My piece on Arsenal and the Transfer Window
NOTE: Below is the original version of the piece. If you click the link you’ll notice certain lines are missing. I like those lines.
“Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.”
One can’t help but think that the Architect had Arsenal fans in mind when relaying that message to Neo. It certainly fits. Arsenal fans, even the most outwardly disappointed, can’t help but hope each year that something good will happen. It is what keeps them going season after season.
That faith has been tested once more. Arsenal were, by popular consensus, two to three signings away from challenging for the Premier League title. In their undoubted brilliance, the manager, Arsene Wenger, and board contrived to sign only one of those players. Petr Cech arrived from Chelsea with much fanfare but left Arsenal as the only European club to not sign an outfield player.
That deal occurred at the beginning of the summer and Arsenal fans waited with bated breath for more. This was the year. This was the time that all weaknesses would be fixed and the Gunners become the “Invincibles” again. That was the hope. The reality was so much different.
For the third summer Arsenal fans were teased with possibilities.
Along with a goalkeeper, the Gunners deficiencies in defensive midfield and at striker were obvious. Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin was linked to the club most of the season yet nothing came of that. He was snapped up by Manchester United. Real Madrid’s Benzema and Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani headlined the supposed attacking targets Arsene Wenger had in mind. For Arsenal fans to believe those rumours showed they had indeed moved into the deluded stage.
Wenger probably never considered a Schneiderlin after the emergence of Francis Coquelin. He also knew just how little chance he had of signing Cavani and Benzema. He came up with the right lines in press conferences, “if we build it they will come” and all that, and deadline day flights to Paris heightened expectations. All the while building that hope. Hope that has steadily been building for the last three summers.
First, Mesut Ozil signed on deadline day from Real Madrid in 2013/14. Alexis Sanchez followed suit the next summer, albeit a little sooner, and Cech was up this year. While those three players have undoubtedly improved Arsenal one could argue, especially in Ozil’s case, that they were luxuries. There were, and still are, bigger needs for Arsenal. A poor start to this season and failures in the big tournaments in earlier seasons are evidence of that. The lack of transfer activity on top of that has surely weakened the resolve of even the most ardent “In Wenger We Trust” supporter. They, after all, were the most hopeful.
Wenger will be doing some hoping of his own. His plan is now to get certain players to improve their performances and keep others fit. And hope. Until all hope disappears.
At the end of the season the Architect will be waiting to say, in his haughty manner, “I told you so.” He will tell it to the Arsenal fans who, whether for or against Wenger, are in for another roller-coaster ride of a season. There may be another trophy added to the collection, you know, seeing as winning the FA Cup never gets old. There may even be talk of a title at some point. Regardless, Arsenal have given the fans hope yet are set to test their faith once again.
But who knows?
Maybe Ozil, Sanchez or Cech can be the Gunners’ Neo.
Here’s to hoping.