Theo, Loyalty and the Football Pecking Order

I feel I’ve written too much about Theo already, but it’s a subject that bugs me to some extent. Firstly I’m bugged by the player’s own bland pronouncements about how he hopes things will be sorted out soon, when he could sort them out in five minutes himself one way or the other, then we’d all know where we stood.

There are many who say ‘You’d do the same, he’s only trying to get the best deal for himself. You wouldn’t turn down a 100 per cent pay increase, would you?’ And of course I wouldn’t, if it was to do exactly the same job as I’m doing now. Though if it was in Liverpool I’d certainly think twice.

However, the other bugging aspect is the whole concept of whether Theo owes Arsenal or the fans anything other than to not bullshit us for months on end? Does he owe any loyalty to the club, or to the manager who has nurtured him over the last six years? Not really, no. If loyalty counted for anything he’d still be at Southampton, the club that discovered him.

Arsenal fans complain that they have become a selling club. This is true up to a point – the point being that we do what every other club does: we sell to the clubs above us in the pecking order. In Arsenal’s case there aren’t many, it’s just that as a group of fans we’re annoyed because there are a couple more in England than there were a few years ago. Man City and Chelsea are above us purely because they can and will spend more. We can criticise Arsène Wenger for sticking to what he perceives is a value offer for any player, but the fact is if a richer club wants a player we want, then whatever we offer they are likely to offer more, so there isn’t much point trying to break the bank and sacrificing your principles if you’ll be outbid anyway. We celebrated the signing of Cazorla last summer, but if the oil clubs needed another small Spanish playmaker, they’d have bought him. They’re both stuffed with such items, so they didn’t bother, and Fergie prefers English or South American players. Barca and Real didn’t need him either, and Bayern and Inter weren’t interested, so we were next in the queue.

So we sell to City and Chelsea because they have the money, and we sell to Barca and Man U because they’re bigger clubs. And that’s the way it’s always been. In the seventies Brady went to Italy (because Italian clubs were bigger at the time) and Stapleton went to Man Utd. My memory of the eighties is hazy, I can’t remember who went where, but in the early nineties we had no one that a bigger club wanted to poach – or if we did, they were Arsenal through and through (eg Tony Adams). Then – amazingly – we got Bergkamp. Then Arsène turned up and we got a whole load of great players and for years didn’t need to sell anyone to anyone until they were past their best (with the one glaring exception of Anelka, who went to the biggest club in the world). And that’s what people are comparing to now: Thierry was on the cusp of going downhill by the time he left, Vieira didn’t have long left at the top, but we’ve sold Cole, Nasri, Fabregas and Van Persie, and to a slightly lesser extent Clichy, Song, Adebayor and Flamini, when they were clearly still at the top of their game or not yet there. (Flamini walked on a free, but the point is he chose to go well before the end or even peak of his career.)

Arsène used to buy low, get the best from a player and sell high. He’s still buying relatively low, but he’s struggling with getting the best and he’s unlikely to make a profit on most of his recent purchases: Arteta, Mertesacker, Podolski, Cazorla, Gervinho (God help us!).

What gets overlooked by Arsenal fans calling us a selling club or attacking the Board and/or manager for selling our stars is that we also buy from all the clubs below us in the pecking order. We shaft them by becoming stronger at their expense just the way Man U have strengthened by buying our best player of last season. In the seventies Ball came to us from Everton and MacDonald from Newcastle, before Brady and Stapleton left. As ever, we took advantage because we were a bigger club than those we bought from. While Arsène famously loves to nurture young talent, the fact is we’ve got Jack Wilshere as just about the only major player not bought as a professional, and even Jack was poached from Luton as a boy.

Can we or should we expect loyalty from players we have taken from other smaller clubs? Should Arsène keep trying to play the loyalty card with someone he’s bought? It’s a bit bizarre.

Let’s face it, if a club higher up the pecking order wants Theo they’ll pay enough (or tell him to wait till summer and pay Arsenal nothing) and he’ll go there. There were rumours yesterday that he’s now signed an extension with Arsenal. If it’s true, good, because he has become an important part of the team, but if he doesn’t sign then that’s just the football pecking order, like it or not. There’s not much point Arsène Wenger complaining about his best players’ disloyalty when he’s continually screwing everyone below him.

 Follow me on Twitter: @AngryOfN5

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15 thoughts on “Theo, Loyalty and the Football Pecking Order

  1. Oh Dear, the voice of reason. cant see you getting far in the instant decision making world of football blogs!! Don’t you realize that the world just ended because we only drew at Southampton the other day,Blog readers just cant cope with reasoned and subjective articles,can we go back to haranguing players,managers,tea lady’s,etc. for surely this will bring back the glory days faster.I know for a fact all players play better for a good long period of sustained booing from sections of the crowd and sacking a manager immediately brings success to a football club.

  2. Loyalty is supporting Arsenal since 1948 through thick and thin like me not hanging out for 100 grand.a wk.Still not worth it.I work harder wqtching his performance than he does on the pitch.

  3. One thing I’d like to add, is that in my opinion, what the manager and the board have been trying to achieve over the past years, is to push us up the food chain. To some extent this has already happened. Only the domestic extravagances of Chelsea and ManCity have stopped us from taking advantage of that. But we are a bigger club worldwide than we were 10 years ago, and if the new rules of FFP (both European and domestic) kick in, it’ll only accelerate our rise further. Even without that, as a club, we have a solid foundation. And for that, we deserve credit. Not ridicule.

  4. I missed the bit where AW complained about loyalty or its converse. Plenty of talk from fans, but my impression is that the manager behaves pretty much like a trader.

  5. So we shouldn’t boo Nasri, Fabregas, Flamini, Hleb, Clichy, Song. They just changed place of their work. It’s normal they want to win trophies what we can’t do now atm. But when they left the club I think no-one said ‘thanks’ for what they did to the Club, it was all about ‘hating’. But I think it’s the problem with what we achieved before and now we can’t even compete not even mentioning winning trophy so it’s difficult to adjust to the reality, I guess.

  6. The First Immutable Law of Pro Football: the Big Winners are invariably Big Spenders.
    The Second Immutable Law of Pro Football: Big Spenders are not Invariably Big Winners. These laws apply here and in most of Europe – but not over the pond. There, the rules have been changed to protect the owners. And we have an owner who acts as though Arsenal are in MLS or whatever. We have a huge revenue, a massive fan base, an outstanding manager, low annual debt repayments – everything needed to compete at the very top – and yet we have a mediocre squad, light years behind the top sides, and even starting to fall behind the second tier of sides. And nothing will improve while Stanley is owner.

  7. Loyalty is generally defined by the context in which it is displayed but is generally expressed as being a ¨ faithfulness to commitments or obligations.¨ these obligations and commitments can be to individuals, groups, nations, causes, religions, etc. Therefore one can be loyal or faithful to one’s spouse, to their family, to a chosen or inherited Faith, to their Football Club(s), to their race and to their Nation, etc. Loyalty can be bought (rice Christians in 19th century China), coerced (forced conversion of Jews and Christians to Islam in Grenada, after the Muslim conquest) or manipulated (Nazi youth during WW2) to serve any end. Therefore it isn’t an absolute or unimpeachable moral certainty.
    Regardless, should Clubs and supporters expect and require that players be loyal because of what transpired beforehand? I don’t believe so, no more than we should forgive serious crimes committed by someone who, until recently, was a model citizen. In other words, what went on before does not, in and of itself, predicate what happens later. Therefore, some loyalties (to family, to the well-being of one’s self and others like family or dependents, to one’s career success etc.) can trump more ethereal loyalties to a Club or their supporters.Sad as that is, it is the reality of modern Football. When you come from another country and have little to no attachment to your current demur, barely speak the language, share little in common with its denizens and your supporters, are on a very limited timeline in terms of playing years and also see how players and managers alike can be shuffled out of any Club at a moment’s notice or worse still, benched and made to rot in silence, then it should come as no surprise that their self-interest almost always comes first.

    • Heart-breaking rationalization: all that loyalty we give to the players and none of it returned. But stop weeping, it has always been thus, human nature being what it is, self-interest comes first. However, like most rationalization of this kind, it’s far from being the whole truth. There have been a multitude of players who have been loyal to Arsenal, who could have moved on for more money and didn’t. I can think of a whole load of reasons why that doesn’t appear to be happening just now, but I’ll mention just one: players (people) are more likely to stay loyal if it brings them what they want – and what top players want most in their careers is to win things. A form of self-interest? Yes – but without that kind of ambition, he wouldn’t be a top player.

      • England’s Bitch……..the only weeping going on here is at your inveterate navel-gazing, self-indulgence and negativism. First, the so-called loyal players were NOT subject to tapping up from oilygarch-billionaire Clubs that offered 2 to 3 times their salary to join their Clubs.
        Secondly, your very narrow-minded definition of loyalty omits numerous other qualities such as commitment (regardless of circumstances) to a cause or Club, self-sacrifice for the good of the team, honouring one’s contractual obligations (I know it is an old fashioned value, but it is still honourable) and so on.
        Your arguments are feeble and totally transparent attempts to blame someone for your frustrations at Arsenal and Wenger’s perceived failings on and off the field.
        Your other irrational claim that self-interest equals ambition, is, in and of itself, ludicrously simplistic. If self-interest equals ambition then half of Arsenals so-called ¨deadwood¨ that simpletons like you moan on about must be hugely ambitious, since they are certainly looking after their own interests!

      • Are there two wee donalds (heaven help us!)? Or is it a case of schizophrenia? Your two posts are in direct contradiction to each other. A bit like listening to Arsene’s recent statements. My advice?Keep taking the medicine.

      • England’s bitch……..there is NO contradiction in my reply to your inane comments…and you wouldn’t know schizophrenia if it hit you in the face (nice thought that!)….but the only medicine you need is X-lax, but that would flood the world with way too much of you!

  8. Phil – if The Gooner carried this standard of article throughout every issue i’d go back to reading it. Every Gooner (and journalist) should be forced to read it first before criticising the club’s transfer policy. The calibre and intelligence of the replies above are quite telling; it’s the first article i’ve seen in years where there’s not a peep from the only remaining plonkers who carry bin liners into Ashburton Grove. One comment – you say that Wenger is now struggling to make a profit on the players he sells – were Fabregas, Nasri, Song, Van Persie Clichy not sold at a substantial profit? Even the likes of Eboue, Toure, Hleb and Adebayor brought in more money than the original outlay. The fact is that our transfer dealings have saved the club from annual losses for the last 7-8 years and that’s been the reality of the stadium investment.

    • I’m saying AW will struggle to make a profit on recent purchases – Arshavin onwards: Arteta, Cazorla, etc. Even Walcott and Ox, to be honest.

      • Ah, I see, thanks for clarifying. It’s an interesting debate; in fairness, the likes of Arshavin and Podolski were purchases of more seasoned players to try and rectify the lack of experience. I’m sure they were all bought in the knowledge that their market value would be negligible at the end of their contracts. The signings say more about the relative failure of project youth and the injuries to key players than Wenger’s usual approach to transfers (buy young, sell when they’re over the hill).

        Not sure I agree on Walcott and the Ox. I would say that, assuming Walcott signs a new deal (that’s a big ‘if’ of course…) and the Ox continues his current rate of development, they’d definitely come into the £20m+ bracket were we to wish to cash in on them in 1-2 years’ time and that would be a hearty profit (if you don’t include wage outlay).

  9. This should have been mentioned when fans were throwing a strop over the sale of Alex Song. He was no superstar – is not exactly redefining anything at Barcelona – and if he and his agent basically had told the club that he would be disruptive for 2 years then leave on a Bosman, then the club was not exactly being foolish to get rid of and be done.

    At least Theo is being positive as a human being while he is here and playing for the team rather than showboating.

    I do think he had decided to go Bosman this summer, but it is also possible that he felt only loyalty to Wenger and that Wenger is leaving for sure as he does not want to re-sign when his contract is done. The entire squad is certainly playing like it. And the rumor mill essentially could be deciphered as adding up to such an outcome.

    Otherwise, yes he is being a right donkey.

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