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International Ship Jumping Championships, live from London

By Simon Rose

Presented by Arsenal Football Club

Against all odds and perceived wisdom, Arsene Wenger actually appears likely to stay at Arsenal, for at least one or possibly two more years. Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil continue to look set to leave this summer. Hector Bellerin is talking up Barcelona and Manchester City. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has yet to be offered a new contract. Jack Wilshere is at Bournemouth. None of our goalkeepers are convincing and many supporters would gladly see the back of Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and a whole host of others. If Wenger does stay we are not just talking about some players jumping ship from the club this summer, we’re looking at the International Ship Jumping Championships, live from London, presented by Arsenal Football Club.

What on earth would it say about Arsenal’s ambitions if Alexis and Ozil – signed to take Arsenal to the next level – are allowed to leave? Do they take our ambitions with them? Would we retain any lingering ambition if they go? And would we remain an ambitious destination for top players? (If indeed we are one). I have often said that the world is full of footballers and I expect Arsenal to recruit well from it, but who would want to join a club like this? One where a failing manager bizarrely hangs on and top players want to leave? It certainly isn’t a great advert. If Arsenal was a holiday destination right now, the Foreign Office would be advising against travelling there.

I've said it a million times and this won't be the last time: you have players between transfer windows. During windows, any player is fair game and is signable. Don't get too attached to players or perceive them to have loyalty to your club. Players are on contracts, which work both ways. Contracts protect the player and the club. Players get rewarded with improved deals and clubs get rewarded with justifying a higher sale price, when push comes to shove. That is what it’s about - unless players reach the end of a deal and leave for nothing, they get sold, for a fee. Arsenal have never been shy of selling players for fees and there is no reason why this summer should be any different. We supporters might love Arsenal, it’s our club, but it's a job to the players. It's their career. And like anybody, in any line of work, footballers want to maximise their career.

Loyalty is a myth. There is no such thing as loyalty. There are footballers, clubs and careers. Would you stay working for a fading organisation, just because you’ve been there for a while? Of course not, you’d look for a new job. When players are performing well, clubs want to keep them and protect their investment by offering improved terms, to retain the player’s services. When players are not performing so well, clubs sell them. Some loyalty. Football clubs are not charitable foundations, they are businesses. Players come, players go. Managers come, managers go. At least usually they do.

If Arsenal do not appear to be matching players’ ambitions, players will want to leave. That is normal. That is not their fault. It is Arsenal’s fault. As a kid schooled in Barcelona’s academy before joining Arsenal, why wouldn’t Bellerin want to return there if given the chance? Barca legend Pep Guardiola is probably a hero to Bellerin. Why wouldn't he want to join Pep at City? Bellerin won't stay at Arsenal for long if we continue to fade away and frankly he doesn’t need to. If Arsenal can no longer compete at the top level, he would join a club that can. If Arsenal were real challengers, with a vibrant coach, players would want to stay and stars would want to join. But we're treading water and starting to drift away with the current.

I am not sure that even the most ardent of WOBs thought that Arsenal would reach a stage, under Wenger, where we are getting serially walloped home and away and only able to beat non-league teams in a long-term run of defeats. Ordinarily, any manager at any club would be sacked on that record. But, as we know, Wenger has always said that he would not quit a contract and the club have never looked likely to sack him from one. In which case, the only opportunity for change is when a contract ends. This summer is that latest window. There is no shame for Wenger to opt to leave. It would be the best and perfectly reasonable time to part. What does not feel reasonable, or frankly even necessary, is for Wenger to bluster aside growing derision and choose to stay on.

It is not desperately surprising that Wenger wants to stay, or that Stan Kroenke might want him to do so, but it is somewhat shocking if the club wish to retain Wenger. Rather than current protests illustrating the snowballing level of fan unrest, regarding management and board issues, the club seems to be convincing itself that the complaints and social media ire only represent a vocal minority and that the majority are still behind the manager. Rather than the protests being recognised as a tip of a potentially substantial iceberg, they are being passed off as frost to scrape off a windscreen. Ivan Gazidis has been quiet for some time. Perhaps he can see the iceberg and he is the one looking for another job.

There is always media speculation about Arsenal clear-outs and fan derision over dead wood, but ordinarily we know full well that the largest turnover would most likely be 3-4 out and 3-4 in. Could that be different this summer? Are we entering into a summer of unprecedented upheaval? Beyond the players that some fans would be quite happy to see go, might others leave that fans would be quite gutted about? Alexis? Ozil? Both have been demonised, to reduce the hurt of them going. What about Bellerin? How about if Koscielny wanted to go too? Then how would you feel? Are there many other current Arsenal players you would be overly bothered about leaving as well? Once the exit door opens, an unanticipated and substantial number of current players might queue up to use it. That could dump the manager – Wenger or someone new – with an unparalleled level of rebuilding on their hands. As a supporter, make this summer easy on yourself: expect any of our players to go, then you can't be too surprised if the ship jumping gathers pace.

@thatsimonrose

22nd March 2017 13:08:06

(6.6/10)

Comments and Reaction

User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.

CT Gooner  13:58pm 22nd Mar 2017

So you really have come round huh Simon? I think it's appalling that he doesn't see what so many others do, his time is up. What's worse though is all these past players queuing up to big up Wenger. I'd rather hear from Patrick Viera on this topic... - Post No. 105595


mbg  15:00pm 22nd Mar 2017

We know everything we need to know about Arsenal's ambitions Simon with or with out Sanchez and/or Ozil, or others are you for getting who our manager is ? The laughing stock of Europe, It's not going to matter as long as he is hanging around like a bad smell, have you not realised that even yet ? even after all this time ? and everything that has happened ? the embarrassments and tonkings, so you think wenger is going to stay do you ? That must be music to your ears. #no new contract wenger out and all AKB's with him. - Post No. 105600


Yes its Ron  15:13pm 22nd Mar 2017

Hi Simon. A good many of us have seen the pace and extent of the Clubs decline under Wenger increasing in its rapidity this last 7 to 8 yrs. Many asked for his sacking back in 2010 and many before that in fact. As for the dynamic duo, Ozils no loss in my view. Im not sure he ever wanted to be at the Club. Sanchez over rates his own abilities too, very much so in my view. Theres not a player there or out on loan who would be missed. Yr right on loyalty. Fans have woken up to that for some time. It cuts both ways now though at long last. Fans have no loyalty to the players. None are remotely worth giving it to anyway at Arsenal in any event. Good riddance the whole job lot. A new Coach needs to be told he can ship the lot out if he deems it necessary. - Post No. 105602


Yes its Ron  15:31pm 22nd Mar 2017

PS Simon - meant to say that a good many fans would take a few Seasons of lower to mid table struggle while the Club re builds. Im one of them. You shdt underestimate the extent to which fans will accept a tough time if it means the Club shedding Wenger and his hapless crew of yes merchants on his back benches. Hopefully, SK will get peed off too if the Clubs fortunes fall low enough to get the sponsors asking questions. Yr article implies many WOBs havent thought it through? They have and have done so for years. A relegation dog fight or two would at least put some fire, urgency and vitality back into proceedings at N7. In short, heres to unbridled ship jumping. The more the better in my view. Theyve all had their chances (too many) and blown it. - Post No. 105604


Exeter Gunner  16:39pm 22nd Mar 2017

Like Ron I couldn't care less which players leave. It makes no difference who's there when you have a manager whose way of working makes challenging utterly impossible and regular humiliation inevitable. So what if AFC finished a bit lower than they currently do in the table during the massive rebuilding that will be necessary post-Wenger (whenever this century that happens). The only thing that matters is him going. There's nothing to support or care about at AFC until he does. - Post No. 105605


mbg  17:19pm 22nd Mar 2017

A great caption in the Sun today in David Kidd's Article, TLSOE face painted like the clown he is underneath the heading Roll up Roll up Circus is in town, Arsenal freak show never fails to entertain, how true. wenger has made himself and is the laughing stock of Europe (and rightly so) and he has made this once great club the same, you'll never be forgiven wenger even if you were to kneel on the centre circle of the Emirates and beg, go now your a f*****g embarrassment. wenger out. - Post No. 105608


Old Man  18:36pm 22nd Mar 2017

Changed yer mind?! ha ha. - Post No. 105610


jjetplane  19:40pm 22nd Mar 2017

Who would really want most of these players. Not one of them could walk into any side and is Bellerin really that good? I imagine like Wenger most of these players would like to stay for another couple of seasons fannying around and getting injured with no pressure now that top 4 is beyond their reach. Olly, Theo and the rest under Wenger will carry on regardless and finish possible top six. The club has degaded so far that it has clean forgotten it's footballing purpose. But it's a good earner for the likes of Wally and Olly and they will big up Wenger as only Untold can. Simon is still hedging his bets but if you really want some change then get more directly vocal. You still have not changed ships yourself and HMS Wenger will sail next season with a full and ready crew with not a change of face. Aye aye uncle! - Post No. 105614


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