I don't know if you heard this, but the transfer window closed this week. I know, right? I wish they'd publicize these things more, it just seemed to come and go without anybody really noticing. Anyway, it's gone now, the dust has settled, we're almost through another tedious set of internationals (I don't much care for international soccer, except the World Cup finals themselves), and it's about three months until the next Premier League game, it seems.
So while I was sitting around this morning, thinking "in the absence of interesting games, what on earth can I write about in the next week or so that hasn't already been said about 200 times in the last week?", I read this piece by David Lacey in the Guardian. In it, he accuses Arsenal of "panic buying", of abandoning the Arsenal legacy (because apparently a team always has to have the same players and the same type of players throughout the decades? Uh, sure), and of generally not knowing (or losing control of) what the hell he is doing. Problem is, the Guardian, and almost every other media source in England and elsewhere, have been saying all summer long that "Arsenal are not good enough" and that "reinforcements must be brought in" and all that sort of crap. So which is it, media?
Don't worry, this isn't going to be a Howard Beale I'm Mad As Hell And Not Going To Take It Any More moment. I'm not reflexively anti-media; without media, after all, I wouldn't be able to follow Arsenal from a half a world away. They serve a purpose, and a great many of them do solid work and a small minority of them even advance the art and science of the reporting and analysis of the game. The problem I have, though, is in what we've all seen in the media's coverage of Arsenal in the last six weeks or so.
At the end of last season, the overarching theme of most Arsenal season-summary stories was "They're not good enough, they need reinforcements, and here's where". All true. Then, another summer of nothing, and the stories were "Arsenal don't do anything in the market, rely on youth again, will suck". Also potentially true. Then, all of a sudden, in the last 48 hours of the transfer period, Arsenal buy a bunch of players, address several (if not all) of their urgent needs, and while there was some begrudging respect or at least wait-and-see from some media corners, by and large it's "ARSENAL IN PANIC BUY SHOCK; ARE DESPERATE".
Did you see what happened there? Arsenal did what the media (and a large number of the fans) wanted them to do, and they still get pilloried for it. Why is this? It seems like it's because Arsenal didn't buy in the way that the media and fans wanted them to buy. So of course, that same media will blast them for being desperate because Arsenal didn't follow the script - they didn't make a lot of sensible signings languidly over the course of the summer, which would have given the journalists time and space to cover them properly. Instead, they bunched up all their buying at the very end, and they made the press work like dogs (albeit office-coddled dogs with expense accounts) for a couple days.
So all of a sudden, that thing that should have happened did happen, and still it's not good enough. Does that do anybody else's head in, or just mine?
There is a legitimate debate to be had about the quality of the players Arsenal signed this summer, and that debate has happened and will continue to happen here and other places. But the fact of signing players? That, to me, is undebatable - it's not desperate, it's not a reversal of Wenger's entire philosophy. It's the way a team moves forward and evolves, and Arsenal have done that - now we just need to see if it will work.
PS: Dear English Premier League, please play games now. Thanks!