It has been almost 48 hours since the transfer window slammed shut for the summer and still, as I ponder over all the ramifications and fall outs, I don’t have the remotest idea what Arsenal were trying to achieve.
The argument about doing business early and avoiding last-day panic buys and frantic phone calls is a well-trodden one that doesn’t need going over again, the point has been well and oft-made these last few days.
And, in fairness, it is a point that applies to the vast majority of teams in the league, including Manchester City, Chelsea, and Tottenham, who all left it extremely late to make moves.
But what sets Arsenal apart from all those other teams is the semblance of a plan. Where others had targets they pursued based on squad needs, the Gunners adopted a panicked, clueless, scatter-gun approach to everything that transpired on the day. It was sad and embarrassing to watch the club flounder about as if it was a teenager on work experience asked to file a company tax return.
After months spent categorically denying that Alexis Sanchez would leave the club, Arsene Wenger then apparently entertained an 11th hour bid for the Chilean from Manchester City, leaving himself a matter of hours in which to find a replacement and agree a deal.
As it transpired, it simply wasn’t enough time and Alexis remained at the Emirates. If Arsene has simply stuck to his guns and refused the first bid that was made for their star player, it would at least have given the appearance of certainty and decisiveness.
Suddenly considering the bid and then scrambling madly to try and sign Thomas Lemar – as widely reported – made us look utter fools and amateurs, and, unsurprisingly, failed miserably.
It was needless and utterly avoidable. As was the fiasco surrounding Shkodran Mustafi, a man we pursued for months last summer before finally landing for £35million. A year later, however, and the Gunners were prepared to take a sizeable hit on the German with talk of a £25million-ish deal with Inter Milan.
Was he so bad that only shipping him out at the earliest opportunity would do? Are we that blessed with defenders that we could afford to lose two experienced internationals over the summer and replace them with absolutely nobody?
It just speaks to an utter dearth of planning, control, or strategy from the floor up at Arsenal. Did we have a list of targets at the start of the summer? Did Arsene genuinely believe that we were only a left back and a striker away from winning the league last season?
Does the veteran Frenchman expect the departure of a glut of players from the squad – with scant replacement – address all of our shortcomings as a team?
We can only hope that Arsene has a clue because, quite simply, nobody else does. Fans, pundits, ex-players – there doesn’t seem to be a soul alive who knows what Arsenal’s end game was this summer.
This had to be a huge transfer window for the club. Even before our appalling start to the season we needed new faces in the door, we needed freshening up and strengthening. It simply has not happened. After a strong start, Arsenal tailed off badly and we are left in, arguably, a poorer state than we were when we lifted the FA Cup in May.
Far from being a decisive summer, it has been a huge step backwards for a club that could ill-afford to move anywhere but forwards.
Quite why it ended up going so badly, and who bears ultimate responsibility for that, is up for debate. Was Arsene denied the money he needed to get the players he wanted? Was our negotiation so poor that we were still unable to shift the likes of Matthieu Debuchy, while simultaneously being incapable of convincing the likes of Lemar to move to the Emirates weeks ago when every other club who dealt with Monaco was able to come away with the player they desired.
This summer leaves so many questions, and such a bitter taste in the mouth, that it is difficult to know where to go from here. I struggle to see, at this point in time, how this team will find its way back into the Champions League, given how all of our rivals have strengthened, while we have stagnated.
To those who wanted Wenger to leave in the summer – and I count myself among them – this is proof definitive of why he should have walked away. It is more of the same tepid shit that we have been served for most of the last five years, repackaged and stuffed into a new box, but still bearing the same foul stench of disappointment.
As for the ‘catalyst for change’, that phrase will hang like a noose around Ivan Gazidis’s neck until he finally feels too embarrassed by his own impotence to carry on at the club. He is not the only problem, the truth is almost everyone above the playing squad needs to be cleared out, but he made a play for power at the back end of last season and it has turned out to be utter waffle, leaving him looking weak and ineffectual while Arsene continues to stumble along for one crisis to the next.
Is it May yet?