There’s a story that has cropped up a few times recently, and it goes like this…
Arsène Wenger is on holiday or in the Far East or both, when he should be concluding deals in Europe. If he can’t take the club seriously he should be sacked.
As has already been said here by others, Arsène Wenger has club duties in the Far East because of the club’s partnership with clubs in Vietnam and elsewhere. He is working for the club.
But there is a further misunderstanding. The notion that he should be home buying players is just not right: as Mr Wenger has often said, he watches matches all the time on his satellites, and he invented World Wide Scouting, and as a result has scouts watching players in each and every country. They send him the videos. He just goes to watch the players who have come through every hoop first. In one interview one scout (Grimandi I think) said it takes 3 years for a player to come through the Arsenal world-wide scouting system.
The notion that somehow the Lord Wenger has to be at his desk identifying players now is just wrong. For some power-crazed managers (who for the sake of argument we’ll call Appy “out on bail” Arry) that is how it is, but Arsenal watch players for years and years before deciding on a move – a move based on how they have developed, the perceived needs of the club, the young players we have coming through, the availability and price of the players in question, and the sort of money they might ask for in salary.
Behind this is a secondary notion: that just because a newspaper says something it is true.
So the Daily Turnip says Sagna is off, and some supporters (the footballing equivalent of Opus Dei) beat themselves up over it. Well, each to his own, I say, but don’t spread your misery over me, sunshine.
If you are worried that Robin VP is about to go to Manchester, then should also read all the stuff the same journos write about other clubs and who they are losing. The journalists do the rounds of the bigger clubs and simply slide the lists of players and clubs up and down. I know I always quote it, but it is worth it just to remind ourselves of what the papers are like. Last summer’s Mirror headline: Ade to Milan, Crouch to Arsenal.
What seems to happen is that some people latch on to each story of an Arsenal player going and believe it. It is rather as if you tune into BBC 7 at 6am and hear the story of a talking steam engine who is in danger of crashing because the red engine has switched the points, and take this to be a truthful depiction of life at Euston.
What you can do instead is watch the journos work through the squad – Almunia is off to Spain, Arshavin to tax exile, Theo to Chelsea because he is so annoyed that Wenger tried to stop him playing for the U21 (I just made that up), Berbatov to Arsenal for £50m (ditto)…
The fact is that yes, sometimes players go, but if they do Wenger rarely gets it wrong. The Opus Dei gang won’t admit it, but those who knocked Wenger over the loss of Flamini ignore the fact that he reverted back to his 2006-7 style upon arrival at Milan, and only got into the team regularly when others were injured. Hleb has had an even worse time playing about 4 games as far as I recall.
Worse, as we have seen, the papers will now either repeat old stories a few weeks later as if they are new (Arshavin’s tax story emerged twice in the Mail, just a few weeks apart) or they re-write stories, or they write out stories that they have run, and now don’t want to be seen (see my earlier comments on the Times).
Because the paper says Sagna is off, it does not mean that Lord Wenger has to come scurrying back from Thailand to calm him down. First because the paper is making it up, second because Sagna is on holiday in Barbados, and third because a manager who did that would fall into the trap laid by the journalists and the agents.
“Wenger rushes back from Far East to deal with full-back crisis.”
“Arsenal in chaos as manager flies back to front”
Wenger his private jet to quell in-fighting (The Excess)
Sagna’s wife in love nest triple by-pass blitz rumpus bed orgy drinks event big brother extravaganza revelation shock romp (The Star)
Rule 2: When in hole stop digging. Rule 1: Don’t get in the hole.
This is not said because I am the great wizzard who knows it all – a number of people in the know contribute to the discussions, some have written articles for us, and some contribute privately to articles. In this regard, for example, the article on Real Madrid a couple of days ago was enormously helped by the selfless work of Ronny Lamb, an Arsenal supporter living in Spain. People are kind, they send in information.
So it is not that I am in every newspaper watering hole listening to gossip, but I can say, having had some journalistic experience, that’s how it goes.
Of course occasionally a snip of commentary may be based on truth, but who knows? In yesterday’s Guardian there is the story that Ashley Young of Aston Hold Your Head Villa is “concerned at the club’s direction in the wake of Martin Laursen’s retirement and Gareth Barry’s decision to join Manchester City, and unless Martin O’Neill can recruit two high-profile replacements Villa face a battle to keep hold of the player the manager described as a “genius” last year.”
Did Yong say that? Or did his agent, trying to get a better contract? Or was it made up in a bar? Either way for Villa fans it is worrying. Ever since that crazy decision to pull out of the UEFA cup by sending the reserves to Russia to allow the first team to “focus on coming fourth in the league”, there have been problems at Villa.
But still, maybe a Birmingham City supporter made it up. Maybe all our transfer “news” is made up by Tiny Totts. Maybe they are Tiny Tott members of Opus Dei (no that doesn’t work, forget that).
In the end you look at your manager, weigh up the pros and cons and put them in alphabetical order. Running with the made up story is like playing into the opposition’s hands while your gloves are wet.
I think it was Galileo who started the movement towards rationality and away from the vision that we could never understand the universe but just had to pray to the Almighty for mercy. If that’s a fair analysis of the history of Western thought, then we’ve had quite a few years of rationality, so surely it is time some of it slipped over into football.
But, in case you are still anxious to get out the tawse and start the blood flowing here’s some stuff to get into…
Almunia – I would like to play in my own country some time
Sagna – it is a great honour to be linked with Real Mad
Clichy – I am not going anywhere (translate as polite speak for I am looking at going to Barca)
Toure – it would be good to play alongside my brother
Nasri – I need to play in my best position more and so of course when a club comes along and offers me that I look at it
Gallas – you always know when it is time to move, and this is it for me.
Van Persie – I love this club, but it is time to win some medals
Walcott – although I have just signed a new contract, I must admit that this offer is tempting
Ramsey – clearly I am not getting games and I need games to develop
Cesc – everyone dreams of Spain
Adebayor – What country is Milan in?
Arshavin – I would love to play for Guernsey FC as their tax regieme is more conducive. I don’t understand why I am stuck out on the left wing. I want to design clothes.
Bendtner – my trousers have gone to Germany and I am going to follow them
“What club would you like to play for Brian?” says journo.
“You mean if I were not at Arsenal?”
“Yes Brian that sort of thing. If you were not at Arsenal where would you like to be…”
“In a brothel.”
“Apart from that Brian. If you were not at Arsenal what football club would you like to play for?”
“If I was not at Arsenal you mean?”
“Well I suppose everyone dreams of playing for Real Madrid one day…”
So it goes.
(c) Tony Attwood 2009.
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