Theo Walcott's Contract Situation: Why It Highlights the Problem at Arsenal

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Theo Walcott's Contract Situation: Why It Highlights the Problem at Arsenal
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

In Part I of this article, I highlighted the headings of the popular narratives about Arsenal. They are as follows:

Arsenal are a selling club. 

Wenger is the blight at Arsenal that must be purged. 

The board and the owners are there only to enrich themselves. 

Arsenal are not ambitious enough; they're just a feeder club. 

Arsenal simply delight to store away money instead of using the same to better the club's lot.

 

Selling Club

In that first part, I focused on the idea that Arsenal are a selling club. 

I concluded that it is a ridiculous tag in the face of the fact that most of the players supposedly sold either forced their own sale or moved because their eventual clubs forced Arsenal to sell, clubs like Chelsea, Manchester City, Barcelona and now Manchester United.

I pointed out that in 95 percent of these cases, Arsenal were strong-armed to sell by clubs offering wages that rendered what Arsenal were able to offer Lilliputian in comparison. 

A few responded by pointing out that whether strong-armed or not, selling a player amounts to selling a player, so that they could not see the distinction in what I was trying to say. So for these people, selling is selling no matter the cause of it. 

 

We are sensible, not reckless. Getty Images.

 

Errors

Three immediate flaws accompany this line of thinking: 1) drawing a conclusion in utter disregard to cause, 2) failing to account for distinction within a given word or term and 3) concluding that an action denotes one thing and one thing alone. 

In the first place, the reason for my article stemmed from the unfair criticism that results from the perception that Arsenal are a selling club. 

In this thinking, this amounts to lack of ambition, since it becomes evident that Arsenal care more for money than for retaining their players, a fact that would ensure that they retain the chance and ability to challenge for trophies.

Nor is there so much as a nuance to this thinking. Arsenal are consistently portrayed as an unambitious club, precisely because of the foregoing perception and flawed conclusion.

This is an illogical conclusion for this precise reason: 

Lack of ambition on the part of Arsenal can be true only if, indeed, it can be shown that the club cares more for the money to be had from selling their best players than in retaining said players. 

 

The distinction to be made here (which, unfortunately, the objectors to my article failed to make) lies in will. The unilateral will of the club to sell its players for the sake of profit vis-à-vis the situation where your will is constrained, so that you have no realistic option but to sell. 

If the latter is the case, as indeed it is for Arsenal, then it can't be fair or accurate to label said club a selling club. 

I put it to my objectors that there is a distinction between my wish to sell for a purpose and being constrained to do so. In the very least, it must affect the kind of conclusion to be drawn from the two distinct situations. Surely, the two situations must yield different conclusions, not one blanket one.

The foregoing error leads to another, the second flaw: The error these people have made is to assume and conclude that a word (a descriptive) must contain just one sense or meaning.

Thus, sale must be sale, just like someone recently criticized me severely for using the word parsimony to describe Arsenal, failing to realize that the word holds different shades of meaning.

You can't accurately draw a conclusion about ambition or its lack thereof without taking this distinction into account.

Are Arsenal really unambitious? Only to the extent that it can be shown that they willingly sell their players. But is this, in fact, the case? Everyone knows that this is pure nonsense. 

Is it, in fact, the case that the word "drive" (to choose one at random) has just one sense, so that when we hear it, we are to assume or conclude that it means someone is driving a car? 

If we answer in the negative, then the same must be true of the silly conclusion that sale is a sale and admits no distinction, so that we must conclude that, since this is the case, Arsenal are therefore an unambitious club, being as they are a "selling" club—arrant nonsense and pure illogic. 

The third flaw arises from the following error: the premise that says that if you sell, then you are unambitious. That is the fallacy that an action denotes one thing and one thing alone, such that selling is tantamount to lack of ambition. 

This, of course, isn't true. In the first place, selling isn't tantamount to lack of ambition. In the second place, the factors involved in "selling" must be properly parsed, otherwise any conclusion is bound to be flawed or be arrantly wrong. 


Overall value means little unless you are liquidating. Getty Images.

 

What Value Does Not Mean

My contention that lack of ambition in the case of Arsenal can only be accurate if, in fact, it can be shown that Arsenal willfully sell their players in situations where they could afford not to do so met with strong resistance from a highly zealous fellow. 

For him, to say that Arsenal can't afford to pay the exorbitant salaries paid at such places as Manchester City and, to a certain extent, at Manchester United is tantamount to stating nonsense. 

For him, Arsenal can afford to keep any player they desire to keep, even if the club tapping up the player can double the wages on offer, such as happened in the cases of Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri. 

For him, therefore, we shouldn't take into account the superior salaries clubs like City and Chelsea or Barcelona and even Manchester United, for that matter, can afford to pay, which Arsenal can't. 

The problem here is that he doesn't believe that Arsenal can't. 

To be fair, one can say that the burden of proof that Arsenal can or can't afford exorbitant salaries lies both ways. Therefore, the person who says they can't is as much constrained to prove this as the person who says they can. 

In the case of the first person—the one who says they can't—it is quite easy to provide a proof. 

First, Arsenal's financial accounts over the last ten years are readily available. That of last year can be found on the club's website. From it, one can determine how much money the club earned in the whole of that year.

(As to the accuracy of these accounts, they are easily verifiable. For example, we know what Arsenal get from the Champions League, from match-day earnings, from broadcasting and even from commercial deals. What's more, independent bodies, such as the Arsenal Supporters Trust, routinely examine these matters.)

Secondly, having determined what Arsenal earns, one can then proceed to find out how much the club's operational costs are vis-a-vis its earnings. 

The difference that the person finds will hold the proof in regard to whether or not the club can, indeed, afford to play exorbitant salaries. 

Having done this myself and found that the idea that Arsenal can afford exorbitant salaries is pure bull, I advised this person to try researching this himself. But then, the logic behind it all seemed to have been too tasking to his intellect because his retort was utterly nonsensical.

His conclusion that Arsenal can pay any salaries its players ask for is built on the fact that Arsenal are the 16th highest wage-payers among sporting clubs in the world. 

(He came back all excited having determined this from ESPN and Forbes!) 

In other words, if Arsenal can be among the top 20 of clubs with the biggest wage structure, then this must mean the club can compete with anyone else. How silly is that! 

(It seemed to have escaped him that the fact that Arsenal are ranked 16th means that there are 15 other clubs ahead of Arsenal in terms of what those clubs can afford—or can’t afford—to pay as the case may be.

He fails to realize that even if Arsenal are ranked immediately beneath a given club, say Manchester United, this very ranking highlights the superiority of the club ranked higher. But what’s logic or sense to such a person?)

Appealing to this ranking is an attempt to equate value with earning. But as anyone with half a sense knows, the two aren't synonymous. 

Some delude themselves that Arsenal can compete financially with clubs patronized by oligarchs and oil tycoons, but is that true? 

Value is useful in the case of liquidation and in the case of bond and share trading, but it does not generate cash in hand except in the case of flotation, which often is nothing more than a foundation bubble , even if it does pay the person doing the flotation.

In any case, wage structure isn't even equal to value. Wage structure in the real world is indicative of how much a club makes annually. Or more precisely, what it can afford within the margin of what it makes annually. 

We know, of course, that with many clubs, wages aren't informed by what they earn, which is why there is a huge financial mess within the footballing world. 

And it is within this precise place that this gentleman's logic can hold. If he is saying that Arsenal should simply pay players what the club doesn't have, then there's no need to argue the point. 

But if he is willing to grant the point that a club must only pay players what it earns or can earn, then he must see how silly his logic is. As a matter of fact, it isn't logic at all; it is nonsense.

 

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Please look out for other parts of this series.

Find Part I here.

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