Did anyone really expect Wenger to burn holes in Arsenal’s chequebook this month? The general climate in football hinted at no, the fact that Arsene is our boss said no, and the apparent need for backup up front or at the back said – haha – no. No no no.
So it was with a modicum of surprise (and a ruffled smile) that I learned we had not bought an experienced striker or defender, but an inexperienced attacking midfielder. It has the stamp of Le Boss all over it.
Not that I wish to disparage it. Welcome to 19-yr-old Thomas Eisfeld, from Borussia Dortmund, who through the prism of my advanced years looks about three.
I have to say, his comment did make me laugh, perhaps – I confess – not intentionally. “It’s a real honour to be team mates with the great players at Arsenal,” he said, before adding hurriedly, “and also training everyday with players like Tomas Rosicky”.
One for the future, clearly – good luck to him.
We must assume therefore that Wenger is happy with what he has for the remainder of season and that is that. It’s an opportunity lost at a tricky time, if you ask me, but only time will tell if that turns out to be true. It’s certainly a good job for us that key personnel are returning – Sagna, Gibbs, Arteta – though keeping them fit will be the usual challenge. Chamakh, too, returns imminently from Africa, no doubt a changed man…
Clearly though the financial situation all over European football has had an effect. Wenger said:
“I don’t know if you have seen the numbers in Europe but there are 1.6bn Euro losses [among football clubs, according to a Uefa report], that’s not debt but losses. That is absolutely amazing. That means tomorrow if you had to stop your activity, half of Europe would be bankrupt. It means that football has to respond and I don’t know if financial fair play will come in, but it looks like economically the whole of Europe is becoming a bit more cautious.”
January is never the best time to buy, and even if it was, these things often depend on the domino effect of other clubs buying before they sell. That’s evidently not happening a whole lot. Nevertheless, it does now mean we shall have to carry rabbits’ tails, four-leaf clovers, horseshoes and other powerful amulets in order to keep our 25-goal talisman from Tony Colbert’s door. It feels like a risky strategy to me.
It never ceases to amaze me – quite why, given I have been watching Arsenal and football in general for the best part of 30 years – how the smallest things can tip a game on its head. A match can appear to be so fundamentally lost but before you can blink it suddenly is winnable. Blink again and it’s won.
Sometimes the seeds of turnaround can be sown with something as simple as a thumping tackle or a rebounded shot off a post. The psychology of it all, I’m sure, is fascinating, and I’d wax on merrily about it for days on end if only I knew the first thing about it.
So it was on Sunday. 2-0 down at half time and despite some good chances, it seemed a mammoth mountain to climb for Arsenal. But then van Persie apparently gave a rousing speech in the dressing room, and that could have been the catalyst. Maybe it was Mertesacker’s header, cleared off the line, which turned the game. It could have been the first penalty. Perhaps it was all three things combined that built up the unstoppable head of steam.
Who cares though: seven glorious minutes followed when Arsenal shed all inhibitions, players previously misfiring suddenly burst into song and we won through to the fifth round of the FA Cup. The gloom lifted, and here I am again hoping that the season will yet offer up a proper salvage job. I’d love to say that 2-0 down at home to the Villa was a turning point – something we can look back upon and pinpoint – but we won’t know that for a while yet and if the history of this season tells us anything, it’s that Arsenal are not quite as reliable as that. It would be nice if it was a watershed moment though, wouldn’t it?
We might have a better idea at 9.45pm tonight.