33 Comments

Prizes And Prejudice: Exactly How Much Are We Prepared To Pay For Success?

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It could just be me but I’m struggling to recall a time when there was more than merely the ability of players to be considered when thinking about the possibility of new signings.

Whilst the prospect of Higuain appears relatively free of controversy, only Fellaini and to a lesser extent Gareth Barry have enjoyed the more ‘conventional’ outcomes of debated good enough/not good enough verdicts being cast upon their vaunted moves south.

The ethical and moral dilemmas many fans of Arsenal find themselves in when wrestling with the Rooney/Suarez demons could likely only be surpassed by news that we might be about to sign Chelsea’s John Terry.

For different reasons, both Suarez and Rooney have been the rotton apple in the eyes of many neutral’s. For some Arsenal fans, the return of Cesc Fabregas to these footballing shores is also not without its difficulties, but for very different reasons.

Suarez is difficult.

For his antics at the World Cup, his unfortunate tendency to use his teeth in attack and the use of language that may or may not be technically racist but to most appears to be sat firmly in that particular corner of the room; he presents problems to supporters simply not used to their club’s reputation being potentially sullied by a player with his kind of baggage.

And Rooney is also tricky for many of us for, well, being Rooney, mainly.

That, but also for his regrettable tendency to play really, really well against us over many years; the absence of any kind of shyness when it comes to cheating (again, awkwardly for today’s consciences, something he has also done to us, with devastating effect), a largely regrettable history of personal PR disasters off the field that have at times made him something of a figure of fun and distaste in largely equal measure in the eyes of many (well, most of us, let’s be honest).

Yet, as I write, both these apparent undesirables seem to have a fighting, biting, diving chance of joining our beloved club. Which means, as supporters of Arsenal we may be shortly in the invidious position of, by extension, supporting one or even both of THEM.

On the upside, at least both are winners.

But for some of us, it’s not just winning that matters – it’s HOW we win. By this criterion, Cesc’s hypothetical return causes us the fewest problems; regardless of his occasional back-heeled lapses on the pitch and a somewhat ‘relaxed’ attitude towards contracts, he was never really known as a cheat; he was always more likely to throw the pizza rather than try to eat it – or his opponents.

One of the luxuries of being an Arsenal supporter is that we were never Leeds.

Or Wimbledon.

We never will be Stoke.

We’ll almost certainly never be managed by Sam Allardyce. Or Tony Pulis.

The closest we came, at least in recent memory, to cringe-making tawdriness is the alleged bungs of George Graham. But then we went and spoilt that by immediately sacking him. We have had the odd player behaving, well, oddly – few will forget the loss of Tony Adams to prison for excessive drinking and Paul Merson was clearly sailing close to all manner of windy excess. All hugely regrettable but rarely the cause of genuine, hand-wringing condemnation, at least at the time. At the time, George (Graham, not Blackburn) shouldn’t have got caught, and drink-driving wasn’t taken as seriously as it is today. Gambling, well, odds are it’s a mugs game, innit?

In some ways, this goes to the heart of our distaste when looking at the possibility of signing either Suarez or Rooney. We have never previously been desperate enough – or ambitiously mercenary – to win at all costs.

We have never previously needed to be.

Sure, we’ve been fortunate enough not to have to fight for our league status on a regular – or even occasional – basis. And we have never required our players to sacrifice their reputations in order to win games, to win the league or at the very least, prevent our opponents from doing so.

But one of the less commented upon downsides to the outstanding success of Manure’s mighty commercial arm is that these huge contracts facilitating their financial riches – which only now are Arsenal beginning to replicate – is that Manchester United HAVE to win. Their marketability depends upon it; their future survival as a top club now relies upon it. This is the price they pay for the scale of their sponsorship dealings. When Rooney dived to win the penalty that enabled his club to end our unbeaten run at game number 49, it wasn’t just to piss us all off mightily. It was cheating with one eye on winning a game and the other on helping to protect and promote United’s commercial interests.

They simply could not afford to have us running away with anything.

And, to some extent, this is the place Arsenal FC now start to find themselves.

As every season goes by, we are seemingly blessed by the opening up of new sponsorship channels. But none of these deals have been struck on the basis of the club resting in mid-table, or, even, doing a Liverpool or Spurs and merely threatening to break into the elite (and, whisper it, never quite managing to do so).

We are – or shortly will be – in the position where we, like Man U, HAVE to be winners on the pitch in order to justify our existing commercial relationships and facilitate the generation of new ones. Not just coming 4th or even 2nd but actually dusting down the trophy cabinet on periodic and timely basis.

The supreme irony of this is that, in future, we will need players of the calibre of Suarez and Rooney, prepared and capable of doing anything and everything on the menu to win for our club. It’s a shockingly distasteful truth but leaving aside these two, it’s worth taking a moment to consider that even The World’s Greatest Player (Messi, not Bale), routinely dives to gain advantage for his side. Yes, he does. And as for the Player of the Year, I’ve actually lost count of how many times Bale has been booked for diving and other simian simulation in the last season alone. (Okay, maybe he’s not been booked for his appearance). None of these players have been cast adrift by their clubs, at least, not up until now.

There will be many Arsenal supporters for whom this will be of very little consequence – many will be happy to adopt a ‘win at all costs’ mentality. Their anguished howling in the columns of Twitter are evidence they are already amongst us. And looking at clubs like Manure, Chelsea and City, it would seem that whilst you are winning, exactly HOW you are doing it is unlikely to be at the top of most fan’s discussion agenda. Even if the rest of the football world views things a little differently …

For those of us who DO struggle with the idea of Wayne or Luis coming to the club, the future could prove almost as challenging as, say, the last eight years or so of sticking by the club come what may, defending it against its own fans as much as the media and our opponents.

Up to now, our club’s quest has been a noble one, based on paying our way, self-sufficiency, ethical behaviour and any number of other white horses of virtuosity that have ridden our way.

But we may look back in a few years and smile at the summer our consciences’ spent so much time wrestling with the prospect of players like Suarez and Rooney.

For many neutrals, Patrick Viera and Roy Keane were brutes of players, always being booked and sent off for cutting loose with the rules and paying scant regard for the health and safety of their opponents. For the fans of both those clubs, they were simply probably the best midfielders in their club’s respective histories. HOW they came to be so effective was rarely criticised by their own fans and today is hardly even mentioned.

If you are a player who courts controversy, for as long as you are a winner, your licence to perform is unlikely to be rescinded. Our tolerance for those living on the edge of what is deemed acceptable will always be greater if they end up on the winning side. And whilst I’m not comparing Viera or Keane to Rooney or Suarez, there is surely some truth in the point that had they not been winners, their playing styles would have caused them to be labelled liabilities and their reputations would have ended up being very different.

And it’s worth remembering that Michael Owen was condemned by few for his World Cup dive against the Argentines – he won a penalty. Beckham was once castigated by all for his soft World Cup sending off – HE was blamed for that loss. No-one said a word about Gascoigne’s tearful semi-final booking as, in the end, it didn’t matter anyway, we never made the final. All three, one way or another, broke the rules, but our subsequent treatment of them all was very different.

If either Rooney or Suarez do indeed join us, some suggest that Arsene can be relied upon to rein in their worst excesses. Which, of course, he could well do.

But who will rein US in, with our expectations of success and tolerance for the behaviour of those who deliver it, wayward or otherwise?

Exactly how much are we prepared to pay for success?

ArsenalAndrew@luckietwit

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.

33 comments on “Prizes And Prejudice: Exactly How Much Are We Prepared To Pay For Success?

  1. Very good Andrew.
    I fear the message would be lost outside of this blog.

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  2. Nice writeup ANDREW. I don’t agree that we are headed that way and we now have to win at all cost at all. And PATRICK was never a butcher like Roy and his ilk. That idiot brought shame to the sport of football. And as far as the current rumors go none will happen.
    Roony for just being himself
    Cesc for abandoning the project and ARSENAL having moved on. We are not yo-yo s after all. Can’t change our trajectory until next time someone forces a shirt on him again.
    And Suarez at 40 mill. Please. We won’t go there and we won’t start trying to win at all costs.

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  3. I blame technology – back in the day I would be entirely ignorant, or almost entirely ignorant, in relation to our signings, and BANG HEY PRESTO – on the back page would emerge SuperMac, or Jeff Blockley, or Alan Hudson.

    Nobody inivited my opinion on who the targets should be, the spotlight was not shone on their views on race, religion or their prodigious capacity for alcoholic refreshment. I never lay awake at night worrying whether Bill Shankly or Tommy Doc was stealing a march on us in the transfer jungle, and nor did I worry that Bob Wall, Bertie, Terry etc were not up to the job.

    Now however, by reason of the ubiquitous – my favourite word so I shall repeat it – ubiquitous scrutiny of every single minute of every single hour of every single day of the endlss transfer window I am forced to fret, to worry, to ruminate deeply on each and every aspect – with the first kick off still weeks away.

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  4. Wonderful, common sense piece Andrew. If only everyone could see that if we were prepared to put up with all the other misdemeanors, excesses and apparent thuggery (as seen by others) along the way, as long we had that wonderful thing we all crave – namely, success – then what difference is it to take another gamble? Especially when that gamble would guarantee goals, worry the opposition as they would know they’d have to watch those players more carefully, which in itself would also create more space for others. A win win in my opinion. A great read mate. (@eppytaff)

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  5. Morning GK – do you not think the new sponsorship deals will put any pressure on the club to ‘perform’, whatever that means? If so, is there not a logic that more deals means more pressure?

    Anicoll5 – I think you are quite right, technology has transformed everything. Some good, some bad and some just plain confusing.

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  6. Morning ANDREW.
    yes ,the pressure will be there and we will improve in other areas of the game to deliver mow that we are over the hump and we can breath a little easier financially. I don’t think our principles will be at risk or how we conduct ourselves on and off the pitch. We have and will continue to be a light onto other clubs and we will continue to play the beautiful game the way it should be played. Most sponsors will recognize and value this model and would love to be associated with our brand and our ways. And of they don’t?? Well there are many more fish in the sea. I for one would never want to be associated with a gambling firm and have their logo imprinted on the RED&WHITE. and I hope that very soon we do replace our current shirt sponsor with another. I wasn’t happy with that association right from get go.
    By and by, PA offers an array of wonderful writers and their distinct styles but I always look forward to your very well written pieces. That’s straight from the heart. I thank PG for providing the platform.

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  7. Great stuff Andrew.

    It’s moral maze stuff.

    There’s also a wonderful irony that certain folks have been decrying Arsene for not spending the wonga (even if he didn’t actually have it, but we won’t go there), and now there is a big hullabaloo at the prospect (however faint) of someone like a Rooney or Suarez joining us.

    “We don’t want that sort here thank you very much”.

    And I understand those fears, and I share them to an extent, but Arsene is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t. Though I know he’ll do exactly what he believes is the right regardless of the outcry. I’ve also seen folks who would be quite happy to embrace the fat Russian (they would need bloody big arms), but balk at the likes of Suarez at Arsenal. The latter is a pantomime villain in comparison.

    Arsene has also just stated he’s not even close to signing anybody. Now I don’t know if this is just bluff, a deflection, whilst i’s are dotted and t’s crossed, but, jeez, imagine the noise if we go into the season without any of those players we have been linked with. I’ll need a hard hat for sure.

    I just don’t know what to think any longer, as ‘Coll says there never were such days, all this intense scrutiny of every silent fart. I’m just going to enjoy the cricket and come back in August and see what has or hasn’t happened.

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  8. Great stuff Andrew,as Harry says-starting the season without having signed any of these so-called targets is hard-hat time, the knee-jerking will reach fever pitch on Twitter after Arsene’s ‘we’re not close to signing anyone’ comment that’s for sure, spoilt bastard alert is switched on.

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  9. Even if no new blood is brought in this summer I’m eager as hell to see what this current crew has in store for us this year. Loving every minute of the preseason games and im so happy to see AW smiling more often . Its going to be a great year and we will be right up there. Injury gods permitting.

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  10. Excellent piece Andrew many thanks

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  11. I love you guys. Listening to some folks at the moment is like a constant nagging toothache (hello Joe! I know you read this!).

    I hope you are right Goonerkam.

    I wanted Arsene to strengthen, if it was possible, I’m not going to lie about that, and I believe there’s still a good chance he will, If he doesn’t, well I bow to his superior knowledge. He’s proved me wrong before. And yup, there’s a helluva lot to be excited about with this squad, players maturing, players settling in.

    I’ll get me hard-hat order in early though, just in case there’s a rush, one for Mel as well then.

    Laters.

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  12. Cheers fellas – “Moral maze” sums it up nicely, Swiss.

    Suspect GK will be proved right – we are hardly likely to abandon the footballing values for which the club is known at least in terms of playing ‘the beautiful game’. But time will tell in those ‘push comes to shove’ scenarios and the more competitive we become, the more frequently those situations are likely to come around.

    Glorious morning at Lords … some brilliant use of the Review system already demonstrated by England.

    Exciting stuff.

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  13. Or not – Cook correctly elects not to use it and Root, who felt he hit the ball fails to get the decision overturned. Fine margins.

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  14. “The latter is a pantomime villain in comparison.” True. I can’t really comment on Biter as I could not be arsed to follow the whole Evra hullabaloo.
    Rooneh? Seems unlikely to me, but then I do know very little. Whatever we think of his technical ability, no matter how good he actually is, he will struggle because of his poor fitness and conditioning. Last season’s start was a shambles. Now, already injured and sulking, he’ll probably look even more like a potatoe when the season starts this time round. Can’t see it happening but stranger things have happened. The positive would be that the player seems to have a good connection on and off the pitch with Wenger’s little wonders. Maybe he’s not such a dick. But I doubt it. He will join Chelsea I guess.

    England win the toss, Anderson gets a rest! Finn is dropped.

    Bad luck for Finn, not sure it’s the right decision to drop him but I thought Tremlett should’ve been in from the start anyway. Is he injured? No idea.

    Big early wickets for Oz! Looks like another great game ahead. I think I’m going to enjoy the sport.

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  15. Don’t stress it too much HARRY. as AW himself said there isn’t much good selection out there for the right price. But I have a feeling he has one or two on his radar and he is just waiting for the competitors to show their cards first. Even with the current we will be neck and neck with chelski for first or second. IMHO. No matter the result you wait and see the product on the pitch this year. It will be amazing. WENGERBALL WITH GRIT… LOL

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  16. Anicoll & Harry

    With reference to your debates with Joe on ACLF, it seems to me that his rejection of Wenger hinges on his insistence that he has had money to spend these last three years. That is the crux. Surely, that is relatively easy to confirm. I think the Swiss Rambler has analysed AFCs accounts and found we made an operating loss last year had we not sold RVP & Song?

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  17. I fear the words ‘Joe’ and ‘hinge’ are not often heard in the same sentence GP !

    Swiss Ramble said, with commendable honesty, and having pored over the accounts that he did not know what funds were available for transfers – nor do I, nor does Joe

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  18. What a thought provoking piece AA? Regretfully, as George opined, I doubt it will cause a ripple outside this blog?

    I do have a slight disagreement with you however. In my opinion, the pressure to win a title, any title, is more to supporters and the media not to our commercial partners. In my experience, the true professionals, who make the decision to be affiliated with a brand, such as Arsenal’s, are basing it on cold hard logic, not on emotion. They would be aware that we have always been a competitive force both domestically and in Europe with a worldwide following based on playing very attractive football, not necessarily winning trophies every year. No wonder Emirates Airlines have chosen to re-up on the stadium and shirt sponsorship at significantly increased outlays. We haven’t won a trophy in 8 years but they are probably one of the most recognizable brands in the world and with the most minimal risk of scandal from Arsenal. Their management must rest easy every night unlike Samsung’s whose PR and Public Affairs executives must live in dread of a possible Berezovsky-like fall-out between Putin and Abramovich. Anybody with an ounce of sense realizes whither goes Putin so does Chelsea. Owners have changes at Arsenal with barely a ripple on the footballing side.

    Frankly AA, it is business as usual at Arsenal. We have a manager who is not only a genius football-wise but definitely not prone to buying over-priced players at the urging of over-emotional fans whipped into a frenzy by the media, bloggers and tweeters. Unlike previous years we are not selling our best players. Those already in hand are improving organically. From that vantage point we can patiently wait out the market until some real values become available. Time is our friend.

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  19. Shotta – many interesting and fair points there.

    I’m not sure I agree 100%; I’m not certain it’s ‘business as usual’ at Arsenal (though I have no way of definitively proving that!).

    But if we are to now push on and fully compete with the biggest clubs in the world EVERY season then it is surely imperative that we grow our fan base. And the easiest way to do this is by winning things. It’s possible that the existing squad could go on to do exactly that but we are led to believe that Arsene is no longer in a position whereby he has to gamble on that being so.

    I agree that we are almost self-evidently a ‘safe’ brand which has it own attractions to would-be commercial partners. But to fill the Emirates and grow our global fan base it’s generally accepted, I’d suggest, that we have to push on from the ‘holding position’ we’ve occupied these last few years. That change is afoot is to some degree evidenced by our activities in Asia this summer. The expectations of our existing players is also indicative of anticipated changes ahead from within the club.

    I think these are exciting times and not to be feared. However, the club may have to change, to a greater or lesser degree in order to handle the challenges ahead.

    As GK says above, it could be that the change is not necessarily as great as some expect; we’ll see.

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  20. Shotta has beaten me to it, I was going to comment along the same lines. I think sponsors have affiliated with Arsenal more for our ‘core values’ rather than the expectancy of a conveyor belt of trophies. Arsenal have a good, clean image and some of the players linked to us, although they would help us win things, could also tarnish the ‘brand’. I can’t imagine Arsenal fans will be queuing around the block to get SUAREZ put on their brand new Puma kit, either.

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  21. As for transfers, I’m very positive we will strengthen wisely but I really wouldn’t be concerned if we didn’t. The squad, as it stands, picked up the most league points from February on and for the first time in years we won’t be weakened by departures. Last season’s signings are all likely to improve on their first season in England, and we can also expect growth from all the young Brits and Szczesny. That’s 11 players in total from which significant improvements are possible/likely. And pre-season couldn’t be going any better so far, so I fail to understand the horrid despair beginning to be exhibited by so many.

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  22. I think we will probably try to reach the level of Bayern. They are a cleaner brand than Manure. Having Said that, they do have Ribery.

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  23. Very thought provoking stuff Andrew. Too bad so many are unwilling to think, huh?

    I’m with Leo, and think Shotta may have buried the lead: “…minimal risk of scandal from Arsenal…”. This is hugely important to corporations, especially multi-national ones. Just ask the Food Network and Paula Deen how well that worked out for them.

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  24. Andrew,
    As Ned Flanders would say, your post today is a real noodle knocker, for sure. So many layers of moral dilemma, which I think my fellow PA posters have very well covered.
    I agree with Shotta and Harry.
    I blame the ‘spend the facking money’ element of the fans, we seemingly are going to be shotgun married to some real lowlifes we neither need and deffinately don’t want, just to please the noisy spoilt brats.
    Madrid always always seem to act the
    Maggot in dealing with us, pity, Wenger has said there is a derth of top quality players on the market- especially at realistic prices. The Likes of PSG are even making city’s money look small beer, this leads to a trickle down effect where Napoli now think their big time with a wad of money.

    And as for Maureen, his only joy left in his life is to troll Arsene Wenger and our Club. If we said we were interested in Joey Barton, he would make a bid against us. The Twat.

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  25. Shit, for the first time in about 15 years the club has finally some serious money to spend.
    And guess what, in the last 6 months our squad finally begins to show their real potential. I’m seriously at a loss finding an argument as to realistically strengthening them unless we go for the messi, ronaldo level.
    Secondly, we are really beginning to look like naive small timers in dealing with A holes like Perez. This is not a dean is better than Ivan point, it’s just looks like we are not used to having money to spend and we are still behaving as if kicking the tires and asking for a cash discount will cut it, when the seller knows you have a wad of cash hanging out of your back pocket.
    I still think last summers signings can go to a higher level this season, and if they do I truly hope we don’t end up with a scumbag at the end of this transfer merrygoround.
    Finally, Andrew – is Arsene still stuck with having to sell before he can buy? I hoped those days were over.

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  26. Excellent post, although if it turns out our club THE ARSENAL loses its unique tradition and drifts into the gutter I’ll look back on it with heavy heart.
    We sacked gg over runne Hague utd ignored it and many will say its the best dirty deal they did since paying for the title back in the early 1900s
    although I was gutted at the time karma gave us ARSENE ,Wengerball , doubles and the invincibles.
    I don’t want rooney or Luis not just because there idiots but they are not what i consider ARSENAL players.
    If it takes us a little longer to win things without them and their like then so be it.
    I don’t want to be wearing a bin bag shouting i want my ARSENAL back like some loon

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  27. This new oil Money has pushed the club (IMHO) and most of us more grounded or realistic supporters wayyyy out of our comfort zone in this transfer market,

    I’m beggared if I can offer a solution.
    I can’t even get the new away shirt!

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  28. A thought provoking read, thankyou.

    If either of the players you mentioned came to Arsenal, I would struggle supporting them them. Rooney, not too much of a problem with, if he kept his rug down and got on with it, Suarez though, too much has gone on to forgive, he would have to find the cure for AIDS or something to earn my respect.

    Maybe that’s what it comes down to as well, can you respect the person and the footballer, then you would feel free to give your support.

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  29. And then again context is everything. Rooney at Arsenal is not Rooney at ManU. Trust that Rooney would (in the highly unlikely event) be infected by style and class of Arsenal players and manager; my personal opinion, yes he is a great player with tremendous energy, skill and positioning and it would be the making of him as a mature player. But as someone said, he is way out of condition; well that is fixable. With Suarez, also highly unlikely, the difference is the same. Our opinion of Suarez is swayed a touch by his vilification in the English media; no he is not as bad or bitter as portrayed, just a normal, spoilt, stupid young man, a footballer with attitude; an exceptional skill no doubt. Playing from the left, he would be electric at Arsenal.

    But I wouldn’t waste time. Neither is likely to be at Arsenal anyway. Our sights are set elsewhere, and that will emerge is the coming week or two. Wenger has a long history of bringing two, maybe three players in every off-season and planning scrupulously for this with a lot of composed huff and bluff to protect his most valued new player decisions. Ivan will be learning the ropes to a large extent. Wenger plays the very, very late cut, as Sachin could do. It’s a truly glorious shot. Wait until the ball is under your very eyes and coax it through the gap to third man boundary. Wait, wait for it, wait for it.

    On which note, we seem to have missed the point. The one player we have bought is an absolute gem, more than potentially (and yet another) one of a kind, a sublime skill on the cusp of a huge career, the perfect timing and signing; meanwhile Campbell, another gem in the early polishing, has his work permit. I resist the tendency to imagine that we, the Arsenal, are stupid.

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  30. Great post ZP – agree with so much of that. Rooney has looked unhappy at Manure since his first failed attempt to flee Red Nose; maybe he lacks fitness at the moment (fixable) and his form is being widely questioned (fleeting) but his footballing class as England’s most important player for the national side is harder to question.

    Similarly Suarez, the possibly deliberate poor behaviour at Liverpool points to sabotage, in my view, an ambitious player trying to make it easier for a smaller club to let him go to a larger one.

    But what of Arsene’s own form – as you rightly say, he’s perfected the whole smoke and mirrors technique ahead of landing his genuine targets which arrive at a fraction of their true market value (as evidenced by subsequent form and contribution).

    So yes, I see all of your points. Suspect he may just land one big signing all the same; a kind of double-bluff if you like! Sometimes a statement of intent can help redraw the narrative and inject extra confidence and belief throughout the club. We will see, though I’d love you to be 100% right!

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  31. Campbell got his work permit?? When did this come about?? Super great news. Bring him in by all means. Lets see what he is made of. There you are then . Just a back up for THEO and the depth chart filling out nice and good. I heard the loan deal for FRANCIS didn’t go through either. Will he stay or we get another loan worked out?? Looks like we are good to go… COYG.

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  32. “Sometimes a statement of intent can help redraw the narrative and inject extra confidence and belief throughout the club.”

    Y’know I agree with that 100% Andrew. It’s a relief to hear it expressed in such a way, by saner voices such as yourself. The real points have a tendency to get obscured and then lost amidst all this noise. To sign someone (like say Higuain ) can do a lot to boost the feeling around the club in the short term, and give it a shot in the arm if you like. Players and supporters alike. Also it shows Arsenal taking control of the situation, it’s a shot across the bow if you like.

    Though, yes, Arsene has that habit of pulling rabbits out hats whilst we are all looking in the opposite direction!

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