You wonder what is the point of press conferences. Well, you might not but I certainly do. On a frequent basis. A series of bland questions are asked, blandishments returned. And don’t those answers get taken so seriously. It’s not as if prior to speaking Arsène puts one hand on the Bible, raises the other whilst solemnly swearing to “tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth” before taking his seat behind the microphones. Perhaps it would be better if there was a pregnant pause between “nothing” and the rest of the sentence. Even better still, end the sentence at “nothing” because rarely is there anything of import imparted. And when it is, you double-take, seeking out the hidden meaning rather like playing a record backwards in order to hear the Devil’s message.
Yesterday’s press conference was no exception, what appears to have been an interesting viewpoint on the pressures of scouting and signing players. Until the manager’s words were surrounded by misinterpretation. And then it was a case of light the blue touch paper and stand well back. Responding to questions about transfers for the umpteenth time, Arsène observed,
It’s very difficult because the level of expectation is very high. People want to see Lionel Messi. They don’t want to see a promising guy. First of all the name gives hope. When a guy has no name people are already sceptical. So it’s much more difficult for us.
I’ve re-read that several times since copying and pasting it into this post. I don’t actually see what is wrong with it. As statements go, that is hitting the nail on the head, firmly. With a 200lb sledgehammer. Contrary to the popular mythology, Arsène does appear to have been listening to supporters. No-one that I have seen has demanded that he sign 16 year olds for the future in this transfer window. Nearly everyone agrees that the squad needs strengthening with experienced, seasoned professionals with a high technical ability. Which is where the comparison to Lionel Messi arises.What?
He didn’t, as the Daily Mirror headline screams, say, ‘Arsenal buy Messi!’ That’s the only transfer headline Gooners want to read moans Wenger“. That’s sub-editorial licence but the reaction from some was to berate the manager for saying that we would not be happy unless it was Lionel Messi announced as the next transfer. Alarm bells should have been ringing in people’s heads when the transcript of the Q&A session did not appear on the Mirror website; they are usually quite quick to post them when something contentious is said. Quite simply, it was designed to draw attention and succeeded in doing so.
Far from criticising Arsenal fans, the manager displayed an understanding of the psyche of football supporters which belied the myth that he is out of touch with people. He tagged the sentences with hope. That is at the core of it all, the signing of a well-known player lifts supporters with the hope that he will deliver as he has done previously. Take two Spaniards as an example to prove the point. In 2003, sixteen year old Cesc Fabregas was snatched from Barcelona for a pittance. Back page news then but he was not deemed to be a saviour, a key player in the side. No, he was one for the future. Fast forward nearly a decade and the arrival of Santi Cazorla, excitement levels were tangibly higher.
You took it seriously though, didn’t you? You took those words quite literally, didn’t you? You took those words without looking at the context.
Red mists were down and it was open season. Or Duck Season, Wabbit Season. Words twisted in a gale force wind, swirling around, the misinterpretations continuing at a bewildering pace with the apparent gross slur on Arsenal supporters who have a long history of giving young players a chance. We’ll park that one for another day, the ethos of the Greed Is Good league has changed that somewhat from the pre-Internet era.
The circumstances of the team dictate the reaction, this time around we do not want to see a procession of young, unproven players. We need to sign proven players who can hit the ground running. Which is exactly the point the manager was making. So when he does give a serious answer, you complain about the answer not taking supporters seriously. But tell me, did you react to the misinterpretation of what was said or the reaction of others who had deliberately misinterpreted what was said.
So to the rumours, gossip and trivia, if you can handle it, of course. Someone whom many rate – I personally don’t but there you go – is Demba Ba. Wenger noted he rated him but felt that Giroud was a similar solution, one that was already in-house. It might have been worse but thankfully the manager didn’t mention Marouane Chamakh but that might have been because he didn’t want Fat Sam to realise that Chamakh isn’t Lionel Messi’s older cousin. He and Squillaci highlight the risks of any signing, as does Arshavin. You can find a player with international caps, an experienced background and a world-class reputation but that guarantees you nothing; these players can fail as easily as an inexperienced youngster. The trouble is, you do not discover this until it is too late. Squillaci and the manager confirmed that he is off, subject to finding a new club whilst Johan Djourou has apparently told Hannover he loves the Bundesliga and is going to join them. Andrey Arshavin is not russian to join Reading or Fulham, perhaps rather sensibly he is waiting until the Summer to see how this season pans out.