Challenging for titles brings wider benefits than just results on the pitch. In the good times, it’s hard to put a bad slant on the news of the day. Likewise, player comments. Retorts to critics are glossed over or laughed off; former players find themselves on the receiving end of supportive tongue lashings.
But when the team is not delivering those challenges, woe betide the player who fights back. Particularly one who is marmite. As if any member of the Arsenal squad these days isn’t marmite. There’s nothing wrong in Mesut Özil rebuking to his critics.
Telling “legends” to “act like legends” misses the point. There’s no room in punditry today for anything other than a caricature of the truth. The big salaries aren’t paid for blandishments. And they are legends for a reason: silverware, and their contribution to it. In the end, more supporters will side with a fondly remembered champion than a superstar contract rebel.
Players like to tell us they ignore critics; Özil certainly doesn’t. And until the Arsenal squad containing Özil fights for the title instead of its’ European survival, the critics won’t be silenced.
This morning’s Sunday Times piece hints at that. Gilles Grimandi doesn’t come out of it well in the repeated tale of how he twice watched N’Golo Kante at Caen, giving him 6/10 both times. Wenger fares little better with his distaste for Kante’s entourage; they don’t play in the centre of midfield, he does. If he’s thought of as a “good man”, trying to bring him to the Emirates is obligatory.
Not that Arsenal are that much of a draw any more. The Thomas Lemar affair fits that bill. A player who was apparently keen to join the club earlier in the summer baulked on deadline day because it was too much of a big decision? Or was it because he fancies a move to Liverpool next year. Not that they will have room for him in their squad with all these signings.
PR isn’t the club’s strong point. Good news invariably ends up ignored or twisted to the negative before it reaches fans. The layout of the club’s website doesn’t help with stories buried or hard to find. Burying bad news is an art but that surely happens when there’s lots going on. Arguably our bad news is happening on the pitch precisely because too much hiding is going on.
The club could do worse than talk to Özil’s PR people. He’s pretty much had a free ride over his contract situation and caused nowhere near as much angst as Alexis. Yet the German is in the same boat; next January, he is free to talk to other clubs and can secure himself a mega-money deal to any who are interested.
Not that many were in the summer, it must be said. Or not publicly at least. Only the Turkish clubs were mentioned and they are the ‘go to’ guys when agents need to drum up some interest in a client.
Özil may feel the situation is payback but he is certainly more savvy than the Chilean. Alexis wears his heart on his sleeve and prefers canine company away from the pitch. Özil enjoys life his way but his social media presence feels more stage-managed, presenting a ‘wholesome’ image for sponsors.
I Won’t Be The One Who’s Gonna Suffer
There’s nothing wrong with that either; he’s got to put food on the plate, etc. Spin wars still have to be won and so far the German is, you feel, winning his. But for how much longer?
Shkodran Mustafi was half out of the Emirates door this summer. A move to Inter fell through but there are signs that someone on the ‘inside’ briefed against the central defender. Preparing the ground for the sale, it was let be known that “Arsenal are disillusioned by Shkodran Mustafi’s application.” Someone somewhere is talking out of school.
Add into that the farcical dealings with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain which saw his salary offers rise from £57k per week to £180k, before he accepted a halfway point offer at Liverpool, and there’s obviously a communication issue at the club. Apparently, it was only after a recent meeting with Wenger that they listened to play talk about his future.
Therein lies our problem, on and off the pitch. Nobody’s talking and when they do, it falls on deaf ears. Anyone who hasn’t renewed their deal which expires next summer, is leaving unless there is a major u-turn by either party. We can’t replace those ‘stars’, as well as the squad players even if we did turn a profit this summer.
This summer should have seen deals for those contracts expiring in 2019 tied up; that hasn’t happened and with the parlous state of our squad, is unlikely to.
The Lemar deal has ramifications far beyond Alexis. Wenger used to snaffle up players like that before breakfast. Repeated failures to win titles is haunting us with others – Liverpool in particular – seen as a better bet for silverware, even though they haven’t delivered a title since 1990.
You are gonna be the one, a-you
That’s down to the manager. Or rather, belief in a manager. Klopp is, by all accounts, a player’s coach, in marked contrast to Wenger’s idealism. The former has the energy which compensates for not winning trophies; Wenger’s aura is dimming.
The uncertainty over his own future continues to haunt us, not from signing the new contract but in holding out for a year and seemingly deciding on a whim. The message to the players is not someone weighing up whether he can still do the job but one of ‘I didn’t think you could win a trophy but you did so I’ll stick around’. Hardly awe-inspiring and motivational.
It’s not just inside the Arsenal family where the goings on at the club are baffling. As much as this might be an apocryphal tale, Northcroft’s words resonate:
“Arsenal? Wouldn’t go there in a million years,” said an important agent on Friday. “That place is nuts.”
You don’t have to be mad to work here but it helps.
Finally today, 2005 is the new playlist on Dad’s Jukebox; the end of an era.