By Avenell Dave
It’s been a strange few days in the life of being an Arsenal fan.
I watched Moneyball at the weekend, where Oakland A’s general manager, Billy Beane, makes his team competitive by using statistics and analysis previously unheard of in the sport.
Everyone doubted him and yet he managed to confound the critics.
He was offered a big role at the Boston Red Sox but turned it down.
I was waiting for the credits to roll and tell me that against the odds he’d managed to win the World Series but it simply said that he was still waiting for that win.
Beane has claimed that Arsene Wenger is someone he idolises and you can see why.
And there are parallels between Arsenal and Oakland in as much as Wenger had severe financial constraints after leaving Highbury and yet had to compete with teams for whom money was no object.
Money is now coming in thanks to new commercial deals and repayment of much of the stadium debt.
But judging by the reaction on social media on Friday, you would have thought that we were in a relegation battle and guilty of a dereliction of duty rather than being one point off the top of the table with two billion pound clubs fighting us for the title.
I’ve said many times that we needed players. We needed a striker, we needed a dominant midfielder and probably a versatile defender but for whatever reason, we didn’t sign them.
Fans are right to have their concerns about the farcical signing of Kim Kallstrom and the explanation that there was no one else available when it came to sign him but that misses some fundamental points that the likes of Payton and others who simply love to put the bot in would do well to consider.
Whatever our transfer budget is now and in the summer, it is finite.
We make a bad or over-priced signing now and we are lumbered with deadwood. Julian Draxler may be good. He may be world class. But is her worth £37m or whatever Schalke wanted for him?
Given that he is injured and has scored just one goal this season, I suspect not and it is a sellers’ market.
That’s why even moneybags City pulled out of signing two players from Portugal that they were expected to add to their ranks.
And everyone knows Manchester United need signings but they made only one – because players either don’t want to move or clubs are unwilling to sell in January.
Yes, we could have perhaps made a loan signing such as Mirko Vucinic, if he was available but Wenger may have decided that he was no better a player than Niklas Bendtner or even Lukas Podolski to replace Olivier Giroud.
It’s always as if some fans expect us to fail and while the odds may be stacked against us because of the size and might of City and Chelsea’s squads, signing players for the sake of it is no guarantee of success.
Don’t forget the likes of Squilacci, Park and Santos who were all signed and failed.
As Christian Purslow, former Liverpool MD, said yesterday, signing players takes weeks and having gone a long way down the line with Kallstrom, pulling out would have wasted a lot of effort and time.
There are certainly questions to be asked about how strategic the club’s transfer strategy really is – we seem to be reactive rather than proactive.
But to suggest, as so many have, that Wenger doesn’t know what he’s doing, with the team where they are in the table (top, in case you’d forgotten, even if only for a few hours), is ridiculous and shows just how spoilt and out of touch with reality some fans really are.
This isn’t Championship Manager. Most of what is written in the papers is done to sell papers.
Yes, the squad is stretched and taking a few calculated gambles could have given everyone a boost.
But equally, they could have backfired. Just ask Newcastle who signed Faustino Asprilla a few years ago when leading the table, only for him to disrupt the balance of the team and Manchester United to win the title.
Let’s be positive.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain did well yesterday despite an iffy first half and if we can maintain our defensive frugality over the next six or so games, we are going to be in a great position to win things this season.
COME ON YOUR GUNNERS!