A “small club mentality” or are players actually people after all?

By Tony Attwood

Some mornings the world is full of shocks.  Like the headline in the Telegraph.

Liverpool betrayed small-club mentality in allowing Arsenal to sign Alexis Sanchez

Liverpool being knocked by the Arsenal-hating idea-stealing Telegraph?  Well, quite possibly not,  because when you come to think of it that headline somehow suggests that we only got Sanchez because Liverpool permitted it or were too stupid to stop it.

But what exactly were Liverpool supposed to do to stop it?   Sanchez wanted Wenger and London and despite all the inventiveness of Telegraphic journalism Liverpool possess neither.  Nor do they offer regular Champions League matches year after year, nor indeed a manager who has won Doubles and an Unbeaten season and who has long term cred in the game.

All is revealed in sentence one of the article.  “When Arsenal bid £40 million and £1 – wrongly believing it would trigger a non-existent release clause – to try and sign Luis Suarez in the summer of 2013, Liverpool owner John W Henry famously took to Twitter to mockingly remark: “What do you think they’re smoking over there at the Emirates?”

Thus we wonder what the Telegraph staff or perhaps just Jason Burt is smoking.  Did he fail to see the headline,

Liverpool’s owner admits Luis Suárez did have £40m release clause

It was in the Guardian, the Mail, the Express, all those sorts of newspapers across the world.  But maybe news is only news if it is in the Telegraph.  Even so Jason Burt could go and look it up.

Apparently Liverpool will face questions from the media about Sanchez’ daring not to sign for Liverpool in the press conference this weekend, although given the state of British journalism, these will probably not delve into difficult matters like just why Rogers claimed that he would only buy one or two top players with the Suarez money and then spent it on lots of smaller purchases.  And then bought Balotelli et al.

But although I continue to think Mr Rodgers was a trifle ill advised in some of his statements in May and June this year, I don’t think it was his fault.

The crucial point in the whole debate about the transfer of Alexis from the child traffickers of Barcelona to Arsenal is that Liverpool actually seem to have bid more than Arsenal for Sanchez. But Sanchez fancied working under Wenger (difficult though that is for the AAA to swallow) and wanted to play alongside Mesut Ozil (ditto).

But in his article, Jason Burt, having lost the plot, loses the cinema as well, when having admitted that Sanchez didn’t actually want to move to the north west, and play for a team that had recently been lurking outside of the Champions League, he asks, “But did they really try enough? Did they show a ‘big-club mentality’ in making such a persuasive case to acquire Sanchez that he would not say no?”

Now this approach utterly demeans the player. All of us can say no when an offer is not to our preference, moral stance, geographic preference and so forth.  Most of us are motivated by money, of course, but not only money.  Anyway, is a player who is earning £9 million a year going to say, “well actually I will go to this club that previously purchased a man with serious personal issues and who has just been banned for biting (again), because you are offering me £10m instead of £9m, even though I will immediately lose half of that extra million in tax.

But no, the notion in the Telegraph (and you can see it as a thread running through all their articles on football) is that money is everything.  Look at this line…

“In other words did they throw enough money at him and at Barcelona so that he could not say no? What if they had bid £45million? £50million?”

These two adjacent sentences are thoroughly confused – but the Telegraph never see it.  If Liverpool had bid £50m the selling club might have put more pressure on Sanchez, but my own impression of Sanchez (just from watching him from block 99 and reading the interviews) is that here is a man with morality and a sense of himself, strongly carved by his upbringing.

So in simple terms, a club can say “we’re selling you to Liverpool” but the player can say “no”.   Liverpool can say, “we’ll pay you more” and the player can say, “no”.

And at this point I have to wonder what part of human trafficking regulations the Telegraph journalist does not understand.  Does this journalist feel that if the Telegraph comes to him and says, “You are going to work for the Shetland Morning Gazette,” that he has to go (unless he has been silly enough to sign a contract that says he will go wherever his employer says?)

Of course I don’t know Spanish business law that would apply to the contract Alexis previously had, as well as I know English business law, but even so EU directives on employment are fairly clear.   You can’t change a person’s contract without their say so, and you can’t control what an employee does after leaving your employ beyond anything that is reasonably necessary.  Necessary mark you – not what gives the employer a positive advantage.

The thrust of the article is that Liverpool should have signed one or two top players, and last summer the press were full of the fact that this was what would happen. Headlines like “Brendan Rodgers insists top players now want to join his stylish Liverpool revolution” were commonplace, and although that one was only in the Mail, there were enough of them in all the papers to incline one to the view that they were coming out of Liverpool.

Everywhere the notion was that Rodgers would sign two megastars, rather than do a Tottenham and buy lots and lots of twinkles.  Yes that link leads you to the Express, a paper that is often the butt of laughter at Untold, but still the fact is that everyone was running the story last May and June, and that only happens when the club is briefing the media wholesale.

But now the re-writing of history (usually the preserve of the Times) is in full flow, and clearly Jason Burt wants to be part of that re-write.

“Instead Liverpool moved on. Their strategy was clear. They decided to strengthen their squad, add to the numbers, increase its depth, let Rodgers work and develop. It was a strategy that looked good on paper and is largely sound in practice. It looked sound and sensible.

“They effectively copied the approach that Tottenham Hotspur took when they sold Gareth Bale for £85million, even though that failed.”

But no, I think not.

I think all the evidence is that Liverpool and Tottenham would each have loved to sign one or two mega players of the Sanchez variety, but each club found that the players they targeted would not come.

And the reason that this is so difficult for Birt and his ilk, plus their pals in the AAA, to grasp is simple: players have become dehumanised by the press and the AAA.  They have no morality, no sense of purpose, no sense of responsibility, no nothing.  They are chunks of meat to be traded across the counter, always going after the money (except when chasing women).

Birt admits that he thought the Tottenham Strategy (as it will forever be known) would work.  They spent the dosh on seven players.  Liverpool took it further and bought nine.  However even Villas-Boas was quoted as saying that the Tiny Totts bought too many players and missed their big targets.

But Birt still can’t get the fact that just because he can’t see players as young men who, although they are often incredibly stupid can on occasion have preferences that they want to explore.  The press, rather like the AAA who follow them so avidly, can’t admit that a player might well say, “Actually, I’d rather like to be managed by Arsene Wenger.”

If you really want to start exploring what is wrong with Liverpool. one could start with any of these pointers:

1.  The belief that if Liverpool come sniffing, a player will always say yes

2.  The failure to qualify for the Champions League for a few years does have an impact.  Those who say that “fourth is not a title” at Arsenal, always forget the enormous benefits fourth gives us – the money and the lure of being at the show.

3. Suarez was and is a dominant unstable personality, and not only do players look at who the boss is, they look at who they will be playing with.  Even though he was leaving, his presence probably (and this of course is just an assumption based on looking at organisations that employ such people) left a mark, making players wonder who else with a dubious characteristic is lurking in the woodwork – or would soon be there.

4.  The ground counts.  Liverpool, like Tottenham, can boast plans (and now bulldozers in the Anfield case) but just walking up to the Emirates is a selling point.  Not the biggest selling point, and of course not enough on its own, but still a selling point.

5.  Liverpool finished second with Suarez, but prior to that finished sixth, seventh (twice) and eighth.  And they would be without him again.

The fact is simple: no club can guarantee to be able to bring in the player/s they want because players are people who have their own sets of complex needs and wishes.  Liverpool bought a highly effective but highly unstable player, and were forced to sell him.  That is a reflection of where you end up trading if you drop out of the Champions League.  Otherwise they are bringing in a wide range of good, but maybe no quite good enough, players.  Tottenham are in the same boat.

So the plaintive cry of the Telegraph, echoed by many others “I go back to it – if not Sanchez then someone else. And pay what it takes,”  is meaningless silliness.  Money is part of the show, but not all of it.

After all if you were a footballer, and earning £9 million a year, wouldn’t you have some preferences of your own about who you played for?

Untold Indexes


30 Replies to “A “small club mentality” or are players actually people after all?”

  1. Tony you are spoiling the simpletons’ view on transfers by writing such articles. Surely on Fifa manager or whatever it is called it is much simpler. Just click without dithering and any player will come.

  2. Good article Tony.

    Of all you had to say, point 2 is, to me anyway, the most salient.

    “2. The failure to qualify for the Champions League for a few years does have an impact. Those who say that “fourth is not a title” at Arsenal, always forget the enormous benefits fourth gives us – the money and the lure of being at the show.”

    And that is the argument I used to use all the time when ‘discussing’ the issue of 4th v trophies with those that wish to demean 4th and discredit Wenger.

    My basic point was, when an agent goes to his player and says, look, Club ‘A’ and Club ‘B’ are interested in signing you what do you think?

    The first thing he asks isn’t, does the Club in question have a good run in the FA CUP ?

    The first thing a top player asks is, does that Club give me a chance to play Champions League football.

    Some of the old guard don’t like that. I heard Carragher in his early pundit days having a pop at Wenger suggesting that ANY player worth his salt would rather win a cup (FA/C1C he was alluding to) than finish 4th (achieve CL Football he effectively meant).

    I beg to differ. I’m sorry to pop your bubble JC but that is NOT how the modern player sees it. Especially top players from around the World.

    Of course winning a Cup is brilliant, and winning it last season took a massive weight of our shoulders, but if I was asked, indeed if Wenger was asked, indeed if Sanchez, BFG, Ozil where asked, what is more important this year, winning the FA CUP or Champions League Qualification? it would be for me, and I believe for all those mentioned, Champions League Qualification.

    I understand why some think that sad but the CL is a monster. It is the be all and end all.

    It is the pinnacle, it is an absolute must for the modern footballer.

    Personally I think more people than you would think do actually realise this, it was just that Arsenal not winning a trophy and ‘only’ finishing 4th was too big a chance to miss in there ever more desperate attempts to discredit Wenger.

  3. I will preferred we win the Premier League title, retain the FA Cup and wins the Champions League this season. Ozil was reported to have said: We will finish near the top of the table. I say that’d a negative thinking by Ozil. A positive thought will be to say, we shall come top on the table at the end of the season. Starting with the Liverpool game, the Gunners must start believing they can win 3 titles this season. Arsenal have the money, squad, training facility, medical personal, know-how management skills, the unwavering Gooners and a well equipped seasoned manager to stear the team through any rough weather. The Gunners are lack nothing, rather they have every everything they need to win. Let them step out on the Anfield turf on Sunday evening and gives us a big victory before the very eyes of the regretting Brendan Rodgers. Let the Gunners show him how Arsenal have been winning games with marque signings and not winnig by regretting.

  4. To be fair, the biggest challenge Liverpool faced this season (after that of replacing Suarez) was to be able to meet the challenge of playing serious European games as well as competing in the EPL.
    Significantly more players were required to help them do that so maybe the strategy (if one can give it that grand a description) was right.
    We can’t really judge until the end of the season but, looked at now, it seems to have fallen short of what might have been expected.
    The world (especially that bit of it inhabited by journalists) doesn’t permit evolution any more – only revolution. And when it fails (as it usually does) the world turns on you.
    Managing expectation is a vital business skill. Few have it.

  5. The signs are looking good for the new year.

    SKY Sports must be getting a bit worried that an Arsenal ‘charge’ is on the cards because they’re not showing us ONCE in there new year schedule.

    Of course the Liverpool love in continues a pace with 3 showings.

  6. If you could drop the continual rebukes to your perceived AAA your articles would be a lot more readable and much more pertinent.Personally I would like to see changes at The Arsenal mainly on the pitch but I am not led by the press , the Radio or T.V pundits or ex players purely by what I see on the pitch . I enjoy your investigative ramblings but your paranoia can be quite off-putting.

  7. porter.

    What paranoia is that?

    Could you expand please then perhaps we could address your accusation.

  8. porter

    Also, under what premise is the AAAA merely perceived?

    AAAA is simply a generic term for those Arsenal fans that persistently and consistently criticise Arsenal/Wenger irrespective of any result or performance.

    We here are often ‘generically’ referred to as AKB’s. I have no problem with that. It’s not a perceived acronym as generally that is what I/We believe to be true.

    Can I suggest Le Grove for some rather good examples of a ‘generic’ AAAA type fan. I’m sure you’ve seen it.

    Who knows, you may even be one. We’ll see.

  9. Just to add a further layer to the complexity of the biters transfers – phantom and real. I am convinced that the reason we did not have the mixed pleasure of seeing his dubious range of talents (including his on pitch snacking)at the Emirates was that, part of the deal to staying at mugsmashers was the promise of a transfer to his first choice of Barcelona the following season. I can’t guess how much of the deal was agreed in outline but certainly there was enough for him not to require specific performance on his release clause which would only have been the player’s prerogative. Interesting that the next summer he sealed his move orally as he has done for each of his last two moves!

    One thing is crystal clear for world class players there must be a world class stage and that is ECL.

  10. “If you were a footballer, and earning £9 million (plus) a year, wouldn’t you have some preferences of your own about who you played for?”

    Depends upon whether my special agents allow me to have a say, or not.

  11. It is ironic that had Liverpool not lied about Suarez buy out clause and thus Sanchez had joined us for the infamous 40 million+1 pounds the scousers could well have signed Sanchez to replace him. Instead they finished up with neither. Poetic justice, and at least in this case cheats didn’t prosper.

  12. Murder Inc./News International/Sky/The Sun commission a YouGov poll, so I’ve heard:

    “Should AW remain AFC Manager”:

    Yes = 78%

    Don’t know = 7%

    No = too busy being an angry self declared Expert in PR (plus Football, Finance, Physiotherapy etc…) campaigning upon twitter and from genius multiple IPs to answer any survey

  13. @finsbury

    I saw you mention lawyers getting involved with the pgmo in an older post. Any links or further info?

  14. blaisehayest, you missed my earlier reply? 🙁
    As with most things, I haven’t a clue. I only assume that at the least the club received some kind of advice when the Gibbs suspension and fine was dropped without any wider coverage.

  15. clarification:
    Even if the PL or whoever is responsible dropped the fine and suspension without any prompting, I imagine the some advice would’ve been given.

  16. For those of you who fancy a flutter Arsenal are 69-1 for the title on Betfair. I’ve had some of that because I know that we will shock the clubs above us despite the PGMO cheats. I’ll lay some off after we get to 2nd in the league (it means I’ll take some profit before the end of season).

  17. Jambug , it’s not an accusation purely a comment. Anyone with an ounce of sense would appreciate the stance of the site. I am not looking for a fight as I enjoy a lot of what is written.It is just the frequency of the snide remarks about those that you disagree with that in my mind detracts from the content of the writing. In this piece alone there are four derogatory references to this group. In my opinion this article loses some of it’s credibilty by continuing to do this.There is no moral high ground to attain the articles are well written and really don’t need it.

  18. Excellent article, by the way :D. I just wanted to point out that, even in Europe, the player does not always have the freedom of choice.

  19. All other matters being equal, I imagine a factor in Sanchez’s decision to base himself in London is the ease of access to his homeland.
    If one has to fly back to Chile 5-6 times p.a (just for international matches, let alone family visits), then direct flights from London to Santiago – or other South American cities, for “away” matches – will surely prove preferable over the extra 2/3 hours involved, each way, involved in connecting flights from Liverpool(?) or Manchester via London or Madrid.

  20. finsbury, for some reason I couldn’t find what ever post that was in and after 5 minutes just said stuff it.

    It seems obvious to me that Wenger and the board have realized after so many years of abuse that public statements only make matters worse and that any advocacy regarding the safety of our players is done behind closed doors. Hopefully your right. If I owned a business and my best performing employees were constantly targeted with intentional bodily harm while the authorities were complacent at best I would definitely be doing all that I could to protect them and my investment. I feel the tide might be turning if ever so slowly.

  21. porter

    I didn’t question the AAAA’s right to exist.

    I questioned your supposition that the AAAA was merely a ‘perceived’ entity, when quite clearly they exist in reality.

    As for your issue with ‘snide remarks’.

    Surely a ‘snide remark’ is down to your own personal perception of a response.

    In your answer to me you said:

    “Anyone with an ounce of sense would appreciate the stance of the site”

    Could that not be conceived as a snide remark?

    I suggest you stop being so sensitive, especially as above most sites, Untold is about the use of statistics and data to support there stance rather than the use of ‘snide’ remarks.

    As I say, if you really want to know what a ‘snide’ remark is go to Le Grove, profess your love of all things Wenger, site back and watch the shit storm.

    I’m sure your sensitivities will have you cowering behind the sofa in no time 🙂

  22. How little you know , with your constant directions for me to go to Le grove I am beginning to think that you might be a surreptitious recruiting officer for them . Anyway I can assure you that there are many more virulent sites anti to Wenger than them . try the online Gooner forum should you really want your hackles up.Sensitivity is not one of the things I suffer from but constantly having the train of thought of an article interrupted by unrelated asides is something I feel that you could do without.

  23. porter

    -You said ‘perceived’ AAAA.

    I only mentioned Le Grove to back my assertion that the AAAA are in fact a reality.

    It seems now that you agree with me.

    Glad to hear it.

  24. Let’s drop it as i said earlier I was not looking for a fight then and I am not now. I used the word perceived because I don’t actually believe that there is a signed up organisation fully committed to Wenger’s removal. There are voices many of them that see it as the solution to their angst about the club . Reading through the various sites and discussing the subject in the pubs and the concourse before and after games the argument swings to and fro . There certainly is a number of match going people that see things differently to you , there are also people that see Kroenke as the problem and blame Danny Fiszman for pushing the club in the direction that it has gone. Others dislike PHW and the board for cashing in their shares to allow him to take over . Many want to see ex players having input to the club and those that want a younger more football orientation on the board. Arsenal is a broad church and most of these opinions have some foundation but in the end apart from a few extremists they want the club to be winners and of course there are many that are not satisfied with 4th place finishes.

  25. porter

    Neither am I looking for a fight. Having a different point of view and challenging what somebody says when you don’t agree or have a different point of view, is not looking for a ‘fight’.

    If you are not prepared for what you ‘state’ to be discussed, or yes, challenged, then can I suggest you don’t post on an open forum.

    You just happened to say 2 things that I very much disagree with, namely.

    -That the generically termed AAAA doesn’t exist.

    -And that people that do believe they exist, are in some way paranoid.

    I thought I put forward a reasonable, certainly polite response which you chose to see as ‘snide’ remarks.

    It’s a debating site. I thought we where having a debate. If you want to see it as I fight that’s up to you.

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