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Would you join a Barca and be a cog?
As the march to the season moves ever forward, it got me thinking about players who have had their heads turned by the big clubs, only to be lost in the system and then spat out again to a lesser club, having seen damage to their careers (if not their bank balances). The reason I am writing this is because of the news that Barcelona are trying to offload Vermaelen and have terminated Song’s contract. As an Arsenal fan, we’ve lost many players to the Catalan club, and all of them with varied success on the players part. As much as it frustrated me at the time, I could understand why a player would want to join Barcelona. Why wouldn’t you? You get to play with Messi, Ronaldinho, Xavi, Iniesta etc. You got to win things. However, you’d rarely say players such as Hleb or Vermaelen really did those things. They were there, but not really responsible for the outcomes. Which got me thinking, unless you’re a player who is near the world record fee, the chances of you actually being guaranteed game time is next to nil. Suarez went for a huge fee, was genuinely the best player outside of the big La Liga sides, much like Bale when he went. However, when Toni Kroos went he was seen as a component. Even someone as precocious as Isco or Rodriguez struggled to hold down permanent slots.
I wonder how many players make short-term mistakes that have long-term effects. Sure, they get huge clubs on their CV, but if you’ve stagnated at a club, and not played for two years before being loaned out, that is damaging to your ability. It is a bit like the opposite of Pelle to China. A footballer’s career is short, he would never have got that kind of money in European football, so why not? Does he care that he won’t have won anything of significance when he’s driving his gold-plated Porsche, probably not. Thousands of footballers, in fact most of them, never win anything. At least he knows his family will be secure for ever.
What would other mailboxers do? Take the short-term glory and prestige, or stick it out at a lesser team to try and achieve something.
Slow and steady or big, big signings?
Reading all of the differing opinions on the potential Pogba move to Utd got me thinking, what is the best way to build a team?
I was recently listening to a podcast that described football as a weak link sport, meaning you can make the most gains by improving your weakest player rather than your best. As a comparison basketball was described as a strong link sport where you make the most gains by improving your best player. I’m paraphrasing but the theory being LeBron James can force his way onto the ball by collecting out of the back court and dictate the possession/play from there whereas Messi needs a team to provide him with the ball far enough forward for him to do damage. Messi could pick the ball up from a short goal-kick but the chances of him dribbling all the way through or picking a killer pass from that deep are slim so you need a team capable of providing him with the platform and also competent enough to not concede five whilst he’s scoring/creating three.
Putting this into practice in the real world I think it makes sense for most clubs (with realistic budgets/finances) to try and improve your two or three worst positions/areas each season for a gradual improvement assuming you’re not selling your better players.
All of this however ignores the commercial aspects of big signings and for a lot of the newer owners (and their egos) I imagine a £50-100m player generates greater excitement, interest and official noodle partners than the alternative.
You could argue Utd are addressing their weakest area and improving their best player should Pogba come, add on the exposure and statement it makes worldwide (official tyre partners apply here…) maybe £100m is not so much after all?
I’d be interested in peoples thoughts on the best way to do things, would fans be happy with slow and steady improvement or prefer the big money signings?
Paul (I have no answers) Rowe
Fergie could afford to be ruthless
So Sarah Winterburn has written an article on Arsenal which is designed to provoke the Gooner faithful into a response and give you a week’s worth of mailbox entries and clicks. We are an easy target at the moment because of the divided opinions within the club: in one corner we will have the Wenger out brigade, complete with wailing and gnashing of teeth, and in the other the Wenger in cohort who obdurately preach virtues of consistency, working within our means and rightfully ask ‘if not Wenger then who?’. I’m not going to launch a full-scale, partisan, diatribe in favour of either camp. For what it’s worth (which is not much of anything) I stand somewhere in the middle of the two.
However, I wanted to comment, briefly, that I think Winty’s article seems to contain an odd analysis. Winty compares Arsenal to Man Utd under Fergie (sensibly, due to the longevity of Fergie and Wenger) but argues that Arsene should get rid of certain players because Fergie let certain players go too. Oddly, she defeats her own argument by locating two players Man Utd let go who now have Premier League medals elsewhere but, also, she fails to recognise the number of players Fergie kept around his squad because, despite not being first team, they filled a role and were loyal to him and to the shirt (Butt, Brown, O’Shea, Evans, Van Der Gouw, Blomqvist, Park, Giggs (latterly), and so on).
The difference between the two managers is the ruthlessness with which Fergie went out and bought the best individual player to fill in the gaps in his squad of acolytes. He spent big to weaken rivals and bring in talent he didn’t have. Van Persie being the last and one of the most obvious examples.
And this brings me to the crux of my ramble – it is arguable that Fergie could do this because for much of his reign he managed the richest club in the country. Wenger cannot (not because we haven’t saved up some cash in the bank) but because we aren’t the richest club on an ongoing basis. And, most crucially, because our owners have no interest in having us regularly compete at the top financial table (purchase prices AND salaries).
The Wenger in/out argument is, in truth, largely a sideshow. He does okay (or not quite well enough, depending on individual view) with the landscape he has got. He loves the club so has stuck around to do what he can with what he’s allowed. But the bottom line is that clubs these days are dominated by the individuals behind the scenes and their prevailing attitudes – like a ministerial department run by the civil servants and not the minister.
I found myself wondering to what extent any club these days has a manager that any set of fans can say has a lasting impact contrary to the direction of the board (note this isn’t the same as a manager under/overperforming – so Diego Simeone doesn’t count – he has less cash than his rivals but undoubtedly a board fixated on winning). If we look at boards/owners: Arsenal – content with top four to maintain revenues, Man Utd – the same, Chelsea – schizophrenic with rushes of blood to the head, Man City – slightly dour but obdurate approach to grinding their way to the top, Spurs – corporate cash making is king, Newcastle – uninterested other than to collect some profits, Aston Villa – Lerner couldn’t have cared less and wanted the club sold so no one could halt the train crash, Leeds – utterly mental.
Any other clubs out there who can say their board dictate all and the name on the manager’s door makes no difference? Anyone who can say otherwise?
So, in conclusion, Kroenke out.
The Ox > Wilshere or Walcott
For me, Chambo is very different kettle of fish to Wilshere and Walcott.
Both Wilshere and Walcott are of an age at which you would have expected them to have contributed far more to the Arsenal cause than they have done.
Wilshere with his woeful injury record and Walcott, like a magic eye painting in which the image revealed is a crowning turd, haven’t delivered in the way they were supposed to – and to be honest, I’d sell both of them.
The Ox has been at Arsenal a while but I wouldn’t be writing him off just yet. The boy’s injury record isn’t that bad and unlike Walcott – there’s clearly a player in there somewhere.
I remember last season screaming at the Ox just to play the ball simply – something he repeatedly refused to do last season and was caught on numerous occasions. But that does not meant he should be written off.
When things aren’t going for you, the best thing you can do is lie low and play the ball simply and over time confidence and form returns.
Arsenal will have another groundhog season but blame Wilshere, who will spend most of the season injured, and Walcott, who will be running down his contract, before the Ox. We’re yet to see the best of him.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
Moaning Arsenal fans
I am bored senseless due to their endless moaning.
Boo hoo we have a massive stadium
Boo hoo we are always in the Champions League
Boo hoo we have a number of world beaters in our squad
Boo hoo we are more consistent than any other club in the Premier League
Boo hoo we win loads of trophies
Boo hoo we have a whole heap of cash in the bank.
Liverpool and Chelsea fans have no Europe to look forward to. Utd have Europa League exhaustion.
So what exactly are you complaining about you ungrateful bunch of whingebags?
I hope Wenger leaves you at the end of the season and your club falls into disrepair like Utd and then you really would have something to complain about.
H, (hope we give you an absolute tonking next week)(Prem’s back double brackets)
Who’s The Sun’s audience for Pogba nonsense?
Re: The Sun’s lack of anything interesting to post, I’d like to ask them who exactly is that story aimed at?
Is it United fans? No, since it is they who are the subject of the story. Why read about yourself in such an embarrassing piece?
Is it ABUs? Because, yes, this is exactly the kind of thing that gets the banter brigade salivating. Or not.
As mentioned in Mediawatch, the clicks for Pogba news on F365 outweigh those for some of the more interesting stuff the site puts out. Which I assume is depressing and infuriating to the staff. As a supporter of a non-PL club, I cannot enthuse enough in written form how appreciative I am that stories relating to transfers to and from my club are few and far between (even in the days when we had money to spend). I don’t need to know who we’re chasing, since it will not matter one iota if said player is not signed. So why is the Pogba saga, or the one that enveloped De Gea last summer, so important in the time before something actual happens? Is it just so we have something to talk about? Is your very well-being somehow linked to how far away or close your club is to signing someone?
Because that isn’t healthy, mentally or physically.
James F, BCFC KRO (I’m only interested when they’re holding the club scarf aloft at the official unveiling)
Shirt sales = red herring
I notice several people in today’s mailbox making the observation that shirt sales and merchandising don’t come close to justifying the high fees of marquee players. Which is of course true, but also a red herring. Utd may have made £40m from shirt sales in the last five years, but they make more than £100m a year in sponsorship money (£104 just from Addidas and Chevrolet), and more than £100m a year from TV money. And those sponsors and TV companies pay that money in part because they’re successful, but also in large part because they sign marquee players (and managers) that keeps their profile high (indeed in the case of TV money you could argue that Man Utd are doing the whole league a favour).
Tim Colyer, Chelsea fan, London