Even if he doesn’t admit it, you’ve got to wonder if Arsene Wenger is somewhat glad that Andre Santos looked to embarrass himself, the manager and the fans in his pursuit of Robin van Persie’s shirt. After all, what better way to deflect away—although not entirely—from the rest of the Arsenal team’s failings at Old Trafford?
The disappointment for Arsenal fans is that it’s just another sideshow to pile onto the list of horrendous embarrassments. How will last season’s meeting at Old Trafford be remembered? Not for the fact that Arsenal scored two goals, something they haven’t done away to Manchester United since February 2003 in the FA Cup. It wasn’t really because the squad were stretched for numbers and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was forced into his debut in a match of that size and once of great importance. Instead, it was the disappointment of being on the end of an 8-2 hammering that not even the poorest teams (financially and other) in Europe, in the Championship or in a meaningless summer friendly would be reduced to.
Andre Santos somehow managed to infuriate his manager and travelling supporters by doing something he deemed worthy of a place on camera. Forget for a moment that van Persie left almost all Arsenal fans with an incredible hatred towards him following last summer’s saga, but look to the fact that a man masquerading as a left-back in one of Europe’s top leagues had one of the most awful games you’re likely to see from a Premier League defender. It might be a cheap shot at Santos for his actions, but it’s the culmination of so many incidents of embarrassment for the club.
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Andre Santos seems to have taken up that class clown role in the squad previously reserved for Emmanuel Eboue, and the real shocker is that he seems to be embracing it. Some people may like him, but why? A lot of people like Mario Balotelli for his unusual attitude and actions, but he’s a very good and gifted footballer. As a number of journalists said following Manchester City’s draw against Dortmund: there isn’t a player on the planet who you’d want taking a penalty in that situation other than Balotelli.
For Arsenal, however, what does Santos bring? I’m not really interested in his number of Twitter followers, but I’m sure it’s a lot. It stems for that tweet where his misspelt “guys” as “gays” and everyone got a kick out of it. Now he just seems to be building on that side of his personality instead of trying to improve as a footballer. Eboue might have done some daft things during his time at Arsenal, but regardless of whether he was good enough or not, would he ever have run over to one of his mates in the Spurs team and requested a shirt?
So who do you blame for actions such as the one at Old Trafford on the weekend? It’s hard to look at Arsene Wenger for some kind of punishment because he doesn’t believe in all that business; the players at Arsenal are better served to learn from their own mistakes in a tranquil environment. Except they don’t, because there is no pressure on anyone else to learn from their mistakes.
The player doesn’t deserve vile abuse on Twitter, but he’s certainly done enough to warrant a wave of criticism for the way in which he has made Arsenal look. Arsenal have been brought to their knees in such a short period of time, losing their best players, their status in the Premier League, their dignity in some cases. Yet it continues to pile on because there really is no measure for stupidity at the club. Will Santos get another game this week and the next and the next until Kieran Gibbs returns? Absolutely, because he hasn’t said anything that would put his place in jeopardy. Not like, say, questioning the direction of the club.
Santos might be viewed as just another scapegoat; another Eboue, Aaron Ramsey, Andrey Arshavin. But the club’s supporters are crying out for something to be done to stop the club’s decline, something to put an end to seemingly monthly doses of embarrassment. When the team as a collective ship five goals against a promoted side, that’s unforgivable, but it’s down to the manager to prevent those kinds of score lines. No one is there to tell players like Santos not to plaster his name all over the newspapers because of a driving violation, and at the same time no one is telling him to behave with some level of decency to help the image of the club.
During the last international break, Lionel Messi was stopped by one of the officials during the half time break while on duty for Argentina. The official requested a picture from the best player in the world on the rare occasion that he’d be officiating a game involving him. During the Olympics, something similar happened when the men’s USA basketball team offered out their jersey’s following their win over Lithuania. How far have Arsenal fallen from the days of Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Patrick Vieira to a 29-year-old Brazilian (former) international requesting the shirt of one of Manchester United’s leading stars? The scenes with the USA team in particular was quite pleasant to see. Andre Santos’ request for van Persie’s shirt was not. It was another low for a club who really need to take serious steps to stop the rot.