Tuesday, 27 November 2012

AWAY FROM THE NUMBERS

There are 3 trophies to play for each season, 4 if a team are in Europe; For the Arsenal, since our last trophy, we have had 28 opportunities to win a trophy. We have failed on each of those 28 occasions. This season we are currently in the running (theoretically) for another 4 trophies. The argument that Qualification for the Champions League is like a trophy is spurious. Even if it is thought of as ‘like a trophy’ the key word is ‘like. It is not a trophy.

The Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has achieved the ‘like a trophy’ trophy on seven occasions during this time period. Yes consistent Champions League Qualification is a splendid achievement, no one can deny that but for some this is an achievement that offsets the 28 failures.

If it is fair to praise Arsene Wenger for our ECL qualification record is it not fair to question Arsene Wenger regarding the 28 failures? I think it is and I think that respect is warranted but deference isn’t.

It is reasonable that accountability is part of a manager’s raison d’être, at any level of management and Arsene Wenger must be accountable for the team’s failures as much as he is praised for the teams achievements.

It seems these days that opinions are polarised about our manager and disagreement is frowned upon. The way in which Arsene Wenger responded to the press after the Aston Villa game, and indeed the way in which the gentleman of the press sensed blood was, in my view, the beginnings of something that we haven’t seen before during Arsene Wenger’s tenure.

I’ve not known such a fractured time during the last 16 years and just a cursory glance at social media will confirm that there are strong feelings about our manager on both sides and there’s the rub, the only side we should all be on is the Arsenal’s side. It’s almost as if, to some, the Arsenal itself as a club and as a team is almost secondary to debate about Mr Wenger. The stuff we don’t know about that takes place in the boardroom and in the accountancy department makes it impossible to draw any clear conclusions as to what restrictions, if any, are preventing our club winning things. What is clear is undisputable; 28 attempts 28 failures. No one can win everything that’s obvious but 28 is a massive number in the context of Arsenal Football Club.

If we get to May and that number has increased to 32 what will be the repercussions for our Manager and our club? Yet again I have to say “who knows”
 
away from the numbers

Saturday, 24 November 2012

VILLA PARK


As we travel up to the Midlands to play Aston Villa I am reminded of what a great traditional ground Villa Park is.
It's probably been the away ground I have visited most. Seen a good few important victories as well. Let's hope today we bring home the bacon.


Friday, 23 November 2012

CLASSLESS SOCIETY

Arsenal v Chelsea on a level playing field


Chelsea, 10 Trophies since 2005.  Arsenal, 0 trophies since 2005. That’s a statistic that has resonance at a time when Chelsea sack another manager.

To many Chelsea are the enemies of football with their condoning of racism, taping up of players and allegations against referees. Arsenal are viewed as doing things the right way due to our financial prudence and the touches of class that we still adhere to as a club.

If one man who demands success and has put millions into that endeavour owns a club he can do what he likes to achieve it. Abramovitch doesn’t give a monkeys what outsiders think.

When you look at the statistic, 10-0, you begin to realise that for some Chelsea fans that’s all that matters. Winning. Winning at any cost? It would appear so.

Modern football, and in particular English football sold its soul ages ago and the sense of shock regarding Di Matteo’s sacking is a naive response.

Ultimately the Arsenal’s reputation is intact yet the trophy cabinet remains empty. We can claim the moral high ground but the Chelsea fan can point to the cold hard logic of 10-0.

I wouldn’t want to see our club behave like Chelsea, that would be terrible, but I think we can learn something from their views on managerial accountability and need to win.

God forbid that we should ever become the sort of club that takes part in the shenanigans that Chelsea do but maybe the best path lies somewhere between the methodologies of both clubs. Demanding success and being prepared to invest alongside development, requiring your manager to achieve but giving consistency to that goal, and staying classy but driven. Unfortunately it seems that you can’t have both.

We point to class, they point to silverware.

So we remain the good guys, and yes there is something to be proud of about that, but we are not perceived as winners where it matters, in its simplest terms, on the pitch and in the trophy department. 

The Abramovitch effect continues to impact on football. Surely nobody envisaged how much one man would taint the beautiful game. Or maybe nobody cared.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

CH CH CH CH CHANGES



I think its fair to say that most, if not all, Arsenal supporters would concur that there is something not right with the Arsenal. A lot of conjecture and discussion centres on our current manager Arsene Wenger. There are those who strongly advocate that he is the man to bring back former glory, there are those who feel that he is the problem and those that base their argument around who would replace him. 

Strong arguments are made that the Board is responsible for financial constraints that have been holding us back, and others still, put forward the opinion that the club is doing well ‘under the circumstances’. It's true to say that the football landscape has changed during Arsene Wenger's tenure and many clubs could not have foreseen the true impact of first Abramovitch and then Sheik Mansur. Competing in an unfair market place is the reality though.

Reasons are debated, argued and batted back and forth to explain our decline. Arguments and abuse are unfortunately often resorted to but there is one question that is glaringly obvious yet overlooked; what is the solution to our problems?

Change is the obvious answer. Change for changes sake? No. Change for the good of the club, it’s future and it’s supporters? yes. I would say that any changes are not on the horizon though.

Arsene Wenger is manager until 2014 at the minimum (bearing in mind the planned imposition of FFP in 2014 adds another dimension to the situation) and I would wager that he has a hefty contractual clause that makes terminating him before this untenable. So he is going nowhere.  That’s a reality that the pros and cons factions have to accept: Arsene Wenger is the Arsenal manager until at least 2014. Some will be happy about that some won't be.

If we accept this fact what can we hope for between now and then? Will Arsene Wenger make the necessary changes in personnel? Are those changes needed or is the current squad good enough? Some say that the squad is good enough but selections that are not based on form, positional choices and lack of tactical reaction are at the core of our inconsistency. Others point to the regular loss of top players. All debating points but hard to answer.

Will Arsene Wenger be able (or willing) to make sufficient changes of a psychological nature to re-establish a winning mentality at the club? Some posit that the mentality of the manager is all about theory and statistic rather than something more visceral. One for the psychologists there

Will the club hemorrhage talent yet again or will we retain quality? If Arsene Wenger wants to keep a player you would think he would have the clout to do so as opposed to standing by a flawed contracts policy. Players leaving the club with such consistency must have a root cause. More to the situation than meets the eye perhaps?

You see the immediate future can only be based on whether or not Arsene Wenger is willing to make changes if he believes that changes are necessary. That’s the simple truth if you accept that he is going nowhere.

There is a real loyalty and genuine feeling towards Arsene Wenger based on what our club achieved during the period 1997-2005 and that can tend to water down current reality. No debate from me that he is a decent person, but (to quote Michael Corleone) “this is business not personal”

The consistent qualification for the Champions League seems to be the most important factor in some minds and perhaps it’s the one thing that has allowed a club of our stature to retain the services of a manager who has not won anything since 2005. Should we fail in ECL qualification next season I hear no alarm bells ringing  in the corridors of power as I am sure Gazidis and Co. have made contingency plans for that eventuality. If it happens the following season, once the long awaited Financial Fairplay comes in we may see the inevitable  dethroning take place, because for these guys money talks. But that presupposes that Arsene will be retained with a new contract to see how he then moves things forward in the brave new FFP world.

Arsene Wenger has become so inextricably linked into every aspect of the club that he has created a unique employee/employer relationship and one that is almost a Jedi  mind trick in its pervasiveness.

It appears on the face of things that the Arsenal will continue to be fair to middling under the current regime. I just can’t see changes taking place as philosophically things are entrenched.

The argument that says “who do you replace him with” for me, doesn’t hold water. There are a great number of managers who would jump at the opportunity to manage the Arsenal and take on the challenges inherent with a great club like ours. A manager who will perhaps confront the ideology of accepting second best and question current notions of what success actually means.

Let us not forget that Arsene was himself something of an unknown quantity, a punt if you will, when he took over.

I think we will not see any changes for at least two years and therefore I can envisage things possibly turning rather sour which would be a great shame. At some point Arsene Wenger will not be Arsenal manager, whether by choice or by termination and there are those who can't or won't accept that inevitable truth. Wenger's legacy is the broader issue. The future of the club post 2014, the focus. What will both be?


Monday, 19 November 2012

ANHEDONIA IN N5



Anhedonia
/ˌænhiˈdoʊniə/ an-hee-doh-nee-ə; Greek: ἀν- an-, "without" + ἡδονή hēdonē, "pleasure") is defined as the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable

Victory can be sweet sometimes. An opportunity to momentarily place deeper issues to one side and enjoy the moment. Victory over Sp*rs: a team that sat above us in the League table prior to kick off contained all the elements that caused glee. The pantomime villain was represented by the interminable Adebayor. Not content with scoring early on he felt the need to hurdle the pitch side hoardings to gloat. He then changed the course of the game by giving the referees no option but to issue a red card for a ridiculous Kung-fu challenge on Carzola

We saw scrappy goals and at 4-1, Hollywood balls from the Arsenal and, despite Bale's strike, Sp*rs where well and truly dismantled. 

What the result means in the bigger picture is up for debate, but in beating the annoying neighbours there were some signs that this game mattered to a percentage of our players.

At The Herbert Chapman post game the atmosphere was buoyant but hardly ecstatic. Indeed it took the presence of Anders Limpar, resplendent in sheepskin, to create a buzz commensurate with having given the mob from White Hart 
Lane a hiding.

Seeing what's clearly wrong at our club and having exhibited endless patience is it surprising that cynicism has replaced optimism? Is joylessness the new joyful?

It's almost as if a feeling of never ending ennui has entrenched itself among the faithful; the faithful becoming the faithless. It appears that we, the loyal Arsenal supporters have forgotten how to enjoy victory in Red & White. Anhedonia has set in and I think most of us know that the cure may not be imminent or indeed prescribed.


Perhaps it's simplistic but grasping victory from the jaws of defeat against that lot has to be enjoyed and indeed savored. More trying times await, for now it's a time for joy because in our relationship with Arsenal Football Club we never know when the next delivery of joy will arrive.

Woody on relationships; a fair summation of why we support our club

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

"Does anyone remember laughter?"- Led Zeppelin

Arsenal
During these dark days it behoves me to inject a smidgeon of humour into proceedings. Here's some fun ahead of Saturday's fixture. Let's face it "if you can't laugh at yourself etc..." 

Sp*rs
Arsenal

Sp*rs

Arsenal

Liverpool v Sp*rs

Sp*rs


"Oh, look at me! I'm making people happy! I'm the Magical Man from Happy-Land, in a gumdrop house on Lollipop Lane!" [leaves the room, slamming the door, then pokes his head back in] "Oh, by the way, I was being sarcastic."
- Homer Simpson







Sunday, 11 November 2012

NORTH LONDON PRIDE BEFORE A FALL?




The Arsenal were winning a lack lustre game 2-0, which Fulham overturned to make 2-3. The final score 3-3 was probably a fair reflection of the merits of each teams performance and added a point to our mediocre tally. Later the same day Manchester United were losing 2-0 and they managed to turn things around making it a 2-3 victory to maintain their position at the top of the league. These two games are a microcosm of how things have changed in the standing of the top clubs that used to battle it out for domestic supremacy.

The next fixture in the League is a home game against the team currently sitting above us in the table and that is all the game is (on paper): an opportunity to climb the table. However, everyone knows that the game is an important fixture on a deeper level as it is against a team who are obsessed with the Arsenal. With the negativity currently swirling around the Emirates a defeat would increase the levels of dissatisfaction that are on the increase to almost fever pitch. This escalation of hostilities will have make no significant impact on the powers that be who are comfortable with the financial side of things though.

Ironically a game against Sp*rs at this moment in time, to an extent, represents a no win scenario. Victory will offer a distraction from the realities of our current predicament. Defeat will be accepted with resignation and a draw will seem like a defeat and therefore viewed in the same manner.

This time around we are facing another mid-table side in the quest for points. That’s it pure and simple. Gone are the days of the Arsenal reiterating our superiority with a victory and laughing off a defeat because Sp*rs treated a victory over us as the be all and end all. We are fighting over the scraps of North London bragging rights. We now have smaller fish to fry it seems.

In criticising the Board and the manager it is unfair to exclude the players from any negative analysis. I believe that the quality of the squad is reasonable. Not great, reasonable. Debate can be had as to how we arrived at the squad we now have, certainly replacing quality with inferiority is a contributing factor, but the earlier part of the season hinted that there were enough players who looked like they were up for the fight.

As the season has progressed there is a sense that the issue is a deeper one as far as player performance is concerned. Players being played out of position is accepted when the team is winning. Weird substitutions are tolerated when the team is triumphant. Unfathomable selections are borne when the points are mounting up. These last two weeks have given the impression that the group of players that Arsene Wenger has assembled this season are an unhappy bunch. Fair enough, grins are not compulsory, particularly when results are going badly but there is a sense of defeatism amongst the boys. A glance at the bench during the Fulham game told its own story.

The corresponding fixture last year was something of a turning point in terms of our league position and contained performances from the likes of Sagna and Walcott that were great examples of playing for the supporters. There was still a feeling that the Arsenal could achieve something after that victory, a sense that these sorts of games meant something to the players. It was a response; an indication that the team understood what it was all about.

This season can we say the same? I’m not sure.


Saturday, 10 November 2012

DIG FOR VICTORY



Well I guess its fair to say that times have changed, or is it that normality has crept in? A great many clubs travel to Old Trafford with the hope of coming away with a point being their aspiration, knowing that they then have a home fixture against a side like Fulham, who they fancy their chances against. This is basically the average premier League side for you. This is the Arsenal’s current situation.

The aspirational team look to go to Manchester and take, by force, three points that are, in context akin to six, knowing they have a home banker against a side like Fulham; thus giving them 6 valuable points in the title race. That’s how Chelsea and Man City probably look at things.

No Arsenal supporter can go into a game with any degree of confidence expecting to win. Yes I know that the same can be said for a great many teams but there was a time when us Arsenal supporters could be confident of one thing; that we would see a great team of players go out there week after week and give it their best shot. That is after all, all that we want our team to do.

The quality of the personnel and the commitment shown are two different arguments but if you get both right then a team can do wonders. If the quality is not there lets at least see a set of players giving their all. It’s that balance that we, the supporter want and currently we are not seeing it. This is resulting in unbridled negativity.

The deeper rooted problems at our club need stronger scrutiny and resolution, but for now we are a mid table team that need to show that their aspirations are higher out there on the park, even if the Manager and Board appear to require less; we want more.

If the Arsenal players give their best to us, dig deep and play for the great club that we are, then we will be behind them all the way in their quest to achieve despite the self imposed obstacles. Starting today please.

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