Whichever way you look at the Arsenal, the media coverage points to a club in crisis. The lack of leadership, so manifestly needed on the pitch, isn’t coming from the manager or the board off it. Nothing positive or decisive is coming out of the club, and that includes the PR stories planted in the press recently.
Staggeringly, the chairman Sir Chips Keswick, left Selhurst Park early, when it was 2 – 0. If he had a prior engagement, the club weren’t commenting which leaves the insinuation that he left in disgust at the performance. At least he didn’t pay for his ticket, eh?
I’m sure Arsène will bat any questions about that away, as well as those about his own future. “Before we start, I would just like to say that we are too far up the creek to be super-worried about the paddles” is what he won’t say but definitely how the situation looks.
Mesut Özil’s future is somewhat clearer as well, it seems. In media terms, he is set for a “humiliating climbdown” after offers from Europe “failed to materialise”. If a £200k per week salary is a “humiliating climbdown”, then I am sure many of us would willingly swap positions with the German and accept such humiliation.
Alexis Sanchez, the other ‘contract rebel’, is talking to the club again, if reports of a £280k per week salary are correct. And like the Özil story, there is a very big ‘IF’ next to it.
A White Knight On His Steed
Meanwhile, Marc Overmars has an unusual way of wanting to be the first director of football at Arsenal. ““I think there is a list with some names and I might be on it. But it’s not that exciting yet.”
What names could be on the list that don’t excite him? Maybe he wants Matt Damon or Jeremy Renner; ‘the Bourne Excitement’ is probably already circulating on pirate dvds and in plain, unmarked envelopes already.
Overmars refusal to deny the job’s existence substantiates claims made by the media that Ivan is waiting for the name to accompany the job title. Making Arsène’s renewal palatable is ‘Mission:Impossible’ for the majority of supporters but Arsenal will count on apathy taking hold at the time. They hope the fanbase will shrug their shoulders and accept the outcome, being good little serfs and knowing our place.
Emotions are sure to run high in the aftermath but this is the board sticking their heads above the parapet and not being allowed to crouch back down. The manager’s future, whether they acquiesce to his terms or appoints someone else, is their decision. They are ones accountable for the outcome, upon whom the shambles can be pinned.
Up to now, they have been slippery than eels. While the initial venom of failure is pointed at the manager, there’s no doubt Ivan and co., won’t get such an easy ride.
Our Good Time Starts and Ends
Arsène’s press conference is under way and there will be more on that tomorrow. But something caught my eye, which underlines that at heart, his philosophy on football hasn’t changed.
Talking about the Alexis offer, he said:
“I cannot confirm we have offered that.
“Secondly, we will do as always and consider our financial potential and pay the whole squad.”
It is an indicator that he still doesn’t tolerate the ‘superstar’ in the squad. One of the reasons Project Youth failed was the ridiculous sums of money paid to distinctly average players. The socialist wage structure dulled the incentive to try harder and Wenger, given the choice, would it seems return to those days.
When the clubs signed the latest broadcasting deal, players wages were always going to rise. For players of Alexis’ standing in the game, salaries were always going to rocket. Yes, we need to pay squad members a decent wage but by any standards, they get that for being a professional footballer.
While they might get more money elsewhere, the squad player isn’t necessarily going to get more game time unless he drops down a level. Which they don’t want to do because the kudos of being an Arsenal player is greater than playing for Stoke .
If Arsenal want to pay average players more, incentivise them. Give them performance bonuses; that’s what happens in the real world.
But then, when does football ever inhabit the real world?