Saturday 30 April 2016

My One Man Protest At Today’s Match Versus Norwich

So it appears the fans will try for the umpteenth time to protest at today’s match. Going by all the information floating around social media, it looks like 3 of the better known Arsenal fan associations are behind today’s protest.

Effectively, the discontent that started at the Everton away match when some fame seeking overweight twerp displayed that banner, has now gone mainstream.

Fans are divided with some believing the protest must go on during the match while some believe that any protest should be after the match so as not to distract the players.

I am all for ensuring that nothing we fans do distract the players. I am a firm believer in the 12th man and I am convinced that fans can help influence the performance of players. Football is big on motivation and confidence and if fans can offer their players these two things, it can help the production of dopamine. There is a science to that, in case science is your thing. You can see that here

Apart from not distracting the players, I disagree with the protest though as it is pointless. The overall aim of the protest is that “something must change”. The organizers have not specified what should change exactly.   They just want something to change. That change can be:

Kroenke leaving. Hopefully he doesn’t take his ball (the club) with him

The Board leaving / self sacking themselves I guess

Kroenke firing Gazidis

Wenger leaving / presumably with Gazidis sacking him

The club appointing people with football experience into executive positions

Quite how we want to achieve the Kroenke sack is beyond me. He & Usmanov own the club, lock, stock and barrel. They stomped up the money to buy the club and now appear to be united on the general direction of the club. Yes you the fans have supported the club for a 1000 years. Thank you. Someone else now owns it. I suspect fans can stump up the money and make him an offer he cant refuse but no.

Rather than start to organize around buying out Kroenke that veritable offspring of Satan, the source of all that is bad in the world. No. We  (grown middle aged men) will rather carry two - bit placards like Aston Villa fans and ask a very astute businessman to walk away from his investment. Good luck with that.

A lot of the vocal fans who believe that Arsenal FC is not managed properly have yet to highlight the model of a club they want Arsenal to emulate. Manchester United with their money tree and trophy winning model currently hoping to win the 4th place trophy and that irrelevant FA Cup that Arsenal won two years in a row? Chelsea that swash buckling club with one manager every week and their relegation flirtations or Manchester City who are richer than Croesus and will be willing to buy Theo Walcott for £100m seeing as Theo is at least twice as good as Raheem Sterling.  Or maybe its Spuds with their coach who is miles better than Wenger. He has been a manager for the last 7 years and has yet to win a trophy. Faced with the best attempt to win the league in a lifetime and a trophy, he’s fluffed it.

No. But we are fans. We know better. Something must change. I wonder if it is the fan base that needs to change.

The protest is knee deep in listening to idiotic messages on all forms of media. Fans feeding on the bullshit lines about the club. Fans who don’t stop to think through the messages they are receiving, the motives behind those messages and what can really be achieved. The protest to change anything is a call for anarchy and it is misguided.   

Personally, I will be undertaking my own protest today. It is a protest to affirm my support of the club, its manager and its players.

I make bold to say if Arsenal had a season like Tottenham some wont be happy still. There were many who even wanted Arsene to leave if he had won the league this season. Clearly this goes beyond the issue of winning the league and competitiveness.

Sunday 24 April 2016

So My Casio Broke – Arsenal will not be winning the Premier League this year

Every year for the past 3 seasons, I have always hoped for Arsenal to be competitive in the League, to win a trophy and mount a decent challenge in the Champions League and play in the latter stages. Unfortunately this has not happened every year although we have had sweet back to back FA Cup victories.

I don’t think Arsenal have had the best squad in the last three seasons or in any season after the Invincibles. But I think the ingredients are at Arsenal and Arsene’s disposal but we have not been able to do the competitive thing. I have argued many times that the competitive thing is what wins you titles, not the mindless ‘Arsenal should be winning the league because Wenger is the only manager who has managed for 20 years’ or ‘Arsenal have £200m in the bank and didn’t buy a player’.

The draw at Sunderland today coupled with the Leicester win in the Swansea match means that Arsenal can now no longer overtake Leicester. I mourn my broken Casio calculator.

It will be difficult to finish 2nd even but let it be on record for whatever it is worth that Arsenal maintained something of a challenge up until late April. Even if it was a limp challenge, let the records reflect that fact.

Where did it go wrong? My view is that it started to go wrong on 13th January 2016 at Anfield when we drew 3 – 3 with Liverpool.  Many might disagree with this narrative sighting many results like the 4 nil drubbing by Southampton on Boxing Day, the opening day of the season loss to West Ham, the Santi Cazorla slip leading to our loss at West Brom, the farcical loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the draws at home to Liverpool and Spuds and the draw away at Norwich and conclude that the damage started way earlier. I however believe that irrespective of those results, we were handed a fully loaded armoury on December 28, 2015 and were top of the table even after the new year fixtures and its gone Pete Tong. We turned our weapons into bottling tools.

I was at Anfield that night and we should have won after leveling the scores twice and going ahead once. We surrendered two points because of our inability to manage games. This will repeat itself at West Ham & White Hart Lane.

In my opinion this inability to manage games has been our greatest draw back and greatest positive as a footballing club. This lack of game management nous is embedded in our footballing philosophy. Wenger is a moralist and refuses to play dirty while setting up a team that believes in “play your own and let me play my own”. Personally I think doing the dirty is sometimes called for. Against Liverpool at Anfield, West Ham at the Boleyn and Spurs at their dump, if I was the manager, once I notice the initiative is with my opponent, you wont believe how my players will start to roll on the floor for imaginary injuries. Also in games, where opponents were going to be very physical, I will actually deploy my brawnier players and ask them to take no prisoners too. Even if you went down to 10 men and lost, the result wont be different from when we play nice and lose.

After Anfield, a draw against Stoke while an improvement on last season’s result meant we conceded 4 points within 2 matches in the title race. While the game at Anfield was winnable by game management, a better striker could potentially have won Arsenal the game at the Britannia and potentially at the Emirates versus Southampton, Crystal Palace, Swansea City and today versus Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

Losing to Chelsea at home was bizarre and in my opinion had nothing to do with having a man sent off. It was a set piece and should have been defended better whether we had 9 or 10 men on the pitch. This is also my view on Tottenham’s equaliser at the Lane. Coquelin’s departure was immaterial to allowing Toby Alderweireld’s goal.

By the time we played Bournemouth at home, the gap had started to widen and although we pegged the leaders back with that last minute Danny Wellbeck header, the manner of the loss to Barcelona in my opinion meant we went to Old Trafford feeling sorry for ourselves. It was either that or we expected to turn up and be handed the points.

So we arrive at today where the badly damaged Casio got crushed. After all said and done, the point at Sunderland was a good one. They gave us a proper chasing and looked hungrier and equally as likely to score. While watching I kept telling myself if they scored us first, I didn’t see where our equaliser was coming from. 

By my own estimation, bar the Manchester United match at Old Trafford, the Southampton one at St Mary’s and probably the opening game of the season, we have not played badly / woefully. Results apart and that’s a major part of the problem, there has to be an end product to our good game.

We need to tune the game plan such that all that chances we create gets converted. I know the manager tried to pull all stops to achieve this by trying to sign a top level striker and he failed when Karim Benzema decided to stick with Real Madrid (right decision for Karim) and he refused to pay silly money for Edison Cavani (right decision by Wenger in my opinion).

Once we knew we were not getting the top level striker we wanted, I think we should have had a Plan B that didn’t rely on our main strikers performing at the same level as previous seasons, perhaps relying more on set pieces around the box by drawing deliberate fouls with our style of play knowing that we have potential dead ball specialists like Sanchez and Ozil.

One area that we don’t appear to have improved is the defence and this is despite the presence of Petr Cech. Our style of letting others play their games means Petr is way more exposed than most goal keepers. Anecdotally, I want to believe that we allow more pot shots at our goal than other teams. I have also seen us concede many times from nothing balls or cut apart by one pass from way inside the opponents half.

Despite all of the above, it is not doom and gloom for me. It is not about Wenger in or out. I am convinced we don’t have the best squad and we don’t have a squad of warriors and that necessary sprinkling of mad / devilish players who will play with one amputated limb and deadly pile sticking out of their nether region. What we have are a bunch of technical players who can beat the best team in the world on their day. Wenger out is not going to change any of that. The new man will need time to build his team except the club sticks with the same philosophy with a few tweaks.

I don’t believe Wenger does not want to spend money. I think Wenger has gone past the trolley dash in the transfer window where you need to buy to make up bodies. The emphasis is on affordable star players who can make a difference (Ozil, Sanchez, pursuit of Suarez and I believe Benzema and Cavani) or bargain players who can do a job for now (Elneny, Danny Wellbeck) or in the future (The Jeff, Bielik etc.). I don’t see anything wrong with this approach. What has missing out on Schneiderlin cost Arsenal? What is the point in buying players who are inferior to the ones in your squad?

I am totally relaxed with Wenger’s football philosophy. Yes, there are gaps that can be plugged going by what we observers think. But then it wont be Wenger’s philosophy again would it? I am comfortable for him to come to the same realization that brought us the Coquelin role in a modern day Arsene Wenger squad and hope things like game management and cynicism can be added to his style of play.

If I have one regret this season, it would be that Arsene should have blooded youngsters earlier. What difference would it have made if the group of youngsters had got tonked 4 nil by Southampton? Or lost to West Brom? We would still have been top on January 13th. Wenger in my opinion should have trusted the youths when the injuries piled up. Cut down Chuba Akpom’s loan deal at Hull and throw them in with some sort of tactical balance, maybe we would have been better off. I caught sight of Iwobi, Chuba and Jeff at the pre season competitions and I thought they were ready for the big time.  But I think Wenger has played it safe this season by relying on the oldies.

Hopefully we can see out the last 3 matches of the season and get 3rd place at the minimum and prepare for next season. I want Wenger to stay and I am convinced Arsenal can be a competitive club under him. However I am aware he will go soon, as there is so much hate one man can take and there is an inevitability about the departure of anybody who has managed one club for almost 20 years.

Whoever Wenger’s successor is will not have it easy because the squad is in Wenger’s image. The new man will require time and patience to get Arsenal flying again. I hope the fans will give whoever it is the time and patience.

Sunday 17 April 2016

Is It True That Arsenal Under Arsene Wenger Have Failed

At the moment, the Arsenal fan base appears to be very excitable on Social Media, Sports Phone in Programs on Radio & TV and in the Sports Pages of newspapers & magazines. This ‘excitement’ happens round about the 1st quarter of the year / early spring weather in the UK.  This ‘excitability’ has happened repeatedly for a few years now.

I genuinely wonder if it has always been like these especially in those years when George Graham’s squad mounted what appears to be a totally unbelievable title chase with that climaxed with that win at Anfield. I would love to sit down in a library and review archives of newspaper reports leading up to that title win to see what it was like back then.

My suspicion however is that the current version of Arsenal fans are cut from a different cloth. The social media variant appears to be a lot younger while the radio phone in program types are a mixture of the young and the old. This is based on a limited sample size so you must forgive my generalization.

In addition to the fan base, the media as ably represented by their paid pundits are also relevant to today’s topic – ‘the notion that Arsenal and Arsene in their current iteration are a failure’.  The pundits have a remit and appears they have performed this remit very well. However, their paymasters are not charities. Their reward is part measurable in online and media traffic and the Arsenal / Arsene / Failure debate is God sent for that traffic they crave.

Without question, the media in modern society plays a huge part in influencing and moderating opinion. However as individuals and individual Arsenal fans for that matter, we have the God given right to exercise some of our brain muscles before we accept a narrative or agenda hook line or sinker.  If the narrative or agenda fits with your world view, by all means accept it. After all, opinions are like arseholes, we all have one. But I take extra steps in ensuring my arsehole is perfumed i.e. I try to understand why I have a particular stance and try to understand the background. I try not to follow the crowd. I hope you can say the same for yourself.

So in order to look into this failure thing properly. I consulted Mr. & Mrs. Oxford Dictionary.  And they defined failure in a number of ways. If you are still following me, please review the definitions here

After reviewing all of those definitions, I am still struggling to see which one applies to Arsenal or Arsene.

The inability to win the Premier League in the last 11 or 12 seasons or the Champions League is one that is universally leveled at Arsenal and Arsene as a sign of failure.   The inability to progress past the round of 16 in the Champions League in the last 6 seasons is another badge of failure according to the narrative pushers. Finally some are very upset with the lack of consistency and the fact that our season sort of follow a particular pattern.

All validly held opinions in my view. However what are the foundations of these opinions? Is winning the league a success factor you have set for the club or for Arsene? Did they sign a contract with you to play in the Round of 8 and beyond of the Champions League? Or are these targets you have dreamed up and tried to impose on the club?

If these success factors are from fans / pundits only, are they legitimate targets? I don’t think so. Fans are not the only ones with a say. The board of the club, the manager, the players all have a say and if my memory serves me right, they did not promise that they will win the league or qualify for later stages of the Champions League.

As for the pundits, at the start of the season, you didn’t give Leicester or Tottenham a prayer of a chance. Neither did you expect Arsenal to win. You expected Chelsea or Manchester City to win the league. You have been WRONG on all scores. To me, these reeks more of failure but of course, it is Arsenal and Arsene’s failure that is relevant.

Personally, I have been an advocate of wanting the team to be competitive as I believe no team can guarantee winning the league. There are too many variables – player form, referees, injuries, state of mind / confidence, dodgy pasta, boardroom squabbles that can impact a title charge. By remaining  competitive, you retain the ability to win if your fellow competitors falter. 

Disappointingly, while we are still in the hunt, we have not been as competitive as I would hope. I however don’t buy into the failure narrative. Why?


Leicester have won 2.18 points per match before today’s West Ham game. Even if they get nothing from today, they will have an average of 2.12 points. If they maintain the 2.18, over the course of the season, they will have approximately 83 points, if the latter, they will have 81 points. Chelsea won the league with 87 (2.29 average) last season. City won it with 86 (2.26) & 89 (2.34) in the 2 seasons they won it and Manchester United 89 points the last time they won it (LAST EVER?). So Leicester’s performance is consistent with previous winner’s performance and that is why it looks like they will win the title.

Not winning the league is not failure.

Monday 11 April 2016


A couple of weeks ago, I paid some attention to Aston Villa fans with their Lerner out banners and made a few jokes about how similar their booing and demonstrations were to Arsenal fans. I mean Arsenal are only 3rd in a league race they were ‘ORDAINED’ to win hands down. It is not like many of these moaning Arsenal fans, the jeering fans of other clubs (Man U, Liverpool and Chelsea fans I am looking at you) and the pundits gave Arsenal any chance at the beginning of the season. No they didn’t. As usual, hindsight is fantastic vision. But please quit the ‘I told you so’. You did not ‘TOLD’ anything.

It is interesting to note that the only fans not booing are Leicester fans and probably Spurs fans. The latter certainly delighted to be above Arsenal and in the Champions League spot at the same time. Its like they are the adopted son of a very rich man whose birthday falls on Christmas day and the rich man is determined to spoil the kid rotten.

The fact that only Leicester fans are happy with their season just goes to emphasize the fact that winning is the only thing that matters now. If you are not winning, you are rubbish, the manager should be sacked and the owner should invest more money. It doesn’t matter that Leicester is now 132nd year in existence as a club and they have never won the league and have been relegated at least twice and that it took something exceptional for them to escape relegation last season. Also the most expensive player in the Leicester squad cost £7m, which is less than 50% of Wayne Rooney’s salary. And their current manager’s trophy cabinet is bare. But never mind.

Fans are definitely not interested in these facts. Fans who will turn their noses at a Riyad Mahrez signing or Jamie Vardy signing a season ago are suddenly wiser to the fact that their club’s transfer strategies is wrong. HINDSIGHT = GREAT VISION       

This sort of dovetails to a few comments about football club ownership. I am beginning to think it is a mug game. On the surface, Randy Lerner is no mug and neither is Roman Abramovich or the Emirs in Qatar and Abu Dhabi. But if you think that Roman and the Emirs have jointly donated in excess of £3b to their football project in the last few years and Roman especially has handed over close to £25m to one individual just for the pleasure of repeating the Sir Alan Sugar’s popular TV phrase, you then must wonder if truly he is no mug.  Very ironic when you realise that the overlords of Manchester United bought the club for nothing and have taken out in excess of £1b. I pray that tap never runs dry so they can continue to expend £250m every season to aspire for 5th place. Maybe the Manchester United fans are the mugs.

Back to Randy Lerner. When he bought Villa in 2006, he was a billionaire and had aspirations for greater things for the club and dare I guess for his personal life too. They made a couple of attempts to crack the champions’ league holy grail but failed. Unfortunately for him, he suffered catastrophic losses in the global financial crisis and a fortune draining divorce. Plus the man has lost over £250m since buying Villa for a price just short of £70m. He has unfortunately left the billionaire’s club and lost his wife and if his divorce is anything like we see in the papers and on TV, his relationship with his kids and lifelong friends has probably been impacted. Do we care? Do Villa fans care?

Not a jot. “Lerner Out”. Next mug come and buy us” is the Universal refrain. It doesn’t matter that Mr. Lerner has been trying to sell Villa for at least 3 seasons without a serious buyer.  The last report of a buyer in sight was a consortium led by Arsenal’s very own Tony Adams. Good luck. But still……..

“Lerner Out” I can only smile and ask but who wants to buy? By all means, ask for Lerner to go but outline the alternatives and if there are no alternatives, I will suggest your protests should be a bit muted.

I’m not quite sure the average punter / fan of a football club including Aston Villa understand the fact that the traditional football ownership structure is gone forever. Fans / communities don’t own the clubs anymore. Yes you are great for the atmosphere in the stadium but you can easily be replaced by the clubs throwing the gates open to all comers for free as TV money can effectively replace gate takings. In addition the big money required to run even the smallest football club suggests that the fan ownership model is busted.

Perhaps a lesson to Arsenal fans as well with the chants of Kroenke out. Although the Kroenke chants appeared to have petered out when Alisher Usmanov sort of poured water on them by effectively letting fans know that he sees Arsenal football club as a business in addition to a football club. Sad to note that fans don’t like that with many going on record that they will rather win trophies one season and risk the club going bankrupt. All well and good for us fans with our trophy winning memories / pictures etc. but Mr. Muggy the club owner still has to deal with his bank manager the day after the trophy win and explain why that overdraft should not be pulled.

Yes, it is not all about money as Leicester are appearing to prove. But the fact that it has never happened before in the history of football suggests to me it will be a one off. We shall see next season. To extend Leicester’s success as a stick to beat Arsene Wenger and Arsenal is wrong in my opinion. Arsenal have a football and business model. Yes fans want more (who doesn’t really) but the club has decided that its desire for glory will be balanced with financial sustainability. I think fans genuinely need to buy into this project. If you re not willing to, there is a choice and given the options at the moment, I think that choice is ‘NOT KROENKE OUT’. I don’t blame Mr. Kroenke for wanting to keep his billionaire status.