The First Cut Is The Deepest
A guest post today from Rickaaaaay!
I’ve wanted to write another piece on ACLF for a while now but only so much can be said about performances, results and board room battles, all of which are more than covered by far better bloggers than myself. So I decided to wait for some inspiration and this week it arrived with the departure of our mercurial little Russian, Andrei Arshavin…who ironically on many occasions, gave the impression he was doing much the same.
Now if you’re expecting this to be either a staunch defence of, or indeed vitriolic epitaph for him, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. As this won’t be either, in fact it’s not actually about Arshavin at all.
Its about second chances and if we as football fans are really able to give a player one, once we’ve made our mind up…something we seem to want to do as quickly as possible nowadays, and all within 140 characters of course. Anyway, there’s obviously plenty of case studies I could pick from over the years but I’ve chosen a few recent ones in the hope that both younger and more recent followers of the club are able to relate.
I’ll start with Adebayor, a player who despite his natural offsideyness was at times absolutely outstanding. Adebayor (perhaps alongside Nasri) left under the darkest of clouds. My personal belief is that talk of dates with Beyonce were just that, talk as he tried to play the negotiation game (a la Vieira & Henry) and failed miserably. See, he had never won a trophy and a spell of average form leading up to a very poor show in a CL semi-final against Man United at Old Trafford, meant he was afforded very little patience despite scoring 46 goals in 86 games in his last two seasons.
Some seemingly couldn’t wait to see the back of him, a certain mock Michael Owen style brochure was even created whilst he was still on our books which despite being ‘spit your tea out’ funny, was simply damning and yet was in fact a fair reflection of the wider opinion of him as both a player and a man.
His for me is now something of an indefensible case following his appalling on-field antics during a 4-2 defeat at the Etihad, not to mention the fact that he currently wears a cock on his chest…but these are the crimes that stop me wanting him back and they have been committed since he left the club. So the question is, had we brought a few less burning torches to his door for wanting an evening with the bootylicious one and actually kept him, what might we have achieved? Theres been long periods in the last couple of seasons when I think we could’ve really pushed on with him in the squad.
Should we have given him another chance? In hindsight, I think its hard to argue anything other than a yes.
Then there’s Denilson, our shakey-headed crab like Brazilian. A player whose main attributes will always split opinion amongst English football fans, who tend to prefer quick, direct, powerful attacking play. He didn’t do anything to disrespect the club. Much like Adebayor and most others that have gone, he did have a watershed moment with the fans and the gavel seemed to hit the block even quicker for him after a home game against Everton at the end of January 2010.
Filling in at DM, in an incident similar to that of our big f-ing German at Sunderland a couple of weeks back, Denilson, under very little, if any pressure collapsed in a heap in the middle of the park, allowing Pienaar a clear path towards goal to give Everton the lead. The anger directed at him within the ground at the time and even online hours later was again widespread, very strong and for me, unjust.
Now I know he stayed for another year but he lived on the fringes of the first team last season. Admittedly the emergence of a certain Jack Wilshere didn’t do him any favours but he started an incredible twenty less league games than in each of the two previous seasons, so the writing was on the wall long before he eventually joined Sao Paulo on loan in the summer. Again, there’s been plenty of occasions this season when we could’ve done with his ability to read the play, position himself well and most importantly maintain possession and recycle the ball. He of course is only on loan, so the question here is ‘could’ we give him another chance?
The answer is obviously yes we could and I actually think the club might but would those that hounded him out truly offer a clean slate? Or would human nature dictate that they would simply wait for the first opportunity to satisfy their own ego with an ‘I told you so’ moment?
To my mind there’s only three players I can think of that have been afforded a second chance of sorts, namely Sol Campbell, Alex Song and Emmanuel Eboue but they are slightly different cases.
Campbell doesn’t really need justifying, he left suddenly during a game against West Ham at Highbury due to what I can only imagine were personal demons and only came back as a stop gap. None the less, his return certainly served as a reminder of what a truly world class centre back looked like and his will and desire in the games he played removed any ill feelings harboured in the Gooner ranks.
Throughout Alex Songs rise to what I believe is one of the best DM/CMs around, its become patently clear that in the lead up to and including that awful night at Craven Cottage, he didn’t lack ability or desire, he simply wasn’t ready. Whilst being massively melodramatic, I distinctly remember turning to my old man during the game and saying ‘he’s got to be the worst player I’ve seen an Arsenal shirt’. His name is now on the back of mine and many others, but how many of us would have batted an eyelid had he signed permanently for Charlton rather than going on loan? I know I wouldn’t.
As for Eboue, his second chance was in the guise of a cult hero amongst the fans following the shameful booing after he was substituted against Wigan. It was as if he were permanently wearing his tiger costume for the rest of his time here and sadly, it was only a collective sense of guilt that went someway to repairing the broken heart of a grown man. Once more, there’s been plenty of games this season when he would’ve come in more than useful but the club knew he was living on little more than a sympathy vote and he was moved on in the summer.
Now we return to Arshavin who following a barrage of criticism, has finally gone. He like Denilson has only on loan but unlike the Brazilian, I’d be absolutely amazed if he were ever to wear a our famous colours again. His departure seems to have been met with a mix of astonishment, anger, frustration, indifference and relief, with three of the five relating to the clubs precarious position in the league more than public opinion of him, so its a hard one to pull apart.
What has become clear, is that the majority of people who would’ve happily paid for a one way ticket to St Petersburg a little over a month ago, would in fact be more than willing to offer him a second chance now it suits them now because we were offered immediate hindsight of sorts due to the Russian transfer window closing sometime after our own.
On Twitter, countless fans timelines will read like this over the space of two months > he’s sh*t > he offers nothing > don’t take off that kid I complained about signing for this lazy so and so > sell him in January > good riddance > what, he’s leaving? > we’re doomed. Heh.
I for one am not the slightest bit surprised that he forced a move (which is the only logical explanation) and perhaps we are doomed but maybe it’s our own fault to a certain extent. There seems to be this insatiable appetite to be right all the time, we over analyse, we’re over critical and I believe in a lot of cases we’ve hounded out players that could’ve improved our fortunes in recent times…some efficient, some quietly effective, some magical and some, well simply un-playable.
It even extends to the manager. If Wenger were to win the league or a European trophy next season, would those that suggest his time is up change their minds? Id suggest its very unlikely.
So in closing, I think once fans are finished with a player, thats it. All we can do is urge the more impatient amongst us to be careful who they boo for because, well…we just might need them.
Right, I’m off to take another bubble bath with my pants on. If all the fighting stops, well, next time I’ll do it sooner.
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