By Tony Attwood
Ah… remember the old days?
Arsenal transfer rumours: £15.8million Mario Balotelli fee and personal terms agreed ready for move
That was the Daily Mirror last July. It was dumb, childish and silly but at least it didn’t have any RANDOM words in capitals. Which is more than can be said for
SNAPPED: Mario Balotelli gives strongest hint YET that he wants Arsenal move
(The Star, August 2014)
So, with the transfer fenêtre not open for another THREE months we have already gone through the list of everyone we are signing and are now on PHASE two in which the players say they don’t want to come and poor Arsenal find every porte shut in their faces
Arsenal transfer target Smalling ‘happy to stay’ at Manchester United
That’s in the Independent, and yes – you knew it was coming. But notice the subtle use of “inverted commas” suggesting that a) the lad Smalling (oh for the days when footballers were ‘lads’ and ‘boys’) actually said it and b) the Independent is far too GROWN up to use random capital letters.
Anyway, the order of the day is that it is bad NEWS week for Arsenal, with not only at least two of our players crocked by internationals, but even our TARGETS now going down with the PLAGUE, or some such foreign thing.
“Inter Milan midfielder Mateo Kovacic has suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury on international duty with Croatia, chief medic Boris Nemec confirmed,” London 24 tells us.
Of course these are tough days for the nominated person in each paper whose job it is to do the dirt on Arsenal daily, because by and large we are doing ok, the CRAZY gang who think our manager is the worst manager at the club since Billy Wright are pretending they supported Chelsea all along, and really there ain’t much to say.
Except… by implication.
So, the latest game is to list all the managers who the wild whackos in the daily papers think will be available this summer. They are not saying any of them will replace Arsène Wenger but the lists are set up as a reminder that this is what Arsenal could have (and who Arsenal could have had – a good point for the next time we drop a point).
So as we let in a goal the gnashing of teeth starts with a list of all the people we might have had…
- Sam Allardyce: no contract, rather fat, try Sunderland.
- Carlo Ancelotti: if you buy a player from Tottenham, you can’t expect to survive. West Ham might be interested.
- Laurent Blanc: not far enough ahead in France, so maybe a claret and blue team could do it.
- Rafael Benítez: they’ve stopped selling note books in Naples. But there is a shop in East London with a stack.
- Jürgen Klopp: always up for a laugh; the word is that when someone said the Olympic Stadium he couldn’t stop laughing.
- David Moyes: now on tour. Maybe two stops from Barking is where he will stop?
- Slaven Bilić: Besiktas beat Liverpool so its Slaven the Available. Who has a ground paid for by the state?
- Nuno Esperito Santo: if Valencia get into the Champs League Nuno will be numero uno (see, I can still turn the odd journo phrase).
- Michael Laudrup: the awfully nice fellow is in Qatar, which can’t be very pleasant. Turned down QPR so could well head for a club the other side of London – only to find Qatar was preferable.
- Manuel Pellegrini: no trophy, no job, no hope.
So what else is news in the news?
When football journalists are let loose in meetings where serious analysis is bandied around, you know you are going to get funny reports, and this week, after the “excitement” of the internationals, we’ve got a story in which the head of sport science at the Premier League asked journalists how many under nine year olds who join a Premier League academy have a chance of graduating to its first team.
The answer given was one in every 200.
Shock, shock and thrice shock.
Except… when one digs a little, it is a bit of a funny question. The implication is that there is some sort of mismanagement by the clubs going on, in that this is a massive form of wastage. 199 children have the amazing experience of being signed up by a top club and then see their dreams shattered. What sort of world is this?
But when you think about it (which none of the papers I saw reporting on the story actually did – although I am hopeful New Scientist might do an article on it next Thursday) that’s not a bad figure.
To understand why, what you have to do (which none of the silly billy’s who reported the issue in the press did) is ask that old favourite question of Untold, “why?”
There are many reasons why a child doesn’t make a go of it with the Premier League club that signs him at nine or younger, including
Bad selection – the lad wasn’t as good as the scout said he was
Temprement and personality – ask a psychologist, for although you can tell something of the child’s ability to adapt at the age of eight, it is hard to get a full profile, and the temperament and personality need to be right to stick it out. Think of David Bentley.
The player was good but at the moment he is ready for the club that signed him at eight, the club can’t give him the games he needs and deserves, so he is sold to another club.
Every young player gets injured, but not all can recover fully to the level of ability and performance that was expected earlier.
The child gets an illness. Now an illness that has little effect on a child who wants to be a journalist might take that extra 1% away from a child who wants to be top professional football.
The club takes a dive. By the time the youngster is 18 and ready to play the Premier League club is no longer a Premier League club. Eight years ago Blackburn, Bolton, Wigan, Fulham, Charlton, Middlesbrough, Portsmouth, Reading, Sheffield United and Watford were Premier League clubs. Put another way (for any newspaper journalists reading), 50% of the clubs that were in the Premier League eight years ago are now no longer in the Premier League. Which means that the vast wealth they got from being in the League has gone, and their academies have become a fraction of the size they were, and their top youth talent has been sold on as academy staff are sacked and the whole operation is wound down.
Of course we are used to great prospects in the Arsenal academy leaving and I suspect all of us would like to see more Arsenal youth players become first teamers. But because Benik Afobe has gone to Wolverhampton Wanderers it doesn’t mean either he or Arsenal is a failure. He’s the league’s top scorer, undoubtedly in part because of the training and help Arsenal gave him. He’s not at Arsenal, but he’s certainly not a failure.
Indeed if Arsenal had kept him, that would have been bad news for Afobe and for football, because given the talent ahead of him, he would not have got a game.
It is a complex issue, and that is the problem. The press and the bloggettas (I just made up that word to refer to blogs that makes things up) are singularly poor at reporting complex issues. Best get back to “Arsenal have emerged a shock contenders to sign Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling, who could be heading for the Anfield exit door.” (eatsleepsport).
That’s more like it.
Anniversary of the Day: looking forward to the cup semi-final
30 March 2013: Arsenal 4 Reading 1, which made it 16 goals in three games against Reading. Santi Cazorla got a goal to add to his hatrick in the away game, with Gervinho, Giroud and Arteta getting the others. And also here
- Arsenal v Tottenham update, team news and appalling, flagrant media bias
- Arsenal have benefitted by the world cup break: allegedly.
- Arsenal and Tottenham: which has had the easier ride so far this season?
- Arsenal v Tottenham: not exactly a battle of equals.
- Death by 300,000 passes: how the Arsenal transformation started 2 seasons ago.