Blimey! Talk about national solidarity. Just days after a French chemicals plant ceased the release of its own toxic pall across Europe, Arsene Wenger took up the slack and began emitting his own formula of noxious nonsense.
It’s a story of two windows: while his compatriots have thrown open theirs and are gulping down fresh air for the first time in days, Arsene has been stalking the laboratory in his football lair (dressed in his favourite quilted lab coat) making sure each and every window is tight shut lest a variable rush in and ruin the validity of his football experiment.
I mean, how is it possible to truly prove which is the best team if they’re allowed to swap players half way through the competition? The bare-faced balls of it!
“It is unfair [that] some teams have played, for example, Newcastle already and then some still have to face a side with six or eight new players,” Arsene told the press, in reference to the Magpie’s purchase of Massadio Haidara, Yoan Gouffran, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Mathieu Debuchy. More players are expected to follow shortly, adding to the unfairness.
But its odd to argue that something in the world of football should be changed on the basis that it’s unfair.
It’s unfair that the petrodollars of Abu Dhabi afford Mancini and colleagues the means to tempt any player willing to play in Manchester (he’s nice - do you have him in blue?) while an impoverished David Moyes is left lurking around opposition training grounds with a Child Catcher’s net looking to land himself a careless talent and drag it back to Merseyside. The net is past its best but Bill Kenwright has told Moyes he must sell it on to fund the purchase of a new one.
Arsene, look at the precision engineered, predatory talent that is Robin van Persie. It was unfair that you had him before he flew north for the winter - and its unfair that United have him now - while the likes of Stoke City make do with the malformed Peter Crouch, who, thinking about it, may have actually escaped from a laboratory.
Football is unfair (what i just said about Crouch is unfair) but its that lack of balance (not Crouch’s but in regard to the inequity of money and talent) that makes it all the more enjoyable when the likes of Bradford turn up at Villa Park and kick over the apple cart.
How far would Arsene go to make the game truly fair? how about taking a page out of the Boys from Brazil. Let each team have a cloned set of the 1970 World Cup winning squad and each manager can play them how they like. Arsene’s with finesse; Pulis’ going long; and ‘Arry’s f*cking running around a bit. That’d be a truly level playing field. Talking about cloned Brazilian players, I’m yet to be convinced that Alex Ferguson hasn’t himself perfected the technology. There’s legs in the conspiracy that he always replaces Rafael with a fresh specimen at half time. Fabio is supposedly Rafael’s twin, but I wouldn’t be surprised if United have simply loaned QPR the prototype.
The truth is, I love football being unfair. I don’t want video technology. I want the complaints that come with the mistakes that officials make and the narrative it adds to the life of being a supporter. How less sweet would Spurs’ victory over Man United have been earlier this season, had it not been for the injustice that led to it. Think of Pedro Mendes shooting from his own half, of Roy Carroll fumbling the ball over the line and then pawing it back and to the left.
Back and to the left.
Back and to the left.
Spurs fans can finally box up that Zapruder film and start to forget but I’d argue their lives are richer now than if Martin Jol been able to challenge Mark Clattenburg’s decision, if Hawkeye had been consulted and if the goal had been given. If the game was fair.
I suspect the truth is that Arsene’s plea has nothing to do with fairness but instead the fact that his ability to take advantage of the transfer window no longer surpasses that of his rivals. Their scouting networks have caught up, and Arsenal’s relative spending power has shrunk.
No, the window must be allowed to stay open. Professor, the variables must be allowed to seep through. Just recount for a moment the greatness that the opening of the January transfer window has delivered unto English football.
Imagine a Premier League in which Thierry Henry didn’t arrive from Juventus in January 2000 (by my account that one worked out pretty unfairly for everyone but Arsenal for years to come, and I’m thankful for it). Or if Torres hadn’t switched from Liverpool to Chelsea or Luis Suarez hadn’t come from Ajax. Consider the dramas we would have missed! It just doesn’t bear thinking about.
The argument from a club perspective is pretty compelling too. The window gives teams the opportunity to add talent in areas where new arrivals have failed to live up to expectation or injuries have left them short, and (borrowing a b*llshit corporate phrase) it allows teams to realise greater value for their assets - meaning they can hike up the price of their players in the face of desperate buyers.
Even setting a cap for how many players a team can bring in would be folly. Imagine a January where Sky Sports will only twice video Harry Redknapp leaning through his car window expounding the talents of his shiny new purchase. Not so ‘triffic.
Plus Wenger’s comments have since been echoed by Michel Platini. So they can’t be right.
Adam Duckett is a science writer who reads newspapers from back to front. He can be found tweeting about football here.