Heading into the new EPL season there’s something Adrian Deans desperately needs to get off his chest.
Did Alexis Sanchez ever kiss the Arsenal badge?
I’m fairly sure he has, but I’d prefer it if he hadn’t.
The attempted defection of Sanchez to Manchester City (or Paris Saint-Germain) is, for me, one of the uglier betrayals in recent memory.
Of course professional players are entitled to go where they like and be paid whatever they can negotiate. But they are not entitled to bring down the teams that have paid them and nurtured them - they are not entitled to destroy the hopes and dreams of the fans – they are not entitled to hold clubs to ransom – in pursuit of their greed.
In mid-December 2016 Arsenal were flying. They were top of the league and had recently thrashed Chelsea 3–0. The way they were playing there was every likelihood they would have continued to carry all before them and win the league comfortably (as Chelsea ultimately did).
But no sooner had Arsenal clawed their way to the top of the pile, Sanchez and Ozil dropped the bombshells. They wanted to tear apart Arsenal’s carefully managed pay structure and demanded new contracts for triple their current (very high) salaries. ‘Because I’m Worth It’ screamed the headlines regarding their demands, but are they?
Are players, already on mind-numbing wages, really worth triple that money?
And what if Arsene Wenger and the board agreed? What does that do to the rest of the team? Some of whom will have clauses in their contracts that they will always remain within X% of the highest paid player? (Some of whom will not.)
At the very least it will drive a wedge through the team and set them at odds with each other. Arsenal’s season had completely fallen apart by New Years because Sanchez and Ozil had chosen the Season of Goodwill to force their demands on the club and rip it to shreds. A winning team suddenly lost a couple of games and they were back among the pack. Then in Jan/Feb they lost about four on the trot, culminating with two 5–1 losses to Bayern Munich and that was it for the Gooners.
That’s when all the trouble started for Arsene also. Sanchez acting like a prat and forcing the issue – sitting on the bench with a face like a dropped pie and setting the fans against the manager.
By this time you’ll probably have worked out that I am an Arsenal fan.
But that’s neither here nor there. All fans of big clubs have experienced this pain many times over – players who fiercely pound the badge above their heart after scoring, then wipe their arses with the shirt the moment they don’t get their way. Leave the club by all means if you want to negotiate a better deal, but don’t drag the team down in the pursuit of your greed.
Don’t destroy the hopes of the fans who pay your wages because you’d like another ivory backscratcher.
Above all, don’t kiss the badge when you’re not prepared to (figuratively) die for it in the heat of battle (as any of the fans gladly would).
I would like to call for a new code of player behaviour that outlaws certain actions.
No player shall ignore the hand of the manager when substituted.
No player shall throw boots or kick drink bottles except in celebration.
No player shall kiss the badge until at least their third season with a professional club.
Is that really too much to ask? Some professional dignity from players paid millions to live out the dreams of the fans?
As for Alexis Sanchez, do I really want him back?
Yes, he’s a brilliant footballer - one of the best in the world - but I can’t give my love unreservedly to a player just for wearing the shirt. It takes more than that for me – a little bit of love in return perhaps by doing something like respecting the contract, the coach, the club and the fans.
Man City are welcome to him.
Adrian’s latest book Political Football: Lawrie McKinna’s Dangerous Truth is in the shops right now or available through Booktopia. Adrian also wrote Mr Cleansheets.