THURSDAY'S BIG STORIES
Trust The Process
Brendan Rodgers once said that managing a football club was like trying to repair an aeroplane mid-flight, and while Brendan Rodgers says a lot of quite silly things, this one has always seemed pretty much correct. You need to keep the thing in the air. But you also need to get it where it needs to go.
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If our old friend Reports is correct, Arsenal are about to add Aaron Ramsdale and Martin Ødegaard to Ben White, Nuno Tavares and Albert Sambi Lokonga, for a round total of five new signings over the course of this summer. Well, newish. Ødegaard did get an extended trial last season.
The Warm-Up may have had too much transfer window, but there's something quietly fascinating about the Ramsdale move in particular. Reports — them again — have the fee around £24m, rising to £30m, which sits in a weird space between "bought to go straight into the first team" and "bought as back-up". He's been sort of bought as an option, but also a threat, but also a prospect. All at the same time.
What Arteta was looking for, apparently, is a goalkeeper good enough to apply pressure to Bernd Leno from the bench. If that works, he'll hang around for a couple of years and then inherit the gloves; if it doesn't, he'll replace him immediately. Somebody that can swerve between fast lane and slow lane as required; that can learn from the bench but also on the job. Though we've all seen Leno trying to deal with pressure, so we can probably assume that Ramsdale will be starting by Christmas.
Ramsdale, Ødegaard, White: these are all players bought with both the short and the long-term in mind. Good enough, in theory, for the immediate moment; better, again in theory, in four or five years' time. They are project players. You can see the spine of a new team in there, and you can also see where they fit into the current one.
You can also see a kind of retro charm to it: add Ramsdale and White to Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Kieran Tierney, and it looks like Arsenal are rebooting that British Core that promised so much a few years ago. This one is probably motivated more by post-Brexit squad limits than nostalgia for the glory days of Carl Jenkinson, but it's the kind of thing that people like.
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 22: Arsenal's Emile Smith Rowe at Emirates Stadium on July 22, 2021 in London, England.
Image credit: Getty Images
But if you'd asked the Warm-Up to name Arsenal's two biggest problems, we'd probably have said Chelsea and Manchester City. Then, if you'd specified problems with the squad, we'd have apologised, thought for a bit, and then gone for something like "bit squidgy at the back" and "really weird collection of strikers." And with the greatest of respect to White and Ramsdale, those still feel like pressing issues.
Projects take time. Projects never work completely. And projects, most importantly, have a tendency to get derailed if the results don't come. Arteta is, apparently, entirely secure in his position. But all Premier League managers live in fear of the knock on the cockpit door; of their chairman standing there smiling, holding out a parachute.
Nine Is The Loneliest Number
A picture paints a thousand words, so they say. But this picture of Harry Kane, as shared by the man himself yesterday, says just one: Help.
This picture of Kane is obviously meant to show him getting in shape, getting his edge back. Little muscle emoji, caption in the language of gains and self-improvement. But it also shows Kane alone, Kane isolated, Kane left behind. Kane working through it. Kane dedicated to his craft, yes; not necessarily to his club. A player without context. A player waiting for context to come along with a big bag of cash.
And presumably it's some trick of the camera, but it looks as though the ball isn't even moving. As if England's captain is just standing, staring at this bizarre orb that has manifested in front of him while he was out for a walk. In his training kit. And his boots.
Long-running transfer sagas are weird things. Everybody involved has to look in both directions at the same time. Practically speaking, the buying club has to assume that they might not get there, the selling club has to plan to spend but also plan to keep. And the player sits in the most awkward position of all: they have to try and force their way through the door without burning their bridges as they go. Because if the bridge is on fire, you're stuck hammering at a locked door. That's basic fire safety.
Anyway, the whole world knows what has to happen for this to get anywhere: City have to up their bid from Very Large to Absolutely Massive. Tottenham's stance is and always has been "We will not be accepting any of these bids! Especially that one, which is too small." And that is why Kane is posting strange, lonely little pictures. It's a fine balance, but we think he's pulled it off: simultaneously a come-and-get-me plea, and a come-and-give-me-a-hug plea.
There are too many kits these days. This might be an Old Man Opinion, but it's also definitely true: with each club at the top of the game launching three new shirts per campaign, it's impossible to care too much one way or the other. Don't like this one? They'll be previewing the next one a couple of games before the end of the season. It's truly hard to care about them, even the very worst of them.
So, credit to Puma, whose new range of third kits has managed to unite the whole footballing world. In mockery, yes. In derision. But isn't it nice that we're all pointing and laughing and caring together?
Whatever the opposite of a sweet spot is — a sour smudge, perhaps — that is where this lot sit. At once an affront to tradition, with their lack of badge, and an affront to the noble art of the stupid third-choice strip. They're not even funny-bad, these things. These ten-minutes-to-deadline things. These will-this-do? things. These shrugs in breathable polyester, these … actually that Valencia one's quite nice, isn't it? Amazing what the lack of a sponsor will do. Where's our wallet?
IN OTHER NEWS
We share this goalkeeping howler from the Kent County League not because it is funny, but because it shows that all human beings, no matter how great or small, grand or modest, live their lives teetering above an abyss of unmeaning, just one mistake away from a reminder that the wide and boundless universe neither knows nor cares of their happiness, or even their existence. Also because it's funny.
Happy birthday to Marco Materazzi, perhaps the only player in football history to get suspended for being headbutted.
But then, he always was half defender, half wind-up merchant. In 2002, not fully fit, he started for Inter away at Newcastle with one job: annoy Craig Bellamy. And sure enough, five minutes in, Bellamy was sent off for taking a swing at the Italian. Ten minutes later, up went the substitute's board, and off came Materazzi. Job done.
Most irritating of all: we can't find footage of that on YouTube. So here he is scoring some goals for Inter.
Enjoyed this piece by Stuart James over at The Athletic on swap deals. Why are they so tempting? Why are they so rare? And what really happened with Sanchez and Mkhitaryan?
That’s one thing I’d like to transmit to the readers — that there are professionals in the game with a sense of ethics and morals that when they give their word to something that’s going to happen, barring catastrophes, it’s going to happen.
A clutch of Europa League qualifying first legs tonight, including Rangers' attempt to atone for crashing out of the Champions League. And some Europa Conference League as well, including Tottenham vs. Pacos de Ferreira and Roma vs. Trabzonspor. The ghost of Mourinho past, and the ghost of Mourinho yet to come.
Another Warm-Up in the bank. Bicep emoji. Laptop emoji. Over to Tom Adams for tomorrow.
Arteta's bland football is sending apathetic Arsenal fans to sleep - Opinion
Why Man Utd's backing of Solskjaer is bizarre but also very real - Inside Football