Roy Hodgson probably wishes that Wayne Rooney was beset with nerves and unable to eat before England matches judging by the way he was holding in his stomach during the photoshoot for the new England top. Which looks remarkably like the old England top but with an eyewatering £90 price tag. That is if you go for the ‘authentic’ (endearingly called ‘Match’) kit design. With that kind of pricing structure, I am surprised Arsenal walked away from their current shirt manufacturers. The extra revenues might have enabled them to dispense with the 3% rise in ticket prices. The move is an ominous portent for the route pricing that Premier League clubs will be keen to follow. It will lead to elitism in pubs with those ‘Match’ shirt wearers sneering at the cheaper models as they quaff their designer lagers.
You could of course go for the ‘Stadium’ model at £30 cheaper. The only difference is that the latter is basically a white cotton t-shirt with Nike Swoosh drawn on by permanent marker and the Three Lions frays a little at the edge each time you wash it. Or does the name emblazoned on the back lend itself to some kind of gift? Purchase Rooney’s shirt and you get a free hair transplant; John Terry’s entitles the wearer to act boorishly in public with a ‘Get Out Of Jail’ free card for a limited number of racially motivated taunts. Rio Ferdinand’s name induces forgetfulness for those important events in your life.
Then there is the yellow kit in case of a clash with shirts because there are lots of international teams who wear red and white striped tops. It is good to see Nike has done its research into the colours, deciding that resurrecting the memory of England’s 1973 horror show in a 0 – 2 reverse in Chorzow with Alan Ball being sent off (I think only the second England player to do so – Alan Mullery the first against Yugoslavia in 1968). It was a defeat which contributed more to their exit in those qualifiers than the failure to beat the Poles at Wembley later that year.
Hats tipped to the kit designer for a stunning piece of awareness. Will Puma fare any better for Arsenal? Designs were ‘leaked’ recently which seemed to suggest they would. If true of course.
And so much of football’s reportage is not. The noise around the edges of the game are beginning to grow with Lukasz Fabianski apparently on his way to warming the bench at Celtic. Unless of course the Glaswegians are resigned to losing Fraser Forster in which case the Pole is moving to first team slot and guaranteed Champions League football. Arsenal meanwhile are still hunting for the Draxler and Drmic dream team despite interest from Bayern Munich who have a fiendish plan to sign all their rivals best players to retain the title each season. With a squad which will apparently number somewhere in the region of 250, injuries are not going to be a worry.
There is no doubt the summer will be tough for Arsenal. The World Cup means that unless they act decisively before June, no deals will be done for July by which time prices might rise. For selling clubs it is a calculated risk; guaranteed buyers at a certain price or hostages to fortune with a good tournament needed to eke that keep the digit counter on the price tag turning upwards. Curiously the reverse never holds true. With extensive scouting networks, it is unlikely that there will be any surprise packages at the World Cup; most clubs know about the players in the international squads having watched them play for their employers. The ones they are interested in any way. There won’t be a Poborski, signed by England’s premier club on the back of an exquisitely lofted goal and not doing at all well.
Arsène spoke last summer of having to wait until the likes of Chelsea and City had completed their business before being able to enter the transfer market for fear of Arsenal being blown out of the water financially. Whilst there is an undeniable truth in monetary terms, that fear should surely spur him on to act quickly and decisively. Yes, it takes more than Arsenal’s interest to seal any deal – players have to want to move, clubs must want to sell – commonsense dictates that as soon as any club bids, agents are contacting other parties to see if they are interested. Acting early strikes me as logical because the moneyed eyes are looking elsewhere, trying to land their primary targets.
The trick is to not act rashly as Tottenham did last summer. On paper, they bought well replacing Gareth Bale’s goals and work rate with several players. That they could not bind into a team is a separate issue. And no, I can’t think of one of them who I would have wanted at Arsenal but then who knows how deals will work out? Like managers, a player’s performances at another club offer no indications at all about how they will fare with new employers; it’s a different environment and set of circumstances. It’s why ruling out candidates for replacing Arsène on the basis of a lack of Premier League experience or trophies, is an act of petulant folly.
This morning sees reports in The Mirror and Telegraph that Arsenal has the financial muscle to compete. The manager it seems is being given the “largest transfer budget in the club’s history” by Stan Kroenke. Not out of his own pocket of course, despite how the story may be presented. Indeed you could argue that the air would certainly turn mutinous if the majority shareholder did not agree to such funding with the fanfare surrounding new commercial deals. The jam tomorrow mentality of the past decade certainly would not hold sway for any length of time with the staggering sums of money in the bank. No matter how irrelevant they are to the transfer budget, this is the value always seized upon in the fish and chip paper world.
Is the future dependent upon Arsène signing a new deal? The dynamic certainly changes and the Arsenal board would certainly need to act quickly upon hearing of Wenger’s decision not to renew. You would hope they had already identified the shortlist, perhaps even made contact to see if there is interest. Certainly not in the clumsy manner Terry Venables was approached to take over from Don Howe in the early-80s; how would Arsenal’s future of shaped had he or Bobby Robson taken the role of manager when approached? Even Sir Alex Ferguson turned down the club whilst at Aberdeen. A newcomer would have their own targets and any work already done may be wasted if the player did not fit into the manager’s thinking. It leaves the club hostage to fortune, until Arsène decides his future. Some say he already has, that he will renew but add the caveat about winning the FA Cup or finishing in the top four. Failure to land the latter I think, will decide his fate in his own mind, the obsession with qualifying for the Champions League is such that no achieving that aim would leave too many self-doubts. The former? It would silence some criticism but is it a decisive factor? Depends on the reaction of others, I think. There are two months to go in the season but with summer planning under way – or it ought to be – you would like to believe that a man with a keen understanding of the club would inform the board of his plans.