I’m resolved to stop picking at the itchy scab of Sunday’swin and the deep wound that was Boxing Day as well so, freshly returned fromthe desert, I thought I’d distract as many Gooners as possible with somethingthat’s been niggling me lately – the L word. No not love – for if you have nolove for the Arsenal you can sod off right now as far as I’m concerned – the‘other’ L word: Loyalty. The point is that Loyalty is thinner on the ground these days then honesty is in Politics. With cash being chucked at talented players like confetti at the first sign of a decent season – you no longer need to prove long term success it seems – 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 may 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 in the 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 shopwindow 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 scanning through old reader posts from older articles 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 wasalready 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 Igot 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…..Juventus 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 liketo 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 25-26I’m going to start thinking of home…… So I think there’s no question of if it’s merely when with Cesc It doesn’teven 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 42 goals and won the gold balloon as well as every player of the year accolade and the ‘gelled tumbler’ (phrase nicked from BBC Blogger Robbo) STILL tries to force a move to a club he’s‘dreamed of as a child’ in Real Madrid –que acres of broadsheet BS and the Darwin award for stupid quote of the year for the ‘slavery’ shite he spouted. 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 Brazilian or African players 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? Well the point is to underscore WHY I think Wenger is putting such faith in the youth system, he has seen which way the wind is going toblow…… Cesc WILL go – but as long as it’s not in the next few years we should be in excellent shape through Wilshire, Ramsey and Gibbs as those you know of, plus the likes of Henri Lansbury, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Conor Henderson and many, many others being allowed time to mature. The odds of these type of players staying for extended periods 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 more Adams’types – players that stay around for life and create the backbone that we’re being told Arsenal doesn’t currently have. Maybe we’ll see another DB10 or twoas well (the Yoof system’s got a good chunk of Johnny foreigners lot as well of course) but as they are being brought into the club young and built up throughtheir 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 yet see what has happened? For me,when Titi left; that was when I thought the reign of an all foreign team was broken and a pendulum swing towards a need more home grown players clicked – 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! This is what Arsene saw happening YEARS ago…….. and it makes me think that the mercenary nature of players will continue to become an issue for many years to come especially while there is so much money flooding the game. 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 Cole. However at least with the PL sides it’s purely money and therefore about character (or in his case, lack of it) and not about missing home or dreams of XYZ club – as most British kids generally don’t dream of Real Madrid, Barca or AC Milan, well onlyif they want to get badly bullied at any rate.
So in conclusion, the Yoof system is a calculated risk, yes,but then so is trying to play ManYoo, ‘Ski & ‘Pool at their own game, not even to mention Citeh and their newly acquired BFW (Big Fat Wallet), as all of them (Arabs aside) look on very dodgy ground fiscally speaking. Playing the Megabucks game is stupid and in the current climat e, much more of a gamble in the long term. Yes, we may not win as much Silverwear for a season or two then we’ve been spoiled with over the last decade, but it was no different in the past when new ideas were implemented in the game by the likes of Herbert Chapman etc. If we want the Arsenal to remain in English hands and be a force for the next decade then a painful decision had to be taken, one that saw the Academy built, the Grove rise and a new direction on player policy that AW surely knew would be controversial and long term. I’m sure in the original plan he hoped that the Invincibles would remain together longer, but that’s in large part what this youth policy is all about – loyalty. Looking at the alternatives(no-Emirates, selling to a Billionaire and playing the 30 mill a player game) Wenger’s youth plan continues to be the most logical path in my opinion taking thecurrent state of the world into account. I know deep in my heart that in a decade’s time we’ll be looking back on this dry spell and laughing at our complacency.
Happy New Year, Have a good one y’all!