By Tony Attwood
The aaa spent much of the early part of the season saying that we should have gone out and bought more players. My answer was the same: it ain’t that easy. You have to ask
- Does the player want to come
- Does his agent like the deal
- If non-EU can we get a work permit
- Does he or would he fit into the Arsenal system
- Does his club want to sell him
- Is he liable to settle in England if he is not English
- Is he temperamentally stable?
and various other questions like that. The fact is that if you find a player like that the chances are they won’t want to sell him or clubs with infinite wealth will mop him up for fun.
It’s a bit like looking at the Palermo President Maurizio Zamparini who has “confirmed” Arsenal are bidding for Paulo Dybala. But here’s a thought, maybe Palermo want to sell the player and only have one bidder, so to avoid selling him for a cut price they invent a few more possible buyers. Think of a name. Arsenal? That will do.
You see, what makes all these stories seem so silly is that they come from places like the Daily Express, and contain inside news, which tell us that Arsenal will bid £25m for this or that player, before the bid happens.
Now if I were a top bod within Arsenal, and I was involved in making a bid for a particular player at a particular price, and I had been pretty damn sure that only my close team at Arsenal knew about it (given that the bid had not yet been made) I’d be going apoplectic if the actual details came out. There would be an enquiry, I’d find out who done it, and they’d be out the club.
And all that for the simple reason that you really can’t have the press knowing what you are up to in a deal before the deal actually happens.
Of course Arsenal have a lot going for them at the moment. There is money, there is a manager of the highest repute (the aaa may hate this fact, but players do want to come and play for him), and there is the constant Champions League presence. OK fourth is not a trophy, but it is certainly a way of attracting players to your club.
The stability of the club helps, the presence in the cup final two years running is now helping, the wonderfulness of the stadium is helpful, the brilliant training facilities is helping, the lack of pending legal action by the EC over illegal state support is helping.
And then there is the big factor: who else is already there?
At this point compare Arsenal with Liverpool or Tottenham, both of whom want to be where we are.
Rodgers has never really had the sort of support this site, and many others like us, give to the manager. The level of transfer activity there has not helped him, and the decision to buy some of the guys he has bought suggests to those looking on that Liverpool might not be the most interesting place to go. After all, only four go into the Champions League which means Liverpool not only have to rise, and raise their salary structure considerably, they have to work on the stadium, and watch one of their rivals fall.
Last year that fall was obligingly provided by Man U. This year it is Liverpool themselves who have slipped back. Perhaps not Merseyside as a place to go.
What I am trying to get at is that supporters and anti-team supporters tend to think only in terms of their team and the manager. We are going up in the world so we’ll be at the top so the manager can buy anyone. But in reality in the Premier League that invariably means one needs also one of the top four to slip back quite a bit while having such a strong basis of a team oneself it is possible to imagine the club back up at the top. Without that, breaking into the top four can be difficult.
Indeed even when it happens, like Liverpool last season, and Tottenham for a couple of years under Arry, it doesn’t always last. It takes a lot to get there, and a lot more to stay there. And a trip to the top and another slip back can be worse than no trip up there at all.
And besides Balotelli was signed by Liverpool. What sort of signal was that? Players don’t want to wait to see what happens. Think of the players at Arsenal who ran away because someone else offered them more money. That is not just something that happens to Arsenal, it is a pressure on Tottenham and Liverpool too. The chairmen of those clubs might consider themselves to be the toughest negotiators in the league, and maybe they are, but that still doesn’t help if the club is not winning because it means if you sign for them. Being tough (and in Liverpool’s case and outright but not very accurate storyteller while not winning a place in the champs is a two edged sword.
As the Independent said recently in a moment of unlikely insight, “The truth is the Liverpool squad is not as deep as those of their rivals for the Champions League,” and that stops top players wanting to come. A thinner squad and a chairman who is “tough” means you can get stuck there, until you become Adebayor, so unwanted they will pay you to go away. Which is ok for the money, but by then your career is over.
These days, the Telegraph does player by player lists and rate each player. Chris Bascombe did Liverpool recently and it didn’t make exciting reading either for the fans or for any player thinking of going to Liverpool.
Here’s the bit for Mario Balotelli, £16m from AC Milan: “They had a party at the San Siro when Mario vacated the premises.”
Dejan Lovren, £20m from Southampton: “The Kop hold its breath when Lovren makes a tackle. Erratic, unreliable and a lot of money.
Lazar Markovic, £20m from Benfica: “The soundtrack of Liverpool’s season could be agent Pini Zahavi laughing at the £10m he cashed in for this dud.”
Victor Moses, LOAN from Chelsea: “He came from Stamford Bridge and managed to play like he was bothered on at least two or three occasions.”
Iago Aspas, £7m from Celta Vigo “Yet another deal that made little sense at the time and looks even more perplexing in retrospect.”
OK, I could go on and on, but you get the idea. I’m not saying I agree with the Telegraph on that list, nor on what they recently did about Arsenal but here is what Alan Smith said in the same paper doing the same analysis.
Laurent Koscielny: Hugely underrated. Very quick and tenacious and reads the game much better now. Has cut out the misjudgments that once blighted his game.
Nacho Monreal: After sharing the duties with Kieran Gibbs for a spell, the Spaniard has now moved ahead of his fellow left-back. A determined defender and now a more confident figure.
Francis Coquelin: The revelation of the season. Content to hold his position to protect the back four. Snuffs out danger efficiently before passing the ball simply. Has made a huge difference.
Santi Cazorla: Operating in a slightly deeper position, this wonderful little midfielder hovers around Coquelin. Once in possession, he rarely wastes the chance to move the team forward.
Aaron Ramsey: Though not entirely happy about playing out on the right, the Welshman’s growing maturity enables him to do a good job. Always a goal threat.
Mesut Ozil Divides opinion but you cannot deny his silky skills and unselfish eye for a pass. Very clever with his elusive positioning, even if he sometimes seems to coast through games.
Alexis Sanchez: What a debut season. 22 goals do not fully tell the tale of a born fighter who never stops running. Even better, that never-say-die attitude inspires those around.
Olivier Giroud: Enjoying a fine campaign that is changing the perception of this talented centre-forward. And that would change even more if he can shine against Terry and Cahill.
Like I said at the start, who you can buy, depends an awful lot on who you have got. Imagine you were a player and looking to come to England. Where would you go?
On Twitter @UntoldArsenal
- 24 April 1907: Jack Humble’s wife presented with an item of furniture (a tradition in England at this time) to thank Jack for his years of work as he stepped down as director. He had played for the club, and had been Woolwich Arsenal’s first chairman. He returned at Henry Norris’ request in 1910.
- 24 April 1915: Arsenal 7-0 Nottingham Forest. Arsenal’s last game in second division and the last league game under Punch McEwen. Arsenal finished 5th but were wrongly given 6th place in the league table. It was the last game for Joseph Lievesley, and Percy Sands. Harry King scored four goals to make it four hat tricks in the season – a record. He got 26 goals in 37 league games – at the time a record for the club.