by Tony Attwood
A lot of football commentary these days is about mind reading, and unfortunately, most of the journalists and quasi-journalists who indulge in it are not very adept as telepaths.
Take for example the decision to give Ethan Nwaneri a quick burst of fame by making him the youngest player ever to play in a Premier League match. What were the motivations behind it?
Arsenal probably got several things out of it and the biggest benefits must be saying to the young player, “we value you” and saying to all aspiring young players, “Come to Arsenal and you can get into the first team squad and even on the pitch at a ridiculously young age if you are good enough”.
The proposal now is that with Arsenal anything is possible, and that gives them an extra incentive to choose Arsenal over any other club.
There is also the wider publicity issue: it is a positive Arsenal story in a world in which journalists are always looking for the negative, even with the club top of the league.
There are also footballing reasons. The young players hardly had a chance to influence the game while on the pitch, but it must give quite a boost to their careers and the careers of others at the club: keep training, keep working, and your time could come. It gives a psychological boost to all the younger players at the club. Think of any younger player who is being offered a chance to come to any one of half a dozen clubs: Arsenal is now more likely to figure as the first choice.
And indeed think of the parents. They would have been there to see the event and as ambassadors for the club, they too will be invaluable.
Now of course we none of us know what the ultimate motivation was, and indeed it is possible to think up scenarios which are less appetising and appealing, such as the idea that a relative bet a load of money that his or her son / grandson / nephew etc would play for Arsenal’s first team before his 18th birthday, and then manipulated issues inside the club so that it happened.
There is no evidence for that idea obviously, and it seems pretty wild and whacky, but no crazier than the notion put forward by Jason Cundy on talkSPORT that Mikel Arteta made the decision to boost his own ego, so that he could forever more claim that he put the youngest ever player on the pitch.
Cundy added, “I think that’s a really poor decision because it’s about Arteta. It’s all about Arteta. The manager who played the youngest ever player in the Premier League is me. I think that’s self-indulgent.”
This is of course what the media thrives on: not the truth nor any attempt to get at the truth, but one explanation for an event or set of events which gets attention for a couple of minutes.
As Untold tries to show on a regular basis, there is an awful lot going on in football that is highly dubious (see for exampleThe 8 serious refereeing failings that are corrupting the Premier League).
There are also many statistics that remain completely unexplained and which really do need some more research, such as why Arsenal are the most fouled team in the Premier League.
There are many decisions made which seem truly weird, such as why the PGMO won’t increase the number of referees able to take Premier League matches, so that we don’t have the same referees overseeing matches involving the same clubs over and over again.
All these and many other factors need consideration, and if it were to be argued that why the Nwaneri issue happened is a matter of interesting debate, then surely evidence is required. How does Cundy know that this decision was all about Arteta claiming prestige for himself through being the manager who brought on the youngest ever player?
Arteta is a man who won the European under 16 Championship, the Scottish Premier League young player of the month (twice), as well as multiple trophies as an adult player. So surely if we are debating his motivation we need to take that into account, as well as the motivation of his critic. Cundy was a Tottenham player, playing for them 28 times in a career of 146 first team games over 12 years.
But since Cundy has put forward his theory that the use of Nwaneri was all about Arteta, we can equally put forward the reason that Cundy protested so vigorously about this appearance, is because it could mean that as a player Nwaneria could beat the number of appearances Cundy for Tottenham in his entire career by the time Nwaneri is 19. And Cundy hates that thought.
I have exactly the same amount of evidence to back up that view, as Cundy has to back up his view, so if Cundy’s view is worthy of being broadcast on national radio, presumably so is mine.
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