16 December 2016

Alexis lowballed, Özil demands Draxler, and Gooners struggle to stave off PTSD...

Arsenal lost at Goodison Park midweek and, despite this being only the second loss of the campaign (with apologies to the League Cup), that's enough bad news to send many otherwise sane, stable, and rational fans into a tailspin of doubt, paranoia, and gloom. In other words, it's the perfectly toxic time for the tabloids to dredge up whatever dregs of semblances of truth they can find to conjure up panicky clickbait and lurid headlines. One would think it was the summer of 2011 or 2012 as we peruse those headlines, some of which are claiming that we're lowballing Alexis to the tune of £80,000 per week or that Özil is insisting that we sign Julian Draxler as a condition of keeping him.

Makes sense. Since that epic, almost-mythic period eponymously known as the Invincibles era, it's Alexis and Özil who have quickly climbed the ranks of those considered potentially legendary. Not only do each of them represent two of the largest and most expensive signings in the club's history, their reputations preceded them, and their performances have transcended those reputations. Each has become essential to the club's performance if not its identity, and so any news regarding their contracts will lure in the curious and the concerned.

News from John Cross at The Mirror, unsourced and without quotes, claims that Alexis has been offered a contract worth £180,000 a week, £80,000 less than the "at least £250,000-a-week" (their words, their maths, not mine). The implication here is clear: the club refuses to pay what the player wants or might be valued at by other clubs. While I firmly believe that employees are usually worth more than their employers are willing to pay, something in this smacks of yellow journalism rather than facts-based reporting. Mr. Cross once could claim a reputation as something as an ITK; sadly (or not), however, he's gone down that less-respectable road of rumour-mongering. While I'm sure that there's some haggling, and that Alexis wants x and the club is offering less than x, there's less substance here than there is in a penalty-shout from Arjen Robben.

In other news designed to clench bums, Özil has apparently demanded in an article at The Independent, which bases it "reporting" on a quote-free summary from French source RMC Sport. My French is decent, but I could not find any article in the last month that mentions both Draxler and Özil; it seems then that this was more an exercise in connect-the-dots: Özil is German and plays for Arsenal, led by French manager Arsène Wenger; Draxler is German and is linked to Arsenal and French club PSG. Ergo, Özil and Draxler are linked, and the only logical conclusion is that Özil will only resign with Arsenal if Draxler is added in January. Or something like that.

For those of the conspiratorial persuasion, may I suggest another plot-twist? Could it be that the ever-parsimonious Arsène is eyeing up Draxler, whom he could sign for lower weekly wages than Alexis is apparently demanding; sell Alexis to PSG, thereby warding them away from Draxler (and keeping the German's transfer-fee lower); and mollify Özil into accepting a weekly wage packet lower than what he's reportedly demanding (again, like Alexis, something on the order of £250,000 a week).

Taken together, these rumours are enough to resurrect the rather-ghostly spectre of the departures of promising and powerful players of the recent past, players who—had they stayed just a little longer—might just have led the club to the promised land we've sought since 2004. The fear surrounding these current contract-talks seem to only get sharper when we think about how close we came last season, fears further sharpened when we think about winning the FA Cup twice but not thrice.

Just as we're on the verge of breaking through, what with rivals fumbling along, it seems like all-too-perfect for the clickbait drumbeat to begin. We're no longer top of the table; Chelsea has gone six points clear, and Liverpool have overtaken us—and we've drawn Bayern against despite winning our Champions League group. It's all starting to feel altogether too much like déjà vu.

Then again, we could treat these stories as what they are: recycled, regurgitated manure whose resemblance to reality is random at best. As such, we'd do best to ignore it all at least for now. After all, we have a very busy December fixture-list to fight through. Let the chattering classes do what they do and remind yourselves that it's akin to visiting the monkey-house, the key difference being that a thousand monkeys at a thousand typewriters have a better chance at producing something insightful than do any of these journo-junkies craving that next click-bait climax.