When the best you can do to create some hype around yourself is use Wayne Rooney as a hypothetical example of who you could sign if you really wanted to, you might not actually be in a great footballing situation. I’m talking about Arsenal. Sorry in advance. (Not really sorry.)
I always find the he trick with bigging-up your buying power is not to say you could do something, which tells everyone that it’s a potential world which might never exist, but to say that you will do something. Use strong, positive signals, not ‘maybe we’ll sign a pale English bloke. We’ll see…’ Because no matter how much you wink, that possibility isn’t going to turn anyone on—you may simply appear unhinged. Also, if you really want to impress everyone, don’t say that you might sign someone who spent last season looking a bit bloated. There is nothing romantic about a bloated striker. Or a bloated anything, in my opinion.
Which brings me to the thing about Arsenal and their potential new money (announced by the co-owner this week); they still can’t really compete, can they. Ivan Gazidis declared that Arsenal are ready to “compete with any club in the world,” but he has done a mistake. Someone tell him, quick!
It’s a rubbish world where one of the only properly profitable clubs can’t produce as much cash for players as their nouveau riche rivals, but can we all admit now that it is the world that we currently exist in? (my editor Richard Whittall aside, he told me he is an alien). You can’t just make up a different world where Arsenal are competing with Chelsea and Manchester City for big name players, which appears to have been happening this week. It’s not allowed.
No matter how much you want to believe something, repeating over and over again that it’s true doesn’t make it so. A life lesson for you, here. You end up boasting that you can sign Wayne Rooney, which makes you look the opposite of cool—’looc’, if you will.
At Arsenal, then, some perspective is necessary. They’re talking about signing Rooney, a man who requires pre-pre-season training if he is to be anything like as good as he briefly was. Don’t get me wrong, this is an improvement on their previous position of selling all of their best players (though one might well be suspicious that the only reason they’re no longer doing that is because they have none), but it’s still not competing in a really meaningful sense of the word. Rooney is, at the moment, a second or third order talent; a player Manchester United want to sell. So are Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain, the other players Arsenal are being linked with.
By comparison, look at who Chelsea and City have already brought in. Chelsea have Mourinho and probably André Schürrle, and they’re also being linked with Edinson Cavani and Hulk. City have Jesus Navas and Fernandinho and are also being linked with Cavani and Radamel Falcao, two players associated so strongly with each other because, let’s face it, they both have long black hair. These are steps up from Wayne Rooney, if only because their clubs aren’t waving them off with smirks on their faces and high-fiving each other as soon as no-one’s looking.
And there’s more on top of that. Arsenal supposedly have £70 million to spend this summer—though we’ve heard it all before, obviously—but even if that turns out to be the case, they’re going to have to spread that money across five or six or seven players, not two or three like City and Chelsea. Arsenal don’t have the luxury of tinkering; they finished fourth last season and if they have any ambition to finish higher than that next time around (which they may well not) then they’re going to have to reshape their squad. £70 million to do that isn’t as much as it sounds.
So back to the advice. I reckon what you do instead of saying you could sign Rooney if you wanted to (‘We weren’t even trying that last time!!!’) is you say nothing. In an ideal world, you’d say you were definitely going to have Lionel Messi playing for you this time next month, but if you’re Arsenal that can make you look silly too, so instead you say nothing. Just sign the players—seven if they have to be Wayne Rooney—and see how it turns out. Because ultimately Arsenal still can’t compete ‘with any club in the world’ and attempting to maintain that illusion makes fools of us all.
I once tried to convince everyone I knew that I could compete with their spending. I lied and lied and lied and then I finally cracked and said I could sign Wayne Rooney. Now Wayne Rooney is my best friend. Don’t let this happen to you, Arsenal.