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The games within the game

Reading RvP's announcement together with the club's statement it seems unclear whether Robin wants to be a player or manager. Robin claims that 'Financial terms or a contract have not been discussed, since that is not my priority at all' but apparently there were disagreements about 'the way forward'. Realistically this will be about how many and which players to buy and who to play. No great surprise there as everyone else fans, journalists, broadcasters, former players and managers, current players and other football professionals will all also have their own ideas as to which players we should or shouldn't acquire and/or keep and how much we should pay for or to them. Robin's entitled to his opinion as much as anyone else but ultimately only one man can manage the football team.

To what extent it makes sense to make such opinions a condition of contract can only depend on individual circumstances but at this level he is unlikely to have any greater influence on club policy at any club of a similar status to the Arsenal whoever he might wish to contract to in future. Player manager status is usually only afforded to players at fairly minor clubs. At the same time players at some clubs have seen as many managerial and consequently policy and tactical changes staying with one club as they would ever have done changing clubs. What price 'the way forward' when you can't possibly know whether you'll fit into the next manager's plans or not?

So if club policy and RvP's wishes aren't in concert who should do what about it? Robin will be 30 by the time his current contract ends and a new one begins. Not the end of a striker's career by any means but certainly close to it with the best behind him. Any contract extension Arsenal offers would only be for possibly a further two years. On the other hand RvP's current value would probably never be higher than it is at the moment given the season he's just had. Maybe next season would be just as good, maybe not but probably the seasons that follow will not reach quite the same levels.

If the club statement can be taken literally the club seems to have accepted that he'll run his contract down and are content for him to do so. From any players point of view that has always seemed to be the best course of action to me but much depends where they are in terms of career development. For the club it means losing any potential transfer fee but for a player 30 years old that probably wouldn't be significant money anyway.

Robin is a wonderfully gifted, truly top class player and it would be a shame to see him go but there's a greater risk than money in holding him to his contract. It's about that little though essential difference of commitment. Maybe Robin fully expects to play next season as committed as he did last but when you expect to leave and with the freedom to discuss openly your next contract with any interested club from January 1st that's hard to achieve. Maybe the club expect him to do so but then Cesc wasn't quite the player for us in his final season and neither was Henry. It depends what offers come in now but if a good one, preferably outside the premier league, is on the table Arsenal should take it though whether RvP would is probably the greater doubt.

There's a tendency to blame player and club in these situations. The player being accused of greed and the club of lacking ambition in not bowing to the players wishes. The reality is that neither are in the wrong. The club has to do what is in its interests accepting that stars come and go and that every player, no matter how good, is replaced eventually. For a player reaching the twilight of his career one last payday free from the complications of settling an existing contract while still open to the pursuit of one final glory must seem an attractive proposition.

Players are becoming ever more transient components of football teams and teams in a permanent state of transition. Much looser contract law and the distortions of illogical finance make it so. For sure there seems little to encourage supporters to see their idols in anything other than fleeting terms. The names on the back of football shirts are quickly redundant probably to the delight of the merchandisers. The good thing is that yesterday`s heroes are always replaced.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

The Journalist

Writer: Amos Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Thursday July 5 2012

Time: 11:40AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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Objective analysis Amos. Seeing R & W holdings statement today after the RvP announcement just reinforces the games within the game nature of football today. RvP's agent seems to have allowed his player to become a pawn in the game between our two major shareholders.
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05/07/2012 14:22:00

We've been there before. Henry championed Dein and used his departure as some justification for him moving on. It's all rather transparent but there's too much money in football now for it to avoid such political machinations. It's still possible to enjoy the games if not the game.
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05/07/2012 14:36:00

Good article, Amos. Is it really worth following football anymore I ask myself though? Those that have the most money, win.
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05/07/2012 17:06:00

It's certainly not something to be taken seriously as a sporting competition any more. It's just an entertainment business that's all. That's sometimes good enough if you can take it for what it is.
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05/07/2012 17:30:00

Good read, Amos and balanced, if you ask me. I feel RvP's efforts at making himself more interested in the development or "way forward" of the club than the owners/Manager and fans reeks of self-adulation; a man with a too high an opinion of his own value, which ultimately, isn't a good thing. Fans will be less irked if he just stopped at saying he didn't wish to sign an extension as he would need to get his last big move being in the twilight of his career and all that. But no. He had to make it look like he knows what is best for the club than the owners. I wish that he doesn't do anything to take away his legend's status with us fans.
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05/07/2012 17:37:00

There've been a few very good posts from a handful of AFC bloggers on RVP since his statement was made public yesterday and this is definitely one of them. Well done Amos.
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05/07/2012 19:41:00

You know it's been a bad day for Arsenal whenever the obese uzbek opens his jowells to rattle princess leias' chains. 100% agree with the article, well said Amos.
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05/07/2012 22:13:00

I read the Swiss Ramble occasionally and it occurs to me that someone should try to calculate the cost of "upgrading" our squad financially (in terms of wages) to City/Chav levels. If we "did whatever we need to to keep VP ", we'd probably need to pay him around 200k. Then we'd need to bring in 2 or 3 more on similar money ?? And all would probably need 4 yr deals. (If 3 players like RVP were on an average of 180k/week for just 3 years, the financial commitment to the club would be 840m) But the real cost would be bringing everyone else in the squad up to comparable levels - from Jack Wilshere to Arteta, to Ryo and all the other fringe players with potential. Everyone talks about the first 7 yrs of RVP at Arsenal. at an average of 12 games/yr in those years, we'd have had to offload him 4 yrs ago. Is this the case or am I missing something? I don't think Arsenal have access to this type of money.
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06/07/2012 00:25:00

Fab4, like you pointed out - We dont have access to the kind of money that City has. Among the self sustaining clubs in England however, Arsenal's resources are next only to Man United's so there are ways we could invest better into our playing squad than we currently do. On the other side of the debate, lets assume that Arsenal gets taken over by Usmanov who actually delivers on his utopian promise of zero debt and massive financial resources for wages and transfers. We would then become like a Chelsea or a City. Would that be desirable for Arsenal? Its a tough one - our probability of being successful is higher but success is not guaranteed as the Sheikh and Abramovich are richer and on par with the Uzbek respectively. Even if we do manage to win the PL in the face of such oligarch competition, would the title feel deserved?
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06/07/2012 07:34:00

Amos, I'd be interested in your views on the premise by Red & White that the current and previous board have made significant money without ever had investing a penny of their own. Is that true? Is it 'right' that this should be permitted? Does it devalue them?
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06/07/2012 11:23:00

The main point is would we win a title? The problem is there are 2 major trophies to win each year, with 5-6 teams competing for the c/l and 3 for the p/l. Even if you spend massive amounts of cash, there's no guarantee. City were very lucky to win it last season. The Tevez saga worked out, but could (and should) have been a disaster. Again, very lucky that it worked out. It was not planned in any way. Look at Chavs with the AVB situation. Think they won the c/l by good management and planning? They did what they had to do to avoid outright mutiny by a bunch of overpaid prima donnas and got lucky. As far as the Board is concerned, they have never taken a dividend from Arsenal FC. That amounts to probably 1000's of thousands in retained earnings that stay in the club. Yes their shares are increasing in value, but they're not looking to sell either. The only shareholder who sold purely for financial gain during my lifetime is Mr David Dein. Usmanov will benefit from increase in share value just like Kroenke should the club prosper. All the other shareholders are insignificant. I'm uncertain what a rights issue will mean to the Board, but I'm almost certain Usmanov has raised the question of paying dividends in the past?
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06/07/2012 14:01:00

Individual shareholders would have made money selling the shares they, or their relatives would have previously bought. That they made money on them is attributable to a) the exponential growth in broadcasting and therefore sponsorship income and b) Usmanov paying over the odds to try to gain control. A bit hypocritical of R&W though is they only came in on the back of Dein cashing in his shares for £75m and starting the whole ownership issue. Fiszman certainly invested money in his share of the equity (again to the benefit of Dein) and though made a lot of money selling them his family benefited rather than himself. Is it right that people should be able to sell their investments for more than they paid for them? There wouldn't be any private enterprise if they couldn't.
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06/07/2012 15:16:00


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