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Quo Vadis, Arsenal? September 2, 2006

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Odds and Ends.
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Something’s up with Arsenal FC, and I don’t like it.

First, they drop a game against Manchester City last week. Sure, it’s still early in the season and, yes, the law of averages dictates that a team is as likely to concede a crucial penalty kick as not. But then again, it’s not like Manchester City has been a title contender of late. And it doesn’t help that prior to the game, the Blues hadn’t beaten the Gunners in almost fifteen years.

Next, the drawn-out drama surrounding Ashley Cole finally ran its course, with the left back completing his long overdue transfer to Chelsea. In exchange, the Gunners get William Gallas and £5 million cash. Everyone knows the transfer was bound to happen, but it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. It’s hard to lose a player of Cole’s caliber, especially since he hardly played last season due to injury. All the more so now that he’ll be going to Chelsea, who already have arguably the strongest club in Europe. Looking at the deal, and with no disrespect meant to Gallas, a good case can be made that Arsenal would have been better served poaching some players from scandal-ridden Juventus.

Finally, the Gunners have worked out a mutual year-long loan deal with Real Madrid, sending over José Antonio Reyes in exchange for Julio César Baptista. The Brazilian has potential, but his form of late for the Spanish team has been lackluster in comparison. On balance, it seems Madrid is getting the better part of the deal, which possibly means that beyond the loan, Reyes’s days at Arsenal – where I’ve always thought he fits on offense – are probably up. Granted that he has been eyeing a transfer back to Spain; yet at the same time it’s not too hard to see that this will be severe blow to a team that has already lost former mainstay Robert Pires.

Of course, it’s important to keep an open mind. Maybe these recent moves will actually shake things up for the Gunners in a good way. Only time will tell. Yet as far as I’m concerned, notwithstanding their Champions League run last season, Arsenal hasn’t been the same since they sold Patrick Vieira to Juventus a season ago. But that’s one ship that has already sailed.

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