1.a mass of straw formed to resemble a man, as for a doll or scarecrow (c.f. Peter Crouch).
2.a person whose importance or function is only nominal, as to cover another’s activities; front.
3.a fabricated or conveniently weak or innocuous person, object, matter, etc., used as a seeming adversary or argument: “The Glasgow Rangers example is something (Arsenal have) got to guard against. They spent far more money than they could afford. We’re ambitious enough but we’re not going too end in the same plight as Rangers. That’s a fact of life so my advice is don’t get miserable about it”.
Peter Hill-Wood sat down with Mihir Bose for a wide-ranging interview which covered all of the public relations points that Arsenal needed to make after a summer which ended in a puff rather than the firestorm of activity that some expected. When the question of whether Arsenal had money to spend in the transfer market came up, after all Arsenal did make a profit again this summer, Peter Hill-Wood had his lovely assistant wheel in the straw man who was conveniently wearing a Rangers jersey and thrashed that straw man to death with the quote above.
Because you see, Arsenal are trying to avoid the bankruptcy that so many Arsenal fans want.
I actually don’t know any Arsenal fans who want Arsenal to encumber $1bn in debt so that Arsenal could buy players like Adebayor, Roque Santa Cruz, or that Ukrainian guy Chelsea paid so much money for who was as big a bust as ever busted. But I do know a lot of Arsenal fans who like to use the idea that Arsenal are avoiding bankruptcy (like Pompey, Rangers, Liverpool, Man U, etc etc.) as an argument whenever Arsenal make a profit in the transfer market by selling off our top players and then bringing in cheaper replacements.
I’ve never heard a single Arsenal fan say that the club should go bankrupt, but I have heard a lot of fans wish that Arsenal were just a little less parsimonious with the money that they seem to be stockpiling.
This argument that it’s either bankruptcy or nothing is so pernicious and thrown about so often that it has become dogma for many. And along with the dogma of avoiding bankruptcy come the concomitant arguments of ”the Adebayor” and “buy for buying’s sake”.
“The Adebayor” goes like this: Arsenal have to be prudent and can’t buy an “Adebayor” because he would cost £50m in transfer and salary and then be a complete waste of time and money as he leads the League in offsides and turnovers per game. No one is suggesting that Arsenal should buy Adebayor, or even “an Adebayor”, selling Adebayor to City was a great piece of business.
Instead, the club should be lauded for buying three of the world’s top talents for just £33m: the same price as one Eden Hazard. But wait… just because we don’t want to pay £50m for an “Adebayor” doesn’t mean that there were zero other frugal purchases that could have been done. Purchases that would increase squad depth.
Of course, conversely it doesn’t mean that the players were there or weren’t there (you can’t buy a player like buying a loaf of bread, I know, I’ve made the argument), but my point is that rather, “the Adebayor” can’t be used to simply dismiss arguments against Arsenal’s frugality. For example, you can’t tell me that Arsenal weren’t overly frugal in the Xabi/Barry deal with Liverpool — because I know for a fact that they were.
Similarly, no one I know is saying that the club should buy for buying’s sake. Just simply buying any guy for £30m isn’t anything I or anyone I know have advocated here or anywhere else.
I know that some football fans are not happy with ambiguity. They crave the simple answers like: buy or don’t buy; genius or waster; bankruptcy or profit; loyalty or betrayal. But the reality is somewhere in between. I suspect Arsene did see deficiencies in the squad and that explains why Arsenal were pursuing Sahin on loan. I also suspect that something blocked that deal (Mourinho, money, player attitude, a staunch valuation of players, salary demands, sell on fee, he wanted a glass of ice-water chilled to exactly 5c before every match) but no matter what stopped that deal it’s completely disingenuous for Peter Hill-Wood to mention pulling a “Rangers” as the reason why Arsenal turned a profit. Arsenal are so far away from that reality it’s actually an affront to the fans to mention them in the same breath: Arsenal have in excess of £115m in cash, on hand, after operating expenses — and don’t be at all surprised if September’s accounting shows that number to be closer to £200m.
Which brings me to the title of my piece. Cesc Fabregas has made what comes across, to the wildly hopeful, as a bit of a “come and get me plea” detailing how “unhappy” he is to be a bench player for Barcelona. This sparks Arsenal fans’ interest because A) he’s still a world class player B) Arsenal have first dibs on him if Barcelona should sell and C) Arsenal are probably his second choice club in all the world, which is nice.
The manager knows what I can offer. But across the three positions that I can play, I am competing with the three best players in the world. I’m delighted to be a part of this team but when a coach tells me I have to go, I’ll go. But I will not make it easy for him to do so, by any means. I will keep going, looking forward to the time that things change. I came here to see out my career.
But here’s the questions we should all be asking: would Arsenal be ready to “go bankrupt” to buy back a player who has a £200m buyout clause in his contract? Even if the club could get that for a reduced fee of £30m plus £7.5m a year in salary? Wouldn’t that also bankrupt us? Doesn’t any transfer price over £13m automatically bankrupt the club? And what if he pulls an “Adebayor” and is not as into this second stint in our relationship as he once was? Would he be a waster? Also, now that we have Santi Cazorla isn’t this just “buying for buying sake?” Or would the team be strengthened by having Cazorla and Fabregas in the squad even if it meant Arteta or Diaby had reduced playing time. Oh and finally, would Cesc “kill” Jack Wilshere or the Ox?
I guess we’ll have to wait until January to find out the conclusion to this thrilling adventure with Straw Man and his sidekick Fabregas!