The Arsene Wenger Conundrum

October 2, 2015
  1. The Arsene Wenger Conundrum:

    Sometimes the unpalatable needs to be acknowledged and faced, to the despair of some and the delight of others – but faced it must be.

    All fans live in the here and now, that’s life as we know it, and we tend to think we are the only ones in history to experience tremendous football highs and also the corresponding dispiriting lows – but that is not the case is it?

    Our parents and their parents and so on, back into the dim and distant past no doubt also ran the gamut of life’s ups and downs, and saw unpleasantness between the feuding doubters and the believers back in their era. So we are not too different.

    Why am I pointing out the bleeding obvious?
    Well it is because it seems to be readily forgotten that modern day professional football managers are not immune to this irrefutable law of life, and are subject to its intense stresses and strains, however well remunerated they might be, and so it has been from the mid-nineteenth century when football first became organised.

    In other words, there comes a time in all our lives, and specifically in the career of every football manager’s life, however humble or exalted he/she maybe, when his problem becomes the team’s problem and, by the nature of these things, also the fans problem, as a consequence.

    In essence, at some point in his career, the manager can become the problem and not the solution.

    There is a clear cycle to the careers of all managers.

    Initially the appointment of a new manager leads to the dead cat bounce of instant improvements in the results of the club, and the appointment soon proves popular with the fans, and things look up for the club— the manager is acclaimed for the personnel changes he makes; things go well; results are satisfactory; the club starts to look a good contender for the higher echelons of the league; attendances rise in proportion to the success; there is a feel good factor for the fans; and progress is tangible.
    Who knows, maybe there are honours that will be won; a title will become a possibility; a nice Cup win or two, maybe, and everyone will be deliriously happy! What could go wrong, baby?

    But there will come a time when, insidiously, things start to wobble, hiccups occur and dissatisfaction begins to creep in when the expected, nay demanded, progress stalls.

    The causes can be manifold – maybe an important player, or two, leaves to pursue wealth and trophies elsewhere. Maybe there are too many injuries for the team to cope with. Maybe the club still cannot compete financially, despite raising their commercial game.
    Possibly behind the scenes there are secret disagreements between the manager and the board. Maybe the players begin to ‘cock a deaf un’ to coaching instructions they once heard loud and clear. Maybe they become too casual, lack discipline, or become too arrogant? Who knows? – maybe all of these, or just some – but once started the rot is there and hard to eradicate.

    Eventually, the recognition by the board, and the fans, is that the stardust, the magic, has gone and that things have become the same old, same old, and the slippery slope leads in an overwhelmingly irresistible downwards spiral to the inevitable conclusion.
    Bye! See ya!

    This process is compounded, inevitably, by some managers being limited in that they find it hard to maintain success, and their shelf life, or sell by date, whatever, is only possible for two or three years, at most, and then they are gone – to spend more time with their families, or to milk another club, who have more money than sense, and who think they can revive their fortunes with a new man at the helm.

    And then? …. Then there is Arsene!
    This paragon – This dedicated, wonderful Arsenal manager who clearly loves the role more than his own marriage, it seems. What of him?

    The glorious early years of ‘Arsene Who?’ as he was first known, majestically set the template for the Arse and all the other clubs in the Premiership with his critically successful years covering the end of the old century and the beginning of the new, with a Double here and a Double there, and the occasional Cup trophy thrown in for good measure, and all that made possible by an intense and special relationship with his players based on mutual loyalty and continued ‘Invincible’ achievements. [OK, I admit it – a little poetic licence there!]

    This relationship somehow survived the deep lying strains placed upon it by the emotional and stressful move from the much loved Highbury to the, as yet, so-so Emirates Stadium, and the outside pressures of ‘no-where’ clubs suddenly coming back to life with the injection of astounding monetary investments hurled them to unexpected trophy success. Bastards!

    This incredible relationship between manager, club, team and fans, has been nurtured by the sometimes reluctant recognition that Wenger has laboured under self imposed, severe financial restrictions for many years compared with the other top clubs, and yet … and yet …

    It has been universally recognised that, despite those restrictions, and despite the vast financial advantages of Arsenal’s rivals, Wenger brilliantly and adroitly has kept the Gunners in the mix, fighting the seemingly impossible fight for annual CL qualification and enabling the team to punch well above their weight for the Premiership title and CL qualification throughout those seemingly sterile years.

    Without him things could have turned out very differently, and Arsenal could, for example, have had the woeful plodding undistinguished, dis-spiriting history that has befallen our neighbours, Tottering Hotspurs, over the past two decades and shown the Cockerel lovers for what they are — that they do indeed behave like vainglorious cocks of the walk.

    Instead it is Arsenal who have remained the real footballing powerhouse in North London, famous worldwide for the wonderful, free-flowing football that all fans of the beautiful game love.

    But —- and this pains me to say — have many fans now decided that the time has come, at last, for the Arsenal family as a whole to face head on what they see as the truth that Arsene is in the process, after all these years, of slowly, slowly declining and becoming himself the problem and not the solver of problems as far as the lack of advancement of the Arsenal project is concerned?

    For how many seasons have many of the more vocal fans lamented Arsenal’s failure to mount a prolonged and successful challenge for the EPL title, or ever more disappointingly failed to get past the group stages of the CL, by losing to supposedly weaker teams?

    Over the past two years the unrest has subsided to a degree with the protests becoming less vitriolic, as we have seen the increase in the money available to the club for transfers enabling all fans to live in hope that a ‘great’ player will be purchased to take us on to greater glory.

    Sadly the (2 : 3) loss to Olympiacos recently, coupled with the lack of spending in the transfer window last summer, with seemingly adverse effects in key areas, deemed to be weak, are symptomatic of the fans newly awakened frustration and anger with the manager.

    On the other side of the coin, many of us do not want to consider the possibility that we are in the end game of Arsene’s incredible Arsenal career, because we know how much we owe this fantastic manager.

    We also know that all the other clubs in the Premier League owe him thanks for revolutionising the training regimes and the diet regimes and the life style regimes of the modern player, that are now de rigueur.

    Let’s face it, the man built the modern Arsenal. He is, without doubt, one of the greatest figures ever seen in the game in this country.

    And yet, — and yet — there is a malaise gripping Arsenal and its fans — there are some world class players in the first team squad, and we are brimming with superb young talent coming through the enhanced youth system, and yet – and yet —-many fans look at the poor CL games which seem to be re-runs of the poor CL games seen last season, and the season before that, and wonder.
    As regards the Premier League, very few fans are now surprised when we are beaten by ‘lesser’ teams, and look, somehow, just as hopeless in certain areas of the team as we have ever done.

    It is claimed by many pundits, including ex-Arsenal players, that we need a new super-duper centre-forward in order to progress, and so too by the fans, as well as by Arsene himself who has admitted as much, before adding the addendum, ‘there is no one available to sign’ which is sometimes taken as code for ‘he is too expensive’. Or is that just becoming folklore?

    Over the years we have come within an inch of attaining trophies, while just needing one or two more top, top players to clinch them, only to see that another top, top player we already had has been sold instead, and that became yet another problem to fix before we could achieve the craved for success.

    One step forward, and two back, on a regular basis – it seems to some.

    That feeling of magic, that symbolised the early Wenger years, of constant progress onward and upward, has now, in the eyes of some, sadly flickered and almost gone out.

    The magic seems to have been replaced, instead, by a reluctant acceptance, possibly even by those of us who love and respect Arsene, and who admire his great achievements, and for what he once brought to the club, and also into our lives as devoted Gooners, but not necessarily for what he may yet still achieve, as hope begins to flutter and fade.

    It seems that a majority of red blooded Arsenal fans, perhaps with an element of personal guilt involved, think that this dying of the Arsene magic is the reality, and many long for a managerial change, despite not wanting to openly say so, because everyone wishes it could be otherwise.

    All of us have our time in the sun, but, deep down, all of us also know that we eventually have to accept that our day is done because of our declining physical and mental strength and need to face up to life’s changes, and say a fond farewell to our friends, our colleagues and our jobs, and sashay quietly into the sunset.

    I hope Arsene, a man I revere for what he has done for us — manages to climb the last summit and wins the Premier League and also wins the Champions League before his personal day is done.

    That is the Arsene conundrum — will he stay to prove his doubters wrong, or will they get their way and see off a great man.

    Be careful what you wish for — a truly great manager like Arsene comes around but once in a lifetime!

    Written by RA

 A View From The Stands

September 30, 2015

Firstly let me say that I have not seen any highlights or read too much this morning so I am not in a position to comment on refereeing decisions or any controversial incidences. As you know they do not show anything controversial as a re-run so I will need others to fill me in on this. Certainly from the stands I was suspicious of off-side for their 3rd and with UEFA not using goal line technology I would welcome some feedback on their 2nd.

This was a strangely disjointed performance that left me slightly puzzled, and I know what you are thinking, a puzzled GoonerB with few tactical solutions is verging on a national crisis :)

Reading through some comments there does seem to be many feeling that this performance (or others like it) is down down to non recruitment of certain personnel or too much rotation and inexplicably not playing our strongest team.

The first may have some merit that we do lack certain qualities in the squad. It is probably, though, also about missing certain qualities through injuries. Notably I felt the way Olympiacos defended was made for Giroud’s presence in the box, but he wasn’t available. Theo wasn’t bad, but I do have a couple of gripes regarding him that I will comment on later, but I would have preferred Giroud to have been brought on up top (once we had seen how the game and their defensive line was developing) with Theo moved wide right (due to the Ox having an off game IMO).

I think the game also craved Jack’s intricate ability to operate in the tightest of spaces with those subtle 1-2’s, so he was also badly missed as an option. Add potential missing options in Welbeck and Rosicky and our options to change the game tactically were limited.

On the rotation side of things, I am sorry but it is necessary. When and how is a different matter, but I question why many feel we went in with a weakened team last night. With what we have, and had available, many would say that Walcott, Alexis and Ox is our strongest front 3….I do…. Many would say that Ozil is the best 1st choice starting option in that number 10 role….I do…. Many would say that Le Coq and Santi is the best CM pairing….I do…. Bellerin and Kos are generally considered 1st choice. Gabriel will now be considered by many as being ahead of Merts. Monreal was a massively improved player last year but for me there is not much difference between him and Gibbs, certainly not game altering differences.

That leaves the keeper. I get it that Cech is better and is truly world class but big teams win big prizes even with injuries to 1st choice keepers by having excellent ready made back-ups, even if slightly inferior to the first choice. Are we really saying that we have lost this game because our2nd choice keeper, the number 1 Columbian international keeper, is not good enough to help us beat Olympiacos at home??? I really struggle with that one, and if it is the case then he has no place being in the Arsenal squad at all. On paper it looked a strong, fine, and balanced line up to me so I am looking for answers to last night elsewhere.

So we once again we gifted some poor goals, I think everyone will agree there, and I just don’t think you can do that as often as we do in Europe, even against some lesser teams. Is this a personnel or training issue? We again left ourselves a mountain to climb and to be fair to Olympiacos they were very organised, compact, and solid in defence. We couldn’t easily find a way through tight central spaces and the fact we did twice should have been enough, if we did our job properly elsewhere.

The route through them seemed to be from the wide areas. We are good at this by and large, and mostly use the overlapping full-backs to good effect so all we then need are dangerous balls into the box (some aerial some low and powerful). I do however have an issue with theOx and our right flank last night, but will say more later. If we get into dangerous wide areas and get the balls in, we then just need players in the box to finish these good chances off…..errmm….seems to fall down at that point!

I have a big problem with this, especially with the aerial balls. The default seems to be that we miss a big CF in these instances so we can immediately jump on the Giroud bandwagon. Personally though I think many of the most prolific goal-scorers in the air are just technically good at it, and are good at finding and attacking space gaining a half yard on the defender. The height obviously does help at times but even as a biggie Giroud for me is an average threat in the air. Sanchez (all 5′ 6 1/2” of him according to Wiki) is good in the air and a good technical header of the ball. He has learnt this away from Arsenal. I then look at many of our attacking players that have been with us for some time, so their skill set is more shaped by Arsenal’s training of them, and I ask who else do we have that has good technique in with heading, regardless of size? It leaves me questioning our coaching and training unfortunately.

Was last night “just a bad day at the office”, or are we getting too many bad day’s at the office to keep saying this. What do you guys think?

Written by GoonerB

Walcott to continue his scoring Streak

September 29, 2015

Back on the bike after a nasty fall in Zagreb; we need to win to have a chance of reaching the knockout stages. Even Mr Wenger says so.

Olympiakos shouldn’t be in the competition and it is only due to UEFA’s incompetence (read corruption) that we play them tonight. They were under investigation and the very day after UEFA accepted them into this years CL their MD was arrested for 5 counts of match fixing. Such is the manner in which the football governing bodies work. It is a disgrace. Imagine that happening in in the PL – Platini would have permanently banned an English team from the CL.

But, they are here and we play them in a very important game in our season; lose and the Fat Lady is doing her vocal exercises.

Our record against the Bubbles is strange – we always beat them at home and always lose away. Perhaps it is the food – Moussaka-Gate??

Our team should be strong and I think AW will not make the 6 changes that ruined our chances in Zagreb – though both he and I maintain it was a poor performance as opposed to poor selection

My Guess:


Bellerin    Gabriel    Kos     Gibbs

Ramsey     Santi  Coq (if fit)    Sanchez



If Le Coq is unavailable I would like to see Ramsey play further back and OC on the right. It may be a bit too attacking but I expect Olympiakos to παρκάρετε το λεωφορείο.

We have 4 days to recover before our big weekend game so no concerns about exhaustion

I have written about Olympiakos visits to the Emirates three times over the years always predicting a win and so far have always been right. Tonight should be no exception.

I am 79% confident


Arsenal Zagreb. Bad Feelings.

September 17, 2015

I risk my bloody life for Arsenal, and come to think of it, countless other innocent road users as well.

Picture this, and it’s an ugly scene. 1:28 yesterday afternoon, and as I’m driving home I log on to this site and read the word “breather” apparently used by Arsène.

I boiled. The legs became stiff. Car swerved. The Bad Feelings had begun.

Used in any context at all, this word oozes arrogance and complacency. Then, later, I saw the team selection. Okay, it’s at this point in my little story that our paths could diverge. The reason being that you may be a cretin, whereas I am not.

Thing is Arsenal should strive to go as far as they can in the Champions League, whereas a Cretin might think it’s pointless because we’re not going to win it. Utter tosh. Wrong attitude, and never under estimate the opposition.

As for the game, you saw it, so I don’t need to bother with trivial details.

However, as a general point, I do think understanding between players is vital, and none more so than between CB’s and The Keeper. So why rest Cech? Midfield: Coquelin every time, unless that is, you bothered to go out and buy CL Level quality cover. Up top: don’t ask me, ask Mesut and Alexis.

Right, so we are where we are, so let’s just deal with it and no blubbing. CL just got a bit tougher, but we can do it, and we have the very pleasant prospect of beating Chelsea on Saturday.

Written by mickydidit89

Theo or Giroud? Yet again!

September 16, 2015

Zagreb. Champions League. Away game in delightful Croatia. Winnable? Why not?

This is why we celebrate finishing in the Top 4 and yet there seems to be a bit of “so what” about this game. You know what I mean – I bet you are thinking “well, it is great to have an Arsenal game on the tele tonight, but win, lose or draw we are going out in the next round so does it really matter?” Come on …. you know you think that way!! Another viewpoint might be  – and we have already seen comments confirming this – that the game at the weekend is more important as such we should play a weakened team full of (quality) squad members.

And yet, as I said before, this is what we strive for – a mid-week night game against a League winning team (unbeaten in 42 games), so let’s celebrate and remember we could be playing on Spursday :-)

I know nothing about Dynamo Zagreb. A little research shows the club have won the Croatian League 10 years running, that they have a 35k capacity ground, that they have produced some fine players including Corluka, Modric, Dejan Lovren, Mario Mandvukic and the much loved ex-AFC player and Crozillian, Eduardo. They managed just one point in the CL group stages last season with a minus 13 goal difference.

The players focus may be diverted by the fact that DZ’s manager and CEO are out on bail having been accused of embezzling €11m from the club and tax-man!

Eduardo is still in the squad and could play tonight.

On paper we should win this tie, DZ’s highest paid player earns less in a year than Ozil does in 3 weeks (true!) but it doesn’t work like that does it? Hard work, a partisan and passionate crowd and an opportunity to impress managers in the Big Leagues will drive the Zagreb players – we need to be careful.


What of our team? Who should play? Well, I have absolutely no idea. I cannot even say with any certainty that Cech will start ahead of Ospina (who is a fine deputy). Ramsey, BFG and Bellerin are out, I expect Kos and Gabriel to be our CB’s. Ozil and Sanchez could get 70 minutes but beyond them …… ???

Monreal or Gibbs? Gibbs has done nothing wrong and deserves a start, should it be here or at Stamford Bridge? Same goes for Debuchy, Arteta, Giroud, Oxlade-Chamberlain, even Flamini.

Perhaps AW will give Joel Campbell a run though  it would preclude him being sold to any club remaining in the CL in January. Given Theo’s start last Saturday and the expectation that he will play centrally at Stamford Bridge I believe Giroud will start tonight.

Here is my punt:


Debuchy    Gabriel    Koscielny    Gibbs

Ox   Coquelin   Cazorla


Giroud     Sanchez

Wouldn’t put LB’s sofa on it though.

We should win this game, we are better all over the pitch and we are good away from home.

I am 71% confident.


Are the later stages of the Champions League vaguely interesting?

April 22, 2015


This was inspired by a few comments on twitter during Tuesday evening.

The first speculated that the Champions League was becoming so predictable that it had become a case of fighting for the 4th Semi-Final spot left vacant, after Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich had taken theirs.

The second was in response to the two hammerings which were taking place that evening. The Quarter Finals of the top competition in the world and the ties were not even close as contests. As a result, the person commenting asked if the Champions League would eventually “eat itself”?

So as a matter of interest, I decided to have a look at the semi-finalists for the last few seasons and see if this trend was true. Here goes………


Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Lyon


Real Madrid, Barcelona, Schalke and the Mancs


Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Chavski


Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund


Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Chavski.

(Barcelona went out in the quarters to Atletico)


Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the Semis at a canter.

Atletico could stop Real Madrid getting there with a couple of away goals and as for Juve v Monaco, we all know what’s wrong with that tie, don’t we, Micky?

What do you think? Is this exactly how you would like it because you get to see the top players at the climax of the competition each year? Or does it make you seethe that a team like Nottingham Forest or Villa could ever win the trophy (albeit, in a completely different competition and totally different footballing era)?


Worst of all, are The Arsenal fighting for that 4th Semi-Final spot each year from now on?

Written by



Your Arsenal Life. Depressing?

April 14, 2015

Seeing the Rich Kids from Monte Carlo lining up against The Young Boys from Turin this week really cheeses me off. Then I note that some blokes from a fortified wine growing region of Portugal are hosting The Bavarians, and suddenly the blood begins to boil.

However, what really makes me very most vexest of all, is seeing two teams lining up in Madrid. That was MY spring break right there. Either Team. Not bothered. Preferred Real, but whatever.

Just penning those two short paragraphs may give the impression I am an angry doomer. I am not. I am a happy person and all is well. I am, however, slightly concerned that a good many Gunners are more sensitive than I. Mood swingers, if you like. All is rosy then wallop, one Cup defeat, one League defeat and suddenly Arsenaldom is an unbearable hellhole.

How utterly depressed are you that Our Boys are not lining up tonight?

I am not depressed at all, just bloody furious, that’s all.


Ed: I’ve added this poll – just for amusement value :)


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