A sign that the transfer window is close to opening properly came yesterday as Arsenal published their ‘released players’ list. Three first-teamers and a smattering of reserves; nothing surprising in the names mentioned.
Disappointingly, Cohen Bramall didn’t make it to the first team. No fairy tale for the player signed from non-league football and after an unsuccessful spell with Birmingham, no surprise in his contract not being renewed.
His signing counts as one of the strangest of the Wenger era. Nothing, in my mind, beats Dick Law spending a summer supposedly chasing Joel Campbell’s agents around the Caribbean. In no way did the former Arsenal director of football in all but name sit sipping Martinis by the pool resplendent in his budgie smugglers. Think Ray Winstone in Sexy Beast but with an American accent.
And Wellington Silva. Who can forget the Brazilian? Who saw him play?
Hopefully, he joins the legion of players who look back at their time with Arsenal fondly. Jim Leighton joined in 1990-91 for a couple of months at the end of the season as cover for David Seaman. Alex Ferguson dropped him for the FA Cup final replay in 1990 and he played one more match for Manchester United; a league cup tie against Halifax Town.
Please Release Me
George Graham looked to his compatriot in a time of need, a move which was mutually beneficial. Old Trafford was toxic for the goalkeeper and even though he never featured in the Arsenal first team, he remembered his time at Highbury fondly, as he later told the Scotsman:
[Arsenal] was the best club I have ever been at. The team spirit amongst the players, I have never known anything else like it. At the end of the season, George Graham came to me and said: ‘We are going to Singapore for a week. As a thank-you for what you have done we’d like to take you away for a week’s holiday’. I said: ‘done you a favour? You have taken me away from United, where I could not get a game for the Under-11s’.
There was no chance of me staying there, however. I wanted to play and I wasn’t going to oust David Seaman. I would have been in the same situation as at Manchester United. At that time, though, it was the perfect tonic. They won the league that year, and I was invited to go to every celebration. I never kicked a ball, never put on a strip, and never even did a warm-up. Yet they treated me like I had played in every game.Jim Leighton on Arsenal
George, it seems, was a bit of an old softie at heart.
Is Arsenal fundamentally the same under Kroenke’s stewardship? With men such as Ken Friar around, yes, the old traditions live on, albeit subdued and under the surface. It’s why ‘proper Arsenal men’ must be kept in the club.
Let Me Go
Mr Friar is not going to be around forever but the club should replace him with a Bob Wilson or familiar face. One whose knowledge of Arsenal is second to none. But this is now Arsenal Soccer Club or as Enos and co prefer to call it, London Real Estate FC. He doesn’t give a rats arse about Arsenal’s heritage nor does he understand his role as custodian of the club’s heritage. I don’t think he ever will and the contrast, once again, with John W Henry at Liverpool is stark.
John W. Henry’s team of investors had purchased Liverpool and, having taken a private tour of the club museum, the American wanted an early morning stroll around the stadium.
“I came out here and walked the pitch alone,” he said, contradicting Gerry Marsden’s anthem. “I love Anfield when the place is empty and the sun is coming out.”John W Henry’s arrival at Anfield
Whether the Liverpool hierarchy will manage contracts as poorly as Arsenal remains to be seen. That’s an area dancing into the spotlight once again with Eden Hazard’s move from Chelsea to Real Madrid. A player with one year to go on his contract being sold, regardless of the impact on the club? I suspect the transfer ban FIFA slapped on Chelsea is a more damaging circumstance than our ‘new coach inheriting poor squad’ last summer.
I know Chelsea recently appealed against he ban to CAS but FIFA’s record in this area is pretty good. They aren’t likely to lose and so the replacement for the Belgian is Christian Pulisic. Maybe it will work out well but it is unlikely the USA!USA!USA! international’s influence on the team will be anything like Hazard’s.
I Have Found a New Love, Dear…
However, it’s important to recognise we wouldn’t have received anything like the £88 – 130m fee being bandied around for Hazard had we sold Ramsey last summer. £25 – 30m doesn’t seem unreasonable but like Dick Law, Ivan Gazidis proved hopeless at transfer negotiations and even more incompetent at contract management.
You can (rightly) argue those we other people’s jobs. However, Gazidis, as CEO, was a pivotal decision-maker and ultimately, carried the responsibility for these high-level decisions. His mind was distracted, obviously, by the choice of flavours on offer at the Milan ice cream parlour he frequented.
It’s safe to say that little, if any, revisionism is going to resucitate his reputation at Arsenal. A legacy of poor decisions, bad management and spurious soundbites left us in a weak position. Leaving before completing the restructuring of the club’s hierarchy sums Gazidis up. The supposedly smooth operator proved nothing more than a snake oil salesman.
In government, Gazidis would be rewarded with a knighthood. At Arsenal, Enos will probably have his statue cast.