By Tony Attwood
Paul Scholes has now set himself up as a spokesperson for the “Arsenal is in decline” movement claiming that “Over the years, the big players who were really ambitious – Vieira, Thierry Henry, Cesc Fàbregas, Robin van Persie – have all left,
“They left for the simple reason that Arsenal are not in it to win league titles any more. Those players have realised that if they want to win championships then they have to move elsewhere.”
So, let’s think about this. First off, there is no evidence given; it is just a claim leaving us to have a look around for ourselves to see if there is evidence. I could say, “Over the years lots of the best journalists and commentators have left the Independent. They have left because they are sick to death of following a rigorously imposed editorial line of denying that there is anything amiss with referees, or the referees’ organisation, and a similarly strong diktat that one can only write negative things about Arsenal.”
The point about the Scholes statement and mine is that they have something in common. Neither of them give us any evidence. If we dig a bit we can see a lot of sports writers leaving the Indy, and a lot of top players leaving Arsenal.
But both are misleading, because they don’t dig into the question of Why? Why did the journalists leave? Why did the players leave? What evidence supports the case?
Which is interesting, because I don’t think Scholes is a twirp. I think he knows perfectly well what he is saying and doing, and he knows about the holes in his argument. He just thinks we won’t notice. It is a case of treating the reader with contempt.
But when we do look we see interesting things. First, lots of players have left Arsenal, many to go to Barcelona but not all have been hits. Vermaelen has gone and not had a game. Hleb went and got a handful of games before quickly being shipped out again, his career wrecked.
Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit, and Giovanni van Bronckhorst all went to Barcelona, true, but all in the days when we most certainly were winning things and were clearly going to win more before the building of the new stadium started.
Marc Overmars became the most expensive player in Dutch football history when he went to Barcelona for £25 million in 2000 – hardly a moment when Arsenal were falling and never winning the league again.
He made 141 appearances for the Qatar funded club and he eventually left without winning a trophy in 2004.
Petit did even worse, and got 38 games. In his autobiography he points out he was constantly played out of position and the manager had no idea what to do with him.
Thierry Henry could have moved in 2006 and Arsene Wenger has often said that he allowed Henry to choose as a tribute to all the man had done for the club. He stayed another season but was clearly on the wane and the £19.2m for him from Barcelona looked good business. He did poorly in his first season for Barceona, but did had a good season thereafter. Mind you he cost Barce £250,000 a game – which is quite a lot of dosh.
Barcelona ran a remorseless campaign for Fabregas – a campaign of inducing a player to leave that is supposed to be outlawed by Uefa, but they just carried on with their DNA nonsense until he went. He lasted three years and there was nobody crying when he opted to leave. Real Mad fans were laughing however.
As for Alex Song, quite why Barca signed him is anyone’s guess. He lasted two seasons before finding his level with WHU.
And of course it is not just that Vieira played for the Juventus side that were stripped of their title for match fixing and relegated. It was said everywhere that he wanted to come back to Arsenal, and indeed one source inside Arsenal who certainly knows confirmed that to me – his phrase was “he was here every day begging to come back”.
In the end he moved on to Inter for half the fee Juve paid for him playing about half the games or less each season.
RVP was given a salary and contract length that at the time Untold said was ludicrous, for a player who had had one injury free season. True he managed a second season injury free, but since then Man U have not exactly had full value for their investment.
My point is that players leave for many reasons – not the fact that Arsenal won’t win things (Overmars, Petit, Gio are the obvious proof). They leave because the Arsenal manager thinks it is time for them to move on, or because they are suckered into the Barcelona myth, and the chance to play in a two team league. RVP was clearly after the money, and equally clearly Arsenal couldn’t pay him at the time – and certainly not across a new four year contract.
The truth is that there is an absolute hierarchy of wealth in football, and although Arsenal are near the top they are not at the top. Real Mad however are under investigation, Barcelona have been banned from, buying, and Chelsea and Man C not only have money beyond belief, they are both seemingly experimenting with ways around FFP, Chelsea with a mass loan and high price sales system and Man City with their Ethiad in every continent approach.
Still, Scholes he is working for the Independent, and at the foot of his notorious article there was an advert for another article with the headline “Arsene Wenger’s latest transfer decision will terrify the fans”.
It’s always good to be told what to think.
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