Arsenal play Aston Villa on Monday night, not so that you might notice it or anything, as the main Arsenal stories this week have been Diego Costa, Theo Walcott, and Bayern Munich’s ticket subsidy PR stunt.
As an Arsenal fan you can have two reactions whenever the transfer window opens: you can ignore all the transfer rumors and wait until Arsene Wenger tells you we have purchased someone or you can have a minor melt down every day, wearing out the F5 key on NewsNow, gossiping on twitter, and reading articles on the relative value of certain players.
As someone who earns a small amount of money every time you click on my blog, I have no problem admitting that I (and the rest of the press) exploit the latter but as a fan and as someone who has been actively blogging about Arsenal for 6 years I recommend the former.
There is a third way. That is to keep clicking, read the articles, disagree with them, agree with them, and basically enjoy them for what they are: pornography for sports fans. Every transfer season some new hottie comes on the market and every season Arsenal fans get all hot and worked up over the prospect of seeing that hottie in an Arsenal uniform. Never mind that it never happens. The important thing, just like porn, is that you think it could happen. Enjoy the transfer season for what it is, a chance to fantasize about sleeping with Diego Costa.
Every four months it’s the same thing just with different players in a moveable feast of transfer pornography. Last Summer it was Cavani, Falcao, Higuain, Jovetic, and Suarez. Arsenal probably could have bedded Higuain in to the team but the others were never realistic: Falcao for his third party ownership, Cavani because PSG were offering to make him their Pretty Woman, Jovetic because the Manchester sheikhs wanted to add him to their harem, and Suarez because Suarez’ people seemingly lied about the release clause so that they could use Arsenal to get a deal with Real Madrid and/or a better contract with Liverpool. In the end, Arsenal got none of the above, instead getting Europe’s best playmaker in the transfer of the summer.
That’s right, Arsenal announced Özil’s signing just a few months ago and you’d think that the lesson would still be fresh but for some reason here we are again with Arsenal fans drooling over players who aren’t really up to snuff or who aren’t really the target of the club. I actually don’t get it. Why are we letting the press or blogs like Le Grove drive the debate on this topic? Most of the players those people are linking to Arsenal are not any better than the ones we already have and yet there is a feeding frenzy for Arsene to buy a second, perhaps (really this is arguable) slightly better version of the ones we already have.
It seems the main hysteria this January is about buying another Giroud, Arsenal’s big man up front. Arsenal fans want one of the following and any indication that Arsenal won’t buy one means that Arsenal won’t be title contenders any more (despite the fact that Arsenal are top of the table): Dzeko, Benteke, Mandzukic, Jackson Martinez, or that 6’8″ Traore. If what you want is a target man who will win you some aerial balls, who will bring others into the game, and who will score you some goals off set plays, Arsenal have two of those: Giroud and Bendtner. You don’t need any more than that and I hate to break this to you and I know you’ll disagree but none of those names above are significantly better than Arsenal’s current starter, Giroud.
Sure, Benteke is better than Bendtner and perhaps it would be good for the team to have Benteke and Giroud fighting for the starting spot, or Mandzukic and Giroud, or whatever. But there is always the chance that they won’t be better for the team. That the Arsenal chemistry in the dressing room, which is widely hailed as the best chemistry any of these players has seen, would be disrupted by some chucklehead like Dzeko.
And there’s the cost. What happens if Arsenal buy Dzeko and then they don’t have enough to get a player like Draxler in the Summer? All signs point to Draxler leaving Schalke, the German team just signed Sidney Sam as his replacement and Draxler has been touring the Arsenal training ground to get a peek at how things work at Arsenal. But even with the groundwork laid, there will probably be a bidding war on Draxler as clubs like Chelsea, Man City, PSG, and Monaco try to corner the market on the world’s talent. And if there isn’t going to be a bidding war on Draxler, there will certainly be one on Diego Costa, the player Michael Cox described as the new Suarez.*
There was a lesson in the Özil transfer which I have tried to weave through each of my transfer rumors this week; that none, bar Draxler and maybe Costa, are really that exciting. Sorry, but I have a real hard time getting worked up over Mandzukic. This is a player who scored 20 goals in 56 matches for Wolfsburg before making the switch to the most potent offence in Germany and scoring 25 in 40 apps. But like Martinez and Giroud, it’s the Champions League where these guys really struggle and Mandzukic has scored just 5 goals in 14 Champions League appearances. Diego Costa already has 4 goals in just 3 Champions League appearances. And the 20 year old Julian Draxler has 3 goals in 6 apps this term.
The lesson we should have learned from years of supporting Arsenal and watching as Arsene had to make due with sub par signings, like Andrei Arshavin, is that we shouldn’t sign any more of those kinds of players. I’m not saying Arsenal should never sign a middling talent ever again, but rather that we save our nut for the players who really matter. The real stars like Draxler.
Arsenal supporters have waited a long time for the club to be able to buy big name players and while I understand the rush to spend some money there is no sense waiting all this time to be swept away by the wave of love only to settle for some old tap water sloshing around in a bucket. For the ticket prices we pay, we deserve real stars, not players like Benteke.
*Note the similarities between his article and mine: we both agree that Costa demands and wastes the ball a lot, that he’s terrible in the air and that he can’t dribble around anyone despite trying, a lot. The differences, however, are that Michael Cox is much more eloquent in his appreciation of Costa – probably because he’s seen him play a lot more than I have — and it boils down to “Costa gives defenders fits”. Interestingly, Michael has done a 180 from his position of just 6 months ago where he said “Costa possesses all of Suarez’s flaws and none of his qualities.”