Djourou looks like a muppet, seriously, like one of Jim Henson's creations

Deadwood is a gilded cage with no locks: you’re free to leave but why would you?

Deadwood: a tourist trap in South Dakota, USA; a fictional television series aired on HBO; a footballer who is under contract to Arsenal FC who no longer plays but occupies a roster spot, handsomely compensated for his lack of efforts.

I’ve been to Deadwood, South Dakota and it’s a horrible place. It’s horrible because of its history: Deadwood was an illegal settlement in Lakota territory spawned by the Black Hills Gold Rush. But what makes Deadwood even worse is its modern incarnation, a town that glorifies a mythical past where the saloons have sawdust floors, the women dance the can-can, and man can get two fingers of rot-gut from the barkeep.

Deadwood is the kind of place where they have staged shootouts and you can see the Shooting of Wild Bill inside Saloon No.10 at 1:00 pm, 3:00 pm, 5:00 pm, and 7:00 pm. He’s shot four times a day just to make sure he’s dead. After that, there’s a street shootout at 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm, and 6:00 pm in front of various hotels. And the day’s festivities wrap up with the big trial of Jack McCall at 8:00 pm sharp, after which he is hung by the neck until dead, dead, dead. Bring the whole family.

Deadwood is the kind of place where the roads are paved with bricks that are designed to make a horse clopping sound when cars drive past. The kind of place that celebrates outlaw culture with paeans to Wild Bill Hickok at every turn but which, due to the proximity to Sturgis, every building carries a sign stating that outlaw bikers are not allowed to wear their colors. And the kind of place where, for $8.99 you can fill up on all you can eat at the Old Country Buffet conveniently situated just at the end of the main strip.

Deadwood is a gilded cage, with no locks. You’re free to leave if you want but why would you when the 1950′s fantasy of Cowboys and Injuns is so enticing?

Arsenal’s very own Deadwood is somewhere in Hertfordshire, UK and just like Deadwood, USA is a gilded cage; players are free to leave but why would they when the pay is good and the workload is light.

The population of Deadwood, UK has experienced a population boom over the last few years and not just at Arsenal. It once was a place where just Silvestre parked his goods but over the last few years Arsenal have seen the addition of Chamakh, Denilson, Park, Bendtner, Arshavin, Diaby, Squillaci, Santos, and Djourou.

Each player’s reason for moving to Deadwood is unique. After six months of good play, I’m convinced that Chamakh went “lilly livered”. I remember remarking about how brave he was when he first came to Arsenal, he seemed to be willing to put life and limb on line to get his head on the end of crosses. That Chamakh no longer plays for Arsenal and whether that’s down to him just not getting much time on the pitch or whether he took a lump is unknown. What is known is that if Chamakh wanted to play football, not just practice but actually play, he could find plenty of teams that would take him. He may have to take a pay cut but teams would want him: he’s easily as good as Carlton Cole.

Denilson is a good example of exactly what Chamakh could be doing. He’s back in Brazil playing for his boyhood club and by at least some accounts doing well there. I have it on good authority that Arsenal subsidize his wages, along with several other players who are on loan. At some point Arsenal have to decide whether subsidizing a player to play elsewhere is worth more than keeping the guy around to play head tennis at practice. How, exactly, that calculus is solved I’m not sure.

Perhaps the most contentious names on my list of Deadwood residents are Arshavin, Santos, Diaby, and Djourou. Arshavin is the most contentious, I’d guess. You could point to the fact that he has 6 assists for Arsenal this season and you’d be correct. You could also point to the fact that he is “being played out of position” and again, I suppose we could agree on that. Though what exactly any player’s position is at Arsenal would be a major debate. What’s not debatable is that he’s made 8 appearances for Arsenal in the two major competitions this season, all as a sub, and all without getting an assist or goal. Arshavin still has talent and as a result there is real interest from Reading to bring him on and see if he can help rescue their season. He’s not bought a house in Deadwood, but he does seem to be a frequent visitor.

Santos is another who has been shunted off. Officially he’s injured. Unofficially, he was dropped after a torrid performance against Man U and Thomas Vermaelen was preferred as left back through Kieran Gibbs’ injury period. Santos is like Arshavin in that I think he is only a temporary resident and could still have a role to play this season. It’s up to him to grab any chance he gets and make the most of it.

What can you say about a player who is supremely talented but who has only started 18 League games over the last two and a half seasons? That’s 18 out of a possible 94 matches. If it was for any other reason than chronic injury, Diaby would be considered Deadwood. But because it is injury, there are those who hold out hope for his Arsenal career to be resurrected. And unlike Chamakh, Diaby is not in his gilded cage because of a lack of application but rather because he’s just not built right for football. Because of his injuries, Diaby can’t even be moved. He’s not just a resident of Deadwood, he’s the sheriff.

And then there’s Djourou; fourth choice center back, third choice right back and a player who should be more. Who, at age 25, would accept those terms? I can completely understand Squillaci not agitating for a move, because he’s nearing retirement, but Djourou is about to turn 26 and if he doesn’t start playing regularly, he may never play football again. But there he is, Arsenal’s longest serving player, and under contract until 2015, when he will be 28 years old. If he finishes his contract he will have been with Arsenal for 10.5 years. Do you think they’ll give him a testimonial? And if they do, they can hand him the key to the City of Deadwood and make him honorary Mayor for life.

Djourou looks like a muppet, seriously, like one of Jim Henson's creations

The problem is that moving any of the residents of Deadwood is nearly impossible and every big club has them these days. Nani is apparently Deadwood at Man U and only the accountants know how many players are on the books at Man City and Chelsea collecting a paycheck but not playing. Fans seem to think that transfers happen like they did 15 years ago. When a manager like George Graham could say “pack your bags, you’re off to Aston Villa.” Those days are gone, players have all the power now. So, just like Deadwood USA I think we need to get used to the idea that there will be a number of players hanging around, like a carbuncle on the ass of this team, collecting paychecks and gaming the system.

If Arsenal are lucky, they will move one or two of those players I listed above. The most likely would be Arshavin to Reading, but only if Reading will pay for him. No sense in giving away the cow for free when he could still produce some milk. But other than him, I think we might do best to just stop all this talk of clearing out Deadwood. They ain’t going no where while the buffet is hot, the casinos are open, and there’s a hanging at 8:00 pm every night.



11 thoughts on “Deadwood is a gilded cage with no locks: you’re free to leave but why would you?

  1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1ArseChicago

    I think it very much makes sense to give any and all of these players away for free, simply to clear the wages. Even for free, no team wants to pay these wages for these players. Freed up wage space means we can bring in players to hopefully make similar wages but not be a waste in exchange.

  2. -3 Vote -1 Vote +1Saphire N Steel

    Chamakh and Arshavinb’s stories at Arsenal are very sad. Both have many qualities, yet both have allowed, or have been allowed to see their careers nose dive terribly.

    Who is to blame for this? The players themselves and the manager I suppose.

    This is sad as both could have helped us this season and last. Arshavin SHOULD be played in Cazolrla’s spot, allowing the spanish genius (remember when we had a russian version?) to rest up, yet he barely gets a look in. While Chamakh could have been given run outs numerous times, yet wasnt even in the squad.

    To allow this situation to develop and fester to such an extent shows a certain level of negligence on the part of the management I feel and is another sign that Wenger has lost a certain amount of his magic.

    IF there are any grains of truth to the rumours that he doesnt let Bould get to work on the defence, then that would be another potential nail in his coffin.

    Oh and if he doesnt sign any shiny new world class players in january?

    Suffering suckertash that varmint will be on the next stage coach outta Dodge!

    1. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1craig

      Why should we give 1 of the 2 most sought after position on the pitch to a player who is too lazy to work for the team? What message does that send to the team? How will the team defense function when 1 of the players responsible for settimg up the press wont run? I dont buy this Arshavin should play in the middle argument. He might be best there but it would be bad for the team and a terrible message to the squad.

      1. -4 Vote -1 Vote +1Saphire N Steel

        Shucks craig, my original post musta bin too darn complicated for yer hombre.

        The point was and is; they are players who have shown they are good enough, yet have fallen so far down the pecking order, with form so patchy that they’d struggle to get into Reading’s 1st 11. When they should be still considered decent squad players.

        Have you had more than 2 fingers of gut rot pardner?

    2. Vote -1 Vote +1Gerry Lennon

      I have a theory why Ashavin has not been played. It goes like this; Last summer Arsene wanted to sell him. The problem lay in the fact that the best offers were abroad. Arshavin has stated that he wants his family to remain in the London area where they are settled. So he turns down these moves. Fulham were interested, but probably the fee, at that time, combined with wages parity scuppered that move. Now the fee has dropped to a level where even Reading can afford his wages, it seems is a possibility. I think Arsene has taken ‘umbridge’, probably to the detriment of the team, and refused to play him unless it for that last five minutes where he is obviously not going to have a major influence?
      From Arshavin’s point of view, Arsenal signed his contract so why should he move, given his international career is all but over?
      I still cringe a bit when people keep on about him being ‘lazy’. In the Reading CC cup game he ran his socks off for a 120 minutes. Yes, there were times when his frustration at being ignored when he was in space, and got it when defenders were all over him. Not surprising he thought ‘WTF’. Now, when the opportunity to play that ‘hub’ role in midfield, which suits his game best because he is involved all the time, and not like a spare at a wedding, subbing for Santi was there? But AW would, it appears, rather have the final word.
      It is only a theory. But it is one that makes sense of his minimal appearances?

  3. +2 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    Ok, that was depressing…
    If we agree about deadwood players that “every big club has them these days”, I wonder how we compare to our immediate rivals.

    There’s the old argument that we over-reward our deadwood and underpay our stars, resulting in our current roster and recent departures. Or so the argument would go. I think it’s more complicated.

    We have to better integrate our development approach with a equally better effort at trying to attract the right kind of players with the right kind of compensation.

    I think that starts with as ArseChicago opines above, with taking a loss on these guys. We can afford it, right? Right?

  4. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1shotta

    “I think it very much makes sense to give any and all of these players away for free”……And pay their wages as well? Last time I checked these guys have lawyers vetting their contracts to make sure they are water-tight. Long gone were the days teams could simply void a player’s contract and send them packing to the lower leagues.

    But for those who insist, the Court of Arbitration in Sport could certainly teach that contracts are the antithesis of a gilded cage without locks .

  5. +6 Vote -1 Vote +1Zeddington

    I like Djourou and I think he’s decent enough as a 4th choice. It does bother me that he doesn’t seem to want to move on at this time. On the other hand, if we have a decent 4th choice defender who’s not agitating for a move, perhaps we should be grateful. The problem with Chamakh, Squillaci, Park, Arshavin, etc. is that they’re rubbish: they can’t be relied upon to do a job when they come in. Djourou can, for the most part. Thus, I’m happy for him to stay.

    Having said that, I wouldn’t mind if he left either, provided we brought in an equal or better player at good wages.

  6. Vote -1 Vote +1GoonerDave

    Our wage structure is so tight, I wonder if we need to ship out a few players just to offer Walcott what he wants, and to sign a player in the transfer window.
    Chamack is rumoured to be on 65K a week, Arshavin on 85, Squillaci on 50, Diaby on 50, Rosicky on 60K etc. etc. This is simply unacceptable. We are careful with our money, yet we piss away the wages of Falcao AND Cavani every week with these underacheivers.
    I support Arsene Wenger, but this is where he is due criticism I think – our squad could have much more quality with better management of wages, not some communist team, where all the workers get the same wage! Wheres the incentive to succeed?
    We spend the 4th highest wages in the league. So, Arsenal are actually doing ok. Just ok. The fact that we have obviously had nothing to spend recently is what shades it for me. If the financial constraints are releasing now, Wenger deserves a chance to go for it.
    Clearing out deadwood is a vital step. We cannot afford to carry passengers on that sort of money.

  7. Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

    To the point Tim…

    Chamakh, Bendtner, Arshavin, Djorou, Park are few people who are highly regarded in their home country…and have been playing for their country at the top level…and are told by the local press/people that they could stand for the president and can win it handsomely with the outside of their boot..

    For a lot of other footballers…club level performance is a struggle to get a look into the national team squad..For them, they have to keep fighting…either being in all matches for a small team..or being a strong contender in a big team…explains why Denilson want to go out on loan and not stay in bench..or Santos want to come into the big league…

    For the above mentioned players…they are just believing that they are the best and the clubs are obliged to acknowledge their awesomness and use their talent, which they are giving for charity. They love limelight and can put in a decent performance to make a headline like…”Russia’s Arshavin help Premier League strugglers beat Barcelona”..but cannot be arsed to fight everyday to make to the squad..

    Thats also one of those reasons why I like Aaron Ramsey..

    But the national media have stopped singing praises of Chamakh and its time for them to get to a small club and don the saviour gown… Dead wood to some..salt of the earth to others.. but lazy and drifters nonetheless..

Comments are closed.