Player power hits Arsenal
The Gunners has been immune, to some degree, from the major player power incidents of other top English clubs.
United has the Paul Pogba matter, and Chelsea has had numerous incidents in recent seasons.
So it seems – with captain Laurent Koscielny’s refusal to participate in the USA tour – that player power may finally have hit Arsenal.
My initial view is this is worrying – and “uncharacteristic”. I don’t know Koscielny, so of course, I cannot comment fully on his character. But then his behaviour seems odd for a player who comes across as reserved, diligent, and hard-working.
What are the implications for Arsenal then?
Much is said of how modern football has created “mercenary” players. But Frank Stapleton was a player who left Arsenal for Manchester United decades ago, and in a bitter manner. Perhaps, given events over the past decade or so, it was a distant omen of things to come….
Footballers though have always held a job – and ultimately it’s viewed the same as with any other vocation. It’s about prestige, money, status, or just bringing food on the table.
So perhaps the money of modern football has just brought to the fore what was always there.
Note many top footballers were born and raised into poverty. Arsenal legend Ian Wright, for instance, has often spoken of trying facets of his upbringing. Certainly, many players whether in the past or today were raised in working-class areas and families.
Koscielny’s family is Polish in origin, though he was born in France, and thus is descended from immigrants. So maybe he too only sees things as a means for betterment, who knows?
What is certain is that we’ll see this occurring more so in the modern game, based in some part on the money involved.
What we know is that Koscielny has refused to go to the USA.
We don’t know the reason why, as of yet.
It could be that “Kos” is eager to leave, and there are stalling points in his departure date or rights to leave.
It could also be that Kos has had enough of the limelight at Arsenal, and wants out.
BBC journalist David Ornstein did put out an article stating there was a difference in expectations between Koscielny and the club. This was especially true concerning his contract issue, and the fact he had stated he wanted to leave the club.
Kos has been a stalwart of the club for several seasons. He had a sticky first season, which culminated in a noted error causing Birmingham to win the 2011 League Cup final.
Though since then, he has enhanced much and has gained plaudits both in England and France. He played in the 2016 Euro final loss to Portugal, and bar an injury in the Europa league at Atletico Madrid, he could have been in the French World Cup squad that went on to win the tournament.
He also has been very professional in his Arsenal role, and a captain that fans and players respect. Well, up until now that is.
However, this could tarnish his relationship and standing, amidst his reliance and consistency over the years.
It’s a shame if things have turned sour on Kos’s accord, or if there has been a breakdown.
Kos in my view squeezes into Arsenal’s top ten central defenders ever. Some may laugh at that, but few have been as consistently better than he for seasons.
It is a sour taste to what has been a successful Arsenal career. He may have started off slowly, but then he recovered to be one of the top players in the latter Wenger period.
Player power hits home
Some Gooners may have thought that Chelsea or Manchester United were more prone to player power than we were. Chelsea for one has a clearly different culture than Arsenal, and perhaps the need to win there was (or is) stronger or more instilled. Petr Cech even said as such, when he played for us. So a win at all costs attitude will sometimes take out managers – which Jose Mourinho found out at his cost.
But then players, regardless of where they play, mix and come ultimately from the same cultures or academies. Or countries. So it’s unrealistic to say that we should be immune to player power.
We’ve certainly had unhappy players before who wanted out – Fabregas, van Persie and Sanchez all wanted to go on to bigger and brighter things. But we’ve never had a player, until now, who has refused to comply with club instructions.
So now that player power has hit home – what do we do?
I think as this can happen at all clubs now – maybe the Premier League or other authorities need to have stronger rules in how this is done.
Maybe players who “down tools” should be denied international football – or have to pay back the club any bonuses received. Or, as an extreme move, be banned from all football by FIFA.
People don’t always get on – though there is a line between natural disagreements and not following club instructions or fulfilling professional obligations.
The concept of players “striking” for me is an offensive one. Players can be mistreated, but compared to corporate actions in other industries, players have it pretty sweet in comparison. Often employees strike if payment terms aren’t being met, or working conditions are unsafe, or they are being physically or emotionally intimidated by management. Football clubs aren’t paradises, but these instances seldom arise to the degree in other industries. Footballers, especially at the highest levels, play on pristine pitches, have expert training facilities and receive bonuses and perks ranging from goals scored, titles won, or property for close relatives.
Some workers also have obligations to meet from their pay, which won’t affect footballers in the same sense. A London Tube worker striking couldn’t handle a lack of pay to the same degree as a Premier League footballer. If the footballer manages his money well, inclusive of lucrative bonuses, he can withstand things to a higher degree.
Clearly, the football authorities need to examine the issue of player power. And it’s possible that Koscielny won’t be the last instance of it at Arsenal or in the Premier League.
Koscielny hasn’t made himself look good here, and there may be more to this than meets the eye. We as fans don’t know the ins and outs of the scenario.
But it is a disappointing facet to the close season all the same, and not the ideal preparation for the USA tour.
Perhaps what the issue here is that it’s Koscielny. If it were a player who was not as prominent, people won’t care as much.