A warm Sunday welcome to you. Man United lost at Swansea this afternoon, joining Liverpool and Chelsea as title hopefuls to drop all three points over the weekend, which considering our own slow start to the season, is very handy indeed as we enter the international break.
Unfortunately, the early-season pace-setters Man City won again yesterday, to continue their perfect start to the season of four wins out of four, with 10 goals scored and none conceded. And just to take the p*ss out of both rivals and fair play regulations a little more, they’ve today confirmed the capture of Kevin de Bruyne for over £50 million to take their spend this summer higher than the GDP of Germany, and leave their first-choice line-up looking a little like this:
The first thing to say looking at the eleven above as an Arsenal fan is, uh oh. The second is to suggest that just as a fourth placed finish is often dubbed a trophy, ending runners up to the seemingly infinite financial resources of Arabian Oil FC, ought perhaps to be awarded with the tag of ‘default champions’. In fact, make that a merit for third place behind Spartak West London, in which case thinking about it, we’re reigning champions.
Because even the best management in the world can’t compete with such outlandish rival spend, no matter how many people say there’s more to winning than money. At this level of investment, I’d wager Barry Fry would walk the league as Manuel Pellegrini is threatening to do now.
Is it merely coincidental that Chelsea and Man City have won six of the last 11 championships with the other five heading to United, who may not have a bottomless-pocketed benefactor bankrolling their buying, but are easily the most resourceful team in the country without one? Money matters in football and should shape any conversation regarding what constitutes success, so should we readjust our expectations for the rest of this season?
I think we probably should, even at this early stage of the campaign and certainly if we fail to bring in one or two ‘top, top, top’ signings before the window shuts on Tuesday evening, because as much as I take the point that improvement can be achieved on the training pitch and through the development of our current set of players, there’s also an intangible ‘lift’ that sweeps up a squad when a quality new team-mate arrives from elsewhere.
And I think we saw that best in recent times with the arrival of Mesut Ozil in 2013 when we recovered from an opening day defeat by Aston Villa to lead the table for half the season. Arsene Wenger as always, was asked about his transfer plans following the win at Newcastle yesterday and came up with a familiar response:
We are open and we are in the transfer market. If we find an exceptional player in any sector, we will do it. At the moment I don’t know if something will happen or not.
A predictable response from the boss there and with less than 48 hours of the market to run and no noises of any incomings at all, let alone game-changing captures, it did make me wonder how costly a strategy waiting for rivals to show their hand might prove. I mean, the widely held belief all summer has been that we’re waiting for the end of the window for an Ozil-like superstar to become available at the last minute and there’s few players out there who could markedly improve our squad otherwise.
But having watched Roma host Juventus earlier today, I felt two strikers were on show who would have significantly improved our current options and who have both changed clubs this summer – Edin Dzeko and Paulo Dybala. That said, Dybala reportedly chose to remain in Italy despite our interest and City may not have done business with us for Dzeko on the basis we’d be competing in the same league.
But still, it reminded me that to think only a handful of players out there could make us a better team is silly. There are plenty, as along as we identity and pursue them. We may, I fear, have become obsessed with the top draw of the transfer chest when there are rubies and diamonds residing in ones beneath, albeit covered and surrounded by counterfeit crap like Danny Ings (this year’s pointless and baffling Liverpool purchase like Rickie Lambert was last).
You don’t have to shop at Harrods to buy a Rolex, or something, although mistaking a Casio for a Cartier, admittedly becomes an increased possibility in what are usually the frenzied last few hours of shopping. So watch out Arsene – we can all do without another Kallstrom, if a Krychowiak really is a no-go.
See you next week.