09 April 2014

Santi: I'd "be delighted to come back [to Spain].”

And so it begins. With the club in shambles and its future hanging by a thread, it was all too predictable that the proverbial rats deserting the sinking ship begin. In fact, it's remarkable how long we've had to wait for the other shoe to drop (I like to mix and match metaphors and so on. It's like a smörgåsbord. Maybe a cornucopia). At any rate, Santi Cazorla, speaking to sport360, has suggested that he'd like be delighted to return to Spain in two years' time. The 29-year old, who dazzled in his first season at Arsenal, has fizzled out a bit, looking to be a shadow of the might-mite who turned in 12 goals and 12 assists a season ago. As we look ahead to the FA Cup semifinal, then, his remarks suggest a player already looking to leave Arsenal singing an all-too familiar refrain: we lack ambition.

Here it is "straight" from Cazorla:
I want titles and that is why I came to Arsenal. Every football player wants to win titles. We’ve gone many years without winning one. And if not, what I’ll look for in my next destination is to have the chance to win. I don’t want to close doors, but nowadays I’ve a contract with Arsenal for two more seasons. When I’m turning 31, I’ll evaluate myself and I’ll choose the best option. I would be delighted to come back [to Spain]...We haven’t got a winning mentality and we have to believe in ourselves. Sometimes you can get used to not fighting, but we can’t do that...Arsenal has everything to win: kistory, infrastructure, an incredible stadium and great players. But we have to improve at crucial moments and sign the best football players because if you don’t do that, you may lag behind others. Arsenal know what they need next season, but it’s almost impossible to win a title if we haven’t got these kind of things.
This sounds a lot like a player who doesn't see us winning any trophies this season—and he might just be right. We have the FA Cup semifinal on Saturday, which has looked tetchier with each passing week. Is he alone in assessing his options? Nope. Among others, Fabianski, Sagna, Vermaelen, and Podolski must surely be checking with their agents as well. Should we fail to win the FA Cup and stagger into fifth place, the list of departures may grow. It's the way of the world, and to lambaste Cazorla for pointing this out is no sin in my book. He's 29. When his contract comes up in 2016, he'll be 31. As much as I might love and respect him for pledging his future to Arsenal in perpetuity and throughout the space-time continuum, I'm sure his supporters at Malaga were hoping to hear the same about 22 months ago. His sin, such as it were, is to time his remarks a bit inopportunely—and perhaps to fall victim to one (or more) of three factors: selective, out-of-context quoting, poor translation, or inelegant English. Before we rush to judgment (too late?), let's, as the saying goes, keep calm.

The key quote there is "straight", which doesn't appear in Cazorla's remarks but in my own lead-in to his remarks. I can't track down whether football360 translated his remarks from another publication, but I can offer to you that his remarks above are remarkably fluent. Verb-tenses, sentence-structure, British-isms...these are hallmarks of a translation that has been gussied up a bit (I'm an English teacher in America. I'm not suggesting any malfeasance, just a bit of "lost in translation." That, along with not getting to see the questions he was responding to, should be caution enough. Did he offer the idea that he wants to leave, or was he answering a question along the lines of "how do you in your right mind expect to stay at Arsenal if the club collapses, goes into administration, and is relegated to League One? Oh, what if football itself ceases to exist when you turn 32?" Far-fetched, I admit, but you get my point. We don't know what prompted his comments, so we should look before we leap. Take it with a grain of salt. Not jump to conclusions. Etc.

After all the sturm und drang, what has he said that is so wrong? Has he really said anything that hasn't been said yet, by fan, player, or pundit yet? About the only issue that I'd, uh, take issue with is that one the winning mentality. It's not that I disagree with it on its face, but I question what is meant in more general sense. What is a winning mentality? In my book, it's digging in and digging deeper and working harder to win. Going in for tackles. Pressing up the pitch. Running around like a rabid dog frothing at the mouth until the whistle blows. Taking a game by the scruff and saying, "you're comin' home with me, dammit." We've seen too many players whose definition of "winning mentality" amounts to "take the money and run." If a player's definition of a winning mentality is based on going where the trophies roll in like big, fat rolling donuts sprinkled with a Mounds bar, a Twizzler, and a Jolly Rancher, well, then, I don't care to have that player at Arsenal.

I'm not implicating Santi in that mindset. I don't think he means to say he's going to pull a Nasri or an RvP. He's answering a question, perhaps more honestly and imprecisely than he should, but he's not saying anything that should surprise or dismay anyone all that much.