By Tony Attwood
This week the Daily Mirror launched a big special on the questions that Arsenal fans are wanting the answer to but for which there will never be an answer. Actually they weren’t the questions I would like to have answered, largely because I knew the answers, but they were the questions the Mirror thought would make a good story. A subtle difference.
Top of the list was
Who refuses to spend the money – board or Wenger?
It’s a theme that has been doing the rounds for a long time. For example the Yahoo sport / Europsport site ran a story in August 2013 by Jan Molby which said,
“The board have come out and said they have money, and that they will compete with the biggest spenders. Over to you Wenger…
“Incredibly though he has said he’s finding it difficult to sign players, despite having seen several targets – Gonzalo Higuain, Bernard and Luiz Gustavo – join smaller clubs due to his reluctance to spend the money needed to buy them.
“Additionally, the two major signings Tottenham have made would have certainly improved Arsenal’s team. Roberto Soldado is a fantastic goal-scorer, while Paulinho is exactly what they are missing in the middle of the park.”
I think we might pause for a moment here. The question actually being asked at the moment is “Does Roberto Soldado have a future at Tottenham?” Paulinho meanwhile appears to be the centre of an offer from Corinthians the club that sold him to Tottenham to take him back.
Soldado signed for Tottenham having scored 114 goals in five seasons for Valencia and his former club, Getafe. He had scored 20 plus goals in each of the previous four seasons. Much was expected. But in 2013/14 he played 36 games and scored six PL goals of which four were penalties.
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Corinthians’ Paulinho came to Tottenham for £16m in the summer of 2012 but he is no longer regularly in the team.
My point here is the fairly obvious one – buying players doesn’t always work. When the AAA criticise Mr Wenger for not buying, this rather simple issue is forgotten.
Of course the Mirror gets out of the difficulty by refusing to say who we ought to buy – they just report other people’s rumours, like most newspapers now and then moan when Arsenal don’t buy. At least we should place Eurosport and Yahoo sport above the Mirror for having the nerve to print a piece about, it naming names and making predictions. Unfortunately for them, they got the predictions wrong. Fortunately Mr Wenger didn’t take their advice.
The fact is that telling Mr Wenger who to buy and making jokes about who he did buy is the stuff that a ten year old could do, and probably learns to do at school along with his times tables – especially if there is a copy of the Mirror on the breakfast table.
But there is more. Gonzalo Higuain, as we’ve shown several times, was not a target for Arsenal, and the stories about him being spotted at Heathrow on his way to sign, were just inventions. It was all part of the complex set of phantom and vapour transfers set up to persuade Real Madrid not to accede to Tottenham’s contractual requirement that Bale could only go to Real Mad if Real Mad refused to sell Ozil to Arsenal. Arsenal’s triumph was by-passing that hurdle and getting Ozil – who I still rate at the very highest level, despite the contrary views elsewhere.
But back to the Mirror. Bernard is a Daily Mirror favourite. They ran the story “Brazil international Bernard has been offered to top Premier League clubs as he bids to escape Shakhtar Donetsk,” in May this year. But then can you imagine the Mirror’s angle if Arsenal did buy him and not the defenders they also keep yelling about. Anyway, in the end, no one took him for some reason.
Luiz Gustavo went to Wolfsburg rather than Arsenal. Was that an Arsenal failure, or did he maybe fancy staying in Germany, having settled there and learned the language? Was there a visa issue? Or a question of how he would fit into the team? Or actually an issue about his playing ability? Or had he been warned about the English press and the AAA?
So when we come back to
“Incredibly though he [Wenger] has said he’s finding it difficult to sign players, despite having seen several targets – Gonzalo Higuain, Bernard and Luiz Gustavo – join smaller clubs due to his reluctance to spend the money needed to buy them,” the picture begins to look a little difference. I don’t think Higuain was ever wanted, so we didn’t find it difficult to sign him. Bernard’s position was filled, which leaves one player who may not have been what the club saw as being a perfect fit, or who may simply have not wanted to come.
And this is the point really. Players are people, yet are treated by the media as meat to be traded. Respect for them and their families as citizens is about minus 100 on a scale of 1 to 10, in the media. But the truth is that while, for me, playing on the Emirates pitch in a five a side competition was one of the moments of my life because of my eternal affection for Arsenal, for footballers it is one option among many.
And besides maybe Luis Gustavo did know about the press and the AAA.
The fact is, the approach of the press in Germany is far different from that in England, with more respect given in terms of the private lives of players. Certainly among the tiny number of players who I have had the chance to talk to about such things, there is an awareness across Europe that if you come to England and are anything other than a quiet family man off the pitch, life is going to be tough. And that’s before the abuse you’ll get after a couple of dodgy games.
Back with the Mirror, I won’t bore you with all the questions the Mirror posed (although there was a good one about the catering), but there are a couple that I would mention:
What is behind all the injuries?
I think you only have to read the referee reviews get an idea of that.
What happened to Chamakh?
He had huge personal issues which utterly affected his performance on the pitch. Much as we want the players to be machines that can just turn it on (like Henry) and icemen (like Bergkamp – but don’t forget he did occasionally lose it, jutting an elbow into a face for example), players are subject to human emotions. They are people.
Why was RvP sold to Man Utd?
And this is where the Mirror really loses it. On 30 January 2008 the Court of Arbitration in Sport laid down the Webster ruling which says that all players can leave their club after three years, irrespective of what the contract says. Untold carried the story, as of course did many other sources. Somehow the Mirror missed it.
RvP was tapped up by Man U, with the promise of a contract that gave him a preposterous amount of money over four years. Sir Alex F did that as part of his policy of throwing everything at one more championship – which he did achieve. But the price the club paid for putting everything into that one year was seen in the following season.
The ruling is rarely used, because the club liable to lose the player either there and then, or in a year or two, generally does a deal to allow the player to go if that is what the player wants, in order to get some money from a sale they don’t want. Every agent knows they can move the player after three years, so players are in fact up for sale from the moment they sign.
The newspapers don’t talk about the Webster ruling however, because it is considered too complex for its readers to grasp.
It was ever thus.