Tag Archives: Mario Balotelli


Arsene Wenger’s transfer snipe hunt

I believe that the buys should be over once the championship is started. Somewhere when you are manager, you have to make decisions and decide whether you will be successful with a squad or not.

Once the championship has started, for me, it is ‘OK, the race has started, now you cannot change any more’. And no window in January either. Because it’s too easy to rectify any mistakes that you have made, especially for clubs who have big money. It gives better chances to the smaller clubs.

Arsene Wenger, August 21st 2009.

Every square in my Arsene Wenger Transfer Window Press Conference BINGO card has been sourced directly from quotes by the manager himself. And the upper left square, the one which says “I wish there was no January window” is one of my two favorites (I’ll let you guess the other) because it speaks volumes about the man.

As if his paucity of purchases in January (the only big name player I’ve seen him buy in January was Arshavin) weren’t telling enough, Wenger has been clear about the January transfer window, he doesn’t like it. He feels it gives the haves an unfair advantage over the have-nots and if he had his way, there would either be no January window or transfers would be open all year.

Wenger’s argument is purely economics. A January window gives a disincentive to unhappy players to get on with their contracted jobs since they can earn a move by being disgruntled (c.f. Yanga-Mbiwa). Having just a month to buy players also causes inflation in the market as we have seen with Gary Cahill’s price. Teams know that if you are coming to them in January, with the League half-decided, they have you over the barrel to some extent.

There are other distortions as well, caused by having teams being able to buy their way out of relegation or into a top four spot. For example, today Wenger called it unfair that a team who played Newcastle before January faced one side and that the team who faces them after gets a wholly different side.

You’ll get no argument from me on that point. Wenger is 100% correct that if a team, say Arsenal, were to buy a superstar player, say Radamel Falcao, it would radically change the balance of Arsenal’s team sheet before and after January. Teams facing Arsenal after that purchase would have it harder. But, surely, that’s the point? To make a team that’s harder to beat? That’s why you ever purchase players, doesn’t matter if it’s January or August.

What really perplexes me is that I’m not sure which teams he’s sticking up for here. Arsenal are one of the teams that should be benefiting from this rule. We should be exploiting the January window to add players who will change the fortunes of this club, not moaning about other teams doing it. You don’t intentionally hamper the ability of your team to compete by not taking advantage of a rule that exists because of some philosophical disagreement with the rule. Arsenal are one of the richest teams in the world. Arsenal have a massive cash stockpile, that dry powder everyone at the club brags about.

But I’m also not so sure Arsene isn’t just philosophizing or as you English like to say “taking the piss”. He has, out of necessity rather that in a fit of pique, purchased players in January in order to make his team more competitive. Arshavin, again, is the prime example of this. So, he was, in all likelihood, just talking. Giving the press what they love, juicy quotes to make into headline news.

But despite all that I’m also not convinced Wenger is looking for someone, because all along he has dropped hints about what types of players Arsenal are looking for and they pretty much rule out everyone. Think of it as a scavenger hunt or maybe even a snipe hunt.

  • The player in question must make an impact: he variously describes this as “top top quality” and “someone special”, forwards tend to make the most impact.
  • The player in question must either be disgruntled or play for a team in financial distress: you already know this, it’s nigh impossible to get a player who is happy from a rich team. Kun Aguero? Fuggetaboutit. Isco? Maybe. Cavani? Tough. Falcao? Really tough. Stefanos Athanasiadis? Sure, but see rule 1.
  • The player can’t be cup tied: not so sure why this is so critical to Wenger, Arshavin was cup tied when we bought him, could be a smoke screen.
  • Not from France: Wenger was unequivocal about this today “you can cut all the French players out [of your list]. Rules out Capoue and specifically Belhanda.
  • Not David Villa: “we are not on the case”.
  • Not Mats Hummels: “I can’t imagine Dortmund selling their defenders in the middle of the season”.
  • Not Diame: “we have not approached West Ham”.
  • “First want to get everyone healthy at the club”: this refers to Tomas Rosicky who it was confirmed is available for selection finally.
  • “Then want to get everyone playing to their potential”: this refers to a plethora of players, Diaby is the most oft cited here.
  • “We have two players in every position”: arguably incorrect, Szczesny-Mannone, Mertesacker-Vermaelen-Koscielny-Squillaci, Sagna-Jenkinson, Gibbs-Santos, Cazorla-Rosicky, Arteta-Coquelin-Diaby-Ramsey-Wilshere, Podolski-Gervinho-Arshavin, Walcott-Ox, Giroud… Podolski, Walcott, Gervinho?
  • Will buy a player if a top quality player comes up: highly unlikely.

I know that there are some twitterati who claim to be in the know about a £30m bid from Arsenal to some team in order to land someone named “Mario”.  I also know that everyone assumes that’s Mario Götze. Sure, why not. I like to dream. But given Wenger’s words, I’m highly doubtful.

Oh, and if you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that Wenger gave everyone a BINGO from the “I wish” square to the “not looking at anyone” today. Congratulations, you just won a can of squelch.


Arteta rises from the dead on Easter day

You only live once

There was a moment in yesterday’s Arsenal match against Manchester City which could be seen as a defining moment in Mario Balotelli’s career and possibly his life. No, I’m not talking about his leg crunching tackle on Alex Song; that tackle was just a symptom of all that Mario represents. The moment I’m thinking of happened shortly after Man City won a throw in on his side of the pitch. He turned toward the camera and you could see, sweating through the blue of his Etihad jersey, the letters YOLO: You Only Live Once.

“You only live once” is not necessarily a bad philosophy to live by. In the hands of someone who wants to do great things for others, like a Mother Theresa or Martin Luther King Jr., “you only live once” gives impetus to getting important shit done. In those folks hands it’s a recognition of how precious life is and how it shouldn’t be wasted on petty pursuits of the ego.

Not everyone can be a great healer of the human race and so in the hands of the average person, “you only live once” can give us an excuse for trying something wild but not necessarily harmful. What the hell, honey, let’s get the turbo charged FIAT, after all, you only live once!

And of course, in footballing terms, I’m pretty sure that I saw Mikel Arteta whisper “you only live once” right before he struck his wonder goal against Manchester City yesterday. He had to at least be thinking it. To take a goal like that you have to be able to put aside your whole team for a minute and try something simply audacious.

In terms of cheek, though, Arteta’s goal falls somewhere between the mundane of taking the family out for ice cream and saving orphan children in India.

But in the hands of a man like Mario Balotelli, the solipsists cry of “you only live once” becomes monstrous. His toxic mix of selfishness, money, and fame combined with this Devil may care attitude is already threatening his livelihood and possibly even his life.

Why not set off fireworks in the bathroom? You only live once! I’ll park wherever I want, damn the parking tickets! You only live once! Yeah, I crashed the car, but hey, you only live once!

The funny thing is that Balotelli’s not even that bad yet. He’s crashed a few cars, shown himself to be a selfish footballer who cares little for his teammates, blown up a bathroom and a few other odd things but I haven’t seen word of him drinking and driving or doing coke. Those are the really destructive sides of “you only live once”; the part where you throw your life away and tell people it’s your life to waste. He’s not there yet, but he’s headed down that path.

I could tell from the first moment I saw Balotelli play for Inter that he has talent. This is a kid who could be one of the best of all time. We are talking Thierry Henry great. Pace, power, skill, and audacity all rolled into one. And the comparisons between Henry and Balotelli aren’t far off the mark. Both struggled in their early career dealing with the pressures of playing at the highest level and both were taken to England from a failed situation by a manager they respected.

But that’s where the comparisons end. Talent wise, he still reminds me of Thierry Henry, but thrust into the insanity of Manchester City, Balotelli has been basically let loose. No history, no leadership, no guidance, and an absolute boatload of money. Mario simply needed to look around at what the club did with failed experiments Tevez, Robinho, and Adebayor to know that it didn’t matter what he did, he was guaranteed a paycheck.

When Thierry Henry was brought to Arsenal, he was introduced to the club’s history by the likes of Tony Adams, and told exactly what was expected of him. Not only that but Arsene wasn’t afraid to sell players like the outrageously talented Anelka at the first sign of trouble.

But as much as I’d like to blame the culture of the clubs and the money that Man City pays to guys like Balotelli, I have to believe that the biggest difference between Thierry and Mario is simply down to respect.

With Titi, that respect started with Arsene Wenger. He recognized that the boss was offering him a second chance at a football career. As he grew into a better footballer, Henry’s respect also grew from just the manager, to the club, and now his respect for the club encompasses all of us fans. In fact, Henry doesn’t just respect the manager, the club, and the fans, he loves them. How else do you explain him taking two hours of his time to meet with the NYC Arsenal supporters after a Red Bulls game?

Balotelli on the other hand seems to have taken for granted that he was rescued from Inter by Mancini. He has taken for granted his teammates who have tried to help him. He has taken for granted the club and all that Man City have done for him. And he has taken for granted the love and adoration the Man City fans gave him.

Yes Mario, you only live once but that’s not the question. The question is did you live anything at all approaching a life worth living?