After a painstakingly long summer and seemingly longer second half today, we’re ﬁnally in the home stretch of the transfer window. It’s safe to say, to this point, Arsenal have deﬁed the detractors, which comparatively has not been the case in the early goings of seasons in recent memory. Speculation that ‘this is the year Arsenal ﬁnish out of the top four/below Spurs’ is nothing new and the annual prediction of that statistical anomaly only stands to devalue it even more the next time it happens. Still, there was reason to be alarmed after the opening day match and anyone who follows Arsenal was likely preparing for the team to compound their woes in successive matches, and rightfully so. Yet despite it’s historical tendencies, this time around the club has responded in a way that the fans and most importantly the team itself can be proud of.
When the ﬁnal whistle blew at today’s North London Derby (or Darby if you’re going to spell it like you say it!) and the all important three points were secure, there was a deﬁnite shift in mood. Fan and media reaction alike seemed to take note of the quality in both squads and the general consensus seems to be that Tottenham will gel together over the early stages of the season and be a much more daunting foe once that chemistry has had it’s time; while Arsenal conversely have a ﬁrst team squad with the quality and chemistry among itself already in place but they lack the depth going forward to convince most anyone that they can keep it up for a full season.
Enter: André Villas-Boas.
Along with dejection and some wishful thinking about the match, AVB ofﬁcially conﬁrmed the departure of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid at his post game press conference. It would seem there’s a chance the idea that Spurs had been stalling for various reasons may not be so far fetched and at the top of the list of potential motives is the intent to thwart any Arsenal progress with Real Madrid before the derby match or possibly overall. If that was the case, the cat is now out of the bag and with the conﬁrmation there is again a shift in mood as this part of the puzzle that is Arsenal’s transfer window has the potential to really get things in motion.
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Not long after Villas-Boas’ conﬁrmation, Arsene made a very un-Arsene move in not only smiling in a press conference, but giving reason to suspect that there’s some exciting news coming before the window closes. After a summer (okay, 4 or 5 years now) of doing our best to not read into the carefully crafted words Wenger uses, most fans are probably conditioned to take this sort of comment with a grain of salt, but there’s no denying that he was in much better spirits when he met the media today than he typically is which again is reason for optimism. What a difference a match makes, eh?
And then there’s the bits that actually matter: Ramsey performing up to the bar he’s set for himself thus far; Giroud continuing his good form and in a hugely important game; having a player on our bench in Flamini that can cover well when we need him; and the grit and determination to ﬁnish the game out against an onslaught of attempts from a side that’s fairly regarded as a top four contender. People can talk all they want about the money Spurs spent vs. the lack of money spent by Arsenal, but the fact of the matter is, both clubs ﬁelded what they thought was their best squad and the better team won. That may not be true next time we meet, or next year, or ever again, but there’s no point in focusing on anything that far in front of us, especially when we have much bigger business to tend to.
The proper course of action now has to be ﬁnishing strong in this transfer window. With reports that Özil and Di María are potentially available now that Bale has arrived, as well as a rumored bid for Julian Draxler and interest in a handful of other very attractive targets, it’s safe to trust that Arsenal is very aware of what they must do and it’s worth paying mind to the fact that it’s been this way all summer. Simply looking at the names and ambitious pursuits the club has made versus the quality of who we’ve been linked with in recent seasons past, anyone can see that there’s deﬁnitely been a shift in emphasis when it comes to what kind of talent the club is after. Granted, we’ve hit hurdles to this point and none of that ambition means anything if the club fails to bring anyone in, but there’s reason to believe that this chaos may have been a lot more organized than it seemed on the surface. If nothing else, we as fans owe a great deal to the managing job Arsene has done, in looking around the PL with all the coaching changes, it’s becomes obvious how lucky the club is to have him and hopefully everyone realizes that before he relinquishes his post (we’re looking at you, #WengerOut proponents).
And while there’s no doubt that the strategy Arsene has employed could have resulted in a much different sentiment about the state of things, the results speak volumes and lend to an increasingly optimistic feeling going forward. Now, with that group stage spot in hand and a respectable place in the table, the club and supporters alike can take a moment (not any longer though, please) to collectively have a sigh of relief before a whole different kind of work has to commence. And while it’s probably best to tighten your seatbelt and keep all limbs inside the vehicle until it comes to a complete stop at midnight on the 2nd, we’ve been given reasons to believe that it might ﬁnally be safe to get legitimately excited about the near future for Arsenal Football Club.