The Window Closes. If Arsenal are in Crisis, Only One Man Can Turn it Around.

Sorry, Wenger Haters, he’s not going anywhere.   And, if anyone can turn this Arsenal ship around, it must be the manager.

Two losses out of three, no new signings, and everybody (who can) wanting to jump ship.  Can it go any lower?  Hopefully not.  If this is Rock Bottom we can only go upwards.  Or sideways.  Or we can fish around for even lower ground.  Has the ship already sunk or can it be steadied and the shore be reached?

Due to a self-imposed media blackout I watched the two most recent Arsenal matches without commentary.  Stoke away was the usual situation of a tough home crowd, compounded by (perhaps) an even more demanding traveling support (perhaps) influencing the officiating crew into blowing two critical calls.  It could be argued that Arsenal should be sufficiently technically superior to any Stoke side and overcome such issues.  Games are decided by small margins–and sometimes by a bit of luck–but we came out on the wrong side of the margin and failed to make our own luck.  Conclusion, at least among the haters: Arsenal have sunk to the level of Stoke.

A week on and this Arsenal team–at this moment–showed that it is massively inferior to Liverpool.  4-nil is a lopsided scoreline, but it probably flattered Arsenal on the day.  Playing want-away players (Alexis Sanchez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain)–who played as badly as I’ve ever seen either of them play–seemed a misguided move by Wenger.  New signings Alexandre Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac were rested.  Twenty one year-old Rob Holding was preferred over another want-away, Shkodran Mustafi.  No rhyme, no reason.  Some Gooners have gone so far as to say that Wenger was actually tanking the match in order to create a crisis.  Would such a “plan” spur those (supposedly) above him, CEO Ivan Gazidis and principal shareholder, Stan Kroenke (and his board of directors), into loosening the purse-strings as the transfer window came to a close or would it serve to lower supporters’ expectations so that any decent finish in the league (top half? top six? top four?) would seem adequate?

If losing was supposed to put the crowbar in Kroenke’s wallet, it was an abject failure.  Nobody in at the deadline and only cut-rate deals of (beyond the) fringe players.  Those monies plus forty million pounds for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain might help offset the lost transfer fee we might have gotten for Alexis.  But now we’ve got a problem.  Will Alexis, a selfish player by nature, give his all for the collective or be a toxic element in the dressing room?  Are we weakened by losing the Ox?  Would Thomas Lemar (in place of Alexis) have strengthened the team?  It appears a last ditch huge money offer was made for Lemar but, having it fail, we kept Alexis instead.  Could Lemar have lived up to the pressure of his price tag?  We’ll never know.

So many others were “linked” to the team.  Riyadh Marez?  Jean-Michael Seri?  Raheem Sterling (as part of an Alexis deal), Adrian Rabiot? Who else?  If I ate a sausage (links, we call them here in the States) every time I saw a name thrown out, my love handles would morph into a spare tire (or is it tyre?)…

Speaking of love handles… Where is the love?  And who handles our business? Are Arsenal’s (current) players not deserving of our love?  What about our “handlers,” our management team, who, we must remember, serves at the pleasure of ownership?  Do they not deserve a little love.  Is blame the only game?

Alexis, of course, like Mesut Ozil (and the departed Ox) are in the final year of their contracts.  Is there a chance they might re-sign, even if it’s only a short term “insurance” contract?  A short term deal for two of our key players would give them a pay-rise and protect their (longer term) earnings against the specter (spectre?) of injury.  Is it too late for them and are they just waiting for a life raft to get them out of North London?

So many questions.  Who knows the answers?

The press–including blogs–in endless search of hits–lead supporters around by the nose.  I’ve seen (and heard) so many stories put forth as truths and then twisted to suit the needs (usually to assign blame) of the writer.  Can Gooners distinguish fact from fiction?

Probably not.  That’s why my plan is to try and watch Arsenal as I hope they can observe (and improve) themselves–in a vacuum.  I no longer listen to commentary when I watch the matches.  And the pundits?  Not for me, thank you very much.  I’m sure I’ll still scan the NewsNow headlines to see how the latest “news” and “statements” are being spun into (almost relentlessly negative) click-bait, and, now and again, I may even take a look at some of the better Arsenal writers out there, ones who have been reasonably balanced in the past.  I have to say, however, that the more I read about Arsenal the less time I have for it.  Not only the missives about our club from the so-called neutrals and our “support,” but also stories from elsewhere in the sport.  I know I watch a whole lot less football as a neutral.  Is it because Arsenal will never buy any of the players I might be scouting?  Maybe.

Or maybe it’s because I cannot fathom the direction that the game and the culture surrounding it has gone.  Can an emirate (Qatar with Paris St. Germain; Abu Dhaby with Manchester City) really buy their way to the top?  Why not?  Qatar bought themselves a world cup.  So did Russia (who might have also bought themselves a US presidential election).

When I first landed upon the Arsenal (in 2006, while living at my screen-name) I fell hard for Arsene Wenger’s vision of a team of (mostly) foreign players changing the game in England–for the better, of course–and being able to compete at the highest level domestically and in Europe.  The notion that operating within the financial means of the club and rewarding promising players with higher salaries seemed the right way forward.  Mostly, I believed that the best technical and team oriented football would win out over selfish play and shows of individual passion.  I also thought that the wise people of Islington (and their brethren world-wide) had a measure of understanding this bigger picture, not to mention the patience (and pride) to support their club through thick and thin.  I guess I was wrong on all counts.  And, of course, I didn’t foresee the great turn inwards towards a celebration of selfishness combined with excessive and irrational blame on outside sources (individuals and whole classes of peoples) for all perceived ills.   For me, when I was in London and falling in love with Arsenal, I didn’t feel so much like a foreigner even though (obviously) I was different (and oh so naive).  With the new nationalism I wonder.  (Did I say racism and/or fascism?  If I did, I hope I’ve overstepped.)  Did I underestimate the tribal (anti-intellectual) element of being a football supporter?  Probably.

Like a fool, I still cling to my ideas–despite the “facts” saying I’m so very, very misguided.  As bad as the situation at Arsenal may seem, I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel. I’m guided by my own truths, including the following.

Fact #1 (for me)–Our team is comprised of good to very good to outstanding players, many of whom I’m excited to watch in action.  Alexis could be the best player in the league but also one who could bring down the team.  I fear he’s a player whose natural abilities–including that incredible burst of pace (most recently shown in his running after giveaways at Anfield)–have kept him from developing a real football intelligence and learning how to make his teammates better.  I would have been happy to move him on, but, now that we haven’t, let’s see what he can do.  Ozil, for me, offers more than any other player on the team by way of creating space for others and moving the ball into those areas.  Of course, he needs his teammates to use those spaces and extend or finish the intelligence he puts on the ball.  Lacazette seems one who might be able to use Ozil’s genius the most.  To my eye, he has plenty of goals in him, as do Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott.  Danny Welbeck will happily run his arse off, exchange spaces with teammates and will probably even scuff a few balls into the net.

So many have singled out our midfield as an area where we were desperate for new signings.  We shall see.  I’m happy enough watching Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey who can create plenty of assists and goals.  Others are routinely slated, maybe because they didn’t cost enough.  Francis Coquelin earned a spot in the squad as an organizer and tackler but is more than competent as a fully rounded midfielder while Mohamed Elneny is improving his jack-of-all-trades game at a rate that truly inspires me.  Alex Iwobi, who will have to fill in if Alexis decides to sulk, is a work in progress but the potential seems all there and he knows more about where to play a final ball than the Ox knows about haircuts.  Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere, if they can surmount their injuries and play anywhere near their best, will be nothing but value added.  Reiss Nelson could be the latest youth sensation in our squad.

Youth will also need to serve at the back.  Callum Chambers and Holding will have to learn on the job but have shown enough to suggest they can do it.  At the other end of the age spectrum, we’ll need the experience of cool heads Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny who will likely share the Captain’s armband.  Mustafi, who, in the end we kept, seems a top-notch bridge between the younger and older center backs.  Nacho Monreal, I believe, brings cultured quality no matter where he plays while Sead Kolasinac and Hector Bellerin represent, respectively, power and pace, and, I think, will flourish as our wide up and down men.  Petr Cech was man of the match at Liverpool and rightfully slated his teammates in the aftermath, showing a taste of the leadership needed in the squad.  David Ospina will anchor our (hopefully) long and winding road in the Europa League.

Who have I missed?

Fact #2 (for me)–If anybody can turn this situation around it’s Arsene Wenger.  With many jumping ship–so many supporters and certainly some players–we need a man at the helm who has dedicated his life to our club.  If anybody can steer us to dry land, it will be AW.

He’s done it before.  Speaking frankly, I thought his position became untenable a couple of times last spring–after the first Bayern leg, and again after defeats at West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace.  With the “support” in full revolt, he instead took us within a point of Champions League football and to a(nother) FA Cup triumph, winning matches over two teams who (financially at least) lord over us: Manchester City in the semi-final and Chelsea in the final.  From the depths–and with fans wishing him gone (only a small group wished him actually dead), he got the squad re-grouped to finish as successfully as they could.

Fact #3 (for me)–As noted, in terms of financial strength, we are no better than 4th in the league AND we have an owner who seems to prefer not to speculate excessively in that arena.  If your anger persists over the transfer window and other players look better than ours, you probably enjoy Youtube highlights and fantasy football over the real game, one where routine failure is punctuated by rare successes.  If only results matter, it must be realized that Arsenal have actually overachieved in almost all recent seasons, and perhaps even more in these “drought” years since Roman Abramovic bought Chelsea and Prince Mansour did likewise at Manchester City.  More speculative American owners at Manchester United and Liverpool–along with both teams playing in the CL this season–also puts us at a disadvantage.

Fact #4 (for me)–Unfortunately, that single point which placed us 5th, is a big one, especially for recruiting via the transfer market or holding onto our best players.  Getting back into the CL places is a big ask, but would mean a lot for a final season under Wenger.

Fact #5 (for me)–Even discussing a final season for Wenger also hurts the team.  His willingness to act as lightning rod for criticism and only take on a two year contract extension is another reason our recruiting has been weakened.  Arsenal are no longer the “biggest club in France.”  The best French (and francophone) players now dream of playing for the Qataris (PSG), while Monaco AC is the place to be if you’re a younger player seeking a few years of development.  Given the levels of abuse aimed at Wenger, players cannot possibly expect to enjoy the former positives associated with signing on for him. The excessive pressure for instant results means there’s no longer room for players to develop under Wenger’s tutelage.

Fact #6 (for me)–A new manager–even if he was as perfect as those would-be managers (on the internet) who spout their logical fallacies with such extreme confidence–would have one giant advantage over Wenger: the goodwill of the fans, which might justify results that I’m pretty sure would be worse than Wenger’s.  Of course, my hypothesis–just like those of the manager’s critics–is not testable.  In other words, it’s easy to talk about what a new guy would do (whom he might have bought, for example) and how they would vault us forward from the safety of Fantasyland.  In the real world, a new manager might be our ticket to the top.  Or maybe not.  I guess we’ll see when that time comes.

Fact #7 (for me)–Wenger’s dedication to Arsenal, to being willing to go down with the ship just when so many seem willing to jump, seems a rare and special quality these days.  So many Gooners believe Wenger has ruined his legacy, but this quality plus a career of consistent over-achievement, I think, will only become clearer over time.  If he can do it again–at this hyper-extreme nadir of Gooner misery–it might just be his greatest accomplishment to date.  If he can get his team to shut out the toxic atmosphere surrounding the club and simply play their best football, I believe we’ll get to our proper level and there will be some satisfying Arsenal football on offer.  Will we win the quadruple?  Probably not.  If that’s all that matters, then no football team will satisfy you.

OK, enough said and apologies for the rambling nature of the post.  Those are (some of) my facts.  Yours most likely differ.  Don’t be shy, lay ’em out there.

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

51 thoughts on “The Window Closes. If Arsenal are in Crisis, Only One Man Can Turn it Around.

  • “Danny Welbeck will happily run his arse off, exchange spaces with teammates and will probably even scuff a few balls into the net.” Love it.

  • “Alex Iwobi, who will have to fill in if Alexis decides to sulk, is a work in progress but the potential seems all there and he knows more about where to play a final ball than the Ox knows about haircuts.” Bloody love it.

  • “With the “support” in full revolt, he instead took us within a point of Champions League football and to a(nother) FA Cup triumph, winning matches over two teams who (financially at least) lord over us: Manchester City in the semi-final and Chelsea in the final.  From the depths–and with fans wishing him gone (only a small group wished him actually dead), he got the squad re-grouped to finish as successfully as they could.” Fecking, bloody love it…. And why do so very few see this, Seventeenho?!?!

  • At last some sense and sensible writing, I’ve been a gooner for 45 years and seen some pre-Wenger dross for years at a time, some current fans don’t know they are born and whatever you say or think about the best manager we’ve ever had (ever) he gives everything for the club and doesn’t deserve the treatment he gets from some of our “support” and the media. We’ll be ok this season, we have a really decent squad it would be nice tho if our “supporters” actually supported the team, particularly during the game!

  • For those bloggers who think they can comment on here with a word or a one liner, don’t bother. Activate your brain and argue your case comprehensively, and we happily publish it.

  • Outstanding article! I think the new motto at Arsenal should be, “Don’t let the bastards grind us down!”

    We need to adopt a siege mentality, instead of deserting the ship like a load of rats! Circle the wagons, we will fight them on the beaches, all that sort of thing.

  • Danny welbec and Iwobi i love to wach but what i hate is not able to add steel to the team and the. Inability of the coach to change the tempo of the playing system when its matter most

  • great write up. the instant managers who criticize Wenger do not realize what it takes to be successful. they look at Mourinho, Conte and Guardiola as heros but see Wenger as a failure. Wenger has had to work with what he has available. A brand new stadium cutting into available funds. The Arsenal had a choice, new stadium or old stadium and less revenues. The new stadium put them in a great place but the guidance of Wenger kept them on the top. The other so called great managers kept screaming for new signings that could bankrupt lots of clubs, but Wenger kept Arsenal moving forward and in the top four and now top five. What I do know, is that Wenger has prevented this great club from falling into financial hard times with his managing style. Would Mourinho or Guardiola handle such problems? It seems not as they run from club to club with lots of money to spend. Wenger has created an Arsenal brand that will stand forever.

  • Fantastic piece, ever so balanced, a real football fan, mature arguments all round.
    Here’s hoping the players take a mature- now it’s down to us approach –

  • I am in general agreement.

    I feel that AW has been left to hold things together for a number of years.

    The owner and board have presided. Another board would have sacked the manager.

    This board would not know how to replace or appoint.
    Where were they when the contracts were being run down. Sitting on their hands waiting to see what AW was doing. No other club is run this way.

  • Grrrr just wrote a 17hf length response and lost it.

    Well written 17 H T. A very passionate piece,. Do I agree with it, not in the slightest.. I would like to know why???

    Was Bellerin played at left back when we had supposedly the best left back in Germany on the bench?

    Why was the Ox who clearly wants away playing? Same question about Alexis. Incidentally Ox has been one of our best players recently and is (was) popular at the Emirates. The haircut comment is in my opinion completely untrue (trying very hard not to say something inappropriate.

    Why would the Ox go to Anfield for £50k less than he could get at the Emirates?

    Why was Lacazette not played at Anfield.? Liverpool clearly had a dodgy keeper and we never had a shot on target.

    To me our biggest problem is our defensive midfield. All the other sides have tough tackling defensive midfielders. Kante and now drinkwater. Dembelle and Alle, Matic and Carrick. We will not beat any of the top sides until we sort this out.

    Wenger seems obsessed with smaller framed players who whilst talented get bullied. Sterling and Lemar would have added to this.

    Why does he insist on playing players who are clearly out of form. Ozil goes missing just about every week and Xhaka has created a goal for the opposition in every one of the first three games. If the opposition could finish better it would be a lot worse.

    How many of the top sides fans have seen there teams lose 8 – 2 , 6 – 0 6 – 3 etc

    It seems to me that Wenger thinks he can outplay every team. He would never set up defensively. I remember a couple of seasons ago when we played a great defensive game at Manchester City . I don’t think it’s happened since.

    Will Mustafi and Sanchez want to play and who upset Mustafi?

    I think I am correct in saying we are the only prem side to make a profit from the transfer window? Do you actually believe we have a stronger squad than last season?

    I can always forgive a team that tries, at Anfield we didn’t, other than maybe Welbeck and Cech

    You mention you are not interested in pundits . I don’t think you need worry
    , Thierry Henry in my opinion our greatest player ever is embarrassed to watch them. Every single pundit said how truly poor Arsenal were. Not one or two , but all of them.

    So do I believe Wenger is the best man for the job… in short no. If you had asked me this question before I would have said yes. But the Arsenal players at Anfield didn’t look interested to me

  • Was Bellerin played at left back when we had supposedly the best left back in Germany on the bench?

    Maybe Wenger believed Kola needed to brush up on his defensive skills/tasks…. plausible to me

    Why was the Ox who clearly wants away playing? Same question about Alexis.

    To increase their sales value… Arsenal showing they are not fringe players…. plausible to me..

    Why would the Ox go to Anfield for £50k less than he could get at the Emirates?

    Because he believes he is the next Maradona and want to play in the middle. Klopp has a very seductive smile.

    Why was Lacazette not played at Anfield.? Liverpool clearly had a dodgy keeper and we never had a shot on target.

    He was played but as a substitute, A manager wants to keep everybody happy, which means rotation.

    To me our biggest problem is our defensive midfield. All the other sides have tough tackling defensive midfielders. Kante and now drinkwater. Dembelle and Alle, Matic and Carrick. We will not beat any of the top sides until we sort this out.

    We beat Man City and Chelsea a few months ago without a DM beast. We actually played Chelsea off the pitch. I can understand why Wenger still believes he can get the BALANCE right.

    Wenger seems obsessed with smaller framed players who whilst talented get bullied. Sterling and Lemar would have added to this.

    Our smaller framed players were well in demand.

    Why does he insist on playing players who are clearly out of form. Ozil goes missing just about every week and Xhaka has created a goal for the opposition in every one of the first three games. If the opposition could finish better it would be a lot worse.

    You either see what Ozil does for the team or you don’t. Sorry Retsub, I think you don’t.

    How many of the top sides fans have seen there teams lose 8 – 2 , 6 – 0 6 – 3 etc

    Three FA Cups in four years. Being a Gooner means ups and downs. We hate the big downs but love the highs.

    It seems to me that Wenger thinks he can outplay every team. He would never set up defensively. I remember a couple of seasons ago when we played a great defensive game at Manchester City . I don’t think it’s happened since.

    You are longing for the 1-0 to the Arsenal days, which I can understand.

    Will Mustafi and Sanchez want to play and who upset Mustafi?

    Of course they will.

    I think I am correct in saying we are the only prem side to make a profit from the transfer window? Do you actually believe we have a stronger squad than last season?

    Fecking Yes. Kola and Lacazette are massive additions. The squad is very well balanced.

    I respect your views Retsub and I know I will not change them, but there is another side to things is all I am saying.

  • There’s always another side to every issue and narrative. Unless we allow ourselves to be influenced by the media and certain pundits, that Arsenal side at Anfield didn’t play to their best and seemed to have arrived expecting the defeat. So, hopefully, we can sort things out in the dressing room and go on to improve performances. I strongly believe that’s a possibility.

    In addition to TA’s attempts to provide direct responses to retsub1’s itemized questions, I recall City beating United 1-6 at Old Trafford; City, Spurs, and Chelsea have also lost 3-0, 4-0 and 5-1 at different times in certain games. We don’t like these heavy defeats which we do seem to suffer more of, in recent times, but no need going overboard.

    As for Mustafi, my guess is he encouraged Inter and Juve which may have displeased the manager. As it stands, all will be forgiven. Alexis has not thrown tantrums, even though he did want to leave. He has allowed the club stay in control and as it has turned out, Arturo Vidal maintains the “Alexis to city on deadline day” stories were largely made up to give the impression of an Alexis who lost focus as he craved the move. His national team manager also repeated similar sentiments. Hard to know how he will behave upon his return but my belief is the club will sort him out and get the best of him till the January window.

  • T A that’s fair enough. I am not saying I am right, Just stating my opinion. You are quite correct about my opinion of Ozil though. When he plays well he is top quality, but when he is bad he is awful. To my mind he is a luxury player who would do well at a
    Barcelona or Real Madrid. But to get ourselves out of this mess we need to stand up and be counted. I didnt see anyone wanting to buy him and quite frankly in my opinion, we would be better investing his salary elsewhere..

    Just my opinion and I know many will disagree

  • Fair point, Retsub.

    The formula for Ozil is the better the team plays the more clear it becomes how good Ozil is. In my view he always adds quality to the team.

  • I just read:”Germany have an early lead in the Czech Republic. Mesut Ozil assists Timo Werner to score the opener.”

    How many excellent midfielders do the Germans have? Yet the manager seems to always play Ozil… and he rewards him time and again.

  • Great post 17HT! 👍😀. I for one am really relieved that the TW is closed and we can get to business. Too much looking outside the team for a messiah who will deliver us the title! I think the lads have the skill but just need to dig deeper to overcome all the negativity to play the football they are capable of.
    I agree with all your points on the available quality. There is a part of me that wonders if Giroud and Laca can play together as Giroud & Griezman do for France. Anyways, the first three games of the season at least, it seems to me that our team is playing as if they are playing with each other for the first time. Too many misplaced passes and a slower tempo. Perhaps this is the delayed effect of switching to the back three? the instincts have not yet solidified? Regardless, this is something eminently addressable on the training pitch and I am looking forward to the Arsenal of old.
    The other point on why Ox & Welbz at Anfield – I felt that Wenger allowed himself to be swayed by external forces. If he had not played Sanchez, the rumor mill would have gone wild. Laca and Sanchez have not played together long enough. Welbz has. On Ox, I think the same as TA…or that he felt that there was a last gasp opportunity to get Ox to change his mind. It is difficult to be loyal to all the players and not have a bond – one that you do not want to sever without trying everything possible.
    Anyways, can’t wait to see Wenger and the rest shut all the pundits up.

  • I am amazed at the extent to which Ozil can be mistreated by fans and pundits. He remains probably the nest number 10 in the world. Nonetheless, he does not track back and defend. It is not his strength. I have noted that on the last 6 occasions he tried to defend he only got 2 right – and the look on his face was a wow moment as he is not that guy. Ozil does best when he has a person like Santi to do the two way work and feed him. He then directs the traffic to and in the final third. Arsenal with Ozil does not do well if the defence and mid field are weak which forces him to collect the ball too far down. He is an amazing number 10 – not a defensive mid or defender. We must always assess people on what we ask them to do. He sets play. if you waste it do not blame him. Arsene asked him to assist less and complete more plays for himself because the front was suspect. Now we have Alex and Sanchez up front. Ozil is a happier man. To make him completely happy and efficient the players behind him need to be better. This means dropping Ramsay who pretends he is a number 10.

  • Indeed, TA, there are comments to which I should respond. It was a bit of a busy morning for me after publishing the post…

    I appreciate the positive comments (and really enjoy when new posters enjoy my writing…) but I also feel I’ve got plenty of space for those who disagree. (That’s you, retsub, and you did pretty well for length on the 2nd go round… 😀 ) I can’t really explain the selections at Anfield and then the way those who were selected played. Like St. Henry (RA, right?…) suggests, it looked like they were playing together for the first time…

    The intense (and very negative) agitation within the squad had to have played a (big) role. Now that the team is settled we’ll have to rebuild our confidence and, ideally, get some wins. A tough match at Stamford Bridge looms, but maybe the home games vs Bournemouth and Koln can be stepping stones towards better play and renewed togetherness.

    My appreciation for the players who help with the team spacing and move the ball on smartly seems to be a minority opinion. In general, I prefer to look away from the ball when I watch Arsenal on the telly. I can see these sorts of players doing likewise and–for me–it’s a thrill if I can pick out their targets as they’re doing likewise. IMO, these guys are the key to our team actually playing as a team. I’m talking about mostly about Xhaka and Ozil here. Santi as well, if he can ever get fit. Elneny and Le Coq can do it too. Kos, Mustafi and Monreal get it going from deeper spots as well..

    At the other extreme, “head down” players like the Ox (and Alexis) bring the focus onto the ball (and themselves) and it’s just not my preference. Where others saw great skills and powerful runs from the Ox, I always found myself saying, “And this is where it (our possession) goes to die.” (Different views, hopefully, make the world go around…and, in truth, I have inklings of the same sentiment when it’s Ramsey or Welbz on the ball…) The haircut bit was probably too harsh, but I really found Ox’s final ball lacking and perhaps his huge array of excellent skills served to over-complicate the decision making. Alexis, of course, is even more talented, and, if he chooses to move without the ball and not over-elaborate in deep and dangerous areas of the pitch, he’s one of the best in the world. Maybe it all comes too easy for him, and his confidence (over-confidence?…) gets the better of him. The final ball is as good as anyone’s, however. Down on his haunches, or just stationery on the touchline, is not where we need him. The noises (from AW and from Chile) seem like he might be prepared to give his all for us. The summer long distraction–and final day madness–are not good signs, but we’ll just have to wait and see if the manager can get the player working for the team and not just himself. My gut feeling before yesterday was wishing him gone. Now, as always, I hope for the best.

    Bellerin is another head-down player struggling to find a better final ball. I feel he’s making strides–and looking up earlier and more often–even if it’s been a struggle getting the assists going in recent months… He should do better back on the right, but I think he’s good enough that I can understand Wenger trying to shoehorn him into the line-up. I think the front line has plenty of goals in them and the wide players (and Ozil, as herb of life, above notes…welcome to the blog…) will be key to getting the forwards on the score-sheet. I’m very eager to see Lacazette get on the end of some good ones and (like others) I think Kolasinac might have a bit of everything we need in a wide guy. Power, at least a modicum of pace, and an ability to view the pitch and pick out a target…or drive into the box on his own. But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself and hoping for too much from our new signings. They’re ours now, so why not?…

    For me, this HAS to be rock bottom and it must be onwards and upwards from here. I remember well this same period in 2011. It was just as bad or even worse (2-nil at home to Pool, 8-2, of course, at Old Trafford) but different too as we brought in five (!) players at the deadline to offset the loss of guys like Cesc and Nasri. It may not have been a title tilt, but slowly and surely we worked ourselves back into the top 4. Keeping the two best (IMO) of our three contract hold-outs is definitely a gamble, but I think it could also pay off. Wenger at the helm, again for me, is the likeliest way for it to get done…

    OK, too much writing for one day, but I guess I had a lot pent up…

  • HT …. that’s a huge effort by you to steady the ship of support to the club. United we stand, no doubt about it.

    I wonder if the essence of the post is rightly summerized as ….. “Gooners, don’t unfurl the negative banners, dont scramble planes into the skies, don’t boo our boys or the manager etc, don’t use foul language in the evaluation of our personnels and our trajectory, but otherwise feel free to state your view points on the way forward. Have, at the least, an intellectual understanding that those view points however right it might appear to one could be inferior to what is”.

  • Good answers guys, I obviously don t agree, but. I can see where you are coming from. 17ht you mentioned your thoughts when the Ox was in possession. I have a similar view on Bellerin. When he first came on the scene he was bombing down the wings and crossing from the rouchline. Ok he wasn’t the greatest crosser but he was getting into great positions. Suddenly he stopped running down the wuings and always cut back inside playing mundane cross field balls. When he gets the ball now my reaction is exactly that. From a dangerous position he slows play down and nearly always plays square or backwards. Drives me crazy. I think the problem srsrted when he grew is hair.!!!!!!!

  • 17, thanks for taking the time to write for us, it was an excellent piece of work, and too much to comment point by point. But, As usual, you have started the best discussion about Arsenal… Also compliments to the commenters.

    It’s great football/Arsenal talk because we do get all sides. I’ve been leaning more negative since early/mid last season, and it only seems worse through the summer till now. But i love the bright spots still ! The thought of seeing Reiss Nelson instead of the talented but inefficient Ox excites me. TA talking about Wilshere coming back makes me smile with hope for not just the team, but for our boy Jack himself.

    One serious worry, which we will now have to address on the pitch, is this feeling that top players will avoid us more. We did well with Kolasinac and Lacazette. I think they will both be great for us. Laca can be the new Van Persie i think.

    I know that there will always be good players who will come for the right money, but i worry that the young exciting talents who have come in the past to learn from Wenger, will see that he is leaving in a year or two, and also what’s happening with Sanchez, and Oxlade, maybe Ozil, Mustafi, and think less of an offer from us.

    You know how hard it is for a team that drops out of champions league to get back in, and now the competition is stronger than ever. No exaggeration. And there is that talk of wantaway players that will not go away, unless there is sort of a minor miracle on and off the pitch.
    That’s why in the end i wanted to sell Sanchez and bring in a young player with upside. I do get the feeling that we became less attractive to Lemar for a few reasons. And i think if we didnt seem to be in such chaos, we could have talked Draxler type into coming, the exact same way we got Ozil.
    I also don’t want to hear about Alexis all season. The gestures, body language, performances, motivation, all under a microscope for 90 minutes every single week. A huge distraction probably, maybe even a cancer in the dressing room.

    I remember laughing when Barca bought Suarez, and Alexis refused to go to Liverpool, then chose us. Given that same choice today, you know which team a great foreign player would choose. There’s no way to spin that.

    Wenger might have to consider going to traditional back four, because i dont know if Reiss can defend well enough to be trusted yet to play the Ox role. I agree with those who see Bellerin as getting a bit stale. Id be open to any combination of players and formation that brings back some solidity to the defense, including benching regulars and using Coquelin, moving Xhaka higher up, resting Ozil to try Ramsey or Jack there. I said it before liverpool, we needed to start with a clean sheet first mentality. We create loads of chances, we will score enough.
    And subs bench or wingback for Welbeck, please. That’s me being positive about Danny.

  • Good job 17HT. Mostly agreed, but there were some points I would like to point out:

    1. Danny scored a goal in last night’s International.

    Agreed that he is a hardworker and scorer, but he needs the extra energy from his teammates to make him a better player.

    2. Le Prof needs to be himself again.

    The last season and this one 3 matches in, he does not show what he is made of.
    Tactically he was better than the mess we were in, but now the lads is running around the pitch like headless chickens.

    3. Financially we needed to dig deep and spend what we can, but the thing is that it is not the reason that we miss out on the significant player that really helps the balance of the team. Nor it is Fact 4 or 5, but Fact 4 and 5 are both plausible, but not the reason too.

    The reason is that our transfer team is in shambles, and cannot preempt what Wenger wants. If we push on in signing Lemar, it will be a done deal now, but instead we are left with an unhappy Alexis. Get Dick Law out and get someone from the top clubs in. We wil be better in our next transfer window if that happens.

    4. I do not think it is a good time to talk about the new manager, but since you touched upon it in Fact 6 then let’s touch on it.

    The new manager must show to the fans that he carries on the beautiful football philosophy. But if he performs worse than Wenger, his head will roll. Wenger’s will not. Simple as that.

    Lots of fans will just want someone in. But who will be the question. Vieira? Or someone outside of the Arsenal domain?

    Barca’s change of managers were well thought out and the fans love their manager and the team. The board needs to think that way too, or look at how other modern clubs work.

    5. Arsene is Arsenal, and Arsenal is Arsene. For another 2 years.
    Nobody can say that Wenger is not doing his best, or that the team is not backing their manager.

    The displays seemed that the midfield position is in a mess, and no one wants to be in their starting position.

    This is the midfield starting lineup that have done brilliantly against the Chavs in the Community Shield:
    Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xhaka, Elneny, Bellerin

    Without Elneny, Xhaka is left alone in the DM position and with the whole place by himself, he does not know how to position himself best when teams run direct at us. So why leave Elneny out and put in Rambo, and create this mess?

    We were different with and without Santi. Now, with Elneny, history is repeating itself.

    Rambo is a good player, and we have seen the same happening before: during the time that we were out of form and lost game after game, Rambo is deployed at times beside Elneny or Xhaka. He positioned himself too far upfield and were caught out most of the time. After we switched to a back 3, he dropped deeper and the midfield became tighter. That was when we got the points, but it was too late. And this season we are seeing Rambo venturing upfield too much again.

    Elneny and Xhaka are both players with a good sense of positioning. That is, partnering with the correct people. We saw tighter displays with Elneny and Xhaka partnered together, and they can bring balls upfield. So why not drop Rambo and bring back Elneny?

    Sorry for the lengthy post. But this was something TA asked for, and there you go.

  • Jnyc, i would like to bring up 2 points from your last commentary.

    The first is the formation. Back 3 or back 4 is the same if we do not solve the positioning of the players in front of them.

    I have written the midfield pairing, and the best people to protect the back 3 from direct central movement is the DM positions. Even if one deserted his position we are open.

    Back 4 is more rigid, as one of the 2 DMs must stick to the back 4 like glue. Back 3 meant that we are able to have a little flexibility for the DMs to have a little more forward play, and if we were caught out the wingers help to cover those holes.

    The above paragraph is workable if we have everyone on the same wavelength. And that we have enough people at the back at all times and not open ourselves to being shot.

    The second point will be after i see the replay of Chile’s match. They lost 3-0 and Alexis started.

  • Am a self critical person. That’s how God made me. Am always demanding of myself yet perennially short of my targets. But I love me. Arsenal is like me to me. I love Arsenal but I’d always be demanding of Arsenal a greater height.

    I understand that we are all wired differently. There are some who focus on their strong points and work to polish them even further. Their are some who prioritize the work on their weaknesses. I belong to the latter and if I were a football coach I would build from the back upwards. My humble belief is that Wenger belongs to the former. His core is to attack. He would think of Lemar before Kante or Van Dijk. Note that I don’t claim mine is superior.

    Arsenal is great with the ball. So that is Wenger’s focus. Arsenal is poor without the ball so by my nature that is my focus. Am emotionally commited to wanting us better without the ball and I can’t help but voice it out in whatever form is available to me. But in doing that I do my best not to use fowl language. I even understand intellectually that what I think is the best might not be. That creates the necessary space to accept that the other fellow has a right to his opinion, without prejudice to me holding tight to mine. There is space in me for engaging in robust arguements conducted in a rational manner

    I would always say that Xhaka is an exquisite passer but that he has a slow feet. I would always say that Ramsey is a versatile player but mentality-wise he is every fiber an attacker. Therefore I would always say that Xhaka/Rambo as a CM pairing is too lopsidedly offensive. And when I “see”, because I care, I say.

    In my environment (you can’t believe how insensitive it can be) I have been the target of taunts from dear ones who are Arsenal fans because I have been a steadfast Wenger’s man. But even I, now am wondering if my man is still able to cope fully with the ever changing dynamics in football. Am in a position to say that age brings conservatism. It has its special value. Adventurism has its own. A mix of the two gives a good balance of creativity and sustainability. Yes it is tough slugging it out with the money heavy weights of Manu, City, and Chls. But Liv from below us is clearly straining to reclaim her past glory. Tot far below us is building a new stadium yet showing a lot of ambition. Everton this window has flexed its muscles. A Chinese firm is talking with Southampton. Globalization, which catapulted the PL to the summit of world football, and on which Arsenal capitalized smartly, is still expanding. The fortunes of football remain in a state of flux. From where am standing, which I must confess is disadvantaged, I worry that we seem to be loosing momentum. I hope am wrong.

    I dare not heap all my blames on Wenger. Am not privileged enough. For all I know Wenger might be having private battles with Kronke. Or it could even be Kronke having private battles with Wenger. Doesn’t matter which way. To us they are one team but a team that is less than the Arsenal FC. Arsenal is above any of its content.

    My attraction to BK is that it does not sieve ideas, opinions, viewpoints, but it sieves for civility. Let’s get it on…

  • More good comments, some a bit more random than others but they are all fun to read.

    The reality with football is that a good run of games sees the best in all of us and in our ability to spot all that is good. A bad run of games usually does the opposite for most of us. A good manager stays central and looks ahead. Wenger lives football and is almost always in control for what lays ahead. He will be quietly very pleased that he kept all his star players and added two quality players in the summer. He will now be working on starting that good run of games asap. The rest is unimportanto!

  • IT should also said that by ‘making a profit’ Wenger has left money in the bank to replace Ozil and Alexis properly next summer (or indeed in January) and/or offer both guys a contract they cannot refuse.

  • What a fantastic and balanced article,fully agree with almost it all, I read and knew I had to post a reply and was thinking of warning of the sh*t storm wich (i thought), was guaranteed to hit you but to my surprize the majority of posters are like minded, it is time we got to see the joy and entertainment we get from The Arsenal, not bitching,complaining and reading self indugent naar do wells, version of why everything is so cr*p, we all like to win (games & trophys), but if it were easy there would be only one team playing and we all would support that team!!

  • TA ……. THATS A BRILLIANT IDEA …….. one that I have not thought of I.e. the idea that the profit made in our net spending in the window might be utilized in securing more years of service from Ozil and Sanchez. It’s brilliant and it goes like this:-

    Net profit inclusive of wages saved in our transfers is approximately £30M. Overa duration of 4yrs this amount per yr is £7.5M. Add this to what the club had earlier offered to Ozil and Sanchez. Assuming it’s split equally to both, it becomes £3.75M to each per yr. or approximately £72K per wk. to each.

    What it means is that if they had been offered say £230k per week which they rejected, they can now be offered £300k per wk, an amount acceptable to them. BRILLIANT!

    And to have a more merciful view of Ox (who is a likable chap):- OX WAS SACRIFICED SO OZIL AND SANCHEZ CAN SIGN A NEW 4 YEAR CONTRACT! ……… This is genius.

    Am home. I feel so much better now. I always prefer to assume for my analysis that Wenger, Kronke and the BoD cannot be fools. But I couldn’t just make sense of the transfer saga surrounding these three player. But TA just lit a candle that has dispelled the darkness for me.

    One more thing ……..harsh words on Ox hurts me. He is just a mere pawn sacrificed in a chess game. Believe you me. We must applaud him when he steps into the Emirate.

  • PE, players, agents, managers, directors, they all play the game, it has been forever thus.

    AOC took less money, so it’s reported, to join Liverpool, by turning down Arsenal and Chelsea.
    Maybe it is about where he plays in the team that matters to him?
    Time will tell if his decision was a wise one.
    I mean to turn down Chelsea is a big statement.

    Retsub, I agree with a lot of what you say, not had time to read all comments, will do so later this evening.
    Will reread your post 17tino, credit to you for a deeply thought out piece.

    Welbeck scored for England, I know it was only Malta but maybe the media will get off of his back now.

    Totalinho, Malen back to the Nederlands was a strange one.
    The Academy seems to be making room for the next generation perhaps?

  • Hey fellas… I’m traveling this weekend so no (more) massive posts/comments from me… Just here to say that I too enjoy the nicely balanced comments…

    Professional sports over here are a different, er, ballgame… Mostly because they seem keen to make things seem free from corruption and do what can be done to help create more level playing fields, i.e. more true competition. In general, over time, even the worst teams in our leagues can win championships. The biggest cities (where more folks can afford higher ticket prices) have a natural advantage, but even that can be overcome. Moreover, there is extreme transparency re: finances, so even regular punters can trace what’s really going on. Salary caps (total expenditures) are present in some sports, as are minimum salaries, due to the success of player unions. I believe Wenger saw Euro football headed in these sorts of directions… Unfortunately it will take more time than he has, if it ever happens…

    The nearest equivalent in our game is FFP, which, if it wasn’t a complete joke, would see Arsenal as the 2nd biggest team in England (behind only ManU) and one of the top 10 in Europe. Kroenke still abides by those rules, earning himself an ever increasing bottom line. Other owners see their “investments” as (so-called) “loss leaders,” or ways to increase their perceived standing in the world. The emirates crave legitimacy in the secular world (i.e., not to be lumped in with all of Islam, sadly seen by many as a population of nothing but fanatics if not terrorists.) More traditional “big” teams are ways for corrupt politicians or business people to launder their (more local) image–if not their actual monies–and improve their standing in their own city-states…

    So, I agree with TA (and appreciate the dedicated fans like PE who try to make sense of the financial side which is more and more about salaries as time goes by). That said, there is no way Kroenke and his managers will EVER meet the demands of a player who has caught the eye of the money-down-a-hole teams, and are promised a leading role. IMO, the ONLY way to compete is to create a positive environment, a real team in essence, that can win things and help players become real legends–not only for their club–but also in global football. Can Arsenal do that? Not at the moment, not with Gooners who live with their heads in the sand. Many blame Wenger and think he’s the reason we’re a laughing stock. I see it exactly the opposite. Wenger is the only thing keeping Arsenal from drifting MUCH further down the pecking order while still being a moral beacon towards a better future for the entire sport (and possibly the club). While others celebrate corruption and raw power as a way to the top (i.e., Trump, for example, admires Putin and to a lesser extent, Xi…) I think it’s wrong (wrong, wrong)… This is another reason I admire our manager and (somewhat, at least) our club. Like me, he’s got a naive streak…

    Make no mistake, however, Arsenal play at a MASSIVE disadvantage because of this culture. Already, three games into the season we’ve had points stolen (at Stoke) while ManCity had them gifted (Mike Dean allowing a game to go into the 97th minute at Bournemouth…his red card for wrongful celebration by Sterling the tiniest of cover-ups…) We can still overacheive (as teams like Spurs, I hate to say, have been doing recently) but it would really help, IMO, if Gooners would (f*cking) clue into the (f*cking) realities… Until they do, I fear it only gets uglier and uglier… 😦

    OK, that got a bit longer than expected, and I’ll try and shut up now. Have a great weekend…


  • Hi Seventeenho,
    Brilliant posts. I hardly ever post, on the grounds that there’s generally too much said about our beloved team. Although this site is a haven of sanity. One observation: watching the Liverpool game in the Highbury Barn with my son, I got incensed at the TV focussing on the recently subbed Alexis, while there was a ball on the pitch, and I had the realisation that TV will always turn anything into a soap opera if it can – and this is an inevitable consequence of football taking the money. On an oddly personal note, said son (find him at @sbourgenforcer) has just moved into a flat in . . . 17 Highbury Terrace!

  • 17, thanks for mentioning the plus and minus points from the past 2 weekends. I never forget when points are stolen from us or wrongly handed to rich clubs that already have huge advantages.

    I was thoroughly enjoying the man city DRAW, dropped points, until the powers that be gave them extraextra Fergie time. They couldnt be allowed to drop points 2 weeks in a row i guess. Infuriating. Imagine how Bournemouth players, who struggled to play close, must have felt.
    And on the other hand, we were honestly robbed at Stoke.

    These things make me crazy, we say they even out, but I don’t think they do.

    Because we create so many chances, I think the refs play it safe by not making critical calls that allow us penalties, or close offsides calls. They just assume that we will make more chances anyway, and that a team like stoke will get very few. So they cover themselves trying to even things out without having to make pivotal penalty calls for us. This all adds up to serious points to overcome throughout a long season.

  • Slightly more time to comment…and I feel I must given retard’s comment…and the (spectacular) coincidence of having spent time in the same building as your son…

    17 Highbury Terrace was a great place to land… (We were given free housing while my wife was on a teaching assignment.) The park, of course, is lovely and the Highbury clock and high street area were alright too. (The playground at the bottom of the Fields was one of the very best my young son and I found in all of London…) The Highbury Barn had just gone “gastropub” so I only stopped in once before finding other spots to watch the matches. The Compton Arms (really a cricket pub, if anything…) only had a couple of televisions but it had a few regulars who enjoyed their Arsenal. My tag line (“Go on then…”) is what a regular named Rosie would shout (at the telly) over her glass of white wine. I think it’s also gone a bit more upscale… Or at least there seemed to be more barmaids (of the extremely attractive variety) doing a bit of table service last time we were back. For bigger matches I found myself in a place on the Holloway Road, across the street and not too far from the (actual) Highbury Library… I can’t quite remember the name. Even back then there was more than a bit of banter (fists cocked, but no actual punches thrown…) between the more supportive Arsenalistas and the more critically minded ones…

    One of the great things about the address was that you could get to the stadium very quickly by way of a couple of pedestrian walkways that would drop you in by the giant concrete ARSENAL letters and what I think might now be the Danny Fizman Bridge… Good times…

    What floor is your son’s flat on? We were one flight of stairs up from ground level…

    Also, your point about televised football and soap opera style drama is spot on, of course… It’s amazing (to my mind…) that so many Gooners (who I thought were the smartest football supporters in England by a long distance…) bite on the narratives so easily…and seem to swallow them hook, line and sinker (as we say…) Or maybe it’s just the loudest voices and the idiot-o-fying influence of the internet…

    Anyhow, thanks for posting re: the shared address, etc…

  • He did give a long instagram statement, inspired by that defeat at Anfield (and, perhaps all the months of hearing how “lazy” he is), which sounded like a rallying cry, with a positive outlook to the past 4 seasons he’s been at Arsenal (6 trophies in 4 years, he wrote) but the papers managed to spin it as a Goodbye message from our No. 10.

  • Thanks ‘Eris for the link… Makes me love him that much more… Will likely incense his detractors that much more, however…

    Start printing the airplane banners… “No new (nicked) contract for MO11…” 😦 😀

  • Also, cheers retard for the link to the ‘new 17HT’s twitter feed… Very good stuff there…

  • Following on from his hat trick vs Qatar, Eddie Ntekiah got another treble vs Poland, he certainly has an eye for goal, keeps it simple and just puts it in the onion bag.

    Hopefully he’ll get a run out in the League Cup vs Doncaster Rovers.
    I’m going to the Cologne game, so it would be nice to see him on the bench.
    Really excited about this kid.

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