Saturday, 26 May 2018

The Post Wenger Arsenal Years Are Here

I am still mourning. I am still sad that Arsene is gone. I hope he comes back one day. As a fan; as an ambassador; or as the board chairman cum chief executive. I pray he doesn’t have to come back on a rescue mission as that will mean something terrible has happened. 

If you think I am living in the past and my head is stuck in the sand, I forgive you in advance. I pray Arsenal never experience a tiny fraction of the worst-case scenario of the recent change in management. 

Wenger leaving was always going to happen. In previous comments, Arsene had indicated a desire to retire sometime in 2021 or thereabout. So he was always going to leave but he decided to leave earlier principally given the way some fans have behaved. 

If you are a thinking person, you will see there is more to his leaving than this singular issue. But what is the point of dwelling on the underlying issues when Arsene himself for the sake of the club is keeping schtum for now. I hope one day, we will read all about it in the memoirs of Arsene, Ivan and any other major person associated with Arsenal.

Ivan Gazidis, Raul Sanllehi & Sven Mislintat deserve big commendations and massive accolades for the job they have done in conducting the recruitment process and in appointing a very good manager in Unai Emery. The less said about the part they played in the departure of the previous manager the better. 

It is now all about facing the future rather than holding on to the past. We have not forgotten the past but there is a new manager to support and the club is bigger than anybody including the shareholders. 

I think Unai Emery was very bold in the way he handled his first press conference following his announcement. To open up yourself to the potential ridicule by speaking in a foreign language that you are not totally comfortable with is high risk and Unai carried it off with aplomb. No doubt this is a sign of someone who is ready to take a measured high-risk action and achieve the desired high reward. 

I love Mr. Emery’s antecedents especially his time at Sevilla. That was the only time I knew anything about him. I wish to thank him for destroying Liverpool and J├╝rgen Klopp in that Europa Cup final in May 2016. 

Thank you Emery also for that 2:1 smack down of Mauricio Pochettino and Espanyol in December 2011. On behalf of all Arsenal fans, I hope you continue to beat down both men going forward. 

I am 100% certain, your numbers against Mourinho and Guardiola will improve significantly as Manchester United will continue to be poor or Jose will get fired and Guardiola will soon go for another sabbatical. 

I hope for great things from Mr. Emery. His record of dealing with the up and coming talents in Sevilla is a huge testimonial of what he can achieve with Arsenal. The absence of any destructive influence like Neymar or Cavani in the Arsenal dressing room is another reason to be hopeful.

While we are hopeful, we must give the new man a chance. The British football media and pundits have always insisted that new managers must be given three transfer windows before demanding results. I hope they extend the same courtesy to Unai Emery and not get on his back for the whole of next season and the first half of the following season.

We have also seen how the media have fawned over Mauricio Pochettino and have unanimously awarded him the title of the best manager in England for winning nothing and choking during semi finals and finals left, right and center.  Please in the name of all that is decent, kindly ensure that Unai Emery benefits from the same accolades irrespective of results. 

The most important group however who should never get on Mr. Emery’s back are the fans and the three executives who brought him in. If Arsenal are not achieving the desired results but are clearly not going backwards, it should be a time for introspection that perhaps we were wrong all along and not because the previous manager was past his sell by date or that the new man is not quite right. 

I fervently hope Mr. Gazidis will find a way to withdraw his comments at Unai’s first press conference when he said a team of Arsenal’s stature should not be 6thin the Premier League.  Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea have all finished lower than 6th. What is it in Arsenal’s stature that makes finishing 6thearth shattering?

If Mr. Gazidis had said a team of Arsenal stature should not be almost 40 points behind the league winners, I will not argue at all. You can finish 6thand be only a few points behind the winners in a competitive league. So 6this not the problem, the lack of competitiveness is. 

Manchester City, United, Liverpool, Chelsea, that club down the road will be back next season. Some of them will spend significant sums to improve their current squad. No Arsenal fan and no right thinking person will argue that City and United have more money than Arsenal and will outspend Arsenal again. 

Liverpool in the last two years have spent c£200m on Salah, Mane, Chamberlain, Wijnaldum, Van Dijk and have committed to spending another £55m on Keita this summer with perhaps £75m Fekir incoming.   Yes they have been helped by selling Suarez and Coutinho for significant sums. But they have only c£70m in debts compared to something like £300m debt at Arsenal. This allows for significant scope for spending which Arsenal does not have.   

Chelsea barring any issues the owner might have with the British government are likely to spend big this season after spending over £200m last season and over £100m the season before. Forget the over one billion pound debts hidden in its books as it is owed to one person and not to any bank. Don’t forget Chelsea are also quite adept at manufacturing record-breaking transfers to some obscure places. David Luiz to a Malaysian Club for £100m must be a deal they are working on at the moment. 

Now to that plucky club down the road. The one with no money according to gullible people. They have almost completed their tin pot stadium at a whopping cost of almost a billion pounds. That scummy lot have been fortunate to borrow money when interest rates are a pittance. They have recently given their manager a massive reward for failure. In the past two seasons, that club that does not spend money (according to the same gullible people) have spent over £200m in the last two years. 

The squad Mr. Emery has inherited needs a lot of improvement and also needs to deal with the expectation of the young lads to break into the first team. While I agree with Mr. Wenger that with the addition of two or three players, the squad will excel, I think even with the addition of the two or three, we will not equal Manchester City in squad talent or ability. 

Amongst the Top 6 goalkeepers, nobody will claim that Petr Cech is the best. Amongst the Top 6 Centre Backs, I would have backed Koscielny as the stand out boss two years ago; I don’t think he is close now. 

Bellerin is very exciting and has defended with minimal support from the players in front of him. Despite the undeserved criticism, I hope he has a long successful career ahead of him but as things stands he is not a standout right back in the Premier League. 

Monreal I will take ahead of any left back but Nacho is not getting younger. Arsenal forwards in Aubameyang, Lacazette, Wellbeck and Nketiah need no additions and might be the deadliest forward next season but we need a bit of steel in the midfield. Ramsey, Xhaka, Ozil, Iwobi, Wilshere, Elneny, Mkhitaryan etc. are all very good at what they do and support the attack but we need some steel in the middle to help with the defence. 

I am excited at the new manager’s plan to play pressing football when we are out of possession and to be protagonists when we have it. I believe this will help ease some of the defensive pressures on Arsenal. 

If Unai Emery can make us more difficult to beat while playing attractive football, if he can challenge competitively for all four competitions we will be playing next season, he would have over achieved in my opinion. Top Four, winning trophies will be a bonus especially with the comments in this link that I definitely share 


Sunday, 20 May 2018

My 2017 / 2018 Premier League Season Review

In my preview of the 2017/18 season, I got something half wrong. I believed both Manchester United and Manchester City won’t win the Premier League. 

I am glad that my prediction was at least half right. Having a team that dished up the most diabolical football you will ever see since Sam Allardyce’s Bolton, win zero trophies was a very good thing. To then see Chelsea defeat them at Wembley in the FA Cup Final using the most 'Joseic' tactics ever and watching Mourinho bitch and moan about this lose made the season sort of worthwhile. 

Manchester United have been dire and it is a measure of how bad the premier league has been this season that they managed to get second place. When Manchester City defeated United at Old Trafford in December 2017, the difference was eight points. By the end of the season, the gulf in class had grown to 19 points.  Diabolical. 

If you are deluded or caught in the Jose Mourinho warp, you can talk about progress. But winning three “massive” trophies last season to ZERO this term and playing the most turgid football after spending north of £350m is not progress. 

Quit that nonsense about 81 points would have won the league in 6 previous premier league seasons. So was Arsenal’s 75 points last season. It would have guaranteed a top 4 finish in many other seasons. It was only one point behind Liverpool. It was classed a failure then and so is United’s 81 points now. 

For a squad of equal ability to finish 19 points apart is disastrous and no positives should be taken. Certainly not after United lost to all the newly promoted sides and have racked up their 19th‘watching paint dry’ draw since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Coming 2nd and ending the season with 81 points was no achievement for this expensively assembled side. 

Overall it has been a poor Premier League season. I have seen lots of statistics demonstrating how dire the season was. This stat comparing the 2003/4 season with the 2017/18 season made a huge impression on me. Please see the link here .

“teams from 8th- 20th had more points (in 2003/4) than today including the bottom 6 teams which means the standard of football was better in 03/04”

You can disagree all you want but be clear that the standard of defending is worse now than it was a few years ago. They don’t make Sol Campbell, Steve Bould, Prime Kolo Toure, Steve Bruce, Japp Stam etc. any more.  Consequently attacking sides like Manchester City have benefitted. 


Manchester City winning by record points deserves some applause but their records are diminished. All the pundits expected them to go the next 10 years undefeated, win the quintuple and the world cup but it wasn’t to be. They lost. 

In fact they were torn a new strip by Liverpool at Anfield and by United at the Emptyhad. Yes they have won the league and broken records but the one that matters most remains unbroken. They can have another go at equaling Arsene Wenger & Arsenal’s Invincibles record next season. I will be rooting for them to fall on this particular endeavor. 

As an Arsenal fan, everything that could go wrong this season has. Right from that game at Stoke. The referees set out their marker very early. And they succeeded in derailing our season. God forbid Liverpool win in Kiev. I might just decide to hide away forever. This is one time I am hoping the bookies are right and the officials genuinely have a Real Madrid agenda and will do everything to make 13tha lucky number for Zidane’s Team. 

The season itself started on a great note for me as a Gooner. I was hoping the fresh legs from non-participation in the Europa League by the first eleven will give us some serious boost. It did a bit but not enough. The first game of the premier league season on that Friday night was spectacular with the 4:3 win over Leicester. Our defensive and midfield frailties were apparent but we had the ability to score goals especially with our record signing Alexandre Lacazette. 

Then the referees struck when Lacazette’s equalizer was denied by a phantom offside call at Stoke. We saw glaringly dodgy refereeing decisions again in October at Vicarage Road, in November at the Empythad and when the issue came to a head with that phantom penalty call by Mike Dean of Thieves at West Brom in December. It is perhaps fitting that West Brom have now been relegated. Shame Tony Pulis wasn’t in charge for this one. But our cards were doubly marked from when Arsene called out the Dean of Bent Referees. 

Transfer sagas also played their part in wrecking the season. First it was the ‘will he, wont he’ with ‘significantly improved but still plays a cross field pass to nobody’ Oxlade - Chamberlain. He then decided not to turn up in a match against the team he wanted to join. The Alexis Sanchez circus was also a factor. I think Wenger deserves a Sainthood for bringing two devils in Sanchez and Manchester United together. You will never see a pair more deserving of each other. I wish them more piano playing days together.

It was one bad away result after another. One bad luck game after another.  We stemmed the tide after a while and delivered a set of spectacular home results overall. We just couldn’t crack our away form. I know Arsene alluded to it been a mental issue, however I have a feeling the players felt they were playing against their opponents and the referee in away matches. These same guys did the business in the Milan and Moscow away games in the Europa League. 

I was never bothered about the rubbish ‘Arsenal are yet to win an away point in year 16xx” bandied about in the mainstream media and on social media. For two years running, Arsenal was the best premier league side in two calendar years. Did our detractors and fake pretend fans pay any attention? Why should I pay any to their silly narrative?

The League Cup final was heart wrenching. Another poor referee call cost us the first goal when we were very comfortable and should have been a couple of goals ahead if Aubameyang had been a bit more clinical. If only Lacazette was fit, if only Monreal wasn’t injured early in the match. If only, if only, if only. 

Our second shot at glory during the season was wrecked by bad luck also. The sort of bad luck you probably remember from the 2011 League Cup final. A miskick in defence by an Arsenal defender gifts the opponent an undeserved goal  coupled with a shit goalkeeper in a relegation bound team having a blinder cost us the final.  

Same way we lost the Europa semi final to Atletico. There were 3 or 4 bad luck moments leading up to Griezmann’s goal at the Emirates. We could and should have killed that game at the Emirates with clinical finishing despite Oblak’s great goalkeeping. 

I couldn’t bring myself to watch Atletico lift the trophy in Lyon. That should have been us. That should have been Alexandre Lacazette lifting the trophy in his backyard. That should have been the boys wishing Arsene a wonderful au revoir. But, C’est la vie  

Yes Life. It kicks you in the gonads whether you expect it to or not. It did it again when the worst possible thing that could have happened this season happened when Arsene Wenger decided he had had enough and made up his mind to leave. Forget what idiots, fools and morons say, Wenger called time because of many issues. I can speculate till kingdom come on these issues but I wont. Wenger wanted to go quietly but the Club wanted his departure to be marked with an almighty bang hence the club announcement and the timing of the statement. 

So we have had the marvelous goodbyes to Arsene both from genuine Arsenal fans who turned up en masse to wish the great man farewell and fans of other clubs like Leicester and Huddersfield. We have seen many fond farewells from many big-hearted people like Sir Alex Ferguson and the management of Huddersfield who specially honoured an authentic Football Great.  

My heart will forever ache at Wenger’s departure but I always believed he will call time when he thinks it is appropriate. And he did. So please ignore any small-minded ungrateful lout who thinks Wenger was sacked. 

Arsenal have lost many greats this season. The greatest of them all, Arsene Wenger is gone. Vic Akers too. Boro P – Wenger’s most loyal assistant has left the building. Colin Lewin after serving for 23 years – gone. Santi Cazorla appears to be leaving. Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud, Francis Coquelin, Kieran Gibbs, Szczesny, Gabriel, Sanogo, Debuchy. All loyal servants, all wonderful individuals. All gone.

An end of many eras. 

I hope we never see a rotten season like this again. I hope we experience many of the Wenger era highs in the future but brace for the ride guys. I think it will be very bumpy. 

Maybe next year will be our season. It is a sad day when you have to adopt the favourite phrase Liverpool fans. 
     

Friday, 4 May 2018

#MerciArsene

Sad.
Gut wrenching.
Anger
Annoyed
Sleepless 
Rage
Despondent 
Looking for a silver lining 
What ifs

All of these emotions I have experienced in the last few hours. 

Sad, anger and annoyed that there was no fairy tale. 

Raging that some fans will never let go. 10 seasons from now, they will still be scapegoating Arsene and whichever player catches their vile fancy.

I want to say thank you to Arsene. You have given us joy in the last 22 years. I trust you will continue to give joy in whatever you decide to do following your few weeks of rest. 

I genuinely hope you are happy. I genuinely wish you happiness. As a person who has given so much joy to football fans, you deserve plenty of good things in life. 

I can only imagine your parents raised you to be a thoroughly decent person as it is not a coincidence that in all the clubs where you have played and worked people have nothing but good glowing words to say about you and how you have positively impacted their lives. 

From when life had little or no material privileges to when life had significant resources like it did in Arsenal, you looked after both the emotional, physical, physiological and psychological well being of the people around you. Your good nature, good heart and kind consideration did not start yesterday, it is who you are. 

I listened to your interview after the FA Cup victory last May and your words will stay with me forever. You are happy with your unique and unmatched achievements of winning the 2004 season undefeated and winning Seven FA Cups. I hope and pray that those two records remain unmatched in my lifetime.    

I want to thank you for all the good things you did for Arsenal Football Club 

The 60,000 seater Arsene Wenger Emirates Stadium 

Turning Arsenal into one of European Football Elite

Growing Arsenal’s global football fanbase

Pioneering New Football Management methods 

Prolonging the playing career of many footballers 

Playing beautiful football on a shoe string budget  

Developing young players into global giants of the football game   

Building the back four that went the whole season undefeated for less than eight million pounds.

Watching Arsenal lift six trophies in the last five years 

Arsene I salute you. 

Sadly the philosophy of free flowing football was always likely to have its own drawbacks. Just like any philosophy. But you have done your part and done it well. It is left to others to build on your legacy. 

One Trophy every 2.2 years for someone who never managed the richest clubs and who never managed Lionel Messi, is a terrific achievement. 

#MerciArsene