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Ambition or Hubris?

Post by Varun Shukla (@wengerarmy)

While browsing through the new Arsenal website (which is an absolute corker by the way) I stumbled upon Lee Dixon’s interview. He talked about how he was scouted, approached and signed by Arsenal and his feelings during the entire process. An extract here:

“I walked through the marble halls and I just went to myself, ‘whatever happens today, I am not leaving here until I sign’, because the place smelled of football.”

The more Sherlock Holmesian of people will stop me right now with an “Elementary, my dear author” comment here and deduce where I’m going with this, but for the more mortal of us, read on.

Every Gooner remembers the summer transfer window and one Dutch Skunk in particular. There’s no need to go into the details, I’m sure- he is where he wanted to be and no one this side cares. He however can’t stop talking about us. When he’s not busy getting impregnated by little boys or spending time in sweet shops, he talks about how he’s ‘‘seeing things he’s seen before only with Henry and Bergkamp’’ and about how his current employers ‘breathe football’.

What’s the difference between Lee Dixon and United’s number 20? Aside from the fact that one is an Arsenal legend and the other would give Brutus a run for his money in the Best Betrayal of All Time Award, it’s in what they said about their respective clubs. On the face of it both statements seem to be similar (though Lee has better grammar). There’s a huge difference though – Lee was bowled over by the sheer history of the Club, the way one might feel while visiting Buckingham Palace. The other guy’s statement was just a PR exercise to enhance his image.

And that is the difference between a legend and a good footballer. Players of the past – Dixon, Adams, Bergkamp, Seaman, Rocastle etc respected the Club as a historical institution. They felt a sense of responsibility and belonging – it was almost as if they were supporters themselves. Henry is a legend not because he scored the most goals or because he won with us. It is this statement which says it all “You need big shoulders to play for Arsenal – the cannon is heavy.” The same can be said about Gerrard, Pirlo and Antonio di Natale for their respective clubs. They believed.

Cannon is HeavyMost modern players however, are more individualistic. These days, it is Club A for development, Club B for winning stuff and Club C for a comfortable retirement and so on. They plan every stage like a corporate career and that somehow just doesn’t go with the spirit of football. A football player is a role model to many and for me; he is complete if he is a good person as well. This is one of the things which make me proud to say that I am a Gooner – by and large; we’ve always had players who are great humans as well as footballers.

Much has been said about the ‘family spirit’ at Arsenal. We have top class facilities, one of the best footballing arenas in the world and a visionary manager who has always cared about his players. On more than one occasion, we’ve heard from ex and current players about how great it feels in the dressing room, how Arsene is like a ‘second father’ and how life is generally top class. Even the new signings admit that their national compatriots were a big factor in convincing them to sign (Mertesacker for Podolski and Cazorla for Nacho to name just two). Which makes it all the more baffling when players leave for no apparent reason.

A big part of the reason for our trophyless run (aside from financial restrictions, oil money and even some refereeing ‘errors’) is the outflow of players. Every season since 05-06, the manager has had to contend with key players leaving which results in an overhaul of strategy leading to rebuilding of the team and a loss of ‘chemistry’ and stability.
A chronological list here would be helpful:
Ashley Cole
Hleb
Flamini
Adebayor
Nasri
Fabregas
Clichy
Song
 van Persie

You’ll notice that I omitted players such as Henry, Ljungberg, Gallas, Toure, Lehmann etc. Here I’ve considered only the players who could have contributed significantly to the team by staying. The list also has some of the biggest ‘traitors’ in AFC history (except Clichy maybe). This, however, is exactly my point.

Why, when everything is so brilliant at our club, do players leave? Out of all of these players, Cole was perhaps the only one who admitted outright that he wanted more money than we could offer. The rest had varying degrees of ‘trophy sickness’. And more money of course. The thing that hurts is the way in which the Club is made a scapegoat and the way in which it becomes widely accepted opinion.

Particularly in Persie’s case, he released a statement which effectively disrespected the Club and said ‘they lack ambition’. What does ambition mean? How does signing 5 players (some of whom are targeted by teams fighting to avoid the drop) show that we’re serious about winning the title?  Is the board, Dick Law, Wenger or Gazidis out there playing on the pitch? No. The best the Club can do is provide the best possible environment for the players to excel. It is the players who need to show that they want to win, not the Club.

Don’t get me wrong here; I’m not saying the players don’t make any effort. Just that blaming the Club for what are essentially their mistakes is wrong. An open net, just the finish required. A goal takes us through to the next stage, and it is shot wide. Instead of working harder and improving that, player takes the easiest option to move in transfer window and accuse us of lack of ‘ambition’. It’s a similar thing with defenders. Let in a goal, and yet they say that Wenger didn’t handle the ball better.

Coming back to Persie. After nearly 6 seasons at the treatment table, he showed the form of his life. We finished 3rd, and were raring to go in the next season. He knows that he could have helped us do better by staying – repaying the faith shown, but he chose to leave. And before that, he even took the pains to undermine the club that made him. Wasn’t it his attempted chip against AC Milan which was saved and cost us progression in the CL? No, that was somehow Wenger’s fault.

Fabregas, beloved captain. Got homesick apparently and went on strike to force a move. He knew that the team was built around him – the boss must have talked to him about it, about the difficulties we’d face in rebuilding – but no, he went home to Barcelona who willingly let go of him at the age of 16.

Maybe the agents are to blame. They make the players believe that they are the best thing to happen to the human race since the wheel, talk to their ego and tell them the Arsenal isn’t good enough. Of course, the agents want their commission too. What it all results in is instability in the team, and still the great man finds the resources to qualify for CL each year (for well over a decade running now). And finish above Spurs for good measure.

Arsene Champion's League

It’s not as if all players have had successful careers afterwards. Barring Cole, no one has achieved much. Nasri was on the bench for City’s triumph, he doesn’t count. Hleb and Flamini, Adebayor have all come out to admit that they should never have left Arsenal, Fabregas only played in the final of Spanish equivalent of Community Shield in his first season, Song is miserable at Barcelona.

What they fail to realize is as a bunch, staying together, they could have achieved something much much greater than they will ever do with other clubs. And that is what is good about the current team. No exit in sight (only Sagna’s contract situation left), everyone has ages left on their contracts, they all want to win something NOW. And God damn, we will.

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96 comments on “Ambition or Hubris?

  1. As for van Persie, his leaving doesn’t bother me at all. The current triumvirate upfront is more effective, scores more, and lessens the risks of dependency on one striker. We are already in a better place. That he went to ManU is also of no consequence to me, we got 24m, that’s fine and good luck. It was that stupid, stinking statement on a public website that is absolutely disgraceful after what the club had done for him and then heading to ManU, as if he hadn’t spoken to them secretly. He’s a piece of shit. Good riddance.

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  2. This site is a star

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  3. …a real fucking A one star

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  4. MEMORIES: I know that some of our ungrateful fans love to run down Alexandr Hleb simply because he was not a goal-scorer. I think deep-down they despise him because him because he was emblematic of AW’s belief in beautiful, stylish football while they remain suspicious of what they dismiss as “tippy-tappy”. There were two games I recall vs Aston Villa, when they were suppose to be our top-four rivals that Hleb simply destroyed them. The classic lock-picker according to ZimP. I found one youtube video which is appropriately titled, Hleb vs Aston Villa. Watch and weep.

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  5. money money money.. end of , and recently ive seen more old pro’s finally admit it than ever before, eg. last week on Sunday supplement Gary Mc Allister said he’s never made a move choice based on money because there wasn’t much difference in pay between club to club, but all of a sudden the money went crazy (SKY) and he moved to Coventry solely for the cash, and only yesterday our own legend (and he is to me, Hleb,Clichy,or the rest are not) spoke about leaving our great club at the tender age of 24, because the money was far too good in Italy.. yes he also said he and his wife wanted the adventure/culture but only after his head was tuened by the money… Now i don’t see too many calling Chippy a traitorous bastard on too many blogs (just saying).. so if players like those two move for money back then why do we expect it to be any different now… After all the whole thing is a corporate business now more than a sport.. job applications, pay-packet comparing,car counting.. so they’ll continue to move clubs like the Director/banker moves companies, unfortunately thats the modern greedy way…

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  6. Excellent!

    Actually, leaving a side is not a sign of being a traitor, it is how it is done. Players have left Arsenal. All the players that have left Arsenal are not looked down upon. Hleb, RVP, Ade, Cesc and the likes all left in ways that were not too kool. If a player comes to the end of his contract and wants out, so be it, but don’t sign an 8 year contract and act an idiot the next blow wow season and don’t put out snide comments on your website etc.

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  7. I do agree with ZP that it is better to big up the current players and those who have remained classy.

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  8. I have to say the player I most regret leaving was Francis Jeffers

    The fox in the box – remember that ?

    He was an outstanding striker and a credit to Arsenal every time he pulled on the shirt

    What could we have done these past few years of only Franny Jeffers had stuck with us eh ?

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  9. Alright alright put your teeth back in, I’m joking – he was shocking

    Rarely have I been as embarrassed by an Arsenal player as by his dive against Farnborough

    Seems to me though there are some players who are bought, and who leave who we do not give a monkey’s about – loyalty eh

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  10. Another very good piece at Untold Arsenal about that blight on English refereeing, Mike Dean. http://blog.emiratesstadium.info/archives/27183/comment-page-1#comment-527256. I am giving them their props because they, like us, are unashamedly positively Arsenal.

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  11. Welcome aboard woody, about time we had another Irishman on here! (And a real one)

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  12. Woody, how much was he getting paid in those days. Most of these footballers will never have a care in life, unless they act a fool with their money. Its not like they are scraping the bottom of the barrel at Arsenal. They go from rotten rich to being more rotten.

    I feel you though…It is all about money.

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  13. anicoll

    People will have their favourites! An acting Captain will always be missed. I’m guessing if Theo had been sold last Summer, that you (and many of my firends) would not have missed him that much. For reasons that made perfect sense. I’m glad he stayed, but I won’t get my hopes up. Having hoped that he would carry on progressing as a footballer I think he’s surprised many who I respect and have had some fun threads with in the past*. I think there will always be a slight curse of the late starter in his consistency but he has always shown glimpses of top quality. He’ll carry on progressing.

    I’m happy to not worry about where that will leave AFCs contract negotiators in three years time.

    *anyone know where we can find the “Kitchen Sink”?

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  14. Wow twice in two minutes Wilshere & Walcott combine to slice apart the Brazil defence.
    Walcott will be working on that final pass (one critique that could have been made after the Stoke game).

    But he’s picked up a niggle. Hope he’s ok for Sunderland.

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  15. Jack and Theo have been the stars

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  16. Good game and a few phases of good football from England – soppy penalty award and a dreadful effort from Ronaldhino

    Good to see Dante getting the runaround from Theo

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  17. Finsbury,pass me a big slice of that humble pie you are cooking up .

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  18. I’ve had my doubts George. And at one point was resigned to him going.
    He helps set up another England goal!

    Watching the BFG, Sagna and Koscielny here, the England game there. The Arsenal CBs are having more fun then Cahill at this moment, though that looked like a decent save by the Brazil ‘keeper from Cahill. France scored off a rebound, Per was in the wall.
    Ribery in slightly better form then he has been? If Muller starts on the bench for Munchen it could be good, but then they can always bring him on.

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  19. Fuck Stewart Robson. Theo is ripping a new a-hole into Adriano and all he can say is Theo often runs into defenders or doesn’t always make the right decision with the ball. Meanwhile, Neymar hasn’t done fuck all and he’s talking him up.

    If England win this is because of Walcott. Both goals have come as a result of Theo agitating and running at his defender.

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  20. I’d like to see some substitutions!

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  21. Finally. The exceedingly sh*t Aaron Lennon makes an entrance. And LJW? C’mon Roy.

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  22. Good evening’s work Theo – they did not like it up em those Brazilians

    Game fizzling out – pity

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  23. Robson just said Neymar was the best player in the second half. What game has he been watching? Theo dominated Brazil’s fullback and his runs are what created both goals for England.

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  24. I’ve seen worse I’ve seen much worse

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  25. Jack MOTM,I would have given it to Theo .But can see the argument for Jack ,Both superb

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  26. It seems that this English core we have at Arsenal might as well become the core of England. Oh how fitting it would be.

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  27. shotta February 6, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    wow shotta..this walter is my kind of guy… united and city current and ex employees holding the key positions in the ref allocating system? ahahah …

    and we wonder why we hadnt won a penalty in our home games for a whole season?

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  28. Evil February 6, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    hehe..lets see if the bastard refs mock their “sons” right to equal and fair competition on the pitch against the foreign legions of the russian and the arabs……

    genius wenger…

    * rubbing hands with a sinister smile*

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  29. I fancy it will be Mikel,Diaby and Santi in MF on Saurday

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  30. I am warming to the corruption theme

    That extraordinary own goal at Trafford Park by Abou – one in a million I thought

    WhatsortoffoolamI?

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  31. Aye the 45 yarder that squirmed in from spotty Ronnie past Almunia in the CLSF

    Now I know

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  32. Well then anicoll5.Now you’ve said it.

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  33. As for the so called penalty taken by our so called Spanish midfielder against a team who allegedly were Fulham

    Ha

    I say Ha

    Poor old Shergar – 30 years today

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  34. Slightly random link:


    *coughs*

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  35. Looks like he was going for the ball – Emre a diver

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  36. Ha ah thats funny

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  37. @hunter13
    February 6, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    If you liked that article, check out the Referee Reviews Untold did for last season. Its all in their archives – shocking results and basically proved the bias in the EPL. They did that with three Arsenal supporting referees reviewing about 60% of the EPL matches last season. This season, they started up the Referee Decisions websites with more referees and from other clubs as well, trying to review 100% of the EPL matches.

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  38. i think its one of them tackles that maldini teaches his kids…. straight on the ball….the italian finesse is obvious to see

    and i would like to thank zokora for that hillarious gesture to the ref ” im sorry it was an accident didnt mean that i know it was a bit much sorry yes yes yes”

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  39. Yes sav, from what i saw its a reply (based on research) of combining some actual facts and results and statistics no-one can deny. A fitting answer to those who arrogantly dismiss any suggestion that arsenal gets screwed on the pitch. I accept incompetence, but i can also make the separation between an incompetent ref and a biased ref. If others cant, then maybe they are the ones keeping their heads in the sand. However i do agree with Wenger of not wanting to make a fuss about it. That’s the job of Gazidis or whoever handles the club’s dealings with F.A and the Ref Association.

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  40. But Hunter ,the thinking is that because Walter is an Arsenal conspiracy theorist,he is looking for positive confirmation of his firmly held beliefs.
    And as we cant disprove that ,they assume that means they are right.Of course it means no such thing,Because they are also looking for confirmation of their beliefs.

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  41. Hey George, wanna laugh…..i caught with the corner of my eye the plus in place of the cannon in the Arsenal emblem in top right of homepage and for a split of a second travelled in a parallel universe thinking that djourou was sponsoring the blog….eh ok after a sec or two i made the connection….lol

    The thinking really is that “such things” dont happen in this “clean and honest league”. The thinking is that first we should look at our “own mess” and then complain about the ref. In principal and up to a certain extent i agree about looking at your faults first (if any) before accusing ref decissions, but thats difficult for a bunch of youngsters though who are learning the game. And i also find it very strict from our fans behalf to agree with a biased decision so that they rip into our players and manager for other things.

    How many times has a player of ours been fouled and not rewarded it, and we end up conceding the other end? In this occasion how can our fans blame our defence, wenger, transfers, the formation, gazidis, kroenke and eevrything arsenal related? it just doesnt make sense

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  42. @Hunter
    Yeah Wenger cannot make a fuss, he gets banned or fined. But its not just him. As much as do not much appreciate Sam Allardyce’s style of football, the BBC sport website just reported he has been fined for questioning penalty decisions in Man Utd vs West Ham. Nobody can speak against the establishment lol.

    @pedantic george
    Thanks for the lovely blog you and Adi and others have set up here. It is really pleasant and entertaining to boot.

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  43. ,Because they are also looking for confirmation of their beliefs.

    Well if their belief is that ” english football is fair and clean and there is no bias towards arsenal” then they will have to do one might effing research to find any confirmation for that belief…

    And putting arsenal aside for a minute…..which league is fair and clean exactly? Murdoch’s and Zahavi’s and Harris ? Do people like Kenyon Dein Gill Cook look to them like “gentlemen” ? Roman’s first transfer was peter Kenyon…not Drogba. The Thai dictators who tried to buy Liverpool? And who opened the door for them? What i remember is that no foreign interests could get hold of UK football clubs unless they complied to domicile rule…but that law was conveniently changed during the Blair/Brown administration. At a time when the suffering UK economy had to sell its automobile industry to Germans ( rover & cooper purchased by bmw). At a time when the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank purchased Midlands Bank. At a time when Murdoch and Zahavi saw that UK businessmen couldn’t cope with the escalating costs of running a football club in the years of sky and champions league money bonanza.

    And so they pressed, they lobbied to open up the market and invite foreign tycoons to help the EPL remain the best commercial sport franchise and huge exporting commodity. The money made by selling EPL to the world are astronomical…..something like general turnover of 4billion, lets not forget that. The sponsors behind are some of the biggest multinationals in the world. There may be no cars produced to sell, BUT we have produced something else that brings in figures with 9 zeros at the end.

    To a big degree, english football sold its soul, but because we need to show tact and image in such things and not bring it hard to the public – that their national and favourite sport and part of the culture is whored out to foreigners(what about the children George, What will we tell the children?) – , the flagship (ie champion) HAS GOT to be one with a modicum of brittish element in it. That is why a club with a french manager who coaches european football and doesnt use brittish players will get shafted in many different ways.

    We have a product , a glorious one that bring in tons of cash, and that french chap is certainly contributing with his entertaining teams to that billion pot, so we will use the whole arsenal sexy football thing and sell it but he aint feeding back the system now is he? In fact he hates it, he fully understands it and how it works but he utterly despises it, and it shows in his interviews, his principles, his work. And he is also very very close to humiliating us all and proving his point and philosophy on the game. Is that so Mr Wenger? Ok then……here’s fergie sam alan ‘arry / phil, howard, paul, mike stephen and i also bring you taylor shawcross robinson barton just so you comply next time….. and if thats not enough dont worry ..i have williams samuel cross gray hansen lineker rednap sounes robson merson wright……and the cherry on the top is that we got the power to manipulate masses and turn them all against you with a snap of our fingers…just like that.

    yeah walter is good but i can take it to another level :p

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  44. hey sav, remember what they did to rafa? he was speaking the truth we all know about.

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  45. Yeah Hunter. They did it to Rafa because he was going to beat Fergie in the league. And guess what, Liverpool lost out. I always hear people talk about how good Alex Ferguson is as a manager, but I wonder how good his results would be without his influence on the referee decisions.

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  46. yeah he is good at using his high profile and influence to bully refs and opponents and when that doesnt work out his pals webb and dean will come to the rescue.

    fergie comes out and lies in front of cameras whereas wenger keeps a diplomatic ” i didnt see it” stance……

    fergie goes hidding and sends out phelan and quiroz, wenger comes out even when sent to stands or beaten with heavy scorelines.

    we all know the treatment wenger would receive had he be calling refs unfit

    the chasm in class is as big as the sunda trench

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