Jul 232012

Another summer, another saga. Football off-seasons are getting a little tiresome, with the constant cycle of nonsense speculation, agent-planted seeds, and the oil rich moneybags flashing their cleavage at their chosen prey of the year. Talk of ambition, talk of ‘a new challenge’ – it is all just a load of transparent posturing. Add to that the raw emotion felt by fans towards the club they love, and towards players who profess the same but largely see it is an enjoyable and enriching (in all senses) job, and you have a combustible mix. And that is without throwing in a heady smattering of impatience.

July still has a week to run. Every year fans expect transfer business to have concluded by this point, and every year those fans wind up disappointed. It doesn’t change, and it never will. It is rarely is the interest of all parties to complete deals early, particularly the big ones – more often than not, one side will benefit from dragging it out to get a better price, whether it is the selling club hoping to create a bidding war or the buying club hoping that the desperation to sell drives the asking price down as the deadline looms closer.

In our case, of course, we have two players playing a game that they know they will ultimately win. Van Persie and Walcott will, in the end, get what they want, whether it is a move away or a bumper new contract (I think we know which is which in this case). As ever, we want to see the matters resolved as quickly as possible, but perversely, that desire actually weakens our hand considerably.

Right now, three clubs are (apparently) bidding for Van Persie’s signature, although the trio all fall short of the valuation that we have placed on the player, offering between £8-12m rather than the £30m we are after. But make no mistake – this isall posturing, and we know how this will end – the price will be somewhere in the middle, likely around £15m, perhaps closer to £20m. We know that they will offer more than the tabled bids, and they know we will accept less than our stated asking price. But while the charade continues, who actually benefits from the matter being concluded quickly?

The answer is simple – we do. If Juventus, for example, offered £15m by the end of the month, I suspect we’d accept, send him on a plane and be done with it. The problem is that the Italians know this – both that we would accept that price and that they would be our preferred buyers. And therein lies the problem – the power has switched to them. If we would accept £15m for him now, perhaps we’d accept £12m or £10m as the season draws closer, particularly having seen the damage that can be done by dragging these sagas out. So where is their motivation to stump up the cash six weeks from the deadline?

“Not a problem. Just impose a deadline on offers, say the end of July, let the bidding clubs know, and get it sorted.”

This one always makes me laugh. Can you actually imagine City and Juventus being told that once July comes to an end, we won’t be picking up the phone? They would chuckle to themselves, go quiet, and then try again in August, in full knowledge that we’re not so stubborn and stupid that we would keep a player around who so obviously doesn’t want to stay. Like it or not, there is only one deadline, and that sits at the end of August. As long as brinkmanship suits someone, deals will be delayed until the last moment, irrespective of the collateral damage and desire of one side to get it done.

Take last summer, for example, and the case of Samir Nasri. He wanted to leave, we wanted to sell for the right price. City made no secret of their desire to sign him, and we were happy to sell to them as long as their inflated coffers ensured an equally inflated transfer fee that we could reinvest in those closing days of August. The uncooperative party were City themselves, who attempted to drive the price down by waiting until the final moments, in the hope that the bridges he had burned would save them a few million. We held firm, and after initially backing out of the deal, they coughed up.

I’m not claiming for one moment that we played the game perfectly. We certainly got the price we wanted, and not for the first time with City came away in the knowledge that we’d essentially ripped them off, but the timing of both this and the Cesc deal, combined with the fact that Champions League revenue wasn’t guaranteed until late August, meant that the start of our season was badly crippled.

Lessons must be learned, everyone cried, and to an extent those people were right. Perhaps we should accept a few million less if the bid comes in earlier. But note those words – if the bid comes in earlier. You cannot force it to. It is a line I see frequently amongst fans, who cannot understand why these sagas drag on all summer. The reason is simple – we are only one of three parties involved. The other club has to make the offer, and the player (along with their agent) has to accept the terms on offer. No matter how persuasive we are, we can’t complete the deal by ourselves.

It is same line that winds me up about contracts. How frequently do you see the comment ‘how did the club let his contract get down to one year?’, as if we can lock a player in a room and not let him emerge until the paperwork has been signed. Both Van Persie and Walcott, along with Nasri and Flamini before them, had countless contract offers waved in front of their noses, but all stalled, coming out with the usual ‘I’ll wait until the end of the season’ guff, at which point they held all the cards (or in Flamini’s case, an expired deal that allowed him to walk into a lucrative deal at Milan). When players know that delaying puts them in a stronger position, is it really a surprise when some of them go down that road?

For all those reasons, I am feeling a little jaded with the whole summer. We all saw the contract issues looming, but we also should have known that the players involved were not going to bend to our will all that easily. Players don’t anymore, even those who haven’t made it yet – witness Danny Welbeck at United, who is in the exact same position as Walcott, and using the same tactics. While we sit here and lambast the club for not getting things sorted earlier, we have to accept that it is not as easy as that, because we no longer wield the power. All we can do is put the best offer we can on the table, set our asking price for those we would sell, and wait. Realistically, what more can you do?

But despite all of that, I remain optimistic. Van Persie will leave, Theo will either fetch us a good price (being young, English and marketable) or sign a new deal, and I suspect we will add one or two more faces to the mix before the season begins, since the guarantee of Champions League money allows us to buy before we sell, unlike last year. The press will predict our demise, pointing at the loss of our star player and claiming that we cannot cope without him, despite history teaching them otherwise, and we will prove them wrong, as we always do. We may not win trophies – nothing can ever guarantee that – but predictions of doom are likely to be wide of the mark once again.

If I could give one piece of advice this summer, it would be this – let it play out. July is no time to judge anything – the game of posturing has yet to announce her winner.

  21 Responses to “Jaded, but optimistic”

  1. Why Arsenal always fail to learn, the same problem every season. What a Club

  2. Wenger is just stupid

  3. Good Piece, nice to see some realism on the situation. The same could be said about our “deadwood” where you see criticism, and comments like just pay them off and let them go, or we pay them too much. In a top four club is 50k a week too much for a squad player, probably not when those contracts were due to be negotiated. As for spending probably 10-12 million in one lump sum paying contracts off never going to happen.

    • Exactly – you can’t have it all ways. We don’t know who the deadwood are going to be until they turn out that way, and perhaps if we offered less, some gems wouldn’t arrive in the first place. Clearly we can tie the better ones down where possible, which is why Koscielny’s new contract is excellent news.

      • Granted, we didn’t know who the deadwood were when we signed them, until they turned out that way.

        But we DO know who the deadwood are when we re-sign them. Denilson, Almunia: not a single doubt deadwood. Bendtner, Djourou: inconsistent at best. Diaby: forever on the treatment table. OK, we need them as squad players. But why the f*** did we renew their contracts, each with a salary raise.

        It’s outrageous that Denilson, Almunia, Chamakh, Bendtner, Diaby, Djorou, Park, Squilacci is paid each between 50-60K a week, more than what Welbeck, Hernandez, Modric is earning. None of them can be offloaded because their salaries are way above their skills and abilities.

        WHO is responsible for these financial reckless acts year after year after year?

        • The club works by a ‘you win some, you lose some’ policy. Without loyalty, Song never would have been given the chances to progress, and Van Persie himself would have been abandoned as broken long ago. Rosicky too.

          The flip side of that is Diaby may never get fit, and the likes of Denilson were given more chances than perhaps they should.

          Some of this is hindsight though – Chamakh and Squillaci, for example, have only had a single contract, and were both heralded when they arrived. It is easy to look back now and criticise.

          • Yeah but some of that, for me, is pretty incontesable. The goalkeeping situation with Almunia was ridiculous, and would even be funny were it not my team. Maybe you can gamble with someone on the treatment table, but not with the goalkeeper making crucial mistakes game-in, game-out.

            And Denilson and Djourou I think it had been plain for a long time that these aren’t top class, consistent players.

            • Agree with you on Almunia, to be fair. It was clear for longer than it should have needed to be that he wasn’t up to scratch. Denilson too.

              I’d defend Djourou more, given how impressive he was two seasons ago. He has also come out and been quite frank about his poor form last season so I’m interested to see if he turns it around this time.

              • I don’t have problems with the likes of Djourou or even Almunia in the team as squad players. I don’t have problems with Diaby being a potential player with a permanent injury. I do have serious, serious problems with Denilson, Djourou, Almunia, Diaby earning 50-60K a week, in renewed contracts. Yes, renewed contracts with salary raises. For what? Diaby had the best deal of all, having a salary raise to 60K for being a hospital patient. How can anyone justify paying Squillaci, Park that kind of money. Modric, one the Spurs best players, earns 40K/week by the way. Now you see the difference.

                How on earth can a business like Arsenal be boasting itself of financial prudence when it’s practically throwing money out of windows that way.

  4. Pete,
    The penultimate para of your excellent post says it all.
    RVP will go. Walcott might.
    We will buy a few more.
    We will prosper next term against all the media forecasts.

    I would add the return of Wishere and Diaby.
    And last year’s signings are entering their second season in the EPL with the experience that will bring.
    We are going to rock the League.

    • Thanks. I would love it if Diaby could string some games together but I worry about the state of his leg. He’s such a good player when fit though, people forget that.

      Really fancy Gervinho to step up this year.

  5. Lol.

    This piece has reminded me once again that there are so many ways to look at this current conundrum, and like it or not, the club will conclude business when it does. Sucks for us fans, but no use fretting about it.

    I’m jaded but optimistic too and I have this strong feeling a couple more players are coming in.

    Keep it up.

    • One thing is for sure – we won’t conclude our business by the end of July, but looking around our rivals, neither will they.

      The realism of the transfer window is that very few clubs are done and dusted by the time the season begins. Not ideal by any means, but the way it is.

  6. Same problem every time when are we going to stop this,am not i?????n????? support of this,it’s been this problem is a course to arsenalfc entirely let put stop to this by not living our hitman let them go just like that a?????l?????l????? †?? time! We arsenal fans let brake this course pls mr arsene wenger

  7. I see this saga draw on, and I think to myself: why wouldn’t we have RVP stay against our financial interest? You know, when I hear Wenger say he needs to sell other players first before he buys, that’s a double-edged sword – he may be talking about bendtnerchamakhsquillaci, but he may just as well be saying he would let RVP go. And the first thought most “realist” fans would have is he’s already gone. But what if Wenger really wants to play hardball, force him to stay, even let him miss some CL games (so he doesn’t get cup-tied – although it wouldn’t matter anymore, since we only start playing CL in September), fine him for that, but still retain him? We can easily do without him, with Giroud and Podolski, and if he’s forced to stay out of the game for August and perhaps a part of September, he might actually warm to the idea of playing on in red and white.
    I’m also looking at our midfield, and I’m really curious what Wenger’s going to do with that. Song and Arteta are both fit, so our engine room should generate the noise we love so; but what about the third man? With Rosicky and Wilshere out, we can only use Diaby (if he survives the Asia Tour unscathed), Ramsey (if he leaves the Olympics early & without injury) or Coquelin (which would imply we’d be fielding a highly defensive setup). Unless there’s any transfer into this area, we might just as well see Chamberlain or Lansbury playing in this role… Seriously, can’t wait to see how this one’s going to pan out. If Arsenal.com is a reliable source, we should be looking at Diaby’s breakthrough this season.
    I just hope Wenger will not be forced to exploit Ramsey the way he did last season. The boy had a beautiful start to the season, with lots of flair (and far too few goals), but he obviously waned in the Winter, and it’s basically been a dead horse all the time since January.

    • Agree with a lot of this.

      On selling before we buy, I think he means the squad members for purposes of squad space, although you could just not name those excess players in the squad (that does, however, write off any chance of getting a fee for them). Not playing Champions League football in August certainly helps with the cup tied issue.

      Regarding the midfield, I have the same concerns about Ramsey – the boy needs s proper pre season, without the pressure he faced last time around. I hope he isn’t rushed in because Diaby/Wilshere/Rosicky are all on the treatment table. Diaby may be fit now, but for how long?

      The man I’m really hoping for in that engine room is Coquelin, which frees Arteta to move a little further forward, and perhaps gives Song a little more cover for his runs too. I think we’ll see a lot more of Coquelin this season.

  8. A really good, considered piece that reflected many of my thoughts on the whole media crap-storm.

    To see another captain and our only star player go will be painful. Again. And there doesn’t seem to be any formula for stopping this in the future. The frightening prospect will be that we’re entering an era in which a contract -1 year will be the normal tenure at our club for top players, and it’s impossible to build in that climate. I hope this doesn’t lead to massive disillusionment with the club and the relationship with the players.

    Honestly, I can’t wait for the football to begin again. For me, this is the ugly part of the footballing year, with the greed and calculated speculation, and the crass moves of the mega rich. It’s not what I watch the game for.

    Yes, it’d be good to see Gervinho show what he can do. I do really hope we get a CAM that can spread the play and thread a pass. Perhaps with better defensive coaching we can discipline Song and the back four and we won’t miss adding another top quality CDM, which I think would come in handy given the number of games we have (in four competitions).

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