Pre season is over, where are we?

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So with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Benfica in the Eusabio Cup our preparations for the new season have been wrapped up.

True there is a further weeks training ahead of our game against Newcastle but there are the needless International fixtures taking place in the middle of the week & that no doubt hinders preparations; although having said that we’re already suffering a spate of injuries which could limit the involvement of certain players.

We went into the game in Portugal last night without Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Laurent Koscienlny & Abou Diaby due to injury. We were also told that Samir Nasri missed the game with a muscular problem & the boss said “He might be back for the game against Newcastle”, who knows if this injury is real or if reports of a move to City being close & a fall out with Wenger maybe have more to do with the Frenchman’s absence.

Other notable absentees were Nicklas Bendtner, Eboue & Almunia, all three being close to moves away from the club were left at home in order to conclude those deals and to avoid any possible injuries that could hamper them.

By the time the game was over we had also lost Robin Van Persie, Tommy Vermaelan & Kieran Gibbs to injury. There is no indication yet as to how long the trio will be out for but they were all replaced after forty-five minutes so fingers crossed they’ll be ready to go come kick off on Saturday.

One player who looks ever increasingly likely to be missing when we take on Newcastle is our captain Cesc Fabregas. The Spaniard has failed to appear in any of our pre season games due to a supposed injury, but came out & trained with the squad at members day on Thursday. On Friday morning he was training at London Colney with the rest of the team ahead of the flight to Portugal and then failed to travel because supposedly he had picked up another injury. Now if that is the case why is he not listed as one of our injured players on the clubs official website? Everyone with an ailment pre & post Benfica is listed so why not Fabregas?

There were reports that Barca we’re in town on Friday having talks with Ivan Gazidas – increasingly it appears that we won’t see Cesc play for us again, but we’ll discuss that a little further shortly.

Now all of the players mentioned above are, or at least were last season, first team players & for the most part starters, not just squad players, so let’s assume that none of them are fit to start the game next Saturday or indeed will still be at the club if protracted moves are completed. That leaves us extremely light on playing staff, in fact after last nights game Arsene Wenger said “You could see we missed many players”.

Surely this is further evidence, if it were needed, that we need to get new faces in quickly. Not just to replace those set to depart, not just in case Cesc and/or Nasri go, not just as cover for the forever crocked. You could see that we were short of players last year, you could see it the year before, it is not a new problem at Arsenal Football Club but yet it hasn’t been properly addressed.

I’m not one of those people who think that the signing of new players is as easy as Championship Manger makes out, I know it isn’t, I know there are many caveats to each deal that many an I & a T have to be dotted & crossed respectively, that negotiations are delicate and that each party wants to be sure that it is getting the best deal possible but we have had two months to get deals done and so far all we have is another young prospect in Carl Jenkinson & a player untried at Premier League level in Gervinho.

Now both players have looked good during pre season but the acid test comes when the outcome of games has real meaning and implications & those games are from minute one for us this year.

At this moment in time our team is worse off then it was at the end of last season in my opinion & there is a real chance that we could go into a pivotal period with players such as Sebastian Squillaci & Marouane Chamakh being first choice & that is far from good enough. It is as if the club have learnt nothing from the Almunia debacle, even last season when the Spaniard had dropped down to third choice he ended up between the sticks for vital games, only to then have to be replaced by an eccentric German enticed out of retirement.

Does any of this make us sound like one of the top clubs in Europe? Does it sound like a club that is going to be pushing United, City & Chelsea all the way in the league?

It’s as close to a shambles right now as it ever has been under Wenger & closer than it should ever be allowed to be – we have one of our best players (yes we did all think so for the majority of last season) in the last year of his contract and unlikely to sign a new deal, the fact that we got ourselves in that position is ridiculous so I don’t know how you class the fact that we are seemingly unwilling to sell him for a high price now as opposed to seeing him sign a deal with a rival in January & then walk out the door for nothing next summer.

Our Captain, possibly our best player, is seemingly unwilling to pull on the red & white & get involved in pre season preparations because he wants to play for a team who want him so badly they’re unwilling to pay the amount it would take to get him.

Robin Van Persie & Theo Walcott only have have two years left on their deals and despite the Nasri mess we don’t seem to be rushing at them with new contracts & a pen.

In order to get into the Champions League proper, after failing to nail on third place last season when we had the chance, we have to get past a very decent Italian side over two legs. In the first leg we’ll be without Van Persie & Nasri regardless of injury or anything else thanks to suspension & Arsene Wenger won’t be allowed in the dressing room or in the technical area during the first leg because he had the audacity to question a sorry excuse of a referee.

Yes deals could still be concluded between now & the end of the week but that leaves no time for new arrivals to be integrated into the team. And all the while the ‘Cesc Saga’ as it has become known hangs over us like John Terry at a Christmas party.

I personally can not see a way back in for Fabregas now, the damage has been done. It doesn’t matter where he wants to play, where he comes from or who his idol is, the man is captain of the Arsenal and that means something to hundreds of thousands of us yet at this moment in time seemingly very little to him.

If by some miracle he ever represents us on a football pitch again it should not be as captain, he has lost himself that privilege. He need only look at the reasons he inherited the armband from William Gallas as an insight into the level of conduct & respect the job requires.

We as fans have always understood that the day would come when he would want to return to the Catalan club, we all appreciated & respected that. For a couple of years now Barcelona have been making derogatory bids that have been batted away by the club & Cesc himself has always acted with the dignity we’ve come to expect from him & that as much as anything he has done on a football pitch has further endeared him to us all but this summer has been different. Yes Barcelona have continued to play silly buggers and offer pittance for a player of Fabregas’ quality but it is the continued silence and perceived lack of commitment from Cesc to not only the team & the club but also to us fans that has firmly placed a wedge. All those reasons he has always had for wanting a return to Spain & the reasons we’ve understood it seem unimportant now but maybe that was always going to be the case?

One thing is for sure, the club can not sit on it’s hands and wait to see if we make it past Udinese into the money spinning world of the Champions league or indeed if we loose one or both of Cesc & Nasri it has to go out spend money & reinforce the squad and improve the team now. When the warning signs are all so evident and obvious this early failure to respond is beyond reckless & it will be the one thing more important than any player, owner, manager or indeed fan that will suffer the most & that is the football club.

Thanks for reading.

Up The Arsenal!

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