There have been two important Arsenal-related statements this week – one from a club legend and one from a legend-in-the-making.
The interesting thing is that the two statements are diametrically opposed to each other.
The established legend – Tony Adams – says Arsenal are “miles off” winning the Premiership title.
The legend-to-be – Santi Cazorla – says the opposite. He reckons we can definitely be among the trophies next year and that our form during last season’s run-in has given the players the confidence they need to push on to glory.
So who is right? Little or Large? Rodders or Adam Sandler?
Both deserve to be listened to. Big Tone because he embodies the spirit of modern Arsenal and he knows what it takes to win the English league title; and little Santi because he knows the strengths and weaknesses of the players around him and, quite possibly, also has an inkling about our summer transfer intentions.
Tony’s exact quote was: “It’s time that Arsenal won something again, even the FA Cup or the League Cup. But, I can’t see it to be honest. They are still not good enough in certain areas of the team. And they are miles off the title.”
We can speculate about what he means by us being not good enough in certain areas. I would imagine he’s referring to not having a world class striker and, possibly, he feels there is still something lacking in our defensive play despite the successful run-in. Maybe a better goalkeeper is also part of his thinking.
Most fans would probably agree with those sentiments. It’s why we’re all anxiously scanning the news every day for the much-anticipated transfer coups which, we hope, will fix those weaknesses.
In fairness to Tony, there was no follow-up question (or at least none reported) asking him whether he thought we could compete if we made two or three good signings.
But his use of the phrase “miles off” suggests that he thinks our shortcomings are not going to be solved by the arrival of some new faces this summer. Interestingly though, he also maintained his backing of Arsene Wenger as the man to lead Arsenal to future glory.
Santi Cazorla, as you might expect from a current player, was more upbeat. He said: “When the team does not win and we do not get the results we want, the collective confidence does drop a little and that is natural.
“Now we have put in a spectacular run-in and you can see the difference in mentality. We have great players. I am sure we will be a better team and improve. This season we hope we can be even better and win trophies and the supporters can enjoy it. That is what Arsenal really wants.”
Cazorla had an outstanding first year in the English Premier League and was many fans’ choice for Player of the Season.
He has seen at first hand what we’re up against in our challenge to win the title next year. He has played against the financially-doped, overpaid stars of the Northern and Southern Oilers and against the referees’ favourite team from the red half of Manchester. He has tasted victory and defeat against our pox-ridden neighbours.
He has also seen what his team mates are capable of: the ability to grind out wins in difficult circumstances and the willingness to work for one another that was so evident in the last 10 or so games of the past season.
So whose word do we believe? Tony Adams’ or Santi Cazorla’s?
For me it has to be Santi – and not just because I am of a generally optimistic outlook regarding where Arsenal is heading.
He has been part of Spain’s all-conquering national side so – like Adams – he also knows a thing or two about winning and if he believes we can do it I am inclined to go along with him.
Tony, on the other hand, has a track record of making odd statements and, occasionally, some pretty negative comments about Arsenal.
For example, as recently as mid April he was slagging off the club’s transfer policy and confidently pronouncing that we would not make Top Four by the end of the season.
I have no doubt that he was speaking from the heart and from a desire to see Arsenal at the top again, but he was wrong about the Top Four (it may have been a squeaky-bum finish, but we did it) and his comments about our transfer policy are reflective of the ill-informed views of many fans (ie, they did not take into account the financial background of the last seven years).
It wasn’t the only occasion in recent seasons on which Tony talked down our end-of-season prospects while we are still in the thick of the fight. In fact he pops up with this sort of negativity as often as your common or garden Redknapp. And like Twitchy, he always turns out to be wrong.
If we make the sort of ambitious signings that we’re all hoping for it would be nice to hear some upbeat words from the big man before the new season begins.
If Tony thinks he should have been made Chairman of the Board at Arsenal after the news of Peter Hill-Wood stepping down, he might well reflect on what one of the principle roles of a chairman is: namely, to be the public flag-bearer of the club; to always talk it up and to keep his more pessimistic thoughts to himself.
Mind you, even if Chairman is a stretch, I think it would be a public relations masterstroke for Arsenal to invite Tony onto the Board as a non-executive director.