With Everton away being the first league fixture of the season I haven’t been able to either attend or watch on TV, I was forced to rely on my training as a CIA remote viewer to observe the match. While I appreciate some of you may have opted for a hooky stream, that’s just not for me. Calling them streams ought to be a breach of the trade descriptions act anyway (um, if it was a licensed trade), because the idea of a stream implies a pleasingly consistent flow. Soothing even. It does not imply missing a surprisingly early goal because an advert for Barclay’s* was plastered over the centre of the tiny juddery screen while a Swedish man babbled hurdy gurdy THEOOOOOO WALCOOOOOOOOT. Y’know, hypothetically speaking.
[*Who the hell is blowing Barclay’s media spend on dodgy sports sites anyway? You’d think the bank would be trying to keep its nose clean after this.]
Incidentally, I say ‘inevitably Fellaini’ because players that you have an unrequited transfer crush on will always punish you for the crime of not buying them. (Trust me, if we ever play Rennes – which seems fairly unlikely, but that only makes my prediction more certain – Yann M’Vila will score a perfect hattrick and then start a fight with himself.) I’ve had a transfer boner for Fellaini for at least three years now, unlike the Johnny Come Latelys who only got interested when he started monstering Man U. 7amkickoff will vouch for me on this.
Speaking of whom, you really should check out his three-part series analysing the squad, and where we might seek to strengthen in the next window. (I know, lol, but it really is worth a read) It’s broken down according to the defence, midfield, and finally forwards, which also includes recommendations on potential targets. Which is bold of him, as it means the pedantic #goonerfamily types will no doubt hammer him if one of his suggested signings actually arrives and ends up going Jeffers-shaped. But I say good luck and Godspeed. Better to have the courage of your convictions than just sit sniping at other people’s ideas.
Anyway, what I think those pieces do is lay out in stark detail how lacking we are in several key positions. From the moment the summer window shut we’ve looked well short. Now it seems everyone is talking about squad depth and lack of cover. It’s why key players like Santi and Arteta already seem shattered. It’s why we can’t afford to drop Giroud out of the attack, ever, and it’s also why the team is struggling to create against the likes of Villa. Note: I cite Villa there, because despite all the teeth gnashing last night, I don’t think you can justifiably be furious with a frantic draw at Everton.
Everton at home is a perennially tough game for every team in the league, and that includes all the top four regulars. Everton have been one of the forms teams this season, and have already beaten United. While I appreciate we’ve got a great record at Goodison, that was established by Arsenal teams which always had a sprinkle of stardust. This one lacks almost any glitter. Drawing against Everton is not a sign of lack of ambition or settling for fourth. Our transfer activity is a sign of those things, but a point (which based on what I half-saw we were lucky to get) against Everton is not.
After the Fulham game a couple of weeks ago, as I queued for the tube, an old boy in front of me turned to his pal and muttered: “This is the worst Arsenal team I’ve seen since we’ve been at the Emirates.” His pal said nothing. “Well, it is isn’t it?” he insisted. I grinned, not because that makes me happy – quite the opposite – but because, when put so starkly, it seems comically obvious. Yet to listen to some people online you’d think we’re a couple of tweaks away from becoming world beaters. The truth, as far I see it, is that we’ve slipped out of the breakaway sprinters, which would include both Manchester clubs and possibly Chelsea depending on whether Benitez can stop the bleeding, and fallen back into the peloton of grafters with Everton, Spurs and a few others. That’s where we live now. Surely there’s no denying it.
And if we do miss out on the Champions League, I don’t doubt that there will be a section of the support who say “thank heavens we didn’t spend that £70m in the bank. That will cover the wages now.” How depressing will that be? To finally have new commercial deals arriving, only to see the golden Euro goose disappear over the horizon. We can’t afford to sleepwalk into that scenario, and the only way I see it not happening is with a robust approach to adding quality in the January window.
Believe me, I hate the fact that it feels like I’m wishing half the season away in the hope that we’ll make signings come the New Year – but I can’t see this getting fixed with better tactics or coaching. We’ve been here before, of course, but I’m not sure the need to buy has ever felt as mission critical as it does now. So come on Arsene, I know you know what you’re doing, but soon it’ll be time to prove it. Meanwhile, here’s a drawing to help…