FA Cup final Saturday! I did think about recycling the “FA Cup Final And We’re Not In It” post but I’d have to research any celebrities named and make sure they haven’t had their collars felt or issued super-injunctions to prevent them or their partners being named. It’s more trouble than it’s worth, to be honest. And quicker to type a new one to boot.
No surprise that this morning’s headlines all centre of Granit Xhaka’s arrival in London to finalise his transfer from Borussia Monchengladbach with a fee quoted at anywhere between £25m and £35m. Who knows and frankly, who cares? The fee signals his importance to the selling club and a healthy profit of £20m – £30m on the amount they paid to FC Basel, and Arsenal’s need. It’s a seller’s market this summer.
For Arsène it’s an important signing, not just because he’s an outfield player but also that he’s an outfield player after last summer’s farce. There’s a statement of intent in having players available for a full(ish) pre-season so that they can adapt to their new surroundings and be ready for the mid-August Premier League start.
And in no way is it important to the club, along with news of an imminent bid for Alvaro Morata, with the season ticket renewals deadline of 1st June fast approaching, and Ivan’s supporter Q&A shortly after. Such cynicism in one so young…
Arsène spoke in the Arsenal magazine about the ethos that big clubs have regarding playing style,
I also believe that the positive idea of a football club is to have a desire for style. If big clubs don’t have that, then I think something is missing. Throughout the history of the game, the big club sides and the big national teams always had that desire.
Whether it is Brazil, or the big teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid. And I think Arsenal has a positive reputation on that front. The big English teams – Liverpool, Man United and so on – always had that as well. It is basically an obligation for you as a coach.
Has Arsène watched United or Liverpool this season…?
Interpreted as meaning ‘winning with style’, there’s a balance to be struck. Having a trademark style is all well and good but if it leads nowhere, if it doesn’t launch challenges for titles or win trophies, there is something equally as hollow as winning through attrition.
Pep Guardiola, inventor of tje Tiki-taka which Arsène has tried to adapt to the English game, believes possession without purpose is wasted and to some extent that’s the difference in the two philosophies. Guardiola’s has a more direct approach whilst Arsène’s interpretation stems more from keeping the ball and the chances will come; a laissez-faire attitude if you like. We’ll see this coming season if Guardiola adapts his thinking successfully to the Premier League.
Like many of you, I witnessed the extreme of attritional cup wins under George Graham, as well as the flamboyance of his and Arsène’s title wins. The two different styles underline the manner in which competitions have to be won. In a simplistic view, playing functional football over the course of a season won’t win a title; you’ll be found out during a significant portion of the 38 games but equally, an expansive side is readily picked off in cup ties which are more suited to counter-attacking football.
The problem that faces Wenger and the managers of all big clubs is raised expectations. Clubs are making more money than imaginable but their bragging comes at a cost. The Premier League era has placed an emphasis on winning trophies that I don’t think existed before, or certainly not to the same extent. Managers may not necessarily become involved in those boasts but when CEOs and owners talk of vast sums of moneys, the expectations are that it will be used for the good of the club.
Depending on the level at which the club operates, there’s an expectation created that they will avoid relegation, sit in mid-table or suckle on the teat of the Champions League. When you get into the latter realms, it’s a sign that the title is there to be challenged for. Challenge often enough and you are likely to win it. And as the Premier League casts its pall over English football, four or five clubs look at its trophy and know that is all that many fans care about.
When it isn’t delivered and ticket prices are high, discontent surfaces. Those who dictate that supporters lower their expectations, as well as having chosen the wrong argument, miss the point. Modern football created the environment for supporters, not the other way around. This is before the wider question of the purpose of professional football clubs is addressed. From the business sense, it’s to make profits off the pitch but on the pitch, it’s to win, pure and simple.
If there is to be change in that thinking, it has to come from within the game itself and as money has become more important to owners than glory, there’s little chance of that happening.