I am covering some relatively old news in this post as I didn’t have time to jot down my views earlier.
First I want to look at the words of El Capitan when he thanked the fans in the official matchday programme for the last home game. Specifically, I want to discuss his comment on the home fans,
Our home fans have constantly amazed me too – I think of the sensational atmosphere they created against Chelsea, and then against Barcelona. The match against Everton also stays in my mind – we were 1-0 down but they pushed us so hard to help us turn it into a win.
It’s interesting to note that Cesc mentions three games and those are probably the only ones in which the Emirates had a memorable atmosphere that visibly affected the team.
I understand the complaints of some fans. They are not happy with some of the performances of the players and the work of the manager. But does that justify the moans and groans in the stadium?
Think of it this way – if Song is having a poor day, how would you feel if Vermaelen started sulking and dropped his level? Most fans would be furious. The normal expectation would be that the Belgian raises his performance to cover for the drop by his teammate, and also tries to encourage/inspire Song to do better.
I have picked two names at random but the same can be expected from any member of the team.
It raises an interesting question – do the fans consider themselves to be a part of the team? It’s all very well to protest against the price hike (A complaint I agree with wholeheartedly) saying the club is not a PLC, but don’t the fans have to prove that by their performance in the stands? If they react as paying customers, booing something they don’t like, do they really have the high ground?
I don’t buy the argument that this is a recent phenomenon either. It’s been going on for a few years and isn’t a new issue by any stretch. I do, however, agree that the number of dissenting voices in the stands has gone up drastically in the final few weeks of the season.
This summer provides a good opportunity for the fans to take a look at themselves. It’s important to understand that this matter is independent of the issues gooners might have with the club or the manager. Just as we would not expect Vermaelen to slack off when a teammate is underperforming, fans have to do their job even if the team is struggling.
In fact, the Everton example is an extremely pertinent one. We could see that the players received a noticeable lift once the fans got behind them. Maybe Fabregas really was giving a message to the fans. He knows the impact a vibrant atmosphere can have on the Gunners. So while the summer will largely be spent discussing potential transfers and other details, some fans might want to take a hard look at the mirror. Who knows, they could be like a new signing!
Then there is the Samir Nasri contract stalemate. I have read some unsubstantiated stories so won’t bother about them. The simple fact, and one that the manager has confirmed, is that there is a disagreement over the financial terms. Wenger said he will try to work on it in the summer but didn’t sound his usual optimistic self.
I know this might not be a popular opinion but I, for one, will not miss Nasri if he goes. Exceptional talent that he is, the French international hasn’t delivered on a consistent basis. He will not be missed as long as he is replaced with another top class 23-24 year old international player or someone even older and established. Selling the Frenchman and signing someone like Alex Chamberlain will not work.
That doesn’t mean I am suggesting he be sold. Nasri has improved a lot this season and I expect the growth curve to maintain its upward trajectory next season. He can turn into a truly world class player. If he is reasonable, the club should make every effort to keep him.
With the kind of figures these players earn it’s hard to draw a line between well-deserved and greedy. A big performance (individual and team) based incentive should be the right option rather than a flat increase in wages. Le Boss and the staff involved in the contract negotiations will have to make a judgment call at some stage. I’d prefer it be sooner rather than later.
Such a situation does highlight the complex nature of contract decisions. At the end of last season many fans were not impressed by Nasri. If he’d been offered an improved contract at that stage and his form didn’t improve as much as it did this season, Nasri would have been put in the category of players who are being overpaid. Since his contract wasn’t improved but his form has, we are in different kind of a tight spot. Even now there is no guarantee that a substantially improved contract will lead to better performances. Nasri could lose his form or pick up a serious injury next season. Just goes to show there are no easy options or decisions at this level.
Finally, I want to talk about a very interesting point made by Arsene recently.
We conceded very few goals from open play, most of them were from set pieces in a way you don’t want to concede goals. It’s something that’s easy to correct. We need to improve the size of our squad. We need a bigger variety in the height of our players. We need to be more capable of fighting against some characteristics than we have been this season.
Some fans will claim they have been demanding the same for a long time. I don’t think it’s as simple as buying a giant centre back. After all, Djourou has been culpable for some of Arsenal’s recent woes and he probably gets his clothes from the big and tall section. So that alone is not enough.
I think the point Wenger is making is that he needs more variety. If he has to take Walcott out and replace him with Arshavin, Wilshere with Denilson, and so on; it doesn’t add that dimension of height. Instead if he can bring someone on who can play on the wing and offer presence in the box while defending set-pieces, it would make a big tactical difference in some games. This is the variety he needs. To be fair, some fans have talked about this need for a couple of seasons. Of course, that player has to be intelligent and technically good enough, that complicates matters.
Considering this, I’d not mind Nasri being replaced by a bigger, stronger player if his contract situation doesn’t work out. Arsenal have plenty of ‘clever’ players who can take on the creative mantle. Adding solidity at the expense of one artistic player should not hurt the team. Of course, a skilful brute will be a dream signing but there aren’t that many around.
Since these thoughts have been in my mind for a while, I was particularly impressed by Arsenal’s reported interest in Ricky Alvarez. The Argentinean ticked all the right boxes; skilful, strong, tall, and old enough. He does have an injury concern hanging over his head and there aren’t many of his countrymen who have succeeded in England, so it’s by no means an ideal signing. But all said and done it could be a valuable one.
Anyway, there are likely to be a number of changes in personnel so it’s better to wait and see how things pan out.
I realize I haven’t been posting regularly off-late. Since some readers visit the homepage to check for new posts I thought it might be easier for them if the post appears on twitter. From now on the link for each new post will appear on my twitter page
I created it a while back but haven’t been able to actively engage with the Gooner community over there. For now, I won’t be able to do much more than sharing new blog posts and other interesting links. In case you find it useful please feel free to add me (somehow I don’t like the notion of ‘following’).