Paul Parker

Arsenal fans right to be annoyed

Paul Parker

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To borrow a line from New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra: watching Arsenal at the weekend in the Emirates Cup was like deja vu all over again.

At the Emirates Stadium things have picked up from where they left off at the end of last season, with the club's fans openly venting their frustration at management and players for their continued lack of achievement.

If Sunday's draw with New York Red Bulls was met with a significant minority of home supporters booing their own team off the pitch at the end of a pre-season friendly, how will they react if they lost to Liverpool in their first home game of the new campaign? Or if the unthinkable happened and they did not make it through their Champions League qualification play-off? Storm clouds would be gathering in North London before the season had barely begun.

It is true that reading too much into pre-season performances is a dangerous game. Summer fixtures are usually little more than an exercise in conditioning, as much in terms of psychology as fitness. But this summer the Gunners have again shown why they so desperately need a top-class goalkeeper and centre-back added to their squad. Carl Jenkinson has been bought with a view to competing for a first-team place, and Thomas Vermaelen is back after barely featuring at all last season, but the back line will do well to hit the ground running come the big kick-off on August 13, especially given the exit of Gael Clichy.

And as for the goalkeeping situation, Wojciech Szczesny may well have earned his place as the club's number one, but last season's injury crisis showed how you are only a couple of steps away from calling a player out of retirement to line up in your team. When Jens Lehmann was brought in to play at Blackpool last season, it was the weekend before the Champions League quarter-finals. If Arsenal make it that far in the competition next season - as they usually do, to be fair - they can ill afford to be so threadbare.

In addition to worries about who is going to be coming into the squad with a month left of the summer transfer window, the matter of star players leaving is still far from settled. Once again, Cesc Fabregas was sat on the bench for this weekend's friendlies, acting as a reminder that Arsenal's club captain is now just waiting to move on to bigger and better things. To be a fan in the crowd seeing that must be so frustrating, not to mention how it must play on the minds of the other members of the squad.

It does not seem that long ago that Arsenal were such an impressively tight-run ship, both on the pitch and off it. They used to go about their business quickly and efficiently, and transfers were conducted with the minimum of fuss, but currently they cannot seem to take command of the situation.

These days they own a plush new stadium and fill it most matchdays to the brim with people eager to see their eye-catching brand of football, but until they have a major trophy to show off in it then the fans will continue to complain. I am not condoning home supporters booing their team in a pre-season match, but I can understand why they are so frustrated.

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