Friday, 25 April 2014

DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK


There’s been a lot of talk about Abou Diaby as he resurfaced to play a reserve game. This is a player who was going to be part of Arsene Wenger’s post Invincibles brave new world but has become something of a symbol of failure, however, it is probably more about him being symbolic of the Manager’s flawed vision and inflexibility. There have been those occasions when he has looked like the world beater of a captain that we lost in 2005, yet in other instances he has been pedestrian and wasteful. Such has been the desire for him to be a Vieira –a-like that all manner of expectation has been placed upon him. It is absolutely not his fault that his career has been blighted as a result of out and out thuggery, nor is it his fault that Wenger has not found Patrick Vieira’s replacement. Eduardo and Ramsey also suffered from assaults and a great deal of empathy has rightly gone their way but not so for Diaby, even though he knocked out John Terry.

For many the names Denilsen and Diaby go hand in hand but this is a little unfair. Denilsen had many chances and proved to be adequate at best, each time Diaby had a run in the team any progress was curtailed by injury.Arsene believed that the future was Bendtner, Diaby, Denilsen, Fabregas, Nasri and Van Persie shaped but half were sold and half flattered to deceive, yet Abou is basically last man standing of Wenger’s gamble. It's not a comeback it's more of a reminder.

At 27 he has a good few years in him if he remains injury free but can a player recapture their best days after so much interruption? As modern football is a squad game some might say he deserves a shot, and certainly it appears that he has just got on with rehabilitation without Selfies, braggadocio or any other distractions so I say give him that shot, but with a caveat: there is no room for sentiment-perform or move on.


Sunday, 20 April 2014

No FeELiNgS

 


"I got no emotion for anybody else"
 
When it's clear that the premier League title has faded into the horizon some look at the alternative candidates. Chelsea with that insufferable popinjay at the helm and dirty post Soviet money propping them up, Man City who are the Vivien Nicholson's* of the football world and Liverpool the big club who have spent 23 years without a title. For some it is a case of lesser of evils or looking to find a point of empathy with another club.
For me? I don't care. If it's not us I don't give a monkey's. I have no feelings for the others.
Liverpool look favourites and given that they've played some great football and blown a number of teams away then fair enough. I won't have any of this "No one deserves it more than Stevie G " nonsense though. Gerard himself would be the first person to say it is a cliche not worth repeating. I suspect his take on it would be that one earns such achievements and certainly with his work ethic he will have thoroughly earnt his final piece of his medals jigsaw.
We have our own issues to deal with: the FA Cup Final that we simply have to win  and the unfinished job of ending the season with as many points as possible. ECL qualification in reality means only one thing: certainly not winning the tournament as things currently stand at the club, but the ability to bring in top players, therefore it is important to achieve that. The rest of it is merely a question of revenue.
So we carry on with this season that promised so much at one stage with our own fish to fry while above us three teams tussle for advantage and in the cold light of day I don't care who we play in the Community Shield in August just as long as we are there at Wembley.
 

 
*Viv Nicholson whose husband won  £152,319 (equivalent to £2.87 million in 2014, adjusted for inflation) and famously told the press she was going to "Spend, spend,spend"
 


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

NevEr MiNd ThE BoLLoCkS HeRe'S ThE FA Cup

Success is the best revenge

Criticism is nothing new, we used to be criticised for getting too many red cards, criticised for being arrogant, criticised for being bad losers, criticised for being too French and our answer? Shut it! Here’s the Double! Naff Off! Here’s an unbeaten season! Button it! Here’s some scintillating football! Do one! Here’s some of the best players in the world!
What’s frustrating about the here and now is that we have no answer to the critics circa 2014, in fact we have had no answer for a while. All the clichés about our perennial collapse, underperforming when it matters and not winning anything have no retort that carries any meaning: “yes but we’ve qualified for The Champions League X amount of times in a row” is an answer but it’s not THE answer. Success is the answer.
Arsenal have always been put upon: George Graham countered accusations of dull football with Cups, Herbert Chapman silenced the Northern centric press by winning big.
It is hypocrisy and spite of the highest order when the voluble anti Arsenal brigade cite the FA Cup: that trophy that has been prized since 1871 and is the oldest association football competition in the world, as merely a bauble. Let’s be clear there are four trophies up for grabs each season and it is astonishing that reaching the final having beaten Liverpool, Everton and Spurs is viewed as no big deal. Some want it both ways: criticise for having not won a trophy in nine years and criticise for celebrating reaching a final that may give the opportunity to end that drought.
The media are busy drooling over all things Liverpool (and good luck to them if they win the title by being better than the other teams) but they are still finding ample time to denigrate the Arsenal.
Naturally the name of Talksport crops up time and again when it comes to anti Arsenal bias. I often wonder why Arsenal supporters would listen to the station as their agenda is all about ‘hits’ and traffic to encourage advertisers and nothing sells better than controversy, Many delight in prodding away at the Arsenal, the reason they keep prodding is because they keep getting a reaction from fans but no answer from the club in the trophy cabinet. Adrian Durham is good at provoking a reaction: then again so was Bernard Matthews.
Winning games of football is literally the name of the game and we need to be winning  as we have done against West Ham when we play Hull, Newcastle, WBA and Norwich, that is not about anything other than being the Arsenal and winning games: by doing so we give ourselves the chance to finish as high as we can in a League that we will not be winning. If you can’t finish first finish second if you can’t finish second finish third etc.
Thoughts of next season are already flitting around and I know what I want to see happen in the summer but right now we have created an opportunity for success.

Winning the FA Cup does not make everything right, as I believe there are problems at our club which I have banged on about in the past, but winning the FA Cup is the answer for now: Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The FA Cup!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

"The end comes no matter what, the only thing that matters is how do you wanna go out?"

 
The Everton game for many represents a kind of Nadir for the club and explicitly the Manager. If it’s unfair to blame the Manager for a string of humiliations at the homes of the ‘big boys’ who is to blame? After all Arsene Wenger selects the players to bring to the club, he coaches them, oversees diet and exercise, picks the team and makes substitutions. This current squad was created by Wenger: no one else, and this squad has not been good enough to cope with our usual injuries. Our manager is too inflexible to adapt to the situation both tactically and in making additions during important games when things are not going our way. Don’t agree? Fine, but I'd simply ask this questions; what has he done in a big game in the last few years to positively affect the result from the bench either in terms of substitutions or advice and motivation? Losing the big games is a habit, a bad habit. If opinions can be debated, and thankfully in the most part they can without resorting to abuse, then let’s look at some facts.
By and large you could say that Cup Finals are big games so let’s look at these facts
Wenger's Cup Final record- Played 9 Won 4 Lost 5
In the elite tournament that we have qualified for on a regular basis when it has come to the crunch these are the scores on the doors
Champions League Semis/Quarters- Played 3 Won 1 Lost 3
As I previously said, in the ultimate big game I believe Arsene Wenger got it wrong:
“Not withstanding that we lost to a very good Barça team I think that Wenger made 4 critical errors in the 2006 Champions League Final. 1. Breaking up the best defensive unit in the history of the Champions League to accommodate a soon to depart Ashley Cole. 2. Withdrawing the experienced and predatory Robert Pires rather than Reyes when Lehman was dismissed. 3. At 2-1 not bringing on Bergkamp/Van Persie and going for broke. 4. The quality of Lehman's replacement: both Barça goals conceded by Almunia at the near post. Cometh the hour Wenger's choices were found wanting.”
Assuming that we don’t win the League this year then going into the FA Cup Semi-final Arsene has failed on 35 consecutive occasions to win one of the four trophies available.
If there aren’t the players, then that is ultimately his area of accountability. I would contend that too often in the last half a decade he has bought badly.
No manager is perfect but how about some of these additions to the ranks of the Arsenal: Squillacci, Luzhny, Tavlaridis, Stepanovs, Vivas, Bischoff, Merida, Clegg, Denilson, Silvestre, Wright, Jeffers, Caballiero, Aliadiere , to name but a few, all were just not up to it yet many of them were first team regulars. Then there are players like Santos and Gervinho, poor judgement or poor management and coaching? Let’s also not forget that recently we had possibly the worst Goalkeeping squad of any team in the league in Almunia, Fabianski and Mannone, how did that go unremarked upon?
Some Arsenal players have stood still and some have failed to adapt to being round pegs in square holes. Arsene Wenger’s eye for the mercurial has been out of focus for a while now and it is showing.
When we embarked on this season in which we were going to be competing in four tournaments we did so with Giroud, Bendtner and Sanogo as Strikers: yes one could argue that Walcott and Podolski are strikers but they don’t play fully in that position, which meant that we were disadvantaged from the get go. Now I think that Giroud is a decent striker but not of the calibre to win big games, Bendtner is as unpredictable as he is confident and Sanogo was and is an unknown quantity, how was this ever going to be good enough? Certainly Ramsey’s superb pre-injury form took attention away from our lack of that all-important commodity: a ‘world class’ striker. Getting to January clear at the top of the league and not making additions was suicidal but we heard the mantra from Arsene that he believes in the mental strength, attitude and ability of his squad and therefore by definition thought they were good enough to go all the way. He was wrong yet again.
Mental strength and belief are indeed fine traits but I have to say I didn't like the 'Selfie' nonsense from Sczeczny et al at the end of the victory at Spurs, but I guess young people do idiotic things. That swagger was not translated to performances when it mattered though.
I would digress and note that Rosicky being an adult did a much better thing at the end of that game which was lost on much of the media, and because we are a side that they love to hate, guess what got the most coverage? The frustrating thing is that after that victory at White Hart Lane our form went out of the window and we have no answer to the scorn heaped upon us: we have not been able to do our talking on the pitch.
Our performances have simply not been good enough and the Manager has to look in the mirror as much as the players do. We didn’t strengthen when we should have, we didn’t have any tactical responses when we needed them, we didn’t show pragmatism when we should have and too often it looked like we didn’t take into account our opposition in any way. If a manager has a job to do it’s prepare the team, but there has been little evidence of preparation too often.
Some players can cross the line and win by just being better like the Arsenal team of the late nineties and early noughties, some need a Manager to give guidance and show them a plan to follow. This squad need to be better and failing that they need to have a strategy. The manager chooses them and the manager appears to have no strategy.
The sight of Giroud grimacing as he looks to the skies following a goal opportunity spurned, Cazorla lying prostrate after being bundled off the ball beseeching the referee to give a free kick : from which we seldom take advantage. These sights have become more common as the season has trundled on, there is something wrong and perhaps it’s that a team ultimately is forged in the mould of its Manager and that Manager has been running on fumes for a while now and I think that the conclusion has to be for any realist that he has now run out of gas.
Those that make accusations of knee jerk reactions in today’s game are often justified but I would have to say that Arsenal supporters have been the opposite: we’ve been misled with false promises when we moved to the Emirates of being able to compete with the best in Europe, we’ve been subjected to price rise after price rise on Season tickets, we’ve had to put up with poor service and exorbitant pricing on a match day, we’ve seen money sitting in the bank (our money) rather than being spent on players and alongside that we’ve seen our achievements decline and our bubbles burst on a regular basis for nearly a decade so don’t accuse supporters of The Arsenal of making knee jerk reactions. No I am not putting all these negatives on the head of our manager it is more about an entrenched belief at all levels of the club that we the supporters will put up with anything but sometimes in life enough is enough.
I don’t think I have unrealistic expectations all I want to see is our club achieving on a level commensurate with the funds and status of our club. I want to see our players giving it their all win lose or draw, I want us to turn up for the big games and I want to see our highly paid manager earn his money out there on the pitch. As things currently stand? Well maybe I am being unrealistic but that has to change and this summer, I believe, is the time.
I would wish for an FA Cup victory and a dignified departure from Arsene which would be nice and it would also be in keeping with the dignified way in which our club do things. It really would be The Arsenal way to say goodbye.
 

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