I was never quite able to get with the lingo. Maybe it’s an age thing – I suspect it is – combined with a genuine fear of a clip round the ear for dropping t‘s, h‘s and any other letter and h appears in the word ‘thing’ or at least it has for most of my life. Theo signed whatever spelling it is you want to put on it and surely that is something worth celebrating in the context of recent seasons. It completes a recent reversal of perceptions coming after a core of younger squad members signed new deals. That gives a strong base on which to build with new players strengthening those already here and staying.
The size of the deal is irrelevant; the player is happy, the club likewise and credit must be given to them for pursuing the course which came to this eventuality, especially since a sizeable contingent existed who thought this time would not come. Most, myself included, sat on the pendulum as it coursed its way from signing to departing, the length of time spent negotiating this close to the end of the current deal viewed suspiciously and cynically. In the final outcome, Arsenal have retained a good player and that is a turn of events which should be seen positively. Yet there are still those who berate the club for the deal, cakes being baked and eaten. The money is too much for Walcott apparently, a counter-intuitive position for supporters to take given the criticism when ‘name’ players have been leaving consistently over previous Summers.
If there is a genuine stance occupied against all footballers salaries, I understand those comments. But that is not the case; it is simply a simmering discontent with the club damned whatever their actions which is a nonsensical perspective. It is as baffling for criticising the club for announcing ‘tickets sold’ rather than those who turn up for a match although the latter is an instance of whinging just for the sake of it.
Contracts are a vexacious subject though and a toughening of Arsenal’s stance mixed with a new flexibility on salary structure is becoming evident. Wenger’s praise of Abou Diaby yesterday highlights the problems facing a manager in this area; if the player misses much more time, no matter how highly he rates him there is little justification for offering a contract on any improved terms. That is a harsh reality for Diaby if history repeats itself with the club backed into a corner by physiology, surely unable to offer anything other than a pay-as-you-play contract. A thought for another day and a bridge that you hope never has to be crossed.
Walcott now occupies the mantle of highest paid player at the club. It is a matter of opinion whether he is or not, some will believe so, others not. I would venture he has the potential to do so but is not there yet. Criticism will no doubt be easily vented if his performances do not come up to scratch. I don’t think there will be any leeway either; that enhanced performance level will need to kick in quickly if the salary is not going to be used as a stick with which to beat him. It confuses the two issues, areas that are not necessarily ever aligned correctly. Walcott has taken advantage of circumstance, something we would all do in the same situation. That does not mean that he is more highly rated internally than say, Cazorla or Arteta; just that at the moment, he had a stronger negotiating position.
Two former captains, both title-winners in their own times, spoke of the club’s current run of trophies. Like most, Patrick Vieira and Tony Adams retain the hope that Arsène can turn things around. Both are routinely dismissed on a regular basis, their lack of managerial experience regularly cited as a rationale to dismiss their thoughts on what is required at Arsenal. That is not necessarily the case although to be honest, neither has suggested that coaching at the upper levels is going to be their forte, a view seemingly shared at Arsenal with Adams overlooked for any coaching role, even at junior level. The Board’s failure to talk to Mr Arsenal, to return calls is at once disappointing and unsurprising.
With a close friendship to Robin van Persie, his view that with eighteen months of the Dutchman’s contract remaining is too simplistic. Talks had been stalled by van Persie before then; I believe he had already decided to leave six months prior to that so no amount of doubling wages or whatever, was going to change his mind. Similarly, the list of players cited by Adams as leaving too soon is disingenuous; some on that list wanted to leave for non-salary reasons, such as Campbell wanting a move abroad, Cesc returning home. Others – Overmars – paid for the investment in the infrastructure and players who went on to reach great heights. It lessens the impact of the correctness of his point about restructuring salaries. It is an interesting way of aligning your views to the public statements of the CEO.
Football is a curious industry; the commercial world routinely pays CEOs, Presidents, whatever title bestowed, larger salaries than those below them. The sport wants players to be paid the money, managers can lose their jobs on the underperformance of those who they manage – the same as the real world – but with none of the reward. I wonder if as manager of Arsenal, Tony would be happy to be paid £1m a year, a fifth of most of his players?
It was a pundits comment, a subject on which Adams was especially forthright. His scathing criticism of Hansen resonated with most supporters opinions of the former Liverpool and in this instance, Adams stance is admirable. He has been subjected to barbs about his managerial career and in the cold light of day, the negatives are impossible to ignore but he has the courage to put himself in the firing line, knowing his reputation from his playing days would be tarnished by failure. Hansen has simply satisfied himself with barbs from the sofa.
Adams gave an interesting interview and a revised memoir will no doubt be equally so. The world moves on and may be Arsenal – and Theo – will get to celebrate the good news with a win at Stamford Bridge.