North London giants are in a far better place than the media will have you believe
The tabloid media are known to deal in knee-jerk reactions and wildly over the top hyperbole like it’s going out of fashion, but this summer’s activity at both managerial and player level has taken this to new heights. The media-led campaign to paint new Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas as underqualified and Arsenal as a club in crisis simply because Robin van Persie has decided he wants to leave are both ridiculously presumptuous.
Let’s first take a look at Tottenham appointing former Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas and the general short-sightedness on show. It’s true that he was sacked at Stamford Bridge after six months, with the common held belief that he tried to change too much, too quickly, after being given a mandate for change by chairman Roman Abramovich. Everyone with an ounce of sense knows that he was sacked far too quickly by the club and that he was merely given his marching orders for doing the job that he was brought in to do.
The moving on of the old guard at the club is still an issue of paramount importance that needs addressing, perhaps even more so in the aftermath of their Champions League and FA Cup triumphs. By employing a yes-man unwilling to rock the boat and keep the status quo in Roberto Di Matteo, Abramovich has chosen short-term gain over long-term pain, but the club would have been better off sticking with someone of Villas-Boas’s ilk in the long-run.
It’s clear that the 34 year-old Portuguese manager can be an irascible chap at times, he doesn’t particularly like the media all that much and it comes across in his interviews where he often takes umbrage at the most benign of questions. However, this has resorted in several journalists close to sacked former manager Harry Redknapp turning out column after column of faux-outrage aimed at chairman Daniel Levy, labelling the move to appoint a manager that has won trophies of more importance in one season than Redknapp has in his entire career a massive gamble, whilst simultaneously trying to create tension where there is none.
There were legitimate footballing reasons to get rid of Redknapp, I’ve yet to meet a Spurs fan saddened by his departure, but the support base is apparently up in arms about it – the perfect tabloid cover-up, invent and purport to speak on behalf of a group of people that don’t really exist for a campaign that you yourself have created – it’s quite frankly bizarre behaviour.
Another baffling reason used by several so far is that Villas-Boas won’t be welcomed by Spurs fans due to his past affiliation with Chelsea, therefore completely ignoring the fact that Gus Poyet, Jimmy Greaves, Glenn Hoddle, Eidur Gudjohnsen, Carlo Cudicini, Scott Parker and William Gallas have moved seamlessly between the two sides without any hint of animosity. It’s attempting to create a hostile, tense atmosphere where there is none.
Arsenal are the latest club to be painted as in crisis after Robin van Persie indicated that he wasn’t going to extend his contract to stay at the club, with it running out at the end of next season. It appears to be the latest trend with tabloids of late, painting a big club as in crisis as everyone is on the look-out for the next Leeds. Last season during various junctures it was Tottenham and Arsenal at the beginning of the season, Chelsea around Christmas, Liverpool after February and Manchester City briefly in late March, before they found their form again and went on to win the title.
This had led to various talking heads and former Arsenal players such as Nigel Winterburn and Sol Campbell claiming the club need to spend upwards of £100m to keep Van Persie. That’s right, just get rid of a sound financial policy that has seen them become one of the most economically stable clubs in world football, all on a gamble that one player may decide to stay for a bit longer as he enters his thirties. The sheer lack of perspective is astounding, and it’s little more than scaremongering at its very worst.
Arsenal will suffer from the sale of Van Persie, he’s a world-class player. Accusations that the side are a selling club are nothing new, they have been for the majority of Wenger’s time at the helm, just think back to Nicolas Anelka being flogged to Real Madrid in 1999. However, some context needs to be applied here for it has been sorely lacking in the debate over the club’s future for the most part.
The club in crisis talk is all done on the basis that Arsenal decide to sell Van Persie this summer, which by this point is not a given and he may be made to stay and see out his final year.
Last term the Dutch striker made 38 league appearances in an injury-free season, but this was the first time in his entire career that he’s avoided the treatment table in such consistent fashion, and it was the first time he’d ever broken through the 30+ league game ceiling, failing to in his previous 10 seasons as a professional footballer – so with regards to his fitness, last term is the exception rather than the rule at present.
Wenger has at least planned ahead to an extent this summer with the moves for both Giroud and Podolski, so we’re unlikely to see the trolley-dash on August 31st like we did last summer where he was caught short for seemingly believing that one of, if not both, Nasri and Fabregas would stay. Giroud and Podolski won’t win you the title, they may not be able to even replicate the 30 or so goals Van Persie may get you if he stays fit, and there’s a significant amount of pressure on them both now in their first full season’s in England, but there’s at least some strength in depth to the squad that wasn’t there last year.
Tottenham have done a good deal to bring in one of Europe’s youngest and brightest managers in Villas-Boas, while Arsenal are far from the club in crisis they are being portrayed as simply because Van Persie may be about to leave – they’ve survived similar before and they’ll adapt as they always do. There is no real tension, only hope of a new era at White Hart Lane, while at the Emirates, life will go on without their star striker – if you solely digested your information from the newspapers, from the various convulted and biased diatribes on offer, you’d think both clubs were in danger of falling into the sea, sadly for fans of outrageous copy, both look in pretty decent shape.
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