I think it’s fair to say that being a Gooner these last few years has been pretty hard. Yesterday we found out that a player that claimed to be one of us was in fact not. He wasn’t just a typical modern professional football player (aka money grabbing douchebag) either – but instead was the worst complete and utter Judas, since… well… Judas Iscariot, and not at all who we thought he was. I moped around like a child that had just found out that Santa Claus wasn’t real while all around me celebrated the USA’s birthday on Weds. Whilst in this fog I kept asking why, analysing the statement itself and how it could possibly be his attempt to help Arsenal and not just the hefty kick in the bollocks that it actually is. Surely, not the same “No. 1 Fan” Robin that I thought I knew… not the same guy that said just a few years ago that he loved the Arsenal way. Then a sort of epiphany hit me. I didn’t actually know Robin van Persie – how could I, how could any of us? Modern media has given us this collective delusion that just because we see lots of pictures, watch them play and read bits & pieces, interviews and ten second opinions, that we know ANYTHING about these guys. I think this puts it all to bed; we don’t – full stop, period, end of sentence, dot, dot, and dot.
We as fans live within utopian fantasy worlds where our club is the best and everyone else’s is shite – this is the one thing that ALL fans of all teams around the world have in common. We look up to footballers as role models and hero’s despite all the evidence to the contrary: the whoring, the endless partying, flippant wrecking of extravagant cars/houses that normal fans could not afford in their wildest dreams and inability to stay loyal to some of the most gorgeous women on the earth. In short the majority feel they are untouchable, by law, by rules or morals. Footballers are just like any other person with means who is in the spotlight; they either believe their own hype and become egomaniacs or find some way to be grounded and understand that the world is bigger than they are. They are paid ridiculous amounts of money, have their names sung by tens of thousands in stadiums and millions more around the globe, have fans name their kids after them and if they are good enough and show no disrespect to the club that allowed them to become this hero – they become the stuff of legend. As I’ve said before though, I do believe that word ‘legend’ is banded about all too often in the 24/7 media-machine era. In the last 20 years Arsenal has produced a handful of real legends, those that showed the proper respect to the institution that is Arsenal FC and to us the fans. You should know who they are and these are the players that those who claim to wish to join such an exulted group should emulate. So please stop calling a player, ANY player, a legend after a single season.
I’ve read the Persie-gate statement far too many times for my health and all I see is cynical PR bollocks angled to stop us holding him to his contract as a childish response to a personal disagreement – most likely more with Gazidis then Wenger (hence that bitchy little finish about holiday), but certainly a fundamental disagreement over something. The fact is that we’ll never know exactly what this disagreement is until one day one of the parties writes an autobiography and spills the beans, until then all the speculation in the world will not give us any insight into what actually happened. Maybe RvP wanted more money, maybe he was unhappy with the way the club was run, maybe he wanted the club to buy Affelay, maybe he truly is upset about his and our empty trophy cabinet and didn’t believe in our abilities (stupid after so many close calls, but there you go), but surely he must have realised the media feeding frenzy he was about to unleash upon US, those he claimed to love, with his words that seem designed to disrupt the whole club for the summer and provide the gutter press with enough material to wank and throw shit over to put entire troops of chimpanzees to shame. However, it does strike me that to focus on these issues is to miss a crucial point: RvP, superstar player though he is, is merely an employee of the club and the very idea that a player ‘doesn’t like the direction the club is going’ is fucking absurd. That’s like the Human Resources VP in a bank walking up to the CEO and Board of Directors and saying the same thing – it’s always going to get the same response – fuck, right, off! Possibly followed by; who the FUCK do you think you are?
RvP is/was an Arsenal FC player; he is/was one of a squad of twenty five and although Captain of the team that’s where his organisational powers stop. He has no coaching badges, he does not have the title Manager anywhere in his job description, he has never run a club, never managed a club. He is not privy to all the workings or dealings of the club and nor should he be for how does an army function if every Sergeant thinks they can hash it out with the General? The problem is that he did have a voice in the team, and obviously thinks it should count for more than it does. If/when he goes he’s in for a shock. He’s first on the team sheet for Arsenal and has sway because the team is formed around him as the fulcrum point, he’s never been as effective for Holland because they are a team of ego’s without a fulcrum or focus point – just ten outfield players all thinking they are ‘the one’ – this is evident by their almost complete inability to score goals at the Euro’s despite a team sheet that ANY team in the world would drool over. He will have no such voice in whatever team he rolls into because they already HAVE their team hierarchy –he’ll be the new kid at school again. His statement is nothing short of an abuse of power and should be viewed as such and dismissed just as quickly.
I honestly don’t know if this is about money (although sadly it looks like it probably is), his want for silverware in his private cabinet or what, but one thing is for sure by not co-ordinating with the club in his statement, by not dealing with his wished for exit in a dignified manner and by going public and starting the biggest shitstorm in recent history he’s destroyed his public image as a figurehead. Whatever club he goes too and regardless of the status he elevates himself to while there, this massive shit-stain will always skid up his back, up from his arse-crack all the way to the name on the back of whatever jersey he wears. He has made a mockery not just of his own words in the last three years, but of those of his father, his wife, his mentor, his teammates and all of us that thought he could be the second coming of the Dutch No. 10 God (blasphemous thoughts I know, Bergkamp forgive me), in short he could not handle the weight of the dignified and mighty Dutch No. 10 he proclaimed to follow. He has tarnished all the hard work of last season where he was our leader, our inspiration and chief dig-us-out-of-a-holer – now he’s just another example of the modern player, one that thinks it’s all about him and not the team. Well – without the Arsenal express supply line, let’s see if you can score 30 next year – Henry couldn’t once he stopped being the focal point, despite being at the Barca pass-pass-pass machine and he IS a REAL. Fucking. Legend!
One thing this is not about is ambition, plain and simple. Two of Europe’s top strikers just joined the club; we’ve been connected with many others, have shaken up the back room staff and are one of the only clubs in Europe to have spent 15 years in the Champions League, we were and I believe are poised to make a title charge with all of the anger, hurt and shitty bad luck that we’ve had since 2005 the constant back stabbing of players giving their all for ONE ‘shop window’ season (Flamoney, PHleb, Adeybackdoor, Na$ri, RvP) and then agitating for a move – all of this has created a siege mentality. We’ve been a hairs breadth (and a sulking exCaptain) away from winning the title on more than one occasion since we last won a trophy, fate and in no small part RvP’s own injury record have screwed us more than once but it has NOTHING to do with ‘ambition.’ Seemingly everyone in the world loves seeing us fail, seeing AW’s pitch artistry collapse so they can point at Arsenal and say “See, we told you it wouldn’t work” followed by laughter and derision. Wenger wants to build on last season’s remarkable turn-around performance as he has the makings of a great team, spirit, grit, fight. It’s all there to see. The idea after last season’s terrible start that we’d make third and return to the Champions league, Tonk our local rivals and whip the most expensive team in the league was just absurd and it’s not been highlighted enough that with a team put together in a very hurried manner after a double stab in the back and despite losing ALL OUR FULLBACKS for a month, missing a crucial player like Jack all year and a cavalcade of injuries, bad luck calls and the constant speculation over our players. Despite all of this, everything that tried to pull us back, Arsenal still made the champions league AGAIN and got to laugh at Spurs AGAIN. No – this is not about ambition for ambition does not guarantee silverwear, this is about how you go about that because RvP’s own actions damage the very same ambition he claims does not exist. You don’t look at someone pitting a Ferrari against a M3 and say “oooo that’s ambitious!” – go read a fucking dictionary.
As predictably as night follows day Alisher Usmanov pops as he does whenever there’s any negative news with an open letter to the board conveniently ‘leaked’ to the press, in a similar manner that ketchup is ‘leaked’ onto a Fish & Chip Dinner. His transparent aim is to rub even more salt into the wounds being collectively licked by supporters that are sick and tired of betrayal. Claiming to care about the stability of the club while simultaneously throwing disarray into the supporters is the sort of Irony that deserves nothing less than capitalisation, italics AND underlining as it’s just so asinine. The fact that only the sensible heads at blog sites such as Arseblog, our own Tim the Enchanter and other sensible minds out there have pointed out the polarising effect that Jabba’s statement claims to be against was of course designed to instead instigate. Wow hasn’t it been successful? It is cuntery of the highest order and is nothing but a power grab while we’re all supposedly blindsided by another hero turning out to be a zero, it’s funny how one letter can change a word to its polar opposite just as a simple statement can change the opinion of a player in complete parallel. I’d have to applaud the beauty of the play if it wasn’t just so spiteful. I’ve already unfollowed a ton of people on Twitter who think Jabba is a messiah; I don’t have time for the simple minded thinking that would believe his statement verbatim without cognizant thought or discussion beforehand. If he really wanted the club for ‘generations’ and was the Abramovich/Sheikh Mansour figure so many have wet dreams about why hasn’t he made Kronke an offer he can’t refuse? He certainly has the money – that’s what those sort of people do; Abramovich wouldn’t blink. It’s not like he’s poor, he made some $1bn odd (do not quote me) from his Facebook investment when they went IPO and he’s claimed to be worth 18 billion quid (30 odd billion bucks). No – he wants to get the club for the least amount that he can and while that’s certainly fiscally prudent, that’s not the M. O. of the great benefactor he paints himself to be, it’s that of an investor. Think of Torres for 50 million squid, Hazard for 32, bankrolling the club for 9 years at a loss etc. you know who I’m talking about. Love him or hate him he buys what he wants without looking at the price tag, fires managers for daring question him and runs Chel$ki like a Tsar of old. I’m not even saying that Jabba wouldn’t be a better owner then Kronke, only time, circumstance and outcome could decide that, I’m merely pointing out that he’s not the man he’s painting himself to be and that should worry anyone that buys into his crap. Maybe Kronke is not either but he’s far less shady the Jabba – read up on his background yourself while you still can because he has an army of lawyers out there silencing all dissenters in the finest traditions of dictatorships throughout history. The crux of my point here is really a message to fellow Gooners, we as a club need to act differently. Jabba or Silent Hill Stan… makes no difference; neither is going to plough their own cash into the club and buy us any titles so we have to put up with what we have.
You might read the above and find it hard to find any optimism in all that’s been said before… but history teaches us that within every challenge lies the seed of opportunity. How we act is the question, and while I’m not a big fan of Baseball here in the US (sorry – it’s there with Cricket in the snooze section of my head), I am a big fan of a book/movie called Moneyball. If you don’t know of it, the story looks at the radical approach that a Baseball club called the Oakland Athletics took to player recruitment in the early 2000’s against all the odds and flying completely in the face of opinion of the time. They like us were successful but year upon year had their best players poached by richer clubs and so at great risk the General Manager; Billy Bean, they took a punt on a different way of thinking. The focus was removed from star players and placed on the team’s performance and analytics; cost per run, on base performance etc. It’s not players but runs that win games (I’m radically oversimplifying here before any Moneyball fans rip me a new one). Using a system called Sabermetrics they used analytical techniques unheard of to build a team of undervalued talent that claimed an American League record for an undefeated run of 20 games on a team salary one third of the well known NY Yankees. The approach was quickly picked up by other teams and it changed the game forever. Before there’s any riots, I’m not suggesting this is emulated in Football, but I am trying to say that there’s always another way… regardless of which investor owns our great club, I cannot see either dumping their own cash into it. One plays the sustainable card; the other seemingly wants to dilute the share base to release funds. Neither is a show-off of Abramovich proportions so however the Share Wars turns out we will not compete mano-e-mano with Citeh or Chel$ki.
On the Robin van Perse situation, personally I think Wenger needs to get RvP out of the changing room asap. He is an influential figure and you don’t want him polluting the dressing room any more then he already has. Flog him for whatever we can get to someone other than a UK team and let him fill his cabinet with hollow tin cups, for trophies represent nothing if not the toil to achieve then no? Even if we take a hit, I would not sell him to Shitty, yes TOTALLY out of spite, they tapped him up and have had plenty of our players, so fuck off. Put Walcott’s contract in front of him – tell him he can fill RvP’s void if he wants too, but sign it or put him on the market too. Sorry to be like that, I like Walcott but I think we have to be ruthless and show everyone at the club that you are in or out – no more fucking ‘let’s see how the season progresses’ shit. THAT play is done. Anyone else that’s vital to the team needs to sign up now or fuck off, plain and simple. Look for a LEADER who will not think he’s above Wenger and give him the Captains armband. Promote a couple of players to the first team that deserve it (my picks are Ryo and LeCouq), hope that Jack & the Bacman are fit and get the new boys settled and maybe bring on one or two more players. RvP was the last of the players that were around during the Invincibles, this is time for a new team to shine and it’s our job to back them considering the circumstances. We have a record of someone standing up when a star leaves; I feel this situation will be no different, the tall tree falling allows for younger more ambitious trees to grow in its place.
We are Arsenal! This club is famous for walking a different path, for moulding stars and being ridiculed for not ‘splashing the cash.’ For not being a fucking Clone and and doing what other clubs do, for innovating and invigorating the game. Citeh looked at Chel$ki and saw that the league was for sale, copied their model verbatim dumped in an obscene amount of cash and achieved the same result. That’s not a challenge, that’s not ambitious. That’s cynical. Ambition is born from doing something not done before, not copying a successful model and proving it works. Contrary to what old football commentators have said the richest clubs are generally the most successful, it’s not new – Madrid & ManUre have been doing it for years and Liverpool before them. All Shitty have proven is that now it’s more expensive than ever to buy the Premier League. Football is a game of inches: A goal vs. a goalpost. A missed pass in a Carling Cup final. A keeper’s bad judgement in a CL Final. A referee bending to crowd whistles at their home ground. A morally destructive broken leg. Success is the ability of going from one failure to the next with no loss of enthusiasm, not quitting when it gets tough. If RvP wants success so badly he needs it bought for him, instead of earning it history will step over his achievements of last year like the dog shit it has become and he’ll be added to the list of ‘could have been’ players in the Arsenal lexicon. There’ll be no statue and no memories of glory goals which is sad, but his is by far the worst betrayal of all those who went before him in trying to sully the name of Arsenal FC. His goals will remain available for sure on youtube, but he will never be mentioned in the same breath as Bergkamp, Henry or Adams.
It’s US that decide who is worth the label legend and who is not; all players, managers and owners would do to remember that – Arsenal is not merely a collection of players, not a stadium, not even a historical monument. It’s a way of thinking; it’s about reinventing the game and playing to our methods not others. I’m immensely proud of all that’s occurred during our xyearswithoutatrophy – for the way the club picks itself up and fights on despite every obstacle thrown at us. These things make us what we are and if we can provide Victoria Concordia Crescit, will that not be worth it?