|“Quick, lads! Look like you’ve been a supporter for more than a few years!”|
At first, the news trickled in. A few of those back-benchers found their way out of town via loans. Álvaro Negredo made his way back to Spain, getting a loan-deal to Valencia. No bigs, as he was one of those impulse-buys we’ve come to expect from Citeh. Next, however, it was squad-stalwart Micah Richards, the longest-serving (by my reckoning) member, having debuted away to Arsenal way back in October 2005. Despite having racked up 245 appearances in the interim, Richards has joined Serie A’s Fiorentina on a season-long loan. It appears that, rather than face us, he’s abandoned ship.
Casting further back into the past, we have Costel Pantilimon joining Sunderland on a free transfer, where he can learn from no less than Vito Mannone. Further down the pecking order, perhaps, we have Javi Garcia going to the fertile footballing grounds that are found at Zenit-St. Petersburg; Joleon Lescott joining West Brom on a free (!), and Gareth Barry achieving ‘elder-statesman’s’ status at Everton.
And it’s not just the loans. More recently, “injuries” have cropped up. We Gooners know full-well, of course, what it means to lose players to niggles and knocks. It’s part and parcel of who we are. However, as referenced above, even Gooners could look to interlullian injuries as a bit of gamesmanship: “Golly, sir. I know we have a pointless friendly in East Backwaterianton, involving a 12-hour flight with interminable delays and seats that just don’t recline far enough, whose result has no bearing on my position for club or country, but I just can’t shake this soreness in my, um, deviated septum, so…” However, there’s a plethora of such injuries incurred during the interlull that begs questions. Zabaleta suffered something in Argentina’s (eventual) triumph over Germany last week. Kompany almost missed Belgium’s “crucial” friendly against Australia. Jovetić, once-coveted in these very environs, seems to have strained his hamstring while training with Montenegro. As such, the availability of all three is in doubt.
Even for a squad as deep as Citeh’s, other questions persist. Will Agüero feature? What of Džeko? Neither of them is fully fit. One has to wonder, then, if the injuries that Citeh have suffered are physical or existential in nature. Having glutted themselves on transfers-in and trophies, have they finally reached a point of satiety that will see their squad settle for medicrioty? Why battle, after all, when all of your material needs are met? That’s the thing about wild roller-coaster rides, such as the one that Citeh have enjoyed over the last five years or so. The thrill-seeking is all but gone. What’s left to accomplish (other than a Champions League drive that lasts past the round of 16)?
To their credit, I suppose, none of the former Gunners who have made his way to the Etihad have begged off—so far, Clichy, Nasri, and Sagna have laid low rather than drawing attention to themselves. Then again, the absences of such illustrious teammates will thrust them and others front-and-center. Can they handle the pressure of taking to the pitch to represent a club whose path to success diverges so wildly from the path that Arsenal have taken?