I think it was the comedian Ross Noble who suggested that tanks were exempt from the congestion charge. Had Per Mertesacker given Mesut Özil his driving lessons in such a vehicle through the centre of London, The Daily Mail would be apoplectic. Maybe that’s what the German pair needed to do, deflecting attention away from Jack Wilshere and genuinely do us all a favour by causing Northcliffe House staff to spontaneously combust. Not that Jack will be the centre of attention for long; Gazza has apparently taken to Twitter which is a car crash waiting to happen. In the meantime, this morning’s playlist on the right sidebar is especially for the England midfielder.
Jack may not play for England in tonight’s match due to a ‘heavy cold’ – is that what they call it now – and received tacit support from Arsène, who decided to muddy the waters of what constitutes qualification for an international side by throwing in the cultural aspects of emigration. The media can’t handle that concept as a qualifier and are dropping their interest in the story. So long as England win tonight…
Wenger took time out from carrying out another daylight robbery in Turin to offer his view on player motivation. If media reports are to be believed, Arsenal are blowing the bloody doors off Juventus by nabbing Paul Pogba on a permanent deal and Paco Llorente on loan. Expect Juve to announce a new contract has been signed by the midfielder in coming weeks. At the same time, it isn’t entirely clear why the Spaniard would swap the bench in Turin for one in London during a World Cup year; his Mr20% must fancy Llorente’s chances of dislodging Olivier Giroud more than ousting Carlos Tevez from the starting XI of The Old Lady.
Anyone joining – if there is anyone – in January will no doubt have to convince Arsène of their motivation for he is clear that money is an unwelcome distraction,
I always say to the players, “Forget the money”. What is important is how well you play together, what you share together is much more important. The money is only a consequence of your experience. The real experience is the game. And I see that with many players who have stopped their careers. It’s not the money they miss – because they have money. It’s that kind of experience. To share the values of our sport, to share the values of being together. And achieving something together.
He didn’t quite step into the pulpit at Islington Chapel but the sermon is similar to that delivered by Herbert Chapman eighty years ago. The original innovator preached the values of a work ethic above monetary reward to his audience and Wenger has echoed those ideals. With the extensive background work carried out in scouting players, it is harder for players to mask their motivation but it is more difficult for younger players to understand – appreciate – the nuance of his words which is perhaps an underlying theme in releasing so many of the youth squad in recent summers. Included in those released were highly talented individuals who had raised hopes in the past for a bright future. Some remain, seeking redemption until new employers can be found. It is difficult for the manager to immediately spot someone’s motivation but he is no longer reticent to release those who do not meet his standards. The pragmatism he attributes in part to his Catholic upbringing is more evident now that finances permit.
His phrasing on former players is interesting. Few hide the fact that they miss the dressing room and playing with those who forge a managerial career citing it as second best to playing. Is this the root of the bitter punditry which seeps its poison into the media circus surrounding the game. Lamenting the lack of technically gifted footballers is becoming matched by the criticism of those who step away from the greyness of the sofa to offer an opinion. In some, the vitriol is clear; in others it is just their job, a necessity to create tension and engage with an audience for advertising revenues. That is something easily forgotten in the heat of the moment, when tempers flare. Tapping into the passions of the football supporter is a good way of maximising profits.
It is nothing new for Arsène to rail against money in football, especially wages. The move to The Emirates was not the trigger for it either, it is a popular myth that this is the case. Perhaps he has become more strident in recent years as restrictions applied to his spend but certainly he highlighted the problems with high wages as early as the turn of the century. He laments this to some degree,
Sometimes you see that professional football has moved a little bit away from very, very important values that have existed at the start of the game. The values that are important in the game today are the same. It is a respect for others. It is learning to lose. It is learning to cope with pressure. It is learning to cope with a team sport. So that is exactly the same. Of course the environment is completely different. Why? Because of professionalism and the money.
Would he have been happier in Chapman’s era, with money strictly controlled by the clubs? A man out of time? On occasion you do sense that his philosophy is from another decade and then pragmatism steps in. I would not agree that the values are the same from the beginning of league football as they are now. Some are – winning, making money – but the sense of community-based clubs is no longer there. Arsenal and others may work with local councils and be active in the surrounding borough but they have a global audience, one which was inconceivable a 125 years ago. The world has changed and I can’t comment on football in those days but it encapsulates the excesses of modern business in its pricing structure and focus of revenue production. It survives, seemingly impervious to any economic downturn yet at times it is baffling to work out why. The answer comes when we believe in the sport more than the money. So long as supporters believe in the club – not just Arsenal, any of them – football will remain. In what form will be revealed in time.