01 April 2015

Raheem Sterling's channeling a van Persie-esque "little boy"...

Stop me if you've heard this one before: talismanic striker grows frustrated at his club's trophy-drought and flagging Prem fortunes and openly courts other clubs, denying financial motives and emphasizing a desire to win silverware. If the first name that came to mind was Robin van Persie, congratulations! You're a Gooner to the bone. If the first name that came to mind was Raheem Sterling, well, erm, congratulations again. It seems that Sterling, who called it "quite flattering" to be linked to Arsenal, has taken a page from van Persie's book. It's not about the money, even if it is; it's about the silverware. Should we at Arsenal actually open our arms, hearts, and pocketbook to the man?

Let's get the unpleasant business out of the way first, shall we? We at the Arsenal should mind our p's and q's a little bit as we eye up another club's goal-scorer, braying as much as we did at van Persie's betrayal, before bragging as much as we might at Sterling's. Manners demand nothing less. Or more. I forget which.

Now that that's settled, we can sink our teeth into the meat of the matter. Sterling claims that his contract-situation is unsettled, not because of money but because of trophies. Read on:
I always want to win and it is time to win some prizes with a club, some titles. I never would have gone for the money, but wanted the change to take my career a bit further.
Those, of course, are van Persie's words, explaining why he left Arsenal for a better chance at silverware with Manchester United (which he won rather promptly).  Here's how Sterling put it:
It's not about the money at all. It's never been about money. I talk about winning trophies throughout my career. That's all I talk about...I just purely want to be the best I can be.
There are a few parallels, of course—the emphasis on achievement rather than on avarice, of course—but does Sterling echo van Persie elsewhere? You be the judge
I just want to be seen as a kid who loves to play football and to do the best for the team.
This might not quite rise to the level of van Persie's inspid "little boy inside him" remarks, but it comes close. Several times during his most-recent BBC interview, Sterling pointed out that he's a 20-year-old, as if to draw attention to how na├»ve and pure he is, innocent to the Machiavellian ways of the world—come to think of it, maybe that mindset makes him perfect for Arsenal...

Like van Persie before he left Arsenal, Sterling has only ever experienced second- or third-tier glory, winning the League Cup in 2012. Unlike van Persie, Sterling has his entire career in front of him as he considers his next move. We can perhaps excuse or accept van Persie's departure as that of a man entering the twilight of his career. Sterling, at the tender age of 20, has perhaps a decade if not more in front of him. What does it say about his current club if he's already flirting with a departure despite his current contract going to 2017?

At some level, it suggests that Liverpool might be fading from relevance as the country's top-drawer talent look to not only be the best that money can buy but also have the best that money can buy. Let's face it: Liverpool ain't London. Even if Sterling were paid £100,000 a week to stay in Liverpool, a part of him would always wonder what he should spend it on. I'm not bragging when I say so; far from it. As much as I'd love to see Sterling come to Arsenal—who wouldn't love the idea of a 20-year-old winger being tutored by Thierry?—a small, small part of me worries about the historic rivalry between us and Liverpool.

Sterling's words aside, let's face facts: there is no real separation between weekly wages and chances at silverware. They go hand-in-glove. We've long since left the era in which players played for pride or passion or principle. They want to win, and they want to win now. We've seen our own hopes scuppered often enough by the departures of van Persie, Nasri, and Fabregas, among others, to at least encourage us to pause a moment before salivating over the arrival of someone else's talisman.

Then again, we're all fish, and this is the water we swim in. Who am I to ask us to walk or crawl or fly? If Sterling is unhappy at Liverpool, and if Arsenal can offer him a realistic chance to play, develop, and win, why not?

Thanks, as always, for your visit, and add your two cents to the comments-section, and don't be afraid of a shout-out via the twitter, reddit, or facebook links below. 'Til next time...

4 comments:

  1. Why would he want to move to Arsenal if he wants to win trophies?

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  2. FA Cup, May 2014. Community Shield, August 2014. Yes, yes I know that the Community Shield isn't quite as grand as others but it's a far cry better than Liverpool can claim. Good luck in the replay at Ewood, by the way...

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  3. "What does it say about his current club if he's already flirting with a departure despite his current contract going to 2017?"


    About as much as Walcott's what Walcott said about Arsenal in the exact circumstances a couple years ago. Let's be honest here-do you really think Arsenal are going to pay Raheem Sterling more than Alexis and Ozil to come to play at the Emirates? You do know he wants to be paid right?

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  4. Two things have changed significantly since the inception of the Premier League back in 1992, and both are related to income. The financial benefits of qualifying for the Champions League mean a far greater difference between finishing inside and outside the qualifying places (originally two, then three and now four). And the gulf between the earning potential of a Premier League and Championship club grows wider with every passing season. So some very high stakes to play for when it comes to the relegation battle.

    This means that, with more at stake, more games matter, which makes for better TV drama in terms of live matches. If there were only two Champions League places to play for, the chances are that a lot of the games this season involving Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Spurs and Southampton would have held far less interest for the neutral and arguably even the fans of the sides concerned, with the idea that the top two places were already sewn up. In reality, Manchester City have hit a blip, so may not finish second after all, but fans watching games for most of the season would not have anticipated their drop in form and probably taken less interest in the matches of the teams competing for the other top four spots, if they did not have the reward of a Champions League place.

    So undoubtedly, for the interest in the matches on TV and indeed in the flesh, the feeling that something is actually at stake is important. Many Arsenal fans have understandably grown a bit cynical about the battle for the top four, with familiarity breeding an element of contempt, but the reality is that as far as status is concerned, it does matter for a club of Arsenal’s reputation. We have seen how the Gunners’ recent Premier League matches have all become ‘must win’ games of late, with fixtures running out and a fairly low number of points separating the contenders for a Champions League spot. When Arsenal entertain Liverpool on their next fixture on Easter Saturday, they will be favourites (click here for William Hill’s football betting odds on forthcoming matches) to win a match that may well prove fatal for the visitors’ hopes of enjoying a second successive season back in the Champions League.

    Looking at the Premier League table, realistically, only fixtures between three teams (Stoke, Swansea and West Ham) are completely meaningless. All those below could still, in theory, be dragged into the relegation battle, whilst all above will still harbour ambitions of a top four spot. When only pride is at stake, there is far less interest from a television audience, with the exception of a spicy local derby. And that is why that although the recent news about UEFA co-efficient rankings will have been welcomed by fans of those clubs with a chance of making the top four, it will have been of even more importance to Sky and BT Sport, given their huge investment in a product where every game has to matter.

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