“Making the Arsenal” – the book of Arsenal’s decline and rebirth
By Tony Attwood
During the summer when it was unclear to us mere mortals if Arsenal would get the transfers the club wanted, there was much comment among the blogworld to the effect that the supposed failure to bring in players quickly was due to gross incompetence. As usual the implication was that if only the blog writer himself had been in charge we’d have had a team bubbling with the very best talent in the multiverse by 12.30am 1 July.
The situation, in the minds of the AAA is simple. We want A, A will play for us, so we just make a big offer and pay big salaries. (The fact that we have something like the third highest wages bill in the League is ignored).
But I don’t believe the modern transfer world is like this. You have to note that during the whole year now newspapers publish stories about who was coming to the club, which are wrong in every regard. And we sign players that sometimes are never headlined by the press.
Just for my own satisfaction I did a spot of asking around – asking the sort of people who know a little of such things – and came up with this scenario. It is interesting, I believe, because I am not sure it has been published elsewhere – not least because it is far more complex than the simplistic approaches loved by some bloggers and many journalists.
Basically all transfers involve four sets of people
1: The buying club (in our case Arsenal)
2: The selling club
3: The player and his agent
4: The speculators – blogs, TV, radio, papers… These of course include those 100% on the side of the club as currently constituted (people like us), those who are endlessly critical but claim to be supporters (the AAA) and those who are against Arsenal as a full time professional occupation (most of the media).
To understand how we can attempt to get every player we want one has to take into account the activities of all four of these groups.
How the big clubs like Arsenal work.
Let’s imagine that the club wants player A. What they do is declare that they want player B, let out a subtle hint to one or two in the football world that they really want player C while putting in a public offer for player D – an offer they know will be rejected.
As a result of this, the price of player B goes through the roof and the blogworld and journalists debate the issue, the owners of player D scream that the result is insulting, and the AAA run their story about how pathetic and stupid Arsenal is for not being able to buy a goalkeeper when we so obviously need one. Meanwhile as the papers run that story, one clever clever journo picks up on player C, and starts going with that. All of this is the origin of the daily “Linked with” stories as in “Arsenal have been linked with Bert Blogglesnap, the Luton Town goalkeeper. In a shock move insiders report that Arsenal scouts have been watching under 15 trialist Blogglesnap…”
Apart from anything else this tends to keep the scouting team of the big benefactor clubs (BBC) busy as they go and watch one of the most incompetent young players the south of England has ever seen.
Sometimes for fun one stage is left out – particularly that of declaring the want for player B, with that story instead being slipped out supposedly in an unguarded moment.
There are also other variants – Barca’s bizarre psycho-genetics approach to Fabregas for example, declaring that the city is in his DNA. Or the Chelsea panic approach of “it is moves, buy it”. Or indeed the Man City approach of “if he’s expensive, buy him”.
The selling club
The moment any smaller club hear that Arsenal is possibly on the hunt for one of their players they go to Man C, PSG, or Chelsea – the BBC, and say “Arsenal are after him, he must be good, do you want him?” They also double the price.
This of course feeds the media who go in for the story big time while the AAA run the story that Arsenal are misers and won’t pay proper transfer fees. Journos talk of transfer madness.
However this move has the benefit of fooling other clubs who think Arsenal’s interest is elsewhere, allowing them to open very tentative negotiations with the club of the player they want, and the grounds that, “if a single word gets out, we are not buying and you can forget what is going to be a decent offer.”
Those clubs who don’t want to sell their best players are get uptight about the rumours of players B, C and D and the transfer rumour mill continues.
The player and his agent
On hearing any rumours the player and the agent get excited and up the player’s wage demands. As the deal for B C and D falls away the AAA get worked up about Arsenal’s refusal to pay decent wages and how League Two awaits.
Meanwhile some of the players who are picked on by Arsenal as B C or D fodder really do want to move, and so they start agitating either for that move (if not to Arsenal then someone else). This angers their current club, and causes dissension in the ranks, which is a good smoke screen for the activities in getting player A. If the story about A does get out, he is told, “you deny it totally or else it is off”. Meanwhile at least one of B, C and D does also deny it, because in their cases the stories are untrue. The world is awash with denials.
While they are perfectly aware of the games played they have no choice but to run the false stories since they have given over a few pages to rumours and need to fill these.
Rumour stories are of course free. No one does any investigation, no one pays for the news, it is all presented to the press and Sky Sports for nothing.
What’s more some of the stories become true, not because they were true at the start, but because all of this water muddying actually does cause unrest and so some players do get moves even though the whole story started as nothing more than make-believe.
But mostly because these are just made up tales the club’s are reported as being “tight lipped” in the conventional moronic journalese jargon.
The reverse play
Of course everyone does it, and that means clubs are out there doing it to Arsenal, and journalists themselves can start the story rolling with any made up tales they like. This does happen less with Arsenal because most of Arsenal’s purchases are so obscure that the journalists have not only never heard of the player, and they have no story to make.
But papers can be caught out. One example was the case of Masal Bugduv a 16 year old who supposedly played for Olimpia Balti in Moldova. The Times was fed the story about this player and in January 2009 they dutifully ran this piece…
Moldova’s finest, the 16-year-old attacker has been strongly linked with a move to Arsenal, work permit permitting. And he’s been linked with plenty of other top clubs as well.
Except he didn’t exist. He was made up utterly, in a ruse which showed just how the system of journo incompetence worked. Worse, the Times rated the player in their top 50 shining stars in football.
Double worse, the Times then, on being shown to be a bunch of utter turnips, failed to admit their error and simply deleted the story from their web site.
Investigative journalism my arse.
Of course it is these scenarios that lead to the story that Arsenal have signed a goalkeeper from Argentina having only looked at the DVDs. He arrives in Britain, and then they realise he is only five feet four inches tall, so they send him back and waste another couple of million.
Amazingly when that story went around a couple of years ago some people believed it, but all it was was another smokescreen – another way of putting out some nonsense to throw everyone off the scent.
Indeed even when Mr Wenger says, “no I am not signing a goalkeeper” the papers stoke the flames of discontent with more stories. On 8 Feb 2010 the Daily Mail reported that Mr Wenger said he would “absolutely not” sign a keeper, which led them into a frenzy of reporting which keeper we would sign, in subsequent days. In fact Mr Wenger did exactly what he said – no one was signed. But that didn’t stop the paper running the bit about “Wenger has developed a worrying blindspot where goalkeepers are concerned”. Absolutely the reverse in effect – his brilliance at signing the three young keepers we have is a unique achievement.
So it goes. Koscielny and Vermaelen – if you had heard of them at all before Arsenal signed them, then you are either a supporter of their previous clubs, or an aficionado of French or Belgian football. This signing of “unknowns” (which means unknown in England among the AAA and football journos) is hated by the AAA, and they work hard to denigrate the signing of unknowns. Until of course the unknown turns out to be rather good.
Anyway, the work for the next transfer window has started. A’s have been identified, while B, C and D stories are being prepared. The merry go round is getting moving already.
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