I don’t know about you but startled wasn’t the word that sprang immediately to mind when I read the headline that screeched, “Joel Campbell startles Arsenal fans by posing with a Santos shirt at the World Cup”. Indifferent, meh, who cares; they are all much more in keeping with the mood.
The Heil’s attempts to stir up a hornets nest – which can be best described as half-hearted – sum up the problem the media has during the summer months. Without a World Cup, the poor denizens of Fleet Street would have gone round bend, with their knickers in a twist, over the slightest thing. Neymar, for example, is so upset by being told he couldn’t wear his Beats headphones – I thought they were earmuffs (note to self: get more with it, whatever ‘it’ is) – that he has gone to see a sports psychologist to cope with the pressure of having to listen to the inanities that the FIFA press conferences have become. Not for him the searching questions on whether the Catalan people should vote for independence or whether UEFA should have tested Spain by pairing them with Gibraltar in the forthcoming Euro2016 campaign; no, his probably centre around being asked how he’s coping with the pressure of being the poster boy of the host nation. I should imagine that for the most part he is dying inside of boredom, yet to his credit he can say his name in Sign Language which is more than most of us can; o-shaped fingers don’t count.
FIFA has much to answer for; World Cup rest days mean that minds focus only on the comings and goings at various clubs. Or in Arsenal’s case, how much Joel Campbell is leaving for. £16m is apparently the answer with Serie A clubs vying for his attention if Arsène is unimpressed in pre-season. All of which scuppers the stories linking Keylor Navas to a move to north London. He would, we are told, be cheap, part of a package deal with Campbell although quite why the two are interdependent never gets beyond their nationality. No, wait. He won’t come cheap according to other sources. Both ends of the spectrum plough ahead with their narrative, never asking the question you or I will: why would he come to Arsenal to be a reserve goalkeeper when he could get a first team slot elsewhere? I genuinely question the motives of a player who signs in those circumstances but as Navas won’t be, he’s off the hook in that sense.
Yet to play a game for Arsenal and Campbell already has a value which outstrips that of Santi Cazorla when we bought him from Malaga. Madness. The fuss – has it yet reached ‘hype’ levels; I don’t think so – about him underlines the vacuous nature of the modern game, which in itself is an interesting concept. How mad is that.Are we rushing to criticise the media for their coverage of transfer news today, believing it to be worse than in the past but at the same time forgetting that the digital age offers more opportunities for instant judgement that never existed before. Certainly there was transfer speculation in the 1930s with Arsenal at the heart of it, reflecting their status as the country’s premier club. Whilst the rumours were nowhere near as widely covered, the papers then were different in that they focussed on news and gave greater prominence to other sports, a more rounded and egalitarian approach. Is the press a reflection of the society we live in or driving the route down which society follows?
It is what it is and to me there is little point in becoming upset or perturbed by the coverage of Arsenal, picking up on meanings that may never be inserted. There is a very good reason that a lot of the words used have negative connotations; they sell papers, get hits because Arsenal supporters react to them. Talk of a negative article invariably leads to more hits; they write it, we read it, we comment on it, they write more like it to get more hits. It’s a vicious circle that we feed. It would be nice if it were intelligently written but word counts and space necessitate dynamic language; get the message to hit home quickly.
Campbell’s future raises interesting questions. Dick Law spent weeks chasing people around Costa Rica to seal the deal and the club should not be criticised for signing some who could not immediately obtain a work permit. They have to take a punt but with Campbell receiving his work permit last summer, they sent him on loan again. Wenger’s apparent desire to sell the player as revealed by Lee Dixon is an interesting tangent. If true, he still seems to have genuine doubts about the Costa Rican that have not been dampened given he has only committed to giving the player a pre-season at the club. If Arsenal do sell him, for example, at a fee of more than £10m with sell-on clauses, does that make him a bad signing? At what price is the watershed? Rather than considering Campbell as a first team player, should he be judged as anything more than a promising youngster? Time will give those answers.
Elsewhere, Arsenal are reportedly ready to deal with Barcelona over Alexis Sanchez. Depending on which outlet you read, the club has already low-balled a bid which means they are going to “hijack” Liverpool’s attempts to bring the Chilean international into the Suarez deal even though he may or may not have told the world that he doesn’t want to live by the Mersey. For Barcelona, the advantage is that they don’t have to pay over so much cash, conveniently forgetting that if they don’t sell Sanchez to Liverpool, they will get the money from another club so whichever way you cut it, they will spend £40m or so from their coffers acting merely as a guest house for the rest.
Depending on whom you believe and there seems an incredible rush to be seen to be In The Know despite the derision and opprobrium from the masses that brought last summer. The deals are done, there’s no way that Arsenal will let them slip even though they may be late attempts to derail other clubs attempts to strengthen their squads. It seems Arsène found all the napkins, relieved that they hadn’t been lost at the dry cleaners. How we would have laughed if that had been the case.
Better that than crying over stories that never come true.