Beware! Don’t Name Those Rats.

I learned some great lessons from the Summer jobs I took as a kid.

I got a job one Summer with one of the more poorly run animal testing labs, a company called FronckenSchteen Experimentation.

This is me administering the test substance to little Theo, day 2 of the experiment.


Never Name The Rats
Frau Brucher, the head lab technician, gave me some advice on my 2nd day on the job. She had just requested that I give the rats, numbers 1-11, their test dosage for the day, and also to administer it to the back up rats which numbered another 5. There was actually a total of 25 rats included in the group for the European study, but these 11 were deemed the best candidates.
“Give them their dosage promptly,” she said.
“I will start with my favourites, little Theo and Jack,”  I joked with her.
“Oh, don’t do that. Don’t give them any pet names,” she cautioned sternly. “It will only make what you will be doing to them over the next few months that much harder for you.”

This is little Theo on Day 37 of the trial

With such a great CV, it was a Slam Dunk to get myself another job the next Summer. This time it was at the Marlboro Puppies labs. I chose this laboratory because I could tell from the name it would be far more caring of the test subjects. Alas, I was wrong.

Little Tommy, Robin and Andrei.

But to be fair on the lab, at least this time the beagles seemed to love the experiments. At least, they must have. Every time I’d disconnect them from their machines, it wouldn’t be 30 minutes before they’d start howling for me to put them back on the machines.

Never mind what I had to do to Gareth during that 3rd Summer job. (Actually, this was the one gig I kind of enjoyed.)

However, this callousness and lack of empathy I developed at a young age helps greatly when it comes to my current Summer job. You see, around about June 1st every year, Arsene Wenger phones me and starts whining like a big girls blouson about how he needs to make changes but how he doesn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings.

“Snap out of it, Arsene!” I tell him. “You have other cats to whip, man. Ecoutez-moi, mon brave. Vous avez d’autres chats a fouetter,” I say, just to make sure I’ve made the point. (I speak 1.5 foreign languages including English.)

“But I love all the players. I’ve made promises to them all. Nothing they can hold me to, but I’ve told them all I have them down to start. And now I have a whole bunch of new players coming in and I’ve made them promises too. I had to. I can’t play them all, Poznan. What should I do? Please tell me!”

“Arsene,” I say, “don’t name the rats.”

Churn and Burn, Baby!
Anyway, on a completely unrelated note, let’s talk about Arsenal’s squad. I did a semi-scientific study of who the top 20 or so players were by number-of-games-played in the EPL over the last 7 years. My motivation was to see what the turnover looked like year on year. Actually it was driven by a sense of deja vous as we are once again all discussing who’s coming and going. The reality is, in my opinion, that what we think right now bears tenuous resemblance to the following but in particular, point #3:
1. Who will actually be in the squad come Sept 1
2. Who the first XI is, let alone the first XX
3. Who actually plays given injuries, form and formation throughout the long, unpredictable season

So here is a quiz question for you. How many new names are in the top 20 players we use in the EPL each year on average. And also, how many new names did we have in 2011/12 in particular.
Let me clarify by example. To make the top 20 you typically have to play in (by starts or subbing into) about 10 games of the 38. Further clarification: Jack Wilshere was in the top 20 in 2010/11 but WAS NOT in 2011/12.  Thomas Vermaelen WAS a new name this year because he didn’t play in 2010/11 for 10+ games. Kieran Gibbs WAS a new name in 2011/12 because he didn’t play 10+ EPL games the previous year. Carl Jenkinson was not a new name because he didn’t play 10+ EPL games in 11/12

So how many new names for 2011/12?

By my count, 10 of the 20. Yep, 10.

In fact, the turnover of names from 1 season to the next is typically 5, 6 or 7 names in and similar numbers out. It doesn’t mean they leave the club or don’t play in the squad or for Arsenal in the EPL. It simply means that they play less than 10 games in the EPL for us which I have arbitrarily deemed to be a cut-off point for significant contribution.

Exercise #2: Write down right now the list of the top 20 players you predict for next season. Put it in a drawer. And be prepared to amaze yourself by checking it on Sept 1st, 2012 and then again on May 31st, 2013, because we know nothing right now. We haven’t an earthly.

Still, all this twitter speculation keeps us out of organized crime gangs and prostitution rings. So that’s a plus.

So is anyone else thinking what I’m thinking? Oh. Well, I’d better tell you then. Clinching 3rd place with that amount of squad volatility, was a hell of an achievement. It might be time for some consolidation and some calm this season and therefore this window. (@goonerdave66 is most wise on this topic.)

Click here for the spreadsheet: 20 Rats

Remember: DON’T NAME THE RATS if you have a tendency to form strong attachments to Arsenal’s players. The needles are long and pointy.