Today sees the first move from Arsenal to head off any would be vultures circling the Grove for tender prey. Theo Walcott is “absolutely delighted” to have signed a new long-term contract with Arsenal. In a way, coming off the back of the semi final disasters, it’s kind of reminiscent of how Arsenal followed up defeat at the hands of Barcelona in Paris with the news that Thierry Henry had decided to commit his future to the club – for twelve months anyway. Worth remembering, I feel, that whilst Theo’s form has dipped a little recently, to the point of rendering him invisible against Manchester United, he was our best attacker in the FA Cup semi-final and has made very good progress even in an injury hit season. Good to have you aboard, Theo.
It is, of course, our FA Cup semi-final conquerors up next at the Grove. And, thanks to Ben Ingber, I will be there. Oh yes. My first taste of an Arsenal Chelsea encounter and, with Arshavin surely looking to prove a point or two his club manager following his bizarre omission from that semi final, I’m hoping for good things. Hoping, but not expecting, I should say. Spealing of Chelsea, it must be the week for it, but one of their former players has also been running his mouth this week. Tony Cascarino has blasted Arsène Wenger, saying that his defensive signings since Sol Campbell “lack character and intelligence”. Perhaps it’s just me, but that’s certainly not a charge I’d lay at either William Gallas or Bacary Sagna’s door. Maybe he was just talking about Eboue, I don’t know…
He goes on to say: "But now all Wenger signs is players with pace, power and potential… Arsène has received plenty of plaudits for what he’s done at Arsenal but people do seem to forget that he was lucky to inherit the best back four in the Premier League when he arrived as well as a certain Dennis Bergkamp.”
Now. Aside from the fact that, on the occasions I buy the Times on a Monday and read Cascarino’s “work” there always seems to be one slighting reference towards the Arsenal, Andrey Arshavin is not a “potential” player and that back four may well have been the best in the Premier League in 1997. But it hadn’t won a league title since 1991. Clearly Arsène got something right elsewhere. I think their names were Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit. I know it’s in the past, but it does my head in, because I’ve heard it so many times, “Oh he was lucky to have that defence”. It’s as if, because he had that defence who- let me say it again- hadn’t won the league since 1991, it renders the brilliant work done elsewhere irrelevant. And whilst Bergkamp was amazing in that double season, he was also present for two years before it when we hadn’t won anything, so what does it all mean?
Perhaps I shouldn’t be taking anything “Chelsea legend” Cascarino says too seriously, eh?
Speaking of the manager, I read last night that Peter Hill-Wood said that the subject of a contract renewal has not yet come up, but the board would certainly be happy to offer the boss one. I think this is maybe the first time in Arsène’s tenure where fans are thinking “Well, hold on a second there”. For me, he is still the man. But I also wonder if 15 years at a football club is too much for any one man (yes, I am ignoring Ferguson). There’s a danger of getting so close to things you can’t see the forest for the trees and I think that’s where Arsène has found himself at times recently. Anyway, he has a contract for another two years, I look forward to many rabbits exiting hats in that time. We certainly need to see progress in the dressing room and on the football pitch next season.
We started today with a young man who’s had a decent season, let’s finish with someone who, by his own high standards, has not had the greatest. Gaël Clichy will miss the burst balloon that the end of our season has become, due to a back problem sustained against Villarreal. Which means Keiran Gibbs has three more games to show Arsenal fans the world over that he is a legend in the making.