Before I go all Arsenal on today’s proceedings, I’m sparing a thought for the families of those people who lost their lives or were badly injured on Westminster Bridge yesterday, not least because if that would have happened six months ago, I might have been in the thick of what was going on. Westminster Bridge at lunchtime was my regular running route, so it makes you think about your own mortality when you see the scenes from yesterday and whatever your religion, nobody should die at your hands. Let’s just hope those that are injured can be given the best treatment and get their lives back to normal again.
In the world of Arsenal, Arsène has been talking to beIN sports about his own future and also that of Özil and Alexis. Arsène didn’t really say anything about his own future that he hasn’t before, but it was the comments about Özil and Alexis that had me rolling my eyes mostly today. He confirmed that talks had been put on hold until the end of the season so everyone could focus on the remaining games and there not to be any distractions.
Well now you see, here’s where I have a bit of a problem, because I think that comments like that are the biggest load of old codswallop I have ever heard. Firstly, the players themselves, who don’t really take part in any form of negotiation. It is left to their management team and as far as they are concerned they just get on with playing football. It’s not difficult. In fact, all players have so little to worry about these days, that something like a contract would hardly affect them. They have their bills paid, food cooked, petrol probably put in their cars and sponsorship deals all sorted. So why on earth will a contract cause them any kind of consternation? When Mesut has his Adidas boot deal up for renewal, does he and his agent accept that they need to look at all of the details at the end of the season, because making a contractual decision is such a big deal? Does it affect his performance? Of course not. Yes, a decision on who you are playing for is a bigger deal than the boots you make, but every player knows that if you really want out of somewhere you just have to strop. Just look at Dimitri Payet. West Ham said they didn’t want to sell but ultimately they had to give up on him and let him go.
So quite frankly, for Özil and Alexis, this rubbish about wanting to wait until the end of the season to focus on football is insulting to our collective fan intelligence. Both players want out. We all know that. Let’s just get this season in the bin and see how much cash we can get from them.
Perhaps Arsène is protecting the players? I can’t think why, because their performances have hardly helped him out, so he could just as well say ‘the players won’t look at new deals so we’ll try again in the summer but the door remains open for them to sign’. It puts all of the emphasis on them and makes it clear that they want out. Fine. Let them be gone.
What are the odds of them sticking around? No idea, but if you have look at footballbets.tips I’m sure you could find some decent ones there. What chances of a treble including the manager? That’s anyone’s guess right now.
As for Arsène, he’ll have presided over yet another period of football ‘transition’, in which we have been promised that the days of keeping our best players and not being held to contract random yet find ourselves in the same situation as four years ago. And five years ago. And six years ago. Back then we thought it was about money. We scoffed when little ratbags like Nasri told us it was about ambition, but we’ve had money and spent it for some time now, and we find ourselves in the same place. I don’t know about you but when I first heard those types of comments from players I dismissed them, but in the back of my mind I did ‘what if that’s the real reason?’ with myself. At the time it was easier to dismiss than it is now. We’re at a decade of not really competiting for one of the major trophies – by competing I mean Champions League final or semis, or in with a shot of the league with three games to go – and if you’re a player and you’re seeing the same stuff every season, it’s hard to imagine that when you join you’ll be doing anything else with this team other than what happened last season.
So perhaps the ‘ambition’ stick used to beat the club all those years ago was the right stick after all. The money is here now, the players have been brought, but the team still struggles to deliver and front and centre of that is the manager.
I find it ironic that talk is of players having contracts on hold because of distraction, yet the biggest distraction – of excuse, depending on how you want to view it – is that of the manager’s contract. Yet from him there’s no comment or suggestion that he’ll leave it until May. So what he’s saying is that players aren’t distracted by his own future? I call bullsh*t on that I’m afraid. The uncertainty of the manager is consuming the club. It’s eating it from the inside and soon we’re going to have little left other than a hollowed out carcass. The season itself is almost dead. We’re a Wembley semi final away from it. Arsène and the club’s failure to act is giving excuses to players on the pitch, on the negotiating table, as well as in the transfer market I’d expect. How do you get interested in a ‘project’ when you have no idea who the captain will be next season?
We need to see something. We need it soon.