There’s a rumour from one of the worst kind of gutter trash newspaper rags this morning that is suggesting Man City are now keeping tabs on Saka’s situation, ready to pounce based on the fact he has two years left on his deal, which I’ll be admitting to you right now that it made me feel uneasy when I read it this morning. I’m not going to link to it because this kind of noise is exactly what they want by getting plenty of clicks and hits to satisfy their ad revenues, but reading this sort of stuff immediately taps in to the ‘footballing fears’ side of my brain, I have to say.
Saka is a lovely footballer. He’s come from our stable, he has performed brilliantly and will have a brilliant career. He’s shown already just how good he is at such a young age and we all love him. And he loves us. But my footballing fear is that the love may not be enough unless we can show him that we are an ambitious club that can fight for trophies and get ourselves eating back at the top table. He has two year’s left on his deal and the club need to move heaven and earth to get him to ink a new deal this summer. And hey, it may just be an additional two years added on, which means we have the same worries in two years’ time, but right now we can’t think of that because if we can’t get him tied down now, the worries will start that he’s being tapped up by the likes of City to join their squad of expensively assembled players.
The other worry I have which is related to this rumour, is that the Premier League is essentially becoming the German Bundesliga, in that there is no real competition for the top prize. I listened to the Arsecast from last week the other day and they were talking about how Liverpool have essentially made the Premier League at least competitive on the surface. But they have won just once in the last five seasons, with Man City winning four of the five. In Germany Bayern Munich have won the league for the last ten years in a row. And I don’t know enough about how German football fans feel, but I suspect they feel like the league title race is a bit of a boring affair, with there being little jeopardy or chance of anyone else getting close.
Even when close on points, it’s not really close, because Bayern buy up the best players from the league and ensure their dominance. Sound familiar? Well how about Man City picking off the likes of Grealish, or Saka if that becomes an option for them, because they can and because they have the money. Of course the media won’t care because they just want to see these big transfers, but the Premier League is becoming a boring one-horse race and if Liverpool don’t manage to continue to squad build the way they have done, if they don’t manage to replace their aging players with those of equal quality, then we’re going to end up with a similar situation as they have in Germany.
Perhaps it is just because I am a fearful Arsenal fan; fearful of losing our best young talent we’ve had at the club like so many other fans are when other clubs who have infinite resources just come in and offer megabucks. But I’d like to think there’s part of me that is saying this because the joy of football is the possibility of success for any team. The Leicester City League win of 2016 gave many of us that. Their FA Cup win and ours to a lesser extent did the same, because we were in eighth and not a great side, yet still won a cup. But the Premier League feels like a bit of a pointless competition to harbour any hopes of winning, because Man City – and within five years Newcastle – will dominate by hoovering up the best players in the league so they can make massive squads, but also weaken their opponents. Man City brought Grealish for £100million and then only played him for 26 of the 38 games in the season. They can afford to bench a £100milion footballer because of the depth of their squad they have built. Nathan Ake and John Stones cost £87.5million between the two of them and they played 28 times between themselves this season just gone in the Premier League. How can anyone compete with £40million squad players?
The simple answer is that they can’t. Arsenal certainly can’t. Back when we were winning titles we would try to take the players off of our rivals (I’m sure we were spuriously linked with Gerrard when he was very young, but we all knew that was never going to happen), but we all knew it was unlikely, because those clubs would demand a kings ransom and we couldn’t afford it. But now, with these financially doped clubs, there is every possibility that they can just chuck money at clubs and with contracts going the way they are – that every player seems to be running them down to the two or one year mark – it gives the selling club no choice but to take the cash and hope for a rebuild.
I am hoping we don’t have to have that situation occur to us, because it feels like every odd season we’ve had that for the last 20 years. It’s frustrating for us as Arsenal fans because we know that as a club we have – and can – be picked off. Ashley Cole was a product of our youth system but he was off for the cash (and also because of what chelski did the trophies too). Samira Nasri decided to run his contract in to the last year because he got wind of big money from City. We’ve had these situations time and time again as Arsenal fans and in the last two seasons it’s felt like we’ve got a bit of respite, but that’s because we’ve had a group of players that few teams seemed to want unless we were offloading for free. We now have a likeable, young and exciting bunch, which is leading to these types of rumours. On the one hand it is good because it shows they are doing well, but the other side of it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, that fearful taste that someday soon we’re going to lose another great talent because of the external influences of other teams.
Anyway, perhaps I should worry myself less on a Tuesday morning before the transfer window has even opened. Let’s just hope the club are making his signature and a new deal the priority right now.
Catch you all in the morning.