As the news about Mikel Arteta’s injury filters through the Arsenal ranks, the hope and excitement that awaited the new season among Arsenal supporters is slowly turning into fear and anger before a ball has even been kicked. Arsenal start their campaign in a tricky game against last season’s survivalists Aston Villa, who managed to keep hold of their most prized asset Christian Benteke. Arsenal, for a change, have not sold any key players, but they have failed to make any significant signings, only bringing in talented Frenchman youth player Yaya Sanogo, who will most likely be watching most of the games from the touchline.
Arsenal fans were expecting to enter the new season with a minimum of two new star signings, individuals that were pried away from their previous clubs due to their superior footballing abilities, but no such thing happened. They have tried and tried with Luis Suarez, and agreed personal terms with Gonzalo Higuain, and depending on who you trust, lost out to getting Luiz Gustavo because they weren’t willing to offer enough money. Supporters are already expecting another barren season, but what will irritate them most is that their neighbors and most hated rivals, Tottenham, have been wide awake throwing around their “Bale” money. Given that that they are most likely going to be without the Welshman for this season, they have made sure to compensate for that loss. Arsenal fans have become envious of a Tottenham transfer policy that has seen them bring in Roberto Soldado, Nacer Chadli, Paulinho and Etienne Capoue.
The news of Arteta’s injury has added fuel to a fire still burning from last season, briefly subdued by a fourth place finish. The loss of Arsenal’s makeshift defensive midfielder, a position they have failed to properly fill since Gilberto Silva’s departure, has left them scrambling. Having sent out Coquelin on loan and missing out on players like Gustavo and Capoue, who were heavily linked with Arsenal for the better part of last season, fans have started to become cynical and angered by the lack of ambition in the transfer market. The only other team in the race for the title that has not been making waves in the transfer market has been Manchester United. However, a title and managerial change will temporarily lessen expectations. Plus they wrapped up the signing of English forward Wilfried Saha long before the transfer window even opened.
Last year there was a clear and growing divide between the staunch supporters of Wenger and the fans that have had enough of him and wanted him to step down gracefully. Achieving Champions League football and touting a summer transfer budget of £70million, increased expectations for the club, and tempered the anger of supporters. When the window opened, transfer targets were plentiful and every player became a viable target, but as time passed and targets went elsewhere, even the loyal supporters of Wenger were starting to make noise.
It is clear that the team needs reinforcement, especially up front and the defensive midfield position. Olivier Giroud’s season last year was spotty, but he was expected to play every game and his physical condition started to suffer in February and March, picking up small injuries and a recurring back injury. Even the staunchest supporters of Wenger are having a hard time justifying the ever-increasing prices on tickets and merchandise, without the joy of seeing a world class player join the team. Without any signings, the rumbling will continue and any Arsenal loss against weaker opposition or a dry spell up front will prompt heavy jeering by the supporters. By not signing anyone, Wenger is not the only one under intense pressure but the whole squad will be, especially with a poor start to the season or failure to beat Fenerbahce. For young players like Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey and now Sanogo, coping with expectations to win the Premier League without receiving much support in terms of added cavalry may extremely harmful to their still growing confidence.
Whether signings will still be made remains to be seen. Wenger says he’s not scared to make to spend, but the proof is in the pudding. There isn’t much optimism among supporters and with Luis Suarez backtracking and apologizing to Liverpool, his arrival at the Emirates will be scrapped.
These last two weeks are crucial for Wenger and his legacy. Wenger has always been a master tactician and his transfer dealings on a whole have been nothing short of spectacular, but he likes to find the perfect piece for the puzzle and if that does not come available, he may dip into the market for a makeshift player and often times, that ends up disastrous. If worse comes to worse, Arsenal may need to rely on Niklas Bendtner, and although in his delusional world he is somewhere between Pele and Maradona, his failures at Sunderland and Juventus and comments attacking Arsenal have made him a persona non grata at the Emirates, and seeing him in a full kit on the bench may see some supporters revolt. When the team’s options for a striker go from Gonzalo Higuain, Luis Suarez or David Villa to Nicklas Bendtner, then anger, rage and disappointment will be fully expected.