Per-fect World or Stereotypes of Identity and Loyalty

“What Fergie did next: Five years on from his ‘retirement’, United legend still puts on his shoes every morning so he’s ready to work”, screams the Heil headline. They ran out of space before they could scare the living bejesus out of you with the rest: “…out, he says lustily as he stands stark b*llock naked in front of the mirror admiring himself.”

No wonder Arsène can’t retire.

You can’t help it, even though you know that your head is going to fry like an unused extra from Scanners. It sucks you in, drags you into the darkest corners, and before you know it, WHAM! Tentacles envelop your limbs and the clickbait headline’s work is done.

I was caught thus yesterday. “Arsenal star Per Mertesacker accused of ‘disrespecting’ the club after saying he’d rather sit in the stands than play“; you can’t help but look, can you? Has someone broken ranks? Is Wrighty putting the cat among the pigeons once more? Did Thierry do something which makes him even more hated on the sunshine bus?

No, it was Dietmar Hamann, which in itself was a disappointment.

“He is still under contract with Arsenal and says that he has no more buck and likes to sit in the stands. He is still paid by the club and has a responsibility.

“I find that disrespectful to the fans, his team-mates and the coach.

“The club is up to its neck at the moment and then you have one of the captains who sits down and says that he no longer wants to play for the club.

“Whether he is the right person to give young players values such as identity and loyalty next year, I have my doubts.”

It’s at moments like these, you find out how much football pundits actually watch.

HEADING

While Hamann would have a point ordinarily, had he seen Mertesacker’s performances this season, he’d understand where his compatriot was coming from. That he hasn’t retired is down to two things: one, we a bit thin on the ground with central defenders, and, two, there might be another Wembley in him. He might be able to dredge a performance of the level of last season’s FA Cup final.

More likely, Wenger needs his influence to calm the febrile atmosphere which passes for a harmonious dressing room these days.

Hamann misses the point of Mertesacker’s words. It was recognition that his race is run, knowing he can’t physically match the pace of the modern game nor does he have the will to do it anymore. A player admitting that, showing that searing self-awareness in public is as rare as hen’s teeth.

There’s a typically huge leap without any semblance of logic from Hamann over Mertesacker’s suitability for an academy role. “Identity and loyalty”; I doubt anyone knows what Arsenal’s identity is anymore. We’re a global business with a fading force in command, overseen by a toothless board, backed by a hands-off, money-driven, success-shy owner.

That’s an identity but not one to be proud of.

Gone is the Arsenal of yore, a pivotal part of Islington’s daily life. Businesses live off the back of the matchday trade, but like all top-flight clubs, it is no longer the hub of the community.

Tell me about identity. Some only recognise ‘Arsène FC’ where football didn’t exist before October 1996. Another generation can’t conceive of nights like 26th May 1989 because of an “Agueroooooooooooo!” moment; broadcasters and football itself, don’t want to have a history pre-1992.

Finding an identity among a fractured fanbase is beyond the needle in haystack territory.

HEADING

Years ago, winning medals drove a player. Now, it’s how quickly they can acquire a fleet of ‘supercars’ and a sixteen-bedroom mansion. It’s a mentality where “look at my wad!” rules the roost. No different from any other walk of life in that sense; football is, after all, big business.

As for loyalty, it’s a distant memory for football. Arsène tells us he’s been loyal to the club every time his future comes up. He turned down every big club in the world through loyalty to Arsenal. Or fear of not having as secure a future or total control over every aspect of the club.

Is it loyal to meet with another club while deciding what to do with your future? Hearing what they say, knowing you’ll be sacked in two years; is that loyal? Or is it maybe a little bit looking after number one rather than the selfless endeavour as it’s usually portrayed?

Loyalty in football belongs to a bygone age.

So forgive me if I find something honest in Mertesacker’s words. Forgive me if I found it honest in the most treacherous of industries. Forgive it I find it brave that he admitted he wasn’t up to the role anymore.

We could do with a bit more of that around the club.

’til Tomorrow.

24 thoughts on “Per-fect World or Stereotypes of Identity and Loyalty

  1. Arsetralian,

    When you can’t see the wood from the tree’s, I find it’s only ever your most loyal, dearest and closest friends that tell you where you’re going wrong. No matter how difficult a conversation that might be for them.

  2. Arsetralian,

    Loyalty to the club and it’s best interests which is what Per is demonstrating. He knows he’s not up to it any longer and is prepared to admit it. Compare that to AW.

    Similarly supporters should be loyal to the best interests of the club, not to any one employee. Arsene has millions of reasons to think that he’s the best man for the job, anyone other than Arsene doesn’t have that excuse.

  3. We are all entitled to our opinions, and as well put as yours is this morning YW I don’t agree. At the very least he could of waited till he actually retired.

  4. I read somewhere (not the Heil) that it’s because Per Mertersacker is always very nervous before games. Something akin to stage-fright. He said that he’s looking forward to retiring because of this.
    Why Dietmar Hamann see’s this admission as a betrayal is anyone’s guess? I suspect that there’s either something lost in translation, or he just feels the need for some media attention.

  5. Great write up Yogi,

    Wenger could learn a thing or two from Merts honesty and openness of the harsh realities we all come to terms with from time to time. Oh wait, no he probably couldn’t.

  6. Is this the same Hamann who crashed his Porsche in 2007 and ran off because he was so pissed he knew he’d be in deep serious?

    Who then was banned again for being so drunk behind the wheel of his Range Rover in 2012 he his the motorway curb (??WTF??) three times whilst being followed by a police car?

    Who developed a serious gambling addiction that, by his own accounts, probably cost him millions of pounds?

    Oh, okay, that one. Yeah, he’s allowed to call out and comment on other people being “disrespectful”, without anyone questioning his moral compass.

  7. Arsetralian,

    I’ve been a loyal supporter of Arsenal through the managerial reigns of Tom Whittacker, Jack Crayston, George Swindin, Billy Wright, Bertie Mee, Terry Neil, Don Howe, Steve Burtenshaw, George Graham, Stuart Houston (twice), Bruce Rioch and now Arsene Wenger.

    I will continue to be loyal to the club despite my disillusion with our current manager who, in my opinion, has passed his sell by date.

  8. Damon,

    The same one who, according to Steven Gerrard, “screamed like a girl” when tackled during a training session.

  9. Apparently Southgate has banned Starbucks for England players. Smacks of a young manager trying to assert his authority. Also reminiscent of Wenger’s early attacks on Mars bars and ketchup. No Ray Parlour to dub him Big’ead this time, though.

  10. Orson Kaert:
    Arsetralian,

    I’ve been a loyal supporter of Arsenal through the managerial reigns of Tom Whittacker, Jack Crayston, George Swindin, Billy Wright, Bertie Mee, Terry Neil, Don Howe, Steve Burtenshaw, George Graham, Stuart Houston (twice), Bruce Rioch and now Arsene Wenger.

    I will continue to be loyal to the club despite my disillusion with our current manager who, in my opinion, has passed his sell by date.

    Me too (apart from Tom Whittaker)…. and hear hear!

  11. “Years ago, winning medals drove a player”.
    That and becoming an international.
    Now, the quite obscene level of wages for the top echelon is king.
    Player power has taken over. Contracts mean little. Agents dominate.
    The bubble cannot last much longer. 😉

  12. Five live discussing whether football has eaten itself (my words) . No argument – it has.

    Too expensive for most of us and the money is simply obsecene and not justifiable.

  13. Isn’t it funny that when a player is clearly past it but keeps playing he gets destroyed for not realizing he is finished as a player and is simply, ‘collecting a check while hurting the team’ yet Mert is being honest and open that he is done but has also be given a position with the youth academy and is possibly transitioning into that role now yet he is being destroyed for his honest.

    Sorry, I commend Mert for his honesty.

  14. C,

    C
    I don’t have a problem with what Mert is saying just think he could of waited til end of season,
    I said a few weeks ago I would prefer someone with a track record for youth development.

  15. An interview in this morning’s Telegraph reveals how Wenger told Jack Wilshere that he was free to leave.

    The conversation took place last summer. He said “I am going to be honest with you. At the moment we are not going to offer you a contract, so if you can get a contract somewhere else, you can go”.

    Wilshere says he was recovering from the injury sustained while on loan at Bournemouth, he wasn’t fully fit, so decided to use the remaining months of his contract to work on his fitness and try to force his way back into the team. Meanwhile he has been offered a new contract on a reduced salary and has played his way back into the first team with good performances in the Europa League and the Carabao Cup.

    Everton are said to be watching the situation closely and would like to sign Wilshere in the summer. He has also attracted the attention of AC Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso.

  16. I read the article as an admission from an honest guy that he never wanted to be in the limelight, he simply wanted to do the job he is good at. He makes it very clear that he has been very fortunate to be a professional footballer and that the financial rewards have been substantial. He is simple an unassuming guy who generally doesn’t deal well with being in the public eye. He accepted that and traded it off against the rewards for being a footballer. Per has been a serial whinger, he is giving an interview and being honest in the final year of his player career. Maybe he should have waited until he retired from the game, but perhaps it isn’t as relevant hearing from an ex-player as it is a current player. Per says he is ready to call on, but that his body is shot and, given the choice, he’d rather he wasn’t called on:

    The doctors are also telling him to stop. His right knee is busted, with cartilage damage. “My body is simply finished.”

    The crucial factor, though, is that he’s tired and just “doesn’t want to do it anymore,” he says. “Everyone says I should really savor the last year, play as much as possible, really soak everything in.” He shakes his head. “I’d most like to sit on the bench, or, even better, in the stands.”

    Mertesacker will be playing his final game in May. “And then I will, at an age of over 30, finally be free for the first time in my life,” he says.

    It maybe doesn’t help that there isn’t much to actually play for as regards trophies this season. When Keown retired he was desperate to get on the pitch on that last day of the season. He knew a substitute appearance would get him his 10th appearance of the season and a medal. Remember Parlour hopping up as if he was going to take the final sub spot to wind him up?

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