Saturday 28 November 2015

Arsenal's UEFA Champions League Campaign 2015

I have not added the 2016 to the title of this blog as Arsenal's progress to the Round of 16 looks to be somewhat in peril. Tons of articles have been written about Arsenal's Champions league campaign this term. Many of them deriding Arsene Wenger. Unfortunately  I have something of a contrary view. Now, why is that not a surprise :)

No doubt for many Arsenal fans, the Champions League campaign this season has been very frustrating especially as we have lost 2 very winnable games to Zagreb away and Olympiakos at home.

Some pundits have ascribed the losses to Arsene's decision to rest Petr Cech in those matches. I couldn't disagree more. As for the Arsenal fans who align with the Pundit's opinion on these matter I have no words.    "To talk is not hard".

That David Ospina is a First Class Goal keeper is not in question and should really be up for debate. He makes mistakes. Yeah. So does Manuel effing Neuer. MK Dons (yes MK Dons) put 4 past David De Gea. FOUR GOALS. Back to Ospina, while I now believe Petr Cech is better than him, David had more than enough quality to man the posts for Arsenal against Zagreb & Olympiakos. Yes the results were bad on the night but that is the nature of the beast that is football. The best 11 players on the night will not always win a game of football.

I believe the blame for the losses can be ascribed elsewhere.

  • I think we sometimes go into a match with overconfidence bordering on arrogance. It costs us against Monaco last term and I think it did with these 2 matches. 

  • I believe the selection of outfield players for the Zagreb match was wrong. We should have played our strongest side, hopefully win the game and then focus on the next match. Anything can and does happen between matches to render your permutations & calculations unworkable. At the end of the day, we lost the match we rested players for. To be fair to Arsene and the team, I expect any Arsenal 11 to beat Dynamo Zagreb 9 times out of 10. Maybe this match was that 1 out of 10.
  • Our defensive frailties are unbelievably annoying. We concede what I choose to call naive goals / nothing goals. We conceded two Oxlade - Chamberlain own goals against both Zagreb & Olympiakos. I still believe the Ospina howler was not a goal. We conceded 3 goals from set pieces in both matches with Kieran Gibbs inexplicably ducking a header to defend one of the goals. Yes we played with 10 men against Zagreb with a silly petulant & unnecessary 1st booking by Giroud but we had no reason to lose to Zagreb. It rankled then still rankles till now.

For me, our Champions League campaign this season is not the car crash that many have attempted to portray it as. When the draws were made, I make bold to say nobody expected Arsenal to beat Bayern Munich in any of the head to head matches. Our qualification hopes were always hinged on the results against the other 2. So to then beat Bayern in my opinion atones for the losses against Zagreb. Why? 

Going by the current table in Group F, Arsenal beaten Dynamo away would have been meaningless as things stand. We will have the same number of points as Olympiakos and we would need to go to Greece needing a win to progress. If we had beaten Olympiakos at the Emirates without the Bayern home win,  we would have 9 points, Olympiakos will have 6 and we would still need a result in Greece.  So nothing has changed. We are still going to Greece and we still need a result.

Yes I get the frustration. A team like Arsenal who are capable of doing great things are often so lifeless and lacking in sparkle and will a bit too often for the quality they posses deliver unbelievably negative results that leads to head scratching.

I however think we Arsenal fans need to calm down as we appear to buy into the naysayers narrative too often. Many are happy to rely on the words of people with an axe  to grind or an agenda like Gary Neville & Piers Morgan to beat up Arsene & the Team.

Will we go through. I hope so. We are capable of a lot more than beating Olympiakos by 2 clear goals.

Will we though? That's a question for the gods.

Sunday 15 November 2015

The Western World Is Governed by Small Men & Straw Men

In 2011,  I saw pictures of President Obama watching US Special Forces kill Osama Bin Laden. I argued with a number of friends on the appropriateness of the President of the Free World sitting around in a room watching soldiers on a mission to hunt down a man that was once the greatest foe of the USA but was now a doddery old fool hiding behind the blouse of his young wife.

I get the need for the USA to go after somebody like Bin Laden. America is quite good at that. "You wrong us, we have long memories and we will come after you". In my opinion Bin Laden deserved what he got and more. But did the President of the US have nothing else in his in - tray than to watch the taking out of a man who was no longer a threat to the USA? What happened to World Hunger? Ebola? Global Peace?

As far as I can tell, Obama watching Osama's end game was all about appearance / PR. The modern day equivalent of doing something concrete. In today's world, its all about appearance, about looking good. Even if you are not doing anything, just be seen to be doing something that plays well to the somewhat gullible public.

Fast forward to 3 days ago. Again, all forms of media were filled with the justified taking out of the loser that is known as Jihadi John. He was such a loser that he couldn't get laid in a town renowned for its generous women. He finally found global fame as the social media face of ISIS recruitment. The serial be - header of the defenceless. Yes he fully deserves his encounter with the US drone that took him out. But was I sickened by the song and dance the American and British Intelligence community made about taking out Jihadi John? Can you imagine that Winston Churchill was so fixated about Josef Goebbels' propaganda on behalf of the Nazis that he sent a brigade of the SAS to hunt him down and kill him and then crowed about it on the Radio & Television.

What sort of men are our leaders? These men who have never held down real jobs. These men who only bother about what looks good rather than concrete stuff. Just this morning, a friend shared this link with me. Did our intelligence service know about the guy in this link? This Haji Bakr or were they fixated on straw men like Jihadi John, the halitosis suffering low life loser? Based on that link I will say Haji Bakr is worth 100 Jihadi Johns. Yet we crow about taking the nobody that is Jihadi John out of the equation. It appears what matters more to our leaders is PR coups rather than evidence of concrete progress on the war against ISIS.

What worries me is that the Americans had someone like Haji Bakr under detention and at some point they let him go. This makes you wonder how inept Western countries are in this anti - Terrorism fight. For instance why are we having a debate about snooping? It is such a silly debate. The intelligence community should be given Carte Blanche to snoop on everybody and anybody. If they use what they discover for nefarious or civil cases, they should be brought to book with the courts applying severe and exceptional penalties & punishments for such infractions. To be fair, I understand the public distaste for giving too much powers to the government, a distaste fuelled by our leaders who have undermined the public trust by misusing similar powers in the past, for example, they have used anti - terrorism laws to prosecute people over council tax and rubbish bin issues? How terribly churlish? How symptomatic of their smallness as leaders. As a safeguard to snooping laws, a  caveat should be added that nothing discovered via snooping can be used for civil cases. Simple. Case closed.

Another issue is that of citizens who decide to go and fight or live in ISIS controlled territories or even with ISIS opponents. I just can't get my head around why there is a debate around this issue or why there is seeming paralysis by Western government in dealing with the issue. We live in a democracy where people have a choice. Why is the government then actively preventing adults from leaving the country? If we are concerned about their very young children, we already have a determined & enthusiastic child protection bureaucracy for that purpose. Take the kids off these people and wave bye to them. Strip them of their citizenships and right to return. Why are we hiding under Geneva protocols and some other archaic laws made almost 100 years ago that has no connection to the world we live in today? Why are our leaders helpless? Why can't they see these reasonable & logical steps? Why are they not forward looking? Why are our leaders not taking the battle to ISIS?

Can you imagine Winston Churchill refusing to fight the Germans because he was worried about collateral damage? Or Presidents Roosevelt & Eisenhower not fighting the Japanese because they were worried about upsetting the media and the electorate? Oh how we yearn for the days of strong / determined men of power. Even recent leaders like President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher are modern day examples of what leaders with back bone can achieve. Not the ones we have now who think taking out a common criminal like Jihadi John is worth a song and a dance.

On a final note, the events in Paris should hopefully prove to everybody in the Western World that we are not safe doing all the common things we take for granted. The government should make this clear so we are under no illusions. Hopefully the genuine realisation that our way of life is under severe threat will help our leaders develop a back bone and take the battle to these terrorists. Forget all these establishing democracy nonsense. In my opinion, nation building and trying to encourage democracy amongst people who don't want it is a waste of time. We have done more damage to ourselves in the Middle East by using this template. My solution is simple, identify the snake and cut of its head. If baby snakes come up in its place, cut of the heads too. If any criminal terrorist group take territories, go in there and smash them. Although I do not wholly support the Israeli template, but you can now see the result of their approach  - Fatah is now an organisation preaching peace. Hezbollah leaders don't want to be publicly known and Hezbollah members are not as quick to result to violence.

Its time to do things differently. Its time for our leaders to develop a back bone.

Sunday 8 November 2015

Can We Arsenal Fans All Live In Peace Together

I have just finished watching the NLD and I am delighted with the point. I thought it was somewhat similar to the same fixture last season when we were  somewhat fortunate to get a point.

Prior to the start of today's match, I was ready to settle for a clean sheet and a draw. With that result, Petr Cech equals that other bloke's EPL Clean Sheet record and we stay joint top of the Premier League table. You can accuse me of lack of ambition but I know you will agree with me that the Premier League is not won in November.

For me, it was imperative we stay in touch with Manchester City going into the International Break as we have been decimated by injuries. Also the tonking we got in Munich was telling. You are never sure what kind of reaction you will get from Arsenal after such a bad day in the office.

If my experience serves me right, we tend to draw after heavy defeats. Additionally, we have not been playing very we'll - we scraped past Everton (thanks to Petr Cech for saving 2 points), we were abject against Swansea in the 1st half and could easily have been 3 nil down by the end of the 1st 45 minutes and Munich was a disaster of epic proportion. I am not or one second forgetting the 'shit shower' at Sheffield although some are wont to discount that match because it was the Capital One Cup and it wasn't our first choice back 5.

I disagree though.  4 of those Arsenal Back 5 in Sheffield played in the back 5 in Munich and 3 played in the Back 5 this evening against the Middlesex chaps. If only we had used the Sheffield game to prep our defence maybe subsequent results might have been better. Who knows. The Sheffield defeat continues to rankle me.

Back to Munich as this was the inspiration for my write up today. As I got onto the plane at Stanstead, I recognised two notable faces amongst the Arsenal fan family. One is somewhat balanced in his admiration for Wenger and the other is rabidly anti Wenger. I know I am stating the obvious but both side of the Wenger debate appear to enjoy watching their team play, spend good money doing this and want their team to do well. I think the ones who actually want the team to do poorly are beyond redemption.

So in the words of Rodney King "Why is that we can't all just get along?" as Arsenal fans.

I am often on Twitter and I see many Arsenal fans at each others' throats. The abuse, the insults, the name calling, the baiting. You will think these are fans of opposing clubs. What seems to be so divisive is the fact that some want Arsene out and others don't.

I am not sure if both sides of the Wenger debate realise that there is no manager that 100% of the fans want. Not Sir Alex Ferguson, not Pep Guardiola and not that Comedian in West London. That's why we are humans. However once the Manager has been appointed and / or is in place, then all the bickering should stop.

I think this  advice from Sir Hubert Chapman is something all Arsenal fans should try to embrace:

We are a great big family and we should be pulling together in the same direction.

I called one of the Anti Wenger fans to the side in Munich and said to him, "you do realise we all love this club but we don't own it".  So if we realise this and we know for a fact that the owners of the Club are not going to sack Wenger why are we wasting emotions on Wenger in or out?  Why can't we channel our emotions into supporting the club come, rain, sun or high water.  I hold up Crystal Palace fans and the majority of Arsenal fans as my ideal here. Even at 5 - 1 in Munich were trying to cheer the team on.

Yes. The Wenger Out brigade have a point, we should have won more than 2 FA Cups in the last 12 years, we should be more of a challenger, we should not be satisfied with Top 4 only, that's very commendable. The Pro Wenger brigade also have a point. Arsene has been the most successful Arsenal Manager in history. He has changed the club totally and he has achieved something nobody else will probably achieve in our life time - The INVINCIBLES. I will recommend this book by Amy Lawrence to every Arsenal fan. You can better understand where Arsenal were before Arsene and the magnitude of what Arsene achieved in 2003/4.

Whatever side of the debate you stand, please realise that the man has his footballing and personal philosophies that align with that of the owners. Yes we fans are intrinsic to making football what it is but the ultimate decision on whether a manager goes or not is with the board / the owner and at the moment on the Wenger issue, the Board is not for turning. They believe in Wenger.

So please get on side. Lets join hands and make the club better. The baiting on both sides should stop. All fans irrespective of whether they are Wenger Out or In and talking especially about those who want the club to do well, spend their money and resources supporting the Team and following the club and should not be derided for voicing their opinions. .

Lets channel our energies to supporting the players Win, Lose or Draw. Lets all pull in the same direction so we can make Arsenal greater.