By Tony Attwood
When you think about it, it is utterly bonkers. 92 players have been put forward as either having been transferred, or are about to be transferred to Arsenal, and the club has actually bought four of them. And yet day after day more transfer rumours are published and people lap them up. It is as if they had seen a Marvel Comic and taken it to be a description of life in modern Britain.
As for the players leaving – it is virtually the entire squad that someone or other is after, and it’s got to the point where Alex Oxlade Chamberlain puts in two great pre-season performances and the next thing you know – the story is Man City are buying him. Two weeks before he was seen as so useless he needed to be offloaded quick – if anyone would have him.
In the recent articles I’ve tried to show that the evidence to hand about transfers, strikers, and last season’s results, do not show that we urgently need a top striker, just as the evidence shows that most big money transfers don’t work in the following season, and most managerial changes are a disaster. I won’t repeat it all – you’ve heard it from me enough times, and there’s a summary here.
So a question arises. Given that it’s not just the transfers that are nonsense, but also all the other stuff (from there being no referee problem through to myth of Arsenal’s injuries) which is also quite wrong, what on earth is going on?
Is this a deliberate proliferation of chatter in order to reduce our access to hard real information? Or is it happening by chance – a side effect of the rise of the digital society, perhaps? And indeed does it matter? So a huge number of people will believe in things without any evidence because someone says so. Does that matter? Of course it does in the sense that some of us living in the UK feel that this is what happened with the vote to leave the EU. And a lot of people lost a lot of money when the mortgage market collapsed and all our economies went into recession, just because people believed in the insane.
And is the science of rational thought, of experiment, evidence and logical deduction, being pushed aside to make way for these new superstitions? Superstitions that suggest without any evidence that we’ll have £1m a week more to spend on health services in the UK once we leave the EU. Superstitions that suggest that buying a centre forward and getting rid of the manager will take Arsenal to the top of the league.
The notion that some people are deliberately plotting this move into superstition is one I immediately shy away from, because it takes us into the world of conspiracy theory. Not conspiracies per se – a lot change comes about by a group of people getting together to work for change. Votes for Women in Britain was a conspiracy. So was the Gunpowder Plot. So was Bletchley Park in the second world war.
But a conspiracy theory is different – it involves such a conspiracy going on at the moment to achieve some monumental change to our society. In this case by winding up rational thought and getting us all to think irrationally. Maybe, but I’ll choose to avoid that one for a while.
I think Drew’s explanation is deeply interesting, and to me these are profoundly strong points. But what should we do? What can we do?
There was a very curious piece on www.sportskeeda.com the other day which in part read like a standard attack on Arsenal with no reference to any evidence, but part way through mutated in the argument that one thing is certain; the current level of fees for players is unsustainable, and since this has become the driving force of football at the moment, football in its present form is unsustainable.
The article compared football transfers to the sub-prime mortgage market (you’ll remember that, it was the bankers fun and games which almost toppled several of the economies of the west and did bring down several banks) and it made this point. “The player’s ability does not improve with an increase in his transfer fee and wages. An Andy Caroll will still get you 10 goals a season only.”
Eventually there will be no increase in audience figures, no more rich investors wanting to buy clubs, no more clubs that are going to reach the top in five years. Eventually they will find out that only one team can win the league, and the bubble bursts.
Last year around half the clubs in the Spanish top division started the season without shirt sponsors. This year it looked for a long time like the League itself would not have a sponsor, until Santander stepped in just two weeks ago.
There is a limit to the rise in transfer fees and when it comes, clubs will be left with players for whom a year before they paid two or three times the amount they can now get for them. It happened to house prices, it happened to bank debts, it happened to shares. It happens.
But where does that leave the belief in all the crazy stories like the fact that Arsenal get the most injuries, that transfers buy success… Do people suddenly wake up? It appears from past crashes that they don’t. And from Drew’s analysis of the media, it would seem that they will have no sudden transformation into reality.
But maybe what it does mean is that the clubs that can hold onto reality the longest (and those with the owners willing to spend the most, no matter what) will be the most successful. Although…. but no, I will leave this for now.