Balls Deep In Our Midfielders

It’s a funny old game, football. One minute your team is, by general media and public consensus, a bit shit, full of average players, extremely thin, and lacking the X-factor.

Then the Summer brings new hope, optimism, money, statements of ambition.

Even better, you get rid of all your deadwood. Which is a good thing, but…obviously signals an even greater intent to bring in new players. And for good measure, because you’re in a serial killing mood, you flush out the Academy deadwood too. An across the board shake-up and make-over.

Drum roll. High profile players almost arrive but then disappear. Your club buys no one. Well, no one but Ozil. So, now you have the same shit team, which had/has no depth, plus Ozil. A shit team plus Ozil is still a shit team.

And while you bought no one over the Summer, Spurs got themselves a Director of Football. And they bought all the players – foreign players who you are told are all quality, and the kind of players you should have bought, if you’d had a director of football. And a courageous dealmaker like Levy. They have so many players now. And, oh how they laughed at us. They laughed and laughed. They licked their lips coming up to the North London Derby. And the narrative playing out in the media backed them up.

Levy the dealmaker. Directors of Football. Buying top quality. Being aggressive in the market. Recognizing your limitations. A new generation manager. New ideas. Moving forward.

And yet, strangely, my own crowd, the Arsenal supporters,were almost universally quietly confident going into the NLD. To be honest, I expected to see loads of weeping and gnashing of teeth, hand wringing from all you guys. But I didn’t see it, at least not to a great extent. We thought we could take them. And we did. And all without an Ozil signing.

And over that weekend, we even had some cautious optimism that there might be a top class signing, thanks to a twinkle in Arsene’s eye. It was all most unlike the Arsenal supporters I have come to know and love (and occasionally block) but we seemed to know better and we maintained our optimism, nervously. It was all quite life-affirming really.

And then we beat the Spurs All Stars who now apparently had enough talent to fill two NLD XI teams, if you listened to the pundits. Still, cheer up, guys. I’m sure they would have included our Cazorla and Wilshere on the bench(es.)

But when I look back, I’m still very confused. A shit team, with no depth. We sign “no one but Ozil.” And now I look at us and we’re, well… how can I put this politely: We’re Balls Deep in midfielders. And attackers, forwards, wide-men. And all top, top quality.

Against Marseille we started a front six of: Flamini, Ramsey, Rosicky, Wilshere, Ozil, Giroud and we could have started Arteta, Walcott, Gnabry, Cazorla with Podolski coming up along the rails.

And we had Gibbs taking a breather and Vermaelen chomping at the bit to show he’s back in form.

Because of our fluid approach, many of these players can shine in 2 or 3 positions. And while there are still the vulnerable-to-injury positions of Center Forward as well as Center Back or Right Back depending on your view, we are on the other hand scoring from all over. (Jack seems to have taken umbrage at Arsene saying he will never be a goal-scorer like Ramsey.)

Surprisingly, the Wengerball football we are being treated to in most matches is far from dependent on an Ozil who is clearly taking a break from being sublime by being merely great. Just an assist most matches these days. We will have to make do, I suppose.

And Cazorla has yet to attain last year’s levels. We are going to get better, a lot better.

Football is a game of narrow margins. One minute you are 2-0 up, in control, cruising. The next minute, the whistle blows for full-time, and it’s 2-2. And it all turned around with a tackle, or a bad decision, or a moment of individual skill, or a defensive brain-fart.

And off the field, the same is true. All summer, you are written off. Suddenly, you turn around, and the Magician has executed a feat of astounding legerdemain, the curtain is ripped back by the beautiful assistant, et viola! You are…well…Balls Deep in talent.

Queue the rapturous applause, gasps, a woman with a fan fainting into the arms of her gentleman, the crowd a-buzz with astonished chatter “Was it mirrors, were there wires
and cables, or a false compartment, perhaps? But most of all, how did we end up balls deep in talent?”
How indeed?