With the abiding reality of drawing Barcelona again in the next round of the knockout stages of the Champion league now before us, a few things have surfaced like a bad coin.
Among the few, two comments stood out this week, as they indicated what fans had either known or were painfully resigned to.
First was Arsene Wenger’s depressing “Arsenal will not be shopping for big-name players in next month's transfer window” revelation; second was the club captain’s frustrated "Sometimes we seem scared of losing these big games" remark.
Those statements seemed to plant Arsenal into the ranks of a second rate training ground or a feeder club. Should Cesc leave at the end of the current season or either Denilson, Eboue and Clichy as speculated about recently then the training label would became a bad seal.
What is more irritating is that a preliminary ground work appears to be set in motion for any underachievement down the road. While the manager’s declaration is not bad per se, it nevertheless limits any high expectations come January’s transfer window or by the end of the soccer season come next May.
Of a more deflating significance is Fabregas’ musings about fear. While I tend to agree with him on the merits, sharing that with the whole world was diplomatically naive.
However, it conveyed a coded message that cried out for some seasoned signings, though it had a defeatist air written all over it. His observations begged for the sorely missed addition of warrior types to a team that beams with youth and promise but lacks a killer’s instinct.
It was, in effect, a mild rejection of his manager's signings and related policy as a whole.
The quandary facing Arsene’s army is that signing anyone now may prove to be something of a gamble, as such a signing would be cup-tied and would need time to gel. However, it need not have been so.
Thumbing through the squad and reviewing the season so far shows that there is a strong need for leaders who would steady the ship when all doesn’t go as planned.
The match at Old Trafford screamed for that missing link in spades. The 2004 Invisibles Team radiated leadership through its ranks. The burden of expectation was fairly distributed and it was not a case where one or two players carried the club although Patrick Viera came close to being one.
Except for a select few, the current Gunners are littered with average players trying to punch above their weight. Commendable, though it may seem, it is only a tested recipe for perhaps winning the Carling Cup at best and nothing more.
That is the operating reality which all their fans may have to live with.
Nothing wrong with that, if we are talking about a second rate ball club. Arsenal, like any other ambitious club, needs a bedrock of players who can navigate the team through troubled waters.
As the year draws to a close, I urge all Barcelona fans to wait till the games have been played before starting their, ill-advised, premature celebrations.
Reading some of the commentaries thus far, one would think that Arsenal did not exist at all—I beg to differ.
While their arrogance may seem justified nothing in modern football is ever a fait accompli.
Finally, since it’s the season of goodwill towards all men, I simply wish Arsenal all the best and ignore all the football challenges ahead however daunting or self inflicted they may seem.
May the chips fall where they may come in 2011.