Arsenal 1-3 Aston Villa
As Villa’s third goal went it yesterday, consigning us to our first opening-day defeat for 20 years, I felt a twinge of pity. A clash of calendars had rendered me elsewhere so I was watching it unfold on the Twitters (never good for one’s equilibrium), and I suddenly felt a pang of sadness for the poor sap who had hoovered up my seat on the ticket exchange.
Was it his or her first game? How were they feeling? Were they experienced enough at this lark to know that it’s not always like this? That sometimes we win, and we weren’t always this cross and mutinous? There I was, flush with my £30.84p rebate and there they were, £35 poorer (with £4.16p going to causes unknown). Me 1 them 0.
So Arsenal got out of bed on the wrong side, with a predictable and completely understandable venting of frustration following it. It needn’t have been like this though.
Shedman texted me at the game’s death with the words ‘It’s toxic here’, and it doesn’t take a genius to have foreseen that it might be.
It’s all about perception. The bottom line is that, had we even made one signing of £10m+, the well of patience would have been a lot higher than it was yesterday, even had the result been the same. The anticipation and excitement would have been higher, the players might have had a boost. But because we have done no business for the best part of three months, the perception – my perception, probably many other people’s perception – is that the club is dithering and rudderless.
And what Arsenal really didn’t need, and what Wenger really didn’t need, was a fanbase on their backs from the word go. But it’s pressure entirely of their own making. Quite frankly, football aside, it’s a PR disaster to have started the season with no new signings of any proven calibre.
Obviously, from a football perspective, it’s not too clever either. A squad already down to bare bones has now lost or could lose Arteta, Gibbs, Vermaelen, Sagna, Koscielny suspended, Chamberlain, Ramsey, Rosicky. Who will play centre-back against Fulham? There is nobody.
And of course, we go to Turkey for a crucial test – one that could make the club £10m, but more importantly could have a big say in the willingness of players to join us – on the back foot.
You can’t blame the fans for their reaction. They’re not booing the players, they’re booing the board, the manager, the owner.
Yes, we could have won the game, or drawn it, but we didn’t. We didn’t have more options because there weren’t that many. Whose fault is that?
I don’t care if any signings from this point on are viewed as reactive rather than proactive. The bottom line for me is that the club desperately needs the boost that new faces bring, not just on the pitch but off it. And I don’t believe that in the whole world of football there are not a few faces who could significantly improve this squad.
I expect something to happen, as I have all summer, but the way it’s panning out leaves a lot of questions unanswered.