What the Luftwaffe couldn’t do, the RMT succeeds. No Boxing Day football this season and a key tradition is once more chipped away from the English game. Re-reading today’s post, it strikes me as a touch Dickensian with the footballing ghosts of Christmases past, present and future all touched on with an unhealthy dose of Scrooge thrown in.
Emirates comments, bizarrely published yesterday, set the tone and seemed to be media exploitation of an apparent crisis engulfing the club. A shame for the Heil! that they missed the boat by about a week or so. This would have been fodder around the time of the Bradford defeat but two subsequent victories have changed that to some extent. It isn’t even surprising to find that qualification for the Champions League is a key to achieving the sponsorship revenues although I wonder if Arsenal inserted a clause which means that the airline will have to pay more money in the event of silverware being delivered? I would like to think so but am not holding my breath.
It is good for the players as they get the chance to spend Christmas Day with their families rather than charging around a training pitch wishing that Jack Wilshere had avoided Brussel Sprouts. For a moment, Arsène appeared to have reignited another tradition, his emnity with Alex Ferguson but no, his call for being level-headed was not a declaration for manager’s to stop hysterical reactions. The Sith Lord’s demand for Swansea’s Ashley Williams to be punished is a double-edged sword but one wonders if any manager will have the courage to bring forth a similarly spittle-filled invenctive when one of the United players errs? Will the Scot allow himself to be opened up in the media cross-examination to charges of hypocrisy? I doubt it since Mike Phelan will be sent to face the inquisitors.
The focus is drawn away from the pitch, towards Theo Walcott. Liverpool’s deal with Chelsea over Daniel Sturridge appears to rule out any desires that the Arsenal player may have had about a move to the club he supported as a child. It’s left the media bereft of potential target clubs with Manchester City now seemingly the only ones who will allow him to learn his trade in the central striking role. Chelsea should not be ruled out; they have after all a history of allowing players to learn how to be the leading striker as well. Mind you, they would probably be grateful if the next one did not relieve Roman Abramovich of £50m plus wages.
Jack Wilshere spoke after the win over Wigan about the clutch of recent contract extensions, that the group were all close and Walcott was part of that cabal. If that is the case – and I genuinely believe it to be so – it is reminscent of the group which built post-Invincibles around Cesc, Hleb and Flamini, rather than the infamous Capi friendships which were forced by William Gallas. Will it have any bearing on Walcott’s situation?
I am not sure that it will, the hollowness of a succession of players words have eroded the trust that many have. There is something almost childlike in the trust that footballers engender in supporters but as the years pass, the wages gap explodes, the trust goes and the overwhelming view is of mercenaries, not playing for the love of the game but the love of Gucci or whichever brand is deemed de rigeur in the Greed Is Good League. Walcott signs if he signs, goes if he doesn’t and takes the opprobrium when he turns up playing as a wide striker at another club. That’s the way of football, it is the way that the game has been directed from administrators through to playing staff. It’s why I feel no sympathy for those players who take the opportunity to complain about supporters via their £100k column in the newspapers.
For what it is worth, I would like Walcott to re-sign; he is a good player – those who deny it are being churlish – and Arsenal need this type of calibre in the squad. I am unconvinced by his desire to play centrally; is the Premier League the right place to learn this trade? It is a dangerous desire for the player to have; reactions when results don’t go well will give him the answer he wants on that score. A lack of goals ultimately falls on the shoulders of the central striker; perhaps Theo’s shoulders are strong enough to bear that criticism, we shall see. It will lead to more criticism of the manager. He will bear the brunt of the blame, from allowing the Walcott situation to drag out to this extent through to permitting the player to bully the club into his terms. You see Team Walcott, the claims that the club are bullying the player can be quite easily reversed and being football supporters, we are very good at doing so when the arguments suit.
Anyway, it’s Christmas and a break from the trials and tribulations surrounding the club should be welcomed. Tomorrow sees a guest post from Andrew which you should have read a week ago but being the slack-jawed technophobe that I am, you didn’t. I’ll be back on Boxing Day.