The “Silly Season”: what Arsenal Needs

By Patrick Grove

It has been ages since I’ve put down my thoughts about the world’s most beloved game and my most beloved team. I guess life can sometimes get in the way of writing down those opinions and thoughts or make us bury them under the weight of other “more important” (…ok well at least to some) stresses. Even in the midst of so little going on in the world of Arsenal Football Club, there is so much to watch on tv, talk about, and smile about.

Today, the sacking of Harry Redknapp was made official by Tottenham Hotspur. Considering their relative success under the twitchy manager (you’d have to say finishing 4th, 5th, and 4th in the last 3 seasons has to be seen as an achievement for the little fellas) it does seem a bit odd. Not that I’m complaining. As I was reading in his blog, arse2mouse makes a great point that Harry Redknapp brought the hate back to the rivalry. Not that we ever loved out neighbors from north London, but something about the man (whose mother is a whore apparently) just ratcheted up the animosity of Arsenal fans toward the Spuds. Okay maybe it was more than something, it was many things, but still, I’ll miss being able to sling hurtful jibes without regret at a man that I disdain so much. What will make it especially sad though is if a manager I like and respect (think David Moyes or Roberto Martinez) takes over. Then I’ll be forced to hate someone that is, for all intents and purposes, a likeable enough bloke. Either way, as an Arsenal fan, it’s hard not to smile about this news. Good riddance Harry. Maybe your tax scheming finally did catch up to you.

The Silly Season is in full swing now. I must say the media make more and more difficult not to get caught up in the hype and stories. A new story (and I use story in the original sense of the word, like tale, something you tell a small child to watch their eyes get big) is published every day with no source and as excitable fans (which we all are) believing some of those stories is inevitable. I think I’ve faired pretty well this summer dealing with this malarkey. I told myself all spring that “when the transfer season starts, believe nothing until it shows up on”. I think that’s my advice for everyone. Unless your club confirms it, it’s all speculation, and I know in this day and age we live to talk about speculation and rumor, but before you drink the proverbial Kool-aid®, do your best to reign yourself in. Based on our recent history in the transfer market, it’s a bit amusing to me that people are getting so excited at this point. A transfer cannot be finalized until July 1st anyway, and as Arsenal fans, we’ve been made idle promises and heard “to good to be true” rumors before.

There are some rumors that seem more plausible than others. If the rumors that a deal for Giroud is almost complete, it would be another great bit of business for AFC in my opinion. The man seems to have great technical ability (albeit from the few videos of him I have seen) he’s coming off a season carrying lots of confidence, and he knows what it takes to win having just won the Ligue 1 title with Montpellier. Not only that, but he’s had to work his way up from the bottom. And the key word for me in that last sentence is work. It will take work to put us up amongst the best in the world and having more players willing to do that work can only be a good thing. Again though, not on yet definitely not “done and dusted”.

I do very much hope we get M’Vila as well. We desperately need a “true” defensive midfielder that SITS in front of the back four. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of people tell me (as I have before) “we have one of the best DMs in the world in Alex Song”. I have to say as much as I love the man, he is not a good defensive midfielder. His creativity and technique has made him more of a box to box midfielder if anything. Yes, he had some beautiful assists and played some of our most incisive passing at times, but those contributions do not make someone a DM. He had to do those things at times, and I am not saying they were unimportant contributions, but those forays forward left us just too exposed.

A true DM must not get caught upfield, must protect the back four, and must make tackles. The only games I witnessed these attributes out of our number 17 were the two against Dortmund. If he puts his mind to it, he has the ability to be great at that job, but his adventurousness too often leaves us exposed. That, more than anything else, led to our dismal goals against number. If our back four doesn’t have protection (and with our fullbacks flying up the lines as extra attackers all the time, it becomes a back two) we are going to concede goals on the break.