Arsenal: Winning by Losing
If you have been wondering about my long silence over the past month, it is because nothing has been happening on the transfer market. Long-suffering Arsenal fans may have become accustomed to having to listen to Wenger’s platitudes about “We have the squad that can win the league”, “We will buy players if we see ones of value” --- add your own here. At least one platitude we won’t hear any more is “We have Diaby”. It almost doesn’t seem like summer without it.
If we look back to my transfer priority list, we are batting zero so far. We did acquire Cech and, on paper, that is a step up from Ospina or Szczesny. However, our defensive woes have primarily stemmed from those playing in front of the goalkeeper. Might it have been better to sell or loan out Ospina and allow Szczesny to learn from Cech?
That was what he missed when we failed to acquire Schwarzer a few years ago and threw a promising Szczesny into the fray with a very fragile line in front of him. Ospina’s double stop on Messi and Aguero would certainly have raised his stock on the transfer market.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we have seen candidates for our most pressing need, a central defensive midfielder (CDM), show briefly on the rumour mill before being acquired by someone else. Kondogbia, Schneiderlin and Vidal have all gone, though I have to agree with passing on Vidal after the DUI. To rub salt into my wounds, Wenger has gambled our championship aspirations on fragile Mikel Arteta as the only insurance for Coquelin.
However, there is hope yet, with Carvalho still around and nary a rumour of any interest. All reports indicate that Wenger has a very large transfer kitty, 200 million – that is big even in dollars. It may even be useful to get a holding midfielder without a defensive pedigree, perhaps Moutinho or Rabiot, to allow Coquelin to focus on defense and unleash the considerable offensive midfield talent on hand.
The back line is still weak on the right-hand side. Paulista plays more naturally on the left, where Koscielny is a lock. With Gibbs and Monreal on the flanks, that side looks good. Drift right of center and the problems begin. We have to do better than Mertesacker. Right now, that means either Paulista or Chambers moving in (which actually might be the solution).
Add to that, we have to see if Debuchy can get back to form and whether he can remain healthy. Bellerin looked good on the front foot, but left many question marks on the defensive end.
The only spot where Arsenal are even mentioned on the rumour mill is at striker, with Benzema as hot as Higuain was a couple of seasons ago. I am not sold on either one, particularly at their price. At one point, Pedro was mentioned. The last thing we need is another speedy winger. Ibrahimovich has hinted about a move in the works that would surprise everyone. Ibra to the Gunners would certainly surprise me. He would bring scoring power, but can he fit into the offense? Can Wenger deal with as big an ego as Ibra?
This brings me back to the title of this piece – Winning by Losing. The Community Shield matchup on Sunday brings up a very intriguing question. Is it better to win or lose this game? Let us start from Chelsea’s perspective. While winning any trinket is nice, the Community Shield is indeed a trinket for a team with sights on the league and the Champions League.
Mourinho even scorns the FA Cup, so it is of little consequence. Looking across to the opposing the coaches box, he will see Wenger basking in the dubious glory over such cannon fodder as Singapore XI and Lyon. If he let Wenger win this one, Wenger might indeed fool himself into thinking his squad is ready for the big leagues. That would effectively eliminate Arsenal as a title contender and leave him with only Man City to focus on.
Of course, he would have to sacrifice his perfect record against Wenger. I can certainly see Mourinho making such a Machiavellian move.
Moving to the other side, Wenger would certainly push for the Gunners to win – to bolster their confidence and give them (and him) some belief. Also, it would help him check mark a trinket for the new season and take some of the pressure off.
However, as a fan, I wonder if the only way we can have a shot at the league is by not only losing this game, but losing it convincingly. Shocked? Let me explain. The last time Wenger got off his duff and did anything significant on the transfer market was after that humiliating 8-2 early season drubbing by Manchester United not so many seasons ago. Looking at his smug satisfaction at the current makeup of the squad, it may be the only horrible way to open his eyes.