a�?Perhaps we gave our fans too much by winning the Double. Once you’ve eaten caviar, it is difficult to go back to sausages.a�?

– Arsene Wenger, after a draw against Middlesbrough, 1998.

There is always a certain impishness to Arsene Wengera��s comments that draws people towards his press conferences. After some “I didna��t see it”A�tidbits have been overlooked, the mana��s discourses have the right balance of grounded intelligence, fanciful idealism and golden wit to make for fine listening. In the above sample, Wenger pulled off the balancing act with aplomb, at once admitting that the team played like a pile of pork chops, but subconsciously prodding everyonea��s cranium with the fact that there was a teensy little Double preening itself in the trophy cabinet. Apologetic and rightfully defensive in equal measure, classic Wenger stuff!

This quote is far removed from the present situation, however. Wengera��s conferences still have a few gems, but they are becoming increasingly interspersed in between lots of strained talk and uninspiring fare. The trophy-dusters and silver polish bottles at the Emirates are sighing wistfully at the lack of things to dust or polish. Arsenal have gone from yodelling in the Himalayas to trudging grumpily on a plateau of mediocrity, and are now staring down a scary looking abyss.

Summer Business – Marquee Outgoing, Meh Incoming

This article shall not go into the tediousness of both the Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri transfer sagas; it will just raise its hands in relief towards the heavens that they reached some sort of conclusion. But beneath the relief is an underlying twinge of disappointment at losing two very good players who always conducted themselves professionally on the pitch. Cesca��s footballing ability and cool head were already well-publicised, and Nasri, while still relatively inconsistent, put in quite a few performances befitting a first-choice Arsenal midfielder. Those were two players capable of providing the team with game-changing moments, that could tilt the balance in football matches with fine margins.

Not exactly Cesc Fabregas

The a�?meha�� in the sub-headline is in no way meant to be disrespectful to the midfield replacements Arsenal have procured, but most fans will agree that it is a step sideways at best, if not a miniscule step in the backward direction. Arteta looks to be hard-working, diligent, enterprising and may prove to be creator-in-chief if given more time, but Cesc Fabregas he is obviously not, and nor was he meant to be.

Similarly, Benayouna��s qualities cannot be understated; he adds bite and running to midfield and some Hleb-ishness to the attack with the knack of drawing players to himself. But expecting him to rise above anything more than a useful squad player would be folly. Plus there is sound logic in the fact that if a title rival loans you a player for a year, either they arena��t taking your challenge seriously, or they think the player in question is incapable of adding enough to your challenge.

To be frank, the players brought in were never going to cover for the departures in terms of pure quality; the plan must have been for the sum-of-parts rule to come into play and for the team to perform better as a unit with all players working hard for each other. And that may well reach fruition after these players are given more time.

But the fact remains that Arsenal needed to speed up during the summer. And instead of burning the highway asphalt off, all they managed to do is to avoid a few screeching eighteen-wheelers and shift to a parallel lane.

Incessant Injuries: A Red And White Special

On the face of it, asking a nineteen year old to carry a title challenging team on his shoulders is asking too much, but a large majority of Arsenal fans were taking solace from the potential continuation of Jack Wilsherea��s stellar form after his breakthrough season last year. Premature solace as it turned out! A pesky recurring ankle knock snowballed into something that needed surgery and Wilshere is consequently out for the best part of the season. Thomas Vermaelen also succumbed to the cajoling of the injury demons again, and has missed a vital two months so far. This, coupled with little niggles to other regular starters, has resulted in the new recruits getting virtually no settling time and having to adapt to the teama��s playing style on the run. Mertesacker should ideally have gotten some bedding-in time to get used to the helter-skelter pace of English football, and there has been the odd ineffective display from him as a result.

With Bacary Sagna now joining the long term injury list as well, a very raw Carl Jenkinson will have to ply his trade against world-class Premier League wingers barely months after playing lower league football; a daunting step up for anyone.

Wilsherea��s injury in particular (and to some extent Diabya��s) has dented Arsenala��s penetration in the middle of the park. Ramsey and Arteta both lack the pace to beat a man and take players out of the game that Wilshere (and Nasri) has, and the passing has ergo been neat but with no real direction. With rotation possibilities being scarce, a very jaded looking Ramsey has played almost every game of the season so far, not something a player just returning from a broken leg should do.

His services has been missed.

Sunderland and Silver Linings

Just to be clear, Sunderland are definitely not the silver lining. Arsenal have won just one out of the last seven meetings with the Black Cats, and last seasona��s corresponding fixture was a particularly frustrating goalless stalemate that wouldna��t be welcome under the circumstances.

But it is a navigable game on paper, as are the next couple of matches against Bolton in the Carling Cup, Marseilles in the Champions League and Stoke at home in the League. Ita��s an opportunity to build up some momentum before the clash with Chelsea on October 29th, for some players to find their groove and the already in-groove players to fine tune it.

Yes, there, surprisingly, are in-groove players. The midfield battle between Frimpong and Coquelin has been a fascinating one to watch, one that the latter seems to be edging at the moment. Wojciech Szczesny has been refreshingly consistent in goal, and van Persie has been refreshingly uninjured up front (strums on wood). Time doesna��t use anaesthesia to heal, but heal it does. A�Arsenal fans will hope that rock bottom has been reached, the corner has been turned and the team is slowly back on the way up. The new players can only be expected to get better with time. Ita��ll be a tough job to salvage the season from here on in, but ita��s not impossible.

Until the old Arsenal, or even a new but decent Arsenal come into being, there is scant choice but to close our eyes, take a bite or two from the sausages and embrace the mediocrity.

Because that will make the caviar, if and when it comes, all the more tasty.


Written by guest authorA�Abhishek Iyer

He describes himself as an insecure, short term pessimist and long term optimist gooner.
He is a writer at BigFourZa, LadyArse and other blogs.

You can follow the author on Twitter (@Nickspinkboots)

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6 Responses to “Arsenal’s Corner: Caviar Has Legged It, Time To Get Used To Sausages?”

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  1. Aditya Sharma says:

    A well written article. Wenger himself has admitted that if their performances don’t greatly improve in the next few months, he could make some signings in January

    • Nickspinkboots says:

      Yes, and we have a sizable amount of cash to burn. A couple of decently big signings would provide a fillip for the latter half of the season, hope it happens.

  2. Fantastic Article mate!

    I am hearing a bid for Y Gourcuff is possible.

    • Nickspinkboots says:

      Thank you :)

      Yes, Gourcuff whispers have been doing the rounds for some time. Would be a quality addition for sure, but we have to keep in touch with the top till January first. Looks bleak as per current standings.

  3. Akash says:

    Fantastic stuff! Eloquently said, and bang on the money too.