On patience, signings, and a few quotes.

Some while back I tweeted the following quote, which I thought was an apt summation of what it’s like being a football fan in the close season.

Patience: “A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue”. (Ambrose Bierce).

But I have to say that I have been remarkably zen about the summer so far. I do occasionally enjoying winding myself up into a tizzy about Arsenal – who doesn’t – but I’m just not in that frame of mind at the moment. I still think something substantial will happen, and I accept that spending big on a player can be a drawn-out process. If it was like buying a car, then fine, we should have been on the road by now, windows down, wind in our hair. But because buying a player relies as much on what’s going on at the selling club, sometimes it feels more like buying a house, where the chain up and down can be long, and a small change of circumstance elsewhere can put the whole thing on hold or cancel it completely.

If I was pushed to guess I’d say that’s what held up the Higuain deal – something changing either with him or perhaps more probably at Real Madrid. Maybe they’re waiting to secure someone else first.

The Suarez bid I find odder, mostly because it seems like a peculiar fit for all parties. It just seems improbable to me that a) we’d get him and b) he’d want to come, and this is before we even get into any subjective assessment as to his suitability and personality.

But I’m pretty relaxed about the whole thing. Maybe that’s ludicrous over-confidence, or simply that I have misplaced my marbles, but it’s mid July and the summer dealings are yet young for many clubs. And it really helps that there’s no enormous tug-of-war for one of our own players. That is refreshing.

So anyway, perhaps I am addled by the heat. But going back to salient quotes, I thought I’d end things by offering some advice to Arsene Wenger, delivered through other people’s words (always preferable to my own, I find).

Where large sums of money are concerned, it is advisable to trust nobody (Agatha Christie)

And finally, I’m sure he knows this already but in the event that he doesn’t:

Fools are in a terrible, overwhelming majority, all the wide world over (Henrik Ibsen)

Still waiting, still patient

The Cleash

It’s 18 days since I last peered over the blogging parapet. The last time I did there were very few bullets whizzing over my head. Now there’s a full-blown barrage, though I must confess, I’m not sure who is firing at who.

Until someone valued at £10m+ comes in – a big signing, if you will – then the mood will remain as glum as it has become. 18 days ago, my blog was about Nasri, Clichy and Fabregas. This one is too. Nothing’s really moved on.

You could look at the potential exit of Fabregas, Nasri and Clichy in two ways, I suppose. The first would be to regard it as an exodus; a red flag, a dark portent. There are plenty taking that route. The second would be to see it as the coming together of three unfortunate scenarios, all at the same time. Of course, it’s much more pleasant to think of it being the latter.

Looking at the second of those, we have Fabregas, who has long harboured a desire to return to Barcelona. We have Clichy, who has refused to sign a new contract, and we have Nasri, who is acting the giddy goat, partly over money, but perhaps not entirely. That’s football I suppose.

Fabregas would be the real loss. His tenacity, vision and technique are second to none. Unless he is carrying an injury, he is a remarkably consistent footballer. He’s been the lynchpin of this side for a long time. But he wants to ‘go home’.

Nasri is an excellent footballer, a tough fighter, but he is not the finished product. He’s not worth £150,000+ a week, if you ask me. I’d say that even if we could afford to pay those wages. Incidentally, we can’t, at least not without an immediate upsurge in wages across the board.

Clichy divides opinion. He gives his all, he’s quick, he’s a very decent left-back. But he’s not as good a defender as his three long-term predecessors at Arsenal (Sansom, Winterburn and Cole). He is prone to error and his crossing could be better. But at the same time, he is currently better than Kieran Gibbs, he’s better than Enrique (who we have been linked to, not that I should be making much of that), and for a club on a limited budget, which we are compared to some, do we really want to be spending £15m on a new left-back?

Still, the consensus is that that deal is done.

Back to the original scenario though: Players who do not earn as much as some of their peers are easier to keep happy if the team they are playing in has been successful. As our groundhog seasons merge into one, you can see why things have come to a head. From a wages perspective, we are struggling to offer what other teams can offer. Maybe, like the fans, some players have tired of waiting for the promised land. This scenario is not much fun to contemplate.

Until the futures of these three players are sorted though, we’re in for a bit of turbulence.

Overall though, we’re hardly staring down the barrel at the Champions League qualifiers. There’s time – plenty of time.

Thoughts on the opener/keeper/patience

The Arsenal goalkeeping mystery

It’s not often I quote old Shakey, mainly because I’m not the brightest bulb in the room, but here goes:

“If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly”.

For the goalkeeping situation to have gone on this long unresolved is really very odd if you ask me. It’s clearly now affecting Manuel Almunia, our current number one, who can no doubt see the writing on the wall.

Wenger has been understandably cagey when pressed, but one thing he hasn’t done is come out in full support of any of the current keepers at the club.

But he has, presumably, known all summer we need a new keeper – so what’s the hold-up? Why wait this long? With all due respect, how can it take so long to sign a 37-year-old keeper from Fulham? Is there something else cooking?

The uncertainty is doing nobody any good.

In the cold light of day…

As I sit here two days on, I must admit my views on the opening game at Anfield have changed slightly. At the time, I was frustrated at missing a big opportunity – being ten men up for a whole half as we were – and at not hurting them anything like as much as we should have given the possession we had.

But I’m often guilty of thinking only of where Arsenal went wrong and not making enough allowances for the opposition playing well. Neither side had many chances but Liverpool did play and defend well. And anyway, since when has Anfield ever been an easy place to go? I think it was a very decent result. We do need to add more variation to our game at times, when we are struggling to get through massed defensive ranks, but the lack of Fabregas, Song, van Persie (for most of the game) and Bendtner are worth a mention.

You’re alright, Jack

Given he is 18 and was making his first ever start for his club, away at Anfield, I think Wilshere did very well. What I love about him is his ability to scan the pitch, slow things down, and make a pass, all in a split second. He’s always looking for the forward pass.

It’s completely unrealistic to expect him to morph into the finished article this soon though. Anyone remember Parlour’s debut at Anfield, or how Adams was in his earlier days? They made mistakes but turned out alright, if I recall.

Blooding players like him is a long process, and one that will entail good games, bad games and a lot of patience. But it’s crucial to Arsenal’s future that young English players do get a chance – and to Wenger’s credit they are increasingly getting them – so we have to accept that it will take time for them to learn and adapt.

18 is an incredibly young age to break into a top football side.

Even at 21 a player is only still learning his trade. Is it fair to write someone like Walcott off, and to dismiss him as having no football brain, on the basis that he has been at Arsenal four years already? How much of that decision-making comes with age and experience? Injury has curtailed his career to just 75 starts in that time – only 15 of which were in the last year.

What age did Song suddenly go from being a hopeless lolloping bumbler to a fine holding midfielder? When we lost badly to Man City in November 2008 in my fury I marked him (and Denilson) down as our worst midfield of all time – yet he had only just turned 21.

A mere 18 months later he was named third in our player of the season poll after Cesc Fabregas and Thomas Vermaelen.

Maybe with some teams spunking cash hither and thither as if it was small change, the patient development of players is harder to do, but coupled with a sensible approach to bringing in experience, it’s got to be the right approach.