at the club, he did state that, were he to renew, his value to Arsenal – in terms of his playing contribution – would be a lot less than it is now by the end of a new deal, when he was, say, 32 years old.
That may be the case, but the solution is to bring in younger talent to learn alongside the master and see the baton handed over, not just cash in on an asset that is at its optimum value. The other thing that makes me wonder if the captain intends to stay is that as soon as he signs a new deal, his wages rocket immediately, so why not sign up now if he intends to in the summer? Maybe part of the deal would be to make a lump sum payment to compensate for this, should he stick around. Gazidis was partly optimistic because of the way our number 10 is taking the captaincy seriously, and talked about the different feeling at the club now in terms of the squad pulling together, mentioning the contributions of Arteta, Mertesacker and Vermaelen in this regard. And I do concur, most fans can see that commitment and workrate seem to have improved generally, with a couple of obvious exceptions.
Discussing the relatively egalitarian wage structure, in comparison to that of Manchester United for example,