Late-Breaking Walcott Defection

August 29, 2012 — by Rob Kirby


For my first Arsenal match in August 2006, covered in the 10 am yell spit and spilled beers of fellow patrons at Nevada Smith’s in New York, I saw Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott come on as subs after Thierry Henry had done something or other phenomenal. My buddy Roland, who deserves all the blame for me being a Gunner, had filled me in on the Walcott World Cup call up fiasco and considered van Persie his favorite player. I was intrigued to see RvP play, and he pulled off an incredible shot on goal within minutes. Walcott did not. But then, he was still 16 at the time.

Van Persie now seems as if he’s been off for ages, though it’s only been a couple weeks and we will face him domestically for seasons to come. Alex Song’s deal transpired in seemingly days, though the recriminations linger on from his camp. And now 48 hours before the transfer deadline, Walcott looks to be off as well, unless he gets a substantial pay packet increase. We’ve offered a deal worth £75,000 a week, he’s currently on £60,000 a week, and he wants £100,000 a week. Arsenal do not believe he yet merits 100K, relative to the levels he has so far achieved (or failed to achieve) at the club in 222 first team appearances. We’ve got 48 hours to decide. If he doesn’t sign for us or someone else before the close of the transfer window, he leaves for free in June. We paid close to £10 million in 2006. Zero compensation doesn’t sit well with the accountants and 48 hours is neither much time to arrange a deal nor much time to arrange for a suitable replacement.

Walcott has shown “consistency in patches” (his words) and flashes of genius. Rare, yes, ephemeral, but still. The pain in the ass about the Theo contract non-extension is that no one would be broken up about the current version of the player leaving. He can sprint but otherwise he has a limited number of actual soccer-related tricks up his sleeve. Primarily the exit fear comes from the possibility that he’ll finally achieve his true potential in a different uniform. But currently, no, he doesn’t deserve what he’s demanding.  He hopes to earn the highest wages at the club. It looks as if he won’t. But will we get an acceptable bid with next to no time remaining? Not looking promising, you’d have to say. Clearly, the timing of the refusal was engineered for Theo’s benefit alone. He will almost certainly leave and Arsenal will almost certainly get short-changed in the rush deal. At least RvP pitched his fake-pally public fit with enough time to deal with it.

This month, we’ve lost two of our best players to Manchester United and Barcelona, respectively. That makes two summers in a row, after two of the three best exited for Manchester City and Barcelona, respectively, last year. (We also sold Gaël Clichy to Manchester City, but no big deal there, since end-product-wise he mainly channeled ex-Gunner Alex Hleb, except Hleb could put in a better cross.) The summer before that, our for-one-season-only top scorer Emmanuel Adebayor pimped himself out to City. The summer before that, the stalwart (and alone of them all, non-money-grubbing) centerback Kolo Toure got free of William Gallas by heading to City. And before that, our all-time leading scorer Thierry Henry floated over to Barcelona. But at least we later suckered Barcelona with Hleb. Ha-ha.

When we want to see former players, whether in away fixtures or simply for social calls, luckily we can just visit two principal cities. Manchester and Barcelona. Early reports peg Walcott for City, naturally, since they’ve got more than enough money, despite the fact that they’ve got far better personnel in his position. But that, as they say, is not our problem. Perhaps someone just forgot to update the Arsenal to City multiple-use media template. The other main mooted destination, Liverpool, makes more sense, because their wingers need help. Chelsea’s name pops up, as well, but that seems unlikely. Why would they downgrade? Hazard, Oscar, Mata and … the headless sprinting chicken. But a clean-cut, very marketable because English-born, speedy headless chicken.

We can either go with the hysteria cue or take a more measured approach. Let’s do the latter.

In the past 14 months, we’ve lost two world class players, Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas. The next level down, Samir Nasri. Another level down, Alex Song. Level down again, Walcott and Clichy.

In the meantime, we’ve strengthened with Santi Cazorla, who’s definitely world class. Next level down, Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Mikel Arteta. We’ve brought in future bright lights in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and possibly Ryo Miyaichi. Andre Santos, Per Mertesacker and Gervinho can each put in a solid shift on their day. And from the academy, Ignasi Miquel, Francis Coquelin, Nico Yennaris and Emmanuel Frimpong. Meanwhile, Kieran Gibbs is at least as good as Clichy, whose main strength was resistance to injury, so perhaps we’re even there. And one day, our young savior Jack Wilshere may reenter the mix matrix.

Much could happen in the next 48 hours, even though reinforcements may not be forthcoming. At the very least, one would hope the “exodus” will include the dead weight we’ve been trying to unload all summer: Nicklas Bendtner, Park Ju Yung, Marouane Chamakh, Andrey Arshavin, Denilson and so on.

Back to Theo. He has long divided opinion, but the contract rejection couldn’t come at a worse time, not least from an “Arsenal are a selling club” PR point of view. To avoid losing him on a free, we have a grand total of two days to move him on before the close of the transfer window. Deja vu in everyday life can sometimes be interesting, but in Arsenal transfer dealings it’s a horrible, horrible thing.


The Night Arsene Lost the Stadium

January 26, 2012 — by Rob Kirby1


After the 2-1 defeat to Manchester United at the Emirates on Sunday, I was emailing with a friend who has been an Arsenal season ticket holder since the ‘70s. He knows infinitely more about the team than I do, so I figured I’d let him speak in his own words. (My email comments inserted for clarity of what questions/comments he’s responding to.)



Crazy outrage from the fans yesterday.

Incidentally, I really hate Piers Morgan.


Last night represented a tipping point the moment that Arsene lost the stadium.

And here is the key thing, doesn’t really matter if he was right or not about taking off the Ox (i.e. the strain) the thing is that people no longer trust him. The anger and resentment at the lack of recruitment is going to boil over…

Bad times ahead, but here is the thing, due to injuries we have no idea how good we are or aren’t…

Let’s try and stay calm and judge at season’s end.


I would agree that Wenger has lost the home support. The outrage about the substitution dwarfed by far the “Spend some fucking money” episode of late Aug.

Everyone wants to blame someone. Right now the finger’s pointed at Wenger. Not surprising, as it’s been in that position for 6 months, 18 months. However, re: throwing baby out with bathwater, let’s say Wenger goes, per the collective wish. Who the fuck can attract talent to a non-Champions League side at Arsenal whose first name is not Arsene. RvP is likely off, anyhow. In my opinion, if Arsene gets sacked, it’s not even a question. Furthermore, if Wenger gets sacked, Sagna and Vermaelen seem in major doubt. I don’t mention Wilshere, Szczesny and Frimpong because of their love of the club. But look at their ages. Their only personal memories are of an Arsene Arsenal.

Arsene has made Arsenal believers believe they are pre-destined to end up in the top four. Say he’s axed (and I realize you’re not necessarily saying he should be–rather that that’s the vibe), who would do better? Perhaps a couple folks… But who would the board pay for? None of them.

If Wenger gets axed, the only way I can see it not being an utter fiasco is to surprise-hire a former star to be coach. If experience is a judge, it’s highly risky and rarely pays off. If he’s to get sacked, obviously I hope for the Cinderella story. But isn’t that exactly what has pissed people off about Wenger? He keeps saying, “We can, we can,” and then when the mioracle fails to transpire, we don’t and the fans turn on him. How much leeway would Steve Bould get? Or Tony Adams. Or Bergkamp, even, though he seems eminently happy at Ajax.


The Wenger issue is wrapped up in what the board do or don’t want the club to be.

It is clear that twice in the last five or six years the team needed a little investment and they could have pushed on. But the investment never happened. This lack of investment finally produced the inevitable when we started the season in disarray…

Now, there are only a few possible reasons for this:

1. Wenger won’t spend.

2. The board won’t back him.

3. The money isn’t there

4. Wenger has identified players and the board, which doesn’t feature a single real football man, doesn’t know how to get a deal done.

Only when you can make a call on the above can you make a call on Arsene.

My own take on it is that more 2-4 than 1, but also that Wenger is appalled by the prices and wages. He is to some extent the last sane man football, but there lies the problem, football isn’t sane…

However, changing him as manager only makes sense if you want to change the way the team operates. And why would silent Stan do that? We are very well run financially and we generate our own money… And are vaguely competitive.

So you are right, what is the point in changing wenger? He is the best man for the job. As defined by the board. And the board isn’t changing….

But, what the fans see is a Tottenham team made competitive by Scott Parker who cost peanuts. A manager who started the season with a woefully weak squad, a manager who has allowed our best player to get into the last two years of his contract without renewing. And now won’t.

A manager who puts too much faith in players who are always injured or just not good enough… Diaby, Gibbs, Denilson and Chamakh and so the anger mounts and the frustration grows and last night something broke. Mutiny is upon us. Something snapped last night and I am not sure that the return of Henry or promise of Wilshere can fix it. Wenger needs a marquee signing to lift the club’s (everyone’s) spirits and perhaps if he combined that with dropping Arshavin and Chamakh (perceived as non-tryers by the fans) and playing some of the homegrown players then he might turn it around.

But I am not holding my breath.

It’s very sad but I think this is the end of the Wenger era.. Football has changed for the worse (look at man city) and I think rightly or (almost certainly) wrongly Wenger can’t compete any more. He needs a new challenge and we need a new leader to rally round.

P.S. The irony is that if he does get this squad to fourth it will be his greatest ever achievement!


Thanks for your thoughts. I guess the primary point is that regardless of how divided Arsenal supporters are, everyone hopes for fourth. A common enemy can be powerful.

There are, of course, those who wish their team to fall on their face so that change happens, but I don’t believe in that. And frankly, I feel incredibly negatively towards that mentality. If a fan wants their own team to lose, fuck them.


Want the team to fail? Sorry but I think you are wrong on that. There isn’t a fan in the stadium who wants them to fail. Getting pissed at Wenger or the board because you don’t want them to fail is not the same as wanting them to fail..

But you have to get the context.

English football has been through seismic changes in the last two decades, partly due to the revolution on the pitch that Wenger started.

Fans (including me) are starting to feel alienated.

Twenty years ago I could arrive on match day and pay £6 on the gate to get in.. I watched mostly English players play a game we recognised as English. And we loved it. Yes we envied the Europeans their flair and sophistication, but our game was hard, fast, harem scarum and damned exciting.

Games were at 3pm on Saturday. the FA Cup meant something and you couldn’t watch matches on telly very often. Our stadium carried 70 years of history and the club felt special and unique. We felt part of something, and our songs and our chanting helped the team, or so we believed. Better still the players were accessible, they were like us, we knew them, or knew someone who knew them. They earned four times as much as us, maybe ten times as much but we all lived on the same planet. So we belonged to our club and more importantly our club beloved to us.

Now at Arsenal we sit in the modern corporate bowl that is the Emirates and we cringe at the ‘Arsenalisation’ process (adding murals etc) that for us equates (no offence) to an Americanisation. We wonder how ‘our’ club got sold to a billionaire who won’t speak to us and what happened to the promise of competing we were sold when the club decided to move.

We loved our old home, it and we meant something to us, and man, we loved Wenger, this strange unknowable Frenchman who brought Vieira, Petit, Overmars, Ljungberg and Henry. Who kept the steel and grit of The Arsenal and added unbelievable flair.

Now we sit in this wonderful, soulless edifice to the new middle-class game and pay absurd ticket prices to watch players who aren’t fit to polish the boots of the invincibles and we wonder what the deal is?

We wonder why did we leave Highbury and we still can’t compete. And to make it worse the club operate a weird system of omertà. They massage the attendance figures as if we are morons who can’t count the empty seats and they tell us the money is there but then never spend it.

They sell our best players and they buy kids to replace them and we look around and we wonder if David Dein was right? 

We wonder if we should have stayed at home and looked for investment for players not seats. We wonder why Tottenham spend more money than us, and we are sick and tired of watching Wenger build half great teams and then refusing to go the extra million or two for the player that would/could/should make the difference and we want to believe….

We want to believe that Wenger still knows, that the five, six, seven year plan will bear fruit, that UEFA will enforce the Financial FairPlay rules. That we will somehow have the last laugh and then we look at our squad and we look at the oh so obvious fault lines – fault lines that we all discussed in the pub at the beginning of the season, but which the club didn’t fix and we wonder WTF, and then, well then we get mad, wouldn’t you?

We feel ripped off, sold out and lied to. We don’t trust the board, or the manager anymore and we don’t trust in the players any more either.

So to go full circle to your primary point. the Arsenal fans want to believe. But we just don’t. The support this year has been great until recently, really behind the team. But something broke last week. There was real, genuine anger. The worst I have ever heard. I heard serious anti-Wenger chants for the first time and I am not sure his haughty response in the press conference will have helped. 

I think the club is at a tipping point and revolt is in the air. Fourth place might quell it. But I’m not sure.

Gonna be an interesting ride between now and the end of the season.