by Stephen Bradley

Silly season. Woot.

Every time I see a report in the news or on social media, concerning who Arsenal may or may not be thinking of signing during the summer, this comes to mind.

Yes. The ten hour-long version of the Benny Hill theme tune. Because just like the video, transfer speculation will never, EVER end. As long as there is money to be made from the movement of employees in football, then these stories will always appear in our lives. It’s no different to seeing a Tottenham fan at a cup winners’ parade, nobody wants to see them there and nobody invited them in the first place.

But do you know what the most annoying thing about all these stories is? It’s not the amount of them, it’s not the sheer inaccuracy in the majority of them, it’s not even the fact that some websites exist only to make money from posting such stories. By far, the most infuriating thing about transfer gossip, is that some of it is actually true.

I’ll never forget the end of August in 2013. After losing 3-1 at home to Aston Villa in the opening day of the season, a season that had started without a single new player joining the club, the fans were for once united in their criticism of Arsene Wenger’s transfer policy. ‘Spend some f#@*ing money’ was heard across the world. Two days before the transfer window closed, we beat Tottenham 1-0 but we also had Serge Gnabry, Yaya Sanogo and Gedion Zelalem on the bench.

And then it happened.


The next evening, Mesut Özil was announced as an Arsenal player. A whole summer of frustration was wiped away in one moment, and the memory of that is still fresh in our minds. We complain about all these stories in the media about who Arsenal may or may not sign, but we’re not blaming the media for reporting on them, we’re blaming ourselves for caring that they might be true.

That’s why it’s wrong to ask for reports like this to be discontinued, or for transfer windows to be shortened so that less of the year is spent trying to work out what is truth and what is fiction. In reality, neither of these solutions fix the problem at hand, which is that we care so much about our football team that we want to believe every positive story reported about them.

And to be honest, I’m not so sure that this is actually a problem. Why? Well let’s try out the above solutions to see how they would play out

Banning talk on signing another club’s players

This is a common rule in professional leagues in the USA. It’s not there to prevent media reports, but instead it’s to protect investments made by owners of franchises in players that will help them win. The name of the charge made against teams in breach of this rule speaks for itself: “Tampering”. Clubs don’t want other clubs signing their players, so they group together and ban the practise as a whole.

Does it work? Well it’s the middle of the off-season in the NFL right now, the quietest part of their calendar year. They are at the same point that football finds itself in, none of the clubs are playing competitive fixtures at the moment. So what are the top headlines on at the time this article is being written at?

  1. Sam Bradford, Eagles discuss extension, but no progress made
  2. Dez: ‘Where is my security?’ | Weddle: I’m not in long-term plans
  3. Falcons’ Julio Jones: ‘I’m not going to hold out’ |

Contract reports. Why? Because fans want to know if players are staying or leaving. No matter what rules are implemented to prevent reporting of transfers, the media will always find a way of selling you hope.

Shortening the transfer window

This also sounds good in theory; less time to make deals = less time to put with speculation of said deals. In practise though, this falls down as soon as you look at the date of this report about Lukas Podolski signing for Arsenal. The 8th of March does not fall in either of the designated transfer windows, yet here Arsenal were agreeing a deal for a senior international player. No matter when a transfer window is allocated in a calendar year, negotiations for said transfer will always take place throughout the year.

The only way a shorter transfer window would be of benefit to fans would be if it was significantly shorter. Make it a 48 hour window, at the end of every month. Think of the chaos. Think of the scramble that clubs would engage in so that they could have the opportunity to grossly overpay for Adam Lallana. Think of all the pharmaceutical products Jim White would have to ingest during a non-stop stint on Sky Sports News.

In essence, what we’ve become is the dog that always chases after a ball that our owner has thrown down the garden, only to find out once we get to the back fence that there was never a ball in the first place. But does the dog sit there and sulk, or does it run back to its master with a huge grin of anticipation as soon as it hears the word ‘fetch’ again?

Yep, the dog runs back every time, just like we do to the same website or newspaper that told us that we we’re signing Yann M’Vila/Julian Draxler/Gonzalo Higuain/all of the above, because even though we grow more skeptical as time goes by, sometimes it isn’t James Milner’s name that’s in the report, but Alexis Sanchez’.

Occasionally, there actually is a ball in the owner’s hand. Always remember that when you get to the end of a column and there was no ball. It might be at the end of the next one. Only one way to find out……..