Sunday 21 August 2016


When I try to write about Arsenal, I endeavour not to read other people’s opinion before putting the proverbial pen to paper to avoid inadvertently borrowing J their  views .

However, I have read at least one review today on Positively Arsenal. Please read it here I have also seen a few headlines from around the ‘Arsenalsphere’. I dare say some blogs I won’t name out of courtesy, are probably reacting to the popularity of Arsenal Fan TV in their race to retain viewership. 

If I was to offer an advice, it would be for that blog to start a ‘microblog’ and upgrade some of the comments on their news thread to a mini blogpost; publish the photos of the commentators and hopefully turn some of them into celebrity fans. Perhaps they might become the new Heavy D heading with a gig in the “I am a celebrity” jungle in due course.

On yesterday’s match, I was definite it was a ‘must not lose’ match and I am glad we didn’t lose it. It is evident that our boys are not in peak condition yet and before this is latched onto as something to bash club and manager with, Mr. almighty Jurgen Klopp said something similar about Liverpool here He also mentioned that dreaded “the season is still young” phrase. Yes I get we don’t want to play catch up but guess what? We are playing it. We are where we are. Is there a chance we might want to get behind the team with some optimistic & positive support.

What do I think of yesterday’s match. Koscielny is a monster of a central defender and the Arsenal defence miss him when he is not there. Mind you, he is not perfect. I think he gets easily frustrated when things are not going right for the team and makes risky tackles and passes. Monaco at home 2 seasons ago is one example. I have written a lot about him – both complementary and otherwise. But he was worth all the accolades in the thesaurus yesterday. 

Our new Holding defender J, Rob. He looked assured. He looked the part and is very much one for the future. He ROBbed J Leicester of a few chances. I think both Rob & Laurent and a few others in the squad are a testament to Arsenal and Arsene’s approach to football transfers. There are gems out there that don’t cost a slice of Planet Pluto.

The midfield was ok and was at no time overran until maybe the last 10 minutes or so when we desperately tried to win and over committed men forward.  Through a combination of diligent goalkeeping on Cech’s part, astute defending by our back 4 and some good fortune, we kept a clean sheet and earned a draw.

It is obvious that the Alexis as a Centre Forward hasn’t caught fire yet. There are a few issues here. From what we know of Alexis, he is a high energy player and wants to be involved. As a result of this, I don’t think he has maintained positional discipline in both of our matches this term. Many have commented on the fact that we seem to be seeking Alexis out with long balls whereas he prefers ball to feet and to run at defence. Personally, I think either the whole team minus Alexis are not translating training routine into the field of play, or one individual is not getting it right. I leave you to make your deductions.

On Alexis, I reckon he got kicked close to 10 times by Morgan and Huth yesterday. And they both got nothing from the Ref.  I have just watched the match highlights again and saw Simpson’s horrible foul on Oxlade - Chamberlain on the 39th minute. Again, NOTHING from the ref.  Earlier in the 31st minute, Koscielny was bear hugged by Wes Morgan in the box off the Santi Cazorla free kick. Ref = Nothing. Zero. Nada.

On rotational fouling by opponents,  same happened during our match against Liverpool. Referee offered no protection and Aaron & Iwobi were routinely kicked. Its these small matter of other teams fouling our players that get lost in the media circus on Arsenal injuries. The way our fans lap up the obvious narratives is bewildering. You have to wonder if they actually watch the match or rely on 2nd hand / 3rd hand information or an overactive imagination.

On our goal chances, I counted 4 near chances for Arsenal that could have defined our game. On the 16th minute, I think Bellerin could have placed his ball into the box with a bit more conviction. This would have resulted in a tap in for a goal.

On 74th minute, Theo had 3 other players available and played a tame shot at Schmeichel instead.  All of those 3 players were centrally placed and would have almost certainly scored.  Again on the 80th minute, he could have played Giroud in but went in on goal himself. Finally on the 87th minute, he could have played Alexis in but tried to feebly chip the Leicester keeper.

I am not blaming Theo for our results yesterday just pointing out our half decent chances. I get the fact that as a striker, the manager wants you to score goals and you also have to be selfish to score. But when your team needs a goal, as a team member you really shouldn’t care if the goalkeeper scores for you. When you are 2 or 3 nil to the good, showboat all you like and use that opportunity to shine but think team first.

I am hoping we iron out all the issues quickly and bounce back to 3 points next weekend.



Tuesday 16 August 2016


I normally wouldn’t have attended Sunday’s match as I am Daddy ‘Daycaring’ at the moment. I was however offered something I couldn’t refuse, a place in the Executive Box at The Emirates. I was privileged to meet with a few movers and shakers and unfortunately watched my beloved Arsenal ship 4 goals. L

I was suffering from palpitations before the start of the match; I was worried about Liverpool turning us over, as they are one of my tips to do very well this season. I didn’t fancy our makeshift center back pairings against their very experienced offensive players. Seeing the way the manager deployed Coquelin & Elneny gave me some comfort, as those two are our more defensive minded midfielders.

The team set up largely worked well in the first half until that cheap free kick was given away in the last minute and Liverpool equalized although we should have doubled our lead before the away side’s equalizer with Alexis’ free kick. I fancied him to score but it didn’t happen unfortunately.  IMO The equalizer knocked the stuffing out of the boys if the words of Petr Cech are anything to go by and going by the display in the first 15 minutes of the 2nd half. 

I believed the Arsenal boys were told to calm down and not rush their game seeing as we were somewhat dominant in the first half and they probably took this too literally. Liverpool came out more energised,  they upped their pressing game and the Gunner's midfield didn't cope well with the press. 

I noticed Elneny hobbling after Liverpool’s 2nd goal and thought he should have been subbed way before he came off after their 4th. I also thought Coquelin should have been taken off as he was already on a yellow. He goes in hard and committed and with the yellow card, his game would have been hampered.

With no protection from the midfield, Calum Chambers should have been a bit more physical when Mane rounded him for the 4th. He had a chance to foul the Liverpool player outside the box but he didn’t. Yes Mane was fast, but from memory and from watching the replays, Calum could have taken him out and taken one for the team.  

Also, Alexis didn’t appear to be working as the central striker as the team didn’t play to his strength and the midfielders were a bit too far behind him. There was one instance where Ramsey released a ball too early to him when a break was on with the intention of getting the return ball and probably scoring a goal. To me, this form of glory hunting is one of the recurring weakness I have noticed in Ramsey’s game.

As I am writing this, I fancy myself as a manager with the observations I have outlined above. However many who are a lot brighter than me have said,  “Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one”.  

It is easy and fashionable to assume, Wenger didn’t see the same things. Maybe he did and decided to do nothing about it. He is the manager with almost 30 years experience. I am just a football lover trying my hands at writing.

With all respect, I will never know as much as Wenger on football & Arsenal no matter how much I try. Same goes for the Gary Nevilles & Thierry Henrys of this world. The best place to be in the Premier League is on the Sky Sofa twiddling video knobs. Gary has done his apprenticeship at Valencia and is on a 'Gap Period' away from football management probably after seeing a counselor and undergoing some therapy sessions for that harrowing experience in Spain. Thierry is wiser though. He has learnt from Gary's experience and has decided to give management a swerve for now.

Wenger is not a professional pundit; he will be shit at the pundit job I imagine. Refuses to exaggerate, refuses to insult, plays a straight bat, doesn’t believe in absolutes. No he wont help the pundit industry attract its fair share of sheep and click bait swallowers. As far as I am concerned however, all the pundits combined don’t know as much as Wenger does about the inner workings of Arsenal, they don’t read the doctors’, physios’, nutritionists’’, physiologists’’ reports, they don't know what financial covenants the club has agreed with its bankers; they don't know if the club is looking to make a big bang of a signing. Wenger does. 

All the fans combined in their passionate love combined cannot manage Arsenal better than Wenger at this moment. It would be nice to know which Arsenal fan is as successful as Mr. Kroenke or Mr. Usmanov. Two individuals richer than Croesus. They have both decided that Wenger is the guardian of their billion pounds investment for the next one season but BabaGrumpy, a football lover and moonlighting writer believes he is better than Wenger at managing Arsenal. Please lets be rational.

I get that our emotions as fans are linked to football.  I get the loss of bragging rights, the loss of face and for many punters, the loss of their stake. Personally I spent the period after the match discussing politics with a group of 12 very senior people in the Executive Box. However I couldn’t sleep until 4.30am on Monday morning and it took me a while to feel good enough to eat. If I wasn’t looking after the young ones, I would probably have gone on a bender.

But where do we go from here? While it is difficult not to focus on these things, I will suggest fans get behind the team and Arsene. If you are convinced Arsenal are not going to make Top 4 this season, get behind the team all the same as it will be Arsene’s last. Support your team with your passion, your ear deafening clapping and singing. After all we will get a new manager next season.

If you however need a somewhat nuanced perspective of Sunday’s match, I recommend this article from a well-known and well-decorated journalist - Gabriele Marcotti.   

On my part, I don’t share in a lot of doom mongering going on following Sunday’s result. Yes I was distraught but don’t forget we shipped 3 against a lesser Liverpool Team in January and 4 against a Southampton side in December. 

Yes the open season on Wenger is fashionable but some perspective is necessary. True, we have structural issues that are the responsibility of the manager but are also a consequence of his philosophy.  He doesn’t believe in the cynical type of play / rotational fouling common with many teams. He believes in certain type of players and I believe firmly that he refuses to win for winning’s sake. Take what you want from all that and make your conclusions. He is who is and he is not changing and as Marcotti said above, if you as a fan is upset, take it up with his owners because by their silence and non-action, they definitely find his results acceptable.

Wednesday 10 August 2016

Manchester United & Manchester City Will Not Win The League

So I watched Manchester United battle Leicester on Sunday for the Charity Shield on a dodgy stream. As you do J  

This was United in all their pomp and glory taking on last season’s surprise title winners. United were rubbish and still managed to win. To be fair this was a United side sans the new best player in the world.  

In case you wish to dispute the fact that Paul Pogba is the best player in the world, the irrefutable logic of football pricing 'out logics' you and strongly affirms that he is indeed the World’s best player for now. Perhaps until Lionel Messi tires of Project ‘Win Everything’ at Barcelona and decides to join Manchester City for £200m.

From what I saw during the Charity Shield game, United will not be winning the Premier League anytime soon. Leicester had loads of chances, more shots on goal than United and had 7 corners to United’s 2. Liecester should have won if they were a bit more clinical with their finishing.

But United won. From a brilliant moment by Jesse Lingard and Zlatan doing his Talisman thingy. This was despite the fact that the new god of Manchester barely had a kick all game.   Yes winning is all that matters although as we learnt last year, the Community Shield is only a glorified friendly. And guess what, didn’t the Chosen One start his United career with a Charity Shield win too. The end of the season in May will reveal all.

I am convinced that if United play their next 38 games in the Premier League like they did during this Community Shield match, they will not make Top 4 talk less of winning the league. Although the arrival of Pogba will be a game changer. He certainly adds a ‘Vieraesque’ element to United and should make a difference in the Premier league. 

However, what happens when Man U play Watford on Sunday 18 September and Mr. Nyom, if he is played by his new manager decides to kick Paul Pogba for fun like he did Ozil at the Emirates recently and “Mr. Refer Ree willingly allows the robust challenge go”. What happens on Saturday 01 October when Mr. Ryan Shawcross and his entire Stoke crew decides to do a ‘Welcome to the Britannia’ party for the World’s most expensive player? What will United look like when Paul is out of action for 3 months and Zlatan is banned by the FA for 10 games for mouthing off to Mark Clattenberg seeing as that one enjoys his time in the sun too? We shall see.

What about Manchester City. They are a different kettle of fish all together. Not that I have seen any fishes in a kettle before. City arguably have the best manager on planet earth. Neutrals love him. Ladies love. Guys adore him *MUSIC*. He has the laurels to add to his charming public persona. He might try to generously put on the Mr. Nice Guy display but he is no slouch. He however has a disadvantage when you weigh him up as a manager in the Premier League versus the ‘Motormouth One’. Pep will not change his attacking / ball playing philosophy to suit any situation or circumstance. If faced with adversity in the Premier League, he will persist. Whereas Jose will serve a generous offering of dross & London Bus Depot behavior to achieve his aim. I think this might be the difference between both men this season.

Like United, I watched City’s match too. They played a friendly against Arsenal on the same day. Thank God that was on terrestrial TV. I didn’t have to search for a dodgy stream. The Pep revolution was very evident. He is trying to do a Barcelona lite with Fernando & Fernandinho, as he’s center backs.  Very revolutionary for the Premier League I dare say. I believe the idea is to dominate possession to the extent that you are playing the proverbial ‘half field’ with your opponents hence the need for midfielders as center backs. Pep & Barcelona have a remarkable record of converting midfielders to center backs – Yaya Toure, Javier Mascherano & Alex Song readily come to mind. Pep also did this with Javi Martinez at Bayern and has been quoted in the British media that “Fernando can play 10 different positions”. 

Pep wants his center halves to play from the back and we saw this many times in Norway during the Arsenal friendly.  I’m not sure it will work in the Premier League though. There are many teams who set up to play counter-attacking football or who park the bus and wait for the long ball opportunity to catch teams out. There are also genuine ball playing sides like Arsenal and Liverpool who will press you very high up the pitch. So I am not sure the Barcelona lite model will work in the Premier League.

I think you need proper defenders in the Premier League. The lowest rank opponent have genuine chances against the best teams. Unfortunately City are short in the proper defender department. Many pundits have commented about the lack of quality in their defence. I concur with these pundits. It appears City have spent loads of money on aspiring defenders like Mangala. Unfortunately Mr. Mendes sold them a pup on that one. Stories have emerged in the media that Pep wants to get rid of Eliaquim.  I think the French international is ok but he is not worth the millions City paid for him.  In addition, I suspect the reaction of pundits to his game has knocked his confidence. He now needs to take a step back, find a club with less of a media circus around it and hopefully rebuild his confidence and thrive once again.

I am not sure what is going on with Otamendi. There is nothing to suggest he is injured and he didn’t feature at all during the Arsenal friendly. Perhaps he will make a return when the season starts proper in a few days. Again like Mangala, City clearly overpaid for him although he has delivered a few more steady performance than his French teammate. Heart warming for me are snippets emerging from the City camp that Pep thinks highly of Tosin Adarabioyo. He is a natural center back but despite this ‘Pep sized drawback’ it looks like he will feature in Pep’s plans. He had a few shaky moments on Sunday but the run out would have done him a world of good.

All of the 3 players who played center back at different times for City during the friendly on Sunday gave the ball away carelessly as a result of pressure from the Arsenal forwards. If they repeat these in Premier League matches, they will suffer many defeats. It is unlikely that John Stones will make a significant difference or impact. Yes, Stones is for the future, but his present is very worrying. He over plays in his 18-yard box and doesn’t appear to want to make any corrections to his game. Maybe Pep can help him progress.

Like United, City are fortunate to have match winners like Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure on his day and potential match winners like Kevin De Bruyne, maybe Raheem Sterling if he fulfills his potential and Leroy Sane if he adapts well to the Premier League. Acquisitions like Nolito appear lame to me. All I saw of Nolito on Sunday was a Jesus Navas wannabe.  I don’t expect him to light up the Premier League.

Based on my observation during that friendly match, that City team is not about to win the Premier League. City fans and owners should be very worried. You have a manager with zero Premier League experience. A manager who if stories coming out of Munich are anything to go by, has a messiah complex. Messiah's don't do repentance & changing of ways. 

So who wins the league if not City or United. I think any other winner including Arsenal will effectively be doing a Leicester. As an Arsenal fan, I am rooting for Wenger’s boys. Its time to end the hurt. I do not expect Arsenal to win because they are going to blow all opponents away or because the players are the best. I expect Arsenal to win the league because their opponents make more errors. Last year, Leicester were not the best club side player for player. But they were the best team. So may the best Arsenal win this season.