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All these players are coming to Arsenal! Strange statistics, false analogies

By Tony Attwood

Ah… remember the old days?

Arsenal transfer rumours: £15.8million Mario Balotelli fee and personal terms agreed ready for move

That was the Daily Mirror last July.  It was dumb, childish and silly but at least it didn’t have any RANDOM words in capitals.  Which is more than can be said for

SNAPPED: Mario Balotelli gives strongest hint YET that he wants Arsenal move

(The Star, August 2014)

So, with the transfer fenêtre not open for another THREE months we have already gone through the list of everyone we are signing and are now on PHASE two in which the players say they don’t want to come and poor Arsenal find every porte shut in their faces

Arsenal transfer target Smalling ‘happy to stay’ at Manchester United

That’s in the Independent, and yes – you knew it was coming.  But notice the subtle use of “inverted commas” suggesting that a) the lad Smalling (oh for the days when footballers were ‘lads’ and ‘boys’) actually said it and b) the Independent is far too GROWN up to use random capital letters.

Anyway, the order of the day is that it is bad NEWS week for Arsenal, with not only at least two of our players crocked by internationals, but even our TARGETS now going down with the PLAGUE, or some such foreign thing.

“Inter Milan midfielder Mateo Kovacic has suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury on international duty with Croatia, chief medic Boris Nemec confirmed,” London 24 tells us.

Of course these are tough days for the nominated person in each paper whose job it is to do the dirt on Arsenal daily, because by and large we are doing ok, the CRAZY gang who think our manager is the worst manager at the club since Billy Wright are pretending they supported Chelsea all along, and really there ain’t much to say.

Except… by implication.

So, the latest game is to list all the managers who the wild whackos in the daily papers think will be available this summer.  They are not saying any of them will replace Arsène Wenger but the lists are set up as a reminder that this is what Arsenal could have (and who Arsenal could have had – a good point for the next time we drop a point).

So as we let in a goal the gnashing of teeth starts with a list of all the people we might have had…

  • Sam Allardyce: no contract, rather fat, try Sunderland.
  • Carlo Ancelotti: if you buy a player from Tottenham, you can’t expect to survive.  West Ham might be interested.
  • Laurent Blanc: not far enough ahead in France, so maybe a claret and blue team could do it.
  • Rafael Benítez: they’ve stopped selling note books in Naples. But there is a shop in East London with a stack.
  • Jürgen Klopp: always up for a laugh; the word is that when someone said the Olympic Stadium he couldn’t stop laughing.
  • David Moyes: now on tour.  Maybe two stops from Barking is where he will stop?
  • Slaven Bilić: Besiktas beat Liverpool so its Slaven the Available.  Who has a ground paid for by the state?
  • Nuno Esperito Santo: if Valencia get into the Champs League Nuno will be numero uno (see, I can still turn the odd journo phrase).
  • Michael Laudrup: the awfully nice fellow is in Qatar, which can’t be very pleasant.  Turned down QPR so could well head for a club the other side of London – only to find Qatar was preferable.
  • Manuel Pellegrini: no trophy, no job, no hope.

So what else is news in the news?

When football journalists are let loose in meetings where serious analysis is bandied around, you know you are going to get funny reports, and this week, after the “excitement” of the internationals, we’ve got a story in which the head of sport science at the Premier League asked journalists how many under nine year olds who join a Premier League academy have a chance of graduating to its first team.

The answer given was one in every 200.

Shock, shock and thrice shock.

Except… when one digs a little, it is a bit of a funny question.  The implication is that there is some sort of mismanagement by the clubs going on, in that this is a massive form of wastage.  199 children have the amazing experience of being signed up by a top club and then see their dreams shattered.  What sort of world is this?

But when you think about it (which none of the papers I saw reporting on the story actually did – although I am hopeful New Scientist might do an article on it next Thursday) that’s not a bad figure.

To understand why, what you have to do (which none of the silly billy’s who reported the issue in the press did) is ask that old favourite question of Untold, “why?”

There are many reasons why a child doesn’t make a go of it with the Premier League club that signs him at nine or younger, including

Bad selection – the lad wasn’t as good as the scout said he was

Temprement and personality – ask a psychologist, for although you can tell something of the child’s ability to adapt at the age of eight, it is hard to get a full profile, and the temperament and personality need to be right to stick it out.  Think of David Bentley.

The player was good but at the moment he is ready for the club that signed him at eight, the club can’t give him the games he needs and deserves, so he is sold to another club.

Every young player gets injured, but not all can recover fully to the level of ability and performance that was expected earlier.

The child gets an illness.  Now an illness that has little effect on a child who wants to be a journalist might take that extra 1% away from a child who wants to be top professional football.

The club takes a dive.  By the time the youngster is 18 and ready to play the Premier League club is no longer a Premier League club.  Eight years ago Blackburn, Bolton, Wigan, Fulham, Charlton, Middlesbrough, Portsmouth, Reading, Sheffield United and Watford were Premier League clubs.   Put another way (for any newspaper journalists reading), 50% of the clubs that were in the Premier League eight years ago are now no longer in the Premier League.  Which means that the vast wealth they got from being in the League has gone, and their academies have become a fraction of the size they were, and their top youth talent has been sold on as academy staff are sacked and the whole operation is wound down.

Of course we are used to great prospects in the Arsenal academy leaving and I suspect all of us would like to see more Arsenal youth players become first teamers.   But because Benik Afobe has gone to Wolverhampton Wanderers it doesn’t mean either he or Arsenal is a failure.  He’s the league’s top scorer, undoubtedly in part because of the training and help Arsenal gave him.   He’s not at Arsenal, but he’s certainly not a failure.

Indeed if Arsenal had kept him, that would have been bad news for Afobe and for football, because given the talent ahead of him, he would not have got a game.

It is a complex issue, and that is the problem.  The press and the bloggettas (I just made up that word to refer to blogs that makes things up) are singularly poor at reporting complex issues.  Best get back to “Arsenal have emerged a shock contenders to sign Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling, who could be heading for the Anfield exit door.”  (eatsleepsport).

That’s more like it.

Anniversary of the Day: looking forward to the cup semi-final

30 March 2013: Arsenal 4 Reading 1, which made it 16 goals in three games against Reading.  Santi Cazorla got a goal to add to his hatrick in the away game, with Gervinho, Giroud and Arteta getting the others.  And also here

8 comments to All these players are coming to Arsenal! Strange statistics, false analogies

  • Mandy Dodd

    The papers are now saying we are in for Sterling with Theo going the other way. That would indeed be revenge for Liverpool telling us lies when we have previously attempted to poach their players.

  • nicky

    Yes, Tony, I remember the old days.
    The Summer of 1980, when for £1.25m we signed prolific goal scorer Clive Allen. A few weeks later, before Clive had kicked a ball in anger for Arsenal, we got rid in a swap deal for top defender Kenny Sansom.
    We sure changed our minds quickly in those days. 😉

  • Josif

    @MD – the same rumour had been around before the first “Theo sign da ting” campaign in 2012.

    @Mr Attwood, Blanc has a last name and a certain moment of racism in his past that would make him a perfect manager for Chelsea.

  • franck

    I wana believe somebody is responsible for the type of articles reported by journalists in the English media cos they report identical news.They seem to be getting instructions from somewhere not to report anything that would potray the epl in any negative form.i wonder what would be the slogan going on in the press next season cos the old one,being ‘the Best league in the world’ has been rubbished by the fact none of the epl teams did not make it beyond the last 16 .the English press beta own up and do their job before the league falls way behind.

  • Andy Mack

    Although it comes under temprement/personality you don’t mention of the kids that drop out due peer pressure/family issues/gangs/women/drugs etc. As a kid I played against a mates team which include Paul Ince. He wasn’t there best player by some way but he then met his girlfriend (later to become his wife) who was (is?) quite a ‘strong personality’ that kept him away from any social life that didn’t include her and she wasn’t a fan of pubs/nightclubs. He became a Pro-player predominantly because she kept him on the straight and narrow! Their best player (who I last saw selling clothes in a shop near T*ttenham court road) became a father at 15 and had to get a job instead of playing football.

  • Nonny

    Tony

    Want to note that this article is timely. I think the same news circulation by so many blogs is due to issues you raised earlier where blogs do no research but rather log into other sites to see what is trending and following suite. Also I sincerely think the lack of news (due to FIFA weekend) has resulted to yet another office/pub made up rumours just to sale news.

    Having followed Arsenal for 16 years now, I think I can to an extent what will happen to the Arsenal I know in the Summer.

    AW I can tell you with some level of certainty will not be signing another defender in the summer unless he loses one of the senior CB in this case the press are saying BFG but I can tell you that BFG plays a more important role than just being a defender. Being one of the senior players and for what he brings into the team (experience) AW will rather use him as 3rd choice than bring in another defender hence those brandishing Smalling and co make me laugh. You can certainly bet on it. On other positions, I’m thinking that Podolski and Campbell may give way for a new attacker and Flamini/Diaby will give way for a MF/DFM. Akpom may go on PL/Championship year long loan to gain playing time/experience just as Wilshere, and Coq did. If Walcott does not renew his contract, he will be sold and replaced but definately not Sterling (£160k/wk. Don’t make me laugh). If Rosicky leaves (I really want him to stay) we will get a replacement.

    Arteta will play for at least one more season so also Wilshere is not going to Man City, Bellarin is not going to Barca and Cazorla is not going to A.Madrid. Finally, will our No.1 GK stay? I think so.

  • ian

    If asked i would have said the figure would have been much lower than 1 in 200.

    My nephew was signed by Peterborough at 9 and let go when he was 13. He is now 17 and none of the kids he played with are still at Peterborough. They had 10 kids registered at the time as were playing 7 aside.

    He received exceptional training, discipline (as part of his contract he had to submit his school report) and was a much better footballer for it. They showed him how to warm up properly, warm down and taught him which foods to eat before training and matches to help him in the games and also what to eat after to speed recovery.

    Although only there 4 years, i think he is a much more rounded person because of it. His Dad is a lifelong Peterborough fan and for him to see his son captain Peterborough albeit at under 12 level is something he remains immensely proud of.

    For anyone to think that kids are just dropped without gaining any benefit from the experience is at best niaive.

  • para

    When i first saw Sterling i thought he would do good at Arsenal. Strange that, now the rumours are circulating. Anyway if that was the case, AW has seen something in him he likes and will improve him for Arsenal.

    What makes this more strange is Theo over the last 2 months. Appearing sporadically in games when everyone was waiting for his full impact. He’s also hesitating on his contract.

    Interesting. We will see if just rumour, propaganda or true.