For some reason – presumably one to do with marketing – ‘Victoria Concordia Crescit’ was dispensed with some years ago as an unnecessary addition to the club crest design. This year the legend on the crest says ‘Forward’, a motto that is both gesture to the past and a reassertion of the club’s commitment to the future of Arsenal Football Club.
In times of difficulty, however, looking too far forward is neither constructive nor appropriate. Sometimes the problems faced by a club in difficulty will not be resolved by measures that will not bring benefits for two, three or five years in the future. Likewise, in times of difficulty, togetherness is critically important in acknowledging shared responsibility for errors of judgment.
Both of these lessons were brought home with brutal clarity in August. It was a month which brought Gooners on more roller-coaster rides than an Alton Towers season ticket. I’m not going to offer a blow-by-blow account of events – we all know what happened. But I’m certainly not the first to suggest that the result at Old Trafford last Sunday was probably a good thing, in the Grand Scheme Of Things. I expected to lose the game, but how could any of us predict that we would capitulate in such a dismal fashion?
Perhaps it is too early to interpret these events with sufficient accuracy, but it doesn’t seem outlandish to suggest that that game finally offered the manager and the board the clearest indication possible that the transfer/self-sufficiency model as it was being applied was in fact failing. In fact, you could not have made the point any more clear had you written ‘FAILED’ on the business end of a sledgehammer and smacked each of the board members in the forehead with it.
In fairness, the response was almost immediate. Again, I’m not going to outline the transfer mayhem that ensued until the deadline passed yesterday – there’s no need. Almost all of the keys weaknesses in the squad were addressed by the acquisition of five players in two days. Crucially, two of these players have proven Premier League experience, and one of them has played in two World Cups and one European Championship although he’s only 26. In a perfect world, I would have liked another centre-half and a defensive midfielder, but I’ll admit to being greedy. Once Park, Santos and Mertesacker were confirmed I was fairly well convinced we would not be signing anyone else, so Benayoun and Arteta feel a bit like those free gifts you used to get when a new comic came out (anyone remember the ‘Hookjaw’ iron-on?).
However, let’s not be caught resting on our laurels – or I should say Oakleaves and Laurels. The acceptance of collective responsibility must be ongoing and must be channelled into addressing key problems both off and on the field:
1) There should be a review of the current transfer/recruitment policy, to ensure that we are not again forced to take drastic remedial action to address imbalances in the squad that have existed for some time.
2) There should also be a review of the procedures regarding transfer processes and negotiation. As Arseblog pointed out, there are reasons to suggest that Mr. Law may not be the person best suited to this role. Having said that, I am not one of those who thinks David Dein should be brought back to the club – this seems to me to be an entirely unrealistic proposal, as long as the current board remain in place, or until Stan decides he couldn’t be bothered and sells up to Jabba the Uzbek.
3) Tactics. We need to adjust the way we play. For example: getting in an experienced international centre-half is just the sort of acquisition we needed; but unless we adjust and reorganise defensively, it may not make a whole heap of difference. Such change may necessitate a reappraisal of coaching roles and responsibilities. In other words, get Bouldy in to help coach the first team now!
I am reassured by the influx of new players, and by the departure of others. But let’s not kid ourselves – unless there is a serious amount of restructuring and reorganising we are not going to redress the problems that have got us into this mess in the first place. For once, I find myself welcoming the international break…