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Social Media, Lies and The Era of Transfer Hype

Social media is a keenly sharpened, double-edged sword.

If it weren’t for the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and its cohorts, then we would never see as much as we are used to now. We are spoiled as we get to peer ever deeper into the inner annals of our club, and we lap up every second as we devour lasciviously.

On the other hand though, its open nature gives rise to anyone with an opinion – and there are far too many idiots on this earth to avoid stupidity.

Like the Oort Cloud that circles our solar system on its outskirts, with so many opinions floating in the cyber ether, we are peppered with collisions from those who wish to cause a splash and nothing more. They feed from our reactions and they want nothing more than to claw in retweets, likes and shares.

This strategy, although not exactly complicated, has worked wonders. So much so, that new accounts are popping up regularly to spout their rhetoric and self-promoted wisdom.

We are all familiar with a host of these types – the ITK’s as we are all accustomed to labelling them – and their kind are a blight upon the web landscape at the best of times.

But when it’s time for the transfer window to creak open and signal business hours for clubs has officially begun?

The window is open, so let the bullcrap begin

It’s like a cloud of gnats, smelling blood. You can swish your arm at them and take out a few, but the cloud remains, supping at the goodness.

This window is no different, and with Unai Emery’s appointment injecting a little more enthusiasm than in recent years into our fanbase, the ITK brigade have set out their stall and attempted to lure the unsuspecting with their dross.

The gullible can’t be blamed – haven’t we all fallen for a steaming bowl of hyperbole once or twice? – but the proof in the pudding is that these accounts have thousands, tens of thousands – even hundreds of thousands of followers hanging on every click of their rancid keyboard.

Those of us that have learned our lesson are well aware that on the quest for truth, very few actually have what we are looking for – and that is genuine Arsenal news. BBC Sport’s David Ornstein is perhaps the finest purveyor of veritas we have in our midst, but the dearth of real news makes it even more understandable why the bullsh#%%ers are still in action.

A good friend of mine described these phoney’s in the best way, and it rings true.

The sheer amount of player names that are spouted by these idiots means that – by law of averages – they will have a name that they predicted will sign. They will use this emblem of luck to stave off all others who point out that there are 98 other names they have predicted will sign within the last week – and all were lies.

Law of averages.

We know that the inner sanctum of Arsenal is a tight-knit one – and if news isn’t meant to go out, then very rarely will we get a sniff.

So how can Ben from Hemel Hempstead – Assistant Manager at Urban Outfitters – know that Ousmane Dembele is in negotiations with Arsenal? Did he set Sven Mislintat up with a nice pair of chino’s and as a favour, the German gave his number out as a hotline?

Or perhaps Gareth, trolley attendant at Sainsbury’s, made sure that Raul Sanllehi got the last trolley for his weekly shop, and Arsenal’s man behind negotiations was so overawed by this generosity that he confides in Gareth on a weekly basis?

We only have ourselves to blame, unfortunately.

The footballing landscape has changed, and now rumour is almost a currency. Those that make outlandish claims or put their hands up to ‘confess’ that they have insider knowledge of a deal taking place that all fans would love to see materialise, enjoy the spotlight. News, at least the loosest sense of the word anyway, is what we all want, and these liar-mongers are more than happy to fill our timelines with their own particular brand of fertiliser.

Where one succeeds, others will follow, and now we have a giant asteroid field that none of us can escape unscathed from.

This window will perhaps be our worst yet. Links to players we all know won’t sign for us will blot our vision as we look at our screens, and we’ll be swept away in a torrent of crap, saved only by the lifejacket that is common sense.

So, that link that says we’re going to purchase that 60m winger? Give it to them both barrels.

Social media is double-edged remember, and we need to keep that in mind – so cry foul on those spurious rumours.

It’s time to fight back. Buckle up, this window is going to be a rough one.

The Importance of Not Being Idle

The World Cup looms large on not only every football fixture schedule, but every player and manager.

World Cup 2018 in Russia
International football may have taken a backwards step in terms of priority for fans and players alike, but the World Cup is a festival of football that ignites passions unlike anything else. It has no peers, and the 2018 tournament in Russia promises to be memorable for many reasons.
Players in the last few months have had the competition in the back of their mind every time they take to the field in the colours of their club. Players have said this is the case in the past, and appearing at a World Cup will be the pinnacle for many players, so attempting to avoid injuries that curtail their World Cup dream could have impacted their performance.

Regardless, these professionals will hopefully have done all they can to book their ticket on their respective nation’s squad flight. They may be wary of injury, but they also had to maintain form and remain in contention for selection.

Managers will be looking at the World Cup for very different reasons.

The season will have ended and weaknesses that have to be remedied will be first and foremost in their minds. The World Cup is the biggest shop window in football, and this is where the thoughts of players and managers unite.

Players will be looking to put themselves in the shop window – and Managers will be looking for those who do so with the most panache.
Unai Emery and his back room staff will be very conscious of what he needs to address, and his experience will also have given him the heads up that this international competition will ramp up any prices of a player who dazzles on this large stage.
Emery must act quickly if he is looking to do business for a player who is doing the business for his country. One match where they look like a world beater and not only will the player know they can ask for more than before their performance, but their agent will have left them 50 voicemails telling their client to hold out for the best offer.

It will spark a bidding war, and the selling club and the agent will have dollar signs spinning in their eyes.
Arsenal’s recruitment team has no excuse to stand on ceremony. They know that to acquire targets, we must be decisive and move early to get what we need. We now have the added bonus of Raul Sanllehi to aid our transfer endeavours, and the man from Catalunya could well be the secret weapon we need to make sure our own armour chinks are welded over in the most effective manner.

The World Cup is going to unearth some real talent, it happens every time. Players that were previously loosely monitored then show the largest audience that they indeed have the minerals to make it at the top. That they have what it takes to make the difference at our clubs.
With our defence needing major reinvention and our midfield lacking balance at times, all and sundry can see where we will need to invest, and Sanllehi will have a very small window to make it happen before the bidding war starts.

Money strangling football – what can be done?

The football transfer window in recent years has ascended on the crest of a cash-infused wave, looming large over the sport.

It now stands so tall, that it is reaching the point of inevitability when all waves must crash, where the sheer weight cannot be supported. When this particular wave crashes, the ramifications will ripple throughout football.

We now stand at a point where singular transfers outweigh most clubs annual income. The select few continue to dip their reluctant toes in the market, but the top talents that would benefit any team are being purchased for fees that would crush the majority of top flight outfits.

Paris Saint Germain in the summer stepped into the market and made everyone notice. Their jewel-adorned cane pointed toward Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, and the crowd could only watch on as the French club made it rain. No other club could enter the fray once PSG came calling, and they made the Neymar transfer possible only because they could pay money that equals most countries deficits.

The shockwaves created by PSG are being felt in the Premier League too. Before the Paris club were backed by bottomless pockets, the current TV deal in place for the Premiership meant we were bullying the lion’s share of Europe by chucking money at players. Now, prices are jacked up further whenever PSG or Man City are interested.

Simply because the selling club know whatever the price, they will get the fee.

The point where things become untenable is soon approaching though. Transfer fees on average are on the rise, and when it hits a certain level, the rules are going to have to change.

There are options to stop this. Transfer limits on each club, wage caps. These are all processes that have been bandied around for years. Maybe we have already seen the future and not been aware?

Kia Joorabchian was one of the money men who organised the ludicrous transfer of Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez to West Ham. Joorabchian owned the economic rights to both players, and perhaps something along this line may be the answer?

If players in the future had their interests represented in the form of shares, and interested parties purchased shares in the player so they could draft them in for the season? Perhaps loan deals up to a maximum of three years could solve the ongoing money problem?

Whatever the answer, the transfer window arrangement hasn’t helped. It induces panic in clubs and an itchy trigger finger is not the most valued asset when it comes to engineering transfers. The window is universally hated by all managers and for good reason.

Transfers need to change for the good of the game. The level of competitiveness is a healthy one in the Premiership right now, but if City and the big boys continue to spend and subsequently force other clubs to have to spend beyond their means, then that very competitiveness that makes the PL so special will soon wilt.

Virgil Van Dijk for £75m is just another sign that the massive wave is getting bigger. Plans need to be investigated so the future of our game can be guaranteed.

Ozil signs extension – the best window ever?

This is perhaps the best news of all, dependant on your viewpoint.

Mesut Ozil has signed a contract extension after a protracted saga that ebbed and flowed between the German happy in London, to wanting to join Jose Mourinho at United.

Ozil has signed for another 3 and a half years and is now by far our highest paid player on £350k per week.

Regardless of whether the man – or any – has earned this sum of money, what we have to ask ourselves is whether we could have coped without him – would we be less of a team if he had left?

No, we couldn’t cope without him.

And yes, we’d be less of a team.

The facts don’t lie, and since Ozil made his debut in 2013, no other player has made more assists, nor created as many clear-cut chances than our playmaker.

This transfer window improved significantly when Henrikh Mkhitaryan signed. Of course, it was pretty bad to start with when Alexis left, but then we signed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and we were on cloud nine.

We still wanted the news on Ozil though.

When it was confirmed, it made for probably the best transfer window we’ve had.

We’ve pretty much earned this transfer window.

Season after season, we look into the window and watch as the rest of the kids play with their new, shiny toys, while we languish outside, shivering in the cold.

We want those toys, but we’re told we can’t have them. We can’t afford them, so while our ‘friends career around on their racy new BMX, we’ve still got our sister’s hand-me-down, with peeling fuchsia paint….

…and a basket on the front.

So many windows we’ve looked into forlornly and with more than a little envy, but now, WE’VE got the BMX.

And the remote control car. And the Sega Mega Drive.

Gunners look set to lose their Firepower  

Since The Arsenal played out to a goalless draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge during mid-September, they have scored in their next 10 consecutive league games. In all, the Gunners scored 22 goals during those games, averaging 2.2 goals per match, yet

Arsenal find themselves outside of the top four and, more alarmingly, with a lot of unanswered questions that will need to be answered.

Losing Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil looks to be all but a certainty and that will leave the Gunners with a serious shortage of creativity up front. Whether the duo departs in January or next summer, they are the types of players that leave holes that can’t be filled easily.

Arsene Wenger has seen his side score 29 league goals this season, for which Sanchez and Ozil have been responsible for 13 of them, with 7 assists and 6 goals between them.

Alexis Sánchez free kick 1” (CC BY 2.0) by Ronnie Macdonald

Arsenal’s current goal difference is 10 but, without the contribution of these two, it would be -3. Southampton, who currently sit in 11th, enjoy a goal difference of -3, which indicates where the Gunners may possibly be without the influence of these two highly talented playmakers.

With Sanchez and Ozil still at the club, the odds of them finishing in the top 4 remains realistic at 11/4 in the Premier League betting but that won’t remain like that if Arsenal’s creative spark disappears. With them stalling on signing new deals, one has to fear the worst, especially if both leave on a free transfer.

Replacing the likes of Sanchez and Ozil won’t be a cheap task and will carry with it severe financial burdens. Should they let their contracts run down, with Arsenal not getting a penny for either of them, then it seems unlikely they will bring in adequate replacements. Arsenal already had a £92m bid rejected for Thomas Lemar on deadline day and will have to come up with that sort of money again should they want similar successors.

The situation would be a great deal worse if it had not been for the form of Alexandre Lacazette. The Frenchman is the club’s leading goal scorer this season and has looked a class act when given the opportunity. He will score the goals when given the service and so will Giroud, who has 5 goals to his name this season. Losing those players just behind the two Frenchmen may impact both of their goal returns.

When Alex Iwobi came on in the 14th minute for Shkodran Mustafi during the loss against Manchester United, he proved what a star player he is maturing into. His energy, pace, and raw skill caused the United defence all sorts of problems. The young Nigerian international had 6 shots, 3 on target, created three opportunities, and didn’t give the ball away once during his time on the park.

Arsenal Vs Burnley” (CC BY 2.0) by joshjdss

As good a prospect as the young Iwobi is, it still may take a couple of years for him to be turning in performances like that week in and week out. There’s no doubt that, when he does, he will go a long way to replacing either Sanchez or Ozil, which makes sound financial sense as he comes from the academy. Until then, the Gunners need to make sure they have a contingency in place to avoid misfiring in the league.

Arsenal’s Closed Window

We thought that this time would be different.

Even though we had seen it all before.

A fantastic start to business, which put us in a prime position to finally close the gap on the regular challengers for the title. 

Then, the inevitable lull in proceedings, which then led to the demise of hope.

In the previous few seasons, we had gone out early and purchased players in June/July. Not just any players, but of the ilk to push us forward. 

This season’s incarnation of the annual false dawn was Alexandre Lacazette. On a singular basis, the Frenchman is a fantastic addition to the squad and his talents will benefit our team undoubtedly. 

One purchase does not make a team though, only a very glittery band-aid. 

Sead Kolasinac was another player who joined, but the lack of monetary fanfare in the form of a blockbuster transfer fee resulted in less hype surrounding the bulky Bosnian. His skills though, are of the highest order, and I think we have all seen from his pre-season and early Premier League displays, that Kolasinac is an absolute bargain.

A defensive addition, allied with the striking purchase we all craved. Sounds like a recipe for success, no?

The stormclouds on the horizon in the last few years refused to dissipate though, and it all stemmed from the inadequacies in our team which have cost us dearly. 

If we are all able to spot it, how can Arsene Wenger repeatedly refuse to remedy the situation?

The faith he shows his players can mean an extra 10-15% torque from their engines. Players want to do their utmost for someone who has their back, and Wenger always backs his men. The trouble is, the arm round the shoulder can also be constricting and problematic. 

Some get too comfortable, some refuse to push the envelope for progress. We now have a squad that has a capacity for wonderful things, but they rarely find any consistency, they also just as rarely struggle to hit the heights they – and we – know they are capable of.

So, the transfer window enables Wenger to finally rid us of this blight, to use his extensive knowledge of the European game to acquire players that are a perfect fit for the apertures we have in our squad.

Virgil Van Dijk, Jean-Michel Seri, Julian Draxler. Just three names that could replace players that wanted to leave this summer, and not just replace them, but better them. 

Van Dijk is sought after by Chelsea, Liverpool, pretty much the whole Premier League hierarchy. The clamour for his signature is evidence enough that the Dutchman is of the required standard. With Shkodran Mustafi angling for a move in nearly plain sight, why did we not move for Southampton’s star man?

Not only this, but with Gabriel sold to Valencia in the same window, this left us with an injury-prone Koscielny, a retiring Mertesacker, an inexperienced Holding and Calum Chambers, where the jury is out. 

Of course, the transfer fee would have been gargantuan, but Mustafi would have brought in at least half of the transfer fee, so the price cannot be baulked at. 

Then there is Julian Draxler. The German started well at PSG, but the wheels fell off and he is now out of favour in Paris. The fact he was offered to Borussia Dortmund underlines Draxler’s availability. With Alexis practically being photographed shaking hands with Sheikh Mubarak, the left side of our attack was open. 

Why didn’t we go for Draxler?

The fee for Alexis would have been pretty close to that of Draxler. This was a no-brainer. Of course, Lemar was our chosen man, but the fact he too slipped through our fingers typifies our transfer policy in the last decade or so.

Our central midfield is an itch that Wenger doesn’t seem to be able to scratch. When bereft of Santi Cazorla, the mixture of defensive duties and attacking instincts is usually the blade that slips under the ribcage of our title credentials. 

Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka, Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny have all played alongside each other in various combinations, but none seem to stick. Coquelin has the passion, but zero technical ability. Xhaka is a fantastic long-range passer and for making connections, but he is lazy in his defensive tasks. Aaron Ramsey is a fine attacker, but needs a player to sit back when he roves forward. Elneny is a solid 7/10 player, but is simply squad-filler.

Wenger has been sitting in this ticking time-bomb for seasons, and a mixture of belief in his men and apparent beligerence has led to us all suffering the results on the pitch.

We need a midfield destroyer. We need that same destroyer to be able to offload the ball further than three yards without losing it. 

Why didn’t this get seen to? 

Instead of pushing our team on in this window, we have made a profit. Just what the team needs, a healthier bank balance. 

For the first time, we are in September as I write this and I have zero confidence in our team doing anything this season. Treading water with the occasional splash, but until the problems are seen to, we are hindered.

Our squad is strong in terms of numbers, but even the most optimistic of us could see what was needed in this window.

And yet again, we have a window closed on us whilst our faces are pressed on the glass, dribbling over the wares we were promised but are well out of our reach.

Wenger is responsible for this error, and it could cost us dearly as slipping down the ranks means a less desirable place to play for transfer targets. 

The players we have, need to repay what Wenger has given them. Hopefully, that will be enough. It has to be. 

The Transfer Window – Walking the Finest of Lines

Originally posted on Goonersphere

Amidst the plethora of reporters lurking in car parks, impromptu interviews with players and managers via a car window like a montage of Drive-Thru orders, and the garish sea of yellow on your TV screens, there was plenty of departures and shock purchases during the transfer window.

Transfer Deadline Day – the title which now seems to bring with it a whole smorgasbord of promotion and shameless worship of big-money buys – saw Sideshow Bob lookalike David Luiz surprisingly rejoin Chelsea from PSG and give Antonio Conte’s defence an instant weakness, and Moussa Sissokho hilariously lure foolish clubs to bid £30m – spurs won the right to his signature……

Clubs scrambling desperately to improve their ranks, whilst maligned and forgotten squad members slinked toward the exit door. The same players who once were heralded as much as their replacements.

Managers walk the finest of lines.  Implored to spend by the baying masses who fill the stands each week, they search for the marquee signing who will suddenly unlock the potential in the team and ensure a rush to the club shop to buy a jersey with the new boy’s name on the back. 

Bolstering the amount of players inevitably means cutting the squad somewhere – unless you’re Mike Phelan at Hull City and have three players and some free-kick barriers from training in your lineup – and unpopular decisions must be made.

The voices calling for Arsene Wenger to spend money go from fans to pundits, journalists to TV personalities. Memes flew around cyberspace poking fun at Wenger’s apparent reluctance to splash the cash. It is now a reputation that has stuck. Our French manager is now synonymous with counting beans rather than recruiting talent, it seems.

This summer, most could see the glaring weaknesses in our squad. Our defence needed a player who could partner Koscielny, with Mertesacker reduced to capable understudy. We needed a midfielder who could be the dynamic force between defence and attack. We had Coquelin, Elneny and Santi, but another wouldn’t go amiss. Then there was the issue with our dearth of strikers….

So, Wenger defied expectation, and reacted early. Granit Xhaka was brought in, and his class is undeniable, and his potential is frightening. The money involved may be high, but Wenger has always maintained he will spend for the right player – and Xhaka fits into our team like a glove.

Then, we went for our second target – Jamie Vardy. The xenophobic, cast-wearing sriker was the revelation of a strange 2015/16 season, and Wenger identified that the England man’s strengths would be a perfect match for his side.

A bid was made, and Vardy had a choice to make. He chose to stay, and now looks like he has competition for his place at Leicester, but regardless, Arsenal had made another early move, but they were rebuffed.

A move for a player takes time. To ensure the cohesion of the team and squad, the research must be done, so it was back to square one for Wenger and his team.

It was also revealed that Wenger made another early move, this time for Manolas – the Greek defender at Roma – but the Italian club played hardball in negotiations and it meant that Jack Wilshere ended up at Bournemouth instead of Rome. 

So, Wenger did exactly what was required, but only one of the three targets he had, ended up at London Colney.

By the end of the window though, the positions he sought to strengthen had indeed been reinforced. Lucas Perez came in from Deportivo, and adds an alternative in the strikers berth with his pace and movement. 

Shkodran Mustafi eventually joined from cash-strapped Valencia, and the 24yr old German is tailor-made to be Koscielny’s partner.

Both players came in for a combined 52.1m. Money has been spent, and our squad looked healthy. Another problem arose though – we now had too many players.

A player who isn’t playing regularly cannot hope to be at his best, and Jack Wilshere was down the pecking order thanks to repeated injuries. Purchases meant that his prospects for this season were not healthy, and he needs first team football. Bournemouth is perhaps a surprise destination, but he will play for a forward-thinking coach, and will play enough games at the level he needs. 

It is a good move, although it is being derided in some quarters. Why couldn’t he stay and fight for his place? Why didn’t he go to Italy? Well, no-one can answer for Jack, but there are a host of mitigating factors for his decision, not merely the squad he will play with. At the root of his choice though, would have been gametime.

At Arsenal, he was behind Santi Cazorla, Elneny, Xhaka, and Ramsey. His talent is such that he needs to play, and he would not get into the side. The drawback of buying players is that the competition for places is so fierce that it will make some of the men in the ranks disgruntled and look for the exit door. 

Jack simply wanted to play – and if he can stay fit and have a good season, then a place in our team is assured.

So, Wenger buys players – he is criticised. Wenger lets players leave who are merely squad filler, such as Joel Campbell and Serge Gnabry – he is criticised. 

It seemed Gnabry forced his way out of the club to move to Werder Bremen, and Wenger has always had faith in the young German, but the lure of home and regular minutes on the pitch was too strong. 

We have a healthy squad, and adequate cover in all departments. Wenger has acted to strengthen, cut the wheat from the chaff, and give players he believes in room to play elsewhere. He should not face vilification for his transfer window actions if they are adequately improving the squad.

Where our Manager should be judged, is how his chosen men perform during the season. He has decided that this team is good enough, and every change was his to make. So, if we fail to make the grade, the blame should fall at his feet alone. 

Spend some money Wenger!  

He has, and our team looks good. 

It is a fine line all managers have to walk, but it isn’t merely transfers that ensure their longevity in a position. Victory is the ultimate ambition.

Let’s see how this season unfolds now that Wenger finally has a squad equipped for every eventuality.