By Max Kerr
56 years ago Vance Packard published “The Waste Makers”, in which he analysed the notion of ‘Planned Obsolescence’. He coined the terms “obsolescence of function”, which is when a product is manufactured to last less time than it needs to, and “obsolescence of desirability”, where marketing persuades us that the newer version is better than the older, and we need to upgrade goods that are surely going to wear out any time soon.
I have been put in mind of his ideas by the attitudes expressed around the transfer market. The attempt is made to persuade us that we need to upgrade our current toys (the players) with new, more expensive ones. This deluding is demonstrably overwhelmingly successful. Everywhere, supporters have seized upon the concept, and demanded that their club win the race to the top of the slippery pole of spending. Even on this, my favourite Arsenal blog, otherwise sober commenters have pined for a new player for one position or another.
Contrast this with a different model. You take a young, promising athlete and train him within the ethos and style of your football club. While many fall by the way, even if only by being not quite of the club’s rigorous standards, but nevertheless good enough to succeed at a slightly lower level (I think of the likes of Chuks Aneke, who was one of my favourites, or Ossie Ozyakup, who has gone on to become a success near the top), every so often a diamond emerges. Think Jack, Kieran, Francis, Hector, Alex – and a whole squad more on the cusp of greatness. And all the product of our own academy, from the nascence of their careers.
Or consider another model, in tandem with your own production line. You look out for, and identify, emerging talents, still young, but attached to other clubs. You discuss with them, and their parent club, the benefits for all parties should they choose to move to your club. Think Aaron, Theo, Ox, Calum, Carl, and most recently Rob. Throw in Emmie or Matt and you have more than a team. You have spent peanuts on assembling this team. Moreover, you now have rich assets should you wish to make changes. How much would Arsenal profit if they sold all of the above in today’s marketplace?
Of course, your team would be unbalanced and incomplete; more success would be likely with the acquisition of some truly outstanding finished articles (Petr, Laurent, Olivier, Alexis, and maybe Granit are examples, but the only true game changer for me is Mesut!). However, the home grown team would, I suggest, be competitive in the Premier League, though not title contenders.
What set me off on these musings is the imminent purchase of Shkodran Mustafi. I’m sure he’s a worthy footballer, good enough to be in the German squad, if some way behind the talent of Boateng and Hummels. And once he is an Arsenal player I shall warm to him, as I do all players who don the red and white; I shall be disappointed with him when he makes a mistake and a goal is conceded; I shall shout for him when he heads the winner in injury time; but in all essentials, I will like him because he’s Arsenal.
However, we had just acquired a young, unfinished centre half: Rob Holding. I’m not the only observer who thinks he’s the real deal. I’ve been impressed with his calmness, assurance, ball control and distribution, positioning, and especially his heading ability. Of course he’s making mistakes. Kos still does. Everyone does. What’s going to happen to him now that the expensive toy is arriving? Tony has written elsewhere of the pressure to play the marquee signings.
Whatever rubbish the pundits spout about last minute panic buying, it’s probable that Arsenal have been working on the agreement with Valencia and Mustafi’s agent for weeks. After such protracted negotiations, it would be difficult to pull out – and maybe Arsene does see him as an important addition. But I can’t help wondering if he had been so determined had Rob Holding been with us for a bit longer…
Oh well. The consumers have sufficient new toys now to keep them happy till Christmas, when Lacazette, Griezman, Draxler, Slimani, Iscardi, and of course Higuain, will all be coming for sure. Who will be deemed obsolete then?
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