This is my 10th season doing this blog. I started in January 2008 and I know that it sounds crazy to say that this is my 10th season but with 07/08, 08/09, 09/10, 10/11, 11/12, 12/13, 13/14, 14/15, 15/16, and now 16/17 that makes 10. Ok, technically nine and a half. Or eight and a half since we are only heading into the 10th season. But with the way that us Arsenal supporters count, 9.5 is 10.
Where was I going with this?
Oh yeah, I’m tired. Nothing wears a human down quite as much as doing pretty much the same thing for a decade. Quite how Arsene Wenger still does it, I have no idea. But he gave a classic Wenger press conference ahead of the match against Liverpool in which he said everything and nothing at the same time.
By now I could write a piece of software that generates Wenger quotes and so why reporters keep asking the same questions that generate the same responses, I haven’t a clue. Maybe they are conditioned to sit there like rats asking the same questions over and over and not getting any cheese but thinking that they will. They won’t. Not from Wenger, especially when it comes to transfers.
As I predicted on August 1st, Arsenal will not be buying a player before the start of the season. Wenger is predictable in many ways and this is one of them. In the last 10 seasons, he’s only purchased 3 players in the two week build up to the new season. In the presser he said that they are not working on any deals at the moment because they are focused on the match ahead.
Overall I found his tone about transfers seems to have changed and I am now starting to worry that we might not buy any player before the window closes. In the past, Wenger has said that we are looking for two players, a striker and a defender. When he was asked about numbers, he said that Arsenal were not after a specific number of players, that actually, the squad is too big. When asked about positions, he also said that we are not after any specific positions.
Wenger doesn’t like to show his cards (sometimes he doesn’t even play his cards, like last year when he folded after buying Cech) so it’s possible that he’s being cagey. He’s also probably trying not to hurt Giroud’s (or Walcott/Ox/Campbell’s) feelings by saying he wants to buy a striker (or wide player). Though, if that’s the case we’ve done an awful job hiding that we are after a center back and a forward all summer — what with bids for Lacazette made public and with Mustafi’s agent talking about his client linked to Arsenal.
Nope, Wenger refused to be cornered on whether Arsenal would buy going back to the well with his trusty old standby “if we find the top quality then we will still strengthen our squad.”
Oh man.. “if we find top quality”.
Top Jimmy cooks, top Jimmy swings
He’s got the look
Top Jimmy, woo shake it baby
If we find top quality. It’s one of the few things Wenger says that really grates after 10 years because it sounds so inactive, like “well if a great opportunity appears in front of us you can rest assured that we might snap it up.” It’s the kind of answer that I would want to avoid as a reporter. I wouldn’t ask him about transfers at all. I’d ask other questions. For example, “Arsene Wenger, if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” and “If Arsenal were an animal, what kind of animal would it be?” I suspect the answers would be “a Willow” and “a tortoise”.
Back to transfers and the squad. Wenger thinks the squad is great. Wenger spoke about stability. There is a hunger in the squad. There is a huge desire. The squad finished second. The squad is very complete. The squad has ambition. Arsenal finished second. But the squad is also humble. The players want to finish one better than last year.
In the more banal, Mertesacker is out for four months, Gabriel is out for two months, and Koscielny is not fit to play on Sunday. Holding and Chambers are probably going to start, with Holding being tipped as top quality and ready to make the leap up from one of the worst teams in the Championship to a huge battle between Liverpool and Arsenal at the top of the Premier League. No pressure there.
We are also on a 10 match unbeaten run. Just FYI.
And of course, lack of activity in the transfer market brought out questions about Alexis and Özil’s contract situations. Wenger said there is no urgency there, they have 2 years left, and we deal with that after the transfer window closes.
Overall it was a very predictable press conference in which Wenger gave a number of typical and expected answers. Honestly, these press conferences at this time of year are among the most boring. They ask all the same questions every year and it’s always some kind of direct question about transfers or a lame attempt at an oblique transfer question. Wenger never gives an answer to these questions but does smirk and then fans like to think that the smirk means we are buying Griezmann.
If I had the chance to ask even one question it would be about what kind of tactics he was going to use against Liverpool. How is he going to counter their press? What is his midfield going to look like? How does he deal with the threat of Firmino and Coutinho? What did Cech and the team work on in order to stop the opposition from scoring goals from distance? He’s not going to talk about transfers, so why not ask him about the football?
Yeah, I know, he wouldn’t really talk about that either. He wouldn’t want to tell us how he’s going to play against Liverpool. Right, so if we find top quality it is then.
Welcome to the 2016/17 season. I’ll write some guff about the new rules tomorrow. Until then…