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The notion that every judgement can be made immediately, which dominates football, is the most dangerous judgement of all

By Tony Attwood

“Expensive flop Granit Xhaka the personification of Arsenal’s problems”

That is the headline on a blog today.   Granit Xhaka is a flop.  We know it.  We don’t have to give evidence.  That’s it.

What of course is never taken into account is the fact that the majority of players (around 75%) don’t do well in their first season in a new club, but equally around 75% do come good in the end (mostly in year two).

But such sophistication is beyond the wit of the ESPN website that ran the piece today.  Granit is a flop and all the world needs to know it.  Run the headline.

The problem with football is that players develop, grow, change, adapt, while journalists tend to stay in the same groove (or to put it more exactly, pub) all the time.   They are not talking about Alex Oxlade Chamberlain’s development and indeed evolution into a player who seems to be able to play in half a dozen positions, and is getting better and better.   At least they don’t talk about him except to say that he wants to leave Arsenal.

So Arsenal get hammered in the press for not paying out on pay demands of some players which the press are reporting (and which I don’t think have been confirmed by anyone involved in the negotiations).  One article will say “Arsenal willing to sell Mesut Ozil if he does not lower wage demands” and the other says “Pay up, Arsene… Alexis Sanchez deserves double Paul Pogba’s wages”.  But then at the same time Arsenal are criticised for paying Ozil too much, because he is a useless player.

Thus past commentaries are conveniently set aside.  It was only four months ago that the Daily Mirror ran “Arsenal star Mesut Ozil is becoming a different player that even his biggest critics could learn to love.”  Now he is not worth half his current salary, let alone a big increase.

This is the problem with all short-termism, it never brings any sort of perspective.   Consider for a moment the case of the man who many still consider to be the greatest Arsenal manager of all time.  Here is his record at the club from the start

First season: 2nd in the league, quarter final of the FA Cup.

Second season: 11th in the league, losing finalists (to Cardiff) in the FA Cup.

Third season: 10th in the league, losing semi-finalists in the FA Cup.

Fourth season: 9th in the league, quarter final of the FA Cup.  Chapman offered his resignation just before the season’s end.  It was declined.

Fifth season: 14th in the league, won the FA Cup.

This sort of record across those five seasons would lead to his sacking today.  But fortunately the club stood by Chapman, turned down his resignation offer at the end of the fourth campaign, and got a trophy in the fifth – although not a trophy that would be recognised by many today.

It was a good job the club did stand by Chapman through those years of mid-table results because in the sixth season he won the league.

Does that mean that every club ought to stand by its manager forever?  Clearly not, but I get the feeling looking back that Sir Henry Norris who was chairman at the time could see progress, and that was enough for him and in the end his judgement was right.

If Xhaka today were to be seen to be a flop by the manager presumably he would be moved on.  Along perhaps with much of the rest of the squad.   But would that do any good?

My answer is still no, for the simple reason that most expensive players don’t make a brilliant start to their careers at a new club, especially when it means moving to a country in which they have not played before, and doubly so when moving to England, where the refereeing is so different from in other countries.

I have heard comments to the effect that players are always warned that “it is different in England” when contemplating a move here, and a part of that difference that is always mentioned is the refereeing.  And it does take a while for some players to adapt to that, as much as to the lack of an Xmas break.

The statistics suggest there is every chance that Granit Xhaka will be a superb player next season; he is simply going through an adjustment period.  If the club really were to suggest that players should be judged totally by one season’s performance we would all be in real trouble.

Of course it is now getting worse than that.  Bellerin was considered useless in his first couple of games.  Then there was a period of him being “OK” before he it the brilliant level and he was being raved about.  Barcelona were ready to offer insane sums to get him back.  Now he is reduced to “useless” by some commentators, Barcelona wouldn’t touch him with a barge-pole and we are back to calls for a complete rebuilding of the defence yet again.

But if the view that most big money signings (like most players coming up from the youth system) who don’t make it in year one should be moved on, all that will do is repeat the same problem again.  An endless circle of buying, claiming the player is no good, dumping, and buying again.  It rarely does any good.

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26 comments to The notion that every judgement can be made immediately, which dominates football, is the most dangerous judgement of all

  • Leon

    Your favourite Guardian Journalist recently gave much praise to Oxlade Chamberlain (and to a lesser extent Aaron Ramsey) for his development and value to Arsenal.
    It must be difficult to find many other players (Holding, Bellerin, excepted ) to enthuse over right now TBH.
    https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/apr/22/alex-oxlade-chamberlain-arsenal-aaron-ramsey-fa-cup

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    The problem with Arsenal this season in my view is the whole team is a flop save Alexis to a certain degree. To be truthful and to be kindeed, Ozil has been a flop at Arsenal since he was bought at that colossal amount of money. Has he been able to lift Arsenal to win the PL title since he came to us? Xhaka is certainly a flop at Arsenal this season as he has done for Arsenal what was expected of him do for us like Cante has done for Chelsea credibly.

    Arsenal should no longer be waiting for ages for their players to come good for them before they win the title. A break from such mediocre mentality should be jettisoned as a priority by the Arsenal board stop any who turned out not be a good player from continuing nicking a living at Arsenal henceforth. And this implies Arsenal MUST buy the correct players that will help us win the title in their first year arrival at the club. No miss buying of players should be condone any longer at Arsenal as we’ve had enough of those miss buys. We’ve waited 12 years for the title to arrive but it hasn’t. And with this trend of players coming to Arsenal at exorbitant cost but later indulge into living in comfort zone at Arsenal as it’s currently seen must stop. For if this is allowed to continue, only heavens know when the title will arrive.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    The problem with Arsenal this season in my view is the whole team is a flop save Alexis to a certain degree. To be truthful and to be kindeed, Ozil has been a flop at Arsenal since he was bought at that colossal amount of money. Has he been able to lift Arsenal to win the PL title since he came to us? Xhaka is certainly a flop at Arsenal this season as he has not done for Arsenal what was expected of him to do for us like Cante has done for Chelsea credibly.

    Arsenal should no longer be waiting for ages for their players to come good for them before they win the title. A break from such mediocre mentality should be jettisoned as a priority by the Arsenal board to stop any player who will later turnout not to be a good player from continuing nicking a living at Arsenal henceforth. And this implies Arsenal MUST buy the correct players that will help us to win the title in their first year of arrival at the club. No miss buying of players should be condone any longer at Arsenal as we’ve had enough of those miss buys. We’ve waited 12 years for the title to arrive but it hasn’t. And with this trend of players coming to Arsenal at exorbitant cost but later indulge into living in comfort zone at Arsenal as it’s currently seen must stop. For, if this is allowed to continue, only heavens know when the title will arrive again at Arsenal.

    Sorry for posting my comment twice. I’ve to do some corrections on my first posting.

  • gouresh

    the issue is not weather Granit is a flop or not…..we know it takes time to adapt to this league. what really bothers me while watching him is his concentration levels. his defensive abilities and his tackling. there are a lot of times he just watches the opponent player with the ball go by him like he does not exist. he does not read the 2nd or 3 pass that could be made and seems to be in no mans land. he does not seem to read the situation and decides to tackle in no matter what. he has a very good long range pass….now how many times in the spurs game did you see him make short pass around the box, just to lose it? rather than playing it on the wing behind their FB’s so that Alexis can chase? u cannot pass out of the box every time especially when the team is playing in a defensive mode and low in confidence. now some of the readers will jump in and talk about unfair yellow / red cards he has received. yes we know about that…but some of the players are judged by their reputation. i always say to my team in my playing days as we experienced a lot of biased referring, “don’t give 1/2 a chance to the refs to screw u.”

  • Goonermikey

    @ Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    “Ozil has been a flop at Arsenal since he was bought at that colossal amount of money”. “No miss buying of players should be condone any longer at Arsenal as we’ve had enough of those miss buys”

    Ozil £42m first season 7 goals and 13 assists in the league (not forgetting his record season of assits in his second season)
    Sanchez £32m first season 16 goals and 8 assists in the league (not forgetting the nine goals he scored in cup competitions)
    Pogba £90m first season 4 goals and 3 assists in the league
    Angel di Maria £60m first season 3 goals 10 assists in the league
    Fernando Torres £50m 20 goals IN FOUR SEASONS at Chelsea

    You tell me which of those players have been the worst value for money! Notwithstanding the numerous times on Untold you have been given evidence that new players are unlikely to “help us to win the title in their first year of arrival at the club”.

    Please don’t make statements that do not stand up to scrutiny. If you do, those people who still bother reading your extremely lengthy posts will stop.

  • porter

    If Xhaka today were to be seen to be a flop by the manager presumably he would be moved on. Along perhaps with much of the rest of the squad. But would that do any good?

    And that’s the nub of it , they don’t get moved on

  • WalterBroeckx

    Ask 100 random people and you will get at least 50+ different opinions going from flop to top and all what is in between. The only opinion that really is of importance is the opinion of a manager.
    Not the opinion of some journalist and not even of us supporters or fans.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    @Goonermikey, when have I said on UA that new players signed by Arsenal are unlikely to perform well for Arsenal in their first year? Not me, I’ve never said so before.

    When Ozil was panic signed in response to a strong protest by a section of Arsenal supporters who want to see Arsenal win the title again. But 4 years into his signing by Arsenal, he has not help us realise our dreams for which he was signed despite the huge transfer fee he cost Arsenal and the big wages – the biggest, he’s earning at Arsenal. But has he lead us to the promise land which was the reason he was signed? Tell me is he a success or a flop after 4 seasons at Arsenal?

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    @Gooermikey, you made reference to the signing of Paul Pogba who cost much more money than Arsenal paid for Ozil. But mark you, Man U have already won a title – the League Cup this season with the collective effort of Pogba included in the win. And they want to win the Europa League Cup which if they succeed will give them an entry ticket into the Ucl competion next season. And they are in contention for a 4th place top finish against Arsenal on Sunday at the Ems. This is a second route open to United to get into the Ucl campaign next season. I don’t want to be passionate for Arsenal and make an Arsenal forecast win in this Arsenal vs Man U game on Sunday again after the way and the manner Le Prof and the Gunners left me disappointed in their 2-0 away lose to Spurs last Sunday. If I’ll make a forecast, I’ll say Arsenal will win the match. But if I should be objective and not be subjective in making my forecast, it’ll be a Man U win or a draw game. Because Le Prof may not starts the most inform Gunners available to start the match and position some of them in positions that will unbalanced Man U in their game. I noticed he has been doing so in recent Arsenal games which accounted for our loses.

  • Isac

    @tony
    When you want to support Wenger’s lack of purchases you sing daily to us that only 25% players bought succeed in their 1st seasons, u remained silent on the “??? Fact” that 75% of them succeed in subsequent seasons. Now you need to defend Wenger’s purchase, you suddenly remember that 75%succeed in subsequent seasons, especially the 2nd. I suspect economy of truth somewhere.
    This is before we begin to look at the fact that you seem to be the one who has suggested that guardiola, mourinho etc are failures, less than 1season into their new jobs

  • Ajay

    Xhaka is some one I can not defend as some of his tackles and defensive lapses were horrible and because he was highly billed before the season started it does disappoint the way things have turned out. Our team is strong with quality players but we do not have a Maestro since Cazorla went out with his long term injury. Some one to transition the game from defense to attack. That has been our biggest deficiency and so significant that it has cost us games. That is the area of concern at the moment. Wilshere is out with a fracture. And with many players running out of contracts we have a difficult off season. Hopefully Santi can come back stronger than ever wiith wilshere as under study to Santi. Hopefully we can pull one over on ManU on Sunday.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    And Goonermikey. You may wish to scrutinize Le Prof’s starts. You will see that he preferred to start his favorite players than his Gunners that are most inform on the day to start. And in a big game, he’ll not alter their positional starting positions to confuse the opposition despite the alleged freedom given to the Gunners to exercise on the field of play. Like in the last Spurs game, I had wanted him to start the Ox as left wing back and bring in Bellerin to start as right wing back while Holding will start at central defense and Welbeck to lead the lead the line. If he had done so, I am sure Arsenal team would have contain Dele Alli and Harry outbursts and hit Spurs on the counter with an away win in the game. But Le Prof refused my starts.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    And lastly. @Goonermikey, I am frustrated with these never seems will end soon of Arsenal dropping points in the big games. I think we’ve only managed to win one big game at the Ems against Chelsea this season and managed to collect 3 points at home against Spurs and Man City and at away against Man U in draw games to garnered a total of 6 points out of the so far collectible 12 points. That’s average. And another big game against United is coming up at the Ems on Sunday. Let’s see what Arsenal will do in that match.

  • Isac

    In fact he only managed 5 goals and 8assists in the premiership, champ league and FA cup

  • Isac

    Sorry, my stats are for his 2nd season, here’s the stats for his 1st season… 5goals, 9assists in the league. 7goals 14assists in all competitions. Please dont give misleading info

    http://www.espnfc.com.ng/player/84775/mesut-ozil?season=2013

  • I am most sorry that my writing has suggested that there is some absolute measure of success or failure. What I am trying to say is that is the opposite.

    In summary my view is that expectations of immediate success in football are foolish. They might happen but doing things like buying new players or bringing in a new manager are not very likely to have an immediate impact.

    I think part of the problem is that I sometimes try (obviously unsuccessfully) to make fun of the attitudes of the aaa and journalists rather than sticking to a more factual, and perhaps more boring, style of prose.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    @Tony Attwood, you are correct Sir. However, you may wish to take into cognizant that as a big club that we are, we have been in the waiting for more than 12 season campaigns for a PL league title trophy to find it’s way back into the Arsenal trophy cabinet but to no avail. And this waiting has been frustrating for us to bear it longer than we’ve bore it. The solution to break this jinx has be sort and when found be used to break the jinx if we want it broken. Ofcourse I believe we want it broken.

  • Sifarzone

    Dear Samuel,

    If Pogba winning the league cup in his first season counts, then 2 FA cups in the last three years counts for Ozil, right?

  • Jojo

    @ Goonermikey when you refer to Ozil’s “record season of assits in his second season” what record(s) are you specifically referring to?

  • omgarsenal

    NO porter….the nub of it is your presumptuous certainty that Xhaka and the others should be moved on….but who are you to determine this, without proof, any form of argument or any rational evidence that you even know what you are talking about!

    Stick to knitting or some less demanding activity.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ Tony Attwood – 04/05/2017 at 5:44 pm -Do please stick to your : ‘..to make fun of the attitudes of the aaa and journalists rather than sticking to a more factual, and perhaps more boring, style of prose.’

    **** f*ckers don’t deserve any better !

  • Brickfields Gunners

    What’s your name ?

    A woman arrived at a party. While scanning the guests, she spotted an attractive man standing alone. She approached him, smiled and said, “Hello. My name is Carmen.” ”

    That’s a beautiful name,” he replied. “Is it a family name?”

    “No,” she replied. As a matter of fact I gave it to myself. It represents the things that I enjoy the most – cars and men. Therefore, I chose “Carmen”.

    “What’s your name?” she asked.

    He answered “B.J. Titsengolf.”

  • Brickfields Gunners

    THE SERMON -and thy will be done !

    The priest said:” If l had all the beer in the world I would throw it into the river!!!”

    “Amen!” , said the congregation.

    ” And if I had all the wine I would take it and throw it into the river!!!”

    ” Amen !” ,said the congregation.

    ” If I had all whiskey and brandy I would take it and throw it into the river said the priest!!!”

    A great, ” Amen!” , was heard from the congregation and the priest sat down.

    The Choirmaster stood up and said, “For our closing hymn turn to page 114 of the old hymn books and let us sing, ” We shall drink from that river.”

    The congregation screamed, ” HALLEUJAH !!!!”

  • para

    The thing about judgement is that it is performed at past plus current time, not future times.

    So it is not wrong to say that player x or player y is a flop right now.

    Future performances either verify or change the judgement.

    This seems to be how it is called every time.

  • a.c.

    Dear Samuel,
    Please, no score prediction from you this weekend. Your predictions are always off the mark.

  • That seems very unreasonable AC. I like Samuel’s commentaries and predictions. You can always look away.