In the one seeing eye of this scribe, Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie have two things in common. Probably many more in fact, but the lesson about commenting upon things that not a lot is known about (in the eyes of some!) was agriculturally ingested years ago!
The two similarities between the Dutchman and the Spaniard being hinted at are that, when they arrived at Arsenal, not a lot was known about either anywhere. Yet, there they both attained stardom. Only to end up leaving the Emirates Stadium being thought of as pariahs, by some at least.
That’s hardly surprising, though, given the regrettable way things have gone in football in recent years. Indeed, it’d be hard not to empathise with Arsenal fans if they were to feel rightly miffed at the minute. For fear of some ardent Gunners devotees thinking I’m having a pop at their beloved, such is not the case at all. It just seems that Arsenal have lost out to the money fuelled greed and lack of loyalty that has besieged football in recent times more than most.
They weren’t the only ones though, or won’t be the last. For, whatever about his ultimately acrimonious relationship with Alex Ferguson, there’s hardly any doubt that money was the main reason David Beckham jetted off to Los Angeles via Madrid. Ditto Cristiano Ronaldo’s defection to the aforementioned Spanish city.
Then there are the transfers that, every year, become so protracted, they go from being interesting to auditioning as a cure for insomnia. Cue recollections of Ronaldo and Fabregas. This year, Luka Modric’s supposed move to work with Jose Mourinho has been dragging out longer than some of the abysmal weather we’ve been enduring. Well, maybe not that long, but you get my drift!
Not to mention the transfers that almost sneak under the radar. If you can remember back far enough, there was Andy Cole’s switch from Newcastle to Manchester United. Or, more recently, the likes of Jack Rodwell leaving Everton to go to Manchester City. Undoubtedly, however, the biggest – and for me most surprising – switch of the summer has been Van Persie ending up at Old Trafford. Purely because, given the way financial matters are reportedly at the club, us fans have become used to them not being able to bid for the most valuable players in the market.
But that’s exactly why the Premiership is an infuriating, intoxicating, addictive circus we generally can’t get enough of. And, as the evenings shortening brings the inevitable gloom of the onset of winter, it’s not so bad to have the thrills, spills and chaos of another season to guide us towards the hope of spring.
Even this early, the current incarnation is not disappointing. What with the Dutchman and the impact he’ll (hopefully) have, to the screamers of goals scored by Zoltan Gera and Michu and Norwich – already it seems – succumbing to second season syndrome. Hopefully, however, things will improve for them. Chris Hughton comes across as one of the genuine good guys in the game. Along with him, there’s plenty of other Irish representation and Carrow Road too.
Murky waters never seem far off though. Sure enough, there was one incident that ended up hogging the headlines more than any of the brilliant football that was played – Alan Pardew’s push on a linesman. Now, of course it shouldn’t have happened, but the brouhaha kicked up over the incident was over the top. Especially in view of the fact that Pardew owned up and apologised immediately.
Undoubtedly, Sky’s mass coverage and marketing of the Premier League has been a good thing. Sure wasn’t it the reason many of us got Sky Sports turned on at home! If there’s a downside to it though, exhaustive punditry and analysis can be as much negative as positive. Put simply, having an ex referee like Dermot Gallagher examine the merits or lack of with every decision made over the weekend is, in my view, more of a negative than a positive.
There’s no need for it really. Already there’s been an abundance of good football that should be more of the focus than anything else. Not least the outstanding starts by Fulham and Swansea and the emergence of new stars like Michu, even this early in the campaign.
At this point, it’s important to return to Arsenal. As we know now, their ex hero’s debut in the other tint of red ended in a damp squib. Deservedly so too. Everton are a team I’ve always had something of a soft spot about – for actually unknown reasons. David Moyes is a manager I admire greatly too. His team thoroughly deserved their win and – with three of the European qualification most likely going to go to the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea – the likes of Everton or Newcastle might push hard for the other.
Arsenal cannot be discounted though. One man – certainly the most ardent Arsenal disciple known to me – remains convinced his beloved can beat all others to the fourth Champions League spot. The only reason I wasn’t sure whether they could absorb the losses of Van Persie and Song having seen Fabregas go last year.
Arsene Wenger, though, may be the main reason they might. I have said many times that – even as an ardent Manchester United supporter – Arsenal play the most attractive football in England. It mightn’t be even stretching it too far to say they are the answer there to Barcelona.
They still obviously have players like Gervinho, Theo Walcott, the (hopefully) returning Jack Wilshire and impressive looking new signing Santi Carzola who will ensure they remain competitive. With them being so, the race for the last Champions League spot could be one of the stories of the season.