Does Kroenke have a moral obligation to spend big?

February 29, 2012

Does a billionaire owner/major shareholder have a moral obligation to spend big on his football club? And, should owners of a football club be allowed to make a profit? For a while now, I have been reading comments by a number of ‘Kroenke-critical’ AA’ers, who believe that he should be spending a lot more of the club’s and his own money and, to a certain extent, I can see where they are coming from. Just to be clear: I am neither a ‘Kroenke-critic’, nor a ‘Kroenke-supporter’.

Our club needs (an) owner(s). Somebody needs to take responsibility in managing our club and achieve sporting successes in such a way that our short-term and long-term financial positions are secured. This is mightily important to all those who really care about the club and we should not take good club management for granted: it is a fine art. Running a football club is a highly risky business. Income streams can fluctuate strongly from one season to the next whilst costs are difficult to control/manage downwards in the short run.

At Arsenal, we need clever and experienced business people, with both a passion and in-depth understanding of football, at the helm of our club. Preferably, they also have an Arsenal-history and an Arsenal-heart. We are almost entirely owned by major Shareholders Kroenke and Usmanov. The latter possesses just under 30% of the club’s shares, and the former owns the best part of 70%.

Kroenke is not an Arsenal-man and neither is Usmanov. It appears that Kroenke has a more calculated business approach to our club, whilst Usmanov seems less interested in the business-side of Arsenal, but would be more prepared to spend big in order to achieve success for the club. It is not clear whether Usmanov would dig into his own pockets or whether he would be looking at entering a number of (risky) commercial endeavours in order to free up money to invest in new (world class) players and their wages. Obviously, I do not know any of the two and my above assumptions are purely based on a number of articles I have read over the last few years. However, it is clear that Kroenke, as the major shareholder, is leading the club at the moment whilst Usmanov remains in the background.

Silent, calculated Stan

Describing Kroenke as somebody with a calculated business approach, is not necessary a bad thing. Of course, I would prefer him to have a Gooner heart and past, who is happy to spend a reasonable amount of his own money on the club without the need to earn it back again in a hurry. He is a multi-billionaire, so he can afford it. But, are fans right to lambast him for not putting his hands in his deep pockets in order to spend similarly to Citeh’s and Chavs’ owners, in order to compete in this new footie world order? Is it wrong Kroenke wants to run a financially sound football-business, and maybe even wants to take a profit out of the business, say in the region of 5-8% of turnover?

I would not want us to become like Chelsea and Man City, and I am hopeful that UEFA new financial rules will put a stop to clubs being sugar-daddied with excessive amounts of oil-dollars to success. It is wrong in every sense. I am fully aware that Kroenke is very unlikely to want to be the major shareholder forever and that his strategy is based on selling his shares at some point in the future, whenever that is, at a decent profit. I do not like this of course, as we do not know who he will sell to and what would happen next with Arsenal, but there is nothing that can be done about it. Almost every football club is subjected to the same level of uncertainty.

Arsenal winning cups and financial success for Kroenke are closely linked

But one thing I know: there are a few benefits attached to having an owner who is keen to run a sustainable business and who will want to sell it one day in the future, if and when the time is right / the price is right for him. The biggest benefit is the need for such an owner to look after his club, both financially and in terms of sporting successes. What’s more: there is a strong interdependence between financial success, sporting successes and long-term value of the club – and it is this fine balance which I am pinning my hopes on. Kroenke might not have an Arsenal heart as such, but without any doubt, he will want to look after his investment. Selling a few key players every year could easily be seen as one of Kroenke’s ways of making good money out of our club, but he also knows that this could come at a high cost to Arsenal and therefore to himself. He needs sporting success in order to achieve financial success for his considerable investment – the market value of his shares being his biggest concern – and selling Arsenal’s key assets on the pitch is not going to help him in the mid to long run. I believe Arsenal had to sell players in the last few years in order to balance the books, but last summer’s sales of Fabregas and Nasri were not borne out of necessity anymore: other factors forced Kroenke’s hand this time round.

Some have argued that he is only interested in finishing in the top-4, so he can be in the lucrative Champions League, and that he will invest only as much as is needed to achieve this. However, if Arsenal were to get a reputation of only ever being able to just finish in the top-4, it would become commercially less attractive, in terms of enticing profitable sponsorships and advertising. Furthermore, Arsenal would be losing a part of its fans base, both in terms of season ticket holders and their worldwide TV audience, with further negative impact in terms of shirt sales etc. It would also be very risky to try to do just enough in order to stay in the top-four, as the short and long-term consequences could be very dire for him if Arsenal were to fail. Kroenke needs Arsenal to be successful: not just in terms of taking part in the CL but also in terms of winning trophies.

 

Does Kroenke have a moral obligation to invest a lot more money in Arsenal though?

The above gives me every reason to be optimistic about our future. It pays for Kroenke to invest in the club and sporting success: Arsenal winning trophies rather sooner than later is a necessity for him. However, by trying to achieve this in a financially sustainable way, he could be taking too much risk and, given the stiff ‘new world’ competition he has to deal with, he might fail and we might end up with winning nothing for years to come. Which raises the question again: should he be spending more of the club’s/ his own money in order to optimise our chances to win trophies?

I don’t think I can say he has a moral obligation to spend his own money in our club, or that he should never take a reasonable profit out of the business. He is the major shareholder and carries the biggest financial risks on his shoulders. We as fans, in particular the STH and those who go regularly to away-games, spend a hefty sum of our money on the club, but our financial risks are relatively small compared to Kroenke’s: we can chose to no longer spend any money on Arsenal in relatively short time, but Kroenke is in a different position.

Ideally, I would like him to spend more (but not crazy) money in order to compete better in the next few years, but if he does not want to do it, I will respect it. However, he is morally obliged to:

1.      Look after the club in terms of managing short-term and long-term financial risks;

2.      Use the club’s financial resources and commercial opportunities to the maximum, with the aim of providing all the pre-requisites for sporting successes on the field (taking into account point 1);

3.      Represent our club as best as he can and always aim to achieve as high as we can (in terms of sporting successes), taking into account points 1 & 2.

4.      Make sure he puts the best available people into the key positions at our club.

For me, the jury is out as to whether Kroenke is doing the very best for the club with regards to points 1 to 4, and I am looking forward to hearing your views on how you think Silent Stan has been performing since he became the major shareholder a year ago, and whether you believe he is morally obliged to spend more of the club’s and his personal money on Arsenal.

TotalArsenal.


Theo Walcott: An Appeal

February 28, 2012

Well done Theo Walcott.

After a frustrating first half against the enemy on Sunday he refused to let his head go down and had a storming second 45, capped with two expertly taken goals.

If you believe some of the press, our young wide man was subjected to a dog’s abuse by a proportion of the home support before half time.

Matt Dickinson in The Times had this to say:

If Arsène Wenger had listened to the fans, Theo Walcott would have been sat on the bench in the second half. If Walcott had listened to the fans, he might have been weeping in the dressing room despairing at how they expect him to perform if he is such a “useless c***”…

“Fickledom is the way of the supporter but, truly, some of the Arsenal hardcore did not deserve to be allowed to stay in their seats for this astonishing comeback.

“They should ask Walcott if he felt buoyed when he had the chance to sprint clear of Tottenham Hotspur’s defence in the first half but instantly offloaded the ball to Robin van Persie rather than risk another volley of “P”s, “C”s and “F”s.

“Some of the angriest men in the world seem to gather at the Emirates, so quick to seize on any mistake that you wonder if they are willing failure.”

Now I should point out that some AA regulars who were at the match reported hearing no such abuse.

Yes, there were groans of disappointment when promising moves broke down, but that’s been happening at football matches since Dandan was a nipper.

I’m not suggesting that Dickinson is making it up (the press don’t do that sort of thing do they?). It may just be that there are a group of particularly angry so-called fans who sit near the press box at the Emirates.

Instead of saying “if Arsene Wenger had listened to the fans” it might have been better journalism for Dickinson to write “if AW had listened to some of the disgruntled fans sitting near me…”

But it’s a better story if you give the impression that poor Theo was being sworn at by 57,000 howling psychopaths.

As far as I could tell from watching on the TV, the support for the team was fantastic throughout the whole game, even at two-nil down.

Nevertheless, anyone who has looked around the Arsenal blogscape will recognise some of the sentiment described in the Times article.

I have seen comments on Arsenal blog sites heaping the vilest of abuse on Theo. I have seen people who call themselves Arsenal supporters wish death on him, I have seen others praying that he gets his leg broken.

As supporters of a club that has suffered three horrendous leg breaks in recent seasons these people, apparently in all seriousness, really do want to wish the same on Walcott.

They are not supporters, they are a cancer in our great club and any site that fails to remove their comments is as much part of the problem as the haters who spout such filth.

Ramsey has had similar treatment this year (his first season back, remember,  from one of the aforementioned leg breaks, in a team struggling as a whole to find its form). Yes he has found it hard  at times, as has Theo, but do they really deserve such odious abuse?

Criticism, fine. Abuse and hatred, never.

Walcott is just 22 – still a player learning his trade. He has some shortcomings and some gifts; he may never be a world class great, but some of his critics would have you believe he should be playing non-league.

Well let’s compare his effectiveness with a player whom those self-same critics would no doubt revere: Marc Overmars, one of the heroes of our 1998 Double winning side.

In three seasons with us, Overmars played 100 EPL games and scored 25 goals – a return of one goal every four games.

In the last three EPL seasons (including this one), Walcott has played 76 games and scored 17 goals – a return of one goal every four-and-a-half games. Not that big a difference, especially when you take into account that Overmars started most of the games he played in, whereas Walcott’s 76 appearances include 22 as a substitute.

I’m not for a moment saying that Walcott and Overmars are directly comparable. For one thing the Dutchman was already 24 years old when he joined us. And I’m happy to accept that Theo has limitations.

But they are both speedy, direct wingers with a roughly similar goal return. And when you’re a winger you have to take a lot of risks because you are one of the focal points of the attack. You are expected to try and beat opponents, to shoot, to cross, to set up assists for goals. Inevitably your efforts won’t all succeed.

I would need to go back and watch some full games from Overmars’ spell with us, but I now wonder how many times he failed to beat his man, or tried passes that did not come off.  Perhaps if the internet had been as prevalent in his day there would have been “supporters” wishing death on him too.

Yesterday on Arsenal Arsenal a clip was uploaded showing Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott being interviewed after crushing the jumped-up jackanapes from down the Seven Sisters Road.

If you haven’t seen it, you should (and with luck someone will re-post the link in the comments below).

You’ll see the captain of our club – and the best player in the country this year (if not the world) – giving 100% support to Theo and, in a subtle way, asking the fans to lay off him.

Do you think Robin knows what he’s talking about?

Do you think our brilliant captain, who trains with Theo every day and plays with him every week, is better qualified to judge his abilities than some slobbering lard bucket with spittle round his mouth and a face full of fury?

I know I do.

So here’s my appeal to all true Arsenal fans between now and the end of the season:

  • Support Theo and all our players in every game.
  • If he (or others) make mistakes, rein in the anger and frustration. Redouble the support. If in doubt, think about a certain two-nil-down, five-two-up victory.
  • Criticise his performance in the pub or on your favourite blog, but exercise moderation and restraint.
  • If you run a blog, remove comments that are expressed in hateful terms and ban posters who persist in such abuse.
  • If you contribute to a blog, chasitise others who express themselves in such a way and ask the site administrators to take action.
  • At games, if there’s a hater near you ask him to pipe down and support the team.
  • If you feel too intimidated to do that, drown him out with your support.

If we can deal with some of the poison seeping from the internet community and the stands I feel confident that the atmosphere at the ground can also improve, with a knock on positive effect on the team.

Sunday’s brilliant ambience should be the norm, not the exception, but the bad apples need to be silenced.

They are a nasty minority and the majority, the ones who gave unfailing support all game long against the Spuds, do not have to stand for it.

RockyLives


A game to remember – a win to savour

February 27, 2012

Written by 26may

5-2? What a day, and not just for the bookies. Hyperbole it may be, but I can think of few more suitable games to be described as epic.

I admit it, I approached this game full of pessimism.  We’re not as bad as some make us out to be but it is beyond dispute that we have declined, while our N17 neighbours have finally, finally got themselves a decent squad.  Our fragility is such that I felt I’d have been pleased with one point today.  Not in my wildest dreams did I expect us to thrash the old enemy and in such dramatic fashion.  Scoring enough goals to go back above Chelsea was not on my agenda.

So how did it happen?

First off, Wenger’s team selection was spot on.  Having been out of the loop in recent weeks, I was surprised to see Rosicky and Benayoun in the starting XI, but they were both excellent.  Quietly, Rosicky has been one of our form players this season, mixing efficient passing with intelligent movement and purposeful dribbling.  But goalscoring has disappeared from his repertoire.  What a time to rediscover it, with a perfectly timed run to finish off a lovely passing move and put us into the lead.

And Yossi was our Duracell bunny, constantly offering an option to the man with the ball, but also having the intelligence always to probe the defenders he faced.  The obvious choice might have seen Wenger have Gervinho or Chamberlain start the match, but he had the guts to resist doing the obvious, and put Benayoun up against the excellent Kyle Walker.  I admit, I’ve been a fan of the Israeli since he joined us and have been a little frustrated to see him not given much quality match time.  He is proper quality.

And Robin van Persie was, well, Robin van Persie: excellence personified.

The Arsenal performance in first half hour was pretty uneven, with Sagna and Walcott looking especially out of sorts, and Arteta and Song not looking very focused.  But they dragged good performances out of themselves, and the midfield established control over their Spurs counterparts.

The Arsenal defence had started in pretty charitable mood, leaving too much space for Saha to run into in the build-up to the first Spurs goal and being vulnerable on the break when we were pressing for an equaliser.  They were carved open by a sublime through ball from Luka Modric to Gareth Bale, but everyone’s favourite chimpanzee took a cynical dive to earn a penalty to put Spurs two up.  The atmosphere was all anxiety and depression.

But the defence recovered its poise and was rarely tested after conceding that second goal.  Koscielny was imperious in dominating Adebayor pretty much throughout, and Vermaelen showed he is better than the shadow of a player he was in the Milan game.  Spurs helped us, giving us enough breathing space for us to recover.

And then the game began a mental phase of half an hour around the halftime break.  Spurs seemed to fold, especially in defence, where only Walker can claim to have earned his money.  Kaboul and King were terrible, and played like strangers.

First Sagna, who had seemed incapable of holding onto the ball up to then, powered home a header, then Robin the Master found a pocket of space on the edge of the penalty area from which he gloriously swept home the equaliser.  Tails were most definitely up.

At halftime, Harry “I pay my taxes, me” Redknapp bizarrely chose to put Sandro on the right wing rather than Aaron Lennon, as well as putting van deer Vaart on for Saha.  Thanks Harry, much appreciated.  Sandro’s a good player but he’s no winger, and vdV was really poor on the day.

Meanwhile, our forward players continued to rip Spurs to shreds.  With little cover from Parker, who compared badly to the inestimable Alex Song, King, Kaboul and Assou-Ekotto were carved open three times in quick succession.  Rosicky, arguably our man of the match, put us in front before incredibly Walcott remembered what he can do with the ball at his feet and just the keeper to beat.  After putting a sighter just past the post, he nailed two chances in quick succession (admittedly after some random ball control).  Heavenly stuff for the good guys, and an incredible comeback was complete.

We should remember this game for a long time to come, such enjoyable performances and results are rare and precious things.  But we also need to use this as an inspiration for the remainder of the season.  The squad has its weaknesses, and those need to be attended to in the summer, but there is also real quality there.

Player ratings from Herb’s Army

Arsenal were simply different class today and normal order has been restored.

Szczesny – No chance with either goal (never a penalty!). Has the potential to be immense next season. 7

Sagna – After a shaky couple of games, was back to his imperious self, and what a goal! 9

Gibbs  –  Is growing with every game and today he looked an Arsenal player 8

Koscielny – He has developed into a quality centre-half. 8

Vermaelen – Stepped up well today. 8

Song – When he and we got into our game, Song was colossal today. If only he could do this in more games. 9

Arteta – For me personally, his best game so far, highlighted by his exquisite cross for Sagna’s goal. 9

Rosicky – The performance we all knew he was capable of, but have waited an age to witness. 9

Walcott – A complete enigma. Confounded his critics (yes I’m amongst them), with a scintillating second half showing 9

Benayoun – Fantastic link and tireless work-rate from our much under-used Israeli. 8

van Persie – Our very own super-hero just keeps delivering the magic. 9

Thank you Arsene, thank you Arsenal.

COYRRG !!!!!


That’ll be the Day: Match preview:

February 26, 2012

Those who regularly read my pre-matches may have noticed a softening in approach over recent months; this is due to the Jonah effect. Every time I slagged off a team they took points from us. However, if nothing else, this season has persuaded me that my “lucky” habits have no effect on Arsenal’s performance, I have used lucky socks, lucky shirts, lucky cakes, lucky beer, lucky wine, lucky scarves, lucky routes, lucky sweets, and you know what – nothing works. Nothing.

So, have the new respectful  Big Raddy posts made a difference? Of course not, and as such it is with great pleasure that I return to the bile filled Raddy posts of the days of yore  ….. Today we play a team of Miscreants whose fans are pond life. No, that is an insult to pond life.

Spurs and their fans are a waste of skin.

All season long I have heard about how wonderful the Cave Dwellers are , how they play great football, how Monkey Boy and Ratface and Adewhore are the best team in the PL.  I guess 3rd gets you the title this season, in the unlikely event they stay there.  When we finish 3rd it is at best an average season and a reason for the media to have another pop about lack of trophies!

The last decent Spurs team – No colour photos available

But thanks to Harry, the fawning press highlight our “crisis” and their “resurrection”.

The media witch hunt for Mr Wenger coincided with the adoration at the feet of Harry (no doubt, soon to be Sir Harry). Strange that! But then who wouldn’t prefer a self proclaimed East End ignoramus to  an urbane well educated Frenchman?  Mr Redknapp embodies Spurs ambitions and traditions; no class and a market boy mentality mixed with underlying boot boy aggression.

You may have noticed I have omitted any talk of onfield activities. What can one say – for the first time in 15 years there is a probability there will be no St Tottts Day. It beggars belief and is a schism in the natural way of the world. It may well happen that Spurs finish the season above us as our team move into the next era of supremacy, but they will never be top dogs in London, they are third as they have been since homo erectus first crawled out of the swamplands of  N17.

But credit where credit is due, Spurs have played the best football this season, mixing pace with guile and determination. This Spurs team do not lie down and  to whose credit  is that? Is it the superb coaching from the miscreant Orcs, Clive Allen and Joe Jordan? Or could it lie in the hands of our very own Arsenal team? I believe you can trace the resurrection of  Spurs back to that dreadful day in Oct 2008 when we drew 4-4 at THOF; for the first time in an epoch, we let them off the hook, we gave them the belief that it was possible to get something from a lost cause playing against a better team.  AFC  2 goals up in the 88th minute …. you can probably relive the rest.

As to our team, once again we are blighted by injury; it seems as one player comes back we lose another. Sagna back – Mertesacker out. Gibbs back – Koscielny and Ramsey out. Nonetheless, we can put out a competitive side.

My Team;

Given the pace of Tottenham’s attack we must pray for the good health of Koscielny. JD has always been fragile under the stress of fast running forwards.  It will require Song to be defensively aware today. We are getting used to seeing Arsenal hit with the sucker punch and it is about time the midfield as a whole showed more defensive nous. We have to be clinical in attack; Theo needs to show he deserves his place as does Gervinho. It is in the big games that players show their mettle and this is as big as it gets.

Famous Gooner? Well, a few games ago I pointed out that George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury is a Gooner. You are going to love this …. so is Jonathan Saks, the Chief Rabbi :-)  Jonathan Saks went to Christ College Finchley where he became a fervent Gooner. Of course, Saturday games were difficult for him but nonetheless he was a regular at Highbury and is often at The Emirates.

 Should we pray for a Van Persie hatrick?

Important game today, perhaps not as hugely important as the media would have us believe, after all it is just the normal 3 points for a win. Following the two poor recent performances Arsenal need to give their fans something. Beating Tottenham today will be a huge fillip for the remainder of the season.

Spurs, Top Club in London?   That’ll be the Day.

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


Totts 3 – Arsenal 9

February 25, 2012

Well, it makes a nice headline, but don’t get too excited about it.

This is one score line that we would much rather be on the other side of – and it goes a long way to explaining the relative fortunes of the two North London clubs this year.

It’s the score in long term injuries to important players. Tottenham have suffered three such blows this season so far. Arsenal have suffered nine.

The three Tiny Totts affected are Gallas, Dawson and Sandro*.

The mighty horde of Arsenal’s non-walking wounded comprises Wilshire, Vermaelen, Diaby, Santos, Gibbs, Jenkinson, Sagna, Mertesacker and Djourou.

Bear in mind that by ‘long term injury’ I do not mean three weeks out for a hamstring, or missing a few games with some knock or other. A long term injury is one that keeps a player out of action for a month or more. Sadly, in our case, it’s usually more.

Let’s examine the impact on the two clubs by looking at their five most important players.

I’m sure many of you will want to quibble with my selections for each club’s five crucial individuals, which is fine, but I’m writing this so it’s my opinion you’re getting. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments. I have not included goalkeepers.

Arsenal’s Top Five: Van Persie, Wilshere, Vermaelen, Sagna, Arteta.

The Spudders’ Top Five: Bale, Adebayor, Modric, Van der Vaart, Dawson.

Added together, the total number of EPL appearances for Arsenal’s five is 67. For the Spuds’ top five it’s 85. That’s a significant difference.

If you hone it down even more, to the three most influential players on each team, the tally is: Spuds (Bale, Modric, Adebayor): 60 appearances; Arsenal (Van Persie, Wilshire, Sagna): 32.

In others words, the shabby shower from Riot Central have been able to field their very best players twice as often as we have.

If the statistics had been reversed (and Bale had been out for the entire season so far while little Jack had played every game) I suspect the league table would be looking very different and the Spuds would be outside the top four.

They are obviously a much better outfit this year than they have been for a long time. They have always had he ability to play good football at times, but this season they have finally added some consistency, but partly this is down to the exceptional good luck they have had with long term injuries to their best players.

Many of us hoped that the injury curse that has dogged us for years would finally ease up in the coming weeks, with the return of some fullbacks and even the possibility of a Wilshire reappearance on the horizon.

But the freak injury to Mertesacker on a pitch that looked as if it had just hosted the Horse of the Year Show soon disabused us of any optimism.

The BFG had slowly (particularly slowly on the turn) established himself as a key element of our defence – as his absence away in the San Siro helped demonstrate. For my money he is an automatic starter with one of Koscielny and Vermaelen alongside him, but now we probably won’t seem him in an Arsenal shirt until next season.

The injuries have all come in different ways so it doesn’t seem as if any blame can be laid at the feet of the club’s medical staff.

In any case, ever since the club invited journalists and bloggers to view its new medical facilities (in a move with more than a hint of “come to North Korea and see our happy smiling famers” about it) the sting seems to have been drawn from that particular issue. A rare example of a PR initiative by the club actually achieving its desired effect.

But the loss of so many key players for months at a time (including the loss of an entire speciality – full backs – for weeks and weeks) has clearly had a big impact on our ability to get a consistent run of form going.

There is an argument that our reinforcements are not up to it, but not many clubs have someone of the quality of Wilshire sitting in the stiffs, or third choice full backs who can come in and do a job at the highest level.

For me it is one of the biggest factors in the way we have functioned this season and I can’t blame anyone except that evil old hag, Lady Luck.

The club may have made a mess of its summer transfer business, and there is a very strong case for saying we could have done more in January, especially to ease the full back crisis, but no club could have suffered the extent of injuries that we have and still have achieved consistently good results.

RockyLives

* Apologies if I have missed any – I had limited research time. But I believe the overall point is valid. Certainly when you focus on the very best players for each club it is unarguable.


Arsenal or Chelsea ? ……. The Race for Fourth

February 24, 2012

OK it’s been a bad week but let’s put our disappointments behind us and put our focus on what’s ahead. We have a very exciting run in for 4th place, and a spot in the 2012/13 Champions League, with four teams involved – Arsenal – Chelsea – Liverpool and Newcastle. For the purposes of this item I’m going to make the broad assumption that it’s most likely to be either Arsenal or Chelsea that wins the 4th spot even though both Newcastle and Liverpool are also in with more than a good shot.

There are 13 games left in the season and an analysis of our final 13 games in each of the 19 EPL seasons (shown below) shows that we have achieved an average of 26 points with a high of 39 points in 2001/2 and a low of 14 points in 1994/5, and last season we had only 18 points.

So it’s all down to the final 13 games to determine which team is most likely to win the 4th spot. Both teams have been below par this season and both are in jeopardy of being knocked out in the last 16 of this seasons Champions League after Arsenal losing 0-4 to A.C. Milan and Chelsea 1-3 to Napoli.

Currently we are tied with Chelsea with 43 points each, we have the same goal difference of 13, and we are only in 4th place by virtue of having scored more goals our 48 to their 44.

In the history of the EPL it has taken an average of 68 points to gain 4th place, the highest being 76 points in 2007/8, the lowest being 63 points in 1995/96 and last season we achieved 4th with 68 points.

I’ve compiled a chart (below) showing the final 13 games of the season for both teams and I’ve also filled in my personal predictions for each game – I have Arsenal beating Chelsea by 4 points.  I recognize that I’m being very optimistic as we would have to get  30 points in our last 13 games and we have not achieved that amount since 2004/5.

Play the prediction game yourself – How do you see the season ending?

Written by GunnerN5


Right Here, Right Now.

February 23, 2012

The recent sacking of a very promising young manager by the name of Lee Clarke got me thinking about how difficult it must be to manage at the top level these days. After all, this is a manager who had got his Huddersfield side up to 4th in the table, and only 6 months previous, had gone on a run of 43 games unbeaten!

I spoke to my best friend, who happens to be a Terrier (Huddersfield supporter, not a dog!), and he told me that he was happy to see the back of Lee Clarke and in his own words said “he can take his 43 game run with him, most of them were draws anyway!”.

This shocked me a bit, and got me thinking about our own esteemed manager and how his previous exploits seemed to hold little weight when it came to our team’s relatively poor efforts this season. In Arsene Wenger we have a manager who has given us 2 domestic Doubles, a UEFA Cup Final, a Champions League Final, a state-of-the art stadium and some of the greatest players ever to play the game. Yet none of this seems to matter to certain sections of our support who would like nothing more than to see the Frenchman cleaning out his locker.

Is Wenger a victim of his own success?

Or do certain sections of our support fail to see the bigger picture?

Well personally, I believe it’s a bit of both. Wenger is a thinker of the game. He doesn’t live in the here and now when it comes to becoming a super club, he thinks about the future, and how he can BUILD a footballing force. Take Fabregas for example, Arsene saw something in him that he knew would make him into a future star. He saw the talent at 16 that we all saw at 23.
Or look at the move to the Emirates, Arsene knew that building a 60,000 seater was needed for the club to compete in future.
So what’s your point, I hear you cry!?

Well my point is this. Wenger’s downfall is due to his inability to satisfy the fans of the present. So many of our fans seem unable, or unwilling to look further ahead than Today. They don’t care if Wilshire is going to be the next best thing, or if Arsenal are going to dominate in 20 years time. They want trophies now, and Wenger’s inability to satisfy this greed could be his undoing. Fans don’t seem to realise or accept that Fabregas’ departure put paid to a plan that Arsene had been building for 5 years. A new team cannot be built overnight, espescially if you don’t have £500m to spend. Wenger has now got to build a new plan, and it takes time.

If you are one of these fans who see’s nothing but trophyless cabinets, and has no interest in what Jack will be like in 5 years time. Think about this:

In 2001 Leeds United were losing in a Champions League semi final. In 2012 they sit in 11th position in the Championship.

In 2011 Rangers won the league and cup double. They are now entering administration, uncertain of what the future holds.

In 2008 Portsmouth were lifting the FA Cup trophy. In 2012 they are trying to lift themselves away from relegation into League 1 after a 10 point deduction for going into administration.

Now I may not know anything about Arsenal’s bank accounts or financial stability, but I know for a fact that if they wanted to they could go into any bank in the world, borrow half a billion pounds, buy some of the world’s best players, and maybe win a few trophies in the next 5 years. If that happened, as fans of the here and now, we would lap it up. But how would we feel in 10 years time when the winding up order is sent out and we find ourselves struggling to survive?

Arsène Wenger isn’t a saint, and his tactics are leaving a lot to be desired at the moment, but next time you think about wanting to have a go at the Frenchman after a poor display, maybe just take a moment to look into the future, rather than just thinking about the present.

If you can’t do that, then ask a Rangers, Pompey or Leeds fan if they would give up their moment at the top for the future of their beloved clubs. I guarantee that, given the chance, they would start all over again.

I would love to see us give Arsène the chance to put together a new look Arsenal, built around the likes of Frimpong, Coquelin, Wilshire, Szcsesny, Ox etc, but if the Huddersfield situation is anything to go by then I can’t see it happening.

Arsène could be in the firing line at Arsenal FC, and it’s the fans who held him aloft as little as 7 years ago who will be the ones pulling the trigger. Fans who care not for the past, or the future, but the right here, right now.

Written by SlimGingerGooner


Norwich Reserves 0 – 5 Arsenal Reserves Match Report

February 22, 2012

Last night GiE and I, both based in Norwich, had the pleasure of watching a strong and keen Arsenal Reserves side take on a young and significantly less experienced Norwich City Reserves side, at Carrow Road last night.

2000 odd fans

Arsenal line-up was a welcome surprise: it was a mixture of young and promising talent with experienced players who were in need of a game. James Shea was in goal and Miquel (Captain) and Angha were our CB’s, with Jenkinson and Meade our FB’s. In midfield we played Yennaris, Benayoun and Ozyakup and upfront we played Arshavin, Chamakh and Park. Chamakh came off after 30 minutes, straight after a strong challenge on him, and he was replaced by Benik Afobe (who again was later replaced by Ansah).

Young Gooners

Arsenal meant business from the start as all 11 players played with verve and focus.

The Unusual Suspects

This team had no difficulties in finding each other and neat interplay was regularly mixed with long diagonal balls and clever passes right through the middle of the Norwich defence by the very impressive Ozyakup, my ‘man of the match’ Benayoun, and a very energetic, yet very smart playing Yennaris. Arshavin had a very energetic game too; in fact, I have never seen him work harder than in last night’s game, and together with Benayoun they led this Arsenal reserves side to a well-deserved victory.

We have seen Yennaris play at RB but he was very comfortable in midfield last night, with a fine first touch, great ability to pass the ball round and with enormous tenacity. Together with Ozyakup he formed a wall in midfield that Norwich was seldom able to penetrate. As a result, Bennayoun and Arshavin were able to control the attacking play in front of the Norwich 18 yard box with ease, very much helped by the desire of Park and Chamakh to make runs and play link-up football.

It was great to see us own the midfield last night; boss the entire area in front of the Norwich defence and play our great brand of football. Norwich City had no answer to it, as there was a massive gap in quality and experience between the sides on the night.

Arshavin almost scored after a great ball over the top through the middle by Yennaris in the fifth minute: he tried to lob the keeper his effort went just over the bar. A minute later Arsenal was in front: a mazy run by Benayoun leads to a shot against the post and Park is there to calmly slot-in the rebound: 1-0. In the 20th minute, Park takes a ferocious free-kick that just misses the target: a very impressive effort.

Park Celebrates Wildly

After a uncomfortable fall, Chamakh was replaced by Afobe.

Chamakh munches carpet

Another impressive, mazy run by Arshavin in the 40th minute leaves the Norwich goalkeeper no other option than to foul him: Afobe steps up to take the penalty but Wooton makes a great save to his left.

Afobe Can't Believe He Got That One

Two minutes later Arshavin seems to want to cross the ball to Park; the Russian’s effort is off-target but somehow floats into the top-corner to the surprise of Wooton and anybody else at Carrow Road: 2-0.

Arshavin Celebrates Wildly

After the break

Jenkinson was replaced by Ebecilio who played in the deeper centre midfield role and freeing Ozyakup to play further up the pitch, Yennaris moved to right back.

Arsenal continue as before: pressuring Norwich in their own half with good ball circulation, high levels of possession, but also with real penetration and attacking creativity. In the 58th minute, Benayoun feeds a clever ball through the middle form just outside the 18 yard box to find the clever run of Afobe. The latter controls the ball well and scores the third goal with real composure: 3-0.

Seven minutes later, Benayoun creates some space for himself to take a shot from the left inside the box, and although his shot is saved by Wooton, the rebound ends up with Arshavin who then scores the fourth goal, his second on the night, with composure: 4-0. Benayoun finally gets his well-deserved goal in the 87th minute: Ozyakup, who played a bit further up the pitch in the second half, plays a fine through-ball to Benny who then scores with a well-timed chip over the keeper: 5-0.

Summary

Norwich had a few half-decent opportunities, and maybe could have had a goal, but Arsenal was a class apart last night. Shea had not much to do, but he was a safe pair of hands when it mattered. We could hear him talking to the players and he oozed confidence throughout the game. Miquel was very calm and professional – a real class act, and together with the also impressive Angha, who tends to operate a bit more in the background compared to the young Spaniard, he controlled the defence on the night. Meade, our LB, also had a good game: he is tenacious, has a good first touch, protects and passes the ball well and was always willing to make runs. It was also great to see Jenkinson again, who made some good runs and had a relatively easy night (he only played the first half).

All our midfielders were great on the night, but we both thought that Ozyakup was excellent throughout the game. This is the first time I have seen him play, and we should take into account that the Norwich Reserves team was not much of opposition last night, but Ozyakup was imperious at times: always calm on the ball, superb awareness of the game, great passes and through-balls, strong physical presence, and very energetic. Another great prospect and he is Dutch as well!!

Ozyakup - A Good Prospect

I also really liked Yennaris, especially in the first half when he played in midfield next to Ozyakup. In the second half he was restored to the RB position (replacing Jenkinson) and he was skinned a couple of times by Norwich players which led to dangerous situations in our box, but he still had a decent game.

Arshavin really worked hard tonight and thoroughly deserved his brace. Benayoun was superb: he played with so much energy and joy and that really got the team going. Park had a good game too: in the second half he often was away from goal linking up with the midfielders and setting players up for an attack with clever passes. Afobe really impressed me on the night, but he did not last that long, as he only played 45 minutes (he only just recovered from a long injury). Afobe was replaced by Zak Ansah, but I did not see enough of him to pass judgement. Chamakh started ok, but went off after 30 minutes, so hard to judge his performance as well.

Afobe in full flight

All in all, a great night of football, on a relatively mild winter’s night in February: a very welcome diversion from the shenanigans on and off the pitch of our first team at the moment. On the evidence of the night, there a few players coming through the reserves who are ready to join the first team rather sooner than later.

Written by Total Arsenal

TA has not left me with much to write about as he has given a very full report of the game. However there are a few observations that I made during the game, which I will briefly outline.

  • The most rigid part of our formation was the back three: Miquel, Angha, and Ozyakup (who played the quarterback role in midfield) gave Arsenal a very solid base to build from, whenever Miquel won a header under pressure he tried and mainly succeeded to find the feet of Ozyakup.
  • It was hard to predict who would play where upfront: The five most advanced players were Yossi, AA23, Yennaris, Park and Chamakh (replaced by Afobe). They rotated through the advance positions constantly, a fluidity that we are currently missing in the first team which seems far more rigid.
  • Most width was provided by the full backs: Whoever was most advanced on the wing at the time was making runs infield with the ball giving the full backs space to come round, they didn’t go early or play on top of the winger they waited for space and exploited it, was particularly impressed by young Meade at Left Back.
  • Long diagonal balls: As TA says in the match report neither Oyzakup, Miquel or Angha were frightened of looking for long diagonal balls, even AA23 got into the act when he had dropped deeper into midfield making himself a yard and delivering a fantastic ball into the feet of Jenkinson.
  • We have someone shorter than Arshavin: Look between Chamakh and Angha and you will see Jermaine Meade. I came up with a song (he played left back). “He’s five foot three, He’s five foot three, who needs Gael Clichy, we’ve got the Meade”
Views through a cloud of smoke and vodka by Gooner in Exile

Heard the one about the Russian, the American and the Frenchman?

February 21, 2012

Arsène Wenger has never seen so much pressure from his own fans. His ability to manage this Arsenal team is being questioned, and according to some,  he is losing his grip on the modern game. But is he the only one to blame?

The year 2006/07 saw a major introduction into the Arsenal unit. No, it wasn’t the Emirates, it was the introduction of 2 billionaires. One was a Russian called Usmanov, the other an American by the name of Kroenke.

Have a look at this. Arsène Wengers stats prior to Kroenke and Usmanov make fantastic reading:

Matches between 1996/06

Games: 615, 356 won, 144 drawn, 115 lost

57.8% won, 23.4 % drawn, 18.6% lost

Matches since Kroenke and Usmanov came in 2007/09

Games: 244, 140 won, 54 drawn, 50 lost

57.3% won, 22.1% drawn, 20.4% lost

Matches in the last 2 seasons between 2010/12

Games: 97, 53 won, 19 drawn,  25 lost

54.6% won, 19.5% drawn, 25.7% lost

As you can see, Arsène’s record as Arsenal manager has dropped in the last 6 seasons. But is that his fault? Or are the major shareholders to blame? Prior to 2007 and the arrival of Kroenke and Usmanov,  Wenger sold players when he decided was best.

The likes of Overmars, Petit, Vieira, Ljungberg, Henry, Wiltord, Campbell etc were all moved on after we had seen their best years. Since the introduction of major shareholders, we have lost the likes of Flamini, Hleb, Clichy, Nasri, Toure, Adebayor and Fabregas, all at their peak.

Has Wenger had his hands tied, or as an Arsène supporter, am I clutching at straws? To be honest, until the club tell me something new, I may never know. But the reason I split the post Kroenke, Usmanov era in 2 is this: Fans are slating the club for a massive drop in form and ability over the last 2 seasons. Fans claim the club has been dumbed down in terms of ability and quality.

But do the stats REALLY show this? Yes, they have dipped slightly, but should a 3% swing in wins to losses really be deserving of the grief that Arsene is getting right now? Surely one of the reasons for this swing has to go down to the fact that this is probably the most competitive Premier League since it was launched.

There are now 7 teams fighting for a top 4 finish, and that doesn’t even include playing away games at Everton, Stoke and the like. And maybe the move to the Emirates has forced Arsene to look at options that he would have previously disregarded. Either way, if it came to a choice over Arsene, Kroenke and Usmanov, I know who I would rather have at this club.

Written by SlimGingerGooner


Welcome To Stalingrad

February 20, 2012

As sieges go, this is a big one.

The Arsenal players, manager, directors and staff have become used to being under attack, but now they truly are under siege.

And who are the besiegers?

Yes, of course, the media, mostly comprised of self styled “good blokes” who love nothing more than a beer with a like minded manager and have never warmed to Arsène Wenger’s euro-intellectual aestheticism.

And yes, of course, our rivals at other clubs. Sour, bitter types who’ve worn for too long the scars of defeat suffered at our imperious hands.

And yes, the sugar daddies who go round picking up unfashionable clubs, giving them high heels, a platinum ring and a fur coat and sending them out like they’re the classiest broad on the block even though everyone knows that underneath the mink there’s no knickers.

But – and this is now clear – to the list of besiegers we must also add a significant proportion of the Arsenal support base. Possibly even a majority.

It’s a dire situation.

In the Second World War the German invasion of what we now call Russia inflicted defeat after defeat upon the Soviet Red Army. Eventually the Soviets found themselves backed up against the Volga River, in the city of Stalingrad, with the German army surrounding them on three sides.

The defenders dug in with dwindling supplies and resorted to eating cats (sorry Micky) and rats and dogs (sorry Evonne) to survive.

There would be more than 800,000 casualties before the outcome was decided (human casualties that is – I don’t think anyone counted the rats, cats and dogs). The city itself was reduced to rubble. Anyone who has been to an away game in Liverpool will be able to visualise.

Stalingrad came into my mind yesterday when I was reading Arsène Wenger’s quotes following the FA Cup loss at the Stadium of Routemasters.

He said this:

At the moment it is best to let people talk, criticise, analyse and destroy and on our side it is important to show internal strength and resilience and come out with a strong performance in our next game. We have to take the critics on board, stay together and face them.

On one level it’s the standard sort of quote you’d expect to see from an embattled manager.

But that phrase about letting people “talk, criticise, analyse and destroy” was stronger than we have been used to seeing from Arsene, particularly the word “destroy”.

It was the phrase of a man under siege.

It must feel to him and to most inside the club that people really do want to destroy Arsenal – or at least his vision for Arsenal. And I infer that he includes his many critics among the fan base in that accusation.

I know hardly any supporters who, these days, are 100% confident that Arsène and the club will be able to turn things round and bring back the glory days. Even the most ardent Wenger loyalists are plagued by doubts, while those who have been criticising him for years are now feeling vindicated and invigorated in their campaign to oust him.

A siege, naturally, can have one of two outcomes. The besieged city or castle can fall, with not terribly pleasant outcomes for those left inside. Or it can prevail as the attackers lose the will or resources to carry on the fight and depart (perhaps aided by the defenders getting reinforcements or extra supplies).

If the defenders are successful, there is often forged an almost mystical bond of togetherness between the survivors: a sense of having done something remarkable, with a group of remarkable people.

If we are fortunate, the Siege of Arsenal will have this kind of regenerative outcome. Hopefully our players won’t, like the Turkish defenders in the Siege of Azov, 1696, have to resort to slicing off their own buttocks for food (although if they did, Andrei Arshavin would keep the wolf from the door for a good few days).

But if we can come through these dark times with the right response – starting with beating the Noisy Neighbours on Sunday – there is the possibility, at least, of a brighter future for Arsenal.

Arsène Wenger himself has hinted that last summer’s transfer business was a mess – and I cannot believe a man as intelligent as he is will allow that to happen again in the coming summer.

I feel he will be a harder, wiser man this year, having been let down by both Fabregas and the Fat French Benchwarmer (who would also have been quite a hit at the Siege of Azov).

If Robin van Persie appears to be angling for a move away, I believe we will sell him quickly having first lined up a world class goal-scoring replacement. The same for Song and Walcott.

Regardless of whether we finish in the top four, there will be a lot of transfer activity. I believe Arsène will make demands on the Board that he has not made for years and if they do not back him, he will quit.

I know many, many Arsenal fans believe our manager will do no such thing and that they expect next summer to be a repeat of the last few summers.

Maybe they are right, but Arsène Wenger is a proud man and I cannot see him tolerating anything that will push the club further towards the dead ground of mediocrity. And there were special factors that affected last year’s transfer window.

Summer 2011 was the first since Stan Kroenke gained overall control of the club and, for whatever reason, the transfer strategy that the new regime adopted (or tried to adopt) failed abysmally. Kroenke is also a smart man and will not let it happen again.

I suspect that Silent Stan believed Arsène when he said Cesc and Na$ri would stay. He won’t believe any such assertions this year (not that Arsene will be making them).

Supporting a football team is like having a child. No-one can guarantee it will be plain sailing all the way. There will be times of joy, but also times of despair and sadness. It’s how you come through the latter ones that really counts. And that’s the very test confronting Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal right now.

Historical Note: In August 1942 the bookies would have given you very generous odds on a Red Army victory at Stalingrad, but the defenders prevailed and the broken Germans were chased all the way back to the Fatherland and final defeat at the combined hands of the Allies and the Soviets.

 It just goes to show, it ain’t over until it’s over.

 

RockyLives

* If you have not read it, I cannot recommend highly enough Anthony Beevor’s brilliant account of the Battle of Stalingrad (called, curiously enough, “Stalingrad”).


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