Once upon a very long time ago, the end of the football season was a time to quit cold turkey, to no longer obsess over the next game, to not twitch nervously like an addict waiting for the next hit. As a compulsive coffee drinker, I have been there.
But the end of the football season means no let up to the craziness. Over recent years, the last day of regular professional football is simply the beginning of the race for the transfer trophy. This mythical competition starts long before the window opens on July 1st and apparently ends on August 31st when the media regales us with tales of winners and losers. Think the insanity of Jim White and Sky Sports deadline day shenanigans.
As most well-thinking football fans are aware, i.e. those who combine their experience with critical thinking skills, the transfer season is essentially a creature of the mainstream media. It is entirely “fake news”, a term football fans could have claimed exclusive rights long before it became associated with CNN and the mainstream media in general.
The English tabloids were the first to prove beyond doubt the commercial media could gain readership and advertising revenue propagating bogus transfer stories. The broadsheets and electronic media have followed suit over the years intensifying with the growing importance of the internet and social media. Like political coverage, the sports pages are now a sea of rumors, anonymous sources, sensationalism and fear-mongering.
Central to any bogus transfer narrative is Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. As I documented in my last blog, the ink had barely dried on his new contract before, that notorious rag, the Evening Standard ran the following headline:
Arsene Wenger given £100m to turn Arsenal into title winners with Alexandre Lacazette, Kylian Mbappe and Thomas Lemar among targets
Although totally unsourced this has not stopped the British and international media from running with this basic narrative. Nobody from Arsenal is ever quoted. To give it a cloak of credibility the press simply repeats related rumors culled from the foreign media who themselves are quoting the English mainstream media. What an incestuous self-serving circle.
There is nothing new here. Name any year past and it is fake after fake after fake. Last year’s bogus transfer news was centered around Wenger signing both Vardy and Mahrez. The fact that an unsuccessful offer was made to Vardy only intensified the cacophony around Mahrez. Three years ago there was the 100% “certainty” of Cesc Fabregas returning to Arsenal. Absent any facts, both stories failed the test of logic and reason, yet the mainstream media ran with them all summer.
Apparently, the panic-sowing and fear-mongering works. No wonder the commercial media repeat the same tactic year after year as a wide section of the Arsenal fan-base falls for it hook, line and sinker. If one reads the recent works of Bob-the-blogger and Tom-the-tweeter, it seems the most successful ever manager of the football club, who guided Arsenal to runner-up in total number of points accumulated in Premier League (second only to the biggest and richest club in the league, Manchester United) is a dithering, frugral, scrooge who is ignorant of the transfer market. The man who brought Henry, Vieira, Pires and Petit to Arsenal, and from them earned great success, is apparently incapable of identifying top talent. Not signing comparably talented players in recent years in their eyes has nothing to do with Arsenal being out-priced in the French market by bigger richer clubs in Europe, including the nouveau riches like PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City.
The latest round of stupidity being spouted by Bob and Tom is a variation of Tony Adams’ massive “revelation” that Wenger is not very good at coaching. Apparently he is “lucky”. Last season he was lucky when he panicked and went three at the back in April and had 9 victories in his last 10 games. They conveniently miss Wenger’s disclosure that he and his coaching staff had been pondering the change from the preceding November but were reluctant to impose it prematurely. Similarly he panicked two years earlier when he partnered Carzola with Coquelin and only lost 2 of the last 15 games, winning ten. The year before that, he also hit the panic button, when he made Mikel Arteta a holding midfielder, next to Ramsey, and made a storming start to the League, leading the tables up to January 2015 until the Welshman fell to injury. Being so lucky, who needs a manager with his experience and motivational skills who can empower players to confidently take on new roles and be successful at the highest level of the game.
So how do we inoculate fans from the stupidity of the transfer season and save them from self-harm brought on by panic and fear? As the Department of Public Health emphasized in my childhood the best vaccine against communicable diseases is to practice good hygiene. In this case I urge smart, knowledgeable fans to avoid the dirt and stain of the mainstream media.
- Treat transfer stories by the MSM as 95% lies and misinformation. Whether in print or electronic media, almost all transfer stories are unsourced and non-factual. Clubs do not disclose their transfer targets to the media as this is sure to sabotage their efforts. Competing clubs, agents and the selling club can use this information to their advantage and screw over the buying club. If a club discloses any transfer information to the market it is with ulterior motive or the transfer has already been made. The classic example is the transfer disclosures by Arsenal to David Ornstein @bbcsport_david
- Understand the specific characteristics of the transfer market. It is not like a retail store with players on the shelf with their prices disclosed for all to see. Unlike what we have been misled into believing by most economics professors, there are very few if any free markets in the world and the transfer market is particularly byzantine and opaque. Who knows if a player is truly up for sale unless he is eligible for a Bosman. Unlike a fish market, for example, there is no advantage in going early for a player because the listed price by the selling club is often higher than the underlying value. It is inherent to this market for the contractual price of a transferee to be subject to prolonged haggling, like a Persian bazaar, except in football this is done in secret. The selling club is incentivized to invite other bidders so as to inflate the price. As Arsenal fans should be familiar, most selling clubs, aided and abetted by the corrupt mainstream media, use Arsene Wenger’s supposed interest in a player as a sure-fire way to stimulate a bidding war. Only a sugar-daddy noveau riche club will rush-in early in the window and pay over the odds for a player or the buying club is Ed Woodward’s Manchester United.
- Be knowledgeable about the needs of your club. Despite overwhelming evidence and research by this blog demonstrating that Arsenal has The Lightest Midfield In 6 Years and the injuries over the past two years to Santi Cazorla, that magical deep-lying playmaker, wrecked any chances of Arsenal competing for the title, there is an avalanches of logic-defying stories by the mainstream media, ITKs, Bob-the-blogger and Tom-the tweeter suggesting that Arsenal is in desperate need of strikers. How many fans faithfully like and retweet posts suggesting Arsene is in for both Mbappe and Lacazette. It is utter and complete nonsense. Go wash your hands if you engage in such tripe.
In conclusion I will rehash what Arsene said one year ago as it is as relevant today as it was then:
I buy players that I feel can strengthen our team. Today you have to be very strong inside the club when you are responsible, not just to buy [for the sake of buying]. There’s always a wave of opinions. I must say people are better informed today – they know all the players. They tell you always that you should buy but when you ask them who to buy, they become much shorter. If you look at the market in Europe, there’s a lot of money available but not many players who really strengthen the teams. If you look at the teams that spend the most money in Europe, they’re not necessarily the teams that won the championships. The global investment of the clubs around us didn’t stop Leicester winning the championship.
The best way to conclude transfers is not to talk about them, which is very difficult in … press conference! We are on the market but I don’t want to talk specifically about any player because that makes it more difficult for me – and it’s difficult enough.
I recommend the wisdom of Arsene Wenger, any day and seven times on a Sunday, over that of the mainstream media, without exception, not to mention Bob and Tom.
Follow me on twitter @shotta_gooner
PS: I am off on my summer vacation later this week so no more of my contrarian viewpoints for 3 weeks. But I will pop in here and on twitter periodically.