Jack on the way back + footballers, money and twisted reality

Morning all,

it’s been a bit fraught over the last couple of days, so let’s start with some of the positive stuff going around this morning. Like Everton. And Robin van Quisling’s Manchester United debut. What’s that little boy inside screaming about this morning, Robin? Does he understand the concept of schadenfreude, because we all do.

Perhaps it’s petty, perhaps it’s small, and I know there’s a long, long way to go this season. I’m not going to make out like United are in some kind of ‘crisis’ because they’ve lost their first game, but van Persie in that shirt looked as natural as seeing a fire-breathing hippo wearing a tutu riding a unicycle while juggling puppies, so I think we’re entitled to enjoy their defeat a bit more than we normally would.

Meanwhile, The Mirror reports that Jack Wilshere could be back in action sooner rather than later, which would be a massive boost. However, I’m taking the most cautious approach possible regarding Jack, he’s been out for so long that even when he does return it’s going to take him some time to get fully fit, first, and then to find his form, touch and match sharpness. The whispers from the training ground have been positive though, his training has been stepped up in recent weeks so hopefully it won’t be long before we see him in red and white again.

The departure of Song (more on him shortly) does leave something of a hole in midfield though and while the Wilshere news is positive it’d be something of a gamble to rely on a player who has been out for so long and someone who, when he does return, needs to be treated with kid gloves to a certain extent. Arsenal don’t just need Jack Wilshere back to play in October, they need him back for the long-term, and being able to rest him when necessary and feel confident about doing so is important.

Much has been said about Nuri Sahin and yesterday the feeling was the deal was pretty much done and dusted. This morning there are reports that there’s a stumbling block – Arsenal’s desire to have a purchase option at the end of the loan and Madrid’s reluctance to grant that. I have to say, that’s a pretty fundamental thing and I do wonder if the proposed deal would have progressed as far as it has without that being cleared up from the start. It strikes me as odd that this isn’t something we’d have sorted out right from the off rather than when the deal was on the brink of being done.

There are those who suggest it could be Mourinho playing silly buggers to an extent, and we know his relationship with Arsene is hardly one of football’s best, but it would amount to a huge waste of everyone’s time (Madrid officials, Arsenal officials, the player’s etc) if he was trying to stick a spoke in the wheels just to have a go at Wenger. It seems unlikely to me but we’ll have to wait and see what happens. You just never know with any transfer deal until it’s 100% done, but fingers crossed. He’s a fine player, he has what you’d call a cultured left foot (eh, YW?!) and would certainly increase the quality of our midfield, even if he didn’t tick the now mythical DM box.

Meanwhile, Alex Song has completed his move to Barcelona. I’ve said all along I’m comfortable with the sale, and as such I don’t begrudge him his move in the slightest. Barcelona are one of the biggest teams in the world and who knows when that chance might come along again? I’m sure he’s hoping he fares better than the last Alex we sold them.

What I do begrudge, however, is the spin that emerged from Song’s camp in the wake of reports about his attitude and behaviour. A ‘source close to Song’, and you really don’t need to be a genius to work out who it is, told the Telegraph that the player was ‘massively committed’ to Arsenal, so much so that they tried 6 times (!) to renegotiate his contract. So massively committed that when the club said they’d sit down on September 1st to talk to a player who still had 3 years left of his current deal to run, they took this as some kind of terrible insult and jumped ship to Barcelona.

Then the source played the poor-mouth card. Alex Song was:

… one of the worst paid at the club. He was on about £55,000 a week and his performances deserved a pay rise. He became dissatisfied and upset.

Now, we can discuss the ins and outs of player wages all day long, but I find it very difficult to feel in any way sorry for a player who is only earning £55,000 per week. Or close to £3m per year. Or £9m over the duration of the remainder of his contract. Song was happy to sign his new long-term deal in 2009 when it was Arsene Wenger who had the vision and the faith to offer it to him, and a time when not everyone was convinced by his talent as a player.

Let’s also remember that long-term deals like this generally build in percentage increases every year, so he wouldn’t have been on just £55,000 a week until 2015. Add in bonuses, image rights, sponsorships, endorsements and everything else and it’s hardly as if he’d be going hungry. At a time when most of us are feeling the pinch in one way or another, trying to generate sympathy for a player who earns in a week what many people don’t earn in a couple of years shows just how out of touch these people are with reality.

Another thing to consider is that players get bonuses for winning things too. For all the dismay we might have about players leaving, with these players in the team we’ve won nothing. Not a single thing. It’s not entirely down to them, I accept, but we’re not losing players who have been crucial to success or trophies. At some point you need to freshen things up or cut your losses in order to achieve and that’s what we’re doing.

I also accept that there might have been other players at the club earning more than Song who probably don’t merit it, and I’ve long said that our wage structure should reward those who deserve it, but that’s not the point. Song wanted to go, Arsenal were happy enough to let him achieve his better paid dreams at Barcelona, so don’t insult our intelligence by trying to make us feel sorry for him in any way. The same applies to any footballer. They sign contracts and make decisions and the only potential downside is that it might not go as well as they might like on the football pitch. At the end of their deal they’ll have walked away with millions so it’s very difficult to have any sympathy for them in that regard.

Right, enough, I think we need to draw a line underneath this one, move on and concentrate on those who do matter. There’s a big week of preparation before our next game, a trip to Stoke isn’t anyone’s idea of fun but it’ll go some way to show us the character and quality of this evolving,  new-look Arsenal this season.

Till tomorrow.

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