Tag Archives: Mario Götze


Transfer Porn

A weird thing happened this weekend, something that a lot of Arsenal fans missed because we spend so much time in our own Arsenal bubble. It happened during Southampton’s 3-1 win over Manchester City and no, I don’t mean Joe Hart’s error that led to Southampton’s goal or Gareth Barry’s own goal which sealed the win for the Saints. I talking about a substitution which didn’t happen.

See, Man City went to Southampton with the most expensive team ever assembled on English soil. Sheikh Mansour has already spent well over a billion dollars assembling that team. He pays a lot for the players and then pays them well, the best paid team in the Premier League costs him $310,000,000 a year in salary. And yet, with 7 players on the bench, Manchester City couldn’t name a single striker.

Man City’s bench consisted of Costel Pantilimon, Maicon, Kolarov, Kolo Toure, James Milner Scott Sinclair, and Jack Rodwell. That’s a keeper, two defenders, a defensive midfielder, and three mostly-attack-minded midfielders.

Man City’s manager, Roberto Mancini looked up at the scoreboard, then down the line at his bench and with his team down 3 goals to 1, made three changes: James Milner, Maicon, and Kolarov. That’s an attack minded midfielder and two defenders.

The reason City got into this situation is because they have had problems with the attitude of certain players. Carlos Tevez was one of Man City’s first “big name” signings. They spent lavishly on him and touted him as the symbol of the shift in power from the red side to the blue side of Manchester.


But trouble has always followed Tevez and even with an enormous pay packet Carlos Tevez couldn’t buy what he needs to keep him happy. West Ham are still paying for their encounter with Tevez. Tevez saved them from relegation but because his ownership was muddied, making him ineligible to play in the Premier League, Sheffield United felt like they were relegated unfairly in 2007 and sued the Hammers. Sheffield United won the suit and the Hammers will make their last payment of £6m to Sheffield United in June.

Tevez wasn’t in the City team to face the Saints for “personal reasons”. A tune all too familiar to Man City fans who suffered through a year where Carlos played golf instead of football.

But City started the season with a plethora of talented strikers. They had Dzeko, the 12th man of the season last year, Kun Aguero (their leading goal scorer), Carlos Tevez, and Mario Balotelli — an insanely talented forward. But Balotelli was sold to AC Milan in January, Tevez sat out for personal reasons, and suddenly even the mighty Manchester City, with coffers full of gold, could only muster a substitution of two defenders and James Milner.

If anything this shows me how difficult it is to get this balancing game of players and playing time right. You can’t simply look at the world’s best strikers and say that Arsenal should sign them. You can, of course, but I suspect that you’d admit that you’re living in a fantasy world.

Whenever I write a transfer story I’m cognizant that what I’m really doing is providing you with a fantasy. Something that you can get excited about but which probably will never come true. This January there was the supposed £30m “activation fee” for Mario Goetze, or me comparing Edinson Cavani’s stats with some other player’s stats but really when it gets right down to it, it’s all fantasy.

Transfer stories are porn for sports fans. They are a carefully constructed fantasy world, full of perfect physical specimens, divorced from human emotion, and abstracted from the gritty reality of having to deal with real human interaction. “Can I fix your pipes?” becomes “Can I score some goals for you?” and “Can I head the ball away time and again, keeping clean sheet after clean sheet?”

Like the simplicity of sex in porn, we imagine our team just buying these players and then imagine these players performing physical acts for our team that will bring us to the climax of lifting a trophy.

Sadly, the reality is that even the richest owners in the world can’t just buy whomever they want and when they do they can’t keep the players they have happy, despite paying them a king’s ransom. That’s the reality of transfers and that’s the reality of porn; real people are messy. They have problems that even money can’t overcome.

I’m not saying that I don’t like a good transfer story or that I don’t think Arsenal should buy some players this summer. I’m just saying that I know the difference between reality and porn. And reality is that even Manchester City have difficulty keeping their bench stocked with top talent this season.

And we expect Arsenal to have 3 Cavanis? Fantasy.



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.