To Spend Or Not To Spend? Good Question!

I don’t know about the rest of you out there in the Gooner Nation but the Andrei Arshavin saga is doing my brain in. I’m all for openness and transparency but the media is no place to conduct transfer negotiations. In fact any sort of negotiation is difficult to hold in public. Absent the kind of completely open talks that saw the Polish government consent to the legalisation of the independent trade union Solidarno?? (“Solidarity”) in 1981, it’s all but impossible. In that case anybody who so chose could listen in on the talks between union representatives and the government.  
Zenit St Petersburg seems determined to conduct negotiations by media leak. Not helpful. As normal Arsčne has a top value in mind in terms of both a transfer fee and player salary. I make him right. I wouldn’t be at all unhappy to see Arshavin at Arsenal. In fact I’d be delighted. One can never been certain, but I think he’s a fine player who would be an ornament to our playing staff – but not at any price.  
As a life-long trade unionist and former full-time union official I’m all for workers’ rights. Knowing what I know about employment law I could see which way the Bosman case was going to go as soon as he launched the case at the European Court of Justice. Despite access to high priced legal advice it seemed to take the football world by surprise. Why, I have no idea, but it did. Much to the surprise of many, including me, the Bosman ruling in 1995 did not see off transfer fees though.  
Players proved reluctant to let their contracts run out, leaving them no “comfort zone” in the event of injury or loss of form. Clubs signed players on long-term contracts to ensure stability, or at least a healthy transfer fee if a player was determined to move. The legal status of player contracts and freedom of movement was further tested when the European Commission challenged the legality of player contracts as an unreasonable breach of the players’ freedom of employment and movement within the European Union. This resulted in a deal between FIFA and the European Commission in 2001.   
This was tested in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) last year by then Heart of Midlothian player Andy Webster who wanted to move to Wigan Athletic. The court ruled that Hearts couldn’t demand a fee, only compensation equivalent to the salary of the remaining portion of his contract.  
The so-called Webster ruling means that a player can only be tied to his contract for the first three (players under the age of 29) or two years (over 29) of their contract. After that they can move without a fee by buying out the remaining years of their contract. It is this ruling that Arshavin is threatening to use to buy out his contract in November. Zenit appears to be gambling that Arshavin is so desperate to move and we’re so desperate to have him that we’ll up the price we’re prepared to pay.   
For what it’s worth I think we’re right to take the position we are. Arshavin is a good player but not a great one. Not yet anyway. We simply can’t afford to be held to ransom. You’ve also got to question the motives of his agent Dennis Lachter. He appears desperate to cop a big payday by “negotiating” his client’s move.  
As a concept I have no problem with players using agents. For far too long football clubs treated players like indentured surfs, especially in this country. The player should expect to pay the agent for their services. Agents have persuaded many players that they are cost-free and a great boon to them in being able to drive up their salaries and other income.  
This is nonsense. If a club pays the agent’s fee then there is no guarantee that he won’t do a deal that suits the club and the agent but isn’t the best for the player. Its simple economics that if the clubs are playing huge agents’ fees then there’s less money left for salaries. Clubs paying the agents is also an incentive for agents to “bicycle” their players from club to club to pick up commissions. I think Ronaldo (the Brazilian one) suffered badly from this. The Premier League is now quietly lobbying for the new FA agents’ regulations which prevent clubs paying agents to be dropped. Typical. The clubs can’t see past the end of their collective noses.  
I’ve said since the window opened that we shouldn’t sign anybody for the sake of it. Most Gooners think, me included, that we need strengthening, especially in central defence, central midfield and in goal. Panicking and signing players at exorbitant fees and on big wages is likely to be folly in the current climate, especially with the Euro and US Dollar so strong. There’s only one direction income from current sources (tickets, broadcasting, sponsorship/commercial) is likely to go in the next couple of years and that’s down.  
I confess I’d liked to have seen us in for Wilson Palacios, but not at the £14 million Spurs seem prepared to pay. Far too much. All too many clubs don’t appear to have gotten the memo about the economy going down the toilet.  
I’m not against breaking the bank for a truly exceptional talent, but let’s not go silly. We’ve got enough financial headaches to cope with at the moment.   
On the park, I’m looking forward to Sunday’s big FA Cup tie at Ninian Park. Whilst a win would be very welcome and another boost to our decent run, I’d take a draw. I have a feeling that the only changes we’ll see from last Saturday’s team will be Ramsey for Denilson and Fabianski for Almunia. He might also give Adebayor a seat on the bench and play Bendtner.  
That’s all for now, my fellow Gooners.  
Keep the faith!  

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