The naughty kid will always get the attention. The quiet, well-behaved, conscientious, clever student will be lumped to the side of the classroom and largely ignored for the entirety of his or her school days.
Being quiet, well-behaved, conscientious or clever really doesn’t get you very far in school. It gets you ignored by the adults and written off as a geek by the kids. Meanwhile, the naughty kid will get attention heaped upon him or her. In some extreme cases, the lessons will actually be skewed toward the enjoyment of the naughty kid. God forbid little Callum be distracted and make a show of the teacher and his/her utter incompetence at controlling a child who, let’s face it, basically needs a thump. Essentially in school, if you try to be a basically acceptable human being, you can only lose out.
Until of course you leave school and that naughty kid, that kid that once took you hostage in a classroom when you were too scared to do anything in case they killed you, that kid who nicked your first mobile phone then brazenly asked you about it the day after in Food Tech all innocent-like, ends up in prison/pregnant/in prison and pregnant. Then you win, because you’re carrying on with your life in the very same way you always have, sans criminal record and restrictions on your holidaying destinations and sans unsightly stretchmarks. And, well, sans screeching, squishy faced kid.
The same is true of footballers. Throughout this summer so far, the only headline story for the Arsenal has been a headline story involving the captain, once again. So much was made all season about the Club doing everything they could to keep him. On the pitch, he was an A* student all year long. In fairness, off the pitch he was as well, being exactly the kind of captain anyone would want for their team. But then this summer, the focus remained with van Persie. His international team bombed at the Euros and he headed off on a (well-deserved, domestically) holiday while everyone else associated with the Club worried themselves green as to what the next move with him would be. He has dominated every single story about Arsenal this season. The signings of uber-capped German Lukas Podolski and Ligue 1 top-scorer Olivier Giroud were marred with a big fat question mark hanging over the entire situation as to whether their arrivals meant the superstar’s departure.
It’s quite unfair really. Neither of them are proven in the Premier League, but for the first days of their time with their new club to be overshadowed by the departure of a would-be teammate must be frustrating. No doubt media-gagged to infinity and beyond, they’ve kept their gobs shut while all around have been losing their heads. But they’re here and they’re committed and they’re diligently preparing for next season.
Then you’ve got the ‘good kids’. Or, in football, the unsung heroes. The players who were just as important in last year’s league campaign as Mr. Dazzly Dazzly Woopdewoop, but who never get a shout out because, well, they’re supposed to be good aren’t they? I’ve always had a real fondness for defenders in general. While I think you must have to be an absolutely classified looney tune to want to be a goalkeeper, choosing to become a defender says to me you’re a solid player, a trustworthy one and, vitally, one who is not all about superstardom.
In October 2011, Thomas Vermaelen signed a contract extension at Arsenal. If I remember correctly, there was very little hoopla surrounding the signing. In fact, I think there was actually quite a lot of complaining that a ‘permanently injured’ player should be given yet another hefty contract with no real guarantee as to whether he’d be of any use to us. He went on to have a mixed season, performing like the tempestuous brick wall he’d been throughout the 2009-2010 campaign for some matchdays, but getting a little hot-headed in others and being found slightly wanting and slightly out of position in others. Having spent a large portion of the season playing out of position, he eventually retreated back to his favoured role and scored some important goals while getting back to his best in terms of his general game.
And who could forget Newcastle at home where he saved the day with a last-minute goal to win the game? And then, while hilarious in the moment, when he went on to captain the captain, who was at that very time throwing a wobbly all over the pitch? It looks almost set in stone that Vermaelen will be our new captain. I’ve no doubt in true Arsenal fashion, he’ll become protagonist for 2014’s bidding war between Manchester City and Manchester City Slightly Prickier (Now With Added Cash!), but for now he’s keeping calm and carrying on while the naughty kid continues to hog the limelight.
And so to today’s news, and the confirmation of Laurent Koscielny’s contract extension. It’s funny that in recent days, while there were absent-minded whispers that Barcelona were interested in him, no one really got all that anxious about the possibility of losing him anywhere. Because let’s face it, on the back of the season Koscielny’s just had, and given the shocking defensive displays of most teams last season, almost anyone would want him. But still, none of us were all that bothered by the rumours. While his (former? Yeah…) captain muscled his way into almost all of the sporting column inches, I bet Koscielny’s new deal will barely be bothered about tomorrow. And if it is, it’s maxi-guaranteed that Robin van Persie’s name will be mentioned in the same article.
And finally, to a point that fellow Arsebloggee Tim Stillman has touched on on a number of occasions in recent weeks. Johan Djourou is the most loyal player currently at Arsenal. He had some shockers last season (mostly when, like Vermaelen, he was being played out of position), but he loves Arsenal and while the bad matches still linger, memories of the good matches ring bells more loudly in my head. God, anyone would think I was one of those positive people or something. He signed a new deal this season too. And once again, little or no fuss was made about it. Oh, and in spite of having been at Arsenal for 10 years now, he’s still just 25 years old, four months younger than our new signing Olivier Giroud.
It feels as though this season has been a bit of a turning point for many fans. There’s an acceptance that big fat ugly vomit pounds are going to be ruling the roost even more than they already have done for the past twenty years, for the foreseeable future. Pissy bastard players like Luka Modric finding it acceptable to just tootle off whenever they feel like it. Other players thinking it okay to release a statement without the permission of the club to which they are contracted, elbowing shitty little digs into the ribs of the said club’s manager of 16 years in the meantime. They think they know it all these days.
So here’s to the quiet kids. The kids who do their homework in spite of knowing they’ll never get called on it, as Disturbey Dave will hog the teacher’s attention for the entire 50 minute lesson. The players who, in a time where players get to control everything, just get on with it and sign while a pantomime plays out around them. They’re underappreciated now, as others flap around them like Cinderella at the Millfield Theatre, and I love them even more so for it.
Anyway, the summer drags on. I reckon I know which Dutchman will be all over the back pages tomorrow morning. Nevertheless, let’s all raise a toast to a Frenchman, that most Arsenal of Arsenal nationalities.
Congratulations Laurent Koscielny.