I’m resolved to stop picking at the itchy scab of Wednesday and the deep wound that was Saturday,2 so I thought I’d distract as many Gooners as I could with something that’s been bugging me lately – the L word. No not love – the ‘other’ L word: Loyalty. The point is that Loyalty is thin on the ground in modern football. With cash being chucked at talented players like confetti at a wedding it’s like the whole of world football has tuned into an expensive version of eBay – everyone is for sale 24 hours a day, players only physically change clubs in Jan or July but the process goes on continually. FIFA have been terrible at putting a stop to the trend of ‘tapping up’ players inthe manner of the Russian’s and C*ntly Cole a few years back or Pleb and the ice cream mystery caper more recently. Every week sees a big shop window called TV coverage have every player in a half decent league put out a big commercial for their services – they play crap and they get ignored. They play well and the big money starts circling. I’m currently wondering what Dewlap’s mighty arms are worth now after being responsible for almost half of Stoke’s 14 goals this season.
What’s this got to do with us? Almost every pundit from Peckham to Peking has noticed that Cesc’s body language is a bit, well, suspect this season. It’s not as positive as last year and despite the constant reassurances of his loyalty remaining at the Grove in the short term, there’s more then a hint of doubt about the mid to long term with the persistent rumour of Barca never going away – he is after all a Catalonian by birth and that is a fact that’s impossible to ignore. I think most Gooners, know in their heart of hearts that one day – the Fab4 will go back to his home town and that day will be a sad one, and one I hope we’ll not see for a good number of years at least. It was this fact that I was mulling over while reading through the reader posts from the Weds & Saturday fallout that got me thinking about foreign talent and Wenger’s much derided youth policy.
It centred around the fact that much, much earlier in the year, when the rumours around Flamoney leaving for AC Milan started to float around which was followed by the damning news in my mind, that his parents were Italian (or at least one of them). As soon as this fact sunk in I knew Flamini was lost, because even if we had matched the AC Milan offer, his heart was already gone. At the time I was pissed, the first season he played well he phucked off (although he had previous in this respect of course) – but then I got to thinking: What if it were me?
What if it WERE me….. perhaps a little reversed though? What if I was a pro player who’d taken a career path away from home into a foreign country – I’d worked my way through to a great club in another land, say…..Jueventus for arguments sake, and I was at the end of a 4 year contract with my manager taking a wait and see approach to my renewal. I’m hitting the form of my life, playing really, really well and helping to turn the team into something very special when, in the middle of contract extension negotiations, I get a call from a Scout at Arsenal saying they are very impressed with me and would like to offer me a 4 year contract for MORE money then I’m being offered by Juve…..MORE money to go to the club of my youthful dreams, to play for the team I supported throughout my formative years? Where do I phucking SIGN? That really is what the American’s like to call a ‘no brainer’ isn’t it?
This turned my mind to Cesc. Plucked from a Barca youth squad and offered the opportunity of a lifetime to go to a club of massive standing and play alongside TH14, PV4, DB10 etc. Playing the role reversal game and pretending I was a Gunner that was snatched at 16 into Barca – around 23-24 I’m going to start thinking of home…… So I think there’s no question of ‘if’ it’s merely ‘when’. It doesn’t even matter if we win lots of silverware – that doesn’t seem to be the issue. Take Ronaldo at ManYoo – they win the double – he scores 41 goals and is odds on favorite for player of the year yet he STILL tries to force a move to a club he’s ‘dreamed of’ as a child in Real Madrid – this is becoming a Premier League issue when players come to the PL for development and glory, make their name and then go back to Europe – obviously I’m speaking about European players here as you generally don’t see Brazillian’s breaking their balls to go back home until they retire.
Why am I saying this? Why twist the knife when we’re still suffering all this pain? To underline WHY Wenger is putting his faith in the youth system. Cesc WILL go – but as long as it’s not in the next few years we should be in excellent shape through Wilshire and Ramsey being allowed time to mature. The odds of these two players staying for an extended period of time are FAR higher then players we’ve taken from the continent at a young age because they’re home (ish) grown and I think this has to be the future of Arsenal’s squad so we breed Dixon’s and Adams’ – players that stay around for life and create the backbone that we’re being told Arsenal doesn’t have. Maybe we’ll see another DB10 or two as well (the Yoof system’s has a good chunk of Johnny foreigner’s) but as they are being brought into the club young and built up through their formative years the chances of them staying a good while are better then say, someone like Le Sulk.
Even the mighty TH14 – who broke my heart when he left – promised to retire as a Gunner and for me, when TH14 left; that was when I thought the reign of an all foreign team was broken – we really needed some home grown blood back in the side. That someone can be SO in love with a club (and he was/is), yet still leave and it makes me think that the mercenary nature of players will continue to become worse. It could be argued that British players will still get stolen by other PL sides, which is perhaps true as it was in the case of C*ntly. However at least with the PL sides it’s purely money and not about ‘home’ or dreams as most British kids generally don’t dream of Real Madrid, Barca or AC Milan.
So in conclusion, the Yoof system is a risk, but so is trying to play ManYoo, ‘Ski & ‘Pool at their own game as all of them (Russian’s aside) look on very dodgy ground financially speaking. The real test of the Wenger policy will be over the next 5 years, and it will mean pain during the development. Yes I’ll agree we do need some experience to firm up the slots we all know are weak, but Wenger’s plan is long term as well and history will be the judge.
At least the Spuds did us a favour beating Liverpool (yuk – I just vommed a bit in my mouth) and left the door open for these boys to prove they’re men. Hold the “we need to sign someone” stuff until Jan – for now this is what we have.