Player power United vs Mercenary FC
“No player is bigger than the club.” This has essentially been the proverbial Arsenal fan’s mantra as of late and if you pay attention to twitter you’ve probably come across it, if no tweeted it too. This may be true, but I often ask myself when the cut off point is. At what point should we give in to player demands, at what point do player demands become too excessive? If we look at the extremes of this question we are presented with two scenarios.
In the first scenario we would see a team where players get whatever they want. This means that if they demand a new contract, we’d give it to them. If they don’t think they’re getting enough playing time, we’d give them more. We’d let all want-away players leave, cheaply if we had to. Finally, players would play in their preferred position, even if it meant we had to adapt our formations to suit them. Our players would be one hundred percent satisfied; theoretically they’d have no reason to leave because we’d be granting their every wish. On the other hand, we’d probably have excessive wage bills, they would feel as if they were bigger than the manager (a la AVB) and eventually the players would begin to feel they were bigger than the club.
The second scenario would see us not giving in to player demands in the slightest. All new contracts would be given at the discretion of the club. All requests for more money would be greeted with a no. We would force players to go on loans where they didn’t want to go (laugh with me, because Sahin won’t) and play players out of position for the overall benefit of the team. If any of our players were unhappy we would sell them and look to bring in the most suitable replacement or we could decide to hold onto them and make them play or ride the bench. The supporters would become more detached from the players as we would see them only as vessels that perform a task for the club we support, rather than directly supporting the player.
The reason I write this article is because I currently feel Arsenal are moving very close towards the second scenario. It seems as if the only player power afforded to the players is the power to leave. RvP said he wasn’t happy with the direction of the club so we sold him. The theory is that Song was prepared to stay at Arsenal if he had a more lucrative contract, but we sold him too. If Walcott also leaves then I will be speechless, not because Walcott has irreplaceable quality, but just because it’d represent another player we couldn’t / didn’t hold on to.
We all agree that the club is bigger than any player; Gary Neville said “Arsenal football club is the most important thing; players are just grains of sand on the beach. Arsenal is 125-years old.” But would you honestly be happy supporting a different eleven every season? At some point I do think Arsenal needs to make more of an effort at meeting player demands because I really enjoy seeing players go from strength to strength at the club, improving every season and I’d enjoy it even more if some actually made it to retirement with us.
I was happy with how the RvP situation was handled. Podolski and Cazorla were ambitious signings, but when RvP left, ambition to me would be replacing RvP so that we have significantly improved from last season, not saying that we have already signed replacements. Put yourself in Cazorla’s shoes. Since he has joined the club he has seen the departure of RvP and Song? I wouldn’t be too impressed.
My final point is, let’s say Song is a £15m rated midfielder and we spent £300k to buy him. That would mean we’ve saved £14.7m off a player of his calibre. Could that not be given to him in the form of a wage increase? Admittedly I am no financial man but this is just an insight into the thoughts that go through my head. At some point I hope we either tell players they will not be sold and mean it, or be more accommodating to their wishes as I really am not a fan of shuffling players in and out like we have been lately.