Killing Arsène’s babies

It’s said that a novelist must be prepared to “kill their babies” to produce a decent book. It’s a literary term used to describe the process for self editing that a writer must do in order to finish their story and iterate their work towards a final manuscript. I am currently in the middle of writing a book and I am pretty shocked at the things I thought initially as being vital that I have had to give up, simply to make the story work.

Put quite simply you go into a writing project with an awful lot of preconceptions, events and characters that you think are indispensible to the story. They are precious to you. The process of self editing is an examination of your vanity, your commitment to the project. As you develop the story from its premise you run into issues with your precious babies. If you aren’t prepared to set aside some of the golden haired children of your imagination you end up with a story that is contrived, convoluted or just plain muck.

You might be say, writing a love story centred on the coming of age of a teenage girl from a broken home – “Wow great premise.”

that is set against a back ground of an international vampire war – “Ok cool I’m with you so far”

And you might think that it’s a great idea to make some of the vampires “vegetarians” and the others “carnivores”. – “eh but don’t all vampires feed on human blood?”

You then might even think that it’s a good idea to introduce a love triangle element that involves a werewolf. – “The what now? aren’t werewolves cursed humans who change into beasts on a full moon and go hunting human flesh?”

And finally you might want to have a woman impregnated from a man who is dead for over 100 years. “But that’s just nonsense on so many levels… and correct me if i am wrong but isn’t it physiologically impossible?”

But why take a vampire and make him something else? Vampires are well defined, as are werewolves. There is a wealth of lore on both so why would you reconstitute them? Why change them from the inherently evil, relentless killing machines that search for blood and / or flesh to simply make them mildly inconvenienced (and let’s face it boring) teenagers with great hair and unbelievable super powers to compensate.

Kill them.

Make them truer to their nature or make them something else. Or you might end up with Twilight and sparkly bleeding sap-pires or werewimps.

Now to Arsenal. While regular readers will recognise me as a fairly vocal evangelist of Arsene Wenger, I am not a slack jawed, blind follower. I sometimes think the man himself is showing less faith in his own vision than me. Put simply he finds it hard to kill his babies, as do Arsenal fans in the main.

We have laboured for seven years trying to build a story that first of all was about a dashing young Spanish matador, who would battle orcs and mercenaries to win golden treasure for his family and friends. The problem was that our Spanish hero had a character defect. It was a fatal defect, you see he was from another story and didn’t want to be in ours. The team was built for him, but he needed it to be built around him. He needed to have faith in his team mates and a love for the fans that exceed his love for his DNA.  He never had either so we forced our affection on him and hoped that our love would be enough for both.

It wasn’t. But not only was his heart not free enough, or his conviction not strong enough, he simply didn’t fit into Arsene’s story arc.

Fabregas was not a Wenger player. He became a sap-pire.

Arsene builds teams that exploit space. Anelka, Overmars, Ljunberg and Henry where forever being launched into space by inviting through balls from midfield –they simply pulverised high defensive lines. When opponents sat deep we had Henry, Bergkamp and Pires who could make the most of the space around the D. Even when the opposing teams got their defence right, we had giants and beasts like Campbell, Vieira and  Toure in the box to hit with corners and free kicks.

It wasn’t a boring story at all. But Arsene decided to change it.

He saw the Barca model and he envied it. Possession football. Passing. Control. He could do that. He hated taking his great teams to the camp neu and losing a battle of philosophy. He wanted to beat them at their own game. In fact i think he wanted to take their ingredients and make something different and new from them.

But a leopard never changes his spots. Oh don’t get me wrong he made a go at it. He built an exciting team that he choreographed as well as Barcelona. At times they can be breathe taking.

At other times turgid and frustrating.

Why? Why doesn’t it work consistently? I think it’s because it is too choreographed. We tippy tap passes around but the movements all end with Van Persie. Stop him and you stop Arsenal.

Stop Henry and Bergkamp’d get you, or Pires or Freddie.

In Barcelona they play tikataka organically. It’s a rhythm that Iniesta, Xavi, Messi, Fabregas all grew up in. As an ethos it’s effortless for them. But it’s not effortless for Denilson, Song, Arshavin, Walcott, etc. They learn the dance steps but they move to a different rhythm. Walcott has been criticised for not living up to his potential but last season, Fabregasless, he stepped up the plate a good bit. Why? Well quite simply he needed to learn the game. Learn the role.

Fabregas was built for the game from the age of 10. Walcott learned a different game from 10 to 15 and then had to learn a new one. Hard trick with an old dog.

All these characters failed in the story of Cesc.

Bendtner has no place in a 4-3-3. Chamakh, Park, Eduardo the same. Naturally speaking neither does Walcott

Denilson, Arshavin, Vela. All played out of position. All contrived to facilitate our number 4.

You see like vampires and werewolves our players are well defined by the time they get to the first team. Hell our manager is well defined.

What I mean is; how do we take a lazy, often brilliant, central half striker like Arshavin and shove him on the wing and then tell him to help out his teenage full back?

Likewise how do we take a speedy, straight line running shot/cross merchant and expect him to dribble past players and run in broken curved lines? Lines that he can’t even see?

Theo might be adapting to the dance but he craves space,

Arshavin craves space,

Van Persie craves space.

The Barca team and Fabregas don’t need space. They press and close down space safe in the knowledge that they have the technique and instinct and faith in their team mate to move the ball in tiny channels. We can’t do that. We want space, we really don’t want possession.

We want to win the ball and score within 20 seconds.

Does anyone remember the Invincibles? What a team. They were never in danger of losing a game all season. I mean I don’t think in the whole season we were ever behind after 70-75 minutes. We’d score early and often and then defend as a team. Teams would break themselves on our defence like ships on rocks, and we would break and score late goals. Didn’t we only ever seem to concede from corners and wicked deflections.

Tikitaka is a defensive style of football. Arsene Wenger is an attacking coach. It is about dominating the football and denying the opposition the ball, space or time. Press, pass, press pass. run your opponents left and right in the midfield. make a simple pass that Messi has rehearsed receiving a million times. Tikitaka is far beyond choreography, it is second nature to them. If not first.

Wenger built a similar system, except Arsenal, in fairness, try to attack more. We also have a distinct defence, midfield and attack. Barca have 10 midfielders – and all the players on the pitch are stood in within 20 yards of the ball radius.

Van Persie was bought for the Invincibles, he wasn’t bought for the Cesc team. He was a half striker; a successor to DB10. but he never got a chance to play as that because we had started our evolution to 4-3-3 when he was breaking into the team. He is probably leaving with the wrong concept of himself. He may have been a good leading man, but he may have been an even better supporting actor.

2012 / 13 Sees an opportunity to get back on track, back to the story line– we have the players to mount a challenge. We have the coach.

I think now of Podolski, and I picture him from all those German internationals running from the left wing into an ocean of space or against a scrambling defence. Pires like, Henry like.

I can see Walcott (if he stays) running through from the right like Anelka used to, like Ljunberg used to. I see Wilshire and the Ox unleashing them from the middle, Vieira-esq, Bergkamp-esq.

I see a solid back four and an improving keeper. I see a wealth of dept on the bench.

I see Giroud as a beast in attack, a fox in the box.

Maybe a Plan B and a plan A rolled into one.

I see Arsenal as no longer a 1 man team. No longer handbraked by the tippytap delusion. Wenger may have had the scales lifted from his eyes. And for that i’d like to thank Barca and Man City – you have killed our babies for us and paid us for the pleasure.

Written by Double98

169 Responses to Killing Arsène’s babies

  1. wambam says:

    Beautifully written analysis, and best of all, spot on.

  2. chas says:

    A superb read, D98.

    It used to make me laugh when the spuds said we were a one man team back in the early Noughties. I’m never quite sure if it’s true that Wenger built a team around Fabregas and then around Brave Sir Robin. Surely that would be a recipe for disaster when injuries, wallet-swelling and DNA struck?

    Hopefully a more balanced side with all round quality and responsibility is the recipe for us to move forward.

    Perhaps Barca and Citeh have partly killed Arsene’s babies but it’s up to him to finish the job.

  3. Red Arse says:

    A great allegory, D98, linking your nascent book writing venture to a detailed discussion of the Arsenal team and Wenger’s belief system!

    I don’t ascribe to all the theories you present, but you will entice many comments by the skilful way you draw the reader in.

    Loved it, well done. 🙂

  4. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Wowee D98,
    I’m trying to write a book about The Greatest Meal on Earth, and I keep thinking..nah. Now I know why. I’m off to add some vampires!
    Off out, then rushing back to try and do service to a stonker of a post.

  5. TotAl says:

    A beautifully written post D98 🙂

    It comes as no surprise you are currently writing a book; I have always liked your posts and style of writing. Really top class stuff.

    However, I do not agree with your conclusions. Tiki taki, possession football is here to stay, as long as Wenger is in charge. I also don’t believe there will ever be as much space as during the period that you so much long for. Football has moved on.

    There is no way back from possession/passing football and, hopefully, Arsene will come up with a variant that is a bit more direct – or simply leads us to taking our chances better/quicker.

    But then again, maybe you are right. The purchases of Podolski and Giroud could indicate a return to the ‘old’ days.

    Either way, it’s going to be a fascinating season. 🙂

  6. Norfolk Gooner says:

    An epic post from a future writer of epics. It deserves much deeper reading than I have time for at the moment. I shall return, as General MacArthur once said, after my weekly swim.

  7. TotAl says:

    From the tale end of yesterday’s post:

    Hi RA, if I may…. disagree with you to a certain extent.

    Yes your rule of thumb makes sense.

    However, as I explained last night to TMHT, with tactics I meant everything to do with football style, formation –> the system of football played with inherent tactics.

    Different qualities in players are required for the sort of football systems that Wenger, Van Gaal, Klopp or Guardiola play, compared to Ferguson or Maureen.

    I reckon, Van Gaal would rather not work with the very ‘generally recognised as very best players available’, as their (often) big egos stand in the way of making players adept to work with his system of football. Van Gaal needs very good players that he can mould, not necessarily 11 or more superstars.

    It definitely helps to be able to buy and retain the best quality footballers for a particular system of football, though. That’s why Barcelona are more successful than Arsenal, Ajax or Dortmund.

    The assumption, however, that what mainly matters is to have as many as possible quality footballers in order to achieve success, is not correct. The ability of the manager, the system of football (and associated tactics), and, as you rightly mentioned a generous dollop of luck, are equally as important.

    26 and I have given examples last night to proof my last point.

  8. Red Arse says:


    Forget all the vampire and ghoul yarns as they have been done to death in books, films and on TV. 🙂

    Some of the best selling (as opposed to best written) books for many years, and it is a genre that will always have a market, comprises the stock — boy meets girl – girl hates boy – events bring them together – girl loves boy, but boy now hates girl – big event – boy and girl now love each other (ish).

    Even a block buster like ‘Gone with the Wind’ set in an epoch American Civil War context was basically a ‘girl meets boy’ story (with an “ish” ending 🙂 )

    Best of luck!!

  9. Mark says:

    Super article. I absolutely agree with you the whole idea of moving to 4-3-3 was a misstep, no need for it. Now that we have brought in a traditional ST in Giroud and Podolski or Walcott who can play alongside I think we should move back to 4-4-2. The reson I think we moved to the new formation is that when gilberto and vieira left and teams played 5 in the middle we struggled to find space and express ourselves but I think with Song and wilshere or arteta and in the future ox i think the midfield has the steel and creativity to be successful

  10. Double98 says:

    TotAl –
    Ah sure its all speculation:
    i see Podelski and Giroud as not possession type footballers. Podelski runs at you with power, Giroud beats up centre backs with power..
    Power and pace – Podelski – Walcott, Giroud – Gervihno


    Wenger is never gonna use a Broad sword, but maybe he is putting away the rapier and taking out a cutless


  11. Double98 says:

    Red Arse – I have started on a series of books on the age old story of guy meets girl, guy loses girl, guy rips apart reality to find her
    Never wrote anything before – this website is as close to published as i ever got but the book is 22000 words in.. and the story is a cracker… i only hope i can get what is in my head down on paper….

  12. Gus says:

    Just on yesterday’s post, I had a realisation that Arsene, Boro, Banfield and Bould were all defenders when they were players.

  13. TotAl says:

    haha D98 – as you might know, there is a pocket-knife producer with the name… Wenger.

    Agree with you on Podolski and I like your comparison with Pires. What I have seen of Giroud is that he is comfortable playing with his back towards the goal, and as I have said before on this blog, I reckon we go back to 4-5-1 with Giroud being the ideal lone striker, and the Pod as back up if needed. In a 4-5-1 formation, I can also see the Pod in midfield (left, or middle). But it is all just a gut feeling. We might know more in the next ten days as Arsenal are playing three friendlies in a row – the last one being against the Oilers in blue.

  14. TotAl says:

    So Gus, there is hope, right?! 🙂

  15. Red Arse says:


    I would rather not cause upset, and therefore withdraw any abstruse observations I made about the relative importance of tactics viz a vis player quality, and agree with everything you said. 🙂

    There are more important topics to fall out over! 🙂

  16. Nate says:

    I have read many a analysis before, but nothing like this one. I believe everyone reading it should simply say “thank you.” As for me Arsenal’s psychological problem is solved, but I am not AW.

  17. Red Arse says:


    Let me know when your manuscript is finished as I would love to read it.

    If you want a critical (but fair 🙂 ) appraisal I would be happy to do that too, especially whilst I am bored hooked up to all those horrible hospital machines!! 🙂

  18. GoonerB says:

    One of the most insightful write ups I have read for a while. I agree with you entirely that we have to have our own style of football. I think to play the Barca way you need to have players schooled in it from the age of 8. After 11-12 I think it is too late to entirely change a player to that style. I know you mentioned the mail as a negative above but if you get a chance have a look for their bit on the Barca affiliated under 11 academy in America playing in California. I believe it was under a heading of Ash Wednesday. These kids are brilliant at the possession football already and it shows you just how good and how early this technical level will be required for anyone else to match Barca at their own game. Anyway I have said before that we will now not get a good amount for RVP and would keep him next year and play him in the Bergkamp role behind Giroud with Podolski to the left and Walcott, if he stays, to the right. I am sad that RVP feels the way he does currently as I think with the new additions we are looking at one of the most formidable forward lines anywhere if he and Walcott stay.

  19. TotAl says:

    Ooh, is it treatment day today, RA? 😦 I am definitely not going to argue with you then! 😉

    Let’s leave that debate for another day, as I am sure we will get plenty of opportunity to do so.

  20. Scott says:

    Chas,I think Wenger did build his team around Fabregas and then RVP,but I reckon he was cornered into it.
    Players leaving,players always injured meant he had to do the best with what he had,and try to play to the teams strengths.
    I doubt his intentions were to have everything revolve around a single player,but had no alternative.
    It’s just my take,and probably miles off lol.
    Brilliant post,DB98….brilliant.

  21. Rasp says:

    D98, that is simply the best analysis of our last decade of football that I have read. The quality of the writing is matched by the content. I’m so convinced by your version that I cannot think of a single area where I disagree.

    It’s the leopard changing its spots thing that worries me. With 50% of the team likely to have joined in the last 2 years and not cultured in Wenberball (different to Barcaball!), it worries me that the boss will just plough on with the same strategies and try to adapt these players rather than play to their strengths.

  22. Rasp says:

    Morning Gus, we’ve been trying to contact you via email regarding the post you submitted. You may see that your name is already in the list of authors even though we haven’t published yet.

  23. Rasp says:

    “we don’t need possession, we need space” … brilliant…. and so true.

  24. eddie lancaster says:

    Well you have lifted the scales in our own eyes too. Hope Wenger reads this. I have faith in my team and I know we wȋ̊ℓℓ get there soon. Thanks pal

  25. Haohaohaohtc says:

    Wonderful read. Great thought. Thanks!

    We shall ensure Wenger see this. Tippytap might look better, but the Invincible Style suits us great!

  26. Double98 says:

    Hi rasp… i remember in the build up to the 2002 world cup, f365 had a man on the round in japan,… he wrote a blog from a “lost in translation” perspective.
    One thing he said was that in the build up to the wc Japanese restaurants would spring up and recreate western meals from photographs… they wouldn’t know the ingredients but the woul dmake the meals look the same….
    So Lasagne might be made with sour creme and eggs

    Wenger has done that i feel – he saw the barca game and tried to jumpstart it at an age when players are already formed… maybe the philosophy is embeded with the kids

    But i suspect that while he is the best attacking couch in the world and he doesn’t get the negativity in tikitaka – he made tippytappy and yet kept buying players for a 442 formation…

  27. Scott says:

    Rasp,I think Wenger has recognised what type of player we need to succeed,and will adjust our formation and strategy accordingly.
    Well,I hope he has!!

  28. Scott says:

    Double,I saw a video of an u11’s Barcelona side.
    They pass the ball like their top tier side already.
    If they can’t do it young,they’ll never do it.
    This is why I say that our youth policy hasn’t failed,it still hasn’t had enough time to truly kick in.
    We need to see what happens when the kids we had at 6-7 years of age produce.

  29. TotAl says:

    Space and possession are as inter-linked as your avatar Rasp. 🙂

  30. Double98 says:

    Scott – i saw them play our u-11s and they looked like they were 14 or 15 in terms of technique – it was frightening… we need to counter that… Wenger is the great innovator.. Innovate

  31. chas says:

    Is this the video? It’s from California and the teams have little to do with Barca or Arsenal.
    Lol at the gruff voiced parent, barking at his players to ‘get back’ all the time.

  32. GoonerB says:

    @TotAl. Interesting that you mention about 4-5-1. Others mention 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 as well as others. Most are saying the 4-3-3 doesn’t work. I want to fling something out there that I believe to be true and that is that if you start with a back 4 the system is essentially the same and if you freeze the games at various times we could be lining up in any of the above formations. I think the formations people like to go on about are a myth and that it over complicates what IMO is a simple issue. I feel the system only really changes when you switch to a back 3, so therefore I would argue that last year we played 4-3-3 / 4-5-1 / 4-4-2 / 4-2-3-1 at various times throughout a match. I feel it is only the sky sports analysts that like to emphasis a starting formation, maybe to make their input seem more important.

    For me it is about having the right players in the right areas of the pitch that makes the team effective or not. We used to line up 4-4-2 with Vieira and Gilberto in the middle, Pires and Freddy out wide, DB in the number 10 role behind Henry as the number 9. Now if Bergkamp comes deeper in midfield and Pires and Freddy push up then we are in a 4-3-3 formation. If Pires and Freddy are also wider and deeper it is 4-5-1. Last year we often had Song, Arteta and Ramsey in the deeper 3 and RVP, Walcott and Gervinho in the attacking 3. Ramsey was assigned the attacking midfield role. One problem with this was that even when in possession we often looked like a 4-5-1 with a lack of support to RVP, that Henry would have got from Pires, Freddy and DB in the past. Really for me the set up now is the same as back then, as Walcott and Gervinho are wide players that are supposed to angle in to support the attack and contribute goals, and Ramsey is supposed to get up to support RVP centrally. This means Ramsey is really playing the Bergkamp role, so what i am saying is that I think we are lining up the same as we used to and it is the personnel that are different and in certain ways deficient.

    Obviously Ramsey is not Bergkamp, at least not yet and I think will require a few more years to be able to effectively control a game and provide goals from this position at this level. Walcott and Gervinho also do not provide the goal threat of Pires and Freddy and IMO the above 2 factors were the problem last year as to why we were not as good as the past great team. I don’t believe it is down to what starting formation sky sports say we are lining up with as I believe, as I said above, that the minute you start with a back 4 you have the same formation as any other team with a back 4, and what it comes down to is the qualities of the player that is asked to play in a specific area of the pitch. Obviously other factors such as tactical discipline and defensive drilling come into it as well. What made me hopeful this year was that with Podolski you get a player who can play wide who has a greater goal threat than say gervinho, so do we have our new Pires. For me the big plus would have been playing RVP in the Bergkamp role behind Giroud. We get a double goal threat centrally and also get RVP’s superior ability to link the play and provide assists. I would argue against anyone who thinks that not playing RVP as the number 9 would see our goals dry up. His personal tally may drop slightly but I believe the team as a whole would score far more over the season and I actually believe that if we retain Walcott and RVP we now have a squad capable of winning things.


    Great post D98

    I cannot agree with you that Wenger has killed any babies. I believe that Arsenes hand was forced in abandoning the old style of play

    In 2005 we saw the birth of 3 men in the middle. i am of the strong belief that this formation negated our style of play, so changes had to be made.

    This post follows very nicely from TA’s yesterday. It seems modern coaches now live in fear of emptying the midfield and the 3 man midfield has become the norm. i remember reading some while ago Mourhinios view on counter attack and three man midfields and he basicly said that pre 2004 counter attacks stemed from back to front. After 2004 the nature of counter attacks changed to midfield to front. He went on to say that by flooding the middle area you could force your rival to make a mistake and then spring at there defence from more advanced areas.

    The game evolves all the time and footbal strategies have to adapt to suit. If we tried to replicate our old style of play, obviously dependent on personel, i dont think it would work.

    Good luck with writing the book. I have a mate who is doing the same based on his experiences with women. Hes been at it for several years and still not finished. Ive read what hes done so far, and its the biggest load of drivel known to man. Vuger, incoherent, and aimless.If he ever finishes it i intend to act as his agent and get it published for him. I will market it as the “Worst book ever written”. Got a feeling it might become a cult classic. Hes also a bit thick so been the nice guy that i am, i plan to con him out of most of the royalties. hahahaha.

  34. Kevin says:

    Can I have some of what your on please?? lol – I think I am going to need it this season!

  35. Scott says:

    That’s it Chas…sorry,I did think it was Barca.
    Still,pretty impressive.

  36. glic says:

    What a great read and it all sounds quite simple, the way football should be.

    I too, am in the middle of writing a book . I was inspired by chas`s video of Young Frankenstein. Mine is a miss/match of characters from horror and fairytales to be played by my Thespian AAers.

    The main character will feature an evil former Post Master named Dr Frankingmachine ( played by Redders ), he will have a repulsive looking conjoined twin servant whose syrup changes from head to head called Egor and Igor ( played by Terry and VCC ). I will play their benefactor , Baron Von Strappon Fokker ( ” Trust me , you wont feel a thing “).
    Other characters include , a split personallity German hairdresser called Herr Cutz and Herr Dryer ( played by gm ).
    A confused Sharkspearean Prince of Denmark who thinks he`s Humpty Dumpty in a scene called Omelette ( played by BR ).
    4 Transylvanian Transvestites in a scene called Broke Back Vampire`s or Count…”Yourselves lucky I dont stratch your eye`s out bitch” ( played by GIE, Rocky, TotAl and Micky ).
    2 Aussie outback sheila shaggers called Didgeridoo and Didgeridont who both have ghostly boomerrang shaped todgers, which get`s them into lots of trouble when it comes back to haunt them ( played by Tony and Oz ).
    Identical triplet Witches, a good one ,a bad one and one which changes into a Bat and Bats for the other side, not sure who`s who, in a scene called , Which Witch is Which ? ( played by evonne, rasp and peaches )
    Maybe you lot can help me with some more AA characters, they will all have at least small parts !.
    Looking forward to your imput.

  37. Scott says:

    Don’t be picking on us Aussies,Glic.

  38. TotAl says:

    Hi GoonerB, wow that is a comment worthy of a separate post. Are all formations basically the same, once a team decides to start with four defenders? You have got a point there.

    You are right in saying that during a match the team changes formations a few times. But there is still a case for a particularly dominating formation to which players are selected which fit best into it.

    The way I saw last season, was in four stages:

    1. Miserable start and continued injuries to Diaby and JW meant Arsene was forced to plan B;

    2. He went for a more static 4-3-3 with three ‘autonomous’ mini-teams: the back ‘5’, the midfield of Arteta, Ramsey and Song (ARS) and the front three of Theo, Gervinho and Van Persie (TGV). Initially, the midfield was very compact and less adventurous going forward and as such we were very hard to beat and RvP, supported by an until then very decent Gervinho and Theo, gave us that bit of magic to win games with a small margin.

    3. Eventually, our midfield ‘3’ was asked to start supporting the attack more and with Arteta holding back a lot and Songinho providing some additional magic to Rosicky’s and Ramsey’s efforts, we made progress again.

    4. Then Arteta got injured and we struggled through till the end.

    Last season was very un-Arsenal-like though. We seldom or never owned the midfield, especially the area between midfield and the opposition’s D – which in many previous seasons had an invisible Arsenal stamp on it – and we remained very one-dimensional with the whole team set up to feed our want-away friend.

    Theo and Gervinho fitted well into this more static 4-3-3 system: they are not as effective in a 4-5-1 midfield play imo.

    I like us to dominate midfield again, to keep the opposition in their half, to pass them to shreds, to hunt them down when we lose the ball, and to be more creative in the middle and more lethal upfront when it matters. I don’t think last season’s 4-3-3 worked for us in that respect at all, but it just did enough to get us through to the finish. And I reckon Arsene was forced to do so, as per above.

    I strongly feel that with a formation comes an ideal set of players and 4-5-1 worked very well for us at the start of the 2010-2011 season. I think Arsene has been buying AND developing the players for 4-5-1. For the 5-1:

    —————————Giroud or the Pod (Chamakh ?)————–

    LP/AS/Gerv – MA/AR – So/Coq/Frim- JW/TR/Diaby – Coq/TW/TR

    Admittedly, if we play Gerv and Theo in this formation, it is very much the same as last season (only depending on tactics and instructions of course). But with Santos or Podolski on the left and le Coq/ Rosicky on the right, this 4-5-1 formation would mean a very different approach to our games next season, and I think we would be better for it.

  39. Shard says:

    A very well written piece D98..Writing a book? I can well picture that. You do tell a good story, and having, many years ago, tried (and failed) to write one myself, I wish you all the best, and have much respect for you.

    Enough with the niceties 🙂 I don’t agree with your thoughts on Wenger emulating Barcelona, or even Barcelona’s tiki taka being this mythical thing that is the pinnacle of football coaching or training. La Masia is like any other academy in the world. Barca are just going through their golden period right now. 10 years ago, no one was trying to dissect why the Blaugrana play the way they do. Their philosophy has pretty much been the same since the Cruyff days. Just like ours has been the same during the Wenger days. Their academy has advantages over English academies because they have easier access to the South American talent pool, lesser competition for players, and they all get to play competitive football, together, in their second division. And they’ve been at it for much longer than Arsenal have. The likes of Wilshere are essentially the first generation of players coming through Arsenal’s revamped academy.

    Football changes. Apparently every 7 years or so it undertakes a paradigm shift. The 4-4-2 will get stifled in the middle in most cases. You can beat some poor teams with one less man in midfield, but most teams are getting better too. The invincibles would have struggled to win the league today, and probably would have failed. Even if we’d managed to keep them together. The reason we need to go more direct, is because English football is…well… different. It digs in its heels and refuses to move with the rest of Europe. For how long did England have only 5 subs on the bench? English teams play extra games during Christmas while the rest of Europe has a 4-6 week vacation. Rash and dangerous challenges are tolerated, and indeed sometimes, encouraged, with referees part of the problem rather than the solution.

    Wenger built a team good enough to win the league (twice I would argue) after Henry’s departure. Only to miss out, in no small part, due to the team not being able to cope, with what in any other league would be considered, foul play. Barcelona’s tiki taka is not what Wenger was emulating. It was simply the natural progression of football. A progression that Arsenal suffered from, because they were more accepting of it than their neighbours and peers. We need space, but we need possession to create that space. Having possession isn’t the be all and end all of possession football. That would be the negative tactic you made it out to be. But to want the ball to create space, to create chances. That is also possession based football. Arsenal have always been about keeping the ball (since I’ve known them). Our rhythm, however, is not as scripted as Barca’s. Partly out of necessity, and partly out of his own preference, Wenger allows his players the chance to innovate to create true art. Sometimes they struggle as a group, but when they find the right rhythm for the right occasion, Barca’s tiki taka cannot compete. Systems provide structure. The greatness comes from the human element.

  40. Rasp says:

    Hi GoonerB,

    Let me echo totAl’s words – your comment @ 11:22 is excellent and would make a perfect follow up to today’s article.

    It would be great to publish your thoughhts in a headline post … so consider yourself officially tapped up!

  41. Rob Lucci says:

    Great post D98

    and this is our ‘vampire’..

  42. Red Arse says:

    I have read all the comments with interest.

    The problem with adding my thoughts to today’s debate is that it might seem to be ‘taking sides’.

    You see, I must admit that Shard’s analysis @ 12:07 reflects my own views to a greater rather than lesser degree. That in no way means I don’t also agree with much of D98’s points, because there is a degree of cross over betwixt the two.

    Often in these debates the written word does not always convey exactly what we mean to say, rather along the lines of; “I hope you realise that what you understood me to say was not what I really meant”.

    Hence paraphrasing D98’s comment “what we need is not possession, we need space”, appears not address the usual mantra that the best players make their own space with their brilliant use of the possession they have.

    I do not want to open up an earlier conversation, but much of the comments today rotate around the chicken and egg puzzle as to which came first, in much the same way as we have endlessly discussed the question of which is the most important aspect when setting out a team.
    Which is the most important, tactical formations or player quality?
    Which then leads into, do you buy quality players and force them into a preconceived tactical structure/template, or do you adopt the tactical formation that best suits the quality players available?

    I said yesterday that any tactical formation is merely a fluid template to give the team players a recognizable structure which will change during different facets of the game.
    The numerical assignations of these formats (4:4:2, 4:5:1) is only a short hand terminology that should be instinctive for quality players, rather like the changes adopted on chess players by the nature of the opponent’s strategy.

    Shard encapsulated this for me in two short sentences “Systems provide structure. The greatness comes from the human element.”

  43. Red Arse says:

    Glic, 🙂

    You should write a book, along Spike Milligan’s series. You have an able and intelligent wit, and I loved your ideas @ 11:35 for a plot featuring a number of AAers.

    have you got room for;

    — Three wise men starring, Dandan, GN5, and Herb.
    — The Sugar Plum Fairy, who is a definite shoe in for old teddy bear himself, Rock Star.
    — Terry could maybe double up as Pinocchio with you as his conscience Jeremy Cricket.
    — There must also be a spot for Shard as the off stage Voice of God!

    I am stopping now before you get me into even more trouble than usual! 🙂

  44. Red Arse says:


    I withdraw all my comments @ 12:53. 🙂

    My hospital visit was back to Tuesday, hence my lack of any material presence yesterday – still in recovery mode today! 🙂

  45. Rasp says:

    Hi RA,

    The Invincibles were not tippy tappy. Tippy Tappy arrived with Hleb and the emergence of Cesc.

    TipTap only works when you have players to whom it is second nature and who have the ability. I would agree that space is created by great players, but that it is also created by attributes such a pace and vision and that our current compliment of players are more likely to create space through those means than intricate close passing.

  46. goonerjake says:

    The reason we had a lot more space and time on the ball was because of the 4 4 2 formation. Now with playing 4 3 3 and a lot of the opposition playing 4 3 3 it often means you have about 10 players cramped all together just either side of the halfway line. I disagree with almost all the so called experts. 4 4 2 can still work, if you have good enough players to do it. Especially important is specific type of players, wingers as wingers, full back as fullbacks centre mids as centre mids etc. Just look at invincibles players in their proper positions. No sqaure pegs in round holes.

  47. Red Arse says:

    Hi Rasper, 🙂

    I cannot disagree with anything in your 1:11 🙂

    By vision do you mean ‘creativity’? If so we could do with more of that — perhaps supplied by Jack when he returns?

  48. Rasp says:

    Yes, I agree RA. I do hope that if we sell RvP and maybe Theo, we try to get a creative/attacking midfielder to knit the team together in the final third.

  49. TotAl says:

    Hi RA, I think I can see the bit that I am not able, until now, to get across to you. The greatness is in the philosophy of football – the vision of how the game should be played. It is about a club living this philosophy, akin to a culture, and recruiting managers who can put it into practice. The formation, tactics and (quality of) the players are the subordinates to the philosophy – especially at those clubs who believe in playing a variant of total football.

    The system of football, formation and tactics within clubs with a total football philosophy are complicated and players will have to work very hard to understand it, and fit into it. Not every player gets this and many would rather play in a more straightforward system.

    It is also very hard to replicate successfully – there are only very few managers around who can do this, and it really is not JUST a matter of bringing together a bunch of very good players.

    Barcelona, Arsenal, Dortmund, Ajax (in the past, especially) work very hard to develop and make perfect their philosophy – system of football. It is a top-down, all-encompassing system. Just like some chess players mostly, if not always, start with the same opening variant and subsequent strategy. They stick with it and make only minor adjustments if and when required. Others chess players, just like football clubs, take every game as it comes – they have a bottom-up, responsive approach – and will adjust their tactics and formation according to their opponent’s strengths, tactics and actions.

    Hope this helps to explain where I am coming from! 🙂

  50. GoonerB says:

    Thanks TotAl and Rasp for your very nice comments and I feel privileged to be tapped up. Shard and Red Arse, I think we agree on most points. Re the question of whether you buy players for a system or adapt systems according to the strengths of your best players. I think both could be done but I feel with us now it would be better to adapt the system to have our players in their best positions. This is of course based on keeping RVP and Walcott but I believe the system smacking us in the face is to play RVP centrally behind Giroud. RVP came to us as an Attacking midfielder / number 10 type player but he is one of the unique players that can also lead the line. That doesn’t mean that this is the best way to deploy him despite his goal-scoring exploits. He also puts in a good shift and works hard so i would like to see him sit in that creative area between Giroud and the 2 deeper midfielders. In the long run I would groom the ox for this number 10 role.

  51. TotAl says:

    Hi RA 🙂 I did not see your 1.06 comment until now. Please don’t withdraw anything: you are asking all the right questions and are making me think hard about this issue. 🙂

  52. glic says:

    Hi Redders 🙂

    If there`s one thing I`m good at, it`s getting myself into trouble , although In the large majority of cases, unintentionally.
    All I ever do mostly, Is want to have a laugh, but as I say, unintentionally It can get me into a little bit of trouble !.
    It`s easy for someone to say , ” Dont press send button “, but if only it were as simple as that, I`m not as deep thinking as some of the AAers on here and my comments usually come of the cuff, so please take it into consideration AAers.

    We may all differ in our views, but one thing we all have in common is our love of Arsenal.

  53. TotAl says:

    Hi GoonerB, IF, and as you know that is a mighty big IF, RvP is going to stay at Arsenal, I agree with you we should play him in the hole position (I wrote a post about it a while ago).

    The reason Arsenal have done so well over the last 10 years or so, despite not making any losses on player purchases (against player sales), is nothing else but Wenger’s Wengerball system(s) of football, his nous and his ability to find players who will fit into it. This is Arsenal’s unique selling point and has worked miracles for us.

    What most other clubs do, is to adjust their football system to their squad/ individual quality of players. I don’t think that a) this will work for us as well as our current approach and b) Wenger is that way inclined.

    But maybe I am wrong and we will see a very hands-on, pragmatic manager next season. As the Dutch say: you’ll never know how a cow will catch a hare! 😛

  54. 037 says:

    One of the best reads so far!!

  55. Red Arse says:

    Glic, 🙂

    You are a natural comedian, and I think most of us can see that recently, despite being hilarious, you are also trying to be careful not to upset the ladies.

    Rasp can speak for himself, of course, but it is clear that he feels a responsibility for the site and has to bear in mind all the various shades of opinion, and to keep the peace.

    I don’t think it is anything personal, but when he gives a little tug on the reins, he is telling us we may be in danger of inadvertently upsetting someone.

    Please carry on making us laugh, and especially make sure that you fix up the Rock Star with a suitable part in your book.

    I remember as if it was yesterday – actually it was yesterday, when Rocky brought a tear to my eye with a tale of you two;

    Glic had a little lamb,
    Rocky had a duck.
    They put them on the table top,
    To see if they would ffff fall off

    Hope Rasper isn’t looking!! 🙂

  56. Red Arse says:

    GoonerB, 🙂

    Good points and I concur with the response of TA to you, that IF RVP were to stay it makes sense, given the type of new players we have bought, for him to revert back to an out and out No.10

    He won’t stay tho, because his statement crossed the line in that regard.

    It is possible it was intended as a negotiating ploy to get an even better (more money) contract from Arsenal, however, he and his agent have screwed up, if so, because he left no room for manoeuvre.

  57. Red Arse says:


    “You will never know how a cow catches a hare?” What??

    I have often wondered what people meant when they said “he is talking double Dutch” — now I know!! 🙂

  58. Double98 says:

    Ra and Shard

    “Systems provide structure. The greatness comes from the human element.”

    is a trueism until you consider two words

    denis bergkamp

    Greatness comes from the haman element (that is not inhibited by a system) –
    inter shackled his greatness, rioch, well wenger really unleashed it


    D98, thats exactly right. When i used to play for my junior school team (10 year olds) everybodys greatness was unleashed. i was right back but never passed, always shot but the ball never crosed the half way line. Even the goalie fat george used to shoot. Corners were shots, and throw ins. Mad steve was so mad he used to throw the ball to himself then shoot. Funny how all the games used to finish 0-0. Apart from one time when jug eared mark scored, but ime sure he was tring to pass..

  60. TotAl says:

    Hi RA, sayings are always difficult to explain in to somebody from a different country. Try to explain: I would not touch him with a barge pole for example….

    Did you the Dutch have the funniest surnames? For example:

    Naaktgeboren: born naked
    Zeldenthuis: seldom at home
    Zomerplaag: summer plague
    Nadorst: after thirst
    Evenblij: Just as happy
    Varkensvisser: pigs fisher
    Herteschijt: deer sh*t
    Quatvlieg: angry fly

    Etc, etc. 🙂 🙂

  61. Red Arse says:

    Very true truism, D98, 🙂

    Not only are short sentences easily dismissed as truisms, they can also be described as self serving or trite.

    A bit like “I love you. Get them off”! 🙂

    That is why I am such a verbose b*stard and an unsuccessful playboy!! 🙂

  62. TotAl says:

    *did you KNOW

  63. Meraj says:

    This was a fantastic article, cetainly opened up my eyes on how the Arsenal way should really be played. Thank you


    “I love you. Get them off” hahaha. Works every time Redders.

  65. Red Arse says:

    Gadzooks, TA, I will never be able to look another Dutchman in the eye! 🙂

    Varkensvisser sounds like it should mean a ‘pig’s willy’, altho ‘Fisherman’s pig’ is more likely. Altho the British themselves are known to say ‘Varken hell’ when they are surprised or angry!! 🙂

    “I would not touch him/it with a barge pole”, by contrast is straightforward.

    It means someone or something is so suspect or ‘smelly’ that you would like to keep your distance.
    Before the days of mechanical engines or where horses could not pull a barge on a canal (tunnels) the Bargee had to pole his barge using a long oar or ‘pole’.

    These poles were often called ‘Evonnes’. 🙂

  66. Double98 says:

    Love is…
    …. Never having to order someone to get them off

  67. Red Arse says:

    You old romantic, D98, I never mind being ordered to get them off, myself — unless it’s Glic — in which case…………..I run!! 🙂

  68. TotAl says:

    I would not touch him with an ‘evonne’ – and ‘varken hell’ hahaha 😆

  69. lawliming says:

    Great as usual, Arsenal need you in charge! xD

  70. TotAl says:

    Happiness is warm Gunner

  71. California Gooner says:

    Nice post… it definitely has given me something to think about. We did sometimes play counter-attacking football very successfully with Cesc — the Champions league run in 2006 comes to mind.

  72. Shard says:

    Hi D98

    I never said a system couldn’t inhibit greatness.That was in fact my point regarding any focus on tiki taka. 10 years ago; same philosophy but no Messi, Iniesta or Xavi, means no one cared about La Masia’s tiki taka. Do you think Messi would be a lesser player without La Masia’s special DNA injection program? Perhaps. But only in the initial phase.

    In my view, the system relies on the players for its success. The players rely on the system for a foundation – a starting point. Beyond that, the greatness comes from the players. Herbert Chapman WM was designed with Alex James in mind. 20 years later, teams all over England were playing the very same system without the same players. None of them ever reached greatness. Wenger doesn’t get caught up in the structure too much. It is viewed as a lack of tactical ability by some. But it is also what allowed the likes of Anelka, Henry, Vieira, Pires, Freddie, even Edu and Hleb, and of course Cesc and RVP to flourish.

    This problem of structure vs innovation is one I have struggled with as regards to my learning to play the guitar. In the end, I opted to not study under a tutor or teacher. I didn’t want their structure to affect my innovation. My view there is the same as in football. You need a basic grounding as to what it is you are trying to achieve, and how to do it. That is what the system/structure gives you. Beyond that, it’s on you to figure it out. Figuring out something requires intelligence, instinct/talent, and hard work. It isn’t easy. But the rewards are greater 🙂

  73. oz gunner says:

    great post 98, like others i’ve always enjoyed your comments so it’s good to see it expanded. I think the barca style with a bit of power is what will lead to success for Arsenal and is best suited for the premier league. Which is exactly what you are alluding too.

    @ TA

    typical top notch tactical piece yesterday, my apologies for not getting around to comment on it.
    The case I worked on started a couple of days ago, it’s dominating the news and papers over here. Here is a quick run down if you are interested:

    Things are heating up, but thanks to my lawyer 26 I’ll be cool as a cucumber

  74. oz gunner says:

    @ GLIC and 98

    too books i’d definitely read

  75. oz gunner says:

    Hope the recovery is going well Dr Frankingmachine

  76. Red Arse says:

    I’m fine Oz, and howdy. 🙂

    Just had a look at the pre-trial vid. You’ll have to update us when you are permitted to do so.

    That Glic was going to give you apart in his book as a pointy eared hopping Dan Garoo. Similar to a kangaroo but more dangerous.

    He said he got the idea from all the signs in Oz stating “BEWARE — DANGEROUS BEND”. 🙂

  77. RockyLives says:

    Great Post D98 – among some wonderful articles recently this one really stands out for the quality of the writing, as well as the clarity of the thoughts.

    Mind you, having read all the comments I don’t what I think about it all 😦

    Could we revert to the Invincibles style and be successful? (ManUre seem to manage to win things with a pretty direct – some might say old fashioned – approach).

    Has football changed in such a way that there’s no going back?


    I’m drawn to the idea that great players win you trophies – but then you look at examples like Dortmund, Monpelier etc where their teams seem to be greater than the sum of their parts.

    Still dunno. My head hurts.

  78. RockyLives says:

    You calling’ me a fairy?
    Careful or I’ll turn you into a pumpkin.

  79. Rasp says:

    This is being reported … good news if true as AW didn’t fancy him and he didn’t want to play for us …..

    “Carlos Vela has completed a permanent move to Real Sociedad on a four-year contract, ending his association with Arsenal.”

  80. RockyLives says:

    Hello Rasp
    One down… just 5 or 6 to go 🙂
    Have you just updated the “in-out-limbo” box or did you already have him down as gone!

  81. Rasp says:

    Hi Rocky, well spotted, well as the whole ‘in-limbo’ widget was your idea I thought I’d best keep it bang up to date 😛

  82. Rasp says:

    Afellay for Vela anybody?

  83. RockyLives says:

    Yes please!

  84. Red Arse says:

    Hi Rocky, 🙂

    That couldn’t have been me fairying around — must have been that Glicster latex man. 🙂


    What staggers me, and it should not, is the number of players we are ‘monitoring’. Surin, Affellay, N’Zonzi, Paulinho, Niang Dibang (or something like that), Holtby, Rondon, Dempsey and countless others.


  85. RockyLives says:

    I’m sure we’re not even remotely pursuing most of those players.

    One newspaper or news organisation decides that we could potentially be interested in Player X, publishes a speculative story, and then all the others pick it up.

    Before you know where you are, it’s generally accepted that we are looking at Player X, even though the club almost certainly has no interest in him and even though his agent may well have made up the story in the first place.

    Then, when Player X signs for Liverpool or Dortmund or someone the same hacks can write stories saying how he “snubbed” Arsenal… or how Arsenal “lost out.”

    I’ve got bored of reading the speculation on Newsnow. I’ll just wait until I hear it on here…

  86. LB says:

    Wow, so glad I read that post, a mini master piece.

  87. LB says:

    Hands up all those who think we have finished our business for this transfer window.


  88. GoonerB says:

    We are always linked with a lot of players. I think it will all depend on the futures of RVP, Walcott and to some extent Song. I don’t know if you are still out there TA but if we did get a bid worthwhile for RVP and he went who should come in. I know a lot of people solely think about his goals last year and therefore think about another goal-scorer. We seem to be in agreement that RVP should revert to what I consider his best position as a number 10 if he stays so maybe we should be looking for a player like this and leave the number 9 role to Giroud and possibly Podolski when needed. I would currently lean towards getting Jovetic if RVP leaves.

  89. GunnerN5 says:


    Transfers in maybe, but certainly not out.

    If I were a Genie I would rub my magic lamp and ask for a DM
    (IE Gilberto Silva) and a EPL seasoned back up goalkeeper.

  90. LB says:

    Hi GN5

    Yep, that is what I was clumsily trying to say.

  91. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Best news of the day, LB thinks we have finished our transfer business 🙂
    Thought of you today as I watched The Tour in The Pyrenees.

  92. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Actually LB,
    I take back that smiley because saying we have finished our transfers-in is plain horrible. Obviously I wouldn’t cry because I’m not foreign, but I’d be bloody miserable if we had finished.

  93. RockyLives says:

    You’re probably right but I still expect a couple more in before the window closes.

  94. Red Arse says:

    6 weeks more of the transfer window left, plenty of time for plenty of transfers – 2 in and 6 out – if the prices are right!

  95. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Thank you for that Rocky.
    Hope you had a great holiday. Was it one of those stunning Canadian Lakes?

  96. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Ooo, and RA ups it to two. Good boy 🙂

  97. glic says:

    Maybe they should change the name of the Transfer Window to the Hokey Cokey, ” in, out , in ,out, shake it all about “!.

  98. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Well, I’ve just booked a nasty hotel for four of us in Cardiff to cast my eyes over the Boys from Brazil. Come on Arsene, some samba rhythm just behind Giroud makes so much sense.

  99. Double98 says:

    Hi rocky… i don’t think we need to go back…. i just think we need to go forward from the philosophy that wenger started. Power, pace.
    Explosive runs and incisive passing.

    Since we went 4-3-3 our goals from the wing have dried up… so despite putting our wings in a more advanced role, walcott and gervinho are only scoring a fraction of the goals that ljunberg and pires did. Freddie and Bobby are legends made by bergkamp and henry. Piston combinations that worked in harmony. It was perferct, Bergkamp fed freddie, henry fed pires… and it was all reciprocated.

    RVP is too far forward to really feed Walcott. Walcott would score 20 goals a season in a team with bergkamp….
    Gervihno would get 12-15 with henry.

    Goals win games. Bergkamp was a 5th midfielder when we needed it – when we played man u – bergkamp was forever botherng keane… more so than vieira ever did.
    i digress… i am not saying we go back because i think wenger never stopped buying pacey players and now he has just bought two powerful ones

  100. Herb'sArmy says:

    Great post, Double, thanks for a really good read, complimented by an assortment of comments from RA, Total, Shard, GoonerB, etc. Dennis Bergkamp is exactly what we’re missing, and has proved impossible to replace.
    If your book is of the same high quality as your Post, I have no doubt it will be a best-seller.

  101. Herb'sArmy says:

    Hi RA,
    wise man, me? Maybe in the next life – if my karma holds up! The three wise men have to be Dandan, GunnerN5, and Kelsey, but thanks for the consideration.

  102. Double98 says:

    Boris Becker is reporting that RVP has signed a two year extension with Arsenal.

    Boris Becker cannot be serious!! no wait, that was some umpire from the 80s. Boris Becker CAN be serious

    Now heres Bjorn Borg with the weather…..

  103. glic says:

    As I said before , I`m not one of the deep thinkers on here, but here goes.
    My conclusion from most the comments I`ve read is simple, Judas stays !. We all clammer for DB10, the most similar player I`ve seen to him happens to be at this club, fair enough he wants out, but If he plays a year in the DB10 role and we win the league thats better than the £20M we will get for him now and who knows, if we win the league he might decide to stay as we would have fullfilled his dream !. .
    So, If that scenario were to happen and we play power and pace footie, here is my line up.

    The Big Pole
    Sagna Koz Verm Gibb
    Song/Arteta Wilshere
    Walcott Gerv

    I dont agree with Doubles idea ( if that is the case ) of the Pod on the left wing, as he was pants there for the Krauts( he not that quick either ) , but everything else makes sense.
    There you have it, plenty of strings to feed Walcott, Gerv and Canoe/Pod. A serious comment . Shall I go back to the silly one`s ?. 🙂

  104. glic says:

    If anyone has doubts about the new Arsenal away kit ?, then I shall put a line under it . My 4 year old Grandaughter has given it her seal of approval ( especially the Cup one with Red letters and numbers on the back ) !. So shut it, it`s over, zip it , button it and throw the key away !.

  105. SharkeySure'sGhost says:

    Wow…what a post D98. Truly tremendous…

    If I can pre order your book now, put me down for a couple of copies. I love a good vampire story, evn better with a few werewolfs thrown in 😉

    All joking aside, that was a very enjoyable read and the analogy is absolutely spot on.

    Shame Rasp couldn’t sort out a scary B&w photo for you !! I’ll go look for one now….back in a mo

  106. SharkeySure'sGhost says:

    The fact that this is the best that I could find after 3 whole mins of exhaustive searching, just underlines why we all rate Chas so highly

  107. SharkeySure'sGhost says:

    Thats your front cover sorted D98.

    No charge 🙂

  108. Double98 says:

    Van Persie Signs for 2 years after reading about him and vampires

  109. Double98 says:

    Thanks Sharkey…. but i actually removed all the vampires and werewolves…..

  110. TotAl says:

    Hi Oz 🙂

    Thanks for the trial update. Gosh, it must be all so real and in your face for you. Are you convinced the case can be done justice, i.e. is there enough solid evidence against him?

  111. TotAl says:

    Hi GoonerB, if RvP leaves and we go to 4-5-1 I would love us to buy an experienced attacking midifielder who can score between 12-18 PL goals a season. But even we didn’t buy anybody any more, I would still be confident we do well next season.

    Why do you rate Jovetic so much? (I don’t know much of him).

  112. LB says:

    Great goal by TH14

    Does anyone know if the New York red Bulls ever play the Los Angeles Galaxy Bars?

  113. TotAl says:

    GLiC – you sussed it! And so did your 4 year old granddaughter 🙂

    D98 – Theo has a similar goals per game record as Ljunberg and Pires.

  114. TotAl says:

    What a sh*t first touch that boy has! 😉

  115. Gooner In Exile says:

    Great Post D98, really enjoyable read, when I started meeting up with AAers here at matches I asked the question to ST holders, “when did Wenger change from being a fan of 6ft tall, fast, physical players (who could play football and had good touch), to small even more technical players?”

    I don’t think anyone could give a definite answer and the only real reason was our struggle to do anything in the CL.

    Wengers early side were still pass and move but it was with purpose, did opposition in the domestic league just get more savvy, as you say teams used to attack us, we would soak and counter. But you simply can’t play like that if the opposition doesn’t attack or commit. Teams that try to play a high line against us get found out, if we were to shift back to defend and counter I fear we would see a lot of draws.

    I keep banging the same drum as to why teams allow United more space in behind than us,I think it’s simply because they offer threats from a varied attacking style. If our fullbacks peppered the opposition 18ydbox with more crosses from deep and we had a forward who carried a threat to getting on the end I think we would eventually see teams press us higher and in doing so give us room to also play the Tika taka. My biggest fear is losing Jack to Barca, he reminds me so much of Xavi when he turns and moves with the ball without touching it and lends it out to others.

  116. Kevin says:

    Great post.

    D98’s point about playing certain players in the right areas really matters. I think 4-3-3 can really work provided we play the right players in the positions that suit the team best. Last season we beat Milan at home with a 4-3-3 attacking minded formation. Sadly our bench lacked the depth required to push the team forward for that 4th goal. This season will be different because of the plethora of options that Monsieur Wenger has in his possession.

    …….Arteta Rosicky-Song……….

    That how a starting 11 should look like. Giroud with the finishing, a legit winger like Chambo bursting through defences with accurate crossing, a proper playmaker like Rosicky looking for the gap pass with Arteta and Song being the back bones of the midfield shifting roles going back and forth. Podolski will hopefully live up to expectations and deliver what Gervinho generally didn’t provide as per expectations (and more).

    I reckon we’ll have our fair share of 4-5-1 next season as well.
    If Van Persie stayed, it would be exciting to see glimpses of 4-4-2 from the invincibles era: RVP playing in the Bergkamp role, Podolski being our main striker along with Gervinho and Walcott/Chambo on the wings with Arteta/Song and Jack providing support.

  117. Gooner In Exile says:

    “Manchester City defender Kolo Toure could price himself out of a move to Saudi club Al Hilal with a request for £50,000 a week after tax and a rent-free home, two cars, paid-for flights and the captaincy.”

    You couldn’t make it up, altho the Mirror probably did.

  118. oz gunner says:

    @ RA

    hahahaha Glic definitely has the story down pat.
    glad to hear all is well.

    @ TA

    They definitely have a lot of evidence against him (hard to say though because you hear all the stuff from the prosecutors first and you think ‘wow he did it’ then the defense and i’ll shout ‘He’s innocent!!!’). I think i’ve watched too many movies though because I thought they’d be a 100+ in the courtroom, but they is only a few.

    @ Sharkespeare

    We are all still waiting for your next Sharkespearean masterpiece. Something like Romeo and Juliet with a modern Arsenal twist.

  119. oz gunner says:

    @ GiE

    god, not asking for much is he. Nothing surprises me anymore after reading the extras yaya toure gets!

  120. alex says:

    Best analysis i have probably ever read and i read quite a lot of them!

  121. Dan says:

    I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have been the Invincibles had Pires not dived in the Pompey game in one of the last few minutes….

    Great post though

  122. chas says:

    Are you talking about this game where Bobby won a penalty which was converted in the 40th minute?
    Get your facts right!

  123. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Exactly Chas, 40th minute. Even if it hadn’t been given, Bobby still had another full 45 ahead of him!

  124. chas says:

    As D98 says, we never seemed to be behind with 15 minutes to go.
    This is by far the closest we came to being beaten that season and even that was because of a pathetic dive by Forlan for the penalty and van Horseface reacting to get Vieira sent off.

    Ferguson makes me laugh at the end.

  125. MickyDidIt89 says:

    What is the latest on Jack’s return to full fitness?

  126. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Managers are always expected to justify reasons why a player should or should not be sent off due to the fact that is was or was not a foul. What could possibly wrong with justifying a decision on the grounds of a player simply being an utter tosser.

  127. chas says:

    Utter tosser. Exactly what Arsene was saying. 🙂

    I don’t think there is any news on Jack.

  128. chas says:

    Jack when he was fit….

  129. MickyDidIt89 says:

    I’m sure there was someone on here saying it was no big medical deal these days, and he should be ready by september. Then, some say Christmas!!!!

  130. MickyDidIt89 says:

    What is a young Sammy Lee doing 2nd from left, back row. Looks quite fit and healthy in his youth.

  131. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Cripes Arsene,
    Four weeks until kick off. Time to get those new signings done and bedded in.

  132. chas says:

    He’s fat, he’s round, his arse is on the ground, Sammy Lee, Sammy Lee.

    A little reminder of Jack playing football

  133. VCC says:

    Don’t hold your breath Micky

  134. chas says:


    Just take it as gospel that LB is right, then you won’t be sick as a parrot in August.

    Then, if we sign Oscar, M’Vila and Buffon, you’ll be over the moon.

    The summer window is like a game of two halves, early signings first half, followed second half trolley dash in the final 5 minutes.

  135. MickyDidIt89 says:

    I have that nasty feeling we have reached the can only buy when players sold stage. Me thinks no more until Bendy, Cham, poss Theo are moved on. Me also thinks maybe dutchman’s selling cash needed to balance books following Gir and Pod signings.
    Trouble is, this still leaves alot to do with four weeks left.
    Its getting very deja-vuey in my book 😦

  136. MickyDidIt89 says:

    “Just take it as gospel that LB is right” 🙂
    Looks horribly like my Oscar is off to Chelsea. Had a medical on weds. Massive 😦
    That leaves M’vila and Buffon to not resolve our creative woes.

  137. chas says:

    This is how you need to think, Micky.

    “In summary then we have Podolski, Giroud, Wilshere making a return, Oxlade-C ready for his first full season which is why I count those as signings 1, 2, 3 and 4. And if that is not enough for you Ryo is possibly breaking through this year, and you never know Frimpong might do the same. And Coquelin.

    I suppose you could call Niang newcomer number 8, but that would be a bit silly.”

  138. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Oh alright Chas. Looking good. Bring it on 🙂

  139. MickyDidIt89 says:

    My little reality hinges on whether Arsene sees Ox in a more central role. If he does, then I’d be furious if he signed an AM 🙂
    Work calls. Later Gentlemen.

  140. LB says:

    Morning Chas

    It works for me lol

  141. chas says:

    LB. 🙂

  142. chas says:

    It’s persistently precipitating here in Notts.

  143. evonne says:

    I found Niang! Told you about him 2 weeks ago 🙂

  144. evonne says:

    What rain?? Nice and sunny in North London 🙂
    And the season kicks off in 4 weeks, what more would a girl want?

    Oh, this old girl wants van Persie to stay

  145. chas says:

    Boris says he is.

  146. evonne says:

    Boris Becker?? How the feck would he know??
    Don’t get me all excited!! Geez, my knees went weak ha ha ha, I am insane

  147. chas says:

    It was all over twatter last night. 100% verified BS.

  148. evonne says:

    Chas….REALLY?? I so want it to be true!!
    I have a new black dog, a lovely little Stafforshire bull terrier. I am calling him Bambi, but if Robin stays, I’ll change the name to van Persie.

  149. chas says:

    Evonne, BS means bull sh*t.

    “Ordinarily he was insane, but he had lucid moments when he was merely stupid.”
    Heinrich Heine

    “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

  150. chas says:

    But what will you call him next season?

  151. evonne says:

    Monster of course 🙂

  152. Double98 says:

    RVP has said… (essentially)
    “I don’t believe in the vision of the club, the manager.
    I don’t believe in the quality of my team mates or the new signings.
    Fans – You can like it or leave it.”

    I’ll need more than a signature for him to get back to being RVP MY MVP.


    in fact

  153. Double98 says:

    Evonne – Poldi sounds like a name for a Staffordshire Bull terrier


  154. oz gunner says:

    morning all,

    clever way to get some publicity just talk a load of BS and papers will pounce. He is a Bayern fan so how on Earth would he know. He deserves to be shot for that!

  155. chas says:

    Poldi, what a fantastic name.

  156. TotAl says:

    Best name for a dog is Mertesacker – MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERTSacker – now that is a name you can shout across a field and feel great at the same time 🙂

    SzczesNYYYYYYY would do as well

  157. Morning all

    New Post ……………………………

  158. richie says:

    Undoubtable a really well written article, I wish I could write half as well. However I have a fundamental problem with your “books” premise, you see it starts off by calling itself a biography and descends into a novel. I’m an old Gooner that spent quite a bit of time in France. I came across Arsene Wenger long before Arsene Wenger came across to Highbury, and he was playing 433 way back when. I’ve stated before that coinsidently I chose Monaco as the team I’d follow while in France (no sky back then), because being a foreigner they were the only foreign(ish) team in the French league (being a principality). Plus rarely in France they had two English players in Hatley and Hoddle. The season I chose to follow them was Arsene’s first and Monaco won the league, by playing fast attacking possession football. It certainly wasn’t the current Barca model (nothing is) but then the Barca model wasn’t the Barca model back then either, Barca played the Ajax model total football. Likewise Arsene played an Ajax hybrid which itself was possession based.

    I totally agree the invincibles exploited space but I think the team played in the way it did because it was playing to its own perculiar strengths. The quickest forward anyone had ever seen, the best No.10 the prem had ever seen, one of the most visionary wingers (arguably the most visionary) a great marauding winger and then the invisable wall, and the most combatant midfielder in the world.Henry,Bergkamp,Pires,Freddie, Gilerto and Vieira. How could a team made up of such talent play any other way? I think Arsene always liked possession football because it gives the team a way of controlling the game, and I also think Arsene has always wanted his teams to pass their way into the net. A criticism from way back when was that Arsene’s teams seem to only want to score the pefect goal. There were always too many passes before a shot was taken for some. So always possession and always short triangles of passing. I think our problem was simply the speed of that passing. With the right personel it was fast attacking football with penitration, but any chain is only as strong as its weakest link with the wrong personel (even just one player) it becames too slow to trouble the opposition, and so therefore its laboured (side to side back and forth) all foreplay and no climax. I don’t think Arsene ever tried to copy Barca, but how can anyone have failed to be influenced by the Spanish national team? And therefore by proxi Barca. There are 7 Barca squad players in Spains team.

  159. Double98 says:

    Hi Richie – great comment –

    i guess i always felt that wenger always looked to build small attacking partnerships into his teams

    Henry, Pires
    Henry Bergkamp
    Bergkamp Ljunberg
    Vieira Bergkamp
    Cole Henry
    Parlour Bergkamp


    This modern team is
    RVP Walcott
    RVP Song
    RVP Gervihno
    and two years ago it was
    RVP Cesc
    RVP Arshavin
    RVP Nasri

    an over reliance on the point of your attack.
    Henry was a more gifted athlete but we never relied on him like we do on RVP – even when we were a one man team and cesc was the one man.

    Pires was exceptionally lucky to find such a complimentary foil in henry – they blended together so well. The relationship btween the two exaggerated both their qualities. Same could be said of Bergkamp and Ljunberg.
    I don’t think that pound for pound Pires was better than say Nasri in terms of skill, pace, vision, effort.
    Ljunberg pound for pound was no better than parlour but his running inspired Bergkamp and so Freddie was afforded hosts of chances that he normally wouldn’t get.

    My point was about space – these partnerships sought and filled space
    our current set up blocks and controls space – Leaving acres of space for counter attacks and high bouncing balls.

    Wenger is the great innovator. i expect him to look at the spainish model and design a better way of playing. he didn’t come to england and copy Man u. he forced Man u to copy him. Its too long a project for a manager to implement a barca. That is something that should have been done from a youth level up not a first team down. We should have a team of 21 year olds who have 7 years of Arsenal indocternation that are suddenly demanding a change of ethos from the manager.

  160. says:

    Please cut and paste then forward to Mr A Wenger.
    I recently watched the invincible s Dvd with my Dad and we both were amazed out how quickly we attacked teams and we reminisced about how the commentators would always say that the other team were scared to get a corner against us for fear of us breaking and scoring

  161. richie says:

    GoonerB you make a very valid point if anyone looks at the total football model its virtually impossible to figure out if its 451 or 42112 I think its all overplayed and calling it a 433 is just convenient because that was the figure Ajax gave it back in the day

  162. richie says:

    98 how can you compare Nasri with Bobby Pires? Nasri could shine Roberts boots

  163. Double98 says:

    Arsenal allowed Pires to fulfill his potential. Nasri not so much…

    i am not as hateful of samir as most. i bemoan the failed cesc experiment because so many midfielders where compromised to facilitate him.
    nasri was a central player forced to play on the wing… he may have done very well in the centre. esp in the apex of a diamond 4 well never know.
    he had a an exceptional levell of technique, skill, pace and a great centre of gravity… he may feel he wasted his time with us…
    Obviously its easier to point to Pires and say “Legend” but he had a better full back behind him, a better striker ahead of him and a stronger midfield to his right.
    Plus he was a lot more likeable, marketable and most importantly successful

  164. richie says:

    I understand the points you make but I don’t think you could be anymore wrong. Nasri improved massively while he was with us and his improving curve will now in all probability stop. Bobby Pires was already a legend at Metz and all the skills that he showed at Arsenal were already there at Metz. When he arrived at us I already knew what a talent he was but I worried that he might not cope with the physicality of the prem, and indeed that proved to be the case at first. He was given the full Neville style treatment as would be Reyes later, but he quickly learnt the tit for tat way in which the prem opperated and smashed into Neville taking him out.

    After he’d done the rounds and given as good as he’d got, it was realised he couldn’t be bullied and no one took liberties. As I’m sure you realised I meant to say that Nasri couldn’t lace Pires’s boots or shine them. Nasri will always be a good player but he’ll never be great. If all of the great French players from Zizou, Makalale, Henry, Vieira etc etc were polled I know most would say that Bobby Pires was one of the best players any of them had played with anywhere, I know this because I’ve heard them say it. No one will ever say that about Nasri.

    I see things differently with Cesc too, we have been blessed with two magnificient midfielders at Arsenal under Wenger. Vieira and Cesc. Paddy was luckier than Cesc because while team building for Cesc Arsene always fell short, there was always one piece of the jigsaw missing. The GK, the defence (no centre half) Arsene lets Gilberto and Lasana Diarra go because we have Flamini and another little Marseille shit goes for more money. Then if RvP had been doing his job properly for just half of the 8 years we win something. Poor Cesc it was like he was jinked because as soon as one problem was fixed so another appeared. Whenever a team has a standout player its virtually impossible not to build the team around them.

    Look at Barca with all the great players they possess and yet still the team revolves around Messi, likewise Real around Ronaldo, and so did Man U when he was there. Henry in his last few years with us the same, and then RvP with us.

  165. Jerá says:

    Dear Double 98. Great article. I especially like the part where you say Barca players grew up on their passing game and we’re trying to force it onto players that came from different playing systems. So true. When you watch Barca play, every player is comfortable with the ball at his feet, it’s second nature to them.

    As a fellow aspiring writer I would like to reach you on writerly matters. Where can you be found? Facebook? A restaurant for weed smoking bohemians? Where?

    Hit me on kudzai2009 at

  166. double98 says:

    Hi Jera i am on Twitter @cowboyjunkie

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