Wish You Were Here (JW/AR/AOC/FC etc)

November 24, 2015

A MWG or a MLG or even a MDG? If Olympiakos get a point in Munich it doesn’t matter anyway.

My opinion is that we should give it the full beans, attack from the first, if we are two up by half-time bring on the kids and look forward to a trip to Greece. If we start slowly, go in even at half-time then fight out a tough 1-0 whilst picking up an injury or two would it be considered a successful evening.

I am sure Mr Wenger will go all out to win this game and expect to get a result in Athens, he is focussed upon the CL and rightly so. The CL is the source of our European reputation (such as it is) and AW has a wonderful record of getting our club into the last 16.

Why is it important? Money and seeding.

There have been times this season when I thought it would be better if we gave up on the CL , finished 4th and concentrated upon the PL, but that is not how AFC work – the club philosophy is to try and win every game; tonight will be no exception.

Who plays?

Same as Saturday. Flamini replaces Le Coq. We do not risk Ramsey who has only had one day of full training. We have a 5 day break before the Norwich game.



Tonight I will don the full kit, turn the TV out towards the terrace, settle into the padded teak Steamer and enjoy a Pretendies. Thanks to the freezing conditions I will be armed with a full bottle of warming fluids (single malt), an Arsene Wenger down coat, a Steve Bould woolly hat, Eduardo gloves and a Chamakh snood. If there is no sign of BR in the morrow then send out the St. Bernards.

We are a much better team than Zagreb and should win tonight.


Monday Morning Blues

November 23, 2015

I think we were all looking forward to taking three points from the game and putting pressure on City at the top of the Premiership. Sadly that was not to be.

There were sufficient omens before the game to dampen our expectations. We had half a team in the treatment room, we were playing a Pulis side which is morphing into his old Stoke City just as they are throwing off their Orc reputation and starting to play football.  Our players had barely time to catch their breath after the Internationals and we have a Champions League game to follow.

Having said that, we started with our first choice ’keeper and back four, our mid-field pairing of Cazorla and Coquelin were in place only Gibbs, playing on the left with Alexis wide right, has not been a regular starter while Giroud has taken over as central striker since Walcott’s unfortunate injury.

It was when things started to go wrong, with Le Coq forced off by injury, that the threadbare nature of our squad became horribly evident. A rusty Arteta was making heavy weather of his role alongside Cazorla and despite Giroud’s headed goal two errors by Arteta meant we went in at half-time 2 – 1 down.

The second half quickly saw Arteta off with a calf injury with Flamini replacing him and then Gibbs giving way to the uninspiring Joel Campbell, further evidence of the weakness of  the bench.

So just what was it that induced the Monday morning blues?

Well, for me it is the realisation that over  the many games played against Pulis’ teams we still haven’t learnt how to deal with that particular style of play.

On top of that we are most certainly being bitten in the bum by the failure to recruit a decent back-up for Le Coq, as well as a distinct lack of an alternative striker.

Finally, with City losing at home to Liverpuddle we wasted a wonderful opportunity to move to the top of the table.

Oh, those Monday morning blues!

Written by Norfolk Gooner

Arsenal succumb to defeat as injury crises deepens!

November 22, 2015

Hussein 1

A dismal day at the Hawthornes for the Gunners was compounded by a key injury to Francis Coquelin and leaving Arsenal even further in the injury mire.

The day started with much optimism as the teams came out. There was a moment to pay respects to victims of the horrific Paris attacks last week as the French national anthem was played.

The match began and the tackles were flying in and with one resulting in Coquelin going off and being replaced by Arteta. The fans were very worried and the hardcore travelling fans were left ruing further injury misery. It was evident that Coquelin was one player Arsenal could ill afford to lose due to the tenacity he brings to the midfield. To add insult to injury (no pun intended) the fans were left bemoaning the decision to bring Arteta on rather than Flamini.

Arsenal got in their stride and without looking too convincing took the lead with another Giroud goal from a Mesut Ozil free kick, the German delivering yet another assist.

Then the mayhem occurred. A disputed free kick was awarded to West Brom which was cut back for Morrison who was left unmarked to flick the ball past Cech. The Arsenal supporters were left raging at the lack of marking fuelling their anger at Per Mertesacker. Then just before half time another sucker punch. West Brom worked the ball down the Arsenal right and the low cross was diverted by Arteta into his own net. The fans were left seething about Arteta and considered this a double whammy with him playing then scoring an own goal. One fan was so furious and shouting vitriol towards the team due to the manner of the West Brom goals that he made his way to the concourse for an early drink.

The second half began with Arsenal bombarding the West Brom goal. Mesut Ozil came a whisker away from restoring parity as he hit the post and Kieran Gibbs was then denied at the back post. West Brom thought they scored a third and put Arsenal out of reach but the ball did not cross the line.

Then there was hope.. Campbell went down in the box and Santi Cazorla took the responsibility to put Arsenal level. The West Brom players were then playing mind games with Santi putting him off and there were even suggestions in the crowd that the West Brom players were kicking the spot… Their dirty tactics paid off as Santi fluffed his lines and his penalty went over the bar.

West Brom secured the 3 points and the West Brom fans were ironically chanting Santi Cazorla’s name much to their delight trying to wind the Arsenal fans up. To the Arsenal fans credit they took it with a pinch of salt with most putting today’s defeat to injuries and misfortune. A miserable day for the Gunners but we move on now.


Written by Sir A Hussein

Remember your Shinpads

November 21, 2015

Much to look forward to today – a possible Merinho breakdown, Klopp’s second defeat in a row, the Classico, MU downed by the rampant Hornets. What I am not looking forward to is the physicality of a game at the Hawthorns.

I have nothing against WBA, I admired them during the Big Ron era for their support of black footballers, also that they would routinely gift us 3 points at home and away, but things are different today; today they are managed by Tony Pulis.


Imagine how you would feel if it was announced that Mr Wenger was to be replaced by Pulis? First out of the door would be Ozil – Pulis would never have an artist in his team. Theo Walcott? No chance – the man is a wimp. Cazorla? A holding midfielder who can’t kick indiscriminately  and physically oppress the opposition. Going through our team how many would get picked by Pulis? I would hazard a guess at Alexis, Coquelin, BFG and Gabriel.

Having said that, it is one of the pleasures of football that there are many ways to win 3 points and perhaps it would be boring if only fluent, attacking, exciting, skilful, intelligent football was the only style on offer. (a little BR joke for those who are too literal)

In 12 PL games WBA have scored 10 times, have collected 26 yellow and one red card (we have the lowest in the PL with 12/2). They have 4 points from 6 home games and are without question the dullest team to watch in Europe, if not the world, universe, galaxy, etc.

I wonder what Pulis makes of Mr. Wenger. What must he think when reading of AW wanting to bring out the beauty in his footballers? Of his eloquence following a match and his humour at press conferences?

This is not to say that Pulis is thick – he clearly isn’t but I hate his football philosophy. I hated his violent Stoke team. I hated his defence of Shawcross. I hate his idea that if you cannot win by playing with the ball then play the man. It is offensive.

We celebrate the return of Bellerin. I understand Debuchy’s frustration regarding his relegation to the bench which may affect his Euro place but Bellerin is fantastic – perhaps the best AFC debut season since that bloke who is on the bench at Stamford Bridge.

Unfortunately Ramsey is not available until mid-week and IMO he is the lynchpin of the side. We have struggled in his absence especially in the Spurs game.

Santi is fit again and played well for Spain, scoring a fantastic goal which may initiate his Arsenal goal scoring. It is a mystery that such a talented player cannot hit the target.

Alexis played two full competitive games for Chile and will surely be rested for much of the game. Who takes his place? I guess Campbell will continue out right and Arteta or Flamini alongside Coquelin allowing Cazorla to play further forward.

The bookies have us as 8/15 favourites. I am less confident.

But beating a Pulis team makes for a happy Big Raddy household and I am sure the Arsenal squad and backroom staff are all in favour of that.

Let it be so.



Beer and pies ruin football ………….

November 20, 2015

Much has been written about prices of tickets for football games and the proud club of ours is, as usual, top of the table of most expensive tickets. I am sick of hearing the clap trap that footy has become the sport for the wealthy. It’s not the tickets that screw up the bank balance, it is all the booze and pies you consume when at the Emirates. Bring your own pies and flask, and you stand to save yourself a few bob.

And it is you, yes you moany git who is the first to moan about the ticket prices, but at the same time insisting on Wenger buying Benzema, Cavani and Krychowiak in one big swoop.

I am sure some will come after me with open flick knives, but I am a keyboard hero and don’t care and will carry on – I was stunned after reading the following comments yesterday:

“Couldn’t get tickets (for WBA at the Hawthorns). It’s getting harder and harder.

Or for Aston Villa. Villa sold out to 20+ – we have 19! (away credits)

Liverpool away on a Wednesday flippin night in January for over £50 and a crap view. Probably won’t go down to our level of away credits anyway.
Might have to go to flippin Stoke away 4 days after. At least we’ll have 20 away points then and have a little more chance for other tickets.”

Two most disgraceful Arsenal fans, with season tickets and 100 years of support between them cannot get tickets for the above games. Not that they wanted to see those games, after all it is just WBA, Villa and Pool, but they live for those trips away – camaraderie, greasy pies, crisps and lots more of junk food, washed down with gallons of booze, sing alone, some funny snaps and their lives are complete.

They schlap week in and week out 300 miles round trip by car, by train and on foot, pay year after year for the season tickets and cannot attend games because all chits were sold out. Shocking! And there is only one way to resolve it – bump up the prices! That way there will be plenty of tickets for those who really want to see a game and are prepared to bring their own sandwiches to balance the books.

How much are you prepared to pay for a ticket? I think £50 is reasonable for most games. Double it for most popular games and half for lesser opponents.


Is Governance the Problem at Arsenal?

November 19, 2015

Who owns Arsenal and how is it governed? Although many fans would answer that Arsenal belongs to us, the truth is that we fans are just consumers of goods and services from the club we love. We are very important to the club but this gives us no element of ownership. Good governance would normally include ensuring that decision making bodies are representative, decisions are transparent and both bodies and decisions are accountable. It is for you to judge how well Arsenal does in these terms.

Firstly actual ownership of Arsenal is the prerogative of shareholders as a whole. Currently this means that 66% are owned by a company called Kroenke Sports and Entertainments (KSE) which is wholly owned by Stan Kroenke a US billionaire who owns a number of sporting clubs and franchises mostly in the US. 30% is owned by a company called Red & White Holdings (RWH) which is jointly owned by Usmanov and Moshiri. The remaining paltry 4% is owned by a constantly decreasing number of older fans and their families.

The current situation emerged from a volatile and active Board disagreement on the new stadium. This led to a lock-down on share disposal from the Board initially and ultimately on the death of Danny Fiszman to the sale of his shares to Stan Kroenke who then exceeded 30% shareholding and had to make a formal bid to all other shareholders. This had been pre-agreed with all Board members and other major shareholders. The primary effect was to make Stan Kroenke effective sole owner of Arsenal and as a secondary effect put David Dein who had recently been removed from the Board completely into the wilderness. As a consequence he sold his shares to and briefly led RWH who garnered at that point just under 30% of the remaining shares.  This RWH share position is important because if Kroenke were to obtain a further 9% support then he could change Arsenal to a private company and this could involve all sorts of shenanigans as any Man U supporter will tell you in the light of the Glaziers following exactly this process. So Usmanov currently has an impregnable blocking vote on that.

There is one other aspect of share ownership that must be covered before we move on. Arsenal Supporters Trust (AST) who have as their members a large portion of the small independent share holders, sought to agree with Kroenke at the point of his bid and Ivan Gazidis as CEO that they would set up a Fanshare scheme to enable ordinary fans to have an opportunity to buy shares and so participate in ownership of the club. It is noteworthy that the nearly half a billion £ Kroenke has paid for his shares has not given a penny into Arsenal coffers- only new shares being issued would do this. In spite of intensive effort and pressure the issue of new shares was never agreed by Kroenke and the Fanshare scheme is going through the long, sad and arduous process of being wound up. So much for real attempts at involving fans meaningfully.

Day to day running of the club is of course the responsibility of the Board which is elected at the AGM by the shareholders (ie Stan Kroenke). The Arsenal board is currently very small, comprising only 6 persons. Two non-executive Directors are Sir Chips Keswick, a banker, and Lord Harris of Peckham a carpet retailer and Philanthropist. Neither are shareholders of any significance. There are two employees namely Ivan Gazidis as CEO and Ken Friar a very long standing employee of the club. Finally there are Stan and his son Josh Kroenke who attend with that 66% majority in their bag. The board meets monthly and all are wined and dined well at each match including away matches with luxury travel with the first team. No mean sinecure. The only major earners on the board are the two employees. Both Kroenkes and Sir Chips, who is chairman, draw a standard fee of £25k although Lord Harris donates his to charities. Neither agendas nor minutes are public documents so transparency is almost nil.

Real matters of governance concern would be that the board is in no way representative of the fans. It has no women although they are increasingly present at the stadium. It also should be noted that any skills set analysis would find the board very narrow and inadequate. There is good management and business skills but experience at top playing or coaching level is entirely absent.

When talking of the board the elephant not in the room is of course Arsene Wenger. He probably rightly has avoided siren calls to join but has zealously guarded his right to select and train all footballers on staff. He also expects the primary say in transfers in and out of the club although we have no knowledge as to what parameters may be set by the board eg specifically on total cost or value. Arsene in particular seems willing to let the buck stop with him in these areas.

Perhaps the best way to assess Arsenal governance performance is to consider issues and I have chosen three but you may well have your own and it would be interesting to see your cases and views in comments.

  1. For two years there has been a strong fan reaction to the news that a wholly Kroenke owned company has been paid £3 million each year for unspecified services commissioned and approved in particular by the two non-executive Directors. Now in principle I am not opposed depending on the services given and their true value. There are aspects of marketing and match day experience in which the US is a world leader but the problem is we are not told anything useful and so it is zero marks for transparency. Of course if it is just a means to pay Kroenke and avoid paying the nearly half again to RWH that a dividend on shares would entail then there are entirely new issues emerge.
  2. For several years local Islington Citizens supported by a number of fan groups and Arsenal blogs have been trying to persuade Arsenal to adopt the London Living Wage for it’s own staff and when the opportunity arises for external contract staff. This is clearly morally right for a company in Arsenal’s financial position and there are strong arguments that it would positively enhance the match day experience. And all at less cost than the Kroenke company fees. But in spite of being raised at the last three AGMs accountability is so poor that the policy still awaits a final board sign-off. Perhaps Stan Kroenke whose other half is not only better but also richer being a Walmart inheritor, where staff pay is notorious, has an undesirable influence here
  3. Arsenal are very rightly proud of the work they do as Arsenal in the Community. But it is extremely difficult to find a way of suggesting innovation. The FA has got itself into all sorts of foolish financial difficulty but there is a singular clear and pressing difficulty in developing youth and grass roots football. Could not Arsenal under the auspices of Arsenal in the Community set aside £5-£10millions to train and employ 25-50 new fully qualified coaches which could be offered to local schools and local cubs to build a new approach with the ‘Arsenal way’.

I have to say that for me the questions and principles that were posed in the opening paragraph are sadly evidenced that Governance at Arsenal is a long way from good enough and we as fans have to try to bring all the pressure we can to get improvements.

Vintage Gooner

Injuries Hurt!

November 18, 2015

One has to wonder if Arsenal have yet come to grips with these continuing cycles of injury that besets our players.

I suppose that one first needs to analyse the causes of the injuries.

It is obvious that some injuries are out and out thuggery by an opposition player, such as has happened to About Diaby and Rambo, for example.

Others may be a result of a genetic imbalance that makes some players inherit brittle bones, or ligaments that fail more easily than perhaps is normal in professional sport.

Then again, the warm up and warm down process before and after a game or when coming off the bench should be straight forward to apply and in most cases does not cause most players a problem.

The style or nature of some players needs to be taken into account as well, and it seems obvious that a ‘big engined’ non-stop, physically aggressive player is likely to suffer injuries more often than a laid back, skilful player who makes the ball do the work for him.

It seems obvious that there is nothing the club physios can do about the occasional bursts of thuggery that can be bad enough that it can cripple a player’s career, as it has done for Diaby and Eduardo and nearly put paid to Rambo too.

The same is also true of players who have been born with a genetic condition or predisposition to be more easily injured, which can only be medically ameliorated rather than cured.
It might be worth the club considering investigating a player’s family history in that respect before extending contracts, as paying someone to sit on the injured roster for months or even years is not helping the club or its devoted followers, altho that action does have moral and human rights significance, but in any event there is little the club can do about it.

The warm up and muscle conditioning process may need to be tailored to suit individual players, as Theo, for example, seems to be extraordinarily prone to apparently self-inflicted injury, as does the Ox, and Tomas R.

Overall it has to be recognised that football is a physical game and injuries are bound to happen whatever precautions are taken, and to help counter that the club needs the very best facilities to sped up recovery, and, as I write, new facilities are in the process of being built.

Contiguous with that, it is essential that the very best physios are retained to put in place the very best medical knowledge and apply the very best treatment, and again I think the Arsenal’s physios are among the best.

Let’s face it – injuries are buggers and when they occur, and however long the player is out is not simply a question of a mathematical calculation – there are many factors involved including the player’s age, physique, style of play and genetic disposition, so we just need to suck it up when an injury occurs and realise it is in no one’s interest for a talented player to be sitting on his ass getting paid big bucks and that everything that can be done has or is being done and to cut back on the criticism of the club for not handling it.

In my opinion – of course. :D

Red Arse … RA…. Redders


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