Welcome to the Nationalism fortnight. No football for two weeks unless you count some horrible matches which feature footballing luminaries like Ryan Shawcross tackling the legs out of international powerhouses San Marino. It’s just like the World Cup if the World Cup were held inside of a bone china tea cup and Ryan Shawcross comes along and crushes it beneath his boot. No doubt after he would have a good cry because he’s sensitive.
Since they don’t watch anything other than the England team (and occasionally Spain) this is the time of the year when the British press are unburdened by covering actual football matches and turn instead to human interest pieces on the players and go into hyperdrive on transfer speculation.
There will be the normal fluff interview to look forward to over the next two weeks. You know the kind, where a reporter follows a player like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain around and we get to see what it’s like to be nouveau riche (hint, they buy “rich people stuff”). After that, some dirty secret is revealed (his mum does the washing up) and he tells us all how fortunate he feels to play football for a living and how much he loves Arsenal. If they are really lucky, they get an interview with someone like Adebayor and get to ask him what it’s like to be rescued from darkest Africa and to live in London, the center of the universe.*
The warm glow of that article is usually followed up with one of those hard-hitting investigative journalism pieces where they sit down with a player and get some juicy quotes about how unhappy he is at Arsenal. “I just want to win trophies” and “it’s not about the money” are always good copy because it riles the fan base up perfectly. I know this will shock many of you but these second types of interviews are actually planned out by the player’s management team.
For example, John Cross is reporting that Theo’s representatives are set to have a meeting with Arsene Wenger over Theo’s contract. That John Cross knows this is precisely because Theo’s management team want him to know because he will report it. This has the effect of alerting the fans to the contract situation in order to help put some pressure on the management. I’m sure John will also be phoned next Monday if Theo is ready to “clear the air” over his contract dispute.
That is the typical way these interviews go but Theo’s situation has been anything but typical and I would be surprised if Theo gave the type of bombshell copy that Robin van Persie dropped on July 4th. Theo’s approach to this whole thing just feels more respectful. He hasn’t really moaned about anything and instead has just put his head down and gotten the work done.
I don’t need to read the quotes in the papers to see that he loves Arsenal. His emotion when he scored against West Ham spoke more than any well worn quote in the paper. I’ve also seen it widely reported that Theo stays behind and applauds the away fans and is always the last of the players to go back into the tunnel. I suppose this could all be part of some master plan to force Arsenal’s hand but that’s an awfully cynical position to stake out. No, I think that this is all very difficult for Theo and that if we do see any interview in a week’s time it will be the one that signals the end of his Arsenal career but will be done with the utmost care and respect for the club, the management, and the fans.
Why it’s come to this is the subject of much speculation. It’s no secret that Arsene Wenger has a valuation he places on all players that hove into his field of vision and he won’t pay a penny more or less for wages or transfers. When negotiating with Theo, I’m sure that Wenger had a maximum he was willing to go and we know that Theo’s side wanted more than that. But the difference here is actually nominal. The sticking point is over Theo’s demands.
And what if his demand is as simple as he makes out. That he just wants to be played in a center forward position. How would that work? Would there be a quota? “Theo gets to play 1700 minutes per season for the next four years as a center forward.”? Giving a player that type of guarantee is beyond the pale for a player of Walcott’s stature in the game. Only great players could ask for such a thing and great players never have to. Messi doesn’t need a positional guarantee because he guarantees his position with his play.
None of which begins to touch on the fact that no board would ever put a manager like Arsene Wenger into a situation which forced his team selection on him. Maybe a manager like Brendan Rodgers, but when your manager is a living legend you don’t cut his yarbles off and hand them to a young pup. So, I don’t know how can the club put that (or really any other demand) into Theo’s contract.
However, I’m actually buoyed by this idea that Theo’s reps are meeting with Arsenal’s reps. Perhaps both sides have been swayed by recent events.
Theo has done well to keep his head about him while suffering the ignominy of being dropped to the bench and watching Gervinho take his coveted forward role. That he’s scored four goals in nine apps (seven of which have been subs) is testament to this alone. Your ordinary footballer would have been caught doing lines of blow off a hooker’s chest by now. Perhaps both sides have softened a bit. Maybe Arsene is ready to meet Theo’s monetary demands and maybe Theo is willing to drop his ridiculous contract clauses.
If not, so we are told, Arsenal have lined up Falcao from Athletico Madrid. Falcao is a good player. Falcao would improve the team. But… Athletico Madrid literally just paid £32m to get him on
6 September August of the year of our lord 20122011. And while Arsenal certainly have the money to buy him he would cost something like £15m per year (amortized transfer fee + salary). Do you really think that’s going to happen?
Really? Gee Beav, that just doesn’t seem likely.
*If you can’t tell I am using this ironically then just stop reading. Not just this article, I mean everything. Give up on reading. You’re not good at it.