What is Arsenal?

June 20, 2012

I spent too long on Monday explaining how little as fans we really know our team. Instead I tried to emphasize the anomaly that the club is, in a league of slightly predictable anomalies.

We know what Man United is. We know that when we look at the parts of the machine, there are few players in that team we would like over ours. We could say the same about Chelsea and City, Spurs and Newcastle and so on. Actually, I bet out of all of the above teams, the most players we would want from any one team would probably be Newcastle – which is strange no?

We know how City, United, Chelsea and ourselves will get on. We know how Stoke, Everton, Liverpool and Villa will do. We know because like Malcolm Gladwell writes in Blink, “The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.” Or, “We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We’re a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we don’t really have an explanation for.” Or even, “being able to act intelligently and instinctively in the moment is possible only after a long and rigorous of education and experience”

If you haven’t read it, it is worth a go as it makes sense a lot of the time. As does his book Outliers and The Tipping Point. All lend themselves brilliantly to analyzing, or at least appearing to analyze sport. In Outliers, Gladwell’s premise is that to be extremely good at anything, to be regarded as a genius in your field, you have to spend 10,000 hours practicing that activity as some kind of apprenticeship. The funny thing is, if we start supporting from an age of 8 or so, and we think about football on and off for 4 hours a day, we will have completed our 10,000 hours by the age of 15! And what the hell do we know at 15? Certainly what do we know about football? Have you ever heard teenagers argue about football? It is like listening to chimpanzees fighting. So therein lies the rub. We have hundreds of thousands of over-qualified experts, unheard in the melee of genius-turd, spouted off like some Sony Bravia advert in which we are both the paint and the sprinting clown. Football is the boring block of flats.

You see the thing is, we have no idea what we are talking about. None. Even football managers and players talk a bad game. They might tell a good story, or be able to explain some interesting insight into why circumstances transpired in a favourable or unfavourable manner based on a decision they made or didn’t make. But the one thing they don’t get any better than us, is the meaning and qualification of what it is to be a football fan. So they need to do their job without acknowledging us or they end up sinking to our level. We all have strange and lucid gut feelings based on the hours accumulating meaningless and trivial facts and bias that bring no reward to our lives. Most people do things/work on areas of themselves to make them seem more attractive. The generating of football knowledge is not one of them.

We give ourselves over to something weaker and more secretive than religion. There is a flexible and odd moral code that can bridge the disgusting (I’m thinking of the songs about Adebayor and Hitler being a Gooner because he killed Jews), to the amazing (Muamba, the pre-match laying of flowers by the Arsenal players at Anfield ’89).

The amount of time we spend trying to think things through is directly at odds with our real feelings. Feelings about a Wenger who mirrors the worst in all of us. His inability to budge from his self-belief/opinion, his myopia to suit his needs, his devotion to that which he truly cares about (parity within pay and stability/family life within the group). All of these things are things we see or believe we see in ourselves. Much of that which we love or hate is mirrored in our own beliefs and failings. Why should football be any different?

Anyway, I digress. What I am trying to explain, is that the game itself and the ritual around it are two very different things. One is steeped in tribalism, camaraderie and emotional abandonment. The other is the achieving of immediate objectives based on the qualities of one team to try to beat or hold another team. I am going out on a limb and assuming few teams go out to lose (in any sport).

So then we have the challenge of what makes a fan, set against what makes a professional footballer. From here on in, the links and comparisons could decend into the hilarious. I apologise if I let go of the reins. If I do, this will be both in surrealism as well as experimental sentence structure.

An English fan is an amalgam of branded clothes and sportswear, beer, regular (if unreliable) sources of opinion and conjecture, spurious recollections of the past and projections for the future. A studied and dissonant rabble of solipsists resembling the French Foreign Legion and in the main, suffering some type of physical and psychological atrophy. (Woooah horsey!)

The fan reacts on the hoof and thinks in detail at a later stage. The fan loses all sense of discipline because the abandonment is the drug that invigorates a meaningless and often one-way faith. The real fan doesn’t care about their self-image, because they have long-since recognized that they come a very distant second to the physical demands in the overwhelming emotion that is blind faith.

The quality player is (mainly) fit, disciplined, single-minded, aware of their duty and the impact it has on a team, a good decision maker and able to do so in an instant under stress/pressure.

Why have I spent so long trying to establish this? Because Arsenal is a crazy anomaly that occasionally tries to play like the crappiest fans (8-2 L), but let themselves down by reluctantly and more frequently resorting to skill (5-2 J).

So much as I would like to talk about the merits of Arteta, Wilshire’s absence, defensive indiscipline, us being a selling club and so on, I find myself having to justify why I want to talk about it in the first place. For all the tactical inefficiencies and genius displayed by the various factions of the team, I find myself worryingly overcome by my own fits of rage at the inane, docile, simian and discombobulated expressions too often worn in recent times by the likes of Eboue, Vela, Almunia (who always looked like a homeless person caught defecating in a backstreet), Djourou, Song, Arsharvin, Clichy, Chamakh and so on and bloody so forth.

With that in mind, caring about whether van Persie stays, or if Podolski will be a hit almost seems meaningless. The amount of time we have invested in our madness has already elapsed and taken its true form. The delusion that success on the field, will bring the fan some kind of moment of clarity is as nonsensical as manufacturing and using a home-made catheter when your junk and bladder are in perfect working order.

Man United fans are miserable. Man City fans have been and are already miserable. All fans are bloody miserable because it is that state of being which we enjoy. We just tend to confuse it with thinking. The temporary elation in success brings us worryingly close to a realization that the meaning of football is to chew us up and spit us out. Results and achievements are ephemeral and the solipsism of the fan is what it is really all about. Wenger and his strange habits show he is human and suffering his own madness. Good. Serves him right.

Written by fergalburger


Something Has Got To Give.

June 19, 2012

Am I the only one who chuckled when we signed Podolski? I mean the signing at that time and of that grade of player didn’t just pull the carpet from those who love to criticise Arsenal’s transfer policy, it yanked it so hard that they were thrown in the air and silenced upon landing.

Wenger only signs kids………

…..can’t accuse him of that this summer.

Wenger hates spending money……

..…Looks a bit silly as Podolski was no bargain basement signing.

Wenger in last minute supermarket transfer dash

……Not this time, Podolski: signed before the season ended.

Wenger never signs proven internationals…………lol.

I am sure you can think of quite a few more, but you can see the point I am making; this signing has crushed so many anti-Wengerites it still makes me chuckle.

But the signing of Podolski does bulge the lateral options available to Wenger to breaking point and in my opinion something or someone is going to have to give.

Podolski has not been signed to sit on the bench; he is going to have to play and by that I mean start.

Furthermore, Wenger can no longer expect Oxlade-Chamberlin to sit on the bench; he also has to start.

So that is two of the three offensive positions taken up, the other obviously being taken by van Persie and even if he leaves it does not change the fact that those two players above are going to expect to play.

That leaves Gervinho, Arshavin, Vela, and of course a certain Theo Walcott. Now, most of us expect that Arshavin and Vela will go but that still leaves Gervinho and Walcott, maybe Gervinho might accept some bench time but Theo?

Don’t think that the Ox will wait on the bench for his turn if and when Theo is not available as that could be the whole of the season, unlikely I know but it could be and if I was 18 and my name was Oxlade-Chamberlain I would be worried that the latter possibility might happen.

And besides the history tells us that Wenger will not leave out a young player who is ready for the first team: A Cole, Fàbregas, Walcott, Wilshere, Szczesny, you can probably think of others but the pattern is clear and the Ox will be playing.

So what are we going to do with Theo coming to the last year of his contract and looking as good as his is in these Euros?

Written by LB


The Childlike Delusions of the Arsène Haters

June 18, 2012

There is a strong current of opinion among some Arsenal supporters that our seven year winless streak is a disgrace.

The argument goes like this: “Arsenal are a big club. Big clubs win things. We haven’t won anything for seven years. Therefore… our manager isn’t good enough; our Board of Directors lack ambition; they’re only interested in money. Let’s change everything.”

The flaws in the reasoning are obvious and you really don’t need me to reiterate them.

But what is not often mentioned is that this type of thinking is recognisable to psychologists and is described as “Childlike Behaviour in Adults”.

The symptoms of childlike behaviour in adults are reflective of emotional immaturity and can be grouped under five headings:

  • Egocentrism
  • Uncontrolled Emotion
  • Gratification
  • Attitude
  • Magical Thinking

If you go on some of the more negative Arsenal blogs you will find these symptoms displayed in abundance by both the authors and the commenters. The most important symptom, in the context of Arsenal’s recent history, is gratification, but the others play their part too.

Egocentricism:

Emotionally immature individuals are self centred and selfish. They have little regard for others and are preoccupied with their own ideas and feelings. They deeply believe that they are somehow special therefore demand constant attention, respect and sympathy.

Well, that certainly describes some Arsenal blog authors. People who are so preoccupied with their own “ideas and feelings” that they are unable to take on board the views and feelings of others. And they acquire an unfounded estimation of their own importance (believing they are “somehow special”). There is no doubt that some Arsenal sites, because they have attracted a modest following of like-minded delusionals, believe they speak for the greater Arsenal community. Further, they believe they are fighting a good fight (against the Triple Threat of Wenger, Kroenke and Gazidis) on behalf of that larger Arsenal community. Let me tell you chaps: you don’t speak for the rest of us and the fight you have embarked on is no more than Don Quixote tilting at windmills.

Uncontrolled Emotion:

Immaturity expresses itself in temper tantrums, prolonged pouts and rapidly changing moods. Emotionally immature individuals get frustrated easily and over-react to perceived criticism. They are unwilling to forgive and are prone to jealousy pangs.”

Ring any bells? Over-reacting to perceived criticism? Like banning perfectly reasonable and well-mannered contributors who post comments at odds with the prevailing orthodoxy? As for the temper tantrums and pouts… well, you can visit any Arsenal blog after a bad result and see evidence of them in their droves.

Gratification:

Children and childish adults often want everything now, and avoid enduring any thing they do not like. Their behaviour is superficial, thoughtless and impulsive.”

This hits straight at the heart of the “no trophies for seven years” issue. People who take that fact as a personal affront (and conveniently ignore the compelling reasons why Arsenal have been unable to win silverware in that period) are behaving like children: “I want twophies now and if I don’t get them I’ll scweam and scweam and scweam.” No matter how many times old stagers pop up to describe periods in our history when we went way more than seven years as Potless Percies, the childlike adults among our fan base just scream louder that they want it, and they want it NOW. If you have had children and remember the toddler phase, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. The idea of “deferred gratification” (seeing the big picture and accepting short term pain for long term gain) is anathema to the childlike adult.

Attitude:

Immature individuals have a hard time with integrity. They avoid and deny money and relationship problems which demand integrity and seek to pass the blame. They avoid reality and attack people when frustrated.”

Attacking people when frustrated – like making up silly names and acronyms for those who have a different viewpoint to your own. Lacking integrity – like never feeling ashamed or embarrassed when your dire predictions and made-up stories turn out to be nonsense.  There are Arsenal commentators and bloggers out there who (apparently) joyfully predicted that we would be in a relegation fight in the season that’s just finished. You won’t see them referring to that now. Instead, as childlike adults, they have simply shifted the goal posts and now predict doom and gloom for next season instead.

Magical Thinking:

The interpreting of two closely occurring events as though one caused the other, without any concern for the causal link. For example, if you believe that crossing your fingers brought you good fortune, you have associated the act of finger-crossing with the subsequent welcome event and imputed a causal link between the two. Magical thinking invests special powers and forces in many things that are seen as symbols.

Among the staunchest opponents of Arsene Wenger, magical thinking, indeed, takes the form of “interpreting two closely occurring events as though one caused the other.” For example, believing that because Arsene looks to achieve the best value when buying players, he must be on a “bonus” to spend less on transfers. There is, of course, not one shred of evidence for this ridiculous notion, but it has not stopped certain authors from repeating it endlessly as fact. Another example of spurious causal connection is the fact that we didn’t sign Xabi Alonso from Liverpool. The childlike adults, with their simple but deeply held world view of all things Arsenal, can only conceive of the idea that Alonso did not come because we were too cheap to pay the asking price. They, and we, have no evidence that that was truly the case.

Magical thinking invests special powers and forces in many things that are seen as symbols,” which, in the case of Arsenal, takes the form of an irrational belief that some flavour-of-the-month player from some other team is the answer to all our problems. Be it Cahill, Samba, Hazard, Mata, M’Vila (even, ludicrously, Joe Cole once upon a time). It doesn’t occur to the childlike adults who champion these causes that it might be the slightest bit inappropriate for them – with their day-jobs as IT workers, local government officials, Post Office sorters, or Sainsburys shelf stackers – to think they know better than a man like Arsene Wenger about which players are needed for Arsenal.

One important caveat: of course I am not suggesting that all criticism of Arsene Wenger and the current running of the club is a manifestation of psychological delusionality.

If you think Arsène should be removed as manager and can present cogent reasons for your opinion – fine, let’s have a debate. We may not change each other’s minds but we can at least respect each other and, through going back and forth, offer each other new perspectives on the issues.

Furthermore we can do so without playground abuse.

If you believe Ivan Gazidis is nothing more than a spin merchant who has overseen repeated failure in our transfer dealings – again, let’s go at it.

It’s not the argument itself that matters, but the way in which it is conducted. This is what separates the emotionally mature adult from the childlike adult and the emotionally mature Arsenal blog site from the childlike sites, of which, sadly, there are several.

That doesn’t mean that the emotionally mature adult is immune from occasional lapses of temper or good manners.

Many regular blog contributors go over the top at times (whether through frustration, a perception that they are being personally attacked or, as in my case, too much Scotch whisky) but if you examine the totality of their contributions you can soon judge their prevailing psychological state.

So what am I saying?

That some Arsenal blog sites and some of the people who contribute to them are psychologically not fully developed? They are, in effect, a bit mad?

Absolutely.

And thank goodness for the organisers of this site for keeping its standards high and emotionally mature and allowing wafflers like me to have our thoughts aired in an environment that (most of the time) is 100% sane.

RockyLives


Still cooking on Fabregas?

June 17, 2012

Watching Italy against Croatia on Thursday, I could only admire the silky skills of Pirlo, the Italian Playmaker. Especially in the first half, Pirlo gave a demonstration of what the Conductor role is all about. He always makes himself available by cleverly, and constantly, finding space. As soon as he gets the ball, he already knows what he wants to do next. He possesses a great first touch and can move forward, and if necessary past a player, quickly and with great close control.

On top of this, and it’s his most valuable skill and so rare in a footballer; he has a great overview of what is exactly in front of him, and what needs to happen next – and he can pick the pass that pulls a defence apart in one move. Of course, not every ball by Pirlo is a killer-pass, but he always seems to know how to move the play on with real intent and effectiveness. He gives shape and purpose to a team and Pirlo has been brilliant this season for both Italy and Juventus, with whom he just won the Italian league.

His is not the youngest, and once Croatia had levelled he did not have the energy anymore to drive his team forwards in order to get the all important winner. At an age of 33, I think he can be forgiven for this.

I love this kind of player though. They lift football to a higher echelon; they make football into poetry in motion, and they make me want to watch games of teams I do not support, or even like.

Whilst watching Pirlo, I could not help but think back about our former Spanish Maestro, our ex El Capitan: the one who left us because his home town was calling him.

Some of you might recall, I wrote an ‘open-letter post’ to Cesc last year:

https://arsenalarsenal.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/letter-to-el-capitan-cesc-fabregas/

I still love watching Cesc even though he plays no longer for us. I guess I still feel a bit of man love for him, a purely platonic one mind you! I am not bitter though, unlike some Arsenal supporters. He was young and felt a strong urge to return home, where they finally seemed to want him, and where they are playing the best football in the world: I probably would have done exactly the same.

When Fabregas scored his goal though, after he came on late on Thursday, I could not help but think he is not fully happy at the moment. There seemed to be some frustration there – maybe as a result of having to come on as a late substitute, or maybe because he is not being played in the position that suits his talents best.

Having watched him play at Barca in a new role this season, for which he needed to adjust considerably, I feel he has been underused by Guardiola. The now departed manager played him far too high up the pitch, where he did relatively well, but could not play his best football.

The Conductor has been asked to play the double bass, or the first violin, and to a certain extent this is fully understandable. Cesc decided to join Barcelona when they already had two of the finest conductors, and they also do not play the sort of football where there is a pivotal role for a classical playmaker. And this is where he might have made an error of judgement.

If he had stayed at Arsenal for at least another year, he could have continued in the hole – in the ‘1’ of our 4-2-1-3 formation. That is where Cesc belongs. If a player is blessed with the same skill-set as described above for Pirlo, and Cesc has these in abundance, and he finds himself in a position where he is not required to use his strongest assets, then football is being done an injustice, and a player is effectively denying himself – is not fulfilling himself. Good Playmakers are rare and they need to make the play.

And that is a great shame. Cesc is no longer cooking on gas and I wonder whether he has any regrets about his early move to Barcelona now.

Despite Cesc’s two excellent goals at the Euros and all his impressive goals and assists for Barcelona this season, he still left at least one season too early in my opinion. And I think he realises this as well at the moment.

Just imagine him last season: in front of Arteta and Song – what a season it could have been for us, and certainly also for him.

Fabregas is such a good footballer that he can be played almost everywhere and do well. But that is not the point. Barcelona and the Spanish National Team are confronted with an embarrassment of riches, and in the process a great talent is being wasted, whilst the clock is ticking.

TotalArsenal.


SuperTheoGoesBallistic

June 16, 2012

With England conceding two goals in quick succession Theo Walcott was finally given a chance to shine on a Major International Tournament stage.

Having been taken to 2006 World Cup and not played, then to feature heavily in 2010 qualification stages and not play, and then to feature again in these championships and again be overlooked when Hodgson’s pragmatic formation took shape it seemed yet again that Theo was destined for being unsuitable for the England team.

To be fair to the England managers I am not overly surprised, they don’t have the quality in the centre of midfield to pick out his runs, and they don’t have players with the ability to move up the field in numbers to support his blistering pace. So how can you use Theo to greatest effect? Well it turns out you just stick him on the pitch and let him sort It out for himself, and most importantly just let him play on his instincts.

England had been poor in possession for the entire game, Stevie Me’s cross to Carroll the high point in an otherwise cumbersome England performance. The lack of ability to keep the ball without going back to the keeper and him hoofing it back to the halfway line and compete for another 50:50.

Theo was brought on to replace the poor Milner, and within minutes had set England level. None of us knew that Theo had that strike in him, as the ball dropped to the edge of the area Theo’s first touch was good, his second moved it to the right of on rushing defenders and his next sent the ball up and over the mass of players in the box and curving this way and that leaving the Swedish keeper totally befuddled. The look on his face suggested he didn’t quite know how he’d managed it.

How did I do that?

Minutes later Theo gained possession around the Swedish area, this is what we know he is capable of, committing defenders and taking the ball to the byline, looking up he saw Wellbeck’s movement and delivering a ball that the latter finished as well as RvP has done all season.

Twice more Theo got himself in positions to exploit the space on Sweden’s right but first Stevie Me and the Andy Carroll ignored the passing option, Arsene would have gone crazy if one of his players had ignored the pass.

There was still time for Theo to put the afterburners on during an England break that saw him overtake Stevie Me to get on the end of a Parker pass, and then deliver a cross for the Ox but Stevie Me wanted to get on the scoresheet and blasted at the keeper.

All in all a good nights work for Theo, but I don’t expect him to feature in a starting line up anytime soon, he showed his defensive weakness on several occasions during his short display, and unfortunately that weakness will not be tolerated in Hodgson’s defensive minded setup. He will continue to be a super sub when necessary though, and then the knives will be out if he can’t produce what he did last night every time he is brought on.

Gooner in Exile

One of our young gooners is taking part in the Race for Life on Sunday 17th June for Cancer Research. If you feel you would like to donate to this hard working charity please visit her giving page here http://www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/alicemonk Thank you.


Referees are the fall guys

June 15, 2012

Yesterdays excellent post by weedonald prompted many good comments. One of our overseas bloggers – shard – sent this in as a response to that post and he includes his ideas for how the problem could be addressed.

The question to ask is, why do referees not enforce the laws properly, and if they don’t, why don’t their associations sort it out? And also slimgingergooner said, referees need support and to be backed to call a penalty for what is an offense (shirt pulling).. Why so? Why do referees face censure for following rules?

Partly, it’s because the football pundits propagate nonsense like ‘he got the ball’, ‘6 of one, half a dozen of the other’, ‘in the good ol days, it won’t even have been a free kick’ etc. This, increases the pressure on the referees, but for all the wrong reasons. Conversely, where referees do act contrary to at least the spirit of the law, the media looks to make excuses, or over scrutinise the player..’he should know better, he had to be careful having already been booked’.

I also agree with slim that referees’ mistakes are shown up more compared to rugby, and as such they have less respect from players and fans. But that is the authorities fault, They refuse to make all available resources an option for referees to get the call right, they put referees on a pedestal, and they refuse media access to the referees. In Germany, where referees speak to the media after the games, they can explain why they gave a certain decision, or even admit they made a mistake, and largely, the public accepts it and I’m sure players respect them more too. If someone refuses to accept mistakes and carries on as per usual, that’s when respect is eroded.

In summary, referees don’t respect the laws, the players don’t respect referees, the media perpetuate myths about the laws, the public understand neither the laws nor the referees’ actions, leading to confusion and arbitrariness all around with football being the loser.

Changes I’d like to see

Video replays – I know this is controversial, but it is perverse that when I , sitting halfway across the world, can see in 5 seconds that a wrong call was made, the referees themselves can’t rectify it. Fears of the game slowing down might be exaggerated even if they are real, and in any case, we should have trials in the lower leagues/friendlies to see how it works and how it can work better.

Referees being miked up – Like in Rugby. You have the referee explaining his decision in real time to the players, the people at the ground, as well as people watching on tv. This increases understanding among all, and also acts as a major incentive for referees to get their calls right. The only reason so far that I’ve come across, of why this can’t be done is because apparently footballers use colourful language which will outrage anyone watching on tv. Firstly, I don’t think football fans are that sensitive. Secondly, they can always ensure players mind their language. The NBA does it and it took a while, but now players behave themselves as a matter of course. A couple of fines and things will be sorted.

Committee of Ethics – Ok. this was actually Wenger’s term and idea, but it is based on the recognition that even with video replays, let alone without, referees make mistakes, and football authorities reserve the right to set those right. Actually, this is already so. The FA CAN act when it wants to, and its claims of FIFA rules, are a convenient lie. The problem with this is, that it is used arbitrarily. Wayne Rooney’s elbow onto the Wigan player’s head, Balotelli’s leg breaker on Song, cannot be punished. Derry’s red card cannot be overturned. Song’s stamp on Barton gets retrospective punishment. Middlesborough, a few years ago, got an extra game ban for their player, for a frivolous appeal, when in my opinion it was anything but. How to solve that problem, I have no idea and welcome suggestions. But the principle of overturning the bad calls such as for given/not given cards must be established, rather than deeming referees infallible.

Ref Observer Reports – The FA has referee observers at every match. Their reports, or at least the methodology they use to grade referees, as well as their results at the end of the season as regards which referees placed where, should be made public. Any referee consistently finishing below a certain grade must be ‘relegated’. While the claim is that this is done, it should be done in a transparent manner.

For the rest, of course, the existing laws must be applied fairly, judiciously, and at all times. That’s what the referee training and selection process is for after all. Training them to do their job. And although I am a very harsh critic of referees, I think most referees want to do a good job but are either let down/overlooked by their associations, and/or left as convenient targets to absorb all the criticism. The crisis in refereeing, is something I see as a crisis of administration.

Written by Shard


The problem with refereeing – A SIMPLE SOLUTION

June 14, 2012

I have read countless commentaries, posts, even complete blogs dedicated to finding a way to ¨fix¨ what is ¨wrong¨ with modern Football. Apparently many of the proposed solutions all have one thing in common and that is their requirement to either change or adapt the Laws of the Game in order to ¨improve¨ the likelihood of fairness and ¨eliminate¨ the hazards of referee incompetence,bias or poor form and to promote a more ¨level¨playing field.

While this paradigm may have some merit, the focus of my post is to suggest that, before changing anything, we need to enforce one simple solution that would create the groundwork needed to make a big difference in how the game is played. That solution is to apply the Laws as they were meant to be applied and to enforce them within the powers accorded to the officials. Doing this will ensure that players begin to respect the spirit of the Laws and not just the letter, recognize the authority and primacy of the referee in applying those Laws and begin to realize that diving, cheating, harassing and play-acting are NOT acceptable grey areas and loopholes in today’s Game.

Let me provide some basic examples of how the officials fail to enforce the basic Laws and permit a certain laissez-faire attitude to infiltrate the Game:

1) Free kicks – as most Football lovers know, a direct or indirect free kick requires that the offending team must keep a minimum of 10 metres from the ball unless the team awarded the kick chooses to take it quickly and without the referee’s signal (or it is in the goal area) and the ball cannot be moved away from the original spot where the foul occurred, yet this happens ALL the time. When I hear the idiots at EUFA and FIFA whine about video replays taking too much time, yet they tolerate the referees being forced to spend up to 2 minutes or more to setup the 10 metre distance like a parking attendant aligning cars, then I ask where the problem is! Most referees try and enforce the Law and punish encroachment but many just let the kick be taken to get play on. We do need to see officials enforce the 10 metre rule as they do for a penalty.

2) Corner kicks – How many times does the kicker place the ball over the corner circle,despite the linesman being right there? Out of 18 corner kicks I have seen taken during the Euros only 2 were properly placed. It isn’t the 2 inches they gain that makes a difference, it is the flaunting of the Law with the officials turning a blind eye that makes the difference.

3) The kick-off at the start of each half or after a goal often sees the team with the ball having a player half way over the centre-line, yet that is not permitted. The referee is right there and just turns a blind eye.

4) The referee calls a foul and suddenly he is surrounded by half a dozen players, usually from the offending team , harassing him (her) and trying to get their 2 cents worth in. Barcelona are famous for this and have made it a new art form called the Catalan cacophony!

5) Players taking throw-ins are another embarrassment. I watched 8 players in the Euros take illegal throw-ins and the linesmen and referee NEVER signalled an infringement!

6) My all-time favourite infringement, that is rarely called, is the dual foul of shirt-pulling and holding. Players in their penalty area, particularly on free kicks and corners, seem to want to exchange jerseys or get up close and personal with their opponents, whether the referee is watching or not, as the case may be. I have, as yet, to see a foul consistently awarded by any official for this clear infringement yet it is a serious foul at any time and anywhere on the field.

7) The goalkeepers seem not to have heard that they have a time limit to get rid of the ball once it is in their hands! I counted 4 different keepers in the Euros taking more than 15 seconds to release the ball into play! If they want to waste time, they can put the ball down and play it like any other teammate but they know the referee won’t hassle them if they saunter around holding the ball so they take forever to get in back into play.

8) I am getting tired of watching grown adult ¨professional¨ Footballers becoming drama queens when they get a tap on the ankle or the shin. They roll around and thump the ground like they were recently run over by a steamroller yet less than a minute later they are up and running like demons. This play acting should be restricted to the stage and punished for bringing the game into disrepute when it is clearly exaggerated.

I could go on but I think you all get the point? Officials and FIFA have the power to reduce or eliminate these breaches of the Law yet they permit such gamesmanship, all in the name of getting on with play or avoiding nitpicking. I remember when I spoke to Sir Stanley Rous at a dinner in honour of my country’s 100th anniversary in Football and what he said has remained with me to this day: ¨A good referee is firm but fair and applies the Laws of the Game with equal care to the letter AND the spirit of such Laws¨. We need more ¨good¨ referees don’t you think?

Written by weedonald

Thanks to weedonald for today’s post. The internet is populated by self appointed experts, but today’s author is eminently qualified to talk about the art of refereeing. Here is a brief résumé of his history relating to football:

With 50 years of involvement in Football at all levels, international, national and local as a referee, coach and organizer/administrator, I am a total addict. My profession as a school psychologist and later as a consultant in Human Resources, afforded me the time to get involved and stay active until my retirement in 2010. When my wife permits it, I still love to volunteer coaching little kids and to officiate the occasional match as well. I was involved a great deal in women’s soccer and was one of two in my country to create the first adult women’s league in my province. I am certified as a Class C Coach and a national referee as was also an NASL official for 5 years. I adore the Arsenal and consider Wenger, under the circumstances , to be the penultimate manager of any professional team in Europe. I also like the game Barcelona play on the field but less so off it. My nickname comes from my mother who was born in Scotland and always called me weedonald while calling my twin brother an unprintable acronym.


Has Arsène Finally Found The All-Conquering Formula?

June 13, 2012

Youth + Wenger-Gems + Established Quality Players =

The All-Conquering Formula! (But we need to hold on to our players….).

We at the Academy, feel that Arsene could have given some of the kids a chance and maybe put them on the bench and given them a run-out, especially in games where you’re winning 3-0, but I also understand he has to get results and he’s super-cautious.

Liam Brady – Head of Youth Development at Arsenal (at some time back in 2003, maybe earlier).

Recently, I have been reading ‘The Glorious Game: Extra Time’, by Alex Fynn and Kevin Whitcher in order to relive the early years of Arsene Wenger once more. The above quote by Brady made me realise again how different Arsene’s approach had been regarding creating, building and choosing his squad as well as his first team, back in the first half of his managerial time at Arsenal.

Nowadays, Arsene gets regularly criticised for putting his faith far too much in young players, for not dumping underperforming youngsters (quickly enough), and for not buying enough experienced, top-quality players. But back then it was quite the opposite, as young talents where given very few opportunities to break through into the core squad:

“The immediate future was shaped not by the produce of the Academy, but the manager’s activity in the transfer market. On one level, this predilection for experience was perverse as Arsene Wenger had been instrumental in the development of the Academy.” Fynn, Whitcher.

There is a strong belief among fellow Gooners that Arsene’s decision to start building his teams for a large part with the outputs of the Youth Academy from the mid-Noughties, was born out of necessity. The build of the new stadium meant there was very little money available for Arsene to buy the calibre of players he was able to afford before, and so he was left with no other option than to reap the harvest of Liam Brady and co’s hard labour at the Youth Academy, in order to somehow compete with the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and a few others, whilst the financial impact of building the new stadium was being smoothed out.

Although I believe there is a considerable amount of truth in that view, I am also convinced that Wenger always wanted to build his team bottom upwards: manned by the best outputs from the Youth Academy and build around a philosophy/style of football that is quintessentially Arsenal – a variant of total football, based on a Wengeresque interpretation.

Wenger wants to build something at the club with longevity, with strong roots: a system based around a philosophy that will remain the foundation for future successful teams, for decades or more to come – perhaps comparable with other former great Frenchmen like Louis XIV and Francois Mitterand who had a similar desire to leave something behind for perpetuity – in their cases, through great building schemes: ‘Les Grands Projets’ as Mitterand liked to call them.

The Youth Academy has produced some very fine outputs in the last decade or so. For good order, I must state that I consider any player who joined Arsenal before the age of 21 as a product of our Youth Academy/Policy, whether it is Wilshere who was at Arsenal from a very young age, or Walcott, Ramsey, the Ox, or even Van Persie, who all joined Arsenal at a later age. The key principle is that Arsenal is always looking for players who can (still) be moulded into players who will fit very well within the Arsenal system/philosophy of football and subsequently become top class players.

Whether Arsene had no other option than to build his recent teams around our best talents, or whether he would have done it anyway, what we can say is that Arsenal is now starting to see the benefits of investing in the Youth Academy/Policy.

Despite Arsenal having had to sell/let go, for various reasons, the likes of Adebayor, Flamini, Nasri, Clichy, Fabregas, etc recently – an unprecedented loss of talent by a English top club in such a short period of time – the current core team still shows a strong representation of Youth Academy/Policy outputs: Szczesny, Song, Theo, Van Persie, Wilshere are all first team players now, whilst the likes of Gibbs, Ramsey, Coquelin, Jenkinson, Miquel and the Ox played a considerable number of games in the first team already, and are likely to become regular first-team starters in due course.

And there is more talent in the pipeline!

On top of the successes of our Youth Academy/Policy comes Wenger’s ability to buy a rare, and yet very affordable, gem. The so-called Wenger-gems are one of the main reasons Arsenal has been so successful since the arrival of le Professeur. Even in recent times, Arsene has been able to add a number of gems: Koscielny, Sagna, Vermaelen, and Santos come to mind, and he will always be able to find them. That is not to say he never gets it wrong, but that goes for every manager.

For me, the combination of a qualitatively strong output of our Youth Acadamy/Policy and Arsene’s ability to find very good players that nobody else seems to detect, is already a strong formula for success in the near future.

It is absolutely paramount though that Arsenal hold on to their best players as much as possible, and recent comments by Gazidis to review the pay-structure/policy in order to accommodate a number of players on high/competitive salaries, would make a big difference imho.

On top of the two above mentioned pillars for sustained success, Arsene seems now able to buy a number of experienced, quality players who might not provide the club with a substantial future sales value, but do add real and immediate value to the team. There has been a change in policy since last summer as, with the exception of Arshavin, Arsene has not been buying established, fully matured (26+ years old), quality players, for years now. You could argue that he seldom or never bought such players in the first place.

But, we have all seen the difference Arteta, and to slightly lesser extent, Mertesacker have made to our team this season, and it seems Wenger will continue down this line, as per the purchase of Podolski a few months ago. It looks like Arsenal continue to be in the market for one or two more established-quality players this summer, and there is a good chance that we will be able to continue this policy for years to come.

So here you have it:

Youth + Wenger-Gems + Established Quality Players = The All-Conquering Formula.

It is also the only acceptable panacea against the deadly poison of petro-dollars being pumped limitlessly into the game by you know who.

It is very hard, and it takes a long time, to replicate what Arsenal have set up with our Youth Academy, and it is also very difficult for our competitors to find a manager who can find affordable, yet very talented gems, like Arsene does. This sets us apart and very soon we will be able to reap the rewards we all have been longing for.

Once this formula starts working properly, it will be very hard for our competitors to catch up with Arsenal again in a fair and proper way.

Manchester United will probably be there with us for the foreseeable future, although it remains to be seen how AF will be able to cope with a reduced budget and stiff competition. The likes of Chelsea and Man City will do everything to stay ahead of us through shameless and limitless financial doping, but Arsenal will be a force to reckon with as a result of its All-Conquering Formula coming to full fruition.

The biggest challenge Arsene and Gazidis face now is convincing the likes of Theo, Song and RvP that the future is blindingly bright at Arsenal, and to get them to sign new contracts.

Let’s see what will happen during this summer and beyond, but there is every reason to be very positive about both our immediate and long-term futures.

TotalArsenal.

(With a big thanks to TMHT who, with his well-reasoned and never flailing belief in a bright future for Arsenal, has inspired me to write this post!).

And the truly great thing is that most, if not all, of the above players are likely to get better every year, and that so for the foreseeable future.


Arsenal at Euro 2012? Interim Report

June 12, 2012

I can’t speak for anyone else but my prime interest in what has been a very good tournament (so far) is the Arsenal players. After one round of games how are we faring?

Arshavin.  AA had a super game and was involved in most of the attacking Russian play. Contrary to the pundits knee-jerk reactions, AA played in his normal position of right attacking midfield. He was pacy, beat his man at will and his passing was excellent. We have seen games like this from him before but they are few and far between. More of the same please and then let’s get a juicy fee for him.

Rosicky. TR struggled in a team which look poor. Forced to go wide to find space he could not influence the game,  and his own high standards he will disappointed. There were some tidy flicks, turns and passes but in a team with Milan Baros as the lone striker it was always going to be difficult against a Russia team possessing a fine midfield. Expect better tonight.

One for Irish …

Bendtner. Didn’t score but played well. He plays a different role for Denmark than earlier in his career when he was primarily on the left. Used s a lone central striker he had his back to goal most of the game and looked to bring the onrushing midfielders into the attack. I thought he worked hard but without much success. His new role for Denmark is what I hoped Chamakh would bring to Arsenal – why didn’t AW give Nik the same opportunity?

Szczesny. Nightmare of a game which will haunt him for years. A poor decision led to the Greek goal and another to his sending-off. It could be said that he took the red rather than concede a certain goal, in which case it worked well for Poland. Can’t see him getting another game in the tournament.

RvP. Another man who disappointed. I cannot recall him being so wasteful in any game last season. Was it the expectation? Was he too tense? In his defence he created the chances and was in position to score, if he continues to find the space he will punish Germany.

Podolski. My first real look at him and I liked what I saw. Played much deeper than I expected. He is strong, direct and has a good shot. Early days but I can see why we bought him and why he scores so often.

The Ox. Needed much better service from an England team which showed no creativity. If Hodgson is looking to O-C to be the spark then he must tell the team to get the ball to him early. A few good runs and a couple of decent passes. He was understandably tense and frustrated with himself when things went wrong. We have signed a gem.

Walcott. 3 minutes of action. One touch. Better than Ashley Young.

All in all a bit disappointing. I hoped to see Koscielny start ahead of Mexes (who has the worst haircut I have ever seen) – perhaps he will get his chance later in the competition.

How are we doing?  5 out of 10.   Have the ability – Could do better.

Written by Big Raddy


Is Szczesny Good Enough For Arsenal?

June 11, 2012

Poor old Wojciech.

He was so excited about being Poland’s out-and-out Number One as they set out to try and win the Euros on home ground.

Instead he woke up on Saturday morning knowing that his main contribution to the national cause may turn out to be helping to ensure that Poland fail to qualify from the group stages.

Let’s face it, if Poland couldn’t manage to beat a Greek team that would struggle in League Two, their chances of progressing much further are slim indeed.

His nightmare day comprised two huge blunders: first, making an ill-judged lunge for a cross when it was always unlikely he could get there before either his central defender or the Greek forward.

I haven’t seen such a bad case of miscommunication between a goalie and a centre back since… er…  oh… Szczesny and Koscielny in the 2011 Carling Cup Final. Whoops.

As if gifting Greece (who were then playing 10 against 11) an equalising goal wasn’t enough, shortly afterwards Szczesny brought down a Greek attacker in the box for a clear penalty and an automatic red card. Our Pole’s blushes were spared slightly by the fact that his replacement saved the penalty. However, Szczesny’s dismissal had taken away Poland’s numerical advantage and was probably instrumental in them subsequently failing to grab a winner.

You have to feel sorry for Wojciech. As he walked off the pitch following his red card he looked to be one consoling word from a team mate away from bursting into tears.

But he only has himself to blame for both incidents and, truth to tell, for those of us who have watched him all year between the sticks for Arsenal, they are not a great surprise.

When Wojciech became first choice ‘keeper at Arsenal some contributors on Arsenal Arsenal took to calling him “World’s Number One.”

Around about that time I wrote a Headline Post here saying: “Right now Wojciech Szczesny is a raw, inexperienced player with bags of promise and the chance of becoming great in the future. A bit like Alex Manninger, Stuart Taylor and Richard Wright before him.

“In his performances for the first team this season he has been good but far from exceptional, which is entirely as you would expect for a 20-year-old making his inaugural steps in the top flight. All of which makes the fashionable hysteria about his talents premature, not to say ridiculous.”

I’m not trying to say “I told you so” because in that same article I argued that we should promote Fabianski and keep Szczesny as second choice – a suggestion I’m glad M. Wenger ignored.

But the fact is that Szczesny made many mistakes in his first season as Arsenal’s number one and his blunders for the national team are in keeping with the poorer aspects of his ‘keeping for us: namely, impetuosity; miscommunication and poor concentration.

So does all this mean we should reconsider his position at Arsenal? That we should bring in a Premier League veteran for a year or two until Wojciech has matured?

I would like to hear your views, but mine is this:

On no account should we remove him as our Number One.

For all his shortcomings, Szczesny has shown enough bravery, character and shot-stopping prowess to suggest that he can grow into a goalkeeper to rival legends like Jennings, Seaman, Wilson and Lehmann.

All he needs is age and experience. Age will take care of itself, but his experience will progress more rapidly if he plays every first team game (which, in turn, will end up making his “game age” greater than his birth age).

Even experiences like Friday’s will help make him a better ‘keeper.

In our forthcoming 2012-13 season I have no doubt that Szczesny’s faults will cost us points on occasion. But his strengths will win us points and his contribution to the team’s character cannot be overlooked.

Over to you.

RockyLives