Arsenal can do no right for doing wrong. Or at least that is how it seems at times and unsurprisingly, this is one of them. We’ll start with the reports yesterday that Olivier Giroud was not eligible to play in tomorrow’s match against Dortmund. UEFA couldn’t make their minds up either, the Frenchman omitted from their website, hastily included (allegedly) and then deleted. It’s a right old carry on.
Giroud, it would appear, was omitted because the club did not think he would return until 2015 which is all well and good but contrary to the inclusion this season and previously, of Abou Diaby in the squad. It is what it is and there is one very big bonus to this; Arsène cannot rush the striker back to match fitness so if you are expecting me to chastise and criticise for the mistake, it isn’t going to happen because that benefit, that good fortune, far outweighs the negative.
And to be honest, if Arsenal don’t qualify from this group, they weren’t good enough to do so. Football isn’t played on paper, it isn’t about our squad being stronger than Anderlecht (it is) but if they don’t take a point from the next two games, they weren’t good enough and that is a cold hard fact. So Gentlemen, as Graham Taylor said in the Aston Villa dressing room when two down at Crewe in an FA Cup tie, you got us into this mess, you get us out of it. Villa won 3 – 2 if you were wondering.
It was no surprise to read of the opportunist warbling of Alisher Usmanov, whose PR sees him as a normal supporter, despite his presence at Arsenal being as unwelcome as Stan Kroenke. His true position was revealed when he continually pointed to his investment in the club, that he should have more say with 30% ownership. This is contrary to his observations that Red & White were not seeking a seat on the board. How can they have more say without a place at the top table that they don’t want…
The only surprise is that he has taken this long to speak about Arsenal. When things go wrong, he does like to pop his head over the parapet and shout, “Coooo-eeee“, to Stan, taunting him like the French soldiers in The Holy Grail. Except he isn’t as funny. Everything he said read like a PR summary of blog or social media opinion; Wenger is stubborn, hasn’t spent the money, has too much power, the club has money. He even tipped his hat to those who seek to stifle opinion by noting that he doesn’t think he knows more than Arsène. It’s a broad church and he hit the notes to appease everyone willing to be taken in by him.
Yet Red & White do serve a purpose; they stop KSE delisting the club and taking it private. And anyone who irritates Kroenke can’t be all bad. OK, so in this case he can be. Ultimately, the only ownership model which most supporters would be happy with is a return to plurality which isn’t going to happen any time soon – if ever – so anything which prevents the club being owned solely by one individual or corporation, will have to do.
It’s a distraction and most likely one to improve his PR with supporters. It didn’t work with this one.
A club which has habitually lost its best players to more successful rivals finds itself criticised for beginning negotiations on a new contract for Jack Wilshere. His form, the logic goes, does not warrant a mega-deal to 2018, or 2020 as some claim, at £150k per week. There are with players deals, some boundaries which need to be established. We don’t know what is on offer, it is pure speculation at this point. We don’t know what he earns now and until someone offers proof, it is speculation albeit something of an educated guess based on a leak from one or other party involved.
But we don’t know, so we presume. The wage bill is regularly compared to other clubs, a measure of performance which I kind of understand but it’s too vague – more accurate would be a comparison of player wages.
Whilst we are at it, I would be interested to know why the club have not signed up to the Living Wage concept. It isn’t that complex an issue, Ivan. The only possible justification offered by companies is that it impacts profit? Any organisation which wants to be seen to be doing good for the community ought to be ashamed of its inaction in this respect.
But this is football and there is no shame.
Wilshere was the club’s golden boy, a youngster from the ranks who was going to make it good – a latter-day Charlie George or David Rocastle, if you like. Then injury struck and since then, the sheen has dimmed and if you listen to some, the gold turned out to be brass. Wilshere’s critics point to petulance, continued injury problems and immaturity off the pitch. It seems that Arsenal supporters want to be able to offer a gospel chorus with holier-than-thou attitudes toward players. Or certain ones at least.
He is not without fault. It’s daft to get photographed smoking outside a nightclub and then in a Las Vegas pool; irritation sprang as much from the repeated offence as the incompatibility of smoking and being a professional athlete. Petulance has gone unpunished more often than not but it won’t always.
Perversely I’d rather he was petulant because it is seems to happen when he’s frustrated with the team or his own performance; it shows he cares and in a sport which is unnaturally sanitised, it’s a rare show of emotion. Channeling that into a positive outcome is the missing piece of the jigsaw.
But that is not the point of today’s post, or this segment anyway. Wilshere is a key player now and will be in the future. I thought Saturday showed why he is more effective for England; he is more influential with his range of passing and vision. Not an overtly defensive role, we need a specialist to perform that role with the ill-discipline in the rest of the team, but one of the deeper-lying playmaker.
And as such, with the prospect of being a core member of the side, why wouldn’t the club seek to tie down his future? Are they supposed to get to the point where he can listen to offers from other clubs? If that happens, the outcry will be far louder and stronger. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. And that is the lot of a football club; always has been, always will.