Love’s Labour’s Lost and Vonnegut’s narrative arc (as it relates to Arsenal)

Last night I took my daughter to our local park to see a play. The play was performed in a small, natural, amphitheater near a pond. A few hundred people gathered their lawn chairs, brought some dinner, and sat in front of a simple set to watch a dozen actors perform Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost.

The story starts with four noblemen pledging celibacy and fasting for three years while they complete their studies. But almost as soon as the ink is dry on their pledge, four noble women arrive and the men immediately begin a ham-fisted pursuit.

The bulk of the play consists of the men’s advances being scorned and ridiculed by the women. And ridiculed they should be. Each man in turn proves to be more romantically inept than the first, their poems and advances as weak as their resolve to stay celibate. Ferdinand reads one of his poems to his love, thus…

So sweet a kiss the golden sun gives not
To those fresh morning drops upon the rose,
As thy eye-beams, when their fresh rays have smote
The night of dew that on my cheeks down flows:
Nor shines the silver moon one half so bright
Through the transparent bosom of the deep,
As doth thy face through tears of mine give light;
Thou shinest in every tear that I do weep:
No drop but as a coach doth carry thee;
So ridest thou triumphing in my woe.
Do but behold the tears that swell in me,
And they thy glory through my grief will show:
But do not love thyself; then thou wilt keep
My tears for glasses, and still make me weep.
O queen of queens! how far dost thou excel,
No thought can think, nor tongue of mortal tell.

Shakespeare delights in nailing these would-be lotharios (kids today would call these men ‘fuckboys’ and I could see the play set in a townie nightclub) and gives each in turn a more ridiculous poem to read out loud, professing their love.

He then turns his wit on the scholars, who I suspect he feels have the same contempt for their subject as the Dons for theirs. There Shakespeare sends his Don Quixote to ask a scholar named Holofernes if he could put on a play for the King. Hilarity ensues…

ADRIANO DE ARMADO
Sir, it is the king’s most sweet pleasure and
affection to congratulate the princess at her
pavilion in the posteriors of this day, which the
rude multitude call the afternoon.
HOLOFERNES
The posterior of the day, most generous sir, is
liable, congruent and measurable for the afternoon:
the word is well culled, chose, sweet and apt, I do
assure you, sir, I do assure.
ADRIANO DE ARMADO
Sir, the king is a noble gentleman, and my familiar,
I do assure ye, very good friend: for what is
inward between us, let it pass. I do beseech thee,
remember thy courtesy; I beseech thee, apparel thy
head: and among other important and most serious
designs, and of great import indeed, too, but let
that pass: for I must tell thee, it will please his
grace, by the world, sometime to lean upon my poor
shoulder, and with his royal finger, thus, dally
with my excrement, with my mustachio; but, sweet
heart, let that pass. By the world, I recount no
fable: some certain special honours it pleaseth his
greatness to impart to Armado, a soldier, a man of
travel, that hath seen the world; but let that pass.
The very all of all is,–but, sweet heart, I do
implore secrecy,–that the king would have me
present the princess, sweet chuck, with some
delightful ostentation, or show, or pageant, or
antique, or firework. Now, understanding that the
curate and your sweet self are good at such
eruptions and sudden breaking out of mirth, as it
were, I have acquainted you withal, to the end to
crave your assistance.
HOLOFERNES
Sir, you shall present before her the Nine Worthies.
Sir, as concerning some entertainment of time, some
show in the posterior of this day, to be rendered by
our assistants, at the king’s command, and this most
gallant, illustrate, and learned gentleman, before
the princess; I say none so fit as to present the
Nine Worthies.

The four men devise a method to speak with the women one on one. They dress up like Russians. The women are keen to this deception and offer a deception of their own; they exchange garb with each other. Thus, when the men pick the wrong woman that they are “in love” with, it will prove that they aren’t truly in love.

The play ends with Holofernes and company putting on a play within a play, the Nine Worthies mentioned above. The women expose the men once again for their fuckboyetry (they are not, it seems, worthy) and the audience is laughing along until the play is suddenly interrupted by a messenger bringing news of the death of the Princess’ father. From there the play ends abruptly, with just a few short speeches. The women each tell the men to wait a year for the women to grieve properly and if they truly love, then at the end of the year they can woo again. The men accept and pledge their love. The play ends.

It felt weird and wrong to end the play that way. As if Shakespeare didn’t know what to do with this play or that he was planning a sequel.

I think the ending of the play felt wrong because we are used to certain narrative shapes in stories. Kurt Vonnegut championed this idea of narrative shapes in his master’s thesis in Anthropology. The thesis was rejected for being too simplistic but it turns out that Vonnegut was just way ahead of his time. Researchers looked at the fictions in Project Gutenberg and mapped their emotional arc based on their use of certain key words like “love” and “hate” and it turned out that every single story in the repository mapped to one of six curves:

  1. Rags to riches (rise).
  2. Tragedy, or Riches to rags (fall).
  3. Man in a hole (fall–rise).
  4. Icarus (rise–fall).
  5. Cinderella (rise–fall–rise).
  6. Oedipus (fall–rise–fall).

The emotional arc of Love’s Labour’s Lost rises steadily and then suddenly drops, like Icarus.

Vonnegut saw other shapes in addition to these but these match closely with his ideas. The Icarus shape, for example, he called the Old Testament. The Old Testament stories tend to build you up and then yank the rug out from under you. Think of the story of the creation. God creates man. God gives man, life, food, water, and even love. Man loses it all when he eats from the tree of knowledge and is cast out of Eden. In that narrative arc the main characters end up significantly worse than when they started.

Love’s Labour’s Lost built the same way: the humor of the play hurtles the viewer forward, drawing you into this romance between eight characters, and then at the very peak of the happiness, it drops you. It is a truly unsatisfying ending and yet it’s the only ending that could have been. The men were not worthy of the women. They were goofy and base in their pursuit but more importantly, they were not faithful to themselves and the promises they made.

What strikes me in writing this review is the notion of narrative arc in relation to Arsenal. When I was watching the play, I was unsatisfied with the Icarus-like story arc because I wanted a happy ending. But on later reflection a happy ending would have been far more nonsensical: the men had done nothing to earn the love of the women. For them to suddenly turn into doting wives would have made even less sense. So, I made peace with the way Shakespeare ended the play.

Arsenal’s summer transfers and transfers over the last three years have followed an almost Cinderella story arc. Vonnegut sees Cinderella as the most popular arc: the protagonist starts with nothing, is gifted a dress, shoes, and a means of transportation, attends the ball, has the great dance, and then falls as the clock strikes midnight. In Love’s Labour’s Lost, the play ends there. But Cinderella gets the prince in the end and lives happily ever after, a sort of happy ending that transcends all happy endings.

In Arsenal’s case we were in a pretty low spot a few years ago. Then our fairy Godwenger gifted us an Özil, then an Alexis, and finally a Cech. We got to the big dance, all the way to the top of the Premier League, and we were ready to seal the deal with a kiss, but Leicester’s clock struck midnight and we fled the ball. Now we are at a low point, not as low as four years ago, because we will always have the memory of the big dance. But unless the prince comes along and fits the glass boot of a top striker on our feet, I don’t see Arsenal fans living happily ever after. I see us like the suitors in Love’s Labour’s Lost: promising to wait another year for our love to be requited.

But the big question is do we deserve that love? Are Arsenal a Cinderella or a Navarre? Have we done enough to show that we are worthy of the big name striker or have we sat in the pride of our conceit and figured that we are The Arsenal and thus inherently deserving of love? Does our story arc make more sense ending with another year of waiting?

Qq

64 Comments on Love’s Labour’s Lost and Vonnegut’s narrative arc (as it relates to Arsenal)

  1. I struggle with poetry. I read the words, but they make no sense. Maybe unless I concentrate really hard. But, it gets a lot easier to read once I discover the underlying rhythm in it. Is this true of all those who love and understand poetry?

    I don’t know what we deserve. If there were to be justice, Arsenal would have won the league at least a couple of times since we last did. As such, I don’t care what we as Arsenal fans deserve. I’m just glad to be along for the ride. I think at this point, no ending to this story would be particularly unsatisfying to me, because this story will be remembered for ages to come. We lived in the time of giants. Of Bergkamp, of Adams, of Henry. Of Vieira, Pires and Freddie. Of Wenger, on whose back we built our empire, and all our future stories.

  2. I’m not terribly poetic or literary. The expression that comes to mind is “courage, mon brave.”

    What we have lacked is courage… to pursue the ravishing princess we really crave when we have time on our side, as opposed to waiting till 5 to midnight to see what we can scramble.

    We didn’t win the title last year because our manager in his wisdom thought that a team that fell some way short of the goal tally of the teams in front of them needed only Petr Cech to compete.Can you believe it?

    Could we have shown for example a Gonzalo Higuain, prior to his record breaking season with Napoli that we really wanted him all along and the Suarez thing was a highly unfortunate blip? I mean REALLY pursued him? Remember we started the season without Welbeck.

    We didnt really go hard after Ozil… we waited for Madrid to shake him loose in the dying days of the window. Cech and Alexis (and Granit this year) were different

    So it’s courage in the market that we lack, or, to put a literary spin on it, the gumption to go out there woo the pants (literally and figuratively) off the girl. I predict that we’ll be leaving the ball with a few ugly step-sister at 2 minutes to midnight.

  3. Very well done. Although the ending is abrupt I always liked LLL for it’s tremendous, almost dizzying wordplay.

    “Vomitific” lyrics as Bob Dylan once called his Highway 61 to Blond on Blonde period. This was like The Bard doing Dylan except you know, a few hundred years earlier.

  4. What I find more interesting a question is whether the story of Arsene and Arsenal will be Cinderellesque, winning a treble ( or atleast the league) in his last year..or it is destined for and heading towards an Icaruseque ending?

    Or maybe he gets a contract extension and we wait for two more years to find the ending!

  5. Well, Shakespeare did write a sequel, but it’s now lost: “Love’s Labour’s Won.”

    That, I think, is the Arsenal narrative. An eternally deferred hope.

  6. There really can be no other football blog as weird or wonderful as 7 am Kickoff. Special stuff once again from The Man.

    So what did your daughter think of Shakespeare in the park?

    The same as what I’m thinking of out transfer business so far? Please! I hope she had more fun than that.

  7. i don’t really do poetry either. however, i’ve learned to tolerate it; all of the women i dated that were into poetry were smokin’ hot. i do acknowledge the brilliance of shakespeare and hereby acknowledge that fuckboyetry is a real word.

    do arsenal fans deserve a league championship? probably not. we’re led by a manager who believes he can turn lead into gold. just read a charming article about how wenger intends to continue playing theo up front. to me, that says he’s not going to buy the center forward we all deem necessary. he’s determined to prove he can turn theo walcott into a top class center forward (Pb to Au). when i hear this nonsensical explanation, the word fuckboy comes to mind.

  8. i don’t really do poetry either. however, i’ve learned to tolerate it; all of the women i dated that were into poetry were smokin’ hot. i do acknowledge the brilliance of shakespeare and hereby acknowledge that fuckboyetry is a real word.

    do arsenal fans deserve a league championship? probably not. we’re led by a manager who believes he can turn lead into gold. just read a charming article about how wenger intends to continue playing theo up front. to me, that says he’s not going to buy the center forward we all deem necessary. he’s determined to prove he can turn theo walcott into a top class center forward (Pb to Au). when i hear this nonsensical explanation, the word fuckboy comes to mind.

  9. Great article.
    I love poetry but it’s a love that only developed after I had left school. It helped that they were no longer ‘homework’ and I didn’t have to try to understand poems that made little sense to me.

    I think I have a similar issue with Shakespeare. I recognise that his work is impressive and important but at school maybe I just wasn’t smart enough to understand the writing style or the themes or the underlining messages. Having to ‘learn’ them was a complete turn off for me. I really should revisit them in a casual capacity because if it worked for poems maybe it will work for The Bard.

  10. Interesting. As I read I expected you to ask whether we the supporters were the noblemen, pledging our love for the Arsenal then being exposed as undeserving because we were shallow, fickle and self involved. That would make Wenger the father; upon his death (or retirement) we would have to endure a period of mourning (think United’s travails after Ferguson) to prove our love for the club. Then we can win the league.

    So who among us would wish death upon the non-abusive father of the woman he loved so that he could consummate his desires?

    Does that make us selfish or merely ambitious?

  11. HT v Man City: Some decent play, but no finishing, a lot of wasted chances, but City only need one half-decent chance to take the lead off a naive defense. How many times have we heard that narrative?

  12. FT: Really, really pleased that Walcott assisted and scored (a wonderful almost-solo effort), because, as much as I’m not a fan of his, we really, really need him confident going into the season…because he’s it. El Neny was outstanding (and Ramsey, too). But, of course, it wouldn’t be an Arsenal game without a horrendous injury with pretty much the last kick of a friendly. Gabriel is done.

    • yeah, watched ihenacho fall on the back of gabriel’s leg possibly injuring his achilles or fibula; certainly looked painful enough.

      theo was playing his best position (not playing center forward) today and he actually played well. what a concept! i’ve never said he was a bad player or that i wanted him sold, just that he’s not a center forward. imagine players playing their best position providing an actual contribution; he might have even helped england this summer. how about convincing wenger to stop trying to turn Pb into Au. a whole bunch of really smart guys (smarter than wenger) have tried in the past and failed to find a favorable solution. it’s not worth it, arsene. please give it up.

  13. i don’t really do poetry either. however, i’ve learned to tolerate it; all of the women i dated that were into poetry were smokin’ hot. i do acknowledge the brilliance of shakespeare and hereby acknowledge that fuckboyetry is a real word.

    do arsenal fans deserve a league championship? probably not. we’re led by a manager who believes he can turn lead into gold. just read a charming article about how wenger intends to continue playing theo up front. to me, that says he’s not going to buy the center forward we all deem necessary. he’s determined to prove he can turn theo walcott into a top class center forward (Pb to Au). when i hear this nonsensical explanation, the word fuckboy comes to mind.

  14. There have been too many false dawns about Walcott for many to be enthusiastic but he looked good today – no denying it.

    Iwobi and Akpom: hmmm…possibilities there.

    Here’s hoping these young guys really start to break out when given their chance. That goes for The Jeff and Chris Willock too.

  15. Wenger and Gazidis already sweating after putting Arsenal in the untenable position of being one week from the start of a new EPL season without a single EXPERIENCED centre-back following Gabriel’s injury. Reckless negligence really as Arsenal had a need at the end of the last season, even if the thirty something year old pair of Per and Koscielny were fit and available for the new season, to add an experienced head to the often unconvincing pair of Gabriel and Chambers. Will Wenger and Gazidis blink in the protracted negotiation with Valencia over Mustafi now that the Brazilian is crocked? Or will Wenger, for the sake of a five million pound difference in Mustafi’s valuation, risk playing any two from Bielik/Holding/Chambers against Liverpool and hope for the best? My only hope that we’ll get in a seasoned pro before next sunday lies in the fact that we’ll be playing at ‘home’. The Emirates is already such a toxic atmosphere for our team that even Wenger, compulsive gambler that he increasingly is, will know that the natives (already disaffected by our summer of transfer stasis)will have a pretty low tolerance for errors on the day. There won’t be anything poetic about gooners’ reaction should Sane, Firmino, Coutinho et al gegenpress Holding or Chambers into costly turnovers…

    • Would love for you to give a single shred of proof that anyone on this thread is “over hyping” Walcott.

      Cheers.

  16. Ugh, unless we complete the transfer of Mustafi by Tuesday at the latest, it looks like our central defensive pairing to start the season will be Chambers and Holding or perhaps one of those two with Monreal and Gibbs at left back. Wouldn’t be Arsenal without an injury crisis. I do find it a little curious that when the extent of Per’s injury was known that Wenger almost immediately said we needed an experienced defender and didn’t push forward Gabriel as the answer to our woes. It’s a pretty damning indication of Wenger’s assessment of Gabriel if his first instinct is to bring in a player to supersede him in the pecking order.

  17. Mustafi at this stage would arrive too late to start against Liverpool. Holding, squad number 16, was bought to play a significant role in the squad. We will either rush Koscielny back, or start with him and Chambers.

    Not the best planning by Wenger. A stronger CEO would have made him spend the 3+ weeks he spent in France commentating on the Euros, instead doing the work on transfers and squad building. Arsene knew well before the last ball was kicked last season what we needed. Lots of time left in the window, but 4 points dropped in the first 2 games isn’t going to look so clever. A better planner would have figured on losing Koscielny, as the hosts would be likely to go far.

    So Per and Gabriel out injured, Kosc half-baked. Only Wenger, in time-honoured fashion, could foster a sense of crisis before a ball is kicked in the new season.

    Yes, time left. Plenty of it. But I have little confidence in our manager to make it count. Our rivals just seem to be able to go out and bloody do the necessary signings.

    • What does the commentating have to do with transfers? How does commentating on the tournament prevent him from talking about transfers on the phone to his colleagues and to players?

      This is just criticism for criticism’s sake. The implication being that Wenger is neglecting his duty towards his club in favour of commentating as a personal quest, while the CEO is too weak to prevent this from happening. I’m sorry, but this is nonsense. Criticising Arsenal for not signing players is ok, though even that can get too simplistic, but this is just ridiculous.

      Honestly, it reminds me of the criticism that Indian cricketers used to face about appearing in ads instead of practicing, whenever they failed to win.

      • It’s called having a focus. LeGrove wrote about the very issue and why other managers like Guardiola and Mourinho don’t do it, and Fergie didn’t. They’re focused on their core job. And it would not have mattered, if we had our key signings done and dusted before the season opener. We don’t. As I said, we have time. But we’ve read this script before and I agree with Bunburyist — we have looked indecisive.

        • LeGrove is an agenda driven… blogger. Not saying he can’t ever be right, but he has very little credibility with me.

          Just because others don’t do it doesn’t mean he knows their motivation. Maybe they like some time away from football. I mean, we know Wenger’s referred to Ferguson’s horses and vineyards. Do you think he developed those interests only after he retired? Guardiola took some time away from football after Barcelona. Wenger often refers to football as something he watches to unwind, though even then he’ll start thinking analytically about it.

          I’d venture that commentating is Wenger’s version of a holiday. And the plain, simple fact is that there’s no reason it should stop him from doing his job. And if you would be so inclined to suggest this, how about a bit of evidence?

          I have no idea what it would show or what it would mean, but a simple enough analysis for this would be to compare Arsenal’s transfer activity in the summers with and without football. Did Le Grove even attempt this? I bet not. All he does is come up with a half plausible narrative to show Wenger as bad. That’s his job, that’s what he gets followers for, and that’s all he does. I think he doesn’t believe half the things he says either.

          • Maybe Wenger takes advantage of his role as commentator to scout and then tap up potential signings. Was that how we signed Alexis and Ospina right after the WC?

            Personally, I doubt he spends much time doing anything except thinking about the Arsenal. His choice of timing in the market looks strategic. If someone he wants is available he goes and gets him, eg Xhaka, Cech, Alexis, Ospina. If he thinks there’s going to be an opportunity due to the dominoe effect then he bides his time, eg Ozil.

            If the Emirates is poisonous on the first matchday, then I’m sorry, but we deserve nothing and will get nothing, there’s no better recipe for disappointment than self-loathing.

  18. Anybody else watch the Community Shield today? It was difficult not to look at just how talented and tidy Bailly was today and think about our own indecisiveness this summer. Going to Liverpool with a Chambers-Bielik partnership? God help us.

  19. It could happen only to us where we get two seemingly long term injuries in the same position.

    Blaming Wenger for this, while expected by now, is hardly fair. How can it be poor planning when you have two of your first 3 defenders go down to injury? We knew Kos wasn’t coming back early, but Per and Gabriel are good enough. Even after Per’s injury, playing Gabriel with Chambers for the short term is alright too. That’s what he’s there for isn’t he? Now that Gabriel goes down as well, Wenger is to blame for leaving us short, not that two injuries would catch anyone out?

    Walcott had a good game. I suppose it’s what pre season is for. Shaking off the rust. But his problem has always been consistency. Can he put in decent to good performances every single game? I doubt it, but I hope he proves me wrong.

    Iwobi looks like he’s looking to not just match, but up his impact from last season. With the same caveat that this is just preseason.

    Akpom has a knack for getting into positions to score. I’d like to see him play against Liverpool.

    • How about this one Shard? It’s one of my favourites.

      The Fly
      William Blake, 1757 – 1827

      Little fly,
      Thy summer’s play
      My thoughtless hand
      Has brushed away.

      Am not I
      A fly like thee?
      Or art not thou
      A man like me?

      For I dance
      And drink and sing,
      Till some blind hand
      Shall brush my wing.

      If thought is life
      And strength and breath,
      And the want
      Of thought is death,

      Then am I
      A happy fly,
      If I live,
      Or if I die.

        • I like that it’s a poem about how flys aren’t as*h*les. That it’s easy to attack something as small as a fly even though we want our own space to be respected. And I like that he loves something that is easy to see as a pest or an annoyance. I think that’s cool.

          And it’s short ha ha.

    • How can it be poor planning when you have two of your first 3 defenders go down to injury?

      ===

      Because we needed a CB BEFORE Gabriel got injured. Mertesacker got injured two weeks ago, we knew we’d be without him for pretty much the season, and it would have been prudent on the part of the club to get a player in for pre-season adjustment. It would also have been prudent not to play your only experienced CB for a full 90 minutes in a pre-season friendly!

      Shard, you say Le Grove has very little credibility, and I agree with you, but I’m sorry to say (because you seem like a nice guy) that your bias is just as severe as Le Grove’s, just in the other direction. Sorry, but Wenger absolutely deserves the criticism, and his comments today about how you have to spend the money like it’s your own money is just further indication of how out of step he is with the game these days. I really do love the man, and I’ve defended him for years against unjust criticism, but that doesn’t mean I have to support him blindly.

      • We needed a CB after Per’s injury and before Gabriel’s injury. Yes. Ideally, sure, you’d want to get in all your players before the season starts. Does anyone deny this?

        All I dispute is that not doing so is some dereliction of duty when you have Gabriel, Chambers and Holding, besides Kos who is likely to miss just one game (perhaps none now). If those guys can’t cope for a stretch of 3 or 4 games then we’re screwed anyway.

        Now that Gabriel goes down, it causes more problems, and that’s unfortunate. We still have options. Chambers and Holding are inexperienced, but played and won a tournament together during the summer. Kos could still play, and we can deploy Monreal or Debuchy there too. That we’re not completely out of options despite two first choice players going down and a third possibly unavailable, suggests to me that it wasn’t imprudent to go the distance in the transfer window for a CB.

        And please, that’s a real insult and I feel without justification. I refuse to get carried away with the negativity, and I see a new season especially as a time for hope. That is my bias, and you are free to disagree with me, but I don’t bullshit like LeGrove does.

      • I didn’t touch on the part about Wenger’s comments in my binned comment.

        Honestly, I see nothing wrong in that statement. Sure, in this context it’s taken to mean ‘not spend’ and I totally get why, but I think he means ‘not waste’. If you saw his comments about Pogba’s signing, he said if you have the money, then it can be justified. Which suggests he doesn’t think it’s wrong to spend money you have. But without his custodial attitude to spending Arsenal’s money, we wouldn’t have those cash reserves everyone complains about, and I think it’s a toss up whether we’d be actually better off on the field. Perhaps we would, but it hasn’t done so for the likes of Liverpool and Spurs.

        In any case, this is no departure from everything we know about Arsenal and Wenger anyway.

  20. I understand being disappointed and upset by the injury but just because something bad happened doesn’t have to mean we immediately have to look for someone to blame.It doesn’t seem like there was huge uproar when Gabriel was chosen to play but of coarse once he got injured everyone’s got 20 20 hindsight and then it’s ‘obviously’ a mistake. I’m not seeing anyone suggesting Theo shouldn’t have played either, and he’s probably starting up front against liverpool. Or how about santi?

    I’m as disappointed as anyone that we haven’t yet signed the players we need but having a go at the manager for giving Gabriel a chance to get up to match speed in a pre season game is going too far in my opinion.

    If he hadn’t got injured would anyone care that he started?

    I don’t think so.

    • Sure, but that doesn’t change the fact that Mertesacker was injured on July 23rd, and Gabriel, our only experienced CB going into the new season, hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory since he arrived in January 2015. The need for a CB was urgent two weeks ago, and now we’ve been put in the position of being desperate. I’d call that poor planning.

      • My reply to you is in moderation because I used a bad word. (not for you)

        I disagree that it was urgent. If Gabriel, Chambers and Holding can’t cope for a couple of games on their own then we’re screwed anyway. They’re in the squad to be used.

        • Well, I’m sure you’ll disagree, but whenever I’ve seen Chambers play CB he’s never looked assured, so yes, I do think we’re “screwed anyway.” I would also say that relying on Chambers and Holding especially is terrible planning. Holding has played a single season of regular football, and for a Championship relegation team. To expect him to come in and do a decent job in a Premier League team is wishful thinking. So yes, we’re “screwed anyway.”

          We clearly have different estimations of what Chambers and Holding (or indeed Bielik) are currently capable of. There’s every chance that Liverpool and Leicester will make them look silly in the opening two weeks, and that’s the last thing you want both for them and us. You want to ease them into the first team to build confidence, not throw them into the deep end and yell, “swim!” And for this, I think Wenger does deserve criticism.

          • But we weren’t PLANNING on relying on both of them. They are our 4th and 5th choice guys and at least Holding would be a major risk since he’s never played at that level before.

            But Gabriel and Chambers on opening day? I’m ok with that.

            If Mertesacker’s injury was for…let’s say 3 weeks, would this also mean an urgent need to buy a CB? Kos and this new Cb we bought can go down for a couple of weeks at the same time too, during which we’d expect our 3rd and 4th guys to cope. No? This is basically the same.

            Arguing about their quality is a different conversation. You may not believe in Chambers as an option at all based on whatever you’ve seen of him. That’s fine. But I’m saying that to rely on 3rd and 4th choice CBs for a week or two is perfectly acceptable planning in such circumstances, even if it isn’t ideal. Which is what we’d planned to do since Per got injured (before that was 2nd and 3rd choice)

            You can disagree with that if you want. Your prerogative. But that’s where I’m coming from. Those guys (Gabriel and Chambers) are in the squad to play. But because of a second major injury, we’ll have to play Holding (or perhaps Monreal) Which is unfortunate. Just not something I think deserves this blame game.

          • The phrase “blame game” is an unnecessarily derisive phrase to describe what happens in team forums. We as fans want our squad to be as good as it possibly can, and it’s clear that the person who makes the decisions about who’s in, who’s out, and who we’re buying and selling is the manager. If our criticism of Wenger’s transfer strategies was without warrant or evidence, I could see the dismissiveness, but it’s not. The failure to strengthen the midfield and striking positions last summer, for example, had a direct consequence on our title challenge. The failure to strengthen the defense and striking positions this summer is likely to cost us points in the opening fixtures. These are real concerns, and, on top of that, Wenger has publicly stated his reticence to spend money.

            A “blame game” implies that we are aiming at targets whose culpability matters less than our desire to find a scapegoat, but that is simply not the case here.

          • Ok, I’ll withdraw the term since you’re giving it a broader reach than the discussion at hand. Namely that the decision to not buy a CB immediately deserves blame. I disagree that it does, but there you go.

  21. Going into the season with a rested Per and Gabriel along with two to three young developing CBs while Koz recovers from the Euros was an extremely reasonable plan, one that unfortunately didn’t work out.

    That said, I think Wenger made a mistake in not sealing the deal for Moustafi as soon as Per went down. (Assuming that he is the real target and the price was not extortionate) paying 5mmm or 10mm over odds is acceptable given the potential downside risk. If the price were extortionate you make a final offer then move onto target number two.

    In other news how bad is the news about Lacazette? Anyone see it? If it’s a complete tear that would mean a month or two.

  22. Just to clarify my comment earlier. My specific beef was with specifically Arseneblogs piece this morning where he basically accused the manager of negligence for playing Gabriel in the City game when if knew we were short of cbs. I think that’s an overreaction. Not sure if I was really clear about that.

  23. Arseblog addresses the centre back question here. http://arseblog.com/2016/08/defensive-crisis-looms-city-win-comes-cost/

    I agree with most of it, except bringing back Koscielny early. The long terms risks are greater than the short term rewards. Plus, I agree with Shard in one respect. Our backups should be able to cope in the short team — except that you want to start your season on the front foot.

    Wenger identified an experienced CB as a need even BEFORE Per got injured. Planning dictates that he would have identified such a need before the last season ended. Prioritising dictated that he’d have got that out of the way asap. No one is blaming him for the injuries, but gosh, we can reasonably have expected to address that need by now, given that Kosc’s likely absence was known, and Per’s injury occurred sometime ago.

    Our tendency to string out transfers (or outright not make them, something experience teaches us we can’t rule out) is as recurring a theme as leaving ourselves hostage to bad fortune, which predictably bites us in the ass. We took a threadbare squad to Old Trafford for the 8 -2. Within days, we signed 3 players.

    Last point on the commentary. Reasonable responses in rebuttal to my points. But coming second to Leicester I expected a more steely, determined focus and approach to transfers and squad whittling. Wenger and Gazidis have not shown that. When did Welbeck get injured? When did Giroud hit his dry spell? How long ago did Walcott fail? So why are still having all this rigmarole over signing a striker? Lack of proper planning, something we’ve been bemoaning for years.

    • I just had another look at the Arseneblog piece and I was wrong in my belief that he called gabriel playing 90 minutes ‘negligent’. Turns out I remembered it wrong. I should have rechecked before I posted. Apologies for misrepresenting Arseneblog. Oops 🙁

      I probably mixed up comments on Arseneblog news with what he himself. Still no excuse.

    • I don’t think Wenger identified the need for an experienced CB before Per’s signing. In any case, that doesn’t change my view that it’s ok to start with your 2nd and 3rd, or even your 3rd and 4th choice Cbs for one game when your top CB is coming back and you’re planning to buy another CB.

      Striker is a different issue. There I wouldn’t disagree with you, though I don’t think it’s a planning issue. More an execution issue. Still, same end result so potato potato (that one doesn’t translate to writing 🙂 )

      As for the 8-2. One, that game was closer than the score. Seriously, our worst defeat to ManU in my memory was the 6-1 in 2001, not this game. Two, there was something else that happened just before the ManU game that might have led to those signings. We qualified for the CL against Udinese thanks to Szczesny’s pen save after a dive.

      • F*** man we have not made a decent striker signing since Van Persie left — FOUR years ago Shard. If it’s an execution issue, then that is one more thing that Wenger is crap at.

        Yes Walcott had a good game. But even you must have gagged a little at Wenger talking him up, and likely preparing to rationalse the lack of a striker.

        The charge of bad planning is a four year old criticism, not a recent one. Onehe’s done nothing to dispel.

        • I separate the striker issue from the Walcott thing. I think his statement on Walcott was to clubs as a negotiating stance, and to Theo as a challenge. Your defending sucks so don’t think you can just decide to play on the wing now. Give me more effort. Plus, bigging up his confidence at striker since we might need him for the immediate term. Don’t think it means we’re not signing anyone there.

          I do think though that Wenger got in enough ‘goals’ in the team in the absence of a great striker. Poldi, Giroud, Alexis, Welbeck. In itself I don’t think that’s terrible. Strikers are in short supply, though there’s been more movement this year.

          If we don’t buy a striker and a CB before the end of the window, I’ll complain as loudly as anyone else.

          • what are you talking about, poldi and welbeck? i’l assume that you simply forgot that welbeck has a long-term injury and podolski’s been gone forever. with that, what’s the way forward as far as arsenal getting goals?

  24. I would venture to guess that Gabriel’s injury changes very little in terms of Wenger’s search for a CB. If he doesn’t get what he’s looking for (an experienced CB that can be bought for good value) then he’ll be content to play Monreal at CB with Gibbs on the left. Monreal is after all an experience CB already, having deputized there in the past. Then he can wait for Kos to come back, and pow! we have two experienced CBs again. Wenger isn’t stressing the same way we are.

    • Sebastian Squillachi was “an experienced centre back for good value”, who looked amazing on paper.

      Be warned.

      Go big or go home.

  25. when last season ended, my approach was get a central defender in if you can but it’s not pressing this summer. arsenal signed holding. however, the situation changed when mert went down (i’m expecting him to be gone for the season). arsenal needed someone in and not one for the future. now, the situation is escalated with gabriel’s injury. pauleta’s come out on social media saying his injury is not that significant. however, this is arsenal. i wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he needs surgery. will wenger gamble with the kids? i think he will. the young bucks in the back have made mistakes this pre-season but haven’t been awful. we’ll see what the boss does.

    as for arseblog suggesting that wenger was wrong to play gabriel the full game on sunday, i say nuts! he was sick and didn’t train the entire time the team was in the states. wenger gave him 45 minutes against viking and 90 on sunday, which is exactly what most of us would have done; gabriel needed the game minutes before the season started. like i said, nuts!

  26. rumor has mahrez in discussion with chelsea over a potential move. if he goes to chelsea, he’s nuts. will he play ahead of willian? hazard? no champions league? we’ll see.

  27. And as it turns out, those Wenger comments about spending the club’s money like it’s your own, come from Alan Curbishley’s new book, rather than an interview he gave during this transfer window.

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