Balance. That's my word of today. It could easily be hangover or tea but I'll stick with balance. I've definitely had too much tea though and will soon be pissing like a race horse – on all fours with a midget on my back!
Why balance? Because it seems to be missing at Arsenal at the moment, within the club, the players and certainly the fans. Everything seems to be about extremes, you're one side or another and we've seen that this week more than ever.
The RVP situation has polarised us fans again. Some are pointing the finger of blame at the club and some at RVP alone. I'm using 2 fingers. One for each. Obviously with the middle one, pointing up at RVP.
The last 18 months have been some of the most difficult I can remember for the club. After our disastrous cup final defeat to Birmingham we just collapsed. A dreadful run of form followed that saw that season implode like so many before it. We approached that summer with a mixture of frustration and hope that we could rebuild and improve. The hope soon left though, after a more lucrative contract at another club no doubt. Our captain left, along with that other chap and we were left to do a last minute shopping dash, like someone who buys Christmas presents from ASDA on Christmas Eve. It took months for that team to gel, we played something like 20 different people in our back 4 in that time and as a result were a shambles defensively. All that time RVP was there. He was captain when we lost at Old Trafford. That must have hurt, shipping 8 goals and seeing how far behind we really were. He must of walked off that pitch thinking, “what the hell am I doing here?” All the while City dominated, scoring freely and showing off their new signings. It wouldn't be hard to imagine him already making comparisons in his head. But then gradually we gelled as a team and started to perform. 7 wins in a row saw us regain an unlikely CL spot but even then we always looked ready to collapse. Wigan at home saw an unwelcome return to old form and then Norwich at home nearly cost us our coveted fourth spot. RVP carried us. His goals were vital. In the end we were only really spared by the ineptitude of those plums down the road. Had they beaten a very poor Villa side we could well have been facing football on a Thursday night next season. Even on the last day, with victory absolutely essential we very nearly arsed it up. All the while RVP must have been more than aware of his contract situation. Make no mistake, this isn't a decision that's come out of the blue, this whole season, the last 7 trophy-less years will have all played a part. You can't blame him, as one of the top players in European football, to want more than a yearly fight for fourth. Obviously the way he went about it is all wrong but you can see his reasons. People say the new signings should have been enough to persuade him to stay, but considering the last 7 years it's too little far too late.
This is where the club can shoulder some blame and where the club lack balance – they need to sit closer to the middle ground between super scrimping non-spenders and irresponsible cash splashers. I heard some stats the other day saying Arsenal's net spend between 1992 and 2011 was around £22 million. Chelsea's was over £500 million, Wolves, West Brom and Bolton all had a higher net spend than us. This is in some ways very commendable but as I said, it's about balance. We could afford to spend more and we're often told the funds are there. This reluctance to spend is one factor of many in our struggles. We've said for years how this team could benefit from more investment in the side and yet they always air too close to the scrimp and save end of the scale. We know that CL football is worth an estimated £35 million, this year we nearly cost ourselves that by being frugal. The arrivals of Podolski and Giroud is certainly a step in the right direction. Our handling of contracts too has been difficult. I know you can't force a player to extend but to lose Flamini and then be forced to sell Nasri and now RVP suggests they aren't putting right what's wrong. To have the same situation with Walcott in the same summer is criminal, Arsenal should be answering the question of why do players want to leave? Some other clubs are certainly better at keeping their top players, and more successful in the transfer market. Look at Newcastle who signed Ba, Cisse and Cabaye and now we hear Ba is hoping to stay. Even that lot down the road have, so far, managed to keep VDV, The Monkey and Modric. Why do we always seem to lose out? People cite lack of silverware but the Spuds haven't won the league since 1961, Newcastle don't even have CL football and neither team can pay as much as City. Again the balance isn't there, we put Diaby, who has had over 30 injuries since 2006 on a long term contract alongside players like Almunia who we had to release in the end. When we do have long contracts we fail to make them count, like in Cesc's case where we still sold him for far less than his worth when it should have forced a higher price for Barca.
Then we come to RVP's role in all this, and he certainly has a role. He is clearly more to blame than the club here, and regardless of his motivations the way he's gone about it is all wrong. You can understand his frustrations but the way to deal with them is behind closed doors, not publicly. But then he knows that. This isn't about resolving issues with the club, it's about engineering an exit. He clearly doesn't care if his admittance severely weakens Arsenal's hand when it comes to transfer negotiations as long as it gets him what he wants. Once again Arsenal face losing a top player for less than they're worth. His motivation may come from the way the club has progressed (or hasn't) in the last 7 years but I suggest he has a very selective memory. He's forgotten the countless injuries, the years when a 20 game season was the upmost you could expect from a player with one chocolate leg and one made of balsa wood. I think his decision to leave and how he's done it will quickly become a huge regret for him once he joins a new club. This team is built around him, I really think he'll struggle elsewhere like he did in the Euros and he'll see the grass isn't greener. The grass at the Emirates is the greenest.
And that brings me to us fans. I think we need to find balance too. We seem to be either blaming the club or RVP we think Usmanov is either the Devil himself or the club's true saviour. The likelihood is that there is a middle ground here. Clearly Usmanov is a tricky character but is silent Stan any better? I honestly don't know. What I do know is that Usmanov's attempts at PR are met with scorn and torn to shreds but Kroenke doesn't even give us any PR. I'm not for the same ownership system of City, Chelsea and co but neither do I want us to be a team that can't compete financially and loses it's top players.
And that brings me to my final point, a balanced view about our situation. We are not a club in crisis, even if RVP and Theo leave I think we are heading in the right direction, albeit slowly. I'm more excited about next season than I have been about a season for ages. A starting 11 of Szczesny, Sagna, TV5, Koscielny, Gibbs, Song, Wilshere, Arteta, The Ox, Podolski and Giroud is definitely a strong one. We've a good mixture of youth and experience in that team, you could even say it's well balanced…