ARE ARSENAL FOOTBALL CLUB TOO NICE OFF THE PITCH?

Written by Alasdair Read

In recent seasons Arsenal may not have been the class act on the pitch they once were. I’m sure we all hope that’s going to change next season, but hope for a new season now feels a bit like Déjà vu doesn’t it? Well that’s not the point of today’s blog. I want to talk about the class act we remain off the pitch, and perhaps, maybe, how we are a little too nice sometimes.

The picture above is a sickening reminder to gooners. A reminder of when we lost our best player and club captain; and a reminder of the extreme lengths that FC Barcelona went to in order to snatch him from us. I have absolutely no doubt that Cesc Fabregas would return to his home club one day, and I would not have begrudged him doing so. What riled and outraged Arsenal fans everywhere was the manner in which this all went down. Cesc had recently signed a huge contract extension and we were well within our rights to hold him to that. The above picture was taken at the World Cup in 2010, at a celebratory event for the brilliant Spanish winners. A long summer of unsettling comments from Xavi, Pedro and Gerard Pique in which they heaped praise on our talented player and expressed a burning desire for him to return ‘home’, culminated in him wearing a Barcelona shirt to cover the skin made up of his “Barcelona DNA”.

 

It’s no secret that we are trying to sign a 21 year old French midfielder in the form of Thomas Lemar from Monaco this summer. This isn’t because Arsenal players have been declaring their love for him, or because Koscielny and Giroud have rammed an Arsenal shirt over his head. This is simply because the media have sources in certain positions that means they can find this sort of information out. We may not be perfect when trying to procure new talent, I’m sure wages and personal deals can be agreed with a player before a fee with a club; however, we approach the employer of a player we want to sign with the respect that we would love to get back from the Barcelonas of this world. If Arsenal want to sign your player, you will find out when a formal bid arrives, not through the newspapers. It’s no coincidence that when Monaco threatened to report clubs to FIFA for what was, in their eyes, an unlawful pursuit of their young superstar Kylian Mbappe, it was Manchester City and Real Madrid who were in for a telling off, not Arsenal.

Where was Barcelona’s punishment for their dogged and unrelenting pursuit of Fabregas through the media then? It seems incredibly rare that football clubs actually get penalised for this sort of thing. Why then, do we not do it at Arsenal? Do we have too much class and respect? I genuinely believe that is a part of it. Arsène Wenger is extreme;y reluctant to discuss players who belong to other clubs because he knows how it feels. We learn the golden rule in our school days – treat others how you would want to be treated yourself – are you listening Barcelona? Arsène recently stated that “We don’t speak about how the negotiations go. We come out once the player is done or not done.” and he only answered that because the press wouldn’t stop asking him.

Would it really make a difference then? Would Thomas Lemar be an Arsenal player now if we conducted ourselves in the same way as Barcelona and other clubs? We can’t say either way, however reports have stated that Lemar would not be willing to force through a move. I remember those reports coming out about our beloved Cesc, all of which were prior to that infamous summer of 2010….

 

Another lucky and sometimes ungrateful benefactor of the Arsenal way of class, is the squad itself. Arsène will believe in a player when everybody else (even the player himself) has lost all confidence, and more often than not he does end up following suit, however the time taken to do so can affect results and our points tally. In addition to this, Arsène can often take the desire of a player into account far more than us unsympathetic supporters. I must admit, if a player signs a huge bumper contract for four years and begs to leave after one, I really struggle to sympathise. When Cesc left, Arsène was quoted as saying “Yes we lost a world class player and we are sad about it. We did try to keep him but in the end we have to respect the desire of the player as well.” and while i concede that an unhappy player can cause issues at the club, so can simply letting players go that want to go. We lost Cesc for a cut price fee because he only wanted to go to Barcelona; we lost a game of hardball. If we had insisted for longer that Cesc would not be going, would he really have gone on strike? Would Barcelona have paid £10, £15, or even £20 million more on transfer deadline day? If we had not accepted the £20 million for Van Persie in the year of Ferguson’s final hurrah, would it have been Van Persie lifting the trophy with Arsenal?

That being said, I do believe that this last point is one of many examples where both Arsène and Arsenal have changed this summer. This may be the most awfully cringe-worthy jinx of the century when it goes wrong, but here it goes – I think the club are serious this time when they say that Alexis and Ozil will both still be Arsenal players come the 1st of September. I know I may be made to eat those words, hopefully not by Manchester City fans, however there seems to be something different in the rhetoric this time around. We know we don’t need the money the way we needed it when we lost Cesc, Nasri and Van Persie; I genuinely think we will put the sporting desires of the club first this time. There is a genuine authority about keeping the players we want to keep. The speculation surrounding Hector Bellerin that seemed all too similar to the Fabregas saga was quickly quashed by the club. If Oxlade-Chamberlain really does want to leave then it looks like Arsene has told him he can wait till his contract finishes. We are in a tough situation with the number of Arsenal players in their final year of their contracts, but this year we won’t be pushed around.

Let’s hope we can be more competitive and ruthless both on and off the pitch in the next few weeks, and set ourselves up to truly challenge for the premier league title. Who knows, if we win it, will those contract rebels be so rebellious anymore…

 

Alasdair Read

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