Arsenal are Riding on their Survival Instinct, but Where is their Killer Instinct?


I can just imagine how, going back about two decades ago when the Arsenal Board conveyed a special meeting on ways to position the club to take the greatest advantage of the nascent global outreach of the Premier League, one smart fellow in the BoD must have come up with a strange name, Arsene Wenger. Arsene who? Equipped with facts and figures, and with a gift of the gab, that smart guy, I imagine, must have swayed the listening Board members from downright scepticism to a bullish mood: they couldn’t wait to see and hear from this great economist who was also managing football on the field. He was, the BoD must have enthused, exactly what the time needed. Football and finance were becoming inseparable and this ‘Arsene Who?’, looked every inch their fused incarnate.

Arsene arrived. The blue print was established. In came Overmars, Vieira, Ljungberg, Henry and others, and in a flash Arsenal football team was winning laurels and rubbing shoulders with the mighty Manchester United. Arsenal, within those few years of Wenger’s appearance on the scene, had attained the critical velocity required to join first class the globalization train with all its commercial benefits. But the BoD, now with the compelling voice of Wenger, also looked around and saw the match day ticket-takings of Europe’s super teams, and knew that with time they would be found out and thrown out. A larger capacity stadium had to be quickly put in place. But that would mean losing the muscle power to bring in the Overmarses, the Vieiras, the Henrys; and so did we start investing in youth, bringing in the Van Persies, the Fabrigases, the Denilsons, the Songs.

That also meant recalibrating our targets. To keep riding on the globalization train, we needed to keep our Champions League appearances going. We redefined our boundaries and in the process reshaped our mentality to being content keeping our heads above the waters of the Europa League and the out-of-Europe competitors. The club lost its juggernaut instinct that created the Invincibles and instead was content to just get by. On the field, we ceased to be a raging fire that consumed everything on its path.

Of course, the idea was that when the new stadium gets going we would again recalibrate our targets upwards and swing back sustainably to the summit of European football. As simple as that, they must have thought, failing to contend fully with the might of something called the force of inertia which force we are now up against. After over 10 years of being content with just keeping head above waters, the BoD has gotten pinned down by this inertia. Psychologically they are finding it difficult switching gears to a new level. The player recruitment policy is head locked by this force. The amount of money to be budgeted on players, existing or as targets, is entangled with this inertia. So, pervading and surreptitious is this force that our coaching crews must be victims also, explaining why our players on the field feel cosy at 0-0 against the opposition, only to wake up when they find themselves trailing with 25 minutes to go as their survival instincts kick in. Gone a long time ago the killer instinct of the Invincibles that smelt blood just at the sight of the prey. We need to become the beast again. Leading 3-0, with the opponent demoralized, is when to get even more ferocious while stinging like a scorpion should not be reserved for only when we are trailing Bournemouth by three goals That’s the difference that makes the champ. The king of the jungle is blessed with plenty of the killer instinct. When it brings down its prey it goes for its jugular. When it gets wounded, reduced to 10 men, it sees its own red and transforms into a wounded lion, a creature of evil omen. It never whimpers.

I can see a ray of hope in this 2016/17 season. The fierce competition of the top six teams is that ray. Dropping out of the top four this season is a spectre that is unrelentingly dwelling with us, so much so, that our survival instinct is all alive driving us forward so fast that we might even breast the tape ahead of all. Crunch time is near. Wenger has already said that every Premier league match remaining is for his team a cup final. I can bet his eyes are fixed on the rear mirror, not straight ahead, a victim still of that powerful force of inertia. Candidly, I don’t mind our winning the championship by default i.e. through a wrong mentality, because the winning of it would provide the impulse that would bring back the killer instinct of our invincible era. Otherwise, it would have become time enough to start talking of a major strategic overhaul in the system that is carefully contrived to unshackle the club from its psychological barrier. We want to ride first class on this amazing EPL transcontinental train. We have tasted it before and nothing else will now do.

images (2)
Double Glory Days

By Pony Eye

‘Giroud is rubbish!’ Why Wenger will not buy a ‘proper CF’


Every time, good old Giroud misses a few chances and we do not win a game, you can count on supporters demanding Arsenal to buy a ‘proper striker’. Many of these supporters do not want to hear about Ollie’s very impressive stats because they want to trust their own eyes, and these simply witness a striker not taking ‘easy’ chances, and then we draw or lose the game and there is only one conclusion to pull: Giroud is not worthy of the Arsenal shirt. Get rid of him you tight-arsed Wenger – spend some fecking money!

Sadly, fans love to focus on Ollie’s limitations rather than his qualities and attributes he brings to the team. They have a certain picture in their mind of what a centre forward at Arsenal should be like. Wenger has worked with and developed some of the finest CFs we have seen in this country: from Wright to Anelka, and from Henry to Van Persie. So, you wonder why he is sticking with Giroud as one of his key CFs in the team?

This season, he is giving Theo a chance up-front, and it even looks like Ollie has become our second choice CF. Theo got injured during the Sheffield Wednesday game, and OG12 has stepped up for us, getting goals against Swansea and Bayern away; but a goalless display against the much despised Spuds was enough to criticise him once more.

So what is wrong with Wenger: why does he keep his trust in Giroud? Why doesn’t he get a ‘typical’ Arsenal striker who can score 25+ PL goals per season? Why does he keep rolling the coins in his richly filled trouser pockets?

I reckon Arsene knows better than any of us what a top quality ‘classical’ CF should be like, and he also knows that Giroud is not one of them. But you might remember Gazidis saying back in 2012 that Arsene allowed Van Persie to go for technical/footballing reasons. Many of us, including me, pooh poohed that comment back then, believing we were simply not able to keep him any longer and did not want to lose out on £24m by forcing him to serve out his contract. With hindsight, I reckon the footballing reason was with reference to our over-reliance on a top quality CF, and the risks that come with this.

In the 2011-12 season, we had become very dependent on Van Persie to win us games. The Dutchman loved to be the centre of attention and he revelled in the responsibility he was given. But Wenger, who at the time had very few alternatives for scoring goals on the pitch and on bench, will have realised that our overdependence on him could have easily ended up in catastrophe. An injury to Van Persie, or a sustained loss of form, could have been disastrous to our (minimum of) top four target. He bought Podolski before Van Persie was sold, and he brought Giroud to replace the Dutchman after the latter had fallen for the beauty of old Red Nose.

Since then we added Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck to our attack, let Podolski go and gave Campbell a chance to proof himself after a number of loan spells. None of these players, nor Theo, are typical CFs in the Henry or Van Persie modes. But what we do so much better now, is spread the goals between a number of players. Giroud (in 620 PL minutes) and Alexis (in 957 PL minutes) have each six PL goals, Theo has two (in 503 PL minutes), Koz has two and then there are a few players with a single goal for the team. Not a bad return for 12 PL games, and we also now know that if one of our key goal scorers has an off day or is injured, you can count on another one filling the void.

This is so much better than being over reliant on one top CF, like Man City were to a large extent last season: once Aguero got injured they quickly became toothless and ended up winning nothing. The same goes for Manchester United, once Van Persie lost his shooting boots two seasons ago, the club struggled to get back to anywhere near the PL top, and Van Gaal still has not got the balance right.

None of our main competitors in the PL have a genuine top, 25+ CF anymore, other than MC, it seems. However, even the Northern Oilers have brought in a number of attackers to spread the goals as well, with Bony, De Bruine and Sterling all joining the club for £100m+ in 2015. Despite this, they only scored two goals in their last three PL games (after netting 24 in just 9 PL games) when they had to manage without the Argentinian firecracker, drawing against MU and Villa and just outscoring Norwich at home with the one goal. Furthermore, MU’s top goal scorer is Mata (!) with four goals currently, and the Chavs do not even feature in the BBC PL top scorers’ list 🙂 . The Spuds have Kane on six goals (in 1040 PL minutes). The question to ask ourselves is, is it really that hard to find a top quality CF or are clubs moving towards spreading the goals over more than one or two players, thus reducing their dependence on the one top quality CF?

Some might say it is simply a matter of having a good replacement on the bench in case your top CF gets injured; but, loose from the fact that top quality CFs are in short supply currently, a quality CF will simply not accept a second fiddle role. Instead, it is far better to spread the goals within the team: we become less reliant on the one individual and our competitors have a far more difficult job in isolating our goal-threat.

Finally, what Giroud, Alexis, Welbeck and Theo all have in common is that they have stamina and work their socks off (yes even Theo is doing this now) – something Podolski could not offer for 90 minutes, and I reckon this was the main reason for letting him go this summer. They are also different attackers with individual strengths that the team is utilising better and better. And together they get the job done, being both unpredictable and highly successful in getting the ball into the net in almost all games we play. I like to believe this is all part of Wenger’s bigger plan.

So, next time we do not win a game, make sure you do not focus on the one individual but realise that it is a collective failure. Times have changed, and the classic 25+ PL goals per season super CF may well be a thing of the past.

By TotalArsenal

Welcome to the new bus! Will ‘Disruption’ ruin Arsenal?

This is something I have been thinking on and observing since the Crystal Palace game. A busy lifestyle has prevented it from being brought out until now.

Have we ever replaced him?
Have we ever replaced him?

Let me start by stating some truths, or “truths” that are well believed:

  • Arsenal either go out pressing high and attacking to play beautiful total football, and are beaten on the counter by top teams like the special one’s boys in blue. Can’t win the big game that way.


  • Arsenal have fixed this with a deeper lying formation that does the same, and also shelters the big German dude from pace and youth, but are still beaten when teams then press us in return.

These all lead to arguments about who is best or better, who fits the EPL, and, in the end, questions about whether Arsene has lost it, and not kept with the times.

I will argue here that something more fundamental has happened. In particular, that both the above approaches, total football and sitting deep to counter, are played by Arsenal. And played well. We have beaten top teams with it, and lesser teams, as well.

However, … And there is always a however, the game has changed… I think…

In past, weaker to mid table teams would sit deep and hope for the Fat Sam Miracle (FSM), known to American football fans as the “Doug Flutie, bye bye Florida State (or was it Notre Dame? 🙂 ) hail mary” to pull out one or even three points. Also commonly known as parking the bus and daring you to get through. So, what has changed?

Teams have realised this “prevent defense” (another American football term), is, to use what Americans often call it in context, the “prevent yourself from winning” defence. More simply, they have realised that it invites top teams to totally dominate them, and that with the ever increasing talent gap they will eventually get through. They will, not, they might or they should, they will.

The talent gap is ever greater than before with so many top Euro teams, not just in the EPL, looking for talent and depth.  Thus, what to do? Time to innovate of course!

Simple answer? You can’t be dominated if the other team doesn’t have shape or form, and is lightly battered like good fish and chips, which is to say as much as the missus (in the refs uniform here) will let you get away with! This is easily done by hiring pro wrestlers to come in and chase the other guys around. However, it tends to pee off the fans and the ref.

So, how to get this done by stealth? How to ruin your opponents game so much they cannot score, while offering you the ongoing FSM opportunity?

Simple, don’t park the bus, don’t press, which is what people (or many such) *think* they are seeing now, when Arsenal struggle. Instead, play what I call a disruptive game. I differentiate pressing and disruption, as one which is playing forceful defensive football and keeping shape, while the other is defined to ensure the other team has no flow and no shape. Thus, narrowing that talent gap.

In particular, pressing is a game played to win, disruption is a game played not to lose. More specifically:

  1. Pressing = turnover and fast transition to press/contain the ball as far up the field as possible. Generally, 1 on 1 or 2 on 1, looking to force the turnover on either a long ball prayer having cut off all reasonable passes or marked them closed, or on a poor dribble into a player all other options being closed off. A third equally positive outcome is forcing the pass to keeper who then belts it up field. All turn the ball back towards us by forcing high risk, low opportunity balls from the other side that we can easily take. And take in a form ready to go forward in transition.

It’s about controlling shape and getting the ball back to go on offense with good shape.

  1. Disruptive = looks a hell of a lot like a pressing game but involves more often 2-1 and 3-1 defending. A rush at the ball holder and not necessarily caring about others. The goal is not to contain and restrict field space, but to disrupt passing lanes, foul often to disrupt runs and passes, and a greater focus on taking the ball by running many players at the ball handler.

When this is done the ball may turn over but you are not in a position with players in shape and well spread to take best, or sometimes any, advantage. It forces players to far more quickly find something, far more quickly approach their own ball carrier (shrinking the pitch to smaller areas). Thus, against Palace who played this way a lot, we often won the ball but had nothing to really do with it. Hence, they had lots of ball, but little or few opportunities really, as when they won it, they too, were in no shape to attack.

They make our defending easier, but make our attack much harder. They didn’t threaten until we shut off a bit at 93 mins, after almost getting a third goal at 92 mins. We weren’t dominated, we were disrupted, by a team playing for 1 or hoped for 3 points.

So, you say, they sound the same. But, the difference is that a Pressing team is trying to control space and win the ball back anywhere. It’s a plan that focuses on organizing defence as a form of attack and positioning with structure.

A Disruptive team cares less about shape on defence and how it leads to attack with good team shape when the ball is turned over. Their goal is to take away the other team’s ability to move the ball regardless of what it does to their own ability to move the ball. It’s a negative form of football.

It’s also highly successful at times. It is a great equalizer across teams of different abilities – thus reducing that talent gap. It also creates a scenario when you are at home and know the field and have the crowd, where it is likely the better choice of odds than parking the bus.

Keep the other team off balance and out of shape / ball and hope that, despite having no real shape to go forward yourself, you can get a quick breakaway or mistake to capitalize on. Then hunker down, disrupt more, and hope to hold on.

Hence, I think when we play these types of teams among others, or top teams away, we seek to have a deep lying defence. That allows shape to be maintained and lets them, or forces them, to come to you. You then have shape to counter from, which we have the squad for. But, it still won’t solve the problem of being disrupted on attack. The only way to avoid it is to move quickly with lots of field space when they are not near to run after you … Sounds like “on the counter” to me.

But listen again, and hear what isn’t said. That if we can only score on the counter, or mostly so, the opposition have taken us out of our game, forced us away from dominating with talent that we have.

The solution is risk. Again, playing to the opposition. Another possibility. A great rock of a ball holder. Coquelin has done the defensive thing, but not that. That was Vieira. It is Toure and Kompany when they are in form. It might be Schneiderlin. It isn’t Santi, Ozil or Alexis who are tricky enough, but too light and dynamic and want to go forward.

The real key?

In my opinion, a rock and a fast passing game. One that isn’t afraid to go backward if it is isn’t there. If we can’t counter, we need to control through speed.

Thus, and perhaps this is now past length, we have the squad for it. It is perhaps something that has evolved and perhaps we are finally smart enough to do it instead of going after them like we have so often done away against such teams (for which we have been punished).

Sadly to say, it also means that Mourinho may know something and be quite clever having seen this first or nearly so? Look at his squad, sit deep, counter, pass quickly, Terry and others are the rock…

Questions for the critics?

  • Is disruptive, and yes, ugly, football the future?
  • What’s your solution?
  • Who do we need to implement it?
  • Or, am I being too subtle and over analytical, just bring on the fresh faces?

— Cheers – jgc

Why Arsenal signing El Shaarawy, Reus, Di Maria etc in future could become the new reality


JM tends to look at the broader picture of running a football club and safeguarding its future, and his insights are always refreshing and thought-provoking. In this post, he analyses what is happening with regards to our club – as well as our competitors – linking up with a number of key sponsors/brands and fellow football clubs across Europe, and how this will position us better  to have access to top talents from European top competitions in the future. Enjoy, TA. 🙂

The big benefits of sponsors and contact clubs networking.

The connections and network web that the senior management team and manager of Arsenal have painstakingly established with (and not losing their shirts and pants) a few key sponsors and contact clubs, is likely to bare big and juicy fruits for our club. These are the key connections:

  • Emirates – a global airline brand under The Emirates Group, with shirt sponsorship deals with Arsenal, Real Madrid, AC Milan, PSG, Hamburger SV, which means the big 5 Europe leagues represented: PL, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1, Bundesliga;
  • PUMA SE – a global sports brand under Kering, with kit sponsorship deals for: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, VfB Stuttgart, Newcastle Utd, Leicester City, USPalermo, Rennes, Bordeaux, Feyenoord, Espanyol, Sporting Lisbon, Olympiacos etc, etc;
  • Contact clubs this season – where players are sent out on loan: Hamburger SV, SC Freiburg, Olympiacos, LeicesterCity

What is seen on the front of each football jersey?

  • Firstly, the enlarged wordings in the middle (of main shirt sponsor) – BIG global companies/corporations/establishments want their name to be promoted and recognised with sports; what better way than using football/soccer to do this (e.g. next time, the travellers would like to take Emirates airlines(Fly Emirates)/Qatar Airways/Etihad Airways; buy Samsung/LG products/android smart phones/LED flat-panel TVs; drive a Volkswagen/Jeep/Mazda/Kia and more etc);
  • Then, the club badge (left top) – the team/club that the jersey and player associates with;
  • Lastly, the smaller logo (kit manufacturer) at the right top – to football supporters/fans, casual viewers, general public alike who like sports in general, an advertisement in sports branding (e.g. next time, look out/buy for products from Nike, Adidas, Puma, Kappa, Jako, Macron, Errea, Lotto etc for their association with sports and personalities, as well as a daily wear or fashion trend)


The marketing brands:


Premier League
(1) Arsenal
Emirates/Nike(soon to be Puma)

(2) Man Utd

(3) ManCity
Etihad Airways/Nike

(4) Chelsea
Samsung(The South Korean MNC conglomerate company of electronic goods)/Adidas

(5) Liverpool
Standard Chartered/Warrior

HP(Hewlett-Packard)/Under Armour

(7) Everton
Chang(Thai Beverage, i.e. free beer every game)/Nike

The above are the battle ground for marketing share between Nike, Adidas and soon Puma

La Liga
(1) Barcelona
Qatar Airways and UNICEF/Nike

(2) Real Madrid
Fly Emirates/Adidas

(3) Atletico Madrid
Azerbaijan(yes, it is THE country) and Kyocera(MNC electronics and ceramics manufacturer)/Nike

(4) RealSociedad
Canal+( Spanish satellite broadcasting company) and Kutxa(savings bank operating with a regional scope in the Gipuzkoa province of Spain)/Nike

(the above, big battle ground b/w Qatar Airways vs Fly Emirates. Likewise, Nike and Adidas)

(1) Bayern Munich
T-Mobile(Deutsche Telekom AG, German telecommunications company)/Adidas(a dominant role, their CEO is the Vice-Chairman of BM’s supervisory board)

(2) Borussia Dortmund
Evonik(one of the world’s leading specialty chemicals companies, owned by RAG Foundation)/Puma

(3) Bayer Leverkusen
LG(South Korean MNC conglomerate corporation for electronics, chemicals, and telecom products)/Adidas

(4) Schalke 04
Gazprom(Open Joint Stock Company Gazprom, Russian, largest extractor of natural gas, and one of the largest companies in the world)/Adidas

(5) VfL Wolfsburg

Serie A
(1) Juventus
Jeep(a brand of American automobiles produced by Chrysler Group LLC, a consolidated subsidiary of Italian multinational automaker Fiat)/Nike

(2) Napoli
Lete (Lete SPA, company which produces natural sparkling water), MSC Cruises (Italian, division of Mediterranean Shipping Company S.A. devoted to the cruise market)/Macron

(3) AC Milan
Fly Emirates/Adidas

(4) Fiorentina

(5) Internazionale
Pirelli(tyre manufacturer)/Nike

Ligue 1
(1) PSG
Emirates, Qatar Investment Fund/Nike

(2) Marseille
Intersport(international sporting goods retailer, based in Switzerland)/Adidas

(3) Monaco

Gradually, more and more links will be established between clubs and sponsors; it has already started this season:


  1. Mesut Oezil: from Real Madrid, Emirates -> Emirates sponsorship link;
  2. Emiliano Viviano: on loan from US Palermo with option for a permanent move, future PUMA SE -> PUMA SE sponsorship link;
  3. Johan Djourou: on loan to Hamburger SV with option for a permanent move, Emirates -> Emirates sponsorship link;
  4. Joel Campbell: on loan to Olympiacos, future PUMA SE -> PUMA SE sponsorship link;
    Ignasi Miquel: on loan to LeicesterCity, future PUMA SE -> PUMA SE sponsorship link

These are some of the possible near future movements of players/ coaching staff

via Emirates network connections (and goodwill established) to Arsenal or other brand-linked clubs:

Real Madrid?
– e.g. Sami Khedira, Angel di Maria;
AC Milan?
– e.g. Stephan El Shaarawy;
– e.g. Marco Verratti, Blaise Matuidi;
Hamburger SV?
– e.g. Milan Badelj;

Via PUMA SE network connections (and goodwill established):

Borussia Dortmund?
– e.g. İlkay Guendogan(Gundogan), Marco Reus;
VfB Stuttgart?
– e.g. Rani Khedira(brother of Sami), Goetoku(Gotoku) Sakai;
Newcastle Utd?

– e.g. Papiss Cisse;
Leicester City?
– e.g. Liam Moore;
US Palermo?
– e.g. Emiliano Viviano (permanent deal), Abel Hernandez;
– e.g. Some player from their reserve, academy teams;
– e.g. Some player from their reserve, academy teams;
– e.g. Stefan de Vrij, Jordy Clasie, Daryl Janmaat;
– e.g. Some player from their reserve, academy teams;
Sporting CP Lisbon?
– e.g. Eric Dier.

Via PUMA SE relationships with players from sponsorship ties:

  • Arsenal FC players (Mikel Arteta, Bacary Sagna, Tomas Rosicky, Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla, Emmanuel Frimpong);
  • Former Arsenal players (Thierry Henry, Lauren, Gael Clichy) – e.g. Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal to be notified if Barcelona sells, first option), Marco Reus (Eisfeld returning to Dortmund as part of goodwill exchange deal?), Marco Verratti, Sergio Aguero, Roman Weidenfeller etc.

Via contact clubs:

SC Freiburg?
– e.g. Matthias Ginter

The future is bright and strong for Arsenal FC … on the pitch and off the pitch as well.

Written by: JM

Torture Window: Should Arsenal rethink their Transfer Policy?

Arsene under Torture Window pressure?
Arsene under Torture Window pressure?

Arsenal is one of the, if not the most, frustrating clubs to support when it comes to transfers. This is something that is not at all hinged on our financial position all the time, as is becoming clear during this transfer window.

Admittedly I do not know the nitty-gritty of how transfers work in terms of who plays what role or the actual process of a transfer (except the aspects that we are all familiar with), however, I do know a few things. The club has scouts who identify potential targets (a job that is mostly done by Wenger when a top player is in question). I also know that Wenger has complete control over who we sign and how much money is spent, with the exception of a scenario where it is a big money transfer in which case the board must sanction the release of these funds. Finally, I know that Dick Law heads the team that negotiates transfer fees and contracts once a player is identified and Wenger gives the go ahead to chase him.

That said, it is obvious that there is something that throws a spanner in the works in every transfer that has even the slightest complication. I recently read an article that suggested that the main reason why Arsenal transfers are so complicated is because Arsene Wenger is notoriously indecisive. I am inclined to believe them. When Arsenal were chasing Juan Mata, the transfer had reached a point where Arsenal and Valencia had agreed a fee of 17 million pounds, and all that was left was for the club to sit down with Mata and agree contractual logistics. However Wenger changed his mind and dilly-dallied allowing Chelsea to swoop.

I know this for a fact, because months later (after he had signed for Chelsea) Mata was asked about the transfer to Arsenal and he said that he didn’t know what happened because as far as he was concerned, he was hours away from being a Gunner. He explained that once Valencia allowed him to talk to us, he waited by the phone for Arsene’s call to arrange contractual negotiations; a call that never came.

More or less the same thing happened with Yann M’vila where everything was agreed only for Arsene to change his mind citing disciplinary concerns. Given that Wenger is notoriously private about transfers, those are the only two examples I can give but I am sure they aren’t the only ones. This gives an indication that Wenger tends to over think every single detail to a point that it begins to work against us. Maybe it would be more beneficial if, at the beginning of a window, Arsene would give his wish-list and lets the club pursue them.

Another fault that we have during transfers is that apparently we can’t multitask. Let me explain. Right now we are chasing a striker, a DM, a keeper and a defender. We even have names of players that we would like to see fill those positions. However for the past 2 months we have been firmly fixated on bringing in a striker (Higuain and (or) Suarez to be precise) and for the time being, have put these other positions on the back burner.

Real Madrid have put us in this position by employing dirty tactics as they keep raising Higuain’s price but still, while we wait for that to pan out, we could have signed Wanyama and Cesar already. Wanyama told me personally that he waited for us to make a move until it reached a point where he wasn’t sure whether we were interested anymore, so he moved to Southampton instead.

Cesar is trying his best to hold off any transfer while he waits for us to make our minds up but that will only last for so long.

Think of it this way: yes, Real have really stalled our plans to bring in a striker but that shouldn’t affect other transfers. Southampton completed the Wanyama transfer in half a week. Given the current circumstances, it would take even less time to sign Cesar. It was reported that Fellaini is willing to join us and is waiting for us to open negotiations. Ideally, by now we should have most if not all other target transfers tied in a bow and then focus our efforts on the complicated ones, which is bringing in the strikers, not the other way round.

The more we wait the more of our targets get snapped up and derail our plans further leading to the famous last minute deals which more often than not backfire.

Maybe a change of tact is what we need, so as to eliminate these sleepless nights we Gooners spend monitoring transfer stories to see if Wenger will come good on his promises. Oh what it is to be a gooner!!!

Written by: Marcus

Gazidis set out ambitious lines in June, but will he and Arsene deliver?

Arsenal drug

So June is almost over; without any doubt, the hardest month for those of us  who are addicted to club football. Whilst still suffering from non-action cold turkey, we are straightaway bombarded with transfer gossip, both of players coming to us and some of our players wanting to leave.

The Terror/Torture Window officially opens on Monday 1st July, and let’s hope we will move from being ‘close’ to signing players to actually reading ‘signature announcements’ on anytime soon.

Seldom or never does the word ‘close’ get abused more than during the Transfer Window. Whole armies of journalists and blog writers rely on it for producing endless articles that attract thousands of hits. However close Arsenal appear to be to signing a player, it is seldom or never close enough for comfort. Only a few weeks ago, we were ‘very close to signing Jovetic’…. I rest my case!

I wrote in the last post that the TW is not for the faint-hearted and there will be many more twists and turns. We could end up disappointed or ‘totally over the moon’, and I have no doubt that Gazidis and Wenger are feeling the pressure to deliver. Although Arsenal have, apparently, a war chest of £70m or more, it will still find it hard to compete with those who have limitless funds and don’t live by normal capitalist financial principles, or sporting morals.

The club will also need to demonstrate to their transfer targets real ambition to move things up now – that we are ready to win silverware again. It is one thing  to convince the likes of Giroud, Mertesacker and Podolski to come to Arsenal, but once we start to target players already playing for top clubs the ‘sales pitch’ will have to change, especially if we don’t want to attract the typical mercenaries.

Looking back at June, we can pull a few conclusions:

  1. The club has made it clear it has entered a new phase now: there will be significant funds available for player purchases from now on: apparently as much as £70m every season;
  2. Despite the press trying their best to tell us some of our players want to leave Arsenal, our boys have remained loyal to the club and kept a low profile since the season has finished;
  3. We are continuously linked with a different, better calibre of players – so called Super Quality – this summer;
  4. The club is trying to make space in the squad, by letting go of those players who are deemed as ‘surplus to requirement’.

In more than one way, the month of June has been one of over-promise: bigger funds available, no core players will leave, and the targeting of big, established players; and all of this on the basis that we are now (financially) ready to compete for silverware again. This is a very good, but risky, thing to do.

What’s been interesting, is that Gazidis has done most if not all of the talking – of setting out the strategic lines of the club – and this includes announcing that Wenger is expected to sign a new contract any time soon.

Yet, Arsene has been very quiet recently. Of course, he is on  holiday at the moment and will resume his duties for the club any time soon – with the first friendly in just over two weeks. But it will be interesting to see what Arsene has to say when he returns from his leave.

The problem with over-promising – something we are not used to from Arsenal in recent years – is that expectations will soar accordingly. Now, I reckon Gazidis is a clever man, who knows all about the risk of over-promising. So, it must be part of a well thought-out strategy to convince all stakeholders, including we the fans, as well as our transfer targets, that the club is ready to make the final step up now.

During the next month, we will see to a large extent whether Gazidis and Wenger can deliver on their promises. Let’s hope they will.

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Why Wenger has no choice but to buy Super Quality this summer

Edison Cavani – class and grit combined!

It’s been a considerable while since I gave my opinion on anything Arsenal (I’ve been incredibly busy), but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been keen on the happenings of the football world. In fact, after watching Barca and Real Madrid get annihilated by the Germans, I became uneasy. Not because I have a soft spot for either but these two defeats brought to my attention a looming eventuality that quite honestly made my stomach turn. This is what I’m going to discuss in this post.

I have to say, the Germans have taken the world by storm. The Bavarians dispatched Barca in a manner that would make a total stranger to football believe that the Catalans were a small town team. A side that, mind you, has been the bench mark for success in the last half decade. Same goes for Dortmund and Real Madrid. On top of that, despite their dominance, Bayern have already secured the services of Guardiola, Gotze and Lewandowski and counting. Scary!

I would also like to point out how PSG have come to birth. Some may argue that it is because of their billionaire backing, but however you look at it, they are now among the elite in European football, and from the looks of it, they’re here to stay whether we like it or not. Juventus and AC Milan are two very curious teams. They may only be dominant in Italy but you get the feeling that with a few top signings here and there they will join the aforementioned lot. Gleaning from all indications, they probably will sign top players this summer which means next year will be absolutely cut-throat.

So what does all this have to do with our beloved Arsenal? I will get there shortly.

Let me turn my attention to the Premier League. United were recently crowned champions with a whooping 15 point lead against local rivals, ManchesterCity. This kind of dominance, however, is a one off. I can attribute it to inconsistency and bad luck on the part of City and Chelsea, who over the season have dropped some unnecessary points. Credit to united where it is due, though; they have shown fantastic consistency throughout the season. My point here is, City and Chelsea will be angered by the manner of United’s triumph and will be looking to take revenge.

Even Fergie and Wenger have voiced concerns about the spending spree being planned by the two: not only for players, but managers too. And with Mourinho, Klopp and Heynckes future in their respective teams in doubt, there is no shortage of top class managers.

The teams in battle for the top 4 tell the same tale. Everton, Liverpool and Tottenham can no longer be termed as ‘mid table’. In fact, depending on what moves they make in the summer (Liverpool and Tottenham more so) they have an outside chance of becoming title contenders.

Which brings me to my whole bottom line for this article: Arsenal are facing a future defining crossroad this summer in various ways.

First of all, in terms of stature. Despite eight barren years, we are still widely regarded as a European giant and are even seeded top in the UCL draws. This can be attributed to our past success and tendency to finish in the top 4 every year. That said, you get the feeling that the goodwill that Thierry Henry and company afforded us with their victories have ran their course. In fact, even among our own fans, we are slowly realizing that Arsenal isn’t the powerhouse it once was. This can be typified by Luca Toni’s remarks to Jovetic, telling him not to join Arsenal as we aren’t a top club. Naturally, as a die hard fan I was outraged by those comments, but you have to admit, he has a point. We are no longer in the league of Barca, Bayern, United, PSG, City, Real and Chelsea.

And this is my second point: our attractiveness as a club – ability to attract top players. There are two things top class players chase and that is money and glory. Currently we can offer neither. Like I said earlier, in the past we’ve been skating on the efforts and reputation of our former stars to attract talent. You can clearly see (with Toni’s remarks) that that door is firmly shut now. With Arsenal notorious for their financial prudence in terms of player wages, you realize that we are in real trouble.

When there were rumours that we were chasing Gotze a few weeks ago, he quickly quashed them saying that he was angling for a move to one of Europe’s finest, stating Barca, Real, Man U and City as examples. You can disagree with me all you want, but these are the facts on the ground. All we have going for us now is Wenger’s reputation to make good players great and with some of his recent purchases (Arshavin, Sylvestre, Chamakh, Gervinho, Squillaci, Santos etc) even that isn’t iron clad.

Wenger is facing a monumental task to remain relevant in European football. This is a summer when his moves in the market will either push us back into that elite category, or banish us into a mediocre mid table dominion. Due to the developments I’ve pointed out above, he no longer has the luxury to gamble on players who will pay off later. If he allows these teams to strengthen while he watches, he will end up having a much tougher task in restoring our status which will take many seasons, just ask Liverpool.

He has no choice but to grit his teeth and spend big money on big players. It’s not all doom and gloom though as for the first time in a long time there is an abundance of talent in the market. There is Falcao, Cavani, Jovetic, Benzema, Hummels, Wanyama, Capoue, Begovic, Mignolet, Isco, Michu, James Rodriguez, Sanchez, Higuain: all on the market.

I hear talks for Jovetic are on going and that is a good start. However, Arsene can’t stop there. We need a DM, a top, top striker (or two) like say Jovetic and Michu; a top CB; and a top Goal keeper. For depth purposes, I also recommend a left winger. We also need to deal with the underachievers in our squad like Gervinho. Let’s face it, a team like Bayern often has Robben and Gomez on the bench, while we sometimes are forced to make due with Gervinho as a starter. City have players like Dzeko, Nasri on the bench. I think you get my point.

We need to assemble a squad with 15-17 top quality players so that with injuries, fatigue and loss of form, it remains business as usual. That kind of consistency is what will win us trophies.


Written by: Marcus.

Forget about buying 5 top players – Put your trust in Arsenal’s Evolution!

Arsenal's 'Russian Dolls of Evolution'
Arsenal’s ‘Russian Dolls of Evolution’? 🙂

There is a lot of hope, or should I say expectation, in Goonerworld that Arsene/al will go all out and buy five or more top players this summer. I have heard this so many times in previous seasons, and yet, it has never happened. It will also not happen this summer; of that I am absolutely sure.

I am also hoping it won’t happen, and the reason for this is that I am sick to the teeth with ‘being in transition’ constantly. Transition sucks: teams in transition are constantly looking for cohesion, form, consistency, and they don’t win anything. And after two seasons of full-on, consecutive transitions, with a large number of players going out and coming in; what I want most is for all our key players to stay put this summer.

I don’t believe it is possible to buy success, other than winning the odd PL title or a cup. Real, sustained success, is developed and based around solid foundations. Being financially strong and powerful is definitely a prerequisite, but vision and values, long-term planning and consistency in key personnel – managers and players – are just as important. And success is built iteratively; layer by layer, and through trial and error. The best metaphor I can  think of are the ‘Russian Dolls’.

The five Russian Dolls, or expanding building layers, of developing and maintaining a successful football club:

The smallest doll – the very core of the club – is all about having a great history, a fantastic stadium and training facilities, and a loyal fan-base. Arsenal have a state-of-the-art, 60,000 seater stadium and a truly fantastic and loyal fan-base, both in the UK and the rest of the world. Without these there simply would be no football club.

The second smallest doll is about having the right people leading and governing the club, with a long-term vision and who want the very best for the club; about running the club in a financially sustainable way AND about setting ourselves high, yet realistic, targets; taking into account the strength of our opposition and the financial and economic realities of a particular period. Arsenal have been, and currently still are, good at this and we should be grateful for it.

There is of course a risk of becoming a bit too risk averse, but I will come back to this later. There is also a risk of our club being sold, at any time, to a new major shareholder who could put the long term future of our club at risk, but let’s park this for another time.

The third smallest, or middle, doll – probably the most important ‘layer’ for short to mid-term success – is about having the right team management in place; not just the manager, but also the coaches and assistants. The manager is key though, and he should be the sporting embodiment of the vision, values and style/character of the club on the pitch. Sustained success at a football club usually goes hand in  hand with consistency in team management, which does not necessarily mean the same manager is in place for a long time, as good internal and/or external succession planning can safeguard style and quality of management.

Unless a football club lives outside normal economic realities – soon to become a lot more difficult, thankfully – recruiting and retaining a top manager who remains loyal to the club is key for sustained success. MU, Everton and Arsenal are built around consistency in team management, Man City and Liverpool are now trying to do the same, and I also expect the Spuds to hold on to AVB for a long period.

The only exception currently are the Chavs, but even their owner might now opt for consistency by re-recruiting the self-loving Maureen.

Wenger has stayed loyal to us when he could have gone anywhere else, and by doing so he has helped us tremendously. Arsene has not been without fault in recent years, and it is fair to say that the club needs to be competing stronger now for silverware; and as our financial position is currently a lot more sound than it has been in recent years, Arsene is to be expected to get us now to the very top again.

The fourth smallest, or second biggest, doll is all about the quality of our squad of players. There are three sub-layers to be considered here: the (best) first-eleven team, the wider squad, and the main factor in winning silverware; a super-core of four to six players who are either world-class and/or are total on-field representatives of the values of the club.

I have argued recently that our squad is very good and I also believe that our strongest first-eleven team is close to something special; especially if they stay together for at least three more years or so. I also believe that we are starting to get a core of four to six core players together again around which we can build a super-team once more – and we could have been there now if we still had Cesc, Song and van Judas, but let’s park this as well.

It is of paramount importance to hold on to all our key players now, including Sagna, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Szczesny: all should not be sold in order to ‘balance the books’ for new arrivals. It would set us back again as we would start another round of transition, which should be avoided at all costs.

I believe the core team of four to six players; who will make the biggest difference in our team going forward is still developing, and hopefully, between now and the start of the new season, we will have we have a strong one in place.

I reckon the core of top quality/Arsenal through-and-through players will consist of: Wilshere, Cazorla, Arteta (at least for one more season), and Sagna; and one or two of Mertesacker (if he improves his role/importance to the team further), Jenkinson, Gibbs, Koscielny (ditto to Mertesacker), Podolski, Theo and Giroud, and possibly even Ramsey or Szczesny or Ox, could further be added to the core.

And that’s why I don’t believe we need to, or even should, get 5 new top quality players this summer.

Instead, I feel that recruiting one or two ‘core-quality’ players is all it takes now: it will improve the first team as well as the core team, and yet leaves a bit of space for the above mentioned players to work themselves right into the core of the team.

Recruiting a carefully selected, quality DM and an additional attacker of real class (ideally one who can play on the wing as well as centrally); at least one of whom could join the very core of our Arsenal team, should make all the difference now.

If we get any more than that it would be, in my view, simply counterproductive.

The biggest doll, or outer ‘layer’ is all about bringing the first four dolls – layers – together and maximizing on what the club has built up; and add a bit of courage, bravado, financial entrepreneurship: taking the bulls by the horn and move forward in a decisive way.

The coming summer, Arsene and the BoD have an opportunity to make that final step forward: not, though, by blowing things up now through buying a large number of new players and balancing the books to some extent by selling some of our current first team players.

Instead, we should keep all our key players, and add two max three (top) quality players, who fit in straightaway. Spend the available money without wanting to balance the books straightaway: simply speculate to cumulate a bit and trust that the good guys always win in the end.

Arsenal have a fantastic fanbase, stadium and facilities; a great history, vision, style and values; a loyal, experienced and visionary manager, and excellent coaching staff and youth development system; and an almost great squad. Two new quality players and a bit of guts by the BoD, and Arsenal will go all the way.

Written by: TotalArsenal.

How many PL clubs are as fortunate as Arsenal? A strategic analysis


Troubled times or big opportunities for Arsenal?

The name of this Blog is, in large part, a reflection on a great Arsenal footballer revered by many, who, together with Arsene Wenger, helped to introduce the concept of playing a wonderful style of football, which has become the epitome of The Arsenal, a club dedicated, under its much maligned manager, to the ethos of the beautiful game!

How appropriate then, that this summer, a statue of the great man, Dennis Bergkamp, will be unveiled to stand alongside those of other memorably magnificent servants of the club, such as Thierry Henry, Herbert Chapman and Tony Adams.

In the eyes of some fans, however, these statues have also served to point at what they see as being at the very core of the problems the club has experienced in its recent fallow years. Namely, that the statues tell the tale that these superb players were far superior in quality to those currently available at the Emirates.

Given this focus, these fans have extended their acerbic criticism to include the owner, the medical and coaching staff, and indeed the man responsible for the recruitment of today’s players, the coach, Arsene Wenger.

In truth, when we consider the likes of Sol Campbell, Patrick Viera, Marc Overmars, and Robert Pires, and many others, who brought us three League Championships, and four FA Cups, while playing stunning, enchanting, one touch, fast paced football, it is difficult to deny that there is a case to answer.

With the construction of the Emirates Stadium claiming most of the available funds, it was comforting to believe the claim from Arsene that he was building a new team, based on youth, which would provide the nucleus of a great team that in a few years would be title-winners. Sadly, this aspiration has fallen short, and project youth has left us short of the top quality players necessary to win the major competitions.

Each time Arsene has cobbled together a team which looked to be moving in the right direction, we have had our crown jewels in Fabregas, Nasri, and, most especially, Robin van Persie snatched away from us.

The ire of the fans has increased each time a promising team has been decimated by losing key players in this way, or with the realization that new blood from the youth teams, with notable exceptions, has simply not been good enough.

The dream of winning a title has become ever more distant, with Arsenal slowly descending down the elite latter; until now they are desperately trying to hold on to fourth place in order to qualify for the Champions League, with the attendant status, prestige and money that brings.

There is no shortage of advice for the manager from desolate Gooners.
They have erupted with demands for a more consistent defence unit, and the immediate recruitment of a big commanding centre back, and preferably one who can at least get up a canter when needed. No, no, say some, what we need is a big beast of a defensive midfielder to support Jack and Cazzor! Don’t be silly, say others, what we need to do is strengthen the forward line, or at least make sure we play players in their proper positions!!

Of course, others, and there are many of them, say the whole squad needs to be rebuilt from the goal keeper upwards.

These voices of despair have been counter balanced, to an extent, by the voices of reason — that is from fans who know that such root and branch restructuring can never be funded by any club without an oligarch benefactor.

They recognize that although Arsenal has two major shareholders who are billionaires, neither of them have ever invested in the club directly, other than to pay huge sums to acquire the shares of the previous owners, which only lined the pockets of those individuals.

That said, many fans and ex-players take the view that the current squad are not very far away from being a good side, although still a long way off being a great side, but they feel the basics are there, especially with a midfield containing Wilshere, Cazzorla, and Rosicky.

So who is responsible for the decline in quality of our team, and the dispiriting realization that they are just a shadow of the truly great Arsenal teams of ten years ago?

There are as many theories as to who or what is the culprit, because, as a club, Arsenal rather secretively keep everything ‘in house’ and Arsene Wenger is not prone to complain, but the obvious question that needs answering, is whether or not he has been given the financial support he needs, even though we have often been told that substantial money is available, if he needs it.

At root, the stadium project has sucked up Arsenal’s cash resources, and it would be difficult for any business to take on that sort of financial burden without it causing problems elsewhere. Viewed in that light, how can it be argued that Wenger has not done absolutely brilliantly to keep the club in the Champions League over those years, and with hopes growing that he can still do it this year, too.

Of course, Wenger is not off the hook, in terms of partial responsibility, because it seems he is at fault, in the author’s opinion, for failing to be as efficient and professional in recruiting players of the required quality, or, as also seems to be the case, for perhaps failing to move quickly enough to buy players that did become available, only to see them being gobbled up by the ‘big’ spenders because of apparent hesitation, on his part, for decision making.

This contrasts poorly when we take in the fantastic signings he was responsible for in his early Arsenal career, by the use of a meticulous and wide ranging scouting system, and it has long been accepted in footballing quarters that Real Madrid, Manure and subsequently Chelsea scouts were detailed to creep around and stalk the Arsenal scouts to see who they were looking at!

Unfortunately, over time the footballing world has become ‘smaller’ and hidden ‘jewels’ are now known by the scouts of all the major clubs – and, in the final analysis, money talks.

One of the old chestnuts brought up from time to time, alludes to Wenger’s reliance on David Dein, and how much Arsene has missed his adept handling of the club’s transfer business. It does seem that this is a task Mr Wenger still dislikes and is probably unsuited to, whereas Dein revelled in the cut and thrust of dealing with the selling clubs and the greedy, grasping player agents.  Let’s be clear, Dein’s day is done, and there can be no justification for bringing him back, but it does highlight a poor piece of management by Danny Fizzman and the rest of the Board of Directors that they did not replace him at the time.

Arsene is rightly renowned for his ability to take good-ish players and make them great players, and take great players and turn them into outstanding players and also to produce fantastic teams that played to these strengths.

But unless his transfer strategy changes the outlook is not so promising, and with owners and a Chief Executive who know nothing about football, the fear is that there is no one to quietly advise him or simply tell him he must change. Time will tell on that.

I have left until last the statement of the obvious, and that is that the team with the best players always win the trophies. And the clubs who have the teams with the best players are those with the most money available to buy them. 

The dreaded spector of the elephant in the room cannot be avoided, when trying to apportion the ‘blame’ for Arsenal’s slow decline.

Wenger was probably initially confident of remaining in the elite group when the oligarch owner of Chelsea first appeared, and for a time this seemed to be a reasonable hope. However, the rapid influx of commercial money into the coffers of big spending Manure which helped to fund player acquisitions, followed just as quickly by the huge outlay on players by the new oilygarch owners of Man Shitty, made it obvious that a hole had been shot in Arsenal’s hopes of competing as an equal in the transfer market, and by association has seriously damaged our chances of winning trophies.

Still, hope is not lost, Manure have still got a massive debt that needs annual servicing, and Chelsea and Shitty are totally dependent on the goodwill and continuing support of their iniquitous sugar daddies, and let us not forget that not only have the UEFA FFP regulations begun to bite, but the Premier League have also introduced strong FFP regulations of their own, effectively capping the transfer and salary spending of clubs to what they bring in from football related revenue.

Arsenal with their self sustainability model, and low debt ratios are not subject to the same pressures as these clubs. However there still needs to be a huge increase in our efforts to boost sponsorship revenues, and this in turn might see a very different marketing operation in the future, with Arsenal spreading their wings and visiting North America and Asia far more frequently.

Look! Having a healthy balance sheet is not in and of itself what Arsenal is about, it is just a means to an end. In order to have a successful business, you have to have a successful football team and, in recent seasons, Arsenal seem to have lost sight of that simple precept.

The fans have mainly stayed loyal, even though there is a general disappointment that Kroenke and Usmanov appear to see the club more as a personal investment vehicle waiting to be harvested.

Now is the time for the owners to shake themselves out of their self imposed silence and torpor, and get back to remembering that Arsenal is a great FOOTBALL club, and within its very substantial means, it should get back into the business of investing in players, and in reaping the rewards of winning trophies, which will consequently improve the worth and wealth of the club, to the benefit of both the fans and also the owners, as a result. 

I have high hopes that despite all the unfounded criticism of Arsene Wenger, and Arsenal’s current turmoil, that we will come through these troubled times with all flags flying.

Arsene Wenger

Ask yourselves — how many Premier League clubs are fortunate enough to have such a strong financial base, and also have such a superb manager, ready to go into the next season with all guns blazing? 


Written by: Red Arse.