The Emirates Stadium Mystery: Eating The Swans?
It has been a tumultuous fortnight for Plumstead Highbury QC, the surprise appointment as the new Arsenal manager. The initial warmth of the post-coital glow that accompanied the Gunners’ comfortable 2-0 opening day win against Stoke City is threatening to turn decidedly luke warm, like an unattended bucket of piss.
Still, in the build-up to the team’s second match of the season, Highbury was bullish, even taking time out to dismiss some unfounded transfer chatter and reveal a lot about his tactical approach to the game.
Nevertheless, having beaten Stoke using the daring strategy of playing just two at the back, Highbury’s selection for the first away game of the season was a little more circumspect. The personnel were mostly unchanged from the team that won the opener: the only change was Olivier Giroud, who scored the second goal against the Potters, started the game in place of Mikel Arteta. Aaron Ramsey took Arteta’s place in central midfield, while Stevan Jovetic moved into the hole where he had been so effective during the second half of the Stoke match.
Alas, the honeymoon period could not last forever. Swansea’s attacking quartet made it to every ball first and quickly made Arsenal pay. 3-0 down at half time and with very little to offer at the other end, Arsenal reverted to Highbury’s X-W formation for the second half, Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski coming off the bench to make their Gunners debuts. Cazorla reduced the deficit on the hour but in truth there was very little improvement. Indeed, the defeat could have been far worse had Asmir Begovic not been on his toes to save two second-half penalties by Luke Moore. Both penalties were won for pushing in the area, the decisions enraging a team who were already no doubt fuming at their own inadequacy.
Still, Plumstead Highbury took the defeat well.
With the transfer window looming, Highbury looked at the unexpected defeat as an opportunity to ring the changes in his squad. Carl Jenkinson and Francis Coquelin, who had appalling games at Swansea, were the first to feel the icy breeze. Coquelin was offloaded to Sunderland for £3.2 million by Director of Football David Seaman, while Carl Jenkinson will spend the rest of the season on loan at Southampton. Then, intrigue…
Highbury had already made one bid to bring Lewandowski to Arsenal only to be rebuffed, leading to the arrival of Stevan Jovetic instead. And with just £8 million left in the transfer kitty, it looked as though Lewandowski’s sudden availability had come at the wrong time for the Gunners. However, Plumstead Highbury’s can-do attitude and tendency to view problems as nothing but opportunities led to a flurry of transfer activity. Theo Walcott, who had a very poor game at the Liberty Stadium and had privately expressed doubts about his rookie manager’s ability, was immediately sold to Chelsea for £13.25 million in order to free up funds. However, Arsenal were still significantly short of the £29.7 million asking price that Dortmund had set for the Polish striker. Clearly, some creative accountancy was in order.
Highbury offered Dortmund Lewandowski’s value in cash – £18 million – plus £10 million-rated Bacary Sagna (who, as a defender, represents the very embodiment of expendability in Highbury’s eyes) and a bold £200 million payment after the Pole had scored twenty goals for the club. This deal, too, fell through, due to the truculent Sagna’s refusal to negotiate terms with “lesser team” Dortmund. This left Highbury with a problem: Theo Walcott had moved to Arsenal’s hated cross-city rivals to bring in Lewandowski and with just hours left before the transfer window shut, the new Gunners boss looked to have shot himself in the foot. However, the former QC’s most notable weapon was yet to be brought into play:
Who is the best scout a football club can have? A scout who has a time machine, obviously. Plumstead Highbury’s best-kept secret, that he has sight beyond sight, will inevitably soon become common knowledge.
Clearly, supporter spokesperson Kyle Larkin and Plumstead Highbury QC have divergent opinions at this stage but Highbury’s undeniable genius of using non-linear time as a recruitment network will no doubt win Larkin round. Whether or not he will be big enough to admit it is, of course, another matter. At the end of the day, though, Highbury has his man and could not resist a little showboating at the presser.
Outside of this flurry of transfer business, Arsenal were also drawn in Group D of the Champion’s League, alongside Olympiacos, Fenerbahce and Malaga, a comfortable draw in a group that the Gunners should be looking to win easily. But it is Premier League matters that are currently to the fore, with Wigan Athletic the next visitors to the Emirates. After a tactical mis-step at Swansea, Highbury will be eager to prove that his attacking ambitions are more than just posturing and with three of the players who started Arsenal’s previous game now no longer at the club, he has no option but to ring the changes. Highbury is keen to show that the Swansea match was just one defeat and need not be blown out of proportion by his growing army of critics. Things could be worse, is the message emanating from The Emirates.