Dontcha just hate those last minute panic buys ?
Now I don’t want to seem parochial, but it’s impossible to separate the closing moments of the transfer window from the North London Derby that took place barely 24 hours earlier.
Before the game against the Shadow People, the cacophony of premature triumphalism from N17 was deafening.
The Spuds’ fans were eager to tell us how they had spent more than £100m on new players while our outlay made Scrooge look profligate. Inevitably (according to their logic) we would be drowned by a tsunami of banknotes when they pitched up at The Emirates.
But character is never eclipsed by cash, nor class outshone by gaudy trinkets: Arsenal 1, Totteringham 0.
Imagine being a Spud this morning.
It’s like you’ve spent the past week going round to your next door neighbour, giving it large:
Spud: “I’ve got a new bicycle. Let’s have a race.”
You: “No thanks.”
Spud, the next day: “I’ve got a new bicycle and now I’ve got a new horse. Let’s have a race.”
You: “No thanks.”
Spud, the next day: “I’ve got a new bicycle and a new horse and a new moped. Let’s have a race.”
You: “No thanks.”
Spud, the next day: “I’ve got a new bicycle and a new horse and a new moped and a new Ford Fiesta. Let’s have a race.”
You: “No thanks.”
Spud, the next day: “Er… hello.”
You: “I’ve got a Ferrari. Let’s do it.”
Answer me this: would you swap the £109m of New Potatoes that have arrived in N17 this summer for Mesut Ozil?
Ozil is a world class player of a calibre that has not been signed by Arsenal since the arrival of a certain Dutch deity back in 1995 (yes, nearly 20 years ago).
Other Arsenal players have turned into superstars after joining us (Henry, Vieira, Fabregas, Brave Sir Robin) but Ozil is the first player to join as a bona fide genius since Dennis walked across the Caledonian Canal and into the Marble Halls, pausing only to distribute loaves and fishes to the masses.
So now we know the squad we have for the season ahead (notwithstanding the potential for reinforcements in January).
I would not say I’m 100% happy with it. I would have preferred an extra centre back and another centre forward to provide cover for Ollie G. But on balance I feel we’re in a good place.
Here are our main options:
Goalkeeper: Szczesny, Viviano, Fabianski.
Fullback: Sagna, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Monreal (Flamini).
Centre Back: Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen (Sagna).
Midfield: Wilshere, Rosicky, Arteta, Ramsey, Cazorla, Flamini.
Attack: Giroud, Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Walcott, (Sanogo/Bendtner).
Good enough to win the league?
It doesn’t mean we WILL win the league: there are far too many variables for that to be said with any confidence. But I feel convinced that in this campaign, when it comes to the business end of things, we will be in the mix for top three, not for fourth/fifth.
Despite the angst of most Gunners, I would have been feeling modestly confident even if we had signed no-one yesterday.
Even before Ozil’s arrival our first 11 was becoming a match for anyone. The players are on an amazing run (only one defeat since March 3rd) and their belief is starting to become self-reinforcing: they work for one another and they trust one another. They have started to refuse the notion of being defeated. I’m sure our young British core (all re-upped in their contracts during last season) are central to this resurgence, supported by the experience and character of players like Arteta and Mertesacker (and now Flamini).
Of course, we can’t win the league if other teams are better than us. So how have our rivals fared in their summer transfer dealings and how are they shaping up for the challenge ahead?
Let’s consider them all, even the not-really-rivals like the Spuds and Liverpool.
Totteringham: they have lost their best player and replaced him with lots of half-decent players who will take a considerable time to adjust to the EPL and to playing alongside each other. I expect them to come good after Christmas, but by that time they will have dropped too many points to be anything other than outsiders for the Champions League positions. They are still crying out for a top creative central attacking midfielder or number 10.
Liverpuddle: whoop-de-doop! They have won their first three games of the season! This could be their year, right? Wrong. Their manager is a plank and their frailties will become apparent soon enough. Any team that thinks Kolo is the answer has clearly not been listening to the question.
ManUre: this could be a great year for the ManUre-haters (hello Chary). Their inept performance in the transfer window shows that the club has lost any remaining pull since the departure of the aubergine-hootered Jock. To be honest, United’s stock was already on the slide in Europe before Ferguson’s exit because, despite their domestic successes, it was obvious to everyone that they were no longer capable of competing with the top teams from Spain, Germany and Italy. There is nothing about Gollum that suggests he is any way suited to halting the slide. Fellaini is an OK signing – but he’s not what they need (indeed, as I said recently, he’s not as good as Ramsey). They needed Fabregas and he told them to eff off. They needed Ozil but he took a good look at the individuals alongside whom he would be playing and chose Arsenal instead. I expect United to fall out of the top four this year.
Chavski: the Special Needs One is back and it would be a brave gambler who would bet against Chelsea having a decent season. They will definitely be in contention and will be one of our biggest rivals, even with Will-I-Am playing attacking midfield.
ManCiteh: they have a well respected coach, an embarrassment of riches on the playing side and gazillions of money. I happen to think that they will be neck and neck with Manchester United for the “who can fall out of the top four fastest” contest. As Arsenal showed against the Reprobates – money can’t buy you team spirit.
Conclusion: “It’s up for grabs now.”
And this is where the Mesut Ozil signing comes in: it’s not just about making a brilliant addition to our squad. It’s about providing a huge lift to those amazing Arsenal players who have been doing so well week in and week out for 15 matches.
Arsene Wenger has said to those players: “I trust you – but to enable you to reach the highest heights I am adding a true superstar. I want to match the ambitions you have for yourselves and for our club.” Ozil will make the likes of Wilshere, Ramsey and Walcott even better.
I am glad there is no Cabaye. My faith is in Ramsey, Wilshere, Arteta, Flamini et al.
I am sort-of glad there is no Benzema, whose presence (and no doubt insistence on playing time in a World Cup year) would relegate the ever-improving Giroud to the bench.
Meanwhile, Ozil’s signing also makes a statement to our rivals: no defender will feel comfortable when they see him lining up against them in the EPL. After all, who wants to be next in the Nutmeg Hall of Shame that makes up any Ozil YouTube compilation?
So, has Arsene played the transfer window in a masterful way?
I doubt it. With the thin-ness of our squad and the swathe of early season injuries it doesn’t take too much of a leap of the imagination to think we could have failed to qualify for the Champions League (in which case, no Ozil) and might have struggled against Fulham and the Spuds.
Next season I would be much happier if the major business was done before the start of the season, not before the end of the window.
But somehow our professorial leader has ended up the winner in this summer of frenzied speculation and occasional action.
His late, emphatic move for Ozil makes Villas Boas look like a spendthrift hoarder of cheap tat and makes Moyes look like a boy trying to sit at the men’s table while secretly weeing himself with fear.
I’m not a great one for “I told you so”, but after the general gloom that followed our opening day defeat to Aston Villa I wrote a Post urging people to keep things in perspective. All teams – even the greatest – occasionally lose games that they shouldn’t. I just felt people were reading too much into one defeat that was largely down to dodgy refereeing, and unnecessarily writing off our season before it had begun.
However, I did add: “I am also confident that good players will be brought in (if they are not, I will be singing a different tune).”
Since then, Flamini, Viviano and Ozil have arrived.
For me, the song remains the same.
The title is there to be won. Let’s do it.