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The Diminishing Returns Of Loyalty

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Count Down To Kick-Off: The Clock In Arsenal’s Diamond Level Bar

One of the richest ironies underpinning the world’s wealthiest sport is the way its overall value has risen in apparent equal proportion to the diminution of the loyalty that was once associated with it.

A casual glance across the footballing horizon will reveal seemingly limitless affluence.  Clubs that really ought to have gone bust by now appear to be flourishing in direct contravention of the usual rules of finance and no matter how flimsy the foundations, success continues to breed success, making trophy-orphans of any institution naive enough to worry about the pennies.

There’s little to be gained in running the rule over the precariousness of Manchester United’s financial position.  It’s well known and widely recognised that for as long as they can continue to squeeze global sponsorship dry, they will continue to behave with some semblance of ‘normality’ as a routine championship again comes their way, floated on a tidal wave of leveraged commercial deals that leave everyone else stranded, looking like mugs, in their wake.   The truth is, a long-awaited collapse may never come.  For as long as there are sovereign-sized wealth funds looking for a home, Utd’s commercial journey will as likely as not continue, in one form or another, even if the value of its footballing achievements is diminished by the relentless hawking of assets that are now sweating so hard they can hardly see where to tout themselves next.

And if it’s not Man u, then step up to the gold plate any number of oil or oligarch funded enterprises for a simple variation on a theme.  Whether Financial Fair Play will cut any diamonds is hard to call.  Whether the oil eventually runs out, or the financial bubble within which football currently operates eventually bursts is also up for debate.  If not this year, maybe next.  Or the next decade.  If anything does change, how will we then revisit the on-field achievements of these financially bloated monsters.  How do observers value the achievements of Scotland’s Rangers Football Club now that that former bastion has been brought to heel?  Can the recently re-written history of Lance Armstrong’s contribution to sporting shame deliver any lessons?

To some extent, it almost doesn’t matter.

The fact is that Man u have this season won the championship at a canter, barely breaking sweat.  All the games we have together anticipated, watched and talked and written about all counted, in the end, for very little.

When Arsenal played host to the new champions on Sunday, there was something fairly abhorrent about the whole tawdry affair.  Even beyond the self-evident hollowness of the guard of honour – itself a PR exercise which would only have garnered wider comment had there been a failure to deliver it.

Sure, the current banner boy for vacuous disloyalty, Robin Van Persie, tucked away a customary united penalty and Theo later tucked that same symbol of outrageous greed’s shirt into his own shorts.

But what, exactly, was on display, this long sad day.

Pretty much everything except the one thing upon which the bulk of human endeavour rests.

Loyalty.

The tragedy of modern football is that the one thing it can no longer afford in any meaningful measure is the loyalty that built it up, from its muddy working class roots into the financial behemoth that it is today.

Loyalty has been driven from the highest echelons of the game and is now as relevant and outdated as the bathing machines that once lined the Victorian beaches of England. Once considered a seaside ‘must-have’, they were quietly, eventually relegated to the back of the beaches and, where they exist at all, are now to be found as beach huts.

Where loyalty is still to be found in football, it too has been relegated to a place on the sidelines, little more than a nice idea living in a distant memory.

It’s not just the players for whom the value – or even the meaning – of loyalty has evaporated in the quest to line their trousers.  Few clubs show huge patience with players whose form has diminished through age, injury or other cause.  Man u, ironically, are possibly the most ruthless when it comes to getting rid of anyone not performing to the required standards.  And with super-irony, Arsenal’s treatment of van Persie on the treatment table now stands out like the sore thumb our memory of him has inevitably become.  Because we and the club DID stay loyal to him, not for months but for years and years in the hope he would again come good.  But he went bad and then simply went, in a flurry of lies and misinformation.  In his particular case, loyalty and integrity were two hostages to fortune he was simply not prepared to save.

The evaporation of loyalty as one of the game’s fundamental building blocks is also leaving its mark on the modern day fan.

Time was that only fans of your opponents would truly wade in to crucify your own club’s players yet our own fans can hardly get to the front of the queue of criticism quickly enough to lay into the latest error of judgement from players who literally sweat bucket loads on our behalf, week in, week out.

Loyalty, far from being a precious commodity, has simply ceased to exist, for the most part.  Or at least, this will almost certainly be the case within the next one, two or three years.  The disposability of the modern world has embedded itself within the game we all once loved so dearly.  That a blogsite such as Positively Arsenal exists as it does in the sea of angst and anger surrounded by the critical masses – that it simply looks so out of place for so many followers – is as tragic as it is telling.  Some blame the role of social media in all this but whilst the amplification this brings to the ignorant and informed in equal measure can hardly be denied, simply shooting the messenger is unlikely to change all that much.

Soon, back at club level, it won’t be about ‘building for the future’ but simply about who has secured the best, most lucrative sponsorship deals, the cleanest credit lines, the most generous sovereign-scale benefactor.  Those will become the criteria upon which modern ‘fans’ will judge the success of tomorrow’s clubs.

That so many Arsenal fans seemingly reject the current approach of The Arsenal in attempting to build, sustainably, for the future, could well be the final straw that kills off this brave old world.

The off-pitch emptiness of passion and spirit on display at the Emirates on Sunday, the news of Theo’s shocking shirt swap, the mindless media lauding of the Champions – and their way of doing things – all spell, potentially, the end of what Arsenal have been trying to do.  The vicious turning, by ‘fans’ on perceived weak links – Gervinho, Bacary, take your pick – the complete absence on the part of so many fans of any kind of loyalty for players old and new – spells a new kind of danger for the club.

Nothing, short of winning the league next season, is likely to prevent Arsene from jacking it all in.  I know he’ll give it everything – and most of us reading this will be with him every step of the way – but the odds will stacked against him, one way or another.  Sure, he’s fought the good fight against footballing foe on the pitch and the media off it.  But taking on the third force – that of his own fanbase – will very likely be Arsene’s very own Bridge Too Far.  He simply will not bother and who could – or would – blame him.

With the finest coach in world football gone – and with his lean frame carrying with it the departure of one of the club’s most precious assets – it would seem unlikely that Kronke would do much more than sell out to Usmanov or at least attempt to get some kind of auction going in order to maximise his return.

And with that we will join the mega-clubs and success will be judged on the size of our wealth and our ability to sign this year’s Robin van Persie.  An exciting future?  Who knows – the fans of City and Chelsea don’t look too thrilled these days?  Exactly how proud are they of their respective clubs?  Winning zilch despite the mightiest of investments?  Perhaps if anything, they are feeling a tad embarrassed at their current failures?  All that money spent and they are still, well, rubbish.

And what of us, the Arsenal fans – where will we all be, the season after next?

Will we ever be quite as bothered?

I undertook an official, self-guided, tour of Emirates stadium the day after the Manure draw and it included a visit to the club’s museum.  I’d heartily recommend both, but it is a trip of two halves, if ever.  The first half of the afternoon inside one of the most famous stadiums in world football, spent visiting the players’ changing rooms, medical facilities, press rooms, going pitchside, checking out Diamond Club level and all the rest of it.  None of which will likely change all that much regardless of who owns the club or how it ends up being run.  All of it beyond impressive.  But sitting on Arsene’s actual pitchside seat was a remarkable experience.  He is so close to his own fans he can hear absolutely everything.  And always could.

The visit to the museum shortly afterwards was possibly the most revealing of my activities of the preceding two days as exhibit after exhibit of Arsenal greats – players and managers – bore testament to a century and more of the incredible human achievements and results borne from the one thing that is today in such grievously short supply from so many sides.

Loyalty.

About ArsenalAndrew

Annoying, perennial optimist and lifelong supporter of the finest football club the world has ever seen. My support for the club manager and every single player is non-negotiable, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Retain all options on fellow fans.

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92 comments on “The Diminishing Returns Of Loyalty

  1. Anicoll, the problem is not whether he is funny or not. It was that he used a word that many consider to be disrespectful to black people. He lacks wisdom.

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  2. Good way to move on, Paul-N, thanks. I think it is clear that he wants to play for Real Sociedad is it not? I like him though. Impossible not to, he never stops smiling.

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  3. I wonder what Arsene has up his sleeve for next season? Something is cooking, that’s for sure.

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  4. I had a strange thought whilst riding around Wandsworth today. Have AW and the unmentionable bloke who manages the unmentionables who bought our own unmentionable formed some sort of pact?

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  5. They seem uncommonly friendly at the moment

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  6. Pact? Oh the Unmentionable Pact!

    No-one’s said anything about it.

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  7. Frank, I get the feeling that Vela has his poker face on. I actually think he would love o come back and prove himself.

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  8. I also think Arsene has something up his sleeve but a Pact with Fergie?

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  9. I think we have already divulged too much, Andrew. I will not mention it again. Never know who is looking in.

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  10. Suffice to say that a friend of mine heard from his cousin on his father’s side, only he is not really his cousin because he was adopted but he has always thought of him as his cousin, that he saw the unmentionable bloke and Arsene Wenger leaving a beetle drive together and they were seemingly dividing up their winnings and snickering.

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  11. Cant find any PFA links and Reg links – cant have been much like his Apollo gig !

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  12. Outstanding read, Andrew. So many good points there and in the comments.

    “The thing is I want to identify with our players when I watch my team…” See, that’s it for me Frank. I don’t know if I have to feel they identify with me, but if I don’t feel some sort of connection, it’s hard for me to care. And it may just be me, but it’s always been hard for me to connect with an entity – whether it’s a club, or a school or university, or whatever “thing” puts a team out there. I connect with people, plain and simple. Either the players, or the coach, or the fans – in the case of Arsenal, I am fortunate to have connected with all three. I understand this idea that the club is bigger than any player, and logically I get that. But if I’m going to care enough to chew my fingernails and hide behind the sofa with my hands over my eyes during a game, it’s going to be because I care about the boys playing the game – plain and simple. Whether they care about me or not, doesn’t bother me so much.

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  13. The mothers of the children whose school served as the venue for the evening were very annoyed because there was an unspoken agreement that the winners would put their winnings into the new school swimming pool fund and these two blokes were only invited along because they were guests of a Dutch family whose son attends the school and as a result of all this the evening made a loss…and the Dutch family refused to make up the difference but did offer to put the organisers in touch with their agent who would gladly organise future functions… for a fee.

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  14. Superbly written as ever Andrew. But my god it’s a bit bleak mate. You really think things are so bad? Not sure I could carry on if I had so little hope.

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  15. I am so sorry, alabamagooner, I did mean the collective ‘me’. By ‘me’ I mean supporters. In other words you are ‘me’.

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  16. Great post Alabamagooner.
    Something I had never realised until I read it.
    But it is surely the case in reality.

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  17. Oh, no worries, Frank. I totally understood what you meant. But still, for me I see it as more of a one-way relationship. I’m sure the players appreciate the fans, but they will never be able to care about us like we care about them. How could they, really? They know nothing about us as people, while we know everything about them, or at least we think we do.

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  18. Such kind words, George. And coming from you – well that’s made my day. (Insert banned smiley face)

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  19. And we came a hair’s breadth from turning Bayern over

    Bugger

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  20. great post and I envy you’re ability to pen exactly what I’m thinking,
    alabamagooner, some people (fans coaches etc.) associated with ARSENAL do more than just appreciate fans they realise their necessity and will put themselves out even when you can see its a hassle, some unfortunately do not.
    When people say you love only the club, its because you’re identification will change over the years I’ve favoured Mancini, Armstrong, nelson, Brady , spider , Davis , Stevie’s going get you , rocky , Bouldy , Kolo , Dennis and Cesc ….now its Jack, Gibbo and Hayden from the u21s. There’s obviously many more including ARSENE however the ground has moved on, the managers have moved on, the players have moved on but the club is still their and the identity is in your memories and in your head. its why you love the club and its why you will be angry, sad, happy and ecstatic. It is in actual fact why you are part of THE ARSENAL.

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  21. Sunday left me feeling a bit bleak, Stew.

    Not the players’ performance nor even the presence of a fallen, former hero and certainly not the result, in the circumstances.

    The biggest disappointment was the atmosphere in the stadium which really was not that great, no matter how they may have ‘miked up’ the crowd for tv and radio. If, in these circumstances we, as the home crowd can’t raise our game for what would have been a MASSIVE victory then it’s probably no small exaggeration to suggest our home advantage isn’t what it could or should be.

    On Monday afternoon, during my stadium tour, when I sat in Arsene’s seat by the pitch and realised – really fully appreciated exactly how close he is to the crowd – then it just brought home to me how uncomfortable things must be on match days at the Emirates, for home players and our management alike.

    Hopefully I’m wrong on every count but there does appear to me to be an unavoidable logic given the way things are going.

    Having said that, all is by no means lost. Two, three or four signings in the summer and a side consolidated, settled and ready for action from kick-off through to season’s end in May 2014 could see a different outcome and it’s certainly what I’m rooting for.

    But the flakiness of so much of our support could yet undo the great man …

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  22. So we are the only team that had a go at Bayern. Beaten on goal agg, no less.

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  23. Nope, I disagree with you, alabamagooner, and you too, anicoll5, I want my players to identify with supporters. No question in my mind that it is a two way relationship. I leave the one way stuff to the likes of Chavski and the Little Mancs.

    I agree with Andrew the in-stadium support is not as it should be and it was not great on Sunday.

    However I do think that the squad is looking very strong and looks even stronger when we look at players coming through. This summer may be the first in a while that we are not troubled by deserters.

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  24. The standard has gone up

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  25. As others have said elsewhere – just imagine if Arsenal had lost 7-0 to Bayern …?

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  26. I think when frank and AA say, the support isn’t what it should be, they are being too polite …its shit, its stale and I get embarrassed when we are outsung by a few farmers , fishermen ,actors and plastics every other week.
    thank god our away fans still keep our good name up at other grounds. I always remember TH14 face when he come off the pitch at Portsmouth after wed just battered them and you could see what he was thinking. the crowd is a hundred times worse now.
    many times 60,000 people just clap politely its pathetic

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  27. What an utter smack down.

    If people don’t take note that our team is on the up, they are on something serious. Our win was no luck, we defended superbly and left them to try nothing but long distant shots.

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  28. a_or_b – agree; I think it’s a real problem.

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  29. I was watching and you only heard the crowd a few times. I was shocked to be honest as I thought the stadium would be rockin. Spent more time booing than cheering.

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  30. -” Hi, it’s me, can i come back please? Oh and by the way, alex is sitting next to me, he wants to come back too. please boss? today, my hometown booed me.”

    – Dear Fransesc,
    I hope life is treating you well in Catalunia despite the small current anomaly. Don;t you worry, its just a phase. They will forget about it pretty soon and recognise what you bring to the team. How is alex then? Is he playing much? As for coming back, id be more than glad to have you back but im afraid it will be at the disadvantage to eisfeld and wilshere’s development. I can make an offer though at 100 quid for both of you and sign you on a one year contract basis like i did with the 30 yearolds. Now i do it for players who reach an age from 26 onwards. Please talk about it with tito, give him my best wishes and warmest regards.

    p.s if you manage to put an arsenal top on david villa and stage something ill pay double for all three of you

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  31. ArsenalAndrew May 1, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    oh but why stop there? can you imagine if arsenal had taken out their best players at HOME from the 55th minute? 🙂 very smart there from the barca bench, white flag….at home…mas que un club bollocks …haha

    or

    can you imagine wenger saying ” you dont love me here ” after trying patheticly to make a case for a ball to hand while player is on the floor (hummels) to his “mate” webb…..

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  32. “is this crying pansy the special one people talk about ?”

    Ha ha hunter, nice one!

    Excellent writing Andrew but a bit bleak – I try not to dwell on that aspect of the game and instead focus on the beauty of Wengerball in full flow.

    Poor old ba ba barca (not)

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  33. Excellent piece Andrew. I liked yesterdays write up as well and the comments. Fantastic all around but as Steww mentioned a bit bleak. I just hope our strongest flagbearer AW will prove to be as strong as I think he is and see his project successfully to the end. As he deserves. I hope he is able to block out the static created by our enemies to derail the campaigns and our model. Many will lose their respect for football and sport if the our moral and principled ways come up short against the
    less scrupulous clubs and organizations.
    I know one thing. As long as AW can bare the storm the board and the club will stand by him. And the majority of the fans, I dare say.

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  34. andrew, can you imagine arsenal not having quality cover for cb or fb like barca and real have shown this week ? considering their budgets and arsenals id call that gross negligence. 🙂

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  35. Both Spanish ” giants” have been utterly humiliated. BD all the way.
    FRANK
    I hear and feel your disappointment with the actions of a handful of ARSENAL players specialy that of WALLCOT.
    Couldn’t believe it myself when I saw the interview.

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  36. i just saw and it looks like a 23-week fine to theo minimum…and jack to pee on his face in the showers while he is wearing that shirt..the same one…

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  37. First things first. To Barca – ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
    And Dortmund – there isn’t a single one of their players whom I wouldn’t welcome at Arsenal. Such an exciting side, I hope they can hold their own in the final – maybe even spring a surprise?

    @ ArsenalAndrew
    Whatever people say about being able to attract top players, money is ruining the game. However, I agree with Aman at 11:46 am that “Arsenal is a club guided for the most part by PRINCIPLE.”

    I have to ask, why do you say this:
    “It would seem unlikely that Kronke would do much more than sell out to Usmanov or at least attempt to get some kind of auction going in order to maximise his return.”

    Kroenke disappearing would be totally out of character. Didn’t you write a post the a while ago lauding him for taking a long-term approach?

    @ anicoll5 May 1, 2013 at 12:01 pm
    Terrific comments.

    @ shottagunna May 1, 2013 at 12:25 pm
    I just don’t read anything written by Swiss Ramble or most Arsenal fans about our finances any more – the ignorance and illogicality would drive me insane.

    @ h13 May 1, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    “out of the 60,000 that go to our ground…is there not 1? one person? to hold a banner with the words ” piss off you fat uzbeki criminal” ?”

    ha ha ha ha! (not that we know any such thing about Fat of course – just in case any lawyers are reading.)

    @ h13 May 1, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    -”Hi, it’s me, can i come back please? Oh and by the way, alex is sitting next to me, he wants to come back too. please boss? today, my hometown booed me.”

    ha ha ha ha ha ha!

    Fantastic comments again, people – top posting all round.

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  38. Frank, I hear what you’re saying and I surely understand why you feel that way. Give me a few more years in the trenches and I’ll probably agree with you! But I surely hope my opinion doesn’t consign me to supporting the likes of Chavs or City! Trust me, I’m all in, here!

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  39. I used to be sympathetic to Real Madrid when Fernando Redondo and Clarence seedorf played there, so I knew their fans wouldn’t put up with Jose’s brand of anti-football for very long. Simply put, Mourinho failed at Real Madrid like I knew he would. And how lovely that a team like Borrusia Dortmund, which follows an Arsenal style of management, were the ones who put the final nail in the coffin his reign at the biggest club in the world.

    And now he’s coming back to England, but he doesn’t have Ranieir to build a team for him like he did last time. Without Ranieiri there to pick out the likes of Lampard, Cech etc., he will struggle. Hopefully, for the betterment of the sport, the sooner that piece of shit gets found out, the sooner the win at all costs mentality that shallow, opportunistic bastard espouses will die.

    The only thing that matters about Van Persie is that he is 29 year old who cost the red Mancs a shit load of cash. Fuck him, fuck red Nose and Fuck Manchester United!

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  40. I second that. By the way , that ass kissing jerk was found out years ago. He can always go back to translating if Roman kicks his ass out again.

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  41. There is no doubt that you are all Arsenal, alabamagooner, I had no intention of insulting you.

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