Even with today’s international matches pitting various Gunners against each other, so much of the chatter focuses on who we might sign and who might want away. It’s getting difficult to resist—will Jovetic sign? Articles out today suggest that he feels an “affinity” for Arsenal and is “flattered” at our interest. Well, I’ve had crushes on girls who’d speak in stronger terms of our shared future, and I never got more than the “let’s just be friends” talk out of it. There are suggestions that Podolski might be on his way to Juventus, but he claim that it’s “unlikely” that he’ll leave. It would be nice for Podolski to speak more forth-rightly of his desire to stay, but that’s a mug’s game. Much as it pains me to admit, we can’t talk out of both sides of our mouths on this one, saying “the badge on the front is more important than the name on the back” in one moment and then deriding players who want to move on to better opportunities in the next. They want glory and championships, the same as we do, after all; they just have a much-smaller window in which to achieve it than do fans.
I’ll then apologize for the harsh words and name-calling I’ve wallowed in. After all, for each player who has left in search of more money and silverware, we’ve poached a player or two from another club for similar rationale. If I’m going to heap abuse on Van Persie, Nasri, or Fabregas, I can’t very well invite Cazorla, Giroud, or Arteta in with open arms, or I’ll be a hypocrite. With one hand, I’m slapping a man in the face while extending the other for a congratulatory handshake. Each man’s motivation is arguably one and the same: a richer payday and/or a chance at more glory. If we limited ourselves to fielding only those players who love and believe in Victoria Concordia Crescit, we’d end up with an XI of Wilshere, Jenkinson, Szczęsny, and maybe eight schlubs like me. We’d have the purity but not the quality, and we might then force ourselves to take it a little easier on the men who play for us and leave.
I’m not saying we should just adopt a laissez-faire attitude towards the matter, saying, “oh, you want to go play for Chelsea? So be it; good on ya. We wish you well. Just take it easy on us next time we play each other!” by any means. It’s more that players sign contracts, not marriage certificates, so we should temper our criticism when it ends. Fans have the luxury of saying, “maybe next year” as often as they find it necessary. Some will simply switch teams based on who finishes in the top four, and it’s them we should pillory. Players, however, have a preciously short window—ten years, perhaps—to earn money and maybe win a trophy or two. They’re gonna shop around. To revisit where I started, the team-player relationship is like adolescent dating, prone to sooner-than-expected break-ups that can leave one or both parties a little worse for wear. We dust ourselves off, have a few pints, and look for the next-most-attractive target around. Just don’t let the pints do too much of the talking.