Wednesday 16 June 2010

Cesc interview screams of PR dark arts

443 words. Estimated reading time: 1 minute 40 seconds

My optimism about Cesc remaining with us this summer has taken a dent after a BBC interview that looks suspiciously like an exercise to pull public favour in his direction.

Before I start, you can see the three minute interview, ostensibly previewing Spain v Switzerland, by clicking here.

The toadying approach of interviewer Graham Hunter, the nature of the question about Wenger’s preparation compared to Del Bosque and enquiries about how Cesc is coping with the speculation – everything shouted ‘set up’ to me. Why was Hunter, a Spain-based reporter who essentially acts as a mouthpiece for Barcelona directors, chosen to carry out the interview rather than a usual BBC journalist? Why did he ask a question about how much detail Wenger goes into about opponents?

I may be being too conspiratorial but my guess is it is an effort by Cesc’s people to set the foundation for justifying his desire for a transfer by sowing a seed about Wenger’s true ability and portraying Cesc as an innocent party who would much prefer life was made more comfortable by Arsenal accepting Barca’s offer asap. So far I’ve tried to convince myself that our captain would stick with us for at least one more season, that his clamour for a move to Barca would die down once he’d left the Spain World Cup camp. Now I’m not so sure. This interview, for me, represents the opening of a new front in the battle by Cesc’s people/Barcelona to get him away from Ashburton Grove.

If my paranoia is proved correct, this is the beginning of a PR campaign that will see his Spain team-mates say increasingly how much he’d enjoy life back in Barca, the new Barca president Sandro Rossell publicly declare how much he respects Arsenal (while privately continuing negotiations with us, I fear) and probably lead to a statement from Cesc at the conclusion of the World Cup making it clear he doesn’t intend to return to London.

How should we deal with that? Ultimately, the only way of keeping hold of him will be to get Wenger to convince him that we can deliver silverware. To make that believable we need to buy recognised defensive talent to replace Gallas and Silvestre who, it appears, have left on free transfers. Were we to sign players that are unproven Cesc can quite legitimately argue he doesn’t believe in the Wenger project any longer.

That will represent a vote of no confidence in Wenger and will be a massive blow to the club. So here’s a thought – why not buy some top quality defenders and make it impossible for Cesc to force through a transfer?

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