I don’t know if you saw what I just did with the header there, but this article is provisionally the first of possibly two pieces waving goodbye to both Arsenal’s Andre and Andrei as, sadly, the grip of Arsenal’s Russian Andrei on his north London career appears, ever more tenuous. What HAS Arsene got against the Andrew family, I wonder, shifting in my seat, uncomfortably?
Andre Santos has always been a colourful character for the club and he arrived in a blaze of optimism and more than a little hope. Largely unknown, to the English game at least, his career has been of the chequered variety, having played for a small number of sides including, since as recently a 2009, numerous times for Brazil’s national one.
It was hard to pin down his precise ‘best position’ on the pitch although ‘left-sided’ delivers a rough idea. Whether a left back or a left-sided midfielder or even winger has never been forensically established.
At Arsenal, the left and right back positions perform two of the most important roles in the side. Whilst the other positions are hardly redundant, fluctuations in team form can often be attributed to the absence of the established left or right back. That Ashley Cole, even today is widely regarded as a World Class left back in a role he finessed under Arsene Wenger gives a clue as to the importance of this role to the Arsenal side – something that hardly needs to be spelt out for most readers of this blog. For any player to truly succeed in either of those positions at Arsenal, the minimum starting point is likely to require a ‘World Class’ status tag, or at least something approaching that.
So, no pressure there then.
In as far as Andre Santos was at home ‘on the left’ and his actual home is Brazil, with 22 international caps under his, er, belt, recognition of the player’s pedigree should on paper, have been veering towards that same World Class label. Whether he is, was, could have been or might yet become World Class is beyond the remit of this piece.
And it’s true to say Andre certainly started brightly enough for Arsenal, arriving in August 2011 from Fenerbahce for around $7M according to some reports, he scored his first league goal against Chelsea in the splendid 3-5 rout at Stamford Bridge in a memorable October. This goal, a crucial second in the game (alongside the crucial 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th strikes by others) had followed his opener in the Champions’ League meeting with Olympiakos. Things certainly seemed to be going swimmingly for Santos and to this uncultured eye, he appeared to be a player of immense promise. I was by no means alone in having high hopes for a player who seemed to have real star quality.
Yet this week he has suddenly signed off on a loan deal and we appear to be saying “So long, Santos.” Loan deals at the start of a career may be one thing, towards the end, another matter entirely.
So where did it all go wrong for Arsenal’s Andre?
That he was never hugely settled at any of his other clubs may provide one clue. That he has now signed on loan for his fourth club just shy of his 30th birthday is hardly the hallmark of the true journeyman. But Chez Andre is equally not the most fixed of abodes and whilst this in itself is hardly a hanging offence, it tells its own story, especially when taken into context of the ‘fluidity’ of his preferred position on the pitch.
Andre Santos has always come across as a nice guy, a father of one, who seemingly went out of his way to get on with teammates and public alike.
His ‘notoriety’ found its genesis in the form of a small typo that generated a big reaction.
His “Great game, gays” tweet was retweeted across TwitterLand and successfully made the tricky transition into the mainstream media, and, from there, plopped into the disbelieving ears of fans of all club persuasions. Again, hardly a hanging offence, most people found the error charmingly amusing although how our Andre reacted remains unrecorded.
His opening game-months were usefully employed deputising for the long term injured Kieran Gibbs. His equaliser at 2-2 against West Bromwich Albion laid the foundations for what really was a crucial 3-2 victory last spring. Sadly, an on-the-pitch injury led to time spent, in a foreign land, off it. As the club continued to wrestle publicly with the fall out from Fabregas’s departure, the possibly less than settled Brazilian found himself struggling to get established in an unsettled Arsenal side, despite being the no doubt proud possessor of the senior-status No 11 shirt.
It seems hard to fathom that a player as familiar with Twitter as Santos seemed to be, could have missed the eye-brows arched by the club’s supporters at the activities of Robin van Persie during 2012’s Summer of Love.
Yet the start of the new season was celebrated by Andre with a run-in – nay, drive-in – with the Hertfordshire Constabulary, when the gay, sorry, guy was allegedly chased in rush-hour traffic driving his Maserati Gran Turismo in and out of the M25 at speeds approaching 130 mph. I live very near this particular stretch of the English Autobahn and found myself ruefully congratulating Santos’s success in achieving ANY speed north of a comparatively lively 30 mph. No one was hurt, more a case of hit-the-ball-and-run than the usual hit and run.
Of course, had Andre been driving his other vehicle – the snazzy two door Smart car he reserved for shopping expeditions – it’s unlikely any of this would have happened as there is no way the police would have kept up with said Smart car weaving in and out of heavy traffic as it hurtled, menacingly, towards Tesco. As it was, by August 17th, one of East Finchley’s more famous residents was facing the very real possibility of a two-year jail sentence for alleged dangerous driving and a failure to stop.
Hardly ideal preparation for the start of the season; one can only imagine what Arsene had to say about the matter.
That Andre kept such a beast of a car – the Smart car, not the bog standard Maserati – especially for shopping trips just endears one still further to the man. I can’t say with any certainty whether a souped-up Smart car with tinted windows and outrageous alloys was one of the items freely disposed of to Balotelli’s friends when Mancini’s mad Italian upped his Mancunian sticks recently, but it would seem highly unlikely.
Over the years, one of my favourite and most enduring images associated with players of Arsenal is the one I have in my mind’s eye of Martin Keown’s reaction to van Nistelrooy’s missed penalty. The odds against this display of playful posturing being followed up with a request from Martin to swap shirts with dearest Ruudy at the game’s conclusion is to this day still being calculated.
But Shirt Gate came and went in November and with it, Santos’ place in the hearts of many Gooners. That cuddly, loveable, friendly Andre, still struggling for form and possibly fitness, should sacrifice his Arsenal career on the altar of the despicable Dutchman’s vanity is a matter of the deepest regret. Assuming, of course, this is what has actually happened. To my mind, although ill-advised, I don’t think this in itself has led to the player’s exit. More likely, perhaps, a largely unsettled man, struggling a long way from home in an unsettled side, lost his focus on the job in hand. Taking on Plod at London Colney is one thing. But a failure to properly translate his World Class potential into a genuine Arsenal-Grade left back is probably the nub of it. Everything else merely hastened his exit.
But had he been a little more fortunate, slightly better advised and more settled, I could still have imagined this most talented of players carving out an integral place for himself in the side.
Today, Arsene is a man in a hurry, someone working all hours to deliver a side capable of taking on and beating all and sundry, and winning everything put before it.
Today, Andre Santos is a man heading back to Brazil, and a club called Gremio.
In a country where one might (quite possibly wrongly) imagine the police shooting anyone failing to stop their car on request (imagine explaining that one away in the dressing room), he may finally have found home.
I for one will miss him.
So long Santos, good luck, and thanks for all the (fishy) stories and headlines.
Well some of them, anyway.