Graham Dougan was a youth prospect at Arsenal in the 1970s but never quite made the grade, making his career in the upper echelons of the old division two. He was also a Scottish U25 international. He is a regular pundit on TV in Malta and Luxembourg, and an after-dinner speaker of some repute.
He’ll write a column exclusively for the site and we hope you’ll enjoy his keen insight. This week he looks at current transfer speculation surrounding the club this month.
To many the potential sale of Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United is further evidence that Arsenal are very much in the ‘make it up as they go along’ bracket when it comes to transfers.
‘Do they have a coherent strategy?’, I hear people cry. Social media is awash with complaints and outrage as the Gunners prepare to do some real business between now and the end of the January window. You can barely keep up with all the engaging banter on the excellent Twitter website which you can get for free on your phone and personal computer.
Yet many of these casting aspergers at the great Arsenal need to ask themselves one very simple question: Am I a football club?
If the answer is no then they are in no position to criticise or make judgement about how it goes about its business. For example, I wouldn’t dare tell Nigel Mansell how to take a corner at Brahm’s Hatch. If I saw a mighty cat chasing down a zebra on the Serengeti I would not presume to advise him on his technique, not least because I do not have the torque in my jaws to take down the stripy horse bastard even if I were to catch it.
Fans and pundits alike need to realise that transfers are not like they used to be. In the old days two managers would meet at a service station, haggle out a price, the buyer would hand over a wad of cash to his counterpart, and they’d go to a local hostelry and drink pints of bitter and brandy before getting into their Rolls Royces and driving home three sheets to wind. Simpler times!
Nowadays, you have players and agents and managers and hangers-on and Instagram rights and these deals are incredibly complicated. You need a team of people, like lawyers and attorneys and legal experts and hostage negotiators. With all these vested interests, it’s little wonder that deals that look done and busted one minute somehow fall apart the next.
Some will say that if you don’t have good enough people, or aren’t decisive enough, or don’t make decisions quickly enough, or prevaricate over potential recruits for too long, or aren’t any good at getting deals done then you put yourself at a disadvantage, but that’s nonsense.
It’s not as if Arsenal don’t do any transfers at all. Just this month they sold Francois Coquelin to Valencia, and given the way things are in Catalunya at this moment in time, that shows great expertise in finance and political maneuvering before the peseta becomes worthless due to civil strife.
They also appear to be selling Theo Walcott to Everton where Sam Allardyce will hope to revive a career that hasn’t lived up to its early promise. I’m one of those who thought Walcott was going to be a boy wonder, and not just because I could imagine him in tight fitting Lycra beside Batman. He had pace, he was quick, he could run really fast, his speed was astonishing and he was so, so incredibly rapid. Ultimately though, it didn’t go the way everyone, myself included, expected.
Playing Devil’s Avocado he did score over one hundred goals for Arsenal, and like a line of unspecified white powder at a party it’s not to be sniffed at (unless it’s your party and you know the provenance of said substance). But £20m – which back in my day would buy you 14 Trevor Francises and enough left over for a dozen Malcom MacDonalds – is a great amount of a money for a player who is now very much in the late August/early September of his career.
How then can Arsenal be criticised for the way they do their transfer business? Sure, they’re about to sell their most productive player over the last three and a half seasons to a hated rival and to a manager who Arsene Wenger hates so much he would probably give him a rare disease based on his own DNA just so he could then deny him a bone marrow transplant that would save his life.
But that happens in football all the time. Fans are just blinded by allegiance to their own team to realise that this is nothing out of ordinary. There are countless examples of this happening, such as Robin van Persie, so let’s not pretend these circumstances are abnormal. And if they swap Sanchez for the talented but brittle Eritrean winger Henfold Myktharanian, then they’ve got a good deal because anyone who gets away from the poison of Jose Mourinho can only flourish or die, but it’s much more likely to be the former.
So, my message to Arsenal fans is simple: Let the club carry out their well thought out plans in which they improvise solutions to problems they don’t even know they have yet. And remember, worse things happen at sea, so don’t go in any boats or rubber dinghies until February.
Your pal, GD.