The Auba debacle revisited
As this is being written, it looks quite possible Auba will be sold to Chelsea by Barcelona. Either for a straight transfer fee or a combined fee + player deal.
If it happens, it is almost certainly bound to reignite some debate about how “stupid” Arsenal have been. Even if it doesn’t happen, the Auba debacle is still dragged into a lot of debates here.
First of all, I think we can assume the facts are; Arsenal let Auba go to Barcelona, not just without any transfer fee, but also are reported to have paid some kind of “salary compensation” to make it happen. So we are not talking about letting Auba go for free, we are actually talking about paying to get rid of him. Now that it is clear, he in the current market has some transfer value, it seems obvious to ask; “How could Arsenal be so stupid???”
One accusation that is repeated without any deeper thought behind it, is that we let Auba go in a cost cutting exercise – “slashing the wage bill”. I think, it is very easy to dismiss that as nonsense alone by looking at the realities. It would make much more economic sense to have kept him, paid his salary for 6 months and sold him. It only takes the minimum of ability to add and subtract to see, that his salary for 6-7 months adds up to much less than the minimum transfer value, and then we haven’t even counted the salary compensation, we paid. The reality is, it cost us a lot of money to let Auba go in a hurry.
Are the people deciding to accept his move to Barcelona including the economic loss then complete morons, who couldn’t do the calculations either? Of course not. They knew what they were doing. Let me explain.
In an earlier article here on JA, I have detailed, why letting Auba go to Barcelona was a decision taken by Arteta, the management and the owner in unison. I am not going to repeat that analysis, as I think most will agree, there is no way Arteta alone or Arteta and Edu alone have the authorization to decide to let arguably the biggest name in our squad go to another club for nothing, let alone decide to pay a substantial sum for it. It is of course Arteta’s right to decide not to pick him to play. But actually signing off on letting him go and pay for it, that can never be more than a recommendation from Arteta. The final decision could only be taken by the management and the owner.
Once that fact is accepted, it really becomes much clearer, Arteta, the management and the owner saw eye to eye in deciding to get rid of Auba, even though it cost quite a lot of money. That was simply accepted, because they were in agreement that the best for Arsenal was to get Auba out of the door as soon as possible.
Another argument sometimes seen here is that Arteta can’t “handle” big personalities like Auba. This is of course an opinion, and can’t be neither confirmed nor dismissed by actual facts. We can use some indications:
Is it likely, Arteta, who spent several years at Man City amongst a great number of stars, and who has played with many stars himself, shouldn’t know how to handle them?
Is it likely when it seems Jesus and Zinchenko, who know Arteta chose to move to us?
Could it be just the opposite, and Arteta actually knows exactly that some have an ego too big to be part of a real team?
I think we can each make our choice. There is no right or wrong to be proved here. I think, it is very much a choice about how you look at it.
But what about the fact, Auba played terribly for us for several months and almost couldn’t score a goal, and just as he turns out for Barcelona, he scores several? Isn’t that proof Arteta, couldn’t get the best out of him?
There is no doubt, Auba wasn’t playing well, when he decided to “stick his finger” to Arteta and his teammates by ignoring when he should turn up for training. But why was that? Was it necessarily because Arteta isn’t good enough to handle him? Or was it because Auba, has such a huge ego that he simply decided he wouldn’t give 100% for Arsenal, he wanted to move to Barcelona at all costs for Arsenal, and like a spoilt child, once he got his will, he gave 100% again?
Again, I think, nobody can actually say for certain, except maybe Auba and Arteta themselves, so we can each take our pick of “beliefs”.
But I would like to offer my own theory.
If not before, then no later than at the start of last season, it became clear Arteta’s and indeed Arsenal’s project now is a long term plan, that strives to assemble a young and hungry team which can develop into a truly competitive team. A team which may be able to compete for the PL title within a few years.
Now, if you are 32 years old, as Auba was at the time, and you are a big name with ambitions to win titles and maybe shine personally, a long term plan is not such a good prospect to look at. Auba simply doesn’t have “long term” left in his career. This means, if you were Auba, you could conclude that this project actually has a focus, which isn’t suited to you. If you conclude that, it is almost impossible to give 100% for it. You could of course “sacrifice” your own ambitions and chose to fight a couple of years for the good of Arsenal, or you could start thinking, I must get out of here to a club where my own ambitions for the remainder of my career can be fulfilled. My theory is that, in his heart, Auba concluded the latter, and mentally stopped fighting for Arsenal and even forced a situation where Arsenal had to let him go to Barcelona. Once at Barcelona, he could straight away give 100%, as he was now an important star in the team again.
Finally, Arsenal have come under some criticism for not investing in some kind of replacement for Auba straight away, especially as we finished only a couple of points from a CL place. Again, this can be looked at in different ways. To begin with, we mustn’t forget, the team actually improved quite a lot in the weeks after Auba was left out of the team selections. It was as if some players “stepped up” and there seemed to be more unity. Even so, should we have bought or loaned a new striker?
Which striker was available and would surely have secured us more points?
Which striker could at the time be seen to improve a team, which at the time was performing quite well?
Would it better to get a new striker which might not fit the profile for our long term project, than letting the team get on with it?
In hindsight, things look different.
But either way, I think what makes the difference is how you value a CL participation at this stage of our project. If you have, or had, the conviction it was crucial for Arsenal to get top 4 last season, then it all can look like a huge mistake, which should have made heads roll.
If you on the other hand are of the same conviction that our owner clearly must have, that although top 4 is very attractive, it wasn’t crucial for our project at this stage, then you can conclude, missing out on top 4 was a great pity, but the most important thing is, our project stays on course, and we will only go for players which fit perfectly into the plan.
Take your pick of beliefs.
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