It’s always dangerous to take everything you read and hear at face value but, by any measure, it’s been a pretty rotten week for Arsenal.
It’s all relative of course, because we’ve had an absolutely horrendous few years as a club but, in what is an especially important summer for Unai Emery and his team, the wheels seem to have loosened on this particular cart.
The chief architect of the current miasma appears, ironically, to have been one of its longest-serving, most faithful servants – Laurent Koscielny. Not content with his lot any longer, the 33-year-old Frenchman decided, in a roundabout way, to go on strike by refusing to join the squad on the US tour.
It was a quite alarming show of petulance from a man who has given so much to Arsenal and, in return, has been given just as much back. Now, it would seem, he has had quite enough of north London and is determined to force his way back to his native France.
When the news broke on Thursday, it came quite out of the blue. Negotiations between the player and the club had, by all accounts, broken down and Koscielny had well and truly spat his dummy.
He may not be the defensive rock he once was, and was probably destined for a bit-part role next season, but, as club captain, it caused an enormous amount of embarrassment to the club at a time when unity is so important.
Set against a backdrop of continuing stagnation in our transfer dealings, it paints a picture of chaos behind the scenes at London Colney.
William Saliba, the young Frenchmen we have been pursuing for quite some time, looks as though it may be scuppered by a late, if somewhat confusing, bid by Tottenham, of all clubs. The deal was a strange one in any event but to be potentially gazumped by a rival is concerning.
Add to that the continued wrangling over a deal for Celtic full back Kieran Tierney, with no apparent progress for weeks, and the angry reaction from Crystal Palace to our speculative £40million offer for Wilfred Zaha and we have quite the maelstrom of malcontent.
By this time last year, we had almost all our ducks in a row in the transfer market, we had a new manager in place, new optimism, and a clear objective to get ourselves back into the Champions League.
Fast forward 12 months and look where we are. We missed out on the top four by a point (largely because of our own rank incompetence), we were stuffed in the Europa League final, our captain has decided to permanently tarnish his reputation by going on strike, and our meagre transfer dealings are in tatters because we can’t get deals over the line.
Our need for defensive reinforcements at the very least is seriously pressing, and with the season scarcely six weeks away, we’ve made almost no serious progress in rectifying that. Going into the new season with our current defence – now almost certain to be short of Koscielny too – is not an option.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, we seem nigh-on incapable of shifting any of the festering pile of cast offs who are taking up valuable squad space and money. Players like Shkodran Mustafi, a man so obviously surplus to requirements but on such a high wage that the possibility of moving him on becomes twice as difficult as it otherwise would. Unless he takes a pay cut, nobody will have him.
As a club, we are in a state of abject constipation. Nothing is moving and the situation is only getting worse.
I don’t like to catastrophize but this recipe doesn’t taste right and we’re expected to eat the resulting cake within a few months.
Of course, we have a whole batch of really exciting, hungry young players who will be getting their shots this season, and I can’t wait to see how they get on, but we can’t expect miracles from these young men. In two years, they could be the bedrock of a world-beating team but, for now, they are promising young footballers who will be called upon irregularly to relieve the first team.
Right now, we need to shift this blockage. We need Raul Sanllehi, who pushed so hard for full control of footballing matters at the club, to show us what he is all about. He made the power play, now let’s see some results. The pressure is on him, Vinai, and Edu in a big way.
We have six weeks to put this right and to really start the season in a way that shows we’re making serious progress. That, at least, will buy Emery and the board some time. If things don’t improve, though, and we don’t start the season well – it could well turn very ugly, very quickly.