The 0-0 result against Sunderland was of course a significant point and assuming there is not a huge and unlikely swing in goals this weekend we will finish 3rd however poor the result may have seemed at the final whistle.
It certainly had the feeling of one of those games from the moment I got into the ground, empty seats everywhere and you could hear a pin drop. When the atmosphere is like that you really need the team to go at the opposition and the crowd behind them and it took two Sunderland chances for this to eventually happen.
Finishing 2nd or 3rd makes no difference apart from a few quid on the Arsenal bottom line of the accounts department. It is finishing 3rd and not 4th that will lead to a very different approach from the club in the transfer market.
I think an unfair criticism has been of Arsène that he has turned from football manager to business man – I prefer to call him sensible and because of his astute business mind the club finds itself in a fantastic financial position. In the past summer windows we have left some of our business very late and it has always seemed to be linked with confirmation of qualification to the group stages of the Champions League, Sanchez of course an exception. This season, once the dust has settled, hopefully on a sunny Wembley evening and we have retained the cup, the club will be busy in the transfer market.
It is said every year about this being a big summer but this one seems to carry real importance for me. In the second half of the season we have been excellent, there have been some fantastic performances and results – and I think the emergence of a real team. It has been years where I have felt a real affiliation with the team and the team spirit is exceptional and I think the squad is close to being a serious title contending side. I have been fortunate to be around a lot of the younger members of the team and they all want one thing which is to win trophies for this club – it really does have the feeling of something special, we just need a few additions.
I don’t want to write about endless rumours but one deal that I think should be completed is for Petr Čech. I’m certain Arsenal made enquires in the last window and were likely told that he was not for sale until the summer. I think a deal will happen if Arsène gives it the ok and it is the start of exactly what we need. David Ospina has done an excellent job, but he is not a leader/commander, a great talker, or world class – these are all things that Čech is.
Olivier Giroud is a very interesting subject and many fans feel we need an upgrade in this department, and the question is often who? My fellow ABW Blogger Simon (@sr_collings) wrote a great piece on him, but I do feel we need another striker: one with genuine pace and a different option. I am sure most will be disappointed by his recent form which coincided with the comments made by Thierry Henry. Instead of ignoring it and scoring goals his form has dropped off and gone into a sulk with this recent comment “I heard he was saying too many dull things. That was a bomb and it has had its desired effect”. To be honest, I think we need a guy with bigger balls than that. Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry or Ian Wright would have ignored any negative comments, gone out and scored goal after goal.
Finishing 3rd now gives Arsène the ability to get all his business done early, get all the new additions on the tour and to have a pre-season with the current squad. Not having a World Cup or Euro’s and automatic qualification will, in my belief, see Arsenal start the new campaign like a steam train rather than having to make it all up.
Although Arsenal have to take a pre-season tour abroad something we know the manager would rather not do but commercial activity dictates this, the actual program of games is currently small and will give the team time to prepare properly without the worry of two legs to gain qualification to the Champions League.
Current form of course has to be a worry, especially after failing to score in our last three home games with the Cup Final only days away. I would think we will see big changes before the home game this weekend against West Brom as the side especially Cazorla and Alexis look like the tank is completely empty. I think in the last few games we have really missed the driving runs of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – he has been a real miss and will be great to have him back fit.
The team looked tired last night and very short on ideas and in classic Arsène style, he said “we lacked sharpness.” To be fair, I believe all the players had one eye on Wembley. A rest for a lot of players this weekend will hopefully be the tonic the team need before they walk out for the Cup Final. We can’t afford nerves or a slow start as this Villa side are much better than the Hull side we beat last year.
Winning the FA Cup will give the players more of that winning mentality and something vital to take into next season. A few new additions to this squad and we will give ourselves a great chance of doing something special next year and I am a firm believer that we absolutely have the right man for the job. The shackles are off now and he should be allowed time to spend the money on transfers and players he really believes in. It is probably worth noting that we are now taking players from Barcelona and Real Madrid and not the other way round.
One more big performance to pop that FA Cup on the side board and we can all sit back on the beach and let Arsène take care of the squad over the summer. It’s a big summer but one we will go out and get business done early and be ready to go from the off in August.
This is Neil’s second blog for us here at #ABW. Go give him a follow on twitter (@chimpthegooner) and say “hello.”