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Does Arsène Still Know Best? – Clear Thinking “Post Old Trafford”.

By Nick Tolhurst

Does Arsène Still Know Best? – Clear Thinking “Post Old Trafford”.

Self criticism is nearly always beneficial, a mad orgy of doom, gloom and self destructive Scapegoating less so.

As those who read my last “Harsh Truths” article here while I may not be optimistic regarding Arsenal’s chances of lifting the Title this year I am very much in the Arsène knows better, if not “Arsène knows best”, camp.

But, faced with an 8-2 defeat against a bitter rival (a defeat to match the freaky results of the 19th century), should we “loyalists” reconsider? And, perhaps more importantly, what is exactly happening behind the corridors of power at the Emirates?

True, the mood has changed following the frantic events of the end of the transfer window, but we still need to consider where we were before these new men arrived.

Let’s look at the Old Trafford result (and the stuttering start to the season) with a cooler eye than the media are doing. While I disagree that all the media are somehow intrinsically “anti Arsenal” the sheer level of demented punditry going on does make me doubt the motives of some – although to be fair to people like Steve Claridge much of what passes for analysis seems to be more a mixture of spontaneous ill thought out kneejerkery and ignorance rather than premeditated malice.

As stated in “Harsh Truths” any knowledgeable Wenger observer will know that Arsène hasn’t changed his philosophy in 2 decades now. He doesn’t mind spending “big” – witness the 11million spent on Juventus reserve Henry in 1998 (nearer 20 million in “today’s money”). What Wenger has always done though is been his own man – in a number of ways. Firstly, he buys youth sprinkled with mature players who have “slipped under the radar” through injury, bad form or misfortune. He rarely ever buys a big star at a big club – financial constraints don’t really come into this philosophy – it’s just the way he is. Secondly, his teams are sent out trained to play a certain way – attacking football with technique put before defensive strategies and “thumping it long”. Thirdly, Arsène Wenger himself exudes throughout his professional life an almost moral asceticism which demands high standards both of him as well as of others. I have no problem with the first two and quite frankly any real Arsenal fan shouldn’t. There is case to be made though that Arsenal in general, and Arsène in particular, is suffering from the new found turbo oligarch investment and accompanying mercenary system which has infused top class football.

It is clear that Arsène thought that at least one of Nasri or Fabregas could be convinced to stay. While I have great sympathy for Cesc’s desire to return to his hometown, it seems from many indications from inside the club that Nasri misled Wenger into his intentions earlier in the summer when he angled (and received assurances) for the “Cesc role” in the team should Fabregas leave.

As a near bankrupt Barcelona dragged the Fabregas transfer on, in the hope of getting the most gifted young midfielder on the cheap, the role (and power) of Samir Nasri increased with each day. Arsène Wenger could of course have insisted that Fabregas stay but I believe his family like attitude to his players and strong moral code made this impossible. And Barcelona and Cesc of course knew it. Witness Cesc’s incredible honest, but sheepish, eulogies to Wenger over the last weeks – this is a man who knows that while Barca are his team, they have got him on the cheap largely thanks to Wenger’s refusal to force Cesc to see out his contract. Had this been Manchester United, I doubt if Fergie would have been so magnanimous! He would have demanded 60 million and given the player the choice between a pay rise and longer contract or playing in the reserves if he refused to toe the line till the other club paid up – friendship or “gentleman’s agreements” be dammed! For better or worse, Arsenal is just not that kind of club.

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These, in Arsène’s own words “mentally draining”, transfer sagas combined with a very late transfer deadline that encourages clubs to grandstand till the last hour left Arsenal fatally exposed when 3 suspensions and 6 injuries hit simultaneously just as the team faced two very tough fixtures. The team against Manchester United was in all honesty a hastily cobbled together side better suited to a carling cup tie than such an important fixture. More worryingly Arsène himself, in all honesty even before the Old Trafford game, didn’t look like he had spent the summer recharging his batteries but had been consumed with the wearying and depressing minutiae of every singly transfer deal.

What can we learn from this and how can we avoid such a debacle in future? While a move toward changing the transfer deadline to finish before the season starts would be most welcome it’s both unlikely to succeed and beyond Arsenal’s power. More importantly, Arsenal as a club has to think a little deeper about the way they conduct business. It’s always nice hearing from clubs (Charlton being the most recent example) about how well Arsenal conducts negotiations. That Arsenal “did everything right and by the book”. This reflects well on the club and Wenger’s ethos, but quite frankly we know that such behaviour comes with a price as increasingly those old ways are disappearing in the new world of the Gary Cooks and the Jose Mourinhos. It may be time for Arsenal to adopt the widespread practice of agreeing everything in secret with the player first, tapping up and grandstanding. Arsène’s treatment of Cesc was exemplary and reflects well on him but ultimately Barca exploited such behaviour as a weakness.

Secondly, but just as importantly the board need to have more responsibility to ensure that transfer and negotiations are carried out quickly and effectively. Arsène should provide the board with his list of targets and the board should obtain these to a strict deadline decided by Wenger in the way they see fit. Having Arsène as coach, manager, head scout, mentor, negotiator and spokesman is simply piling on too much pressure and more crucially hopelessly comprises him when dealing with players like Fabregas who he is as much a father too as a coach. It is worth noting here that Alex Ferguson rarely speaks to the media nowadays, undertakes few training sessions and delegates transfer negotiations, leaving him (despite his age) free and refreshed to deal with and inspire the team.

What we must realise though is that for the club to abandon the system that Arsène built with it’s nurturing of youth just when Wilshere, Frimpong, Walcott, Ramsey, Gibbs, Szczesny and Miguel are breaking through would be madness itself. But by the same token Arsenal as a club must realise that in a world of Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid etc with unlimited resources and zero scruples we can no longer be champions through mere good will, good behaviour and Arsène’s wonderful playing style as in the late 90s and early 2000s. It’s time for the board to step up and give Arsène Wenger the backing he deserves, and more importantly needs, to do the job.

Nick Tolhurst

The writer is a Germany based Arsenal fan and author of numerous articles and books on sustainable business, including most recently “Responsible Business” (Wiley 2010).

Untold Arsenal on Twitter @UntoldArsenal

Untold Media Watch: Evidence, who needs evidence?  The Guardian knows that Wenger is ill but insists on doing all transfer deals himself!

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Gentlemen, you owe the Ladies an apology

Full index of posts: The player index


53 comments to Does Arsène Still Know Best? – Clear Thinking “Post Old Trafford”.

  • Stevie E

    This is a tremendously written article in what has been a series of excellent work of late. While all may not agree with your views, surely no-one can criticise the quality of your writing. After having to ingest a load of rubbish churned out in the press in the name of Untold Media lately, I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to read such a well balanced, well thought out and intelligent piece. Well done, I hope you post more along these lines in the future.
    By the way, I do happen to agree with you. I feel that the board know AW is going no where so they’re happy to hang him out to dry with no fear that he’ll jack it all in.

  • El Gringo

    Nick, while I agree with much of your analysis, I strongly disagree with your conclusions. I support Arsenal because they are different. Trophies and huge signings be damned–I am glad to support one of the last teams with principles, that does things by the book, that at least attempts to act ethically. Your proposals, if accepted, won’t necessarily help Arsenal to compete better on the field–even if the negotiators and scouts were to play the dodgy, treacherous, cut-throat game currently in style, they still couldn’t offer the wages and transfer fees that other clubs could. So we’d probably not much in terms of on the field success, but we’d certainly lose one of the most attractive features of the club. I for one want Arsenal to win and win frequently and beautifully–but not at the cost of the old-fashioned ethics that make Arsenal the Arsenal.

    On an unrelated note, I wish more people would take note of the fact that Wenger wasn’t even in England on the transfer deadline day, a fact that clearly demonstrates that he is not the only power at work in the club. All the people criticizing Wenger for bungling transfers should reconsider their position based on the evidence: if the man isn’t even at the club on the biggest transfer day of the year, he clearly isn’t exercising sole domination of every detail of the club’s business. There are certainly avenues for informed and considered criticism of the club’s transfer policy, but it is now obviously counterfactual to keep on pretending that Wenger should be the object of that criticism.

  • bob

    El Gringo,
    I agree that Arsene is not the only one in control of transfers, to be sure, and especially since Silent Stan’s arrival with unknown consequences to the power relationships at the top. However, even if he were not in England, given instantaneous real-time communications from anywhere in the corporate world, decisions can easily be made from anywhere at any time. Small point, but yours hinges a lot on this point which I don’t think has the weight you give it.

  • Shard

    Sensible in parts.. But let’s see.. You are saying we start tapping up players. We change who we are in that sense. Why not just give up the self sustaining model then? Everyone else is going down that road as well aren’t they? These aren’t the ‘old ways’. It is a way to ensure our future. That we stay around. There are some ways in which we must change (I prefer the term adapt) and in a sense Park Chu Young’s signing can be seen as a sign that Arsenal are ruthless as well when they want to be. I doubt Arsenal would break rules though, and that makes me proud. It is also a ‘branding’. Our commercial brand can, and does exploit that image. If we go down the tapping up route, but STILL don’t have as much money or in recent years titles. What are we going to sell our image as? Have a think about that.

    For all the talk of not being able to compete. We were competing for 4 titles right into February last year. In the 6 years, We’ve been in a Champions League final and lost to 2 offside goals to a Larsson inspired Barca after being down to 10 men. We should have won the league in 2008. We’ve had 3 leg breaks in less than 4 years, and we’ve been in the finals and semi finals of the domestic cups.. Yes we collapsed at times and some footballing lessons have to be learnt, and I think have been to an extent. But this was despite a LOT of unfavourable ref decisions (refer to Walter’s excellent work last year). We have seen it this season as well, except we were all busy wondering how our squad will shape up.

    This is a new team. The team built around Cesc is gone. Losing two players of that quality was never going to be easy, AND we have shipped out so many of our squad that this team is virtually unrecognisable. We do not have a Cesc, or even a Mata. But we have a new TEAM. The youth are still coming through. and new commercial deals in a few years. There is no reason to give up on our team, our manager, or the ethos of the club. Tippy-tappy (with end product) YES.. Tapping up.. NO.

  • Ronnie Brown

    I agree wth some of what El Gringo was saying, I am very proud to be an Arsenal fan because we do things “the Arsenal way” and I feel us to be a moral club, this is extremely important to me and we have a long tradition of doing this, I wouldn’t want us to start tapping players up and things like that, I would hate us to sign players like Barton, Woodgate and the like, infact I couldn’t support that, so I hope Arsenal maintain their values forever, possibly we could be more flexible in the transfer market at times but I wouldn’t want us to budge on our core principles which I believe are key to making us the great club we are.

  • Ronnie Brown

    Agree with everything Shard said as well.

  • El Gringo

    Good call, bob. I’m sure he was texting away through all his meetings, but it seems to me that even these days, corporations want their bosses around on the big days. Could Wenger have been trying to make a point by skipping town on deadline day only a week or two after claiming there were 20 people working on transfers? I certainly don’t deny his involvement, I just question the extent of it considering his recent actions and words.

  • Dark Prince

    The writer has rather unsuccessfuly tried to give an account of whats happening or what happened at Arsenal….

    I can easily disagree and give alternate and more convincing side of each of the topics mentioned….

  • bob

    Nick, all,
    A very interesting related and relevant read from the standpoint of real-politik rather than purity of principle: It demonstrates that Arsenal has taken the gloves off and in no longer so pure, as it adjusts to trying to survive at a relevant level in the zillionaire’s jungle aka EPL football.

  • Red_Quadrant

    I agree with the overall thrust and gist of Nick Tolhurst’s article. However, I feel the time has come for us to make a stand against player/agent demands. If the rumours of Cesc poor behavior in looking to force a move are correct, then we really should have driven a harder bargain.

    As for Nasri, the issue is, we must never again take a player at his word. We have Theo, RvP, Song and Vermaelen now having 2 years left of their contracts. We must not be taken by promises from any player saying they will extend their contract.

    The fact is you never know what outside influences are on the player to move because financially it will be to their benefit, even if it may not be to the benefit of the player’s career and to the club’s detriment.

    I hope we have learnt our lessons from Nasri and avoid such situations in future.

  • Chowdhury

    @DP — really? Can we have the honour of actually having something meaningful and substantial from you? That would be something new for a change. So try us.

  • Chowdhury

    @DP — So if you do honour us with your write up, will you be in disagreement with your own points too? Just to keep the tradition you know. 🙂

  • bob

    El Gringo,
    Teleconferencing, anyone?

  • Ram

    Hi all,

    Could someone please explain more about what exactly tapping up entails?

  • rusty

    Wait, @Dark Prince wants to disagree with something someone else wrote? And alludes to significant evidence supporting his point of view without actually making a case? STOP THE PRESSES!

    In any event, even though the timing of our summer transfers made them seem desperate, they did all have the look of Arsenal targets, likely players that had been on the radar for some time. Good article, Nick!

  • El Gringo

    bob–sounds good. What’s your Skype name?

  • Arvind

    As El Gringo and Shard put it…if Arsenal starts doing what all other clubs do.. and I dare say even we aren’t whiter than white…but among everyone I think we’re up there and do things right most of the time.

    That to me is hugely important. If we don’t get trophies or big names because of this behavior of ours so be it.

    And in the end.. its these things which are more important than trophies. Yes those are nice of course and vindicate our style but I don’t want it to be a case of the end justifying the means.

    All the same, I do appreciate the thought you have put into the article and agree with almost everything else, except us moving off the straight road. Keep writing 🙂

  • nicktolhurst

    El Gringo
    Agree about the comments regarding Arsenal changing – it would be a pity. I just wanted to highlight in a provocative way some of the missing narative re Arsenal reporting in the media. I think its sometimes easy for us arsenal fans to forget just how different and even strange arsenal are when compared with other Chamions League sides. The lingering success of Fergie in his twighlight years at Man Utd has masked just how much top PL and European clubs have changed over the last decade.

  • bob

    i’m sure there’s something generational here, since I was once you, but did it never occur that moving off the straight road is sometimes the only way to have a straight road at all? in other words that better is better? and that sometimes a cup is half a glass (like my late father used to say)? and that living to fight another day might be a more principled course than going down in flames? ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now. 🙂 (cheers from mister bob dylan)

  • bob

    El Gringo,
    sorry, I meant that Arsene and Der Board could have been teleconferencing for any number of reasons with any one or more or coalition of the participants in charge. (no skype for me, argentina)

  • Shard


    Are you suggesting we DO go off the ‘straight road’? Are we going down in flames? Did dylan actually make a deal with the devil?

  • Anne


    “I doubt Arsenal would break rules though, and that makes me proud. It is also a ‘branding’. Our commercial brand can, and does exploit that image. If we go down the tapping up route, but STILL don’t have as much money or in recent years titles. What are we going to sell our image as? Have a think about that.”

    I think that’s a very good point. Arsenal’s image, or more specifically the fact that they engage in good behavior where others don’t, is one of the main reasons I support them, and is definitely the reason I’m willing to devote so much of my own time to defending them. The significance of that shouldn’t be overlooked.

  • Anne


    I think he’s setting it up as a contrast. Whereas Bob Dylan made a deal with the devil, Arsenal most definitely should not. Hence, no tapping up.

    Bob, are we close, or do you feel like explaining what you meant by that? 🙂

  • Shard

    I also take strong exception to this bit in the article

    “(Arsene) didn’t look like he had spent the summer recharging his batteries but had been consumed with the wearying and depressing minutiae of every singly transfer deal.”

    Really? Depressing minutae? Wearying? Didn’t recharge his batteries? Isn’t this just a variation on the Guardian writers harping on about his appearance(good article bob), and then assigning a cause as to what in their opinion he looks like. I’ve seen him look really charged up, smiling, making jokes since the season began. I guess that was just a mask he was putting on and he really doesn’t have an appetite for his job anymore because some people will only look to see him that way.

  • El Gringo

    I figured that’s what you were talking about–I was going for a bit of sarcastic levity, but apparently I have not yet figured out how to transfer a tone of voice and a snarky grin onto a blog. First day commenting and all that. Sorry for the unintended “tapping up”!

  • nicktolhurst

    Arsene did say himself that he found the two “permanent transfer negotiations” were “draining”. This is not a bad reflection on Wenger’s work but on the summer we have been forced to have had dictated by Man city and Barca.

    “The summer was very difficult because we had Fabregas and Nasri in permanent transfer negotiations,” Wenger said. “That is draining in the end. We lost two great players but, at some stage, it has to be over because you want to focus on the future. You want players who are completely committed to the long-term. We wanted to sort all these cases out very early after the summer but it wasn’t possible. The pace is not only dictated by us. We knew at the end of the season we could lose Nasri but it did last for too long. Now is not the ideal moment to do it, but it is a moment.”

  • Richard B

    Another well written and thought out piece – such things are becoming almost unique to this site.
    A couple of additional points which many other commentators have conveniently ‘forgotten’. Signings like Arteta specifically stated that it was the lure of Champions League football that persuaded them to come to Arsenal. In fact, if we are to believe the reports, he actually asked for the move and took a pay cut to come. Those who say that deals should have been done earlier forget that we hadn’t qualified for the CL until after the second leg against Udinese on the 24th August. Before then no agent would have taken the gamble in allowing his player to move – let alone for a pay cut.
    It is also forgotten that the front end of Arsenals negotiation team does not include Wenger who remains just a figure head and part of the marketing of the Club. People like Richard Law and Ivan Gazidis do most of the work of negotiation. And, very well they did it, it would appear.
    Finally it also seems to be ignored that, as Nick says, Arsenal remain a bastion of good and fair practice and treat their employees with greater sensivity than just about anyone else. The baying ‘fan’, who can’t understand what it’s like to run a company (especially one with principles) or employ people who may have travelled half way round the world, at a very young age to be there, will always have their criticisms. But, if they studied their history, they would realise that this is what Custodianship looks like in action, it’s always the way that Arsenal have operated, and it’s the model that is now being followed by everyone other than those clubs who are subsidised by oligarchs and which may well fall foul of FFP in the future.
    And remember, in the three equivalent league games played last season we only won two points. We’re one point behind that – and with a squad that seems now to be being rated much higher than last season.

  • nicktolhurst


    you are ofcourse right about many of the new arivals signing up dependent on CL qualification. I hadnt forgotten that, rather I have been assuming that had Cesc and Nasri’s situations been sorted out earlier Arsenal would have brought in some of the replacements earlier – I cant provide any evidence for this though – its just an opinion.

    Anyhow to be a bit more positive (many here seem to view my article as clearly negative – which its not), theres one good thing about the flux of negative media and the shaky start to the league season, the media seemed to have so written off our chances and talked up the rather overatted signings of ‘pool that I think theres a more than decent chance that arsenal will slip under the radar for a bit as we climb the table. As richard quite rightly states the 3 equivliant games last season produced only one extra point and one could make a strong case out that overall our team is better than last season particularly with Frimpong coming through.

  • Abhishek Kumar

    Good point Richard B…

    Perhaps this is the reason why Wenger said that season starts in September.. he must have felt that to bring good players you must be playing in champions league.. and he knew that ManU match will be very close and all the focus will be on the champions league qualifier..

  • Gooneraside

    After reading Nick’s piece and thinking what a well written article it is and wondering how could anyone find fault, I read Dark Prince’s comments.
    Although I bow to DP’s greater consideration than mine when it comes to some issues, for example he could have derided my lack of thought about home-grown players and didn’t, I must agree with Chowdury that he (DP that is) really ought to provide us with some background to his disagreements.
    Come on, DP, put your typing fingers where your, er, typing fingers are and give us something with at least a little background backup. You never know, we might agree with you.

  • Ronnie Brown

    True, certain principles are even more important than trophies, I wouldn’t want us to murder some children to attain trophies, I know that’s an extreme example but tapping up is cheating, when would it stop? Diving constantly? Leg breaking trying to hurt players? Match fixing? I wouldn’t want any of those at Arsenal and we don’t need it.

  • menace

    Excellent article and very good counter arguments. I’m with those who stand for ethics and sincerity. It is what separates decent from scum. I am proud to support an ethical club that has been exemplary in the changing seedy world of big money sport……and YES Arsene does know best.

    @Ram Tapping up is very simply approaching a player without the permission of his employers. It may be that the agent initiates the contact or that the interested team has one of its players discuss the ‘qualities’ of its wage structure. The basics are that without the owning clubs knowledge, the player is coerced into acceptance of probable transfer. This creates the situation where the player will not renew his contract and eventually force the sale.

    The origins of the term are from tapping someone on the shoulder and making them turn.

  • bob

    Anne, Shard, Nick, Arvind,
    Ok, here’s where I’m coming from with in our morality discussion with my little mind-f@$%s: Bob Dylan would say, the answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.” Or maybe the answer to whether the D in Dylan is the D in the Devil (or is that reserved for Darren Dein?) lies in Tony’s Untold Dylan (kudos for that Tony!, he’s the man: )
    Anyway, not sure what you mean by the straight road, Shard. If it’s a road of pure goodness – which is basically what I’m winding up Arvind about – I think that’s clearly not possible and wishful thinking. Beyond that, what I mean, and am wrestling with myself, is that I think Nick’s on to something when he suggests that good will alone is not enough to be competitive in this age of the oily-garchical dinosaurs who are hijacking fair competition.

    But what I think Nick’s finally on to is actually being asserted in today’s very interesting piece by Yogi’s Warrior/Big Al in A Cultured Left Foot which points out several ways in which Arsenal has had a reasonably successful transfer window by no longer being Mr. Nice Guys but, in fact, by practicing situational rather than good/evil dualistic ethics (which I was attributing to Arvind). We were not being Nice Guys in this window, nor would we have achieved what we did had we acted like nice guys (how I interpret “the straight road”) Yogi/Big Al labels our behavior “Superfly Arsenal” – in other words, street-wise Arsenal that’s not above being ruthless in our own survival interests. It’s worth reading Yogi’s characterization of how “in this noxious environment polluted by Chelsea and City’s poisonous emissions” we stopped being the kinder-gentler Arsenal and “we suddenly got all streetwise.” He feels (and perhaps it’s the fact that?) that lately we’ve been able and willing to poach some of Barca’s best young prospects, and at window’s end just strolled up to weakened (and weaker than us) sides – Everton, Lille, and Bolton – and basically “we took their stuff.” Namely Arteta by dangling CL opportunity; Young Park by making a shock move on the eve of his scheduled second medical before joining Lille; and, Yogi argues, Cahill, who money-strapped Bolton won’t be able to keep from us if we want him in January. This is not what Nice Guys do, in the morally pure image of Arsenal (which I’ve tweaked Arvind’s nose about. Nor is it the Devil’s work, so, no I don’t say let’s be shameless nihilists like the Petro-Clubs. But it is shrewd, a bit ruthless, and playing hardball with the hand we seem to be willing to play at the moment. I think this makes sense to advance our interests, I agree with Yogi’s characterizations, and I think that endorsing this modus operandi for us is where Nick has reached by the end of his piece. So let’s not stay stuck in the pure good or we’re evil model; because only by straying from “the straight road” in this sense will we be able to preserve our side and ruthlessly BUY THE NECESSARY TIME for the full flowering of the not-yet-ready youth project – which like Nick says is still there and soon to be born. In order not to abandon the youth project, he and I would now argue, it’s become essential to drop the pure goody two shoes (absolute morality) persona or be swallowed alive by the media war and the oily-garchs and the vicious march to the Rednose XX. (For Yogi/Big Al’s article, try this: )

  • bob

    Anne, Shard, Nick, Arvind,
    I posted a longish one to clarify my position on Nick’s article and where I’m coming from with my Dylanesque-cryptic questions to Arvind. I had to think about where I was coming from (because they kind of erupted up from my warped pscyhe), and it led to the posting. However, it’s currently in moderation (the Untold Witness Protection System) because I put a link too many in the piece. So, I didn’t ignore the thread and it does matter, so see you later in the comments, I guess.

  • Ram


    Thank you!

  • Anne


    I was just kidding with you 🙂 I’ll look forward to seeing your explanation when it finally gets posted. -A

  • bob

    There’s lots, but here’s some other appropriate Arsenal x-fer window “Bob Dylanisms”:

    For our feverish last few days:
    “he not busy bein’ born is busy dyin’…”

    For the AAA splash-only set:
    “Silvio, silver and gold can’t buy back the beat of a heart grown cold.”

    p.s. And to clarify the Devil question, I’ve really been Bob Dylan all along, like this:
    “Picked up my bag / went lookin’ for a place to hide,
    When I saw Carmen and the Devil walkin’ side by side.
    I said “hey Carmen, c’mon let’s go downtown,”
    She said I gotta go but my friend can stick around.”
    So, yes Shard, I made a deal with the Devil 🙂

  • bob

    Anne, Tony, all,
    And, speaking of the Devil, here’s Guardian’s bald greybeard David Lacey speaking ad hominem of Arsene Wenger under the current pressures: “Wenger’s worry lines are beginning to resemble a contour map of the Himalayas and the last time Swansea City, their next opponents, came up to the top-flight, they beat Arsenal twice.”
    Now, to my point:
    BTW, when I sign in to post comments on David Lacey’s blog (and probably any Guardian blog now, though I’m not sure yet, this is my greeting (in red type, btw) on the electronic form:

    Your comments are being premoderated.

    If anyone else would log in there and see if you get that comment I would appreciate knowing about it. Fact is, I’m proud to be premoderated there, even as I’m proud of the Guardian for being a truly great newspaper — outside of its very large Football Department. (Thanks to UA, I’m now in the Guardian diaspora. You owe me, Tony.)

  • Dgeoel

    I may as well add, a desperate seller never gets good value for their goods and a desperate buyer will always pay more than the true value. By saying he was ready to let Nasri run down his contract, Wenger was angling for a desperate buyer. He got one in Man City who paid 24m for a player they could have gotten for far much less in January or for free at the end of the season albeit with more attractive suitors available. I would not rule out deliberate delays from buyers to deny Arsenal time to get good replacements if at all thereby reducing the potential competition. About the 8-2 score, it was against an almost academy side. One blogger elsewhere wondered when was the last time arsenal scored 2 goals at OT!! Rarely do Arsenal score 2 goals, it wasn’t even a frequent event even during the era of the invincibles. Most managers in the EPL play for a draw if they know their chances of winning a game a slim, not Wenger. He could have asked the boys to line up on the goal line for 90 min and he would surely have earned a point. Thanx heavens, it is not his style. I would gladly take an 8-2 drabbing than watch my beloved Arsenal defend from the goal line, all 11 of them!!

  • bob

    We’ll, I appreciate the sentiment, but let’s be frank: we had a bit more on the pitch than just being an Academy side against might ManUre; and they had a young goalie (not van der Saar) and their best defensemen (Vidic and Ferdinand) on the bench. Though I do think our losses on offense (x-Cesc and Na$ri) were proportionately greater than their losses on defense (Vidic and Ferdinand), although they were missing Valencia to injury as well. There’s a serious gap here, though I hate with every fibre in my being to want to acknowledge it, and I don’t think minimizing the Old Trafford loss is that helpful. What is helpful, since the OT disaster is that we have new quality depth in the squad which will buy time for own young diamonds in the rough to become world-class gems. As for Arsene’s tactics, they may have as much had to do with a probable current policy struggle within AFC management as with ManUre on the pitch.

  • Shard


    The answer may be blowing in the wind, but is it a wind of change? Even if it is, should we change our direction to go with the wind or put up another sail and continue on our way despite the storm clouds that may be brewing?

    The straight road was not a term I used. Arvind used it and even he said we are not whiter than white. I referred to our ‘morality’ being a selling point, ie it offers us some value in exchange, rather than just being a dogmatic position to hold on to. So clearly it isn’t about ‘pure goodness’.

    In regards that article that you link to. I read it, and it’s a good article. Very well written and tells a good story. But actually it doesn’t say very much that it backs up. How do any of our transfer dealings, and BUYING someone in the last year of their contract, or from a relegated club, represent us SHIFTING to not being NICE GUYS (a vague term).

    Firstly, we were never NICE GUYS in the transfer market. We simply do things by the book. As per the rules. In addition to that we are courteous at all times possible (based on what many clubs have said), but we have also managed to piss some people off as well. It might have been Lille this time, but Bordeux weren’t happy about the Chamakh deal. Marseille weren’t happy about Flamini coming here. We even contacted Silvestre (shudder) when he was having a medical at ManCity. Barcelona of course about their kids, as well as the club we got Ozyakup from I think. We’ve always been go getters in that sense, and we’ve always ‘taken stuff’. Isn’t that what business is about? What does ‘dangling’ CL football mean? We earned it, and it is a legitimate draw for ambitious players. How does that mean we are changing our behaviour? Arsenal follow the rules. This article contends we should not, and I STRONGLY disagree.

    We don’t HAVE to offer a replay next time someone scores a goal from a misunderstanding. But the fact that we did makes me love Arsenal even more, and feel proud of our club. A club has a certain character.Class. True class is something no amount of money can buy. and while I will always love Arsenal, if Arsenal stop being themselves, at SOME point I will walk away because that love will die. What that point is I don’t know. But looking beyond that. What will breaking rules and tapping up players really get us? Their agents will still whore them around to all other clubs, and we still won’t have money to ‘dangle’ in front of them. It’ll definitely be a dent on our reputation. Will lose us at least the sympathy of the neutrals (and with it a potential fanbase) and might even get us a transfer ban and fine. So, I don’t see anything to gain and much to lose (not the least in my view is the club’s essence)
    If we can actually debate breaking the rules in order to COMPETE, why not just go down the sugar daddy route? That isn’t even illegal, and will just simplify things so much. Are you for that model or does it speak against some ‘pure goodness’ of values that you hold? Or do we stand much to lose from following that road as well?

    Are there any other ways apart from tapping up that we should break free from our goody two shoes persona, so as to buy the necessary time? What toger should we ride that we can dismount when the time we have bought is up? What exactly do you have in mind? Details. the Devil is in them of course. and if Dylan can deal with the Devil, maybe we could look at striking a deal with the Red Devils and Red Nose. Come on you Reds!! Anyone?

  • Shard


    I have seen that interview before. Yes, Wenger said the transfers were draining. Did he say they were draining for HIM? Or did he mean for the club? Did he ever imply that he feels drained from it, and isn’t feeling refreshed? How do you draw the link from that interview to his appearance? Why don’t you also see the part in the same interview about moving forward? Why don’t you see Arsene’s appearance all the times that he is smiling and comfortable cracking jokes? Are those not facts as well? Are they less important?

  • Stevie E

    Some people only see what the press want them to see. A barrage of AW looking stressed or wet or head in hands imagery had been in the papers and on the net lately, unfortunately some will believe that a picture says a thousand words and it saves the journo from having to think of anything original to say.

  • nicktolhurst

    shard – I agree that the press has gone over board. But my point about Wenger can be read both ways. In fact I dont think anybody sensibly really denies that Arsenal are one of the few top clubs (or even merely clubs) that have been constructed in “one mans image”. Real Madrid wouldnt miss a beat if Jose left (apart from a few backroom staff) whereas Wenger helped to actualy design some elements of the new stadium. Many top clubs seperate the youth team from the 1st team squad – this would be unthinkable with Wenger. Similarly I stand by what I said about the Cesc transfer. Other top clubs would have played hardball with Cesc on a longterm contract – Arsene (not arsenal) didnt. In many ways I love this, despite the clubs size and big city base its very much, as Arsene has said “small on the inside”.

    The fact that Arsenal are still run this way is quite frankly amazing but in a good way – whether Arsene can sustain this and up the performance to PL and CL titles in this new “corporate/Oligarch/fire a manger ever two years” era I’m not sure – I would dearly love him to though.

    Thats what gets me so annoyed with the likes of Steve Claridge et al when he talks of Arsene underachieving – in fact Arsene for the last few years has overachieved. There is not much more in my humble opinion that Arsene can do – I remain unconvinced though about some of the management decisions and Ivan Gazidis – comercially, PR and transferwise. For the last decade it seems to me that the board have relied on Wenger delivering the goods – its been quite easy for them – perhaps the shaky start to the season has shaken up things a bit.

  • Anne


    When I sign in and click on “post a comment” I don’t get any kind of pre-moderation language in the form that comes up. Is that where you’re getting it?

  • walter

    Nick about Cesc if I would have been manager/Gazidis I would have told him there was only one way to play football this season: by putting on the shirt of the club he had a signed contract with.
    Just like penalty=penalty one can say contract=contract.
    I must say the fact that the board/manager allowed him to leave and to throw everything away which they had been building for so many years is something I can not stand.

    So I have a very mixed feeling about it. Because I may have a bad character (by saying contract=contract) but I also have a big heart and I can understand his wish and would open my heart for his wish and let him go (for a reasonable amount of money – I don’t think it was enough IMO and certainly the fact that it will be paid not at once makes my blood boil)

    So by letting him go wed maybe did not what I thought they should do (but who am I in this saga…) but on the other hand it showed that in this club we also keep an eye on the the mind and heart of the player involved.

    Oh, I still am not finished with this… 🙁 You too Cesc?

  • Domhuaille MacMathghamhna

    Nicely balanced and supported article…..again!

  • Anne


    I’m glad you said that about Cesc and the board because I feel the exact same way about it. I’m completely bewildered as to why they would sell both Cesc and Nasri at a time when there’s so much pressure on the club. I personally think that, even if Cesc wanted to go to Barcelona, he wasn’t unhappy at Arsenal, and letting him go when they did, for the amount of money they did, really makes me question the board, honestly.

  • Shard


    Reasons why the board may have sanctioned the Barcelona deal

    1. They are out to destroy Arsenal, and ‘steal’ the money.

    2. They wanted Cesc’s wages off the wage bill so they could re structure it (the generous contention) or so they have to pay less (the greedy board theory)

    3. They felt the Cesc situation was acting as a distraction on the entire dressing room. (though that would be Wenger’s lookout)

    4. Cesc forced their hand. They could keep an unhappy player, pay him top wages, and get probably less for him next year, than they did now.

    It might have been a combination of factors. But personally, I blame Cesc. He wouldn’t have gone if he didn’t want to. He stayed quiet all through this ‘saga’ which is fair enough if you intend to stay and prove your loyalty that way. But his actions (and lack of them) spoke louder than words. Despite being captain he was prepared to let his ‘friends’ and now teammates continuously disrespect Arsenal FC. His behaviour on the field at the Nou Camp was less than what was required. Basically, Cesc chose to leave us just when we needed him most. His desire to go ‘home’ and to ‘the greatest team in the world’ , because they ‘guarantee titles’ was more than any feeling he had for Arsenal or Wenger. His words after going there are just words.

    Cesc had a long term contract that he signed. In the end. Cesc got what he wanted (and was paid during the contract of course), Barca got what they wanted (their man on the cheap), and Arsenal got nothing out of giving Cesc a long term deal except a big F*** You, however politely it may have been delivered, and now you think we should question the motives of the board for sanctioning the deal? That Arsenal should face the blame for a situation in which they got screwed anyway, because they didn’t HAVE to agree to it, and could choose to just get screwed another way? Talk about rubbing salt in raw wounds.

    We may have a new owner but this board have been around for generations. It would take a lot more than a player being tapped up in the manner he was and subsequently being sold, for me to jump to the conclusion that the board don’t have honest intentions for the club. I am open to criticising the board for some things, but Cesc can Fuck off… I mean that. Barca are scum and he belongs there. Regardless of him saying ‘WE’ when he talks about Arsenal. He’s no Henry. No Bergkamp. No Pires. No Brady even. He’s never coming ‘home’. He’s home now. And he can shut up and stay there. Arsenal are moving FORWARD.

  • bob

    I can only join in the sentiments that Cesc and someone or faction at AFC have seriously blundered (or profited) in letting him break the contract and/or for so below his market value. This has injured the club and we are trying to recover against some (not all) odds. And in the face of a continuing media onslaught.

    Our UA/Media Watch is spreading here and there, and perhaps from UA/UM’s recent initiatives. Here’s a favorable one from 4 Sept from Just Arsenal which NOTES how elements in the media keeps piling on to Arsenal by tearing apart our transfer window transactions:
    As for LeGrovel (I won’t provide their link): its 4 Sept headline appears to be INVITING (yes INVITING) stories about how/when/which AFC transfer window dealings went bad.

  • bob

    p.s. The media like SkySports and their ilk are now starting to highlight Arsenal’s Cesc: the Business Blunder to skewer Arsene and AFC. With no PR or inside light on the story, this has the makings of a toxic disease that can eat away at the underpinnings of the club and gain traction if Arteta and the new boys are underwhelming. The problem is that, right now, with no further details on the inner workings of Cesc’s deal, AFC is very vulnernable to these ill=intended stories (that is, attacks) and will have to do something to combat them. The club should stand up for itself in dealing with this and not put it on to defenders and well-wishers in the blogosphere to have to carry its water. Something, sooner or later, will have to be done about this fallout to come from the transfer window because it is now coming. Any doubts people may have? Well, start with this as an opening teaser:,19528,11670_7150733,00.html

  • Anne


    I don’t see anything wrong with questioning the motives of the board, anymore than I see anything with questioning the motives of Cesc. The truth is that both played a role in making this transfer occur, which makes both open to question, in my opinion. I certainly didn’t mean to rub salt into anyone’s wounds by questioning the role of the board in the transfer.

  • bob

    Now I’m browsing through and never got back to this, so for what it’s worth….
    Oh, and by the way, Arvind never answered on my “pure goodness” allegation, so my posting on that score still stands, after several days, as what I think he feels.
    As for the zillionaire takeover model in your rant, I’m not sure exactly what you’re thinking I think or not? But a few months ago I said that if Arsenal went the zillionaire takeover route I would walk away. And you said, well, they would even then still be Arsenal, and you’d not necessarily walk away. So, let’s recall that little colloquy before you (appear) to be accusing me of going that far on the dark side.
    And good you have this much passion on my serious flirtation with the dark side. I’m exploring my own complex love affair with Arsene/Arsenal and the lengths I’d go to see it win the league, which I have no problem posing as a major desirable goal among others. I’d also have liked to have gotten a full sentence of interest as opposed to “nice article Bob” on my Guardian posting. I guess on this one my heresy was worth the extra ocean of keystrokes.