Friday, January 27, 2023

Give me back that old familiar feeling

Good morning. I hope this finds you hearty and well and enjoying the delights that only a summer can bring. Rumour, innuendo, frustration, constant refreshing of websites, trawling the NewsNow feed, and now, for the first time, Twitter has become a ‘tool’, and I use that word quite deliberately, for the mischievous to play with the delicate minds of football fan.

In the past it used to be a case that if a player was linked with a club some scamp would go to Wikipedia, edit the profile and change the ‘current club’ to the one he was linked with. This would spark a raft of reaction.

“OMG, Wikipedia says Winston Terrorgooch is already an Arsenal player!!!”

Of course Winston was no such thing. And people came to realise that because any old cunt could come along and edit Wikipedia pages it was as truthful as a politician caught with an orange in his mouth, a dozen young boys in his bed and a whip in his hand who said he was simply trying to get his ‘Helping the community’ boy scout badge.

Twitter has become the very same. It has, unwittingly, provided a platform for hundreds, if not thousands, of fans of each club who are insiders, in the know, impeccable sources, who then belch their knowledge into the public domain. And in these desperate times, when football fans are like starving people hanging out the back of an aid-agency’s plane, any little bit of informational sustenance is seized upon. Grab first, RT, then look at what it might be.

Last night there was a story on Twitter, entirely made-up, about how Samir Nasri had signed for United for £23m, after a medical a week ago, and that because Arsene Wenger had been overruled by the Arsenal board he was considering resigning. I mean, if you stop and think about that for a second it’s just stupid. Players generally have a medical just prior to signing, not that long beforehand, and the Arsenal board overruling Arsene Wenger? Yeah, you might as well have said the Arsenal board had a meeting during which they consumed more opium than a gigantic Sherlock Holmes before cannibalising Ken Friar in a poppy frenzy.

Yet this story was RTd and RTd and RTd and people were saying “OMG” and “Is this true?!” and “I can’t believe Arsenal would do this” without stopping to think for just one second. Fair play to whoever started it, it was a perfect example of how misinformation can be spread at the drop of a hat. It took advantage of fear, rumour, uncertainty and this desire to have the most up to date information possible at all times, regardless of its veracity.

I can understand it because as we wait for the club to do some business this summer – remembering that pre-season starts next week and the only signing thus far is Leeroy Jenkins – we’re wrapped up in two tedious, long-running sagas involving two of our best players. The Cesc situation and that of Samir Nasri. There were some comments last night from Cesc which I read in Spanish and then promptly forgot. I missed a trick with the Arseblog Store, I should have created a range of teacups for people to have storms in. And Nasri, much as I find it unseemly and annoying, is just playing the game.

The game that footballers all down the years have played. Check out this quote from the summer of 2001:

I had a meeting with Arsene Wenger and the club’s vice-chairman David Dein two days before I went on holiday to America. I told them I was not going to renew my contract for a third time, that I wanted to leave and that is was nothing to do with money because that was not an issue to me.

This is not about Arsenal, but about my personal ambitions as a player. I feel, and people should respect this. I expect Arsenal to stand by a verbal agreement they have with me and I expect this to be sorted out before I return from my holiday.

That was Patrick Vieira, if you hadn’t already guessed. This was when his agent, with the player’s full knowledge, tried to engineer a move to Manchester United. Imagine if Twitter had been around then. It would have been much easier for people to call him a ‘traitorous cunt’, at the very least. The first line of that article, by the way? ‘PATRICK Vieira intends to go on strike unless Arsenal agree to sell him’. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Forward we go to January 2002 and a story in the Sunday Mirror:

PATRICK VIEIRA will activate a gentlemen’s agreement with Arsenal this summer to complete a pounds 40million transfer to Real Madrid. Vieira, who has been at the centre of growing speculation about a move to the continent, is understood to have agreed last summer to remain at Arsenal for one more season following a row over his future

Agreement to stay for just one more summer after his future was in doubt previously? Where have I heard that before? And on it went. Almost every summer from 2001 onwards there were stories and rumours and whispers about Vieira’s future until the emergence of a young Catalan boy made Arsenal decide the time was right to cash in. The story goes that when David Dein told Vieira at the training ground that we’d agreed to sell him to Juventus, Patrick was in tears. Yet that’s football, it’s a business, the clubs will hold onto players as long as they feel they have value and once that starts to dwindle off they go.

In the summer of 2001, after Vieira had publicly questioned the ambition of the club (at that point Arsenal had gone three seasons without the title, and lost the FA Cup final to the Mugsmashers), he stayed and Robert Pires said:

It was vital Patrick stayed because, by keeping one of the main leaders of the team, Arsenal are demonstrating they want to progress. That was an important message to make. If you let a player of Patrick’s stature leave, your whole credibility is shot to pieces. That’s why keeping him here was so important. For me and the others, it shows Arsenal are serious about wanting to be one of the best clubs in the world.

Wouldn’t it be easy now to replace ‘Patrick’ with ‘Cesc’? Doesn’t the same sentiment Bobby is expressing apply to Arsenal today and, after six seasons without a trophy, isn’t it more crucial than ever that they club do as much as they possibly can to show they’re serious about wanting to be one of the best clubs in the world?

Does selling your captain and essentially buckling to a relentless campaign from Barcelona do that? Does accepting a bid of £35-£40m (if we do) really demonstrate anything other than the fact Arsenal are a selling club, a stepping stone to truly big clubs? Why would that be an acceptable amount for a player of Cesc’s calibre? How can selling our best player, and one of the best players in the world, be anything other than a step backwards?

Forget the people who say we need a clean slate and that selling him would be good for all concerned. It’s nonsense. It would be bad for Arsenal, on the pitch and off it. The reality of having one of the best players in the world is that the other big clubs around Europe will want him. We’ve had it with Vieira, with Henry, even with Bergkamp who was strongly linked with Barcelona in the summer of 99 or 2000, if I remember correctly. What would it have said about us back then if we’d sold Dennis?

Cesc has a contract till 2015. Either Barcelona come back with an offer than we simply cannot refuse (we all know every player has his price) and we reinvest that money in an established, world class talent, or we tell them to fuck off, draw a line under this, and get the fuck on with our work this summer. The other side of this, of course, is investing properly in the squad. I fully understand people who are frustrated that we haven’t brought in any new players yet. If we’re serious about improving we need to a) keep our best players (tough and all as it might be) and b) bring in players who will improve the team.

I’m still patient, I know transfer business is complicated and time consuming, but the reality is that pre-season training begins early next week. We don’t have to have things done by then but it’s a marker at which we ought to consider where we are, what we’ve done, and what we still need to do. And at this moment in time there’s a lot still to do.

So it’s over to you, Arsenal. Do we want to progress or do we want to shoot our credibility to pieces? I have no doubt some impeccable source on Twitter already knows the answer.

Till tomorrow.

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