Mkhi-Sanchez Player-Swap of Decade, Xhaka DM after all, Jack too Conservative? 8 Observations.

So Arsenal made it to the last eight in the UEFA league by eliminating the Rossineri. It was an interesting game to watch, with both positives and negatives. I think it emphasised again that winning a game often relies on three things: focus, quality and luck. Arsenal had all three and that is why we came out as winners once again, even though we were flattered by the final score. Milan played well, especially in the second half, but lacked the composure, quality and bounce of the ball to hurt us when they had created good opportunities against us. We hit the target much more than Milan from our shots on goal, and sooner or later those will go in, and they did.

See the source image

Eight observations from two legs v Milan:

  1. Xhaka playing deeper with defensive discipline is giving us a better balance. We have too many midfielders who want to go and make things happen. On Thursday we played Rambo, Mkhi, Jack, Xhaka and Mesut. They all are able and passionate to play attacking midfield play. We love them for it, but we also need balance. Our defenders need protecting and we need order and structure in our play. A defensive-minded midfielder with ideally some added attacking skills, is much needed. Xhaka is a great midfielder but – and many people forget this – he is still relatively young at 25. His best years are still to come and if he can develop further his defensive positioning and interceptions, we may get the balance right in midfield. I definitely saw a much improved defensive improvement from him against Milan on Thursday. He is unlikely going to be a classical DM but a modern one is in the making, I reckon. 
  2. Mkhi is at least as influential as Sanchez and is probably an improvement to the overall team. Our new signing does not give the ball away needlessly and helps out the team defensively at least as much as the Chilean firecracker did. He could probably do with a bit more intensity in one to ones for the ball against opponents, but other than that I feel we got a gem of a player. There is something Pires-like about Mkhi: calm, mature, team-player, technically very good and just pure quality when on the pitch. We just love watching him play the beautiful game. He has hit the ground running in terms of goals and assists at Arsenal, whereas Sanchez, in that sorry looking shirt with the tacky golden cross on it, has been a disappointment at the Mancs until now. Player-swap of the decade?
  3. Ospina seems ready to take over from Cech next season. Our reserve goalkeeper is showing real signs of maturity: good decision-making, strong personality in the box and a fantastic balance between calm and extrovert interceptions and leadership. I am also happy with Cech playing another season, but reckon that Ospina should get  a chance to start PL games. His lack of height is compensated by his catlike responsiveness, and I love his ability to come out and smother danger around the box area. This sort of goalkeeper may suit better the likes of Koz and Mustafi going forward.
  4. We are lucky to have Elneny, a multi-functional and talented midfielder, in the squad. I like our Egyptian multi-tasker a hell of a lot. He is a great athlete,  anticipates very well, protects the ball excellently in tight spaces, and is an accurate passer with also an eye for a quality through-ball. I reckon he will be ready to replace Rambo if he were to move on. I would probably start him in games but can also see his value as a supersub: he can play anywhere and adds quality to our play as soon as he crosses the side-line. Elneny is also just 25 years old and surely more is still to come. A Xhaka-Elneny double DM-pivot could well be the future.
  5. Jack is playing more conservative since the arrival of Mkhitaryan. It seems that Jack is losing out between the creative powerhouses in the team. During the last 15 minutes against Milan when both Ozil and Mkhi had been substituted, he played his best football of all his time in both the legs; all of a sudden he was dominant and incisive again. A more conservative and subdued playing Jack is not necessarily a bad thing – and he still added a lot of value during the first and second leg – but the question remains whether he can reach his full potential at Arsenal with both Mkhi and Ozil on new contracts (and Rambo possibly getting one as well). My money is on Jack leaving this summer (which would be very, very sad).
  6. Are we back to four at the back? I certainly hope so, and it should allow us to gently play into the first squad either, or even both, of Chambers and Holding. We need height in central defence as both Mustafi and Koz lack it and have to work far too hard to compensate for it. They are making costly aerial mistakes regularly and it makes our defensive play both chaotic and nervy at times. We need to have a Tony Adams or, ideally, a Sol Campbell in the team. I like the look of Holding but he is probably still too young and inexperienced to build a defence around him. The good thing is Wenger can give him a number of PL and UEFA-cup games and see whether he makes the step up. If not, a CB-Beast should be purchased in the summer.
  7. One or two quality full/wing backs should be on this summer’s shopping list. Bellerin seems to be stagnating and Kola has not impressed me much since he joined us. Both are young and can still come good but can we afford to wait and wait for this? In modern football the ball ends up a lot with the full/wings backs when we attack (that is where the much loved space is). It only makes sense to have the backs playing high up the pitch if they actually possess good attacking skills. We need them to make incisive runs and also be able to beat one or two players like a classical winger; and we also need their final ball to be very good. Bellerin and Kolasinac have their moments but I reckon we need much more from those positions if we want to get to the next level. For this, we will need to shop. Alternatively, we can go back to 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 and play with far more conservative full backs: a key decision to be made this summer, I reckon.
  8. The biggest question for the remainder of the season is: can we actually win the UEFA-Cup? We will have to play better than we did against Milan, that’s for sure. Welbeck has done okay but I am hoping that Lacazette will be fully fit when we play CSKA Moscow next: we need more sharpness up-front and that is what Laca offers over Welbeck all day long – and in terms of workload they match each other. We also need to defend better and not allow opponents so much time on the ball in our own half: the midfield will have to work really hard to prevent the large number of opportunities we gave away to Milan, going forward. Better teams will kill us off if we do this in the next round(s). Our defence also has to be calmer and more organised, and that is a big job if you ask me. Moscow will be a hard nut to crack and we will need a faultless first leg at the home of football. The second leg will be a tough one but if we play well (with focus, quality and have a bit of luck) we should make it to the last four. There are some very strong teams left in the UEFA league and it will be very tough to make it to the final and then win it. I know that this would give us a ticket to the CL but for me this is just a nice extra; winning the cup would do the players a world of good and it would be a nice piece of silverware to have in the HoF cupboard. It should also give us the confidence and impetus to make a much stronger fist at the league title in 2018-2019. To answer my own question: we have a chance but we will have to step it up one or two more times.

By TotalArsenal.

67 thoughts on “Mkhi-Sanchez Player-Swap of Decade, Xhaka DM after all, Jack too Conservative? 8 Observations.

  • TA, excellent post. Agreed, agreed, agreed would suffice as my comment except am something of a talkative. So here we go.

    I) Xhaka from zero to hero in an instant. Am unable to yet figure out the transformation but I suspect it must have something to do with a better mastery of positioning particularly when we are out of possession (am working from the answer backwards). I now love him.

    2) Give me Mkhi any day over Sanchez. The good that Sanchez does is dramatic and visible. The bad that he does, if there is a way to sum them up, would prove to be far greater than the good. He tops the PL last season in turnovers!! Can you begin to imagine the amount of running around it takes the team to win back the ball in one turnover. Not to talk of his negative influence in the dressing room. Mkhi any day please.

    3) If the two keepers continue as out Nos 1 and 2 for next season, I’d wish for Ospina as the No. 1. I’ve always felt he is underrated.

    4) You hit the nail on the head about Elneny being multi-functional and talented. We’ve seen him as a CD, we’ve seem him as a DM and we’ve just gotten a glimpse of him in an AM display. His AM display is my biggest thrill. That ball to Welbech (that led to our 3rd goal) was another exquisite through ball if Welbeck had let it run. Salah might be the Egyptian King, we’ve got an Egyptian Prince in our midst.

    Am beginning to think that am not that much of a talkative. When I have recuperated, I’d see what I have for Nos 5,6,7 and 8. Meanwhile it’s agreed, agreed, agreed.

  • Thanks PE. Some very good responses to the observations.

    I agree with you that Elneny’s attacking skills have been a real treat over the last few games.

    Xhaka is a talented player who is learning how to work with Wenger, which probably means going against his nature. Maybe Wenger has also realised that he needs to have somebody play deeper in midfield to protect the defence with discipline. Xhaka needs to improve further, but playing deep and disciplined will allow him to cement a role in the future Arsenal first eleven.

  • Great post T A which deserves lots of responses. Haven’t got a lot to say, but here’s my penny worth.

    Last few games he has begun to look the part. Early in the season he was really sloppy and although he has improved he still worries me a little particularly early in the game. You mention the new type of defensive midfielder.. I would still go with a Vierra, Petit like psrtnership, but that’s just me.

    Ospina, frankly will never be as good as The top keepers De Gea etc and if we want to compete at the top, Champion League vs Europa. We need a top guy.

    Elneny is good and deserves his chance. A little limited in my opinion though.

    Still a fan of Alexis, but lets see how Mkhi does. When I can spell his name I will comment again.

  • Hey TA… (And PE, retsub… The few, the proud, the BKesque…) I’m watching a little ManU–Brighton football (if you can call it that) so I might try and respond to your fine post. I always enjoy your observations–which generally seem hopeful and very well balanced without being over-the-top one way or the other.

    First off, you’re so right about focus and some good bounces and the like (i.e., DW’s pen shout) but I was never worried and really thought we were the better team (over the two legs) against one of the great clubs in the history of European (club) football. Milan, however, are a work in progress. While Arsenal are still fishing about to find our “rock-bottom,” the Rossoneri are on the up. They’ll be pleased enough to have created some good chances and might choose to hide (just a bit, at least) behind the terrible call that did more than just dent their momentum. Sorry, but for me, it was a dive and the match could have become REALLY fun if DW had gotten a yellow for going down when he didn’t need to. I still think we would have won it with a measure of ease…and surviving a tighter scoreline for a bit longer would’ve made the accomplishment all the better… Ah well. As long as refs make horrifically bad decisions of this type players will continue to go to ground under the softest of touches. In other words, I gotta blame the ref…maybe 95% to DW’s 5%… Still a dive, but all a part of the game until the refs do better. Unfortunate the decision becomes the talking point… Not so great for the spectacle, as they say…

    The remainder of the observations seem more about the squad going forward, which is just fine by me. I agree wholeheartedly with some (i.e., Mhki > Alexis for the future of the team) and less so with others (I think our flying full-backs, Kola and Bellerin have a LOT to offer, and I’m less than fully convinced by our cup keeper) but, overall, I wonder if we’re not putting the cart before the elephant (in the room). It seems critical that we know WHO will be doing the squad building (and the squad management) and how we get the best out of the players to compete–for the remainder of this season and going forward…

    In other words, as always (it seems), Arsenal have a HUGE problem until we all can get behind a manager or (other) figurehead for the club. It’s clear to me that the new (former Dortmund) players (Mhki and Auba) as well as just about everybody else (including our reluctant talisman, Mesut Ozil…) want to play for (one, Arsene) Wenger. That’s a REAL conunundrum IF Gooners want him gone.

    The pressure on each match is overwhelming. AW got the players over THIS hump, but what about the next one? (Including these “meaningless” PL matches, which seem LOADED with meaning…) I guess we’ll take the pulse by counting the empty seats and looking to see what the banners read. It’s possible that (the majority of?) Gooners will get their way and that he’ll be ushered out in the summer but then who will take responsibility for the squad building? Will it be the new manager sweeping out those who have disappointed (Xhaka, Bellerin, Ramsey, Elneny, insert your faves…)) or cutting ties with sentimental favorites (Wilshere, Nacho, who else?)…and let’s not even get started on the young guns who need first team minutes but can’t get them. It seems fashionable to critique (hate on?…) the current players but I think they’re mostly good enough and I’m not sure how much we can further improve the squad through subtraction. In my view, we need more quality to compete on multiple fronts but who might those bodies be? Soured as I have been by the abuse of my own club, I’ve watched a lot less “neutral” football, so it’s hard to know which of the mooted names (links) might actually improve the squad. Will those buys then be given a bit of time to settle in so they can contribute? I really like the looks of this year’s crop (Laca, Auba, Mhki, Kola) and think they will settle in over time as maybe we’re noting that others (Mustafi, Xhaka, Elneny) might be doing as they get used to playing in England…and in the the quietest (and emptiest) and most critical home stadium in the country. TA, someday you’ll have to explain why you label Ashburton Grove the “home of football.” To me it seems like a great stadium–with a great pitch–but one that is hardly a “home” for anybody. People pay for those obscenely expensive tickets then don’t even attend… More of an empty nest, in my view…

    ManU got their 2nd goal so they’re gonna get through for a trip to Wembley… Spurs are in the draw too. Do these domestic cups even matter? We’ve gone around on that topic as well, so, in the end, re-reading my first sizable post in quite awhile I come back to: what’s the point?…

    Sorry, and maybe it’s my poor health (a bit improved on the day, but not enough to fight the deep snow and the even deeper influx of weekend snow tourists)… Anyhow, thanks for reading, sorry for the bad attitude. Keep the observations coming… Oops, no new ones until next month. What then shall we discuss?… 😀 😦 😉

  • Contd;
    6) Jack has not been playing badly but I know that very special player is not yet back or is it the present environment of too many # 10s that is inhibiting him? Actually he has improved his game when we don’t have the ball, but Jack the genius was Jack with the ball. With these doubts a new deal, as TA fears, might never materialize.

    Check our player average position in matches and you’d notice that our midfielders love hugging the central vertical strip of the pitch. Jack of old has a wide range of passes which is hardly seen these days because players in front of him are huddled in the central areas. Note that even Xhaka’s diagonal over the top passes have also vanished. The system is not bringing the best out of Jack. Pity as that could lead to a separation.

  • Contd;
    7) Nacho is good enough as a full back but the way our forward players tuck inside are fullbacks (not to talk of our wing backs) are needed to provide width. There Nacho does not have enough. Neither pace nor early low driven crosses. Bell has pace but lacks sufficient invention in the final third. It’s a bit confusing knowing which Kola is the real one (Jekyll or Hyde). So I agree with you TA that we need at least one addition for these positions.

    We already have a potential who can be a world beater there. Maitland-Niles. But note that I called him a potential. He gives me the jitters in our defensive third because he handles the ball there as if he was in the middle or final third. In the defensive third, one should not caress the ball, not wait for the opponent to come close before ghosting past him. AMN would dribble calmly on the goal line twice in a sitting! No. When in defensive areas huge safety factors must be built into ones play. AMN would be great as a FB/WB if those silky stuff would be coached, drilled out of him in the defensive third. He has good technique, terrific pace, body strength, great passing ability. But I have my reservations whether we drill things out of or into our players.

  • Cheers Seventeenho.

    It cannot be a dive if there is actually contact. Why does the defender make ‘slight’ contact? To put the attacker off, I reckon. It was a deliberate attempt to disturb Welbeck’s flow just when he was in a position to have a shot or make a pass. He should not have over-accentuated the contact from a sporting behaviour point of view, but he did not just simulate contact… there was actual contact, so I am not going to put too much blame on Welbeck.

  • The decision became the talking point indeed, yet it actually made little difference. Milan needed three goals to go through before and after the penalty conversion. They had one and were on a mission to get the other two. If they have had their shooting boots on they could have scored those two goals in the second half. They didn’t and we then scored another two to win it. Focus, quality, luck.

  • Re Wenger and getting behind him, he will have to re-earn that, Seventeenho. Yes the players want to play for him, but that does not mean they believe he is staying on beyond this summer. They will know more than you and me and will have signed a confidentiality agreement. I would be amazed if Wenger is still here come August. I think my wish for a Beatles’ look-a-alike will become reality. 🙂 And I reckon you will like him too. 😉

  • PE, yes I like Nacho as a full-back and I reckon he is pretty much the full package, but he is getting on a bit. Agreed re AMN: great prospect but a work in progress. Gives the ball away too cheaply at times, but surely he will get that out of his system?

  • The Welbeck “dive” controversy would probably never see an unanimous verdict. My verdict is that it wasn’t a dive. It’s not evident but I ssem to see Welbeck clipped his own hells while trying to avoid the Milan man clipping him, Am talking of say 2 inches movement. If Welbeck had not tried to avoid the defenders leg, it might have clipped him for a certain penalty. The 4th official must have believed the defender clipped his heels as it barely missed. Welbeck’s protest was like “it’s the defenders fault that I clipped myself”. Maybe it’s best to see the penalty as a soft call.

  • That was a great post Total, it deserves some thoughtful consideration, even by me… 😉

    Retsub, dictionaries and spellchecker mate, absolutely essential for me.

    Ok numero uno.
    Has there been more emphasis on the defensive and organisational side of the team in training?
    Possibly, because Xhaka has definitely improved his discipline in recent games, he seems far more switched on and is in danger of turning into bloody good midfield player.

    2, Agree, there is certainly a Piresesque slant to the style that Mkhitaryan has brought to our team, particularly from the left flank, Henrick shows that he has potentially a lot of goals in him, something that we have really lacked from the midfield.
    Add the Armenian Pires to the Henryesque qualities of Aubameyang and it looks like a little piece of history is repeating itself.

    Now where is that C/M with a bit of Vieiraesque in him…?

  • 3. I really like Ospina, a good guy who I think is popular among his teammates, but he’s our No.2 for a reason, like Mannone and Fabianski, good goalkeeper, very good in fact but not top top quality and if you want to compete with the big boys you need that extra bit between the sticks.
    So for me a top top quality goalkeeping solution in the summer has to be the No.1 priority for Sven Mislintat and the guys in recruitment.

    4. Yeah Total, agree again, I also like Elneny, he never causes any problems, is a great utility player – vital to any squad and just quietly gets on with his work.
    Which poses the question why Arsene tried to sell him last summer?

    5. I like Jack Wilshere, I’ve never made a secret of that and not because he’s English, it’s because he has a bit of an edge to his game, it’s something our squad lacks, we often come across as too nice, a soft touch, but Jack is old school – and he hates Tottenham. 🙂
    But like you Total I can see him growing frustrated and leaving on a Bosman this summer.
    If he does then I’d like to see him go abroad where his technique will be fully appreciated and his career could be extended away from the minching machine that is the Premier League.
    Good for him and good for the England national team.

  • TA, regarding point 3, we need taller defenders that are good clearing balls from the air. Mustafi is still not there yet at this point of time. Agreed that Ospina is a good keeper that can play in the PL, but one thing he needs to train up on is his aerial abilities. Dangerous balls coming in is a worry for him.

  • Great, topical post, TA and on many fronts, nicely picks the matters on the front burner for those of an Arsenal persuasion. The ensuing comments/opinions have been equally brilliant. Personally, I feel we got a good deal in Mkhitaryan as he has some qualities that most of our players have not shown for a while: grit and on-field savvy. His judgment of situations is also (mostly) spot on even if the final ball may not always be precise. He will be crucial towards getting the best out of Auba.

    Xhaka, Mustafi, Elneny and Lacazette will only get better next season too, so we do have a lot to look forward to after this one.

    While we must not underestimate CSKA Moscow, I fully expect us to eliminate them over two legs but playing the 1st leg in London will be a concern because their fans will make it hard and the conditions & distance will test our players and fans. The only club we have to be wary of is Athletico Madrid, just because they have a good pedigree in the tournament, not because we cannot overcome them. They are not the great side they were 3 seasons ago and show weaknesses (were beaten yesterday by 6th places Villarreal 2-1) we can exploit. In conclusion, we can win the Europa league; indeed, it isn’t about a choice. We are condemned to win it! After that, Arsene Wenger will be wise to take the option to leave on a high. If the Board think differently, most gooners will merely count down the days until his contract expires.

  • Oh, on point 6, I do think the back 4 suits the skills set of the players we have on show and also allows us play one more offensive player, which is how we like to play. Unless we add some steel in midfield and CB, I won’t be surprised if we continue with that structure next season.

  • 1) Xhaka – I’m still not convinced that he can make it in big games consistently. His best big game performances have occured against Chelsea which I connect with “Italian pace” of their midfield (as seen with Milan). Teams like Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City will nullify his impact with their strong pressing on the ball. Maybe if Xhaka had a top defensive midfielder next to him, he’d look better.

    2) Mkhitaryan is a tricky one. He has been really efficient since arrival but his goals and assists have come in games we have won. Sanchez was a game-changer, a player capable of scoring goals against the tide. Maybe Mkhitaryan is a Wengerball player and Sanchez is more of a heavy-metal player who’d be more effective in Klopp’s system than at Maureen’s suffocation-of-football system.

    3) I’m a fan of Ospina but he is not reliable enough and neither is Čech. Oblak would be a dream.

    4) Agreed to the certain extent. I see Elneny as a squad player, not as a member of Best XI.

    5) Agreed.

    6) Very likely.

    7) In addition to point 6), absolutely.

    8) I’m still not convinced that we can as it’s Atletico’s trophy to lose. RB Leipzig, SS Lazio and Marseille have similar chances to ours.

    @Goonereris: Atletico (no “h” in their name) are 2nd, four points ahead of Real Madrid in La Liga Santander and only behind unbeatable Barcelona. They have notorious Diego Costa available for the knockout stage while we don’t have Aubameyang. One of the best goalkeepers in the world, tight defence, organized midfield and attack of Griezmann and Costa, all that managed by one of the best managers (if not the best) in the world… I can’t see us beating them unless someone else catches them on their bad day twice.

  • I’m feeling a bit better (out on the snow a bit, in fact…) and I too am liking this post AND a lot of the comments that the regulars have come back with… In fact, I’d actually like to engage with Admir… Read on… 😉

    I WISH I could, like others, just focus on TA’s observations. Unfortunately, I find I just can’t get past some of the over-arching stumbling blocks surrounding our club and football more generally. So, since we’ve got the Int’l break–i.e., no new input for observations of actual Arsenal play–I’m tempted to say my piece–one last time–then crawl back into my happy cave. Life is, I fear, better (for me) when I get myself away from (those mega) issues surrounding my football club…

    (On the other hand, if anybody were up for it, we COULD discuss these philosophical–or cultural or political–issues that I keep coming back around to whenever I do spend a bit of time thinking about Arsenal… My hunch, however, is that folks MUST be getting tired of my sh*t…)

    First off–And to remind folks, I blame the (woeful, never should ref another match) goal line ref for DW’s “penalty,” but, geez, people, if you cannot see a manipulation of the situation (I won’t say dive, even if it should be screamed…) by one Mr. Welbeck, I don’t know what can be done. It’s a bit like saying, “Yeah, I know, the fix is in, but hey, it’s my team that’s winning so I’m gonna look the other way.” It’s what’s happening in politics, so why not in football? On that note, I doubt Mr. Putin is gonna go so far as to try to fix matches to get his national team to win this summer in the WC. (Nope, Argentina and cementing the legacy of Leo Messi seems the narrative that’s got the early momentum…), BUT, CKSA Moscow over Arsenal in the Europa league seems like it could be a very satisfying little win for Vlad and his fellow, er, manipulators… On the other hand, our Usmanov connection could be just the ticket…

    If (as some suggest…even just) the draw in the CL makes it unfair (if not corrupt), shouldn’t we be able to call out unfairness/corruption when it rears its head, even (in the extremely rare case) when it happens to make us feel better?… A level playing field seems important in sports (if not in all aspects of life). Otherwise, what’s the point?…

    And then, what about full-fledged support? Is that important or is it OK for supporters to hedge their bets?

    Personally, I think this Arsenal team IS already strong enough to have a VERY good chance at winning the Europa League (and winning promotion back to the CL and competing adequately at that level) and THAT is the result for which I’m hopeful. In fact, it’s my belief that with just a “normal” level of (true) support, we’d be right there at our natural level (4th in England, top 10 or thereabouts in Europe). Instead, we’re mired in a toxic mess where many supporters are ambivalent about usual measures of success (you know, winning matches, trophies, etc., etc.). I’m not sure if it’s because of my admiration for AW but I just can’t see the rationale in “silver-lining thinking” and feeling any sort of pleasure in us bad results because then the path might be clearer towards the REAL victory–happier times (maybe?, for sure?…) under a new manager. I’d love to take a poll, but this seems FAR more important for (most? or at least the loudest…) Gooners than actually winning any single game, competition or trophy. People keep suggesting that I can have it both ways, and that this year it’s different. Sorry, I don’t see it. AW–as he should, IMO–believes in himself and is ALREADY digging in about seeing out his contract, making the “go out on a high note” notions seem FAR more fanciful than last season (when he didn’t even HAVE a contract….). Sorry, Gooners, but from my perspective you’re gonna have to pick your poison. Root for us (AND the manager…) to win, or (actually) hope that we lose to get somebody new… (Already we’ve had one post about our preferred “style of next manager,” with surely many more to come about actual candidates. In fact, over the break here, it seems a “good” topic, I guess. TA, do you mean J-Low as your Beatle-haired guy?… Seems to me he’s got a busy summer ahead, no?…)

    This is where I need more from Admir. (And cheers for reading to this point… 😀 ) I know you’ve always like Simeone. Is it to the point that you support Atleti (over Arsenal) or do you just wish for him to come to our club? More questions: Why hasn’t he moved on (to a bigger club)? To my mind there’s a definite defiant (Spursy?…) quality to those who support Madrid’s 2nd team which maybe allows a (very) negative approach to football that wouldn’t sell at a bigger club. (Please note, for example, all the recent talk making ManMoo’s exit from the CL even worse than it would be under a less pragmatic coach…) That said–except for failing to get out of their CL group this season–Atleti most certainly seem to be overachieving once again this season and I would agree that they should be installed as Europa League favorites. (Their 3rd striker, El Nin(y)o Torres, isn’t bad either…) As I’ve said before, I hope we can avoid them until the final (in Lyon, France) where the shorter match in a venue that might be supportive of OUR manager could favor us. The Jose Calderon seems a (very) tough place to play and the Emirates is–at best–a nervous stadium, with much of the home support quick to turn on its own team, if they bother to show up…

    So, for me, we need to straighten these issues out (“Easy. Wenger Out…” I know, I know…) and then I’m happy to argue the particulars. And, just like sacking the manager, I’m (at least somewhat) loathe to talk about who we could live without going forward (and, I actually hope they can do a job for the English team–in this round of friendlies and maybe even in Russia… 😉 ) while I’m more excited about arguing to try and get folks behind some of the (more exotic) fellows who seem (to me) to (regularly) play (a whole lot) better but take more (endless and usually undeserved) stick. First things first, however. Is the game played fairly (or should we even care, as long as it’s our team that comes out on top), AND, do we win by winning (OR by losing)? Sorry, but for me, these things seem important…

    On the other hand, if folks are happy to ignore these questions, maybe I can go my own way…and maybe pop back in when the games resume…

    Until then!

    Happy Monday!

  • “This is where I need more from Admir. (And cheers for reading to this point… 😀 ) I know you’ve always like Simeone. Is it to the point that you support Atleti (over Arsenal) or do you just wish for him to come to our club?”

    I would be thrilled if he arrives to our club. I would never support any other club over Arsenal or against Arsenal and I see fans who want Arsenal to lose games just to get rid of Wenger very stupid. You can’t cheer for the opponents, hope for your team to lose and then blame the manager for fulfilling your wish.

    Simeone is a champion. He won the league & cup double with Atleti as a player (1995-96, against Cruyff’s Barcelona). Then he left Atleti for Internazionale, won UEFA Cup with the Italians but lo scudetto was always out of their hands. In 1999-2000 he was part of the biggest transfer in the world at the time – Lazio got around 25 million pounds and Simeone for Christian Vieri. It turned out to be a masterstroke…for Lazio. Simeone won the league & cup double with Lazio while scoring crucial goals (in the cup final against Inter and, more importantly, in the league victory at Delle Alpi against Juventus) as a defensive midfielder while Vieri’s Inter won shit all. After his playing days, he won the Argentinian league with Estudiantes before starting the revival of Atleti (who had even suffered the ignominy of relegation after Simeone’s departure). At Atleti, he found a rather poor team close to relegation zone and turned it into a safe No. 3 of Spanish football, won La Liga Santander and UEFA Cup once each while reaching two Big Cup finals (with two unlucky defeats but that’s part of Atleti DNA – whoever remembers Schwarzenbeck’s goal back in 1970s knows what I mean).

    “More questions: Why hasn’t he moved on (to a bigger club)? To my mind there’s a definite defiant (Spursy?…) quality to those who support Madrid’s 2nd team which maybe allows a (very) negative approach to football that wouldn’t sell at a bigger club. (Please note, for example, all the recent talk making ManMoo’s exit from the CL even worse than it would be under a less pragmatic coach…) That said–except for failing to get out of their CL group this season–Atleti most certainly seem to be overachieving once again this season and I would agree that they should be installed as Europa League favorites. (Their 3rd striker, El Nin(y)o Torres, isn’t bad either…) As I’ve said before, I hope we can avoid them until the final (in Lyon, France) where the shorter match in a venue that might be supportive of OUR manager could favor us. The Jose Calderon seems a (very) tough place to play and the Emirates is–at best–a nervous stadium, with much of the home support quick to turn on its own team, if they bother to show up…”

    It’s a good question – why he hasn’t moved to a bigger club yet? I can only guess. I reckon he sees Madrid as his home. He is both a playing and a managerial legend of the club (Atleti hadn’t won the league for 18 years – between his playing and managerial days – just like Arsenal hadn’t in the period between playing & managerial legend Graham), he lives in a country where his first language is the official one and, I guess again, he sees unfinished business there with two unsuccessful attempts to win Big Cup. Before this season, Real Madrid had been responsible for FOUR consecutive knock-outs of Atleti in Big Cup. Win Big Cup with Atleti and you become the ultimate legend, the exorcist of 1974 curse and you can write the number on the cheque at any club in the world (bar City, of course).

    I agree that Lyon would be the least evil of all venues to play against them, especially if we give CSKA a good beating – then Lyon fans might cheer for us even louder than they would cheer for their former talisman Lacazette. It’s easier to catch them on the wrong foot in 90 minutes, as you say.

    As for negative approach… I see his team more of a disciplined one than the negative one. Simeone plays 4-4-2 which would suit our two expensive strikers perfectly (and he wanted to sign Laca last summer but the transfer ban screwed that one up). Over the years his team has knocked out Chelsea and Barcelona in games they had needed to score. Yes, when that disciplined approach doesn’t work, the fans take that as aggravating circumstances when delivering a verdict on the manager. I wouldn’t compare SImeone (who I had hated as a player for many reasons) with Maureen because Cholo doesn’t have a complex linked to his playing days as Maureen does. Unlike Maureen who sees football as a chess-game, Simeone understands how players see the game. Whilst Pep Guardiola’s POV is of a player who was there to create and was hand-picked by the biggest football mind of all times as a leader on the pitch (hence fantastic – and expensive – football his teams play), Simeone’s POV is of a player who was there to win the ball/organize the defence against the biggest football mind of all times (IIRC, he was occasionally used as a sweeper by Luigi Simoni).

  • 17HT if i wrote a post as long as that I would have to consider publishing as a book. I am sure someone else will come back with more specific answers but think I can safely say that Kev at least will have some similar thoughts. Much of this has been said before, but here goes. I never decided to support Arsenal, it was in my genes. My Dad was a huge fan of Herbert Chapman and when I started to support them they were mid table at best. It wasn’t until 1970 when we actually won something, a sort of Europa Cup equivalent when we beat Anderlect in the final over two legs. A year later the Charlie George goal at Wembley sealed the double, which was brilliant. From 1971 we had some really good teams. George Grahams era and then Wenger culminating in the Invincibles. Unfortunately shortly after this we saw the huge cash injections into Chelsea and then City which in effect knocked Arsenal off the rails in my opinion. Following the move from Highbury we had been clearly told that there would be a period of financial consolidation. But at the end of that period we would be ready to compete with the best.

    Now I know that we won 3 F A cups and most teams would love to have achieved this, but….. in my opinion anyway none of these (modern) teams compared to the great teams we had seen at Highbury. The Bergkamps, Henrys, Ljunbergs, Mclintocks, Vieiras Petits, Wrights, Charlie George,Pat Jennings David Seaman and many more . Now you might suggest that I am an old fart and you would of course be correct, but during this latter period on a few occasions we have had a chance to go that extra yard, but Wenger has made some bad decisions. When we have needed a decent keeper, he has got a average midfielder. When we were desperate for a defensive midfielder, he would buy a forward etc. this season our defence has looked very leaky and he has been buying centre forwards.

    I am not saying he is a bad manager, far from it I love the guy to death, but time marches on and instead of competing with the best we are playing 2nd fiddle to the hated Spurs. To clarify Spurs have won nothing for Yonks, but man for man they look to have a stronger and certainly more injury free squad. Personally I will never be content until we challenge for the title again. Maybe that won’t happen for many years, but I will always cheer the team on whatever. This season has been a non event in my books. Even if we win the Europa cup it seems to have lost the aura (is that the right word) of winning the cup itself and appears to be seen as a back door into the champions league. I hate to use the word Money, but unless we spend tons of it, which we probably dont have, we will be looking at the last sixteen of the champions league at best.

    Dont know if that makes a lot of sense, but that a high level look at the way I feel.

  • Admir: @Goonereris: Atletico (no “h” in their name) are 2nd, four points ahead of Real Madrid in La Liga Santander and only behind unbeatable Barcelona. They have notorious Diego Costa available for the knockout stage while we don’t have Aubameyang.

    Thanks for the spot and correction. Frankly, didn’t even pay attention to that small detail till now. However, I still maintain they are not the very hard-to-beat side they were and do show weaknesses we can exploit. We are quite capable of raising our game to match the opposition and should do so in a one-off game (I hope we don’t have to meet them until the final). You’ve reeled out their credentials and that of the manager but I recall it was young Rob Holding who kept the raging Diego Costa at bay when we beat Chelsea to win the FA cup. When we need to, we cage him. Atletico Madrid have already lost 3 games in La Liga which means they can be beaten; they also don’t score too many (while also very stingy at the back) and if it is a one off game, I feel we will carry the day. They may yet lose their quarter final match-up……

  • ….as so we may too, but you get the picture. Besides, being only 4 points ahead of Real Madrid with about 9 games still to play will mean they will be under serious pressure these days. No wonder, they lost to the 6th placed team in their last league game. Considering how far back Madrid was before now, to reduce that deficit to 4 is telling.

  • At the quarter final stage I’d say ‘any number can win’. It could take as little as 2 prettier wins, even two prettier draws to get to the final. And a final is always like a throw of the dice.

    In case this arguement based on the whims of football doesn’t satisfy, this is my extra contribution.

    The Arsenal of the last three games have an identifiable personality. That’s like saying we now know the team that would turn up. I would have joined in arguing that 3 games only, after this long in the season, cannot be a marker of a reliable change in the character of the team except that this team is truly different. What do I mean?

    1) The team can never play this way with Alexis.
    2) Mkhi has given the team greater directness and cohesion.
    3) The Ramsey-Wilshere combo is a feature of only this “new team” and is possibly responsible for the new form of Xhaka which by itself is another factor.
    4). A poorly appreciated factor is Ospina at goal. Majority feel that Cech is a better keeper, which I think he is with the old definition of a keeper (the man placed between the post to prevent the ball from going into the net with any part of his body). The modern keepers role has expanded. He is now also part of the attacking team. Cech is awful there, leading the EPL in errors that led to goal. Those goals are not the issue here. It is the cost in confidence to the defence that is the issue. They play out of the back psychologically with one option less which if viewed critically is a terrible handicap to a passing team like Arsenal. Cech is a spanner in the works for a passing-out-of-the-back team. We are able to pass out of the rear more confidently with Ospina as the keeper.
    4) These above ingredients are enough to alter the character of a team which then begins to feed on its own new identity and success.

    What am trying to say is that we might actually have a “new” team whose performance level could make us the favorite for the Europa Cup. We got a good chance beyond ‘any number can win’.

  • Good to hear (and see) you are feeling a bit better, Seventeenho.

    Your long commentary is you in a large nutshell. I think you know my views on the points you raised by now. Re “Sorry, Gooners, but from my perspective you’re gonna have to pick your poison. Root for us (AND the manager…) to win, or (actually) hope that we lose to get somebody new…”

    Do we? I will always hope my team wins and so will do the vast majority of supporters. The position that Wenger is not our best option as our manager is a structural one. We must and can do better than being sixth, hopelessly far away from winning the league as well as finishing in the top-four. We have a great set of players and the manager is not getting the best out of them, both individually, as a group and tactically. There has been a lack of balance in our team all season, and that is just not good enough. The FA Cup elimination was embarrassing too.

    This has nothing to do with the level of support for the manager and the players. In general, Gooners are loyal and intelligent supporters, especially at the Home of Football and at Away Games. There just is a general realisation that we need a better manager to move to the next level and supporters are waiting for this to happen. That doesn’t mean they want Arsenal to lose. Some may but that is not the majority, so why give them the constant attention?

  • 6. Yes Total, in the main we’re a back-four team, Wenger is wedded to that system and I believe only went to 3 at the back out of exasperation. Its been a short term fix but it’s a useful tool to have in your box and why not?
    Chambers, Holding and Mavropanos all could be the guys to supplement and eventually succeed Koscielny and Mertesaker. Kozzer still has a lot of football in him it’s just up to the manager to manage his game time, maybe use him more sparingly and against certain opponents.
    We also need to retain a certain number of English players in our squad, which begs the question why Wenger tried to sell Chambers last summer.

  • 7. It’s possible that Hector has been carrying an injury for a few weeks, we are light in that dept as Wenger has released two right backs this season and put a huge workload on Bellerin.
    The rumours linking him to Juventus, Barcelona etc could well be the work of his agent, looking for a pay-rise/ contract extension and a nice fee for himself to smooth the troubled waters and facilitate the deal?
    I like Kolasinac, he’s had an up and down campaign so far, but I’d like to see where we are with him after next season.
    Nacho Monreal only just turned 32 last month, that isn’t too old.
    He is one of those players who seems naturally fit, rarely gets injured, can fill in pretty well anywhere across the defence, is a leader by example and an important voice in the team.
    I can see no reason why he couldn’t give us 2 or 3 more good years service.
    Full back is where I can see Maitland-Niles operating from for a another season or two, gaining experience, learning to concentrate better and developing his game.

  • 8. Total, the 5-1 aggregate win over AC Milan was a great result, built on the foundations of our 2-0 win in the San Siro. But an opponent with a more ruthless attack may have punished Arsenal who despite some improvement still showed that looseness in defence.
    CSKA are going to be very difficult opposition, you could see they aren’t mugs by the way they punished Lyon in the last round and we have a terrible record in the old Soviet Union, no wins to date on our travels so we’ll need a good win, also a clean sheet and a decent lead (3-0) to take behind the Iron Curtain from the 1st leg.😉
    The whole tie has elements of a Cold War spy film, you know the Ipcress File or The Spy who came in from the Cold. Well that how the media will see it I reckon.
    Yeah TA, we’re gonna need Lacazette, especially in the home game, but I’m really looking forward to it, the whole situation with the club reminds me of 1993/94.

  • Hey Retsub, yes mate I get exactly where you’re coming from, football is changing, has changed. Arsenal aren’t a football club anymore, drawing its support mainly from the Greater London area, you know essentially from North and South-East London.
    It isn’t a working class sport anymore either, not in England or London anyway, it’s very cosmopolitan, middle class, drawing it fans from all over the world, lots of woman as well, it’s a far more civilised experience. But the crowd isn’t as vociferous as it once was, it waits for the team to motivate it rather than the crowd motivating the players. It can be a sobering experience in the Emirates from an atmosphere perspective.
    It’s also a massive business, Arsenal FC is a brand, a part of a worldwide conglomerate whose owner is remote and seems to not be involved. Retsub it’s part of how it’s changed in England, for good or bad, nice stadiums, decent toilet facilities, hot dogs, Coke, popcorn, mate we could be at the Dodgers Stadium, 🙂 where’s the geezer selling roasted peanuts?

    I think the experience has turned off a lot of old hard core fans, I know of many who still meet up at Highbury on match days, have a drink with mates in their usual pub and then watch the game on TV, resolutely refusing to put more money into the pocket of KSE.
    I know of many fans who only go to away games for similar reasons, I know of 5 people who gave up their season tickets last summer, all of them come from Highbury and Islington, love the club but have grown tired of the inertia from above, as they see it. I have a lot of sympathy with that view Retsub.

  • Judging from by the quality of our squad and the way we currently play, we cannot win the UEFA CUP, unless luck is on our side. We need to work a lot harder to achieve that, both the manager and the players. The remaining teams are all quality teams, thou we got the best draw. Apart from A.Madrid, the team I fear most is Salzburg.
    If we win the cup, Wenger will tell us that the team is strong enough and can compete at all levels, so therefore he does not need to buy. This is the heart break we face in every transfer window.
    We all know that this team needs a major surgery, we lack at all fronts.
    First, we need to get a quality right back to compete with Bellerin. Bellerin’s problem is lack of competition.
    We also need a quality center back in the mould of Kalidou Koulibaly, then loan out Holding, Monreal can alternate between the left back position and center back, while we buy Ryan Sessegnon as a left/wing back.
    We also need to buy a defensive midfielder like Steven Nzonzi.
    We need to sign 2 wingers, I will prefer MALCOM and Julian Draxler.
    Lastly, we need to sign a young but tough striker like Mousa Dembele from Celtic, to compete with the likes of AUBA and LACA.
    I will also like Ospina to replace Cech from the beginning of next season.

    After all these signings, some players need to be sold it loaned:
    WELBECK — sold.
    NILES — loaned.
    HOLDING — loaned.

    What do you guys think?

  • Steve, I think we don’t need to worry about our attack anymore. A full back or two for me and hopefully a beast of a DM and a Campbellesque CB.

  • Kev, I am loving your detailed and enthusiastic comments. 🙂

    Mavropanos: here is hoping he will be really, really good. I Holding out for Rob though! 😉

  • Hey fellas… Cheers for the responses, esp. Admir’s excellent history lesson about Diego Simeone–a coach who has stayed with a club for a long time, and…done quite well. It could be a clash of two such guys if Atletico and Arsenal meet in this here ropy cup… I hadn’t considered the Lacazette back at Lyon angle… Indeed, the final would be the ideal spot.

    I ALWAYS love the long-term perspectives of guys like Retsub and Kev, so big cheers there. The game HAS changed in massive ways, and Arsenal, though well positioned to stay in the upper echelons and be a solid “brand,” may not have such a legitimate chance to win the (only) two trophies that (seem to) count. We’ll be first in the table (alphabetically) come August, so we can always dream…

    TA, I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree about the role of the support and how it affects our results. Kev, I think, sums it up very, very well in his comment. I still don’t get how a crowd that is basically saying, “Here we are, now entertain us” equates to anything akin to “the home of football,” and, I believe, that Arsenal–under AW or the next (bunch of) manager(s)–is going to struggle (and continue to under-perform) until they can go into matches knowing it’s not 11 v 12. On the other hand, I think you’re correct, and that I need to give it a rest…

    Likewise, probably, with the stuff about fairness (and corruption) in the game. (Alas, on this topic, I found nobody who wanted to engage…) To me, like supporting your team fully, it seems important to stand up for what’s right, even if it might mean calling out some of your own for abusing the rules, manipulating the refs or (dennis forbid) otherwise trying to rig the competitions unfairly in your own favor.

    But, again, these sorts of worries are MY problems and it’s not quite right for me to foist them on anybody else, and, in truth, I envy those who can put them to one side and debate the specifics of what they see (i.e., TA’s excellent observations, the actual reason we are talking here)… Or (even) go that extra step and actually believe they could manage our club (with unique and always untestable ideas about players, tactics and the like) while still riding the emotional roller coaster of results and taking each one as a gospel truth. Crazy (crazy) stuff, but again, consider me envious…

    I’ll likely feel compelled to trot out all these (sad and tired) “issues” I’ve got, but, for the moment at least, I hope I can give EVERYBODY a break…


  • The question you have to ask yourself, Seventeenho, is why it is so important to you that supporters are as loyal as you are to the team and (especially) the manager.

    Support is at its highest in general:
    When the team/manager punch above their weight
    When they give everything
    Play entertaining football
    When the long-term view is that we are making progress/going places
    Big prices are being won

    At the moment, the vast majority feel, belief, witness etc the opposite. I fully understand the double function of support: good, loyal, vociferous support will help the team; but the team and manager will have to start the fire and convince the fans that they are capable, willing etc of the above.

    I don’t think we can have a go at fans when they believe the club could do better. They may be wrong or right, depending on what perspective one takes, but they believe they are right and that has to be respected. 🙂

  • Btw The Home of Football is a reference to the quality of football that we have witnessed over the years at Highbury and then at the E. It may not be as good as it once was, although we still have our moments and even games of supreme football, but for sure the best football ever played on British soil has been at those two grounds. Recently, some fine football has also been witnessed at Pool and Citeh, but I still believe we have ‘THOF’! 🙂

  • “To me, like supporting your team fully, it seems important to stand up for what’s right, even if it might mean calling out some of your own for abusing the rules…”
    ~ 17HighburyTerrace

    As in the Spirit of the Game.

    It’s difficult to express to those who have never been imbued– without offering specific insight.
    Folks who haven’t ever lived/competed under the premise– see it as a morality-play, or a holier-than perspective.

    Having played 4-sports as an athlete in high school and college? I was taught how to skirt the rules in all– and downright break them in a couple. Before ‘Ultimate-found-me’ — I had no other way to understand the perspective– until I was shown.

    The ‘Spirit of the Game’ is a credo written into the rules of the sport of Ultimate; as an excerpt:

    “The integrity of Ultimate depends on each player’s responsibility to uphold the Spirit of the Game, and this responsibility should remain paramount.”

    “Spirit of the Game. Ultimate relies upon a spirit of sportsmanship that places the responsibility for fair play on the player. Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of mutual respect among competitors, adherence to the agreed upon rules, or the basic joy of play. Protection of these vital elements serves to eliminate unsportsmanlike conduct from the Ultimate field. Such actions as taunting opposing players, dangerous aggression, belligerent intimidation, intentional infractions, or other ‘win-at-all-costs’ behavior are contrary to the Spirit of the Game and must be avoided by all players.”
    ~ From Section 1. Introduction, item B.


  • Welbeck made sure the referee saw that he was being touched and therefore being impeded/put off. It was not enough to fall over as he did and it was unsportsmanlike in the pure sense, but let’s not make a big song and dance about it. There was contact and the contact had impact on Welbeck. I rather he stood strong but I understand what he did and why he did it, and it is a much greyer area than one or two are trying to make out. The contact was possibly enough for Danny to believe that the chance was gone, as he was being put off by it. He then made sure everybody knew about it. A bit bad.

    Danny is of course from the Red Nose school and the rulebook reads: if a defender makes contact with your body and not the ball, go down. Rule Nr2: if there was no contact but it could have looked like there was contact, go down. Rule Nr3: if there is no contact by the defender, you make contact but make it look like they did it. 😀

  • The atmosphere at English football grounds changed forever when the terraces were banned, you only have to see the raucous atmosphere at Bundesliga grounds and in particular Dortmund and Schalke to see the difference.
    All seater stadiums brought not only high ticket prices but attendances made up of mainly fans with season tickets. This has driven away many fans who cannot afford the inflated prices it costs to go to watch Premier League football, again compare with the Bundesliga.

    This has seen a change in the make up of the crowds at Arsenal where it has been gentrified as a new class of more affluent fan has replaced the old type, many of these news fans aren’t as vocal and thus you see a dilution of atmosphere at stadiums and in particular in the London area.

    This had been happening at Highbury before we moved, hence the ‘Highbury library’ tag.

    Of course clubs love season tickets, they have a guaranteed windfall every summer and in general, when you’ve paid for your ticket, you go, even if you’re unhappy with the direction that the club is heading.
    The downside of course is when you’re paying £60/£80/£100+ for a ticket, you want to see a team perform, you demand it, especially on the wages these stars earn now, no longer are fans, especially the new fans, so patient.

    Therefore when a fan, whose paid a lot of dough for his ticket, doesn’t turn up for the game and maybe on numerous occasions, it’s not because of the snow, or because it’s Mothers Day, or that the opposition are duff and Arsenal can’t get into the top four, it’s because they’re seriously pissed off with how things are going and feel that nobody is listening, so their only avenue of protest is not to turn up.

    Those 30,000 crowds have made the owner sit up and take notice, that’s why Josh is in the UK.
    It also makes the club look stupid when they announce tickets sold rather than the true attendance and it’s all about the money in the end.

  • Great insight of the shift in the behaviour of the fans over the years Kev. It is quite fun reading the different insights during the Lully Interlull. Maybe one of the most boring interlulls.

    For me, the past few years was not like the crowd of old. We were more understanding and will not get pissed so easily. Then we bought better players and the fans thought we will be better, but we did the same. So, what has changed? More plastic fans? Or did we crave for more?

    I believe that when we bought Alexis and Ozil the fans craved for the EPL and the Champions League, and all the Cups that we can get our hands on. Those are what we called Plastic Fans. They are the very fans that dump the club after a bad spot.

    So, when the players mentioned that real fans stick to the team regardless of the performance, I agreed upon it. That is why we have this blog to talk about our favourite club, and vent anger when something is a little wrong and after that rethink about what could have been and stick by the players and the club.

    That is what this blog is about. For real fans. By real fans.

  • @njk84sg: Before Özil and Sanchez, Arsenal had gone through years of austerity, losing best players year after year, but those were years of HOPE (beautiful Wengerball). Özil’s arrival should have been a major boost (and, indeed, there was a serious improvement – three cups and a second-place finish is not bad for any club) but it turned out to be one step that wasn’t followed with other steps. The biggest opportunity was missed in 2015 when our only signing was Cech. We should have signed a central midfielder and a striker to go all the way to the title in the year when all our rivals were going through transitional year. We didn’t and the best chance to win the league was missed. Hence Sanchez becoming more of a frustrated than a frustrating figure at the Emirates.

    “WILL FREEDOM ITSELF SING AS SLAVES HAVE SUNG OF IT?” is one of the most beautiful verses in the Serbian poetry. Somehow it catches the difference between the feeling in The Years of Hope and the one in The Years of Özil.

  • Admir, will you say the same if we reallt bought a CM and a world class striker like Auba then? It is not the player itself my friend. It is the mentality of the whole team.

    There is a saying: the team is at best the weakest person on the pitch. If everyone has a good mentality and a strong mind, we can win every game. When one player is not performing well he will bring the whole squad down.

    So, will it matter if we bought those players? I don’t discount the possibility, but it is a low possibility that it will work.

  • OK, up early and finally feeling like my energy levels are back to around normal… Unfortunately, today the snow-pack is enduring compaction by rain… Seems a good day for some musing/writing…

    Starting with last things first. JK and Kev talking about the “fans” is one of the wildest juxtapositions of perspectives I can possibly imagine. Without TV and the internet there is (simply…) NO WAY that JK could ever have been an Arsenal supporter. Kev, however, has probably been watching Arsenal since before such things existed…

    That last bit should come with the biggest winky face ever, of course. Our man in the cab doesn’t pre-date television, he’s (simply…) a supporter who grew up with the game being watched in the stadium by fans who attended the matches and then, er, discussed (debated, fought about, etc.) their impressions face to face. As he so eloquently describes, post-Hillsborough, things in the stadia are (VERY) different. They’re probably even more different due to the technologies that enable people like JK (and me and everybody else) to follow the game (and the club).

    In other words, it’s a sport bound up in tradition now being driven by a whole new way of consuming it. Billionaires buy up the clubs AND (usually, or at least often) pour money into them AND their investment value just goes up and up and up. That’s television and the internet at work. Who foots the bill? The folks who spend big hunks of money for those season tickets. The rest of us? We just feed off the frenzy and spend our time (and energy and heart-ache) watching the matches and blurting out our impressions. Or maybe we trust the “real” fans… Where’s Claude? (Where’s Piers?)… As they’ll tell you, them folks ain’t plastics, JK… In fact, IF ONLY the club had their passion… Rolly eyes…

    TA is probably correct. The important thing is that supporters believe they’re right… So, in the end, if there is no truth–except for whatever a person makes up–I guess I’ll have to believe my own…at least if I hit the “post comment” box… (So, if you’re reading this, it must mean that I believe what I’m saying this morning… Oh, if only you guys could read all my un-posted comments… 😮 …)

    Back to my other issue. Spirit of the game and rejection of unfair/corrupt practices (including English lads schooled in the Dark Arts). Well done, JW for exposing my personal background in the (philosophical) importance of “spirit of the game,” even if it seems extremely quaint in a post-truth, post-self-reflection, winner-take-all-moment of Late (very late, I fear…) Capitalism. Qatar (PSG) bought Neymar (and M’bappe) but Abu Dhaby (Man City) look better placed to win the Champions League. (Both clubs, by the way, are winning their domestic titles–and some cups–as mere afterthoughts…) Meanwhile, Dubai, home of Emirates Airlines, wins just about all the shirt sponsorships… Will it come down to refs and dives or can we just enjoy the draw and some good matches (I like only one of City and Pool in the semis, I hate to say…) and some good goals? With the leagues (except Italy, perhaps) already won, I’ll (probably) watch. If the CL WASN’T fixed, wouldn’t that be the bigger surprise?…

    And what about that tournament in Russia? Aren’t there some England matches to watch? What about the favorites going into the WC? Who do you like? Ozil (and our next manager? TA, you never gave me an answer on the guy with the Beatles haircut…) and Germany; Giroud and France? Spain? Brazil? Messi’s (mess of a) team? Or a giant upset? Belgium? Betting on the Russian National team, doesn’t seem the worst punt, I fear… Iceland, I fear, is a step too far… PE and ‘Eris… What say you guys about Iwobi leading Nigeria all the way?…

    In my view, this is the BEST interlull–maybe ever. No Arsenal matches after three (count ’em…) wins on the trot. Hope abounds. It remains possible that our Moo-rinho-esque, back entrance for a seat at the party could pan out. And, if it doesn’t, even better. Then we get Wenger Out–and take those academy guys (Bellerin and Iwobi seem particularly unwanted…) with you!! It’s the interlull, we can (say that our shiny new manager is gonna) buy ANYONE!!! Were gonna win teh leauge!!! That’s the great thing about making up your own truth, there can be multiple versions AND contingencies… Right, TA?… 😉

    So, good times. No Arsenal matches, check. Alexis and Moo-U AND Spurs are out of the CL, check (and the PL and they must play each other in the FA Cup semis). Unfortunately for those who ARE local and might still remember 1966 (Kev, Retsub, others?…) and might still have some (English Nat’l team) hope for Russia, Spurs and ManU guys seem like the bulk of that team. Stay strong, Mates…

    So, in the final analysis I have to wonder if watching football is best when there’s (actually…) none to watch…

  • Oops, missed a couple of those comments while contemplating to post or not to post my (as always, oversized) one…

    Admir (when it’s not late or post-match blame-mongering) YOU are the best… Both in terms of breadth of football knowledge and some human perspective… That is a great quote as it encapsulates human nature and the fact that dreams are ALWAYS superior to reality…

    Rewriting history is part of constructing dreams or at least easy solutions (dreams) for the future…in my opinion, of course… The buys of Ozil and Alexis (Spanish giant rejects, let’s not forget)… WERE big moments for Arsenal. They disappointed, of course, but, unlike ManU we don’t just keep on buying and buying and buying. We can debate as we want why we’re more austere, but we tend to stick with our guys and NEED them to come good rather than run through them.

    Right now, we NEED Mhki to come good whereas Moo-U discarded him with a sneer to help get Alexis…

    If it keeps raining, I might even think about writing a post on this topic…informed (at least a bit) by your (Admir’s) obs about Alexis being a “game changer” (rather than just a flat track bully or passenger type like Mhki, perhaps?…)


  • Thanks Total, it really concerns me where the future generations of Arsenal fans are going to come from, going to football is a ritual, or it used to be, now people who’ve been priced out find other things to do on match days.

    How on earth can a father, who is struggling to pay his bills, be able to afford to take his children to Arsenal? Even if they’re Junior Gunners the prices are simply prohibitive.

    You can’t even take your kids to see the reserves or youths anymore, not unless you fancy a long trek out to Borehamwood. I used to take both my sons to Highbury to watch the Football Combination on a Saturday. If possible we could get over to our wonderful old stadium during the week to see an FA Youth Cup game or the Southern Junior Floodlit Cup.
    A fish n chip supper then the trip home where we’d chat about the young players we’d seen. They grew up understanding how you had to have patience with the young players, they had an affinity with the club, their club, not a bloody franchise, KFC is a franchise.

  • Many a definition keep changing with the changing times. Nevertheless there is always a common thread that links all. The constant in the change. That changeless that defines a real fan is passion. With it you’d ride to hell and back!

  • The way I’ve heard it expressed–that worked for me–was that the people in the stands are (quickly) becoming (just) part of the show. If all the money is coming from the television contract (and shirt sales, etc.) shouldn’t the supporters in the stadium get paid for showing up (and wearing the–free–shirts)?…

    It comes down to motivation… Our (billionaire) owner is motivated by his bottom line, thus no free tickets (and no free shirts) and a far less supportive atmosphere than an already handicapped squad (our players are underpaid relative to the very top clubs…) require to do their best. Playing 12 v 11 is always an uphill battle, I fear…

    In lieu of free tickets and shirts, the support wants dominant football. Hmmm…sounds a bit like a chicken and an egg and which came first….

  • Kev, I always like the insights about the young guns (so keep ’em coming)… But I agree that the youth development part of the scheme is an anachronism.

    My understanding is that the money-down-a-hole clubs are doing youth development stuff to balance their books for FFP calculations. Develop players–not for your own team but for sale–is a money maker, while building youth facilities is a write-off. Frankly, why can’t these same clubs play their kids at the big stadiums and write off the costs associated…

    The fact of the matter is that–for the biggest money clubs–all players (at all clubs all over the world) are “on loan.” Pay off the club of record (and the player and his agent) and that player is yours. It’s an oligarchy of a handful of clubs, so it all works out. Arsenal are right on the edge of the group, but, again, our ownership (and its management) seem to have eyes on the bottom line…perhaps over the big picture…

    Finally, and not to be overly grim about this, but who have been our (very) best youth development players? Cesc probably, and more recently, Bellerin and Iwobi. I know folks love Jack Wilshere, but it’s (at best) been a (very) long and winding road to his (current) level, which could possibly be as good as it gets… Who am I missing?. In the end, if you do go to watch the kids, it might be in order to say, hey, I saw that guy play once a long, long time ago.

    On that note, Oğuzhan Özyakup, anyone?…

  • 17HT, TA–
    My injection of the ‘Spirit of the Game’ to the thread was more a bridge-building exercise– than either an exposure or excoriation. The other aspect that is notable is the game of Ultimate has no referees– even at the highest level (though passive observers similar to linesman are employed in the sport’s annual National Championship series.).

    My point, was to note that while HT’s perspective might be ‘quaint’ in this day and age of £1B+ clubs? Arsenal are the one football club whose attitudes both on- and off-pitch square most closely with the ideals of the purest sport of which I’ve been a part. Arsene Wenger is possibly the last purveyor of fair play in this game. Can Arsenal maintain its’ values going forward? In a game that becomes less-scrupulous– and more corrupt each passing year?

    Coming from a background of playing morally-compromised sports for (then) half my young life– to have committed myself to one that is squeaky-clean for the next 22 years? The context for recognizing a club’s or an individual’s persona/motivation is a by-product.

    I’ve ‘only’ been a fan of Arsenal for 12, almost 13yrs. But when I saw the lighthouse, the beacon that Wenger was — I recognized it immediately. Know it or not? Arsene Wenger adheres to the Spirit of the Game. Why I support AW unflinchingly.

    We’ll certainly find out once the man who infuses that culture is gone. And once he leaves– it can never be that way again. Ever.

    Doesn’t matter who the ‘next manager’ is.
    Football and its’ fans will be the poorer.


  • Kev that’s a great couple of posts which-sum it all up for me.. no need to add anything.

    17HT to clarify, Cesc was purchased (stolen ) from Barca’s youth system for peanuts and I am fairly sure Bellerin was as well, also Fran Merida I think. I stand to be Corrected but I think the only recent one who has actually made it is Jack. Iwobi in my opinion is still a work in progress. In the past we had lots of successes but not so many these days it seems.

  • Well explained, JW… And, I echo, retsub, I cannot explain the change in Arsenal football, from a local’s perspective any better than Kev did… I can only add my own (perspective, that is)…

    Frankly, it seems kinda grim being a local supporter for all the reasons Kev suggests. Being yanked about by one’s loyalties to shell out for a not-so-cheap season ticket (or even individual ones…) AND not even being given full access to the televised coverage the rest of the world gets… Well, they did that stuff with American football but that was 40 years ago(!!)

    Also…and to bring JK’s contribution back into the mix… Keyboards are made out of plastic…and it costs nothing (but time and energy) to bang away on them…

    I agree about “values” when it comes to AW and fairness (and, as I’ve tried to explain over the last couple of days, we should be very, very proud of what Wenger has done on this front)… When they (values) are just an excuse for beating down the (in-stadium) support for the next quid, I have nothing but sympathy (for the ticket buying support). Sorry, but that’s what sours a (potential) home of football, Mr. Kroenke…

  • Retsub, I think we’re moving into tricky territory when we differentiate between English and foreign academy kids. I can’t be arsed to research when the various players arrived at Arsenal or if they were lured (“stolen”) away from other academies. Unless we want to close the borders and (drastically, IMO) reduce the quality of footballer that can wear our shirt by going all English or all local or however you want to draw the circle, I think, being “inclusive,” if not outright “supportive” (i.e., get behind fine young players like Iwobi and Bellerin, please…and Holding and Chambers and AMN and…) seems the way to go…

    Feel free, of course, to show me the wisdom of a different view, however…

  • Those days are over, Kev. Football is now mega-entertainment with fans all over the world who are (mostly) dreaming of seeing their heroes at the Home of Football one day. It is a new reality and is probably here to stay, I am afraid. I guess if people want to take their family to a game it would have to be at a lower league team now.

  • JW1, thanks and yes it was clear what you were trying to do. A principled discussion is fine with me but the facts should not be dismissed… was all I was saying.

  • retsub, HT–
    The models for competing with the (PSG/City/Chelsea) oil-igarchs are few– but IMO require the methodology that HT describes upthread:

    “My understanding is that the money-down-a-hole clubs are doing youth development stuff to balance their books for FFP calculations. Develop players–not for your own team but for sale–is a money maker…”

    Make no mistake. This is the model which Sven Mislintat, StatDNA (and Sarah Rudd) have been bought and brought aboard to build and make sustainable. The ‘youth academy’ aspect that Arsene was quoted (sometime after this season started) as being important to the club’s future (most shrugged it off at the time to his advancing age) — involves accurately identifying the most-likely-to-succeed (or become most-profitable to sell along) youth prospects at ever younger ages.

    Expect a resurgence in the club’s focus on the youth academies.
    Video-based, digital analytics. Moneyball.


  • Whoa there 17HT. All I was saying that these players were not directly from Arsenals academy. Nothing to do with being local or .english. If we decided to pinch all out players from other academy’s why bother having one in the first place? Whilst AMN may well have come though the Academy. Holding and Chambers were both purchased in the market.

    I was merely pointing out that I don’t think our Academy hasn’t done that well recently. As for not sipporting these fine young players, where the heck did that come from? When Cesc was at Arsenal he was adored by all.

  • Sorry retsub, I guess I’m conflating others (relentless, it seems to me) criticism of Iwobi and
    Bellerin… Patience with academy products (except for maybe Jack but other kids like Eddy, AMN and Nelson also seem highly prized) is going to be limited given Arsenal’s NEED for results. I still believe Wenger did the right thing playing kids in our domestic cup outings (TA will disagree re: the FA cup) and the only problem is that we got too far in the league cup and then switched the approach. Just my view, of course…

    TA, I think you’re kinda right about lower teams for family outings, though I got to see the BEST TEAM IN THE WORLD (Manchester City) back in 2006 (at Charlton, but back when they were sh*t). The tickets were 15 pounds each but my family got in for free as they were part of the “educational” program where my wife was teaching and many of her students were uninterested. Frankly, over time, I think ticket prices are going to have to get much (much, much) more flexible, Big club season tix will still be expensive but touts (online or on by the statues) will sell those tickets CHEAP for kids who just want to see the players go through the motions. It just doesn’t look good for all those empty seats to be seen on the telly, I don’t think…

    More for you TA… I’ve got a post (my first in forever) waiting in the bin but it needs some editing and an image of the New. Santi. Cazorla…. It’s been so long since I wrote something that Google seems to have removed easy links to JPEGs from their images… Anyhow, you might want to look it over (and put in the image–and edit the post–or tell me how many words I need to lose). It’s kinda football related, too… Maybe…Or at least it carries on from your 2nd observation in this post…

    Also, it’s fine if my bad (or just very, very tired…) attitude has crossed the line and you think I should just retire from post/comment writing. Perhaps I should’ve written you an e-mail (on this rainy day) instead…

    Anyhow, lemme know…

    J-Low as the new AW?… I pity the fool, but who knows. Personally, I like Steve Bould’s hair quite a bit more… In the meantime, consider me 1000% percent behind the current guy…as I believe we ALL should be… Sorry…

  • Jw1. Whilst a lot What you said about Wenger is true and believe me I love the guy., if he did have one big failing in the early days, it was his “ I didn’t see it attitude”. Whenever Arsenal
    players were involved in any controvertial incidents, time after time, Wenger claimed he never saw it. It did become s little bit of a joke about him and in my opinion he wasn’t that sporting in that respect.

  • No problem 17HT . We go back a number of years now and the odd little punch up never did any harm. Your last question was aimed at TA who I am sure will answer you. But in my opinion if we all agreed all the time, it would be as boring as hell. You shouldn’t stop blogging just because you have a different opinion, just don’t take it personally

  • retsub–
    I do know ‘a little bit’ of that ‘insider joke’. 🙂
    And what I’ll attribute that to– is his pragmatism. Really, no good can come from discussing an event or occurrence of that kind, after-the-fact. Certainly not in detail– certainly not to the press.

    But in the overarching ways you can judge his demeanor and character? The plan to build/finance the stadium to solidify the club’s finances. To stick with the club in his mid-career ‘for better or worse’. His adamance with respect to adherence to FFP. Even now? I feel after-the-fact– upon his retiring from managing– there will be revelations, positive ones, about actions benefiting the club– that went unrecognized and unspoken. I simply can’t imagine the things he has kept bottled-up inside. Pressures he’s had no outlet to reveal or release.

    In the last 10 years, I can only thing of one man who may have handled himself with as much or more grace and aplomb– from ignorance, withering criticism– and at times hatred. That being Barack Obama.


  • Seconded, retsub. Regarding ‘differences’.
    Much of what has made this a most interesting thread HT?
    Is your voice, and your opinions.

    It’s a joy to be challenged– and in return challenging.


  • Only 1000% Seventeenho? 😀

    If you think Wenger is the best for the club going forward then that is your right. How you can still think this is beyond my comprehension. I get the loyalty thing but that is where it stops. I am very excited about starting with a new manager asafp. In the meantime, I will enjoy each game as it comes.

    I have no time for editing but I am sure it is written very well. Will post in a bit.

  • (TotalArsenal says:
    March 21, 2018 at 16:50
    Those days are over, Kev. Football is now mega-entertainment with fans all over the world who are (mostly) dreaming of seeing their heroes at the Home of Football one day. It is a new reality and is probably here to stay, I am afraid. I guess if people want to take their family to a game it would have to be at a lower league team now.)

    Absolutely right TA, football has changed and beyond our wildest dreams.
    It’s the biggest show in town
    It is as huge as you say and as a fan of many years standing, I love to hear the views of all our great fans from all over the world, their passion for Arsenal is as big as any Arsenal fan born in Islington or Hackney, but as fanatical as many of those fans abroad are, as for example in Nigeria where Arsenal are absolutely huge, most of those fans are never going to be in a position to travel to the Emirates and see a game and even if they are, only occasionally.
    The cost and time involved is simply too much.

    So you, as a club, ignores its core support at its peril….

    No club can hope for or expect thousands of ‘tourists’ – and I use that term respectfully,
    to regularilly fill the stadium, it’s just not feasible, and a half empty stadium as we’ve seen recently, lessens the occasion, makes it less of a saleable product.

    So if you drive families away, to lower league clubs, who is gonna pick up the slack?
    Especially when things are not all beer and skittles.

    There were hundreds of tickets available on ticket exchange for some recent games, so where was our worldwide support then? How many fans were able to drop everything and get over to Blighty to grab a seat or two, or even from as far away as Scotland. 😉

    Nothing is forever Total, just ask Serie A…..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s