BEIJING, CHINA - JULY 26: Arsene Wenger, the Manager of Arsenal FC says hello to the fans during a training session during the club's pre-season Asian tour at the Olympic Sports Centre on July 26, 2012 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Arsenal's summer business suggests the manager may have been onto something all along.
The English language is odd. Sometimes it is objectively so: flammable and inflammable mean the same thing. Other times, though, the oddness is subjective. Words, or pairs of words, can contradict themselves depending on the contexts in which they are used. ‘Trust’ is one such word: look.
‘Trust Arsene’ read the flags around Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, a declaration of support from the faithful. ‘Trust Arsene’ grinned Tony Pulis, wryly, in response to Wenger’s rugby-football accusations. ‘Trust Arsene’ mocked fans of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur after damaging early-season defeats.
The same words. Each time with a different, indeed entirely distinct, meaning.
And recently it has been hard for Arsenal fans to trust Arsene. Increasingly, it seemed that even his closest acolytes, those whoe were most directly under his sphere of influence, the players who ‘bought into’ his ideals, were losing faith in Arsene Wenger. Patrick Vieira left. Thierry Henry left. Cesc Fabregas left. Samir Nasri left. Robin van Persie will leave. English football's longest serving foreign manager even, it seemed, began to lose faith in himself.
Bottles were booted. Pockets were tugged and pitches were slapped. Spectacles were shoved ingloriously around as 'le Prof' rubbed his face in the angsty, enraged manner favoured by the cultured/educated football manager. And all of these antics, contorted by a man in a zip-up sleeping bag, were conducted against a soundtrack of quiet (this is Arsenal after all) boos from the stands and muted euphemisms from the manager defending his apparent powerlessness against the seemingly inexorable rot: there is no value in the market; when we see a player who will improve the team, at the right price, then we will move for him; the money is there if I want it; if the board gave me a hundred million, I'd blow it all on a massive party for them: with ice-cream, pin the tail on Adebayor and golf lessons with Carlos Tevez. (Yes, ok, I'm paraphrasing, slightly).
All of these Wengerisms, physical and verbal, made Arsene far more difficult to trust. Trusting Arsene had become, it seemed, a lonely, delusional existence appropriate only for the deluded, the unambitious, the high, the overpaid and the twitfam of Jack Wilshere (send your venn diagrams in here; s.a.e etc.).
And then this summer happened. Or, more accurately at time of writing, this summer looked like it was going to happen. After years of complaining about the effects of financial doping, of lamenting the lack of value in the market - years which passed with increasing (and in part merited - see above) ridicule being heaped upon the trophyless Frenchman - Wenger may be about to vindicate himself.
While transfer fees are always hard to ascertain - especially where Arsenal, disciples of the 'undisclosed fee', are concerned - it seems pretty clear that Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Carzola, experienced internationals all, have been attained for a relatively (this is a trade in human beings after all) reasonable outlay. At somewhere between 30 and 40 million pounds (or, in tabloid speak '1 AndyCarroll'), the three represent sound transactions. Reported stories of Nuri Sahin's impending arrival on a loan+option deal from Real Madrid enforce the picture. Sniped from a relegated side, an overachiever and a burst bubble, Arsenal's summer business suggests that equilibrium may, for some at least, be on its way and that Arsene might just have been worth trusting all along.