Posts Tagged ‘Cesc’

There is a thought experiment in quantum mechanics called Schrödinger’s cat, born out of the need to explain the complex nature of theories in quantum mechanics and how they would play out (absurdly so)  in everyday life and how under the proposed theory of the day published in 1935, a quantum system such as an atom could exist in multiple states. These multiple states all corresponding to different outcomes, this was referred to as quantum superpositions. The theory of the day known as the Copenhagen interpretation, stated that a quantum system existed in this superposition until it was interacted with or observed by the outside world. At this point the superposition would fall into one of the definitive states possible.

Schrödinger developed his experiment to show how someone could create a superposition where a large-scale system was dependent on a quantum particle in said superposition. Hence the cat in the box. He wasn’t out to prove the Copenhagen interpretation right, he was out to show how ridiculous the current (in that time) view of quantum mechanics where when applied to everyday life.

There have been different interpretations of this thought experiment throughout the years, some more elaborate, some less, dependent on the audience, but in essence, here is the theory;

A cat is sealed inside of a box. The cat is not alone in this box mind you, it’s sealed along with a contraption built out of a Geiger counter connected via relay to a hammer and a tube of hydrocyanic acid. The last piece of the puzzle is a small piece of radioactive substance. Over the course of an hour, the radioactive substance could remain stable and the cat remains alive or the substance could decay. If the substance decays, it would cause the Geiger counter to go off, setting off the relay that would free the hammer to smash the tube that contains the acid that ultimately kills the cat. Under the Copenhagen interpretation and the view of quantum mechanics, the cat is both alive and dead until the box is opened.

Now, what does all of this have to do with Arsenal? Well, let me explain.

First we have the cat. The “cat” for me is achievements; wins, progression in competitions, cups, etc. Then we have the system, the “system” is everything at the club; players, manager, etc. Then finally we have the small substance in a superposition state, that’s Arsenal’s performances. The time allowed for the experiment is the time between matches, where anything and everything is possible, the time where Arsenal exists in multiple states. The opening of the box, the observation from the outside world to see what state Arsenal is in, would be the performance and/or results on match-day Follow me?

We as supporters all throw out different scenarios for any given match. The box is closed. The cat is very much alive or very much dead, we don’t know. We hope it’s alive, we wish above all else it remains alive, when it comes to match-day we cheer it to be alive still, but more often than not these days, we have no idea if we should get the cat food out of the cupboard or go online to shop for burial services, such is the inconsistency surrounding Arsenal.

The nature of the inconsistency is mind-boggling. Let’s take the Monaco match as an example. Arsenal have reinforced, not to the best their ability, but have done so nonetheless. Most of the key players are healthy, the majority of the team has the experience in the Champion’s League thanks to the year in and out of qualification. Finally, after a fair number of years with difficult ties to progress, a seemingly manageable tie was on the cards against an undermanned team, and yet – capitulation ensued. Leading up to the match, after a good run, with the only blip being the NLD loss, one would have thought this was a statement match, yet there was no urgency, no passion, from top to bottom.

Now, Arsenal face a crossroads. It isn’t a crisis as some may have you think. It’s a chase for identity. For so many years, especially for those teams led by Cesc and Co., they were chasing giants and legends of football. Now, this team, with the likes of Ă–zil, Sanchez, Cazorla, Ramsey, they need to make their own way, their own legend, and they are somewhat struggling to come to grips with the label of being a “big team”. You see flashes of it, what Arsenal “could be”. Then you see flashes of what Arsenal were, in those years after the Invincibles, “also-rans”. This current team is dealing with one of the worst cases of multiple personality I can remember in sports. On their day, with the talent available, they can beat anyone, yes, anyone. But on a bad day, they can lose to anyone, yes, again, anyone. The box is closed.

What makes the difference in one match to the next? In a wonderful performance and meltdown? One would say opposition, but that’s not necessarily the case. AFC has beaten good teams and lost to mediocre teams as well. Sometimes week to week. That is not the trait of a settled team, that is not the earmark of a team pushing to be elite, or being pushed?

I hate to say it, but I must bring it up. For 10 years Arsenal were trophyless. There are many reasons, but the truth remains. There have been talented teams that underachieved and so-so teams that may have overachieved. The one constant has been Wenger. There is no denying he was a great manager. I don’t think you can find many that would dispute that. The real discussion is – is AW still one now? He was innovative in tactics, nutrition, etc. Is he still now? Has Arsenal stagnated by clinging on to the past or is this the period where the team is built for the next big run. Are we all fooling ourselves thinking as much? All hard questions. None of us have the answers. That damned box!

For my part, I believe that Arsenal will take that next step, further reinforce, become more consistent. Whether Wenger is a part of that or not remains to be seen. Taking that next step doesn’t guarantee any more success than now though, it just guarantees a better shot at it. Teams like City, Chelsea, Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern, PSG, etc. will all continue to spend money on the biggest names. Arsenal will have to become more consistent whilst they close that gap, it won’t be easy, but it can happen, will happen I dare say. For that to happen, there has to be some accountability. If that includes replacing the manager or certain players, so be it. As long as it’s good for the club.

In the meanwhile, there really is nothing to do but support who is on the pitch and who is guiding them from the sideline. There will be no additions and there won’t be a managerial change from now until the end of the season, so there is no point bringing negativity to the party. The first step to cleanse the atmosphere from the loss on Wednesday is Sunday versus Everton. A sign of a good team is being able to bounce back from adversity and Arsenal have managed that over the last few years, giving us all hope. Certainly if Wednesday was meant to be a statement match, after the result, one has to think Everton has now become one as well, more important even.

This is the chance for the players to take a step forward and show what they’re made of. This is a chance for the manager to make changes that signal mediocrity will not be tolerated. For a great many reasons, this match on Sunday could make or break the spirit of this team for the remainder of the season.

I for one back them to make that statement, what about you? Right now, Arsenal exists in multiple states, anything is possible. What will be the outcome? Will the cat be alive or dead? Sunday at 2:05pm we’ll open the box and find out.

Disclaimer

*It must be said that my understanding and knowledge of quantum mechanics and all the attached theories is very basic. I am explaining it to you as I have come to know it, which is to say, how a college professor taught me, a failed athlete that was half paying attention in class when this was taught. I also took the liberty to brush up with web searches, naturally! To those with extensive knowledge on the experiment or this field, my apologies if any mistakes were made.*

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August 31st, 2011; Just three days after being humiliated by Manchester United 8-2 at Old Trafford, fielding a team that included Traore, Coquelin, Jenkinson, Djourou and Miquel, Ă–zyakup, Lansbury and Sunu on the bench, Arsenal went on a Transfer Deadline Day spending spree that saw the likes of Arteta, Mertesacker, Santos and Benayoun join the club.

It was a busy summer that saw a lot of movement in and out of the club. Short term it was a step backwards, but could yet be looked upon as a turning point to better times, but I digress.

The departures that summer were big names like Cesc and Nasri and lesser names such as Clichy, Eboue and Traore. The arrivals were Jenkinson, Gervinho, Chamberlain, Park, Toral, Bellerin, Olsson, Gnabry, Campbell, Eisfeld to add to the names mentioned earlier. It was definitely a turbulent time.

I want to focus on two players that Arsenal acquired that summer and that are under scrutiny by pundits and supporters alike – Mertesacker and Arteta.

There are a multitude of positives that these two have in common. Character, professionalism, experience, an ability to “read the game”, and most importantly, what was so desperately needed at that time, in conjunction with all previously mentioned, leadership ability.

The short journey for both players has been a bit different but for me, they are both at the same point in their careers and exhibiting the same weaknesses. Let’s break it down by player.

Arteta:

Arteta isn’t a DM, holding midfielder, etc. , whatever you want to call it. That’s just a fact. He played a more forward position at Everton and was in fact a play-maker and sometimes scorer. Upon his move to Arsenal, where he took less money to play in bigger matches with a bigger club, he also took on, at 29, a more defensive role. He did it as best as could be expected given the age at which he switched positions, the demands of the position given the style of system he was thrust upon, the upheaval in personnel he had to endure and the pressure all of that entailed. In summary, the man sacrificed what was left of his career to go to a bigger club and do what they needed him to do to get on the pitch and contribute. It was utterly professional – selfless even; A rarity in sports.

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For the first 18 months, he was AN answer, just not THE answer at the position. For the last 18 months, it has been rocky, to say the least. The issue with Mikel is simple; Playing deeper, in the position he was/is asked to play, he’s being tasked with covering the back four, particularly the CB’s who are left exposed by the attacking FB’s, against players much faster and stronger than him. With his diminishing physical abilities (most noticeably pace), he simply isn’t able to do this task effectively. It was admirable to watch in the first half of his Arsenal career, the effort, the organization, the leadership, all on display, that helped us grind out results. His experience and ability to read the game allowed him to be relatively effective against most teams (top clubs excluded) and his clear passing talent allowed for some opportunities in the attacking end. It was a “bend don’t break” approach and it was OK given the transitional nature of the period. It isn’t what is needed now however, with the talent acquired by Arsenal these last few years.

Midway, since his arrival, whether it be age, the physical toll of the position or simply that the opposition knew they could – Arteta has been overrun in midfield. Where as before it was by more talented opposition, the deterioration of his physical abilities has allowed for less adroit teams to take advantage and run roughshod over the Arsenal midfield. Long story short? Arteta is getting old, is slower and has less of a motor. He was never meant to be the complete answer at that position but has been plugged in to stop a leak, but now the damn has broken – the water found a way through as it always does.

This isn’t new news, it’s been easy to see for quite some time. What was at one point admirable, is now cringe-worthy most times. There is a reason why in the last two summers there has been SOME effort to replenish the ranks at that position. I say some effort because if there was ABSOLUTE effort it would have been accomplished. Arteta can’t help getting older, getting slower and being played there despite obvious flaws for the position.

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Mertesacker:

Mertesacker had a bit of a tough transitional period after his move. The rigours of life in the EPL are immense to deal with and it showed with the big German. He was even confused by pundits with Metzelder who briefly played for Real Madrid; what’s in a name ey? Slowly but surely, he became (still is) a fixture in the side. Like Arteta, Per is a true professional that embodies all that is right in sport. Just like Arteta, Mertesacker is not exactly blessed with physical prowess, although he’s a tower of a man. Despite this, he was able to use his vast experience to be at the right place, at the right time – most times.

The similarities of the decline of their physical attributes is especially intriguing given that both arrived at the same time.

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Mertesacker is a mountain of a man, but funnily enough doesn’t use that to his advantage. He is a more technical player that uses positioning to ward off attacks. Since day one, where he has struggled has been his lack of pace and power. More physical forwards can out-muscle him and more pacey forwards can outrun him. Players that possess both attributes absolutely destroy him – Lukaku for example.

Although the above scenarios do occur, they have been offset by the dynamic pairing with Koscielny and were limited to exceptions rather than norm as the pair became better acquainted. Experience and great positioning coupled with physicality and grit – A great duo.

Yet, I am concerned with the deterioration of Mertesacker’s decision-making and positional awareness versus attackers that have one or both of the attributes mentioned before. Simply put, whereas Arteta’s decline can be attributed to physical limitations, Per’s is more mental. That’s not to say Per hasn’t “lost a step”, but never being fleet of foot before, the decline there is minimal and surely can be compensated for. The mistakes where Per misreads match situations have gone up considerably over the last months of last season and into this year. As an example, there has been much praise for Debuchy on his arrival, due to his “sweeping up” of play – coming behind attackers to dispossess them or make the final tackle to save the defence. Although some of that was with Chambers beside him at CB, some of it was also with Per there, that’s never a good sign when coming from one of Arsenal’s most experienced players.

There have been times during this period (end of last year – beginning of this year) where replays show Per knows where he needs to be and is unable to get there or something out of the ordinary happens; a fall, an off-side trap poorly executed, etc. There are also times where he is just physically outdone. Such was the case of Lukaku’s goal a couple of weeks back where, although fouled, the BFG was simply tossed aside. Is it rust? Is it a player in decline and if so, is the decline mental or physical?

Better yet, is any of this fixable?

Remember, we’re talking about Arsenal’s captain and vice-captain here, as well as a major portion of the spine of the team!

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What does this all mean?

So, after giving my take, and in the end that’s all it is, what does this all mean?

I have been waiting for Arsenal to get a proper holding midfielder for the last 6 years. It has cost the team time and again. There is a need for a player with technique, power and pace to compliment the creative talent in the side. There are players available, the funds (also available) have to be spent to acquire one!

For this position, Arteta isn’t going to suddenly get faster, stronger, meaner, etc. The physical attributes will continue to deteriorate. He is 32 going on 40. I like Arteta, I really do. I have said it time and again. He can be a squad player, he can continue to guide younger players, he is a great leader and a wonderful professional. He just shouldn’t be Arsenal’s main choice for holding midfielder. The solution is clear and has been for some time – Arsenal need to sign a holding midfielder!

For Per, I have a lasting hope that he can improve on his present form. The BFG just needs to be more aware of his surroundings and adjust for the opposition faced. There needs to be better communication across that back four and the team in general. The mistakes have gone up, yet hopefully can be curtailed as the season progresses and the partnerships with new players grow. The need for Arsenal to address proper CB cover is still an issue with or without Per’s issues or improvement.

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Football is a funny game. Nothing happens as you think it might. On that August in 2011 when Arsenal went “bargain shopping” as some called it, to fix the many issues at the time, the club ended up with these two players that brought stability, professionalism, pride, work ethic and class when it was sorely needed and missing. They have been the embodiment of professionalism ever since and I don’t think you could find anyone associated with the club that could speak ill of either player.

But this is sport, sentimentality is in short supply. Football teams and players are in the business of entertainment, results, and money. Will Arsenal do what they must to take that next step? Or will we as supporters be having these same discussions next September? Questions about how the summer was a missed opportunity to get on even footing with the elite? Time will tell.

For me, it’s clear what needs to happen as I’m sure it is with you. Will it happen is another thing altogether. Those decisions are left to those that know better than us.

They do, you know – “know better than us”, that’s what’s so frustrating.

Up the Arsenal!

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This can get complicated if you don’t pay attention, so we will keep it simple.

I will use euros and the conversion from pounds is a guesstimation from the time of the transfer, but these are the key points to his contract and what it means for Arsenal should FCB decide to sell.

Length: 5 years, 7m€ per year.

Initial Fee: 35m€ paid in two parts. 6m€ loyalty fee due to transfer waived by Cesc.

Add Ons: 6m€ for 1 CL or 2 La Liga titles in 3 years, was later reported to be broken down per La Liga title.

Clauses: 30m€ First Option, Right of First Refusal clause. This is the one most people don’t get. FCB have to either get a bid in and accept and no matter that offer, say it is 40m€, we have a right of first refusal to buy him back for 30m€.

Or if FCB decide to sell without having a bid in, they must inform us & we have a right of first refusal for the 30m€.

We do NOT have an option where we can go in blindly, pony up 30m€ and FCB HAVE to sell to us, this is where people are getting confused.

In the contract there is also a 50% Sell On clause, meaning, if there is a bid for him and we pass on buying him with our first option clause, we get 50% of the transfer fee.
Edit – We would get 50% of what is left over above the 35m€ base fee FCB paid for him. So if a 40m€ is accepted and we pass on re-signing him, we get 50% of 5m€.

2nd Edit – An additional twist to the above clause. If Barca sell Cesc for a loss, to another team, Arsenal get 0€.

The third scenario is that Cesc can convince FCB that he wants a move back to AFC and a mutual break of the above contract could lead to a transfer.

His release clause is 200m€. Barcelona have confirmed it to the press.

The clauses are clear, they have been assembled here for easier understanding and from press conferences, press releases, interviews, etc. The thing with the AFC fan-base these days is that they’ll believe anything that’s fed them as long as it fits what they want, and most want Cesc back, so there you go. Even the Daily Mail article eludes to these clauses and the need of FCB wanting to sell for it to come into effect, but everyone ignored that.

Hope this helps.

Edit – Cesc has to agree any move, just like with any transfer. So even though FCB may want to sell and AFC may want to buy, Cesc has to agree with us or choose to go elsewhere. That is a possibility no one is talking about.

Many stories circulating about a piece in Marca claiming Cesc may find a way back to Arsenal this summer.

Let’s put an end to that right now, those circulating those rumors are looking for your views on their pages or are desperate for attention. Probably a bit of both.

The Marca article is here: Marca – Cesc and it doesn’t mention Arsenal at all.

The desperate souls needing page hits during these last few days are pulling your leg folks, so don’t spread the nonsense.

The article mentions the various positional conflicts Cesc faces at FCB, we all knew that before he left, and goes on to describe the difficulty that new manager Tito is having finding him consistent minutes. If he has problems finding Cesc minutes, what will become of old Song?

So don’t get your hopes up on an Arsene, Cesc reunion anytime soon.

In other news, I’ve been told that the club made an approach on two Real Madrid players last week after the Sahin situation. I have no confirmation on names, but I am working on it. It seems there are things going on we don’t know about, as it should be, some surprises might be in store.

Anyway, don’t buy into every story out there Gooners, do your due diligence and smoke out the fakes!

COYG!

As I sit here, an Arsenal supporter of 21 years, I am amazed at all the recent connections the club has with the Spanish giants; footballing philosophy, types of players, transfers between the clubs, etc. This would lead you to believe this should be an alliance, not the tug of war battle that it has become. There is an underlying displeasure here for Arsenal, both sporting and ethical, as the Spanish club has crowned themselves kings thus making our actions inexcusable. How did it get to this?

Philosophy:

Wenger has made no bones about it, his style of coaching and approach to the game both on and off the field is influenced by Johan Cruyff and his success as a player and coach. Wenger’s beliefs of frugal spending, development of youth and philosophy of attacking, pressure football are all hallmarks of that influence. So too are they hallmarks of how Barcelona are set up as a club to a large extent; although FCB shelled out 409m in the last few years for transfers. Surprised? Yeah me too, so much for “home-grown” talent approach. This has led to the erroneous statements by many that Arsenal copy Barcelona. Simply put, they don’t. If anything, they are copying Ajax, but then so too are Barcelona. To hear them talk of it though, this system was invented by the Catalan club, never mind that as a player and later as a coach, Johan Cruyff instilled that system and philosophy at FCB after leaving the Dutch giants. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery as they say, but what is plagiarism? That is what Barcelona are doing, they are taking a system brought about by others and calling it their own invention, and then criticizing others for “stealing” it. The self-proclaimed and media backed “greatest team of all time” can’t admit, or won’t, that they owe their success to someone outside their circle (in this day and age that means he MUST be Catalan to receive credit). How did they treat one of the greatest influences of the modern game and the one person that changed the fortunes at FCB? They stripped him of his “Honorary President” title and asked for the symbolic medal back. Stay classy Barcelona.

I won’t get into the merits of who would win in a match between the 2003/04 Invincibles, having fought through the hardest league in football unbeaten or the Barcelona squad from two years ago, there are simply too many variables to consider. But if you count the 2006 CL final as a proper measuring stick, then you are certainly not paying attention, then or now. That discussion is best left for another time.

Transfers Out:

Let’s be clear, Arsenal have made out like bandits selling to Barcelona. Most of the players have contributed little to the cause at the Camp Nou after their departure from the Gunners. Only Henry, and to some extent Giovanni van Bronckhorst, have made their Barcelona adventure worthwhile. Hleb, Petit, and Overmars were relatively, well, average and non-existent once they left Arsenal for the Catalan city. After a self-described average first year, the jury is still out as to whether Cesc will have the influence he had whilst wearing the armband at the Emirates, time will tell. In total, during the years AW has transformed the system and culture at AFC, he has managed to squeeze a ridiculous 95m pounds out of Barcelona for 6 players. Those 6 players in contrast cost the Gunners 39.5m pounds. The huge difference being they gave the club and us, the supporters, a multitude of memories and accolades, not to mention legendary seasons such as Henry help spearhead in 2003/04.

Transfers In:

When a club buys a player in his prime or relatively close to it, they expect to get good performances from him; at least enough to justify the price tag, but everyone knows there is always a risk they will flop. When you can capture a prospect before he even gets started in his career, and do it at a minimal price, well that’s what all managers dream about. Arsenal have been able to do that to Barcelona as well; much to the displeasure of the coaching staff and personnel at FCB, not to mention the fan base. Arsenal are seen as thieves that come and poach the best talent due to legal loopholes for young players. Fran Merida followed Cesc 3 years on and made the switch. Since then, another three youth players have made the jump to join the youth ranks at Arsenal; Miquel (captured from Cornella, but a product of FCB’s youth system), Toral, Bellerin all chose to ply their trade at AFC making the already strained relationship that much more tense. Any Barcelona supporter will be quick to tell you how we are thieves, stealing their talented youth, but they will also have selective memory over the approaches FCB made to acquire Afobe and Aneke not so long ago. TouchĂ©!

Rumours:

When you have similar philosophies and somewhat similar systems it is only natural that the two clubs are huge admirers of each other’s players. Arsenal has taken advantage, when the occasion has called for it, of the labor laws encompassing youngsters in Spain to sign talented players from La Masia. At the same time, Barcelona players and staff have made every effort to tap up Arsenal players through the media (Mundo, Sport) and on the club’s own website. This includes Cesc, Vermaelen, Koscielny, RvP, and most recently, Song. There simply is a startling difference in the way each club handles things. FCB are very brash and arrogant in my view, whilst Arsenal tends to keep things more private. Is it a biased opinion? Well, of course it is; that doesn’t make it wrong. Barcelona feel self entitled to do and say anything they want without any repercussions, while the media endorses it and the governing bodies let them get away with it without even a reprimand. Yet, when Arsenal legally go after an available youth player, we are labeled criminals. Fair? Nope. Typical? Absolutely.

Conclusion:

This is a Cold War that will last as long as Arsene is succeeded by a coach that shares his philosophy and the club maintains the Ajax inspired culture he has built. Barcelona have been at it longer, Arsenal have done well by it, and it seems we are going to be connected for a long time whether we like it or not. Hopefully tensions can ease over time, but as long as we poach their youth players and them in turn publicly, and unethically I might add, tap our players up; this could get uglier and uglier over time. But it will sell a lot of papers and produce a lot of clicks for bloggers and journos alike. So stay tuned as we could just be at the beginning of this duplicitous connection.

Most Gunner fans know the sordid details of the Cesc transfer through what they learned from the media over in the UK. Information from the Barcelona side would leak out from time to time last year, but it was never really reported fully over there. Why? That’s for the biased reporters in the UK to answer and for me to ask I guess. If you read me over at WTTGT you know I told you that Rossell didn’t want Cesc, that the Cesc transfer was a decision made by Guardiola and that Rosell had to acquiesce due to Pep’s run of trophies and influence. The article I wrote, here, predicted that Pep Guardiola would not make it past this year. So I naturally ask, If I knew this, and it was clear as day, how did Cesc not see what was going on? Well the whole mess starts further back then most understand so we will take it step by step and scandal by scandal and see if we can make any sense of it.

Some of this information I detailed last year in my article and subsequent follow ups, some are new revelations brought out by the Sostres in El Mundo publication and others. So let’s run it down.

From Player To Coach – LaPorta Years

As a player, Pep was given his opportunity to shine by Cruyff, on the FCB “dream team”. He spent 11 seasons in midfield for the Catalan club’s senior side, but 17 years in total as he was also in the famed La Masia academy.  He left at the end of the 2001 season under a cloud of controversy. There was rumor of an undisclosed illness and an intimate relationship with someone within the organization. Rumors of course is what fuels the news cycle over here and at that time it was in overdrive. After a few more years of playing and finally retiring in 2006, Pep was brought back by president Joan LaPorta with Tito Vilanova as his second in command to coach the B team. After only two years in charge, he was chosen as the successor to Frank Rijkaard.

The two subsequent years under then president LaPorta and Pep as coach proved to be FCB’s greatest yet. Winning a slew of trophies and accolades the team was head and shoulders above the rest in Europe. Some say it was both talent and conspiracy pointing to the many referee involvements in their matches, but the technical aspect of their play was never in question. The team had become simply, technically better than the rest and the help that did come from the referees was often a product of their constant pressure and possession. During this period the president along with Tiki Beguiristain, FCB’s sporting director, made sure to go after the targets that Pep requested. It was indeed a team effort in the front office to keep FCB at the top.

In 2010 LaPorta stepped aside after 7 interesting years at the helm of Barcelona. His replacement Sandro Rosell was more businessman than politician, with a much different view of where FCB should go. This was key to the upcoming trials and tribulations that would see many a change at the fame club.

Rosell and Pep Do Battle

Rosell came to the club and quickly began putting the blame of the mounting debt on LaPorta, announcing that he would have to get the club back in order. He then did something most thought unthinkable. Johan Cruyff was the honorary president of FCB, and in one of his first acts as president, Rosell stripped him of that title. A surreal scene followed where Cruyff, flanked by the media showed up at the headquarters of Barcelona to return the honorary title back to the club. A real lack of class that would signal a clear changing of the guard and different purpose going forward for FCB. Taking away his honorary title, marked a clear cut with Barcelona’s past as Cruyff was a legend as a player, coach and council to several presidents. Along with that display, the sporting director that was pivotal in many arrivals to the club, Tiki Beguiristain, left his sporting director’s position after 7 years at the club. All of Pep’s allies at the club, the president that hired him, the sporting director that supported his moves and the coach that gave him his chance were all gone. Pep was left with only the players as his champions and his staff, most notably his number two, Tito Vilanova.

Although the 2011 season brought more success to Barcelona, you could see the beginnings of change. Two players that Pep had brought in only a season earlier were quickly dispatched. Ibrahimovic and Chygrynski. Both were sold off at huge losses. Henry, Toure, Marquez were all given their walking papers out of the club. And several signings that were not 100% “Pep-like” were made in Adriano, Mascherano and Villa. The grumbles of an interior power struggle were already starting to hit the surface, but nothing camouflages that better than winning. The Barcelona trophy machine kept on grinding despite more controversy in the Champion’s League and also domestically. The first sign of trouble was in the semi-final versus Madrid where obvious referee blunders led to FCB progressing. Barcelona would go on to win the CL and their league but then were dealt a small blow when Real Madrid defeated them in the Copa del Rey final.

The summer was full of reports of a clear rift between Rosell and Pep, with sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta clearly in the corner of the president, but surprisingly none of this was covered in the UK media. The main issue is that Rosell is an admirer of Brazilian football, he has a clear love of it, and the players he is attracted to and interested in bringing to FCB are not the same ones that Pep had in mind to continue and expand his style of football. Pep wanted Cesc and Cazorla whilst Rosell wanted Sanchez and Neymar.

Here is where Cesc was caught in the middle. The coach of FCB, his idol, wanted him at the club. The president and the sporting director had other targets they were after. Rosell was only one year in and was going against a wildly popular coach and a player that was raised in the famed academy wanting to come home. Rosell simply couldn’t make a stand, but he could prolong the situation by making it financially reasonable for FCB. That is what finally happened. The saga went on for as long as it did because Rosell in essence, didn’t want Cesc at Barcelona. Reporters here said over and over, Cesc would be bought eventually, but it wasn’t a deal that pleased the front office. Subsequently, the hierarchy at FCB were interested, and still are in buying Neymar, which was their top priority last summer and continues to be this summer as well. The other interesting part of this equation is the deal to extend Thiago. He and his brother Rafinha are class players, and knowing Cesc was on the way, their father, Mazinho was worried about the playing time his son would get. Some sort of assurances were made, because shortly before Cesc was signed, Thiago signed a contract extension tying him to the club long-term. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall of that meeting. At last after much fanfare, Arsenal relented and sold Cesc to Barcelona, and into the hornet’s nest walked the Gunner’s ex-captain, happy to do so, but clearly ignorant of the real goings on at the core of the club he longed to return to.

The cracks that were showing before and painted over by the winning continued to manifest themselves despite a busy summer. Barcelona won several Supercopas to start the season and ended it with a defeat of Real Madrid in the league and then Santos to win the Club World Cup. What seemed to be the continuation of their dominance and apparent truce between the factions at FCB, was in all actuality the beginning of the end.

First, injuries began to take a toll on the team. Pep had worked wonders with the lack of bodies he had, but that was always masked by the quality and ability of his players to stay healthy, once the injuries came, the results where up and down and the club was quite a distance behind main rival Madrid. Reports state that as far back as October, Pep already knew he was leaving. Preparations were made to look for a successor whilst the results on the field where less than what Barcelona were used to. Internally there was bickering between president and coach and the atmosphere was less than stellar. The eventual loss to Madrid that sealed the league and then the elimination of FCB by Chelsea in the CL led to a cascade of events that shed light on a host of issues at the club.

Pep to Leave – Betrayal

On the morning after the defeat to Chelsea in the CL, Pep became aware that his number 2, Vilanova, had been in negotiations with Rosell and his staff to succeed Pep. For how long? MONTHS. Apparently Tito had been talking with the sporting director for quite some time. This was a clear betrayal by the second in command and Pep was none the wiser. He asked that his successor not be appointed until he had a chance to speak to him, even though everything was clearly worked out; on the day of the press conference to announce his departure, Andoni Zubizarreta announced Vilanova as the replacement and claimed he had talked to Pep about it. All false. As you can see in the video below, the initial reaction of the announcement by the director catches Pep by surprise…it was yet another stab in the back. By then he knew Vilanova had been negotiating, but in a subsequent press conference he told the media that it was THAT moment he was informed, like the rest of us, that Vilanova would 100% be his successor.

So what brought Guardiola to the decision to leave the club he loved a second time? Much like the first, innuendo was spread that he had an undisclosed illness and the rumor of him having an intimate relationship with someone of the male persuasion in the organization began. All of these rumors began to surface, just as they did when he first left the club as a player. His parting shots to Rosell, according to inside sources, where: “Me irĂ© sin hacer ruido, pero si tĂş y tus amigos me jodĂ©is, a mĂ­ o a los mĂ­os, hablarĂ© todo lo que tenga que hablar.” Translated; “I will leave without making a sound, but if you or your friends f$%k with me or mine, I will talk all I need to talk.” Basically insinuating that there is much more under the surface that Pep could divulge about the situation at Barcelona.

Barcelona has since denied these reports and have even sued the paper. There are many reporters that have since collaborated, through their sources, everything that was printed in the Sostres report. These same reporters are now speculating the Vilanova may never manage a single match for Barcelona and others are even saying if these reports are true, Rosell may do well by resigning. This is going to be the summer of discontent for Barcelona and Cesc is caught smack in the middle of a power play. He has been trotted out in front of the media to give his blessing on Vilanova, but you have to wonder what is going through his head. He has already been associated to a “list” of players that are expandable by the current president and his “dream” move may yet prove to be a nightmare.

This also leads us to our present captain. Robin should take heed on the goings on at Barcelona, not because he was ever a real target for them, but to take note that his current situation is one that is stable and can only get better, not worse. Indeed, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

One has to wonder, as I stated earlier in this piece; if I could see what was going to happen, as it was obvious that Pep wouldn’t be at FCB past this year. If an insignificant blogger can see that, just by keeping on top of daily stories, local news, etc. How can an agent or a player not see the same when they are privy to much more information than us? Why would you allow your player to be a pawn in a power struggle? The Barcelona empire is crumbling, piece by piece. Arsenal’s ex-captain is caught in the wreckage and his future is uncertain, but you’ll never hear him say that. The Gunner’s present captain should take notice and sign that extension ASAP. Compared to this, life is great at AFC. Arsenal have nowhere to go but up from here, and looking at this mess, I am glad us as supporters only have to worry about signings and not about internal struggles and power plays.

Be happy Gooners, and be thankful. Come on You Gunners!

This is piece I wrote last summer on 7/9/2011 as a contributor on another blog…it is amazing how things have transpired over the last competitive year. In the end, everyone in these parts knew Pep was likely to leave, I don’t know what would prompt our former captain to walk, check that; RUN,  into the obvious problem of the tension and power struggle between Rossell and Guardiola. Now all may change as Rossell looks set to put his mark on that club. Funny how a few months later, Cesc’s move looks set for a disastrous turn. Losing the league and Champions may be the least of his worries. But alas, you reap what you sow.

 

Supporting Arsenal from Barcelona

I live in Sabadell, a suburb of Barcelona. The views are spectacular, and the beach is close, too bad it’s behind enemy lines. I say this in jest, but here they see it as reality. We are their enemy, by we, I mean us Gooners, club and supporters. Arsenal are the bad guys keeping their “son”, Francesc from coming home. Arsenal is also the EVIL club that is “stealing” their young up and coming players.

The rumour mill is in overdrive over here. The latest magazines show Cesc as a hostage. Arsene slip-sliding off a boat in a picture that was taken ages ago; it is reported as fact not only here but in the UK too.  Therein lays the problem. Too much sensationalist gossip is being transformed into fact rather than exactly what it is, opinion.

There is one particular show here that is two hours long and plays nightly, Futboleros, on MarcaTV. This particular show spends about 30 minutes nightly on the Cesc transfer. The topics oft include; Cesc’s dad, his friends, his “future” teammates, etc. This commentary comes from the pro-Barcelona part of the contingent. At least Arsenal have some allies, the pro-Madrid guests. They cleverly point out that if the selling team wants X for their player, then the buying team should pay X. WOW! Lunacy! Maybe that is why, when Madrid saw Barca balking at the price Arsenal put on Cesc, they put in their own inquiry. The pro-Madrid contingent also makes an interesting point. If Cesc is one of Barca’s own, how can they be publicly humiliating him by saying he is not worth as much as the Gunners want? That does not seem to be a very intelligent way to recruit a player does it?

A further point is that no one in the UK has made any report on the likelihood that Pep Guardiola is leaving at the end of this year due to falling out with Rossell (the Barcelona president). Why? Because Rosell has a different vision for the club, and that vision is in direct conflict with Guardiola’s. What is one sticking point of this conflict? It is Cesc! No one seems to write about that. How Rossell does not want Cesc in Barcelona colors and Guardiola does. One of the major reasons for Cesc wanting to go back to Barcelona is that he wants to be coached by the Barca gaffer. Maybe that is why we don’t see him publicly requesting a move? Who knows.

The funny thing is that what is given as opinion here magically becomes the truth when it gets translated and put on paper, or on the internet. Day after day I see the dreaded “source close to the player” regurgitating the opinions of the various panelists. I see very little due diligence or originality in the reporting, one media outlet copies the other, no allowances are made for translation mistakes, misinterpretation, etc. This lack of real journalism leads to what has happened over the last year.

I urge you, the avid Arsenal news seeking reader, to take each and every so-called report, news item or even just plain gossip, and look beyond it.