“We are all humans, we all have emotions, and sometimes it’s not easy dealing with them. It’s time to lift each other up, not to push each other away. We only win when we are together.“
These fantastic words are just a well constructed, diplomatic and compassionate way of trying to help, to defuse and unite Arsenal football club.
They weren’t spoken by the head coach Unai Emery, who has proven to be anything but a uniting figure at Arsenal, nor were they from Head of Football Operations, Raul Sanllehi. They weren’t even from a press release by the club, they were posted by 24 year old Arsenal right back, Hector Bellerin.
Bellerin, has seemingly posted this in response to the increasing fractures at the club, be that between the fans, or indeed the fans and some of the players and coaching staff.
It all came to a head yesterday as club captain Granit Xhaka, left the field to very loud boos , to which he responded angrily, cupping his ear and telling fans to “f*ck off” .
To add context to this, in his short time at Arsenal, Xhaka has been Abused and insulted mercilessly, Sent death threats, his pregnant wife is harassed constantly and he’s had to disable comments on social media for fear of more abuse, whilst being Booed and jeered by Arsenal fans.
And for what? He’s given his all in every performance he’s played for Arsenal, mostly whilst being played out of position, but he’s made the odd mistake in games, or turned in the odd poor performance. Is this worthy of such abuse?
For my thinking I think anyone in this situation feeling like you have 60’000 people screaming abuse at you, would react in similar fashion after everything he has had to go through.
In fact team mate Lucas Torreira has been pictured crying and inconsolable at the sight of his friend and team mate being abused in such a fashion.
As spoken of briefly this all comes as the head figures at Arsenal, Raul Sanllehi and Unai are creating an environment around the club that is anything but united, you could even argue that it’s thanks to Emery that Xhaka has been played out of position or even played at all whilst out of form.
Before most matches there seems to be speculation whether Unai Emery will finally play star player Mesut Ozil, or continue to freeze him out despite no discernible reason for doing so…
There now seems to be almost a campaign to force Ozil’s exit from the club with Raul Sanllehi and Emery giving quotes which constantly stir the pot.
Speaking at the Arsenal fan Forum, Head of Football Operations. Raul Sanllehi said the following about Mesut Ozil:
“Unai has had many good players in other teams also, and he has always followed the same policy, which is try not to make any distinctions, play the ones who work hard in training and reward the effort with playing time.
“There is nothing against Mesut. On the contrary. And I hope we get to see him much more in the next games because his qualities are without question, but he needs to contribute 24/7 and that’s what Unai expects from him.
“It’s not that he’s not working so well, but there are others who are deserving more playing time, but Unai can’t treat him differently than any other player.
“You may have read that Unai has put a barrier up, but nothing at all like this has happened.”
In these quotes , the message is clear: Mesut Ozil is lazy, he doesn’t work hard enough in training. Strangely this is a narrative that has only attached itself to Ozil since he came to England. Having gone through the ranks of Schalke youth teams and then Werder Bremen, in Germany he gained a reputation as a very skilful player, with great vision, but was never labelled lazy.
When Mesut Ozil moved to Real Madrid, he played for one of the hardest task masters in the game, Jose Mourinho, who never questioned his work ethic, but merely questioned his aggression.
So with all this said, it seems that due to a narrative that has dogged Ozil since coming to England, of him being lazy, mostly down to his languid style and lack of aggression, Raul is now following this with his words.
This isn’t the first time we’ve had suggestions from the club that Ozil doesn’t work hard enough, in the past Unai Emery has said Ozil isn’t strong enough for games against Bournemouth away for instance.
We also have rumours circling social media of Mesut Ozil trying to get out of training or even being absent from training.
Recently we had this rumour on twitter which it seems has been discredited , but it does seem to follow the same pattern when it comes to Ozil.
“Ozil was recently asked to do additional training with U23’s whilst 1st team were away. He offered two coaches £20k so he could skip it but they had to tell Emery he performed well. Club found out and dealing with it internally.”
It’s deeply saddening to hear these claims about an Arsenal player, but especially when they mirror a similar tactic the club used when they were trying to rid themselves of Aaron Ramsey.
There was many a story that would come out via social media about agents asking big money equalling Mesut Ozil or that Ramsey wanted to leave no matter what, then we have Raul saying this:
“We have to be responsible on how we manage the club. One of the key things for me – and I’ve seen that happening in other clubs – one of the key things is to keep the rationality in the salary balance of the team.
“Because of our circumstances, because of not renewing Aaron on time, we were in a situation in which Aaron had incredible offers building up on the salary. He was really keen on staying with us, he was ready to make the effort, but at the end of the whole process we had to be responsible for ourselves and protect the interests of Arsenal.
“We realised we were going to cause an imbalance that would have been very harmful for the team’s sake in the medium and longer term.”
These words would make so much more sense if in reality Aaron Ramsey isn’t now being paid £225,000* by Juventus (*figure provided by sillyseason.com) Although Ramsey was on reportedly £110,000* a week at Arsenal, considering he was one of the key players at the club, asking for similar figures to Aubameyang who’s on £180,000* and (asking for more now), shouldn’t seem unreasonable, especially when there are reports that Alex Lacazette and Aubameyang are both rumoured to be signing new contracts at the club for wages around the £225,000 mark.
So in conclusion I think in the short term, the under-performing Unai Emery leaving would be a good solution as long as the right man replaces him, someone who can change the culture at the club, unite the fans, and regain the club’s identity.
But in the long term Arsenal football club – which has always prided itself on being a classy club, be that the fans, the players or board room – seems quite lacking in that department.
It’s time to remember the principals of the club, what makes it different from the rest, and to quote Hector Bellerin:
“It’s time to lift each other up, not to push each other away. We only win when we are together.“