Tuesday 29 September 2015

Arsenal - Learning To Take Yes For An Answer

A colleague recently introduced me to the TV series 'Breaking Bad'. I have been engrossed in the series and recently heard the phrase that is the title of today's post. "WHY DONT YOU LEARN TO TAKE YES FOR AN ANSWER"

Usually people don't like taking 'NO' for an answer. You will be surprised that not taking 'YES'  for an answer is even more common because the packaging for the 'Yes' is not how we expect it to be or we sometimes might not believe our luck that we got a 'YES' answer.

Anyway back to football. It is a fact that all football matches end in one of 3 outcomes. A win, a draw or a loss. Depending on your team's circumstances at that particular time, either of these outcome might not be a bad thing.

How is a loss a good thing I hear you say. Cast your mind back to the Arsenal versus Monaco match in last season's UCL Round of 16 first leg. Everybody now agrees that a 2 - 1 loss rather than the 3 - 1 result would have been a good one for Arsenal. Wise heads on the pitch, or equally savvy heads on the touchline would have realised same and when Oxlade - Chamberlain pulled one back for Arsenal on the night, the advise should have been for the boys to see out the match at 2 - 1 and not go chasing an equaliser. That didn't happen and the rest is history.

Earlier on tonight, I watched Alexis Sanchez level for Arsenal to make the game 2 all. I immediately said to everybody watching with me that Arsenal needed to kill the match for the next 10 minutes and if they succeed, then go in search of the winner in the last 10 minutes.  Unfortunately the ball was in the back of the Arsenal net within minutes.

If I as a fan, know that you are more vulnerable after scoring a goal, how come highly paid professionals don't realise this? Clearly we should have taken the draw rather than this loss that leaves us bottom of the group with zero points.

For me, I will forever disagree with pundits and commentators who believe Wenger is past it. He has 2 back to back FA Cups to show for his 'past it' ness. Wenger's biggest problem as far as I am concerned is his football communism / socialism orientation. Arsenal under Wenger will always allow the other team play football. We will not employ any skulduggery or game management or dirty tricks. We are too good for all of that and therein lies my problem with Wenger.

Arsenal as a team need to be a bit more street smart. If the players on the pitch do not realise when you need to close a game out or you need to disrupt the flow of the game then the people on the bench need to intervene. It is all well and good to have a purist view of the game and to trust your players but often, something extra is needed from the bench and I believe this is lacking.

On the issue of rotation, I was more comfortable with the starting 11 today than the team for the Zagreb game. I rate Ospina. I am a huge fan of the man's professionalism and his goalkeeping abilities. Yes he blundered today and chose the wrong match to blunder. Unfortunately for both him and Wenger, his error today would be held up as further evidence of how crap a goalkeeper Ospina is and Wenger's missmanagement. Unfortunately I agree with neither. We have seen our number 1 goalkeeper this season make some errors. World Class goal keepers make errors and some are fortunate that there errors go unpunished or does not cost their team. Others are unfortunate and Ospina was one of those today.

On this goalkeeper issue, Wenger and Ospina made the mistake of not playing the percentages. When you are facing a must win game, when form is patchy and the team is a bit brittle, in my opinion, you play safe. The safe option was Petr Cech today. If Cech had made the same blunder, some of the anti Wenger noises will be less and I doubt if Cech would have attempted what Ospina did this evening. As for Ospina, the safe option was to punch that ball, not attempt some exotic save that ended up costing your team a goal especially with the absence of goal line technology.

But match is done. We have lost and it hurts. Today's match highlights our frailty as a team and further demonstrates the overall malaise afflicting the English game. Next up is Sunday's match versus the league leaders. I dare say Sunday is a another day to play safe. There is a lot of high emotions out there especially amongst the fan and the minimum expectation I believe is a draw. For me, a draw with a very assured defensive display is the least I will take. If we win, all the better but with Mr Anthony Taylor of Manchester as the man in the middle, watch out for some interesting calls as Mr Taylor has his own rule book which is totally different from most referees. You think Mike Dean is awful. Wait till you experience Mr Taylor in HD

Sunday 27 September 2015


I believe Jose Mourinho is a coward and I have proof. About a year ago, Arsene Wenger violently shoved him. Not only did he not retaliate, he didn't stand his ground. 

You would expect some form  reaction from someone who appears on the surface to be bold. None was forthcoming from Mourinho. He appears to hide behind the referee and offers some platitudes during the post match conference. That is typical little girl blouse behaviour in my opinion. 

It is universally acclaimed that Jose Mourinho is the motormouth of the football world. Unfortunately, his mouth is quite unlike a sleek vehicle, a bit like those rough and ready bangers used for the Paris - Dakar rally. In his desire to make everything about himself, he spews a lot of garbage. 

He was at it again a few days ago. Given it large and apparently directing his verbal volleys at Arsene Wenger.  Mind you, like all typical cowards, he wasn't courageous enough to mention the Professor's name. What was he afraid of?  If you are a real man and you intend to go on a rant. Please have the balls to man up and point your fingers appropriately. Don't hide behind hyperboles and using the media to do your dirty work. 

His rant is reproduced below. 

“In this country, only one manager is not under pressure. Every other manager is. I am under pressure, Steve is under pressure, (Manuel) Pellegrini is under pressure, Brendan (Rodgers) too. We cannot be below par. We have to meet the objectives. I have sympathy with all of them, because it's a difficult job. There's one outside that list, but good for him. I have sympathy for Steve.”

As far as I am concerned, this rant and his comments before the Champions League match versus Maccabi Tel Aviv were a desperate cry for help. A frantic appeal to Mike Emenalo and the Chelsea Board to spare his blushes and not make hasty decisions. 

Mourinho knows the type of organisation he works for. He knows what he has signed up for and he knows the Chelsea Board are asking questions which he has no answers for at this time and in typical fashion, he is trying to change the narrative. 

I can somewhat relate to the job of a football manager as outside of my attempts at writing, I have a day job. I know my objectives and deliverables in this job. When it is time for performance management discussions, I am judged against those deliverables while allowance is made for any genuine extenuating circumstances. It is inconceivable that I will attempt to bring in the supposedly below par performance of some other professional in a similar role but working for another organisation into my performance management discussion. It will not fly.

So why is Mourinho trying to bring Arsene Wenger's lack of pressure at Arsenal into question? Are they both working for Arsenal? or does Jose indeed want to work for Arsenal seeing that he his getting older, losing his so called magic touch and looking for a club where he is unlikely to experience the same roller coaster pressure he has been under all his professional life? 

Is the ownership model at Arsenal the same as Chelsea? Is the financial model the same? Do they play the same type of football? Or is this plain old jealousy? Why can't I have that? A perverse attempt not to keep up with the Joneses but to destroy the achievements of the Joneses. 

As far as I can see with Jose's comments, he is literally asking kids whose dads / parents are unsuccessful (going by the parameters laid down by Jose Mourinho) to change their parents. What manner of a person is he? 

Jose believes he is a better manager than Wenger. Granted he has won more trophies than the Arsenal Manager and has not lost to Wenger in all competitions bar the Charity Shield. The football world out there believe Jose is a better manager. So why is Jose constantly obsessed with Wenger? If you are superior to someone, I will imagine you are not bothered about them. They ought to be inconsequential. But to make this inferior professional the subject of your rant is beyond me and confirms that Jose is genuinely weird. Weird enough that if I had the money, I will hire a psychologist to help him. 

I agree totally with the comments Wenger made in 2005  that "When you give success to stupid people, it makes them more stupid sometimes and not more intelligent.” 

Jose's actions do not appear to be that of an intelligent person. His delusions are self evident especially when his team does not get the results that they feel entitled to. It is someone else's fault. There is a conspiracy. The world is aligned against us. Our computer broke. Don't you feel sorry for us. It is comical and I wonder when the savvy Tsar of West London will say enough. 

I hope soon. I expect Mr Abramovich will soon don his Grim Reaper costume, hand over the Sword of Damocles to Mike Emenalo and instruct him to lance the putrid boil that is Mourinho. The sooner we are rid of him the better. Hopefully club owners the world over will soon realise that the only guarantee you get with Mourinho is strife. 

Sunday 20 September 2015

Arsenal – Plus Ca Change. Plus C’est La Meme Chose

I have found it difficult to motivate myself to write for the past 4 weeks following my return from vacation. I attempted to write about my holiday last weekend but abandoned the effort after writing one page. You have to praise writers who are consistent and publish their copy week in week out or even daily.  

Anyways, Arsenal’s loss to Chelsea yesterday has prompted me to pick up my laptop and attempt a few squiggles. Here goes.

Prior to the 2 matches before Zagreb and Chelsea, I was in a good space as an Arsenal fan. We had sort of turned around our disastrous start in the Premier League with a few points on the league table. By the way, considering, West Ham’s win at the EPL Champion Designate otherwise known as The Unstoppable Manchester City and the comprehensive dismantling of Liverpool FC (that hitherto giant of Global Football) I would not now call West Ham’s defeat of Arsenal an upset. After all Arsenal are nobodies when it comes to football (By the way, that’s what one my senior friends and big brother calls PERSPECTIVE)

Back to other matters. For as long as I can remember, we didn’t go into the international break as the butt of all football fan’s jokes. We also didn’t return with any crocked players. Playing Zagreb while not exactly a ‘gimme’ was not expected to be too much of a worry. I expected and I expect that any Arsenal 11 will beat Zagreb.

Unfortunately football is not mathematic or arithmetic. Clearly the manager had his eyes on the Chelsea match and proceeded to rest many players.  The rest they say is history (pardon the pun). We lost and in entirely somewhat unfortunate circumstances we lost the match we were resting players for. SAD. VERY SAD.

Before I continue, I must make it very clear that I am an Arsene Wenger fan. I do not believe he is perfect. Far from it and not even close. At the moment, he is the manager of the club I happen to support. He has done a bloody good job in 19+ years, he has changed the face of the club and Arsenal appears to be well positioned for the future.

I do not believe he is indispensable as I am aware that the graveyard is filled with many who consider themselves indispensable. But I consider myself a realist. From what is in the public domain, Wenger’s two bosses support him totally. One owns the club and is happy with the way the club is run and Wenger’s work output. The other one is the Chief Executive and was supposedly recruited by Wenger. The Arsenal directors love him. So guys / Arsenal fans, until Wenger decides he has had enough or Kroenke changes his approach, Wenger is going nowhere soon.

For those who don’t like Arsene, I have a fantastic idea – GET BEHIND YOUR TEAM. That team includes Arsene and the players you take delight in slating.  If your principles are such that you cant support Arsenal the way it is now, please keep your gob shut. If you cant, maybe supporting another team might appeal to you.

Back to our matches versus Zagreb and Chelsea. In retrospect, I think the decision to rest players versus Zagreb was wrong. I was apprehensive before the match as I was worried we will do ‘an Arsenal’. Despite that, I didn’t predict a loss. I however consider Wenger’s decision to res players wrong because you should really be playing the next match, not 2 matches away. It was incredibly important to start our Champions League campaign on the front foot and by resting players we couldn’t do that. Not only that we went into the Chelsea match without the momentum and the feel good factor that a win in Zagreb would have afforded the team.

I’m sure Arsene trusted the boys who played to do the business. Unfortunately Giroud’s bizarre petulance and dissent let his team down. When things started not to go according to plan, I will expect Wenger to do something about it. The manager is very reluctant to take what might appear to be rash decisions. I give that to him. But often, the players he relies on to be matured and calm let him down. From what we saw during the game with Crystal Palace this season, it appears Per Mertesacker had to intervene with the manager before Coquelin was substituted. Last season in Wales, Calum Chambers was crying to be substituted after Jefferson Montero handed him his backside. Bellerin has had some disastrous times in the Arsenal shirt as well with the manager doing nothing about it.

As soon as I saw the circumstances leading to Giroud’s first yellow card, I messaged a friend that he will be sent off today. If I can see that, why cant the manager see it. There was no sign that any of the coaching staff passed on messages to him to calm down. And if the manager knows his players very well as he should, I would have expected him to yank Giroud off immediately after his behavior towards the ref.  Similarly with Gabriel, we know he is a feisty lad and we love him for that but why was none of his teammates minding him yesterday as the Costa incident was kicking off.

I know nobody can make allowances for all circumstances in life but it appears Arsenal make the same mistakes time and time again. The more things change. The more they remain the same.

Arsenal FC makes the same basic mistakes time and time again. Forget the mindless incompetence of Mike Dean in the Chelsea match. We conceded a set piece goal to effectively lose the match. West Ham, Zagreb and now Chelsea. That was why we lost those 3 matches. The decisive goal was conceding the set piece. It’s a shame that this is a reoccurring theme. We realize we have problems with set pieces, we fix it and then the problem reappears and we then have to fix it again. At the end of the day, you want to question the coaching the boys are having. 

To conclude, a word of advice might prove useful to Arsenal fans and maybe all football fans that are presently despondent with their club (wink wink Man U fans), no team has a divine right to win football matches or football competitions. That is why the word ‘upsets’ was coined. I dare say upsets happen more in football even when 11 school boys play the best 11 in the world. Also no manager can guarantee you they will win any competition from the start of the season. Some managers and teams are more likely to win. In my opinion, fans should ordinarily be interested in the competitiveness of their teams. When you are competitive, with that bit of luck and with a few dodgy referees in your corner like Mike Dean, you will definitely win something.