Arsenal’s summer transfer activity is wholly contingent on the the drawn-out fates of Cesc Fàbregas and Samir Nasri. “Very active” may mean something different for Arsène Wenger than it does for supporters.
The greatest surprise of Arsenal’s summer transfer season is not that the club was committed to being “very active” while doing little so far to suggest this, but that many supporters believed that Arséne Wenger would follow through this time.
This appeared to be a safe assumption and comfortable investment of faith. Both Wenger and chief executive Ivan Gadzidis were forced to be upfront immediately after the season concluded, in order to reassure the growing disquiet on all fronts.
The collapse of last season appeared to confirm for Wenger the irrefutable reality that in seasons past was malleable; inexperience, patient development, and the arguments—based on credible evidence—for being “so close” have lost their influence over plain facts and searing imagery. Wenger was losing his ability to control the debate.
These reasons, among others, justifiably accounted for the repetition of the same mistakes—the loss of focus, the horrifying collapses, the predictable concessions of goals off set pieces, and the listless slow starts to matches against inferior opponents. Repeating these errors is now compulsion, where once they were part of the deliberate process of education, development, experience, and measurement of incremental achievements. Wenger continued to see these problems as part of the pedagogical process, where others see symptoms of a debilitating condition.
Consider the Gunninghawk’s recent comments:
I don’t have a major in business or economics, or pretend to know the ins and outs of how Arsenal FC functions, but I do think that Arsenal’s real problems only started after David Dein was ousted.
Or those of the Onlinegooner:
This business model will collapse sooner rather than later. It doesn’t take a highly paid management consultant to figure this out.*
Liverpool is a bunch of signings who have all been given the same red shirt; Sunderland remind us that being stubborn won’t solve a problem (unfortunately); Arsenal and Joey Barton produce the most unconventional romantic comedy about rage and affection; Manchester United’s alchemy is a form of puppetmastery; Newcomers QPR and Swansea City need to understand when Ian Holloway’s Blackpool is an idol, idle, an idyll, and false idol; Chelsea is still an idea and Stoke is still Stoke
Sunderland 1—Liverpool 1
The new Liverpool lacks cohesion, while the new Sunderland remains stubborn and difficult to beat.
The first opening day match featured two aspiring table climbers. It was important to show off their many new faces to make the claim that they belong in Europe the proof of clubs with serious aims and expectations to play in Europe.
Liverpool continues restoration under their re-anointed king. As an expression of rightful place and desperation, Liverpool followed the 58m spent on Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez with another 51m, spread among four players, including the market-bending16m for Jordan Henderson, which may just be the highest premium paid for “Englishness” in some time. Henderson doesn’t look unmistakably English and his name doesn’t sound unmistakably English (initially he could appear more American) as compared to the very English looking Phil Jones who, the market determined, is valued at the same price. The premium paid for English players is no less perverse than the market of which it’s a part. If Ashley Young is somewhat of a bargain at 16m, then Man U got another one with Phil Jones simply on the value of Englishness.
The on-loan striker makes a lasting impression for both of his clubs.
Carlos Vela scored his first goal for West Brom in stoppage time to mark a dramatic 1—1 finish to the first Barclays Premier League Black Country derby on the 157th occasion.
Arguably considered the best derby on the planet, there is no better way to endear yourself to a new club and new manager than in the midst of a relegation battle with a local rival. This is the kind of contribution that Vela has lacked in his time at Arsenal. Most of his Arsenal goals have come as a late substitute once the match has been decided.
What could be equally valuable for the tender striker was the confidence in his play leading up to the goal. There is no question that Vela is a technically gifted player with pace and an incredible left foot. Unfortunately, for all the skill and talent, there are indications that he is somewhat of an airhead. He missed last year’s Champions league away game at Barcelona because he lost his passport. It’s hard to say whether or not he misplaced it just before leaving town or had no idea where it was and waited until the last minute to search for it. Either way, Vela had learned his lesson. Before the World Cup, he revealed that he now took his passport to bed with him.
For every time he chips the goalkeeper, there is a missed opportunity requiring less expertise. At times he thinks too slowly or refuses to use his right foot. For stretches of a game he will be peripheral, as if the game itself was an unknown language, but then without notice he will do something incisive and exquisite.
The transfer window reveals that the story of contemporary football is a novel without a hero.
Matt Hill, Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The transfer window has closed. It proved to be a dull 30 days 18 hrs. To pass the time, journalists reported on the activities and comments of other journalists who were also passing the time. Once in a while something related to the transfer window was reported. Television coverage of the final day presented segments with player and club representatives talking on cell phones in passenger seats of nice cars moving slowly.
With pupils dilated from boredom, the events of the final hours were excessively blinding. Idle chatter began to cohere, producing a frequency of consistent information. The final few hours were off the hook, seeing Chelsea spend £75m and Liverpool £57.8m.
The aftermath raised questions about the structure and purpose of the transfer window’s current form and the conditions it imposes, which in this case lead to radical behavior. This has brought about the numerous reminders that the sums of money thrown around are absurd and signal a crisis in the sport. This is true, but has become one of those unresolved arguments that are relevant but out-of-date, a little like Marxist studies. It was refreshing, if contentious and flawed, to see Martin Samuel’s take in his post-window analysis.
Samuel argues the benefit of uncontrollable spending. Billionaire owners such as Roman Abramovich and Sheik Mansour have provided a stimulus for a benificent trickle down economics. Sports and politics have fused again in a resurrected Reaganomics. If this doesn’t signal a serious problem in the sport, then nothing will.
Offset by irony, the apology is not purely ideological. Samuel takes UEFA to task for its inability to level the playing field, which has created a void for the wealthiest clubs, serving solely their own interests, to haphazardly drive the movement of capital to clubs otherwise neglected by the governing body.
Samuel takes the example of Edin Dzeko’s £27m transfer fee and follows its diffusion through world football.
Aston Villa, forced to change strategy, attempts to balance youth with survival.
Game winner and game-winning smile…
Martin O’Neill left Aston Villa five days before the season began. He literally had taken the club as far as he could without receiving the significant sums necessary to move two places up the table.
According to many, another reason that Aston Villa hit the ceiling was the perennial late season fatigue. O’Neill minimally rotated his squad, far less than most teams. By spring, his starters were tired and unable to make that final push to challenge for a top four finish.
Owner Randy Lerner might attribute this to O’Neill’s failure to promote promising youth, where O’Neill would attribute this to a lack of investment, despite spending £120m in his four years at the club. The American owner had done everything in his power to reach the next level except spend even more. This acquisition strategy (30 players brought in over four years) had reached its limit and was replaced with promoting from an already strong academy system. This new direction was becoming clear even before O’Neill left.
There were promising young players bubbling up through Villa’s reserves, many out on loan. Beady-eyed O’Neill showed no indication of giving up his way of building a team to challenge the best. He’s not wrong. So far the only way to break into the top four is to spend significantly or excessively. His insistence to stick with established players—players he purchased and whom he therefore needed to succeed—will lead eventually to their best young players leaving for first team opportunity elsewhere.
The success of Arséne Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson is evident on the pitch, but must also be attributed to skills applied throughout the numerous aspects of the trade.
“The manager is a strong guide inside the club and has to establish his authority and demonstrate he is in complete control.”
“I met with David Gill last week and he did not give me any of the assurances I was seeking about the future squad.” -Wayne Rooney
In the span of a week, Wayne Rooney, all but certain to leave Manchester United, had suddenly pledged his loyalty by signing a new long-term contract. The story was resolved as quickly as broke into crisis. It burned fast, gave off bright light and wavy trails of smoke like fireworks or a dying star.
For a week, this Rooney saga proved the juiciest, for it was a football scandal through in through—highlighting the power of the player, the declining power of the football manager, the seedy puppetmastery of the shadow agent, and the illogical financial calculus of a club in precarious times.
Within a few days of the story breaking, Sir Alex Ferguson gave a great press conference. He maneuvered skillfully, with a knife between smiling teeth, to position and influence the perception of himself, the club, and Rooney.
By the time the six-minute speech concluded, there was near consensus that the relationship between player and manager had become irreparable. Rooney would be off to Real Madrid, Chelsea, or, God forbid, Manchester City.
The press conference, which was closer to the briefing of a statesman, aimed to reassert his control over a situation with a number of unpredictable outcomes. He had to cover all of his bases, anticipate countermoves by Rooney, fans, and the media. He walked the finest of lines. Despite the brilliance of his efforts and broad exertion of control, the intricate maneuvering indicated that he was unsure how it would all end.
Rooney’s public criticism of Manchester United’s decline in combination with Ferguson’s press conference very quickly presented a story where it appeared that the media had no need to fill the scandal’s holes with the thinnest of speculation. The facts were hard and required little stretching. Everything between manager and favorite son had been laid bare. The only speculative element lay in where Rooney would go.
Arséne Wenger’s comments about the crisis, recorded the day before Ferguson’s press conference, were matter-of-fact. “Rooney is a great player. I am convinced he will stay at Manchester United because it is his club. They have the power to keep him.”