Tuesday, 23 December 2014
A winning habit?The calendar year girdles two seasons the first of which saw us leading the field for what seemed an age and ended with an FA cup victory after going two goals down at Wembley. Victory was also achieved in the Charity Shield/Community Shield or whatever it's called these days to start this season on a positive note. The acquisition of Alexis Sanchez gave Arsenal supporters optimism and after seeing Campbell in the flesh at the World Cup it seemed that we had a decent striker on our hands, and at that same world Cup we saw three of our own lift the big one. It was noticeable that we had a summer without speculation regarding the departure of our better players: could this be because no one wants them?
Although Vermaelan's form had been patchy his departure along with the loss of Sagna made it clear that we needed to purchase some defensive reinforcements to add to the promising Callum Chambers and Mathieu Debussy-clear it seems, to all but the manager who loaned out Carl Jenkinson and seemingly took the view that we can make do at mend at Centre Half.
The big move of the summer should have involved us. Cesc Fabregas' time was up at Barca and as we had a buy back clause, his return to the fold seemed an obvious decision: not so, Arsene felt that he was surplus to requirements and he opted for the Blue of that mob from West London.
With some renewed belief following our attainment of that elusive trophy we started the new season, well, badly. The worst start in years was the statistic that rang loudest.
We end the year sixth in the league having already lost 4 and drawn six and still not having beaten the so called 'rivals'. A safe passage to the knock out stages of the Champions League and a favourable draw against Monaco has to be seen as an achievement but one wonders if this squad is capable of moving forward without additions in January.
The division between supporters is as pronounced as it's ever been and the sticking point is clearly the Manager and his future at the club. This sticking point will remain stuck for some time as Arsene has a three year contract in his back pocket and whatever your view he will remain our manager until the end of this season at the very least.
I for one see Mr Wenger's tenure as a cul-de-sac and we remain down that dead end until such time as there is a change. The thing for me is that many seemed to have comfortably adapted to mediocrity and as such expectation has been recalibrated accordingly. For now we have little choice but to see where the season takes us and try to enjoy the ride and in this most mediocre of Premier League Seasons full of mediocre teams, with some of the players we do have we may just achieve something after all we have now got players who know how to win a trophy and that surely counts for something.
Sunday, 14 December 2014
There’s been a lot of talk about respect recently, most of it self righteous and judgemental, but it’s a word that we associate with the principals of fair play that sport should stand for.
Richard Keys and others described Santi Cazorla’s deliciously confident penalty in the 4-1 win against Newcastle United as disrespectful: the irony of Keys making a judgement on matters of respect was probably lost on him. Balderdash I say. Football should be entertaining and moments of skill and daring excite and enamour supporters. Santi’s Pen was a moment to savour and it’s certainly not the first time we have seen such hutzpah from the spot at the Arsenal.
Then there's the issue of respect towards Arsene Wenger. some say criticism of him is disrespectful full stop. I don't agree. I think criticism is part of the remit of supporting and loving your club but certainly effing and blinding is not acceptable and absolutely diminishes ones argument.
I have a view on our current manager and I give that view in what I hope is a measured and constructive way, but abuse? nope, not for me, it's not even just a matter of respect it's pretty much about manners. I also think that there has to be a degree of humour attached to the thoughts and feeling of the Arsenal fan otherwise there is a tendency to veer towards conflict.
When we hear of supporters barracking the manager or each other it further polarises opinion, but it's worth remembering that not everyone who supports the same team has the same moral compass or grasp of the rules of civility let alone the same opinion. Banners need not lead to battle and It is possible to agree to disagree, it is also possible to encourage your team even when you are discouraged by the manager.
Monday, 8 December 2014
A house divided it seems. The reason would most probably be attributable to the man at the helm. There are those that support the club and have faith in the current manager and those that support the club and have no faith in the manager.
Isn't that how civil wars generally start? a question of faith: the believers and the non believers.
One group believes that water can be turned into wine and the other can find no evidence to support that belief and what then happens is unrest which leads to conflict.
At the moment its hardly Victoria Concordia Crescit and I sense that the conflicting views currently being expressed are merely forays that will escalate until we, as a body of supporters, are at Defcon 1.
While we debate the pros and cons of our manager we need to retain that most old fashioned of values: civility.
Heated debate is fine, strident discussion is okay and bombastic badinage is healthy but once we go beyond that we may lose sight of the main issue: the fact that we all support this great club of ours, and in wanting the best for the club we may besmirch our great club's name
My position is clear: I think we need a change but I've discussed my views with those that think differently without abuse or fisticuffs I'm happy to say.
I'm not sure that ranting and arm waving on social media solves anything. I think all it does is make our support look a bit two bob.
With a fixture against last season's beaten finalists in the FA Cup on the horizon, in the only competition that we have a realistic chance of winning, I would suggest that unity be the keyword. Of course if we blow the FA Cup I doubt that there will be any kind of a ceasefire. It's going to be a long season and come May 2015 I would hope that a war of words hadn't escalated into something more damaging.
Sunday, 23 November 2014
Does Tomorrow never come?After our ignominious defeat, yet again, at the hands of a top four opponent (well it was a fellow midtable side; but you know what I mean) I can't see it being any clearer that our manager's time is up. This has been coming inexorably for a long long time and those that have chosen or felt obliged to stay loyal to a ruler bereft of former powers of success are surely now out of reasons, excuses or out and out stubbornness. If not can it be that my fellow Arsenal supporters are so wrapped up in entitlement that they think that only fans of the so called 'lesser clubs' are allowed to criticise their manager?
The facts support the view that Arsene is no longer capable of managing a club with such high expectation yet the fear of change seems to be the mantra; "who would you get to replace him?" Thats tantamount to staying with a partner because you're scared to enter the dating world. Arsene is yesterday's man-that's not personal, it's reality
When Tony Bennet has performed in the last decade he has been pretty awful but his rep has carried him through. Some think it's sacrilege to say "he's past his sell by date" but the evidence is there; he can't carry a tune anymore but his hubris makes him think that he can. By recording an LP with Lady GaGa he thinks he's still cutting edge: and in his mind he is. But his production company are happy as he makes them money. Once he was as good as his peers but not anymore and no ones told him. A Wenger parable that unfortunately rings ever true. My view is not a knee jerk reaction and I think it serves little purpose (nor is it likely) for Wenger to leave mid season. The League and the ECL are unobtainable so perhaps looking to retain the FA cup is a realistic target, but come the end of the 2014/15 season our manager needs to be on his way and the steps to appoint his successor should start now. This is not a personal issue its strictly business. I think that Arsene is fundamentally a decent man but he needs to leave and the shame of it is that he will leave as a failure: a man who did not adapt his philosophy and could no longer match his rivals. A bright man with a dimmed reputation. Come 2015/16 the show must go on but crucially with another ringleader. Surely that is now a reality that is as clear as day.
Saturday, 22 November 2014
Saturday, 25 October 2014
Tuesday, 7 October 2014
Could it be true that Wenger doesn't nurture young players as the myth suggests? It could be said that he Slings them into high pressure situations, plays them out of position or loans them out if they show promise in the first team.
Is it fair to say that Evert year we qualify for a tournament we have no chance of winning and every year we get blown away by a team at some point in the competition showing that we are ill equipped? Everyyear there is no adaptation made to deal with our inferiority either tactically or in team selection. Some might say that repeating mistakes year after year is a sign of arrogance, complacency, stubbornness or even incompetence. Does the fact that we still have a vociferous majority arguing that everything is rosy as long as we qualify each year make sense? Is it acceptance or lack of ambition? Listening to those that will have no truck with rational criticism of Wenger one need not even go back as far as the Champions League final to raise questions about Wenger's stewardship but in the last 9 years there's a strong argument that we've seen error strewn management (both at manager level and, to be fair to Arsene, at board level) We have witnessed some of The Arsenal's heaviest defeats under Wenger; 6-1,8-2, 6-2,6-3,5-0 Selling RVP to ManUtd Not buying Fabregas Not replacing Vermaelen Selling Pires,Gilberto,Lauren, Campbell too soon Selling Edu,Gilberto,Diarra one after the other leaving us light in central midfield Losing Cole over a trifling amount Turning down Yaya Tourre Dropping Lehman for Almunia Sticking with Diaby,Denilson,Eboue,Bendtner Mis-managing Arshavin,Özil,Reyes, Buying players such as Santos, Park,Bischoff, Silvestre Loaning out players that had shown promise like Jenkinson and Gnabry Time and again offering nothing from the bench and systematically playing players out of position Not addressing obvious problems Picking up the big bucks and not producing yet trying to paint a picture of success The list is a long one and not counterbalanced by success. Without rewriting history is there also an argument to say that the reason that top top players liked Wenger (past tense) was that for Henry, Vieira, Pires, Bergkamp, Ljungberg, Campbell, Lehman, Gilberto etc. Wenger had, to a great extent, just let them get on with it? They had captains all over the field and simply had to say to each other "we are better than the opposition let's go and do it' which by and large they did. But Wenger had the advantage of the back four to guide the newcomers and access to a golden era of French footballers. Some might argue that he just held training and the team virtually picked itself. No crazy experiments a basic 4-4-2 was perfect for that team. There are those that say Arsene is smoke and mirrors and has only, employed effective pragmatic tactics twice in 18 years: at home to Real Madrid 2006 and the 2005 FA cup final. For some the summer has been the tipping point. After just winning the FA Cup it felt like we were ready to push on and it was glaringly obvious where we needed to change the squad. Then came the World Cup and we saw how progressive management has worked and that the Spanish philosophy had been replaced and there were fears that Wenger doesn't have the capacity to adapt or be progressive in his thinking. Could it be that I that we were doomed under him as all the proper managers will have taken note of the changes in world football while Wenger would stubbornly dig his heels in trying to prove his approach would work? If one says that until he goes we remain treading water does that make it a negative view or a valid observation? The frustration is we have three more years of Arsene and the preceding nine may have been a slow process of bamboozle. Each year the hope of better days gives fans a bit of "maybe this time" and one year becomes five and five a decade with the same thing happening again and again like Groundhog Day: spin and false promises anyone?
Also remember that as poor as we were at the end of George Graham's tenure and given how bizarre some of Graham's Choices had been we still won trophies because he was a better tactician than Wenger - 93 FA & League Cup 94 ECWC and the year he left in 95 we got to the ECWC final again with his set of players under Houston. So let's have a bit of context.
What I don't get is how there is such a strong unwavering support for Wenger: a support that brooks no questioning of the, as if to do some makes you an enemy of the state. Mourinho, Rodgers, Pellegrini and Europe’s elite love it that Wenger manages Arsenal because as long as he does we are no threat. Frankly with our potential:infrastructure,revenue,location, history and tradition the Arsenal could be an elite club in three years with an ideology change that in afraid means parting company with our present manager. As London's greatest club we could be massive and that should have happened: the invincible as the springboard. Honestly the potential our club has is unbelievable. Inferiority is now somewhat entrenched as can be seen in the immutable facts of our 5 year record against the top four:
P 15 W1 L 14 D1 F15 A42 that’s 4 points from a possible 45. If these statistics are not of concern then there’s something wrong.
Last season Chelsea went to Anfield to play a Liverpool team that were flying: they parked the bus and did a smash and grab leaving with 3 points and derailing Liverpool’s tittle aspirations. It was a great disciplined performance planned on the training field and executed perfectly on the pitch. Chances of our manager doing the same against the big teams that we've struggled against? Don’t be silly! I can't abide Chelsea but Mourinho loves playing against Wenger as he knows that when it comes to setting a team up for a particular task Wenger's record is poor. The sight of Mourinho smugly ducking down the tunnel at the final whistle secure in another victory against The Arsenal (more specifically against Wenger) is stomach turning but he's had plenty of practice.
So there you have it; I believe a change is necessary, that doesn’t mean I’m having a go at Mr Wenger: as a human being Arsene is worth ten of Mourinho but this is The Arsenal and we need more and deserve more because one thing is clear: we have all been oh so patient. For me that patience is at an end but the reality is that there will probably be no change until Arsene’s contract expires and I hope that we do not lose further ground. Let’s not forget that the Arsenal are a great club and should aspire to great things. Mediocrity doesn’t suit us
Tuesday, 12 August 2014
Silverware, that all important commodity in football. Silverware: when you don’t have it, it becomes a stick to be beaten with, when you do it’s all about what sort of silverware it is it seems. When is winning not winning?When it’s the Arsenal apparently. Let’s get things in perspective shall we? There are only four trophies that can be won by an English club and another two which you can compete for if you win one of the four (The Super Cup & the Community Shield) in real terms that’s not many pieces of Silverware available. I contend that there were eighteen other Premier Clubs who would have been somewhat chuffed to have won the Community Shield as a result of having won the FA cup, and many more from the other leagues probably feel the same. So why not enjoy it? Why not crack a smile? Why not swig some Champagne?
No Arsenal supporter believes that the Community Shield is anything more than it is and the players certainly won’t be getting carried away but you know what? We won it pure and simple and like every other team who have won it, it will appear in the Start of Season Squad photo sitting alongside the FA Cup.
That we beat the League Champions is nothing to be sniffed at and please don’t buy into this ‘B-Team’ nonsense, Manchester City have a squad of expensive players consisting of Internationals and experienced players: a club with their wealth does not have a B-Team believe me.
Had City won Pelligrini would no doubt have talked about strength in depth and overlooked the missing World Cup Winners Ozil, Mertersacker & Podolski and the recovering Theo Walcott.
I always prefer it when the Arsenal are getting criticised by all and sundry, and of late we have had no success to shut the mouths of the critics but this time we have, after all winning is the name of the game and with this group of players who knows? It may just become a habit
Tuesday, 29 July 2014
BT Sport don’t seem to like us much, then again why should they be any different? There Premier League advertising campaign features the Arsenal enduring heavy defeats and seems to show a general gloating from the participants avidly watching and listening to the games. Many on social media have harrumphed and pouted about this ant Arsenal bias. As for me? Not a problem. Let the players and manager watch the adverts and remind themselves what those humiliations felt like. Let them gird their loins and makes themselves determined to reverse those score lines.
During the 90/91 Season George Graham gave a speech at London Colney to the Arsenal squad following our points deduction after victory at Old Trafford.
“It’s always been fashionable to get at the Arsenal” he said and went on to rouse the listening squad.
These adverts should have the same effect.
Never mind that the two clubs featured hammering us won nothing that season and that we are one of only two clubs who won anything. Never mind what might have been, we need to put those embarrassments in the bin by turning up against the other members of the top four and giving them a bit of payback. A dish served cold is always the best answer in these situations. So thanks BT sport for putting the ammunition in the Gunners’ cannon!
Wednesday, 28 May 2014
Now that England have jettisoned some of the unsavoury characters that made watching them unbearable I could quite get into sitting back with a beer cheering them on in Brazil (especially Jack and Alex) but it’s not the same as watching the Arsenal.
I also look forward to the great players: some known and some to make their mark at this most special of World Cups but it’s not the same as watching the Arsenal.
The play offs were quite entertaining and if they are low on quality they are always full of drama but it’s not the same as watching the Arsenal.
I always look on The Champions League Final with a sense of envy: it really is the most magical of games and the elation that greeted Bale’s goal was special but it’s not the same as watching the Arsenal.
Wimbledon produces some moments of drama and incident and in terms of a British tournament it retains its quintessential status but it’s not the same as watching the Arsenal.
The Community Shield on 9th August and the first leg of a Playoff round of the Champions League 10/11 days later mean an early start for the Arsenal this season and I for one can’t wait to see the Arsenal on that Wembley turf, because in sports terms there are many great events and many great stars but you know what? Nothing beats watching the Arsenal
Monday, 12 May 2014
The overall feeling I have regarding Manchester City winning the Premier League is not antipathy, joy or resentment: its indifference. Another team in blue win the league with an expensively assembled squad. Okay that’s the reality of the Premier League as evidenced by Chelsea previously and Blackburn before them. City won the league fair and square so there you go. Anything but victory I believe would have been seen as failure as the squad they have is clearly the best in the land.
What their Title means is that, as they have won the League Cup also, there can only be two clubs with something to show for 2013/14: Manchester City and of course Hull City or The Arsenal.
Don’t try and tell me that there are not 18 Premier clubs and the rest from the lower leagues who wouldn’t want to be striding out onto the Wembley turf come Saturday at 5:00. In a glass half empty world Arsenal failed to retain our place at the top this season, for want of a couple of additions and a bit of fortune as regards injury. From a glass half full perspective we closed the gap on those teams above us considerably from past seasons and now have an opportunity to claim that famous Trophy at the weekend.
On Saturday it’s a psychological test above all else, a test of the teams ability to have the appropriate mind set. Our psychological frailties need to be consigned to the past and yes we have shown a mental fragility this season. What other explanation is there for the following statistic?
Arsenal v the top 3
Away: P-3 W-0 L-3 D-0 F-4 A-17
Home: P-5 W-2 L-1 D-2 F-4 A-3
We need to get our minds right and approach the game with confidence that we are better than Hull City, not arrogance: confidence and certainly no fear.
Let’s book our place in the Community Shield and lets be one of the two teams with something to be proud of this season: that all to hard to come by trophy.
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