I was looking through my annual Official Arsenal’s Supporter’s Magazine yesterday and there was a great interview with Steve Rowley, Arsenal’s chief scout. In the interview (which has been reprinted in its entirety over at Young Guns — I’m fairly certain in violation of all known copyright laws) Steve describes how the Arsenal scouting system works. The system isn’t revolutionary: they develop contacts, they watch a player play, they build a dossier and then the Boss decides. The only thing unusual about the Arsenal scouting system is as Steve puts it
The manager is so, so good at assessing a player that he can say straight away whether he likes what he sees or not. Then he will get onto his own contacts around the world to find out more about the player’s background, so it’s not just down to playing ability. When he’s made the decision, we move quickly to seal the deal.
Steve also revealed that Wenger likes to get players in that he can mould into the type of player he wants them to be, that the scouts are aware of these big names you hear all the time, but that the boss likes to get a bargain. If you need evidence that Wenger has an eye for talent just look at Setanta’s starting XI “Wenger’s Greatest Signings.”
Knowing all this, it’s a bit of a surprise when I hear that Arsenal have put in an inquiry for a developed, well known, EPL player like Gareth Barry. Nothing about what Martin O’Neill has said is the Arsenal way of doing a transfer.
Myself and Steve Walford both know Arsene Wenger’s assistant Pat Rice. He phoned Steve to ask how the Liverpool thing had gone and said that they might show an interest. At the end of the conversation Arsenal said: ‘that’s fine’ and that they’ll let us know. That is exactly what happened.
Unfortunately, this smacks of O’Neill trying to pressure Liverpool into increasing their price for Barry by mentioning Arsenal. I say unfortunately because I kinda want to see Wenger sign an English player, one who is well established, who has talent, can start right away, and someone who will bring experience to the training ground. Barry fits all those requirements. I guess we’ll have to wait an see, but now that O’Neill has gone and publicly linked Arsenal to Barry I’d be surprised if the deal gets done.
The other “big” story is about Arsenal raising ticket prices. Yes, it’s true: Arsenal have increased season ticket prices 4.5% the first such increase in 4 years. Those robber barrons! How dare they raise their prices 4.5% over 4 years? Why, that’s not even anywhere near the rate of inflation. What’s more, they include all European and cup competitions in that price. Which means that Arsenal ticket holders can get an extra 15 home matches or so every season. Oh the humanity!
Certainly, the clubs need to address the issue of making matches more available to young fans and local working class fans but I think that $2000 for season tickets is a damn fine price. Our local football team (the Seattle Seahawks) has a comparable ticket package: $700 for 10 home games (which includes pre-season). And then you’ll be watching the Seattle Seahawks. Besides, it costs me close to $2000 to fly to London for a week and see just ONE match. £925 is just a little less than £80/mo which is certainly a luxury item, but then going to see a match is a luxury.
I also doubt that this 4.5% increase will see too many people turn in their season tickets and if they did there’s a huge waiting list of people ready to take their spot. So many people, in fact, that Arsenal had to go out of its way to make tickets available for the average Red level member like myself. And hell, if you’ve got £15, and you happen to be in Huddersfield, you can go see Arsenal play in this weekend’s first pre-season game.
Anyway, there’s no tranfer news to report yet today, though I suspect we’ll see some movement early this week. First, Hleb, then Barry, then Adebayor, then Arsenal will bank the cash: you wait and see.