Why our summers are always so miserable… and why this is the last summer of pain.
I can remember when summers were fun. After a long season it was nice to get weekends back for a month or two. Go on holiday, maybe watch a World Cup or Euro Championship (with hardly any Arsenal players risking injuries), and just relax.
Summers were easy before Wenger. I can only recall three bad things that happened between seasons – Brady leaving in 80, Stapleton a year later and Rocky in 92. Most importantly, there was no speculation or rumours to keep us awake at night.
One reason for this was that there was no internet, no SKY Sports News and hardly any coverage in the papers. The one thing I didn’t like in the summer months was the fact that that there was buggar all to read in the papers, except dull county cricket scores.
But there is more to it than increased media coverage. The reason that we had such easy summers was that no-one wanted our players – they simply weren’t good enough for the top European sides.
There is a simple formula to summer misery.
Rival club that is bigger + Rival club that pays higher wages + World Class player = summer of stress for fans.
In the past there have been bigger rivals, and there have been bigger wage payers, but what has been missing has been the World class player.
The formula used to read:
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Rival club that is bigger + Rival club that pays higher wages + Pretty Good (but not exactly Maradona) player = summer of fun on the beach.
Since Wenger arrived we have had several World Class players, which is no fun at all, once the season finishes. Dr Hook once sang “When you’re in love with a fabulous footballer. You know it’s hard…” and I know what he means (though I’d never use a doctor with a hook).
So with World Class players our problem has been we have had rivals that are bigger and pay bigger wages.
But the thing is, it will get better. In 1980, Juventus came to Highbury in the Cup winners Cup and we were in awe of them. To our shock and delight, we actually knocked them out in Turin, with a late, late goal from Paul Vaessen.
A few weeks ago Juve were slaughtered by Fulham and hardly anyone batted an eyelid.
Before Wenger Arsenal were a medium-sized European club, that had only played two European cup ties in over 20 years. The likes of Juve, Inter, AC Milan, Madrid, Barca, Bayern and probably even Ajax were light years ahead.
If any of these teams came knocking for a player we would have had no chance.
And few players playing in other leagues would have thought about coming to us.
So where are we now? We are still vulnerable from Madrid and Barca, and we pay less wages than Chelsea and Man City. And that is it. Four teams. United still have greater prestige but the Glazers have prevented their predatory potential (As Tony has accurately reported on this site so well).
We will probably lose Cesc soon, but we all knew he would go home one day. With the Emirates money starting to flow in, our players are getting closer to being untouchable form virtually every club. AC Milan took Flamini, but only because he was out of contract. In normal circumstances the Italians can’t muscle us out. With our debts under control, the Italians will soon fear our phone calls.
Losing Cesc (if he goes) is painful. If he had been born in Vienna, Paris or Moscow he wouldn’t be thinking of leaving. His heart is Catalan and his local club plays the best football on the planet.
It has hurts us again, but this will be the last summer of transfer pain. The wealth we are generating means we won’t be bullied any more. And all those that are using Cesc as a reason to attack the boss, will one day realsie that is Wenger who has dragged us up to be able to compete with the big boys.