Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Wenger on money and the summer

There’s been a lot of talk about booing lately. It’s an emotive subject. However, the rapid temperature drop and the darkness of the mornings deserves a good healthy booooooooo if you ask me. Stoopid winter, coming around every year.

The team will be making their way to France today, ahead of their game against Arsene Wenger’s favourite French team, and confidence will have been boosted by Sunday’s win against Sunderland. It’s way too early to talk of turning the corner. We’re still a long way from that. You can only say we’ve turned the corner when our corner turning skills have become obvious and at the moment if we tried to turn the corner we’d simply hit the first man and rebound back the way we came.

Premature turnication is something we have to be wary of. If the players think we’re already around the corner, the actual corner, when it comes, might prove to be startling. In that way when you think there’s still one step on the stairs to go and you end up looking like a clumsy, stampy footed fool as you try and take it. One game at a time, and all that.

Arsene Wenger has been talking to the French media about stuff to do with Arsenal and some of it really is quite revealing. We’ll start with Robin van Persie who, I’m afraid to say, is going to be the subject of story after story after story as long as his contract remains an issue. I just don’t think there’s any escaping it. If he scores and plays well there’ll be stories about how he’s so important yet could leave Arsenal on a free in just over 18 months time/be sold next summer to stop him leaving on a free. And as soon as he goes through a relatively barren spell it will be because he can’t wait to leave to find a club which matches his ambition.

There is only one solution to this kind of reportage but, realistically speaking, spending all day every day with your head inside a bucket so you don’t see/read/hear of it is probably unworkable for most people. Speaking about his captain, Arsene said (via ASCFR):

I don’t think I will lose Robin. But if a player who has a choice of two clubs with the same ­ambition, they’ll go for the club who pay more. If the players leave it’s not linked to titles. Players don’t go to Manchester City for titles, they go for money.

Well, I’m not sure that’s necessarily true. I think in the early days of their nouveau-riche-ness it would be fair to say players went there for money. Tevez, for example, could have won lots more things if he had stayed at United but the cash on offer appealed to his mercenary ways, and those of his ‘advisors’. I think it would be fair to say that Nasri’s prime motivation was money. Some, no doubt, will have seen the money on offer and also thought that in the long-term they would be a team challenging for the title and more.

And that’s where we are with them now. They have the money to attract the best players in the world but they’re also building a quite formidable team that will challenge for the title every season unless something goes badly wrong. So nowadays, you don’t just to go to City for the money, you go for money and potential. Of course some players don’t care a jot about winning things, and some players might be loyal to other clubs, but it’s wrong to say it’s just about money now. We might not like it, but it’s true.

He then went on to talk about the summer, and while I’m quite prepared to leave the past behind, having said quite enough about that period already, what he had to say was quite something:

This summer was the most agitated I’ve ever known. I had half the players in the dressing room who wanted to leave. You prepare a season, we go to Asia, we don’t know who is coming, the players who are still there are asking themselves what is happening and if an earthquake is hitting the club. It’s extraordinarily difficult.

I think that what saved us is that we are a club which is extremely solid and united. There are many other clubs who would have exploded.

He admitted that sometimes he felt tired and would like to bugger off to Tahiti for a month but such is the nature of his job that it was impossible. I think that’s something he has in common with most people. The nature of my job means I can’t spend a month in the sun either. I hear ya, Arsene.

What’s obvious though is that the summer just gone, instead of being one of transformation became something entirely different. We knew Cesc was going to go, we knew Clichy was on his way, we knew Nasri would go, and we knew there were fringe players who wanted out, like Bendtner, Vela, Eboue, Denilson etc. And let’s be honest, a lot of fans wanted to see them gone too. That none of those players have been in the squad this season yet the flaws remain the same is something that is rarely noted but that’s a different story altogether.

None of what happened was a surprise but how it happened clearly caused more problems than it solved, at least in the short term. Whether it was the manager, the chief executive, the scouting deparment, the new owner or, most likely, a combination of all of them, you just have to hope that lessons have been learned from the shambolic way we did our business. If they are, and if we become more efficient in the future, then great. I don’t pretend to know how to run a football club. It’s a undoubtedly a lot more complicated than you would think, but I don’t believe it’s anywhere near as complicated as we made it last summer.

The effects of it have been obvious, yesterday Andrei Arshavin spoke about how we had to ‘crawl out of the place we got ourselves into’, and I think that’s pretty accurate. So, let’s hope our crawling becomes stumbling becomes a steady trot before we find ourselves running at a decent pace.

Finally for today, I just wanted to touch on the Rosicky thing. I find it frankly stunning that a player actually has to come out and clarify that he wasn’t laughing when the opposition scored. Perhaps he has an uncanny ability to know when a free kick is going in. Perhaps it’s experience of the game and the ability to realise that when the taker is wheeling away in celebration that it’s unlikely to be a positive outcome for his team, but that it’s even an issue is a symptom of the modern football fan’s willingness to be offended by every little thing possible.

Till tomorrow.

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