If football is indeed a business, for Arsenal this season represents a meeting with the Board of Directors.
The bottom line is pretty simple; We spent more cash than any other side in the Premier League this summer. Our squad is in the top ten for cost in Europe. This side we have assembled – like it or not – is one that has been created with fists of money chucked at it – it isn’t filled with ‘deadwood’ any more.
And if there are players who pose no purpose in the squad, it’s because we have made them that way.
Because every player was scouted and selected by an esteemed manager and/or director of football at some point. Even Sead Kolasinac, probably the player in our squad currently with the least likelihood of first team minutes right now, had the rule run over him before joining from the Bundesliga.
And it means that Arteta, Edu and the club must accept failure should we fail to significantly improve on last season.
Since that campaign, we have spent nearly £150m on new talent. We have added to our problematic midfield. We have solidified our defence with Ben White and Tomiyasu. We have sought to sharpen our creation on the pitch with the addition of Martin Odegaard. We have decent cover in all positions.
There are no more excuses. The question that should be asked if we do fail is would another manager get better results from this group of players?
This squad has international class etched throughout. In midfield alone, we have the Swiss captain, Ghana’s best player, a fully capped Belgian and an England player undecided on what position he is best in.
In defence we have Chambers, Holding, Mari, White, Gabriel. That’s just centrally. Tomiyasu can play there too, as well as his customary full-back spot on the right. On the left we have Tierney, Kolasinac and Tavares. In goal, Leno and Ramsdale.
Our youth system is churning out gems and we have the likes of Saka, Smith-Rowe and Martinelli to truly get excited about for the future.
What a squad. Just imagine what the best coaches in the world would do with these players? Pep, Allegri, Conte, Zidane, Klopp, Nagelsmann? Interspersed with the vitality of youth and the sage knowledge of the more experienced pro’s, this is a team that has the ability to not only reach the top but stay there once they’ve reached it.
It’s by far the best group of players we’ve had at the club for quite some time – perhaps since the early days of Santi Cazorla, Ozil, Ramsey and the group of English boys (Theo, the Ox, Gibbs etc).
So what would be a fair target? Considering we don’t have the distraction of European football to drag us away from concentrating on the PL – what should we be aiming for that wouldn’t be a disaster?
We can say that the likes of Chelsea, City and United have spending power beyond our means and so we can’t be judged against them – but we did spend more than each of these clubs this summer. While they may be out of reach this season, why not next, should this campaign be just a stepping stone.
But a fading Liverpool, a Tottenham side heavy in debt, with a wantaway striker and a new coach and a Leicester side with their first choice defender injured for the season and an aging Vardy up top?
Why can’t we catch them?
It all falls down to Arteta. The Spaniard must deliver on his soundbites, the promises of his friend Pep Guardiola. We have seen what he is capable of – we can now beat the big teams after years of struggle to grab three points against any of the so-called ‘Big 6.’ We know that there’s a manager in there somewhere – but we are yet to see it up close, week in and week out.
And if we don’t see that this season, Arteta may well be looking elsewhere for employment.
And the ‘Arsenal Project’ starts again.