Facts can be
manipulated to provide damning evidence. Facts can also be used to tell a story
without emotion. Facts in football always have a context and mitigating
circumstances and from this point of view Arsenal Football Club should be seen,
on the one hand, as just another Football club, yet on the other to be a club standing
for something more.
The Arsenal does
have the status of one of English Football’s big clubs; that’s fact. On this
basis there should be an element of expectation and intention to compete for honours.
Let’s talk about Pre
and Post Emirates.
from the board, when leaving Highbury, were that Arsenal would compete at the
highest level because the move would enable the club financially. In the years
leading up to this we were doing just that. Champions League final, FA Cup win,
Premier League Championship; the definition of competing at the highest level
in many ways.
This in fact was
ratified by the fact that in those years we had world class players. That’s not
hyperbole that’s actually true.
The 2011/12 season
has seen the three trophies that matter being won by clubs with virtually
unlimited resources; resources that have placed those clubs in the elite. Pre
Emirates neither club was one of the big boys; The London Club had started down
that road sure, and nine years down the line with Billions of Euros spent the
Russian oligarch achieved his goal. City have started on their journey and have
two trophies in two years.
Post Emirates the
conditions that exist make challenging for top honours a more complex task. The
best set of players available against the best set of players available is a
skewed playing field when one club can offer as much as they want for players
both in terms of fee and wages. If a club can’t compete financially on the
playing side they need players with the correct mind set and a manager with
tactical acumen in order to go into combat. A good youth policy and effective scouting
network is also essential when you are unable to ‘shop at Harrods’.
This raises the
question regarding the mission statement of 2006; Competing at the highest
level. The reality is that Arsenal have not done so. To point at facts, it’s
clear that we haven’t.
frustratingly, has there been recognition of the strategies that need to be put
in place for Arsenal to be able to compete with the financially emboldened rivals.
Regardless of the
reasoning, if we don’t spend the same as the other clubs with whom we are
trying to compete we need a plan B. If we don’t have a plan B then we need to
spend; speculate to accumulate.
If the club is set
on financial prudence all well and good but something has to give in order to
compete at the highest level. Yes, it a. While not suggesting that winning
things on the back of serious financial input is any less satisfying for the
fans of the club that does so, I would suggest that winning through old
fashioned values carries a deeper satisfaction.
But there’s the rub.
Old fashioned values have got us nowhere. Those values have got us nowhere
because the playing personnel at the club have not been up to the challenge.
The manager has not been able to tactically thwart teams that are better man
for man. The youth and scouting system has delivered scant return. The
acceptance of mediocrity at board level has been shocking as it is based on the
“as long as we are earning its okay” philosophy.
I guess what I can
conclude is that we need a strategy that is based on spending; and we have a
really big player from Eastern Europe waiting in the wings or a strategy that
is based on the Plan B model outlined above for which you need to get a lot of
If the club and fans
are prepared to accept the Arsenal as a club akin to Everton; once one of the
genuinely big players of English football who slid gradually down the pecking
order and are used to their status, then that’s fine. But that acceptance is to
show scant regard of any fighting qualities that this great club are renowned
That’s how it feels;
a general air of acceptance that Arsenal are yesterday’s men. The once Invincibles,
the former top club in London, the once Bank of England Club.
We’ve always had
class but we used to be contenders instead of ‘also rans’ which we are now.
It's not to late though. Its never too late...Is it?
"ask not what you can do for your club, ask what your club can do for you"
Another underwhelming season reaches its fitful climax. At stake qualification for a tournament that we look nowhere near to winning, but a tournament that brings in revenue and supposedly acts as bait for luring quality players. It's all a bit 'Lasagne Sunday' tomorrow; scraping over the left overs of the season. No trophy at stake just claiming the mythical Golden Fleece like ECL Qualification. Said qualification kind of masks a season's inadequacy (whoever claims it outright today). In our case the statistics are, Won 20 drawn 7 and most damning, lost 10. That's not to say we aren't as mediocre, in league terms, as Chelsea and Newcastle who have also lost 10. Difference being Chelsea have won the FA Cup and are in the ECL Final, Newcastle's form represents a big step forward, therefore they have in effect done better than us this season (and it's not over yet).Even Sp*rs have been better defensively than us. We may scoff at Liverpool's appalling season yet it's one with Silverware.
We need to focus on beating WBA tomorrow in order that we don't have to face the prospect of actually caring who wins the Champions League final, or facing an early qualification round come August or worse still, having to set the SKY+ for Channel 5.
We fill the stadium every week and our travelling support are superb, we have all been patient, we have all kept communicating, with each other; we have the best Bloggers and the most erudite Internet presence. We have stood by the team and dealt with season after season of disappointment. The majority of us have stood by even the most cack handed player and encouraged more than criticised.
Most of all, after all the gripes and frustrations we have defended our club against a hateful media and we have stood up for the Arsenal.
I visited the New York Yankees stadium last year I couldn’t help but notice a
similarity. Here was a team playing the peoples game, a team with a great
history based in the USA equivalent of London; New York (it’s not Washington;
all they share is capital city status). They had moved to a new stadium, a
stones throw from the old one in which they had many great moments and I was
about to see what the new Yankees Stadium looked like.
parked in the excellent parking facilities adjacent to the ground. Of course
this was not downtown but it was still the city so to be able to do this was
the ground Yankee shirts were everywhere; the iconic pinstripe unchanged for
decades. Baseball caps, still the same as they always have been proliferated; available
in numerous sizes to fit the smallest or largest of craniums.
entrance to the stadium. No enclosed turnstiles. Entrance by showing your ticket and
walking in like a human being not a piece of cattle.
in the concourses celebrations of the history of the Yankees proudly displayed.
I wasn’t very hungry but there was Sushi, Pizza, McDonalds, Mexican, you name
it. Hot dogs of course, but choices of different types. No generic food outlets
but genuine choice. At reasonable prices. A Beer? Of course. Again choices;
German Lager, American Micro Brewery Beer, Heineken, Michelob, Dos Equiss The ubiquitous
Budweiser but Budvar also. Beer bought to your seat no less. All you needed was
ID, regardless of age, just show your ID hand over a couple of Bucks and you
can have a Beer.Running short of cash? Why not go to one of the cashpoints?
Yankees were playing (and beat) The Toronto Blue Jays that day and prior to the
game the National Anthems of the USA and Canada were observed impeccably and as
the game began I got the feeling that this was what it was like to be treated
with respect. This was what it was like to be given choices. This was what it
was like to feel valued as a supporter.
players at bat and in the outfield are all rich yet there is not the feeling of
resentment or disparity among the Yankee faithful.
tickets are reasonably priced, they are not ripped off at the ground and the
Club retains its identity. It’s not manipulated into kit changes or ordered by
EUFA to trade its fans like children. Sure American sports teams excel at Merchandising but the actual match day experience doesn't leave you feeling ripped off and patronised.
anyone points out the obvious, that comparisons between an American Baseball
Club and an English Football Club are hard to make I am not making a direct comparison,
I’m looking at the basics; Ticket prices, match day ethos, attitude towards the
fans and attitude about how the club retains identity.
When I left at the end of an entertaining game and great experience I reflected that the
Arsenal could learn a lot from the Yankees and the Premier League could learn a
lot from the MLB about how it treats its life blood: The supporters.
if Manchester City win the League they will play Chelsea in The Community
Shield 2012. This will be the exact moment that the big money Chickens ploughing
untold Millions into English football will have come home ready to settle down.
you can countenance Chelsea also winning The Champions League it will amplify
the strategy of buying success. Abramovich’s plan will have worked; and it only
took nine years.
Traditional big English clubs are Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal,
Everton and Sp*rs. That’s kind of accepted and backed up statistically. These
clubs, including our own, have no divine right to anything; that’s not the
is the point? Money talks. That’s the point. All the clubs who did not heed the
warning can’t exactly find easy answers either. This English football thing of ours
began to chase the Euro with enthusiasm with the SKY deal and ever since money
has been god. Kick off times, players wages, ticket prices, Agents fees, kit
changes, merchandising, WAGs the whole rotten apple was plucked from the tree by
Murdoch and feasted upon with gusto by Oligarchs and ordinary men turned into gluttons.
So when we see two clubs emboldened and hoisted aloft by money, money, money let's just stop and think about what the beautiful game actually means. If the two new money mammoths clash at Wembley in August it perhaps, should be renamed The Glutton Bowl and we should all shed a tear for something that has been lost; and possibly never replaced.
Gordon Gecko never actually said "Greed is good", what he said was "Greed works". The misquote is wrong, the real quote, sadly, is right.
A new home kit (order yours today and get a lovely presentation box and maybe win a Citroen!), a summer tour, Lukas Podolski (get your season tickets while they're hot), groundsman of the year, Live screening of our trip to WBA; only £8 and you can enjoy a delicious tepid and flat £3.90 beer, "Third place is in our hands", yadah yadah yadah...
All distractions; shiny baubles if you will, from the harsh reality of another season of under achievement. Yes I know about the mantra of a ECL place being achieved, but that's no certainty as I write this. The fact that Sp*rs and Newcastle chucked a rubber ring into the ocean for an Arsenal side treading water awaiting a lifeline, means we may yet stagger over the finish line to pick up the Bronze medal.
Tremendous stuff I'm sure you'll agree. But fear not and above all remain calm: all is well, all is well.
the weekly pursuit of points yesterday's result could be seen as a resilient
response with some bad luck leading to a valuable point.
But in the context of a must win scenario that is crucial to the future of this
club, we were, again, found wanting.
The current Arsenal squad is a paradox; ability v mentality. The Arsenal of
2012 refuses to accept the mantle of greatness, it defers from acknowledging a
historical context of being one of the big boys.
This Arsenal appears to be happy with a status of second rate, this Arsenal
accepts mediocrity, this Arsenal seems happy to assume underdog status. Our
club have seemed to settle for being second rate. Title challenges, cup finals,
taking on the big boys. It's all gone by the by as we've gone mediocre as our
We look in the rear view mirror and we see Newcastle and Sp*rs. We've seen Chelsea usurp our position and we have seen Man City challenge the status quo. We have allowed our club to decline,and it has been a decline: Stats don't lie.
Yesterday showed that mentality is lacking, ethos is absent. Looking at Chelsea winning the FA cup against a lack lustre Liverpool one could see a set of players that have a winning mentality. Much as I hate to praise Chelsea it is worth noting that even under the circumstances of this season they have won a trophy and have reached the Champions League final. Ashley Cole, much derided, must have seen the writing on the wall when he left under seedy circumstances. The way in which he left was repellent but who can honestly say he was wrong to want to join a club going forward and leave one that was aiming towards stagnation. Part of why he is such a figure of hate is that Arsenal supporters wanted to have the last laugh. The only way we could have done that was by winning things and being better than Chelsea. Cole merely needs to look at his medal haul since leaving and realise who has had the last laugh. Awful thought isn't it?
We now could rely on, variously, Aston Villa, Manchester City, Fulham , Everton,Bayern Munich and Chelsea to get results in a variety of scenarios and probably bank on beating West Brom to guarantee Champions League football. A bad state of affairs giving the hard work put in to get into third. The fact that we are looking at third as adequate sums it all up.
Of course it's not too late to make some changes, but we need to have a serious summer of reassessing where we
are going as a club and having assessed the situation, take decisive action. Unfortunately I don't see that happening.
You get the feeling that all matters at the top of the table will remain unresolved until next weekend. United and City should go to the last day and the fate of The Arsenal, Sp*rs and Newcastle may be the same; Newcastle and Man City is the key game for a number of reasons, and Chelsea could need to put all their eggs in the Champion's League final basket. It's tight at the top alright.
This afternoon's game at home to Norwich,the last at home this season, is a must win scenario. Given Villa's awful form you would have to think Sp*rs will get three points tomorrow thereby setting up a last day of some tension. Almost a mirror image of the final day at Highbury when we faced Wigan and Sp*rs, despite a predictable Sheringham missed penalty, succumbed to a dodgy Lasagne, and a goal from Yossi at Upton Park. Newcastle are buoyant but their game against City may burst their bubble.
The race for third is so tight and there are so many variables that all we should focus on are these simple facts. Win both remaining games and we finish a strange season in third place; The best of the rest if you like.
And it has been a strange season, a summer of indecision, disaster at Old Trafford, talk of black bin bags, 'mind the gap' t-shirts and tiny stadium banners. Elsewhere it's been a season of contention; racism and abuse, Social Networks and the law, Tragedy and triumph and all manner of poor refereeing decisions.
For many, myself included, it's about getting to the end of the season in third (which seemed unlikely back in October) and rebuilding for next season. I feel that the 2011-12 season will be reflected upon as the season when The Arsenal as a club probably opened it's eyes , for the most part, gathered it's senses and looked towards the future with a more realistic view on what is required to get back in the big time. I hope so anyway.
For now it's three points pure and simple. That's today's raison d'etre and it should be the same next weekend.
Spare a thought for Liverpool, a team that have a League Cup triumph to look back on and an FA Cup final to look forward to, but their latest defeat at once impregnable Anfield means they have dropped a staggering 59 points in the league. Without the cup runs they would not be in Europe next season which is unthinkable for a club of their stature and history on the continent.
Would I swap positions with them and have a mid table finish but domestic silverware? I think probably not, I think that in league terms we've shown some positive signs that may indicate the process of re-establishing ourselves as contenders is not too fanciful an idea.
Our trophy drought has to be looked at in context. Yes we've not won the league since 2004 but for Liverpool, whom we are domestic peers of, it’s been 22 years; we should remember that a gap of eight years points to losing our way. When you start talking in decades (plural) it points towards a deeper decline.
It also highlights the change in the landscape where Arsenal and Liverpool's domestic positions; once unchallenged as the big three, along with Manchester United, has been usurped by Chelsea and now Man City.
Yes Liverpool have not covered themselves in glory this season; particularly with the Suarez situation, but they are a proper club and as such it's unsettling to see how their status has changed.
United have stayed at the peak due to finance sure but also because they've had such a remarkable manager. That Arsenal have managed to stay at Champions League qualification level is remarkable given the circumstances.
There are more issues at the club that I may go into at a later date but as of right now, I looked at last nights result at Anfield, reflected, and thought ‘there but for the grace’