Arsenal supporters are not, by any stretch, ordinary. You won't find many other fans whose team qualifies for the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League for 13 consecutive seasons and yet who still harbour deep concerns about the running of the club, on both the business and footballing sides.
Arsenal, however, are no ordinary club. Their new stadium gives them immense financial potential, and their glorious history suggests that they should be challenging for major trophies rather than scrabbling for the economic boon of Champions League qualification.
The frustration of the fans stems from the fact that the club state that they want to win the big prizes, yet execute a transfer policy that suggests they have more conservative ambitions.
All of that means that when Arsenal fans read today about a clean bill of health for their squad, they will be worried rather than delighted. It should fill them with Christmas cheer. Instead, for many, it will be cause for concern.
Arsene Wenger is famously reluctant to spend money unless absolutely necessary. Naturally, there will be some anxiety among supporters that the news that most of his squad is available for selection will prevent him from making a move in the transfer market. He already appears to have shelved plans to borrow Thierry Henry; now there is growing vexation about the possibility of him scrapping him transfer plans altogether.
I’m not convinced that wins over West Brom and Wigan suddenly make this Arsenal side good enough. Impressive Boxing Day wins for Everton, Spurs, Chelsea and the Baggies show the nature of the competition Arsenal are facing if they’re to continue their outstanding record of Champions League qualification. That, it should be remembered, is merely the minimum requirement. In an ideal world, Arsenal would embark on a run in the FA Cup and Champions League alongside the league campaign.
The news that Abou Diaby might be fit soon and that Marouane Chamakh won’t be going to the African Cup of Nations does not pacify those with concerns over Arsenal’s strength in depth. Diaby because he can’t be relied upon to remain fit; Chamakh because he simply isn’t good enough.
Arsenal desperately need to improve their options, particularly in attack.
Most Arsenal fans agreed that Henry was not a long-term solution, but their alternatives are disappearing with each passing day. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has signed a new deal at Schalke, and now Newcastle are making noises about extending Demba Ba’s deal and removing his release clause at the same time.
Arsenal could use a substitute goalkeeper and a holding midfielder as well.
2012 was a difficult year for Arsenal fans. If the club makes the right moves in January, 2013 could be much brighter.
The club have been vocal about having money to spend.
It’s about time they did it.
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