Have we signed anyone yet? Have we tried to sign anyone yet? How about a transfer out? Anyone?
That settles it, Arsenal are a club in crisis.
Joking aside, Arsenal spent the week training in Cologne and judging by the pictures and videos on the official site it looks like the team is happy, relaxed, and coming together well as a group. My favorite moment is when Song and Santos have a penalty shootout. It’s a genuinely fun moment and you can see the smiles on the faces of their teammates as Song and Santos ham it up.
Obviously, pictures don’t tell the whole story as there are rumors that Barcelona are interested in Alex Song but just looking at the way he’s so relaxed in all the photos makes me wonder if there’s more smoke than fire here. Barcelona may be interested, and given the fact that they have sent out their Olympic tapping up team in the form of Iniesta and Busquets I suspect there is genuine interest, but Song looks happy at Arsenal. Would he give all that up to play for a few more dollars in Spain? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.
The thing is for me that Song is a crucial part of Arsenal’s midfield — and two years ago I would be slaughtered if I said that. Setting aside all the assists and tackles and whatnot, the chemistry and experience he brings to the team is just as important. He gets criticized for not being a fifth defender (or third defender if you believe that Arsenal really play a 2-4-4) but as my friend Adrian once put it: he’s not a defensive midfielder, he’s the most defensive of midfielders in a not at all defensive system. Song could stand around and do nothing but shield the back two but that’s not what Arsene wants him to do. What he wants him to do is complete 90% of his passes, play through balls, get assists off wonderful chips, tackle, intercept, and shield the back two sometimes.
Sorry but as much as Nuri Sahin is an exciting prospect swapping him for Song means that Arsenal would lose a player who has four years of Premier League experience (he’s been a starter for Arsenal for the last four years) and the strength to hold off players like Joey Barton. He’s also a great guy in the dressing room and the kind of player who makes everyone around him happier. I don’t want to get Sahin if it means losing Song. No thanks.
Still, I take solace in the photos. He looks like a player who is having the time of his life in training and that’s a great sign for the club. It might make him think twice before cajoling for a shift.
The photos of Robin van Persie tell a different story. First, he’s almost always alone and when with the group he runs at the end of the line and not the middle of the line like last year. He’s training with the club but he never seems to be actually doing anything with any of the other players.
Worse, his smiles seem to belie a man who is not at all happy with the way his summer has turned out. Why would he be? He’s gone from the heart of the team, the captain who led the club on the pitch and whose wife led the team’s social life off the pitch, to a player no one wants to talk to. While Koz and Vermaelen are pictured in groups laughing or practicing together and Song and Santos are having a penalty shoot-out, van Persie is off stretching on his own with an inane winsome grin on his face. Even Andrei Arshavin is part of the team and looks happy and relaxed taking part in team events.
Maybe Stuart MacFarlane is only capturing those moments – like stats, pictures don’t tell the whole story – and maybe the Arsenal.com is manipulating the photos to make it look like he’s more ostracized than he really is. But I see a lonely man who believed he was better than the club and his teammates and through his own foolish actions is now forced to practice with a team that no longer wants or needs him.
Hubris is a hell of a drug.