The Arsenal Uncivil War

July 11, 2012

“Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.”

Occam’s Razor.

And so we have the Arsenal Uncivil War. The Arsenal way is no more.

Whatever the reasoning for two expected bombs landing in two sites occupied by the public, the inner workings or malfunctions of our football club have conspired to make summer yet again, the most foul of seasons for its fans.

I am all-too-often a person who likes to complicate and pick apart notions and ideas for that which looks worth explaining. But in this instance, the simplest approach seems the most appropriate.

Let’s break this down:

• The best players want to leave year on year.

• The manager confides in no one and practises the art of damage limitation to no great success (unless we include his marriage).

• The board want to make money – huge money, out of the club by completing a 5 year plan and selling at around a 75% profit per share. Debt free, Arsenal is an amazing proposition to a billionaire looking for a Man City toy in a prime area of London. (Inevitable if the current financial base incurs a further economic demise – relative to our competition)

• The fans pay the most in the world for their tickets.

• If it is to be believed, the fanfare surrounding the appointment of our CEO and our Commercial Director culminates in a cold-call exploring sponsorship links with a company owned by our 2nd biggest investor.

The club is a mess. The Arsenal way is an organised, yet minimalist mess. Wenger’s overgrown teenage affection for all things Japanese – (eg no obvious acts of rebellion, no aggression to one another, take your shoes off before trying to burgle my house and so on), is the only thing that disguises the torrents and rumblings that continue to affect our planning and consistency.

Now it is not all doom and gloom. But right now the 8-2 defeat feels far more resonant in my mind, than any decent result as I remember how the disaffected Wenger and his shell-shocked troops were dismantled and imploded last September.

What appears to be the case is that it is not all the managers’ fault. He has made the club in his image and the board have allowed this to happen. Wenger is a better PR, commercial director, product in himself, manager, CEO and economist than most people working in football. All this for £6 million a year is a bargain. But only if you work on the board of Arsenal FC.

So what of the rumours of Wenger’s and Gazides’ relationship? What has the Chairman done in his Prince Phillip role? What do the chairmen of clubs like Tottenham, Dortmund and Porto do that is so relatively successful, yet continually have to contend with the higher achieving clubs around them, (or conditions such as Spurs minimal pay scale)????

These questions cannot be answered by us and need more than speculation by ourselves. However, as I started this with Occam’s Razor, I might as well continue it. The simplest way is to conclude that many errors have been made in many areas. Some are directly attributed to judgement and capability issues from employees at the club. Others are down to the irregular and unpredictable nature of cash and cache. We don’t know when a player is going to ask for more, or claim to want success – but we sure as hell know it will happen. What prompts them to do it is usually a mixture of agents, media, personal glory and stagnation.

Theo for example is another player in a similar situation as Robin. However he won’t be offered what R$VP wants because his demands don’t mirror his erratic cache. But in terms of what the club stand to lose, it will be viewed and take a similar effect (though in differing amounts/impact) to the R$VP case. This will contribute to the detriment of the club (and have a variable impact on the performance on the team), it will have a similar effect on the issues that affect the management of the club and team. This might sound like waffle but it is critical as it suggests the need of a rather large change to the contracts of our players.

Parity in pay can only be merited once players have proved themselves. Parity that Wenger espouses is contradicted by the policy to sell tickets at different values depending on the opposition. These are largely part of the same value system and therefore need to be further addressed.

EG: R$VP is paid £100k per week. Theo £60k. Denilson £60k and so on. Now is Theo a top tier player? Is Denilson a middle tier? We know Wenger pays (and it is Wenger, not the club) players based on the idea that they will come good and wish to remain loyal. Nope. He knows but is he willing to accept this? Arteta took a pay cut to come to Arsenal and is now the fans’ favourite to be made captain. A captain that will not leave next year. Sounds like a pay-plan to me.

If dead wood gets shipped out and frees up a load of money, that shift can change the current pay policy without costing the club more. Then again, we can also purchase and pay more without costing the club too much more. We need to make the decision based on the supposed pledge that 75% of all revenues must be spent on player acquisition and/or retention. Is it? Is it really? Have we spend all that we amassed with Adebayor, Toure, Fabregas, Nasri, Clichy and so on? Or do those sums offset the heavy price we pay for Diaby, Denilson, Chamakh, Bendtner, Almunia (RIP), Squilacci, etc? In which case, we need to take a hit and start again with a new pay structure. Future players need it, we as fans need it. We are like Status Quo complaining when Radio 1 decided not to play them again. Who cares? We were once important and within our own fan base we are important but the difference is that Arsenal FC doesn’t have to age, even if the Arsenal way seems a bit old and stuffy.

Now the claims and counter claims, rumours and so on will try to kill our summer. They will try to destroy all that the club foolishly prides itself on by sending out a PR message dressed like Miss Jean Brodie in a Playboy beauty pageant. Does it even matter how good-looking she is, if the myth and allure are killed by the ‘surface’ presentation? Or what if Brad Pitt enters a body building competition? Is Arsenal the embodiment of Feminism or metro-sexuality in a world of hardcore banking porn?

It says so much about how football is viewed by the players, agents and fans alike that an attractive and decent club with an amazing infrastructure, can be mocked and pilloried because they decided to adhere to an ever-growing, utilitarian view of football. Ticket = pleasure.

Do me a favour!

Usmanov has taken a chance to destabilise, as has R$VP. Wenger has hidden behind the board and CEO for the first time in a while. The financial damage to the brand increases every hour that nothing is said or done. But this cannot be properly felt in the ‘bubble’ that has been created for the players and the management. Occasionally, the businessmen of the board have to step out of the bubble and take a look around, because in the original Adam Smith ethos of economics, the ‘market’ exists for the people. But the ‘football people’ don’t seem to see this and choose not to cater for it at Arsenal. Not beyond doorsteps of stale bread with morsels of fois gras. Meanwhile, the rest of the league are bankrupting themselves to gorge themselves to a slow, medium or rapid death.

So my patience is a thin as Usmanov is fat. My reticence is fragile and my faith in those who control and steer this ship is more Costa Concordia than Victoria Concordia Crescit.

We can come out fighting. We can do damage limitation PR. We are not the royal family. Nor are we cream and will not ‘float’ to the fecking top. Our class may be as permanent as the damage done by our own staff, the media and the economies of scale. If we think big and pay little, we will end up hosting concerts and X Factor auditions to more people than football matches.

We do not need sea change, we need some change. We do not need billions, but we need hundreds of millions. We do not need more fans, we need loyal and appeased fans. We do not need to be in the know, but we need to know some truths. We put our faith and hope in the most ungodlike of people.

Our football will not be saved by two signings and a couple of loan deals. Nor will a farcical cancelled trip to Nigeria, which no doubt will still result in the website showing photos of ‘our’ Frank Stubbs posing next to an urban open gasoline pipe, a couple of Muslim-targeted churches and him hitching his way round the country blindfolded and gagged.

This is the time for political and financial change. But not revolution. Make the moves Arsenal but stop being so bloody British about it.

Written by fergalburger

Arsenal Supporters ………….. Trust?

July 10, 2012

A couple of AA stalwarts attended the AST meeting last night and since we didn’t get back until late, this brief résumé will serve to start debate rather than be a detailed deconstruction of the proceedings.

First let me say that the attendees were (at least those who spoke) level headed and articulate – but there was plenty of disagreement all the same. The AST is an effective vehicle for access to the club and we are very lucky that we have a CEO in Ivan Gazidis who gives his time to attend open forums as well as having regular private meetings to discuss particular issues (one is taking place this Friday).

I doubt many other CEO’s of top clubs would be so obliging. For this I have to applaud IG. He does not have an easy job having to juggle the conflicting factions of the business – an absentee owner who will not invest, an entrenched Board in dire need of new blood and a manager who is both brilliant and intransigent.

As far as the meeting itself is concerned, there wasn’t a single point made by the presenters or those who spoke that hasn’t been made many times on here over the last few years.

A lot of discussion early on was over the results of their annual survey. I know some supporters suspect that the AST adopt an anti-Wenger stance but this was dispelled by the response to the question asking whether AW should remain as manager which showed 77% in support of Arsène Wenger.

Amongst the many topics discussed, there were two main points that received general agreement at the meeting but that some on here will probably take issue with, and I would like these to form the basis for today’s discussion.

1. It is ridiculous that the Board refuse to meet with Red and White Holdings.  Apparently neither Usmanov or his partner Farhad Bashiri have ever been invited into the Boardroom to discuss there intentions as major shareholders. They have never been invited into the Directors box to watch a game (he is currrently purchasing his third private box) or entertained in any way by the Board.  They own nearly 1/3 of the club and yet are completely ostracised and this simply would not happen in any other sphere of business. Some kind of dialogue should take place to see if R&W Holdings can contribute to the success of the club whilst still maintaining a self-sustaining business model.

2. The ownership together with the Board are hiding behind FFP simply because they can, and because self-sustainability has been our business model since since moving to the new stadium.

The meeting was attended by accountants, solicitors and people who understand contract law and the belief is that we could be more aggressive in our approach and still comply with FFP.

It was said that the true impact of FFP (if any), extra income from TV rights and the renegotiation of big sponsorship deals are all about 2 years away and the club basically chooses to take the risk of falling out of the top four rather than raise funds to invest in the squad.

The club runs at about a £15m loss annually and this deficit is made up by the profit from the sale of players. There is also a buffer of £30-40m from the sale of players in recent years that is held back in case the club fail to qualify for the CL one season. The feeling was that this money could be invested in the team as the club are likely to be about £70m better off come the 2014/15 season.

FFP is a UEFA policy of some 72 pages and much is left to interpretation and could be easy prey to top lawyers but it does seem already to be affecting the behaviour of clubs although oddly it is the smaller clubs that are likely to be affected the most. Man City were very astute in doing big player deals before the start of the system and continue to exploit it intelligently. Arsenal in contrast appear to be living in the hope that it actually achieves its goals – the general view at the meeting was sceptical that this would actually be the case.


Written by Rasp

A few forced changes, but better nonetheless

July 9, 2012

I won’t lie. van Persie’s announcement a couple of days ago left me gutted.

As of time of writing, there are still no developments on his situation as to whether he will honour his contract and stay, or surprise everyone by signing a new contract or just be sold. Also like a few fickle Gooners, I won’t jump on the bandwagon of ‘Kroenke out, Gazidis out, Wenger out’, just by reading a piece of paper published by the yes-men of a certain Uzbeki who has a dark shady history and been linked with allegations of trafficking, rape and murder.

I intend to reserve my judgement on this situation until I see what decision and comments Wenger makes about all this chaos and how he acts. As a humble fan of this great club, all I can talk about is how we can deliver on the pitch and ride our way back to greatness, instead of musing on who is the better between the two mannequins’ ala Kroenke and Usmanov.

Assuming that the not-so-flying Dutchman leaves and it is the most likely possible outcome given Wenger’s history of shipping out unhappy players, the Club is tasked with replacing a 30 goal striker with fantastic movement around the box and one of the leaders of last season. Tactically speaking, we have to ask ourselves the question as to which has been the bigger loss in the last couple of summers – Fabregas or Persie?

The more important question is do we rely on a single superstar to guide us to glory, only for them to leave us for greener pastures just because they couldn’t handle the weight of the cannon? Or do we place our trust and hope in a bunch of hardworking, classy players, who actually work as a team and toil for the crest and relish it with pride? True, that the 2011-12 season belonged to the moneybag clubs like City and Chelski, but still there were tremendous success stories like Montpellier and Dortmund, showing that Arsene’s philosophy and dream can still be achieved.

A week ago, I had an article on a strategy that we might use next season (Arsenal-Milan hybrid), which involved Persie more as a false-9. What we will miss next season is not the 30 odd goals; Podolski and Giroud are more than capable of compensating for it, but what we will miss is the playmaker-like quality that he possessed. Technically speaking, we have just lost 3 playmakers in 2 summers (Arshavin might be the 4th this summer).

Podolski and Giroud both are technically different players than these playmakers. Podolski is more of a strong workhorse with a powerful shot whereas Giroud is the classic No.9 with fantastic aerial ability, hold up play and the hungry predatory instinct which I dare say, even RVP lacked. A few nostalgic fans might remember the 4-4-2 which we employed during the Invincibles season, but even that is not a possibility anymore, as 4-4-2 is a rather defunct formation having weaknesses which good teams can exploit; it can be used temporarily depending on the nature of the situation, but not as the base formation.

RVP’s departure might force Wenger to get a playmaker to add that level of creativity needed to make players like Podolski and Giroud tick. Not all hope can be pinned on the young shoulders of Jack, who I assume might not be rushed into more than 20-25 games next season.

Whoever the new playmaker is, what we can expect is a bit of unpredictability from Arsenal next season, as the opposition might not know where the goals will come from, and that bodes well for us. Also, I assume that if we indeed get a playmaker, Song might not neglect his defensive duties after all as there is no added pressure of creating chances. A midfield of Song and Arteta aptly supported by Coquelin, Frimpong, Wilshere and either of Diaby or Ramsey looks solid enough. It is the ‘hole’ that is lacking quality with Rosicky as our only main pure playmaker.

In the circumstances that the opposition tries to single out this playmaker, we can fall back on the options of last season ala Arteta and Song. Add Wilshere and Diaby(whom I expect to surprise everyone and have a great season), and we have secondary options as well to carry out playmaking duties.

What is important is that we manage to keep our players fit which can result only from a slight change of training regime, as this new look side has enough quality and more importantly, the right balance to challenge for the title. The future of the Club like Wilshere and Chamberlain can be slowly blooded in, alongwith the likes of Miyaichi, Afobe, Jenkinson, Gnabry etc, guided by the veterans Arteta, Rosicky,Vermaelen, Mertesacker and others. Who knows, the departure of van Persie might even be blessing in disguise, in the long run. But to start off this wonderful dream, what the Club has to do is to make the necessary signings and make them fast.

A team can only be successful only when it properly gels in and the teammates understand each other telepathically. Trash this possession football stuff and get back the beautiful counterattacking Wengerball where each player contributes !

Suggesting all of this seems quite easy by just sitting in front of the laptop, but it is not impossible, especially given that we have one of the best managers in the world at the helm. I won’t cry my eyes out just because one of our strikers left, but I will certainly start worrying the day this man decides to leave.

Written by Sagar Tarkhadkar

Rich club v Beautiful accounting

July 8, 2012

I have always been a staunch ‘sustainable model’ kind of guy, in keeping, you might say, with my career as a no-nonsense, think with your head and not with your heart accountant.

However, recent events have made me stop and reflect on that ‘sustainability’ stance.

The Chavs are now beginning to flex their obscene financial muscle, once again, in the transfer market to re-stock their ageing squad while Citeh continuously threaten to hoover up any footballing talent not securely nailed down after buying their first Premier League title, and even the Spuds are beginning to flex Joe Lewis’ chequebook.

Manyoo, for many years after the founding of the Premier League, plundered the top British talent, and continue to do so. They have been joined by a plethora of established clubs throughout Europe, together with the recent arrival of the latest bunch of artless financial pillagers.

Despite that, and the contiguous financial drain of building a new stadium, we have maintained our position as the second most successful Premiership team in terms of points earned, since the inception of the League, with 1,449 points, with only Manyoo above us on 1,663.

Those points, however, have not translated into a proportionate number of titles won, and this has caused a wave of unrest among many Gooners everywhere.

I have already mentioned two of the relatively new boys on the block, and bearing in mind our wish to be competitive in European football too, it might be worth having a look at a number of our wealthy competitors, including the oil nation or ‘rich boy toy’ clubs who have sprung up in recent years.

  • Man City = Abu Dhabi Unt Group – bought 2008 — £1bn
  • Chelsea = Abramovich – bought 2003 – £1bn
  • Anzhi Makhachkala = S Kerimonov – Russia – bought 2011 — £200m
  • Paris St Germain = Qatar Investment Authority – bought 2011 – £100m
  • Malaga = Sheikh Abdullah (Qatar) – bought 2010 – £75m
  • Real Madrid = ‘Socios’ members – Spanish government backed
  • Barcelona owned by its supporters – Catalonia backed
  • Man Utd = Malcolm Glazer and family, billionaires {landed debt for purchase of the club on its own balance sheet}.
  • Spurs – Privately owned by Joe Lewis – billionaire – shows financial muscle in discrete way.
  • Juventus and AC Milan from Italy
  • Bayern from Germany

The list is not exhaustive!

There are, in addition, any number of other clubs who have powerful (secondary) financial backing, which will become evident in the near future, such as Liverpool, Villa and Newcastle, while other ‘poor’ clubs are begging to be taken over and elevated into the ‘financial mainstream’, such as Everton and a number of well known Spanish and French clubs.

Arsenal’s options within this mounting tide of footballing opulence, is to stay as we currently are, sensible, well run, self sustaining, but inevitably doomed to a cycle of a diminishing world fan base and a resultant decrease in commercial financial worth, caused by the lack of silverware; or to grasp the bullet, and accept the cornucopia of unbelievable wealth which is on offer from the likes of Usmanov, or some other oily benefactor, which may well bring many a trophy success, but might also be a poisoned chalice if we embrace mammon.

Look, I have no easy answers.

Although I love sport in general, there is no other club I love with the unreasoning passion that I have for Arsenal, so what is the best for my club is my only driver in this discussion.
As a point in question, I can tell you that second and third in my ‘love’ list are “The New York Yankees” and “The New York Giants” respectively. I watch them when I can, and always religiously look for their scores. I am infused with joy when they win and plunged into gloom when they lose.

What I don’t care about, and never give a tuppenny fig for, is who currently owns their franchises, or how much they bought them for, or where the money comes from to successfully the run the clubs.
These owner guys live in a world of wealth I can only dream about, and they would laugh their heads off if they thought I worried, for even a nano-second about their financial sustainability.

These guys are in it to win games and trophies and thereby to increase their commercial returns and make profits, while enjoying the ego trip.

Therein lays the rub.

You see, there is a very well known, extremely wealthy, American entrepreneur called Stan Kroenke, who owns a number of franchises in the US. And do you know what? I don’t care about his commercial franchises, or how profitable they are, anymore than I do those of the owners of the Yankees or the Giants. And frankly, I could care less for Mr Usmanov if it came to that.

The trouble is, here in the UK, it seems, I actually must worry myself, as part of the “committed fan” package, as to whether Stan’s financial model is running sustainably or not, (which basically means he does not run the club at a loss, while his shares continue to accrue in value) whilst sublimating my own quite justifiable desires for Premier League and European Champions League success and glory.

What is going on here?

I supported Arsenal, originally, as a boy, because of family influences, and then grew to love the chutzpah of the club, its football playing style and the sheer joyous exhilaration and exaltation of my fabulous team winning games and collecting trophies!!

I am quite sure I did not sign up to worry about the financial worth of the club’s wealthy shareholders!

Do you know what — writing this article has been catharctic, and I am beginning to come to my senses and realize that Arsenal are never going to go bust — ever — and my real and only sustainable love is for Arsenal my club, and the Arsenal team’s success — and as for Stan and his sustainable entrepreneurial investment – not so much!!

I know there is an understandable feeling among many loyal, long term supporters to continue with the “Arsenal” way of doing things, and they are entitled to think that way, and to eschew the introduction of ‘obscene’ wealth into the club. However, so too are the other equally loyal Arsenal fans who see the “Arsenal” way of doing things as an ephemeral and esoteric concept, and simply want to see their club competing and winning on a level financial playing field.

Now, stripped down to its basics, we are faced with answering the following question;

Do you want Arsenal to compete successfully with the ever expanding list of ‘rich’ clubs on a level playing field, or do you want to subscribe to a beautiful accounting concept that mainly benefits the incumbent shareholders and perhaps never win anything?

For me the jury is still out – but I am wavering, whereas in the past I was totally in the pro sustainable model camp.

What we, as fans think, is moot in truth, especially if the financial takeovers of more clubs carry on at the current rate, I think the decision will be taken by Stan to take his substantial profit and run — just like all the previous shareholders have done!

Written by Red Arse

Let’s Get Bendy.

July 7, 2012

Now what I mean by “bendy” is “rubbery”, “elastic” or “flexible”.

You see, shit happens. Last term, we had Santos/Gibbs at LB, Verm, Kos, JD and Mert for the two CB slots and Sagna/Jenks at RB. And yet, within seven minutes of the season kicking off, we had the Assistant Groundsman at RB.

Also, I’m convinced Arteta was bought as a Nasri/Cesc AM replacement. He moved further back, and what a revelation he was.

A few days ago, I was going to ask everyone here to be Manager for a moment and list their starting elevens for the first game and also to layout the formations. There would not have been many alike.

Yesterday, LB suggested as a “maybe” a back four of Verm, Kos, Mert and Sagna. It works, as does a three of Verm, Mert and Kos, or Santos, Verm, Mert and Jenks. And, and, and….

Ah ha, the midfield three. Oh heck. How about Song as a lone DM with Diaby and Ox in front. Arteta and Song deep with Rosicky ahead. Hey, did you see Italy? What was Pirlo doing that Jack could not?

And up top. Oh jeepers. Most appear to have Pod on the left with Giroud in the middle. Really? Ever seen Pod beating the RB for speed and putting in the perfect cross. I haven’t. On the other hand, I have watched him banging them in time and time again for a very poor team. Guess what, in virtually every clip he comes from central or from the right!

Now consider my opening gambit of our defensive injury woes of last season. Well, we are not alone. City had FB issues and Utd CB problems. In other words, many elastic line ups should allow us the options of exploiting the opposition weaknesses.

Say we are playing against a third choice stick insect of a right back. By all means release the muscle boy from Germany down the left. If on the other hand their third choice RB is built like Sonny Liston and has the turn of speed of a JCB, play Gerv.

The single most important aspect is that all eleven are fully committed to the cause, and that quality abounds throughout the squad.

I still think Nasri was right when he implied that were it true that he was simply picking up the weekly package at Arsenal, then he would not have been alone.

The way I see things right now is that the dutch bloke will be flogged, and what we get for him will have paid for Giroud and Podolski. Let’s off load a few more. Bring in some more quality and away we go.

Finally, to put some cash where my mouth is, I have a brilliant idea. For two sodding years I’ve been saying “Get Vertonghen”. There is no bendier player than he. 6’2”, fast, strong, great feet, great in the air, Verm type piledriver of a shot and can play anywhere across the back, as DM, and almost certainly in goal as well!

Oh, and yes, let’s take a punt on Oscar. Just to add a sprinkling of Brazilian magic dust. Not forgetting of course, that those cretins from down the road are rumoured to be after both, and this Arsenal thing in our lives is about having some fun after all.

Written by MickyDidIt89

Wenger Changes Direction Again.

July 6, 2012

A provocative headline designed to grab your attention? Yes, guilty but I believe there is a quite a lot of truth in it.

The change of direction that I am talking about is reflected in the kind of player that Podolski and Giroud are. These footballers are big powerful no nonsense types, they signal a change in style, perhaps even a return to the days when Arsenal fielded big strong powerful teams which included the likes of Vieira, Petit, Adams, Bould and Campbell; when those players took to the field the opposition were scared. What Podolski and Giroud are definitely not is a continuation of Arshavin, Nasri and Fàbregas; for example, the super skilful diminutive types which to me is vital clue that indicates the change in direction that I refer to above.

If you think you are upset about not winning a trophy in the last seven years I am prepared to bet it is only a fraction of the pain that Wenger feels about that statistic.

Personally I think we were unlucky, the Fàbregas era was worthy of a title or two but equally I can see the argument that the league title does not lie and the fact remains that that experiment did not work and a new way must be found. The reason I can see this side of the argument is that I do not believe that even the most accomplished proponents of the super quick passing game, no other than Barcelona would win the EPL year in and year out. The Catalans never seem to come up against teams in La Liga prepared to play with ten men behind the ball. I remember reading an interview with Cesc saying that that approach would not be tolerated by any team in Spain regardless of the relegation implications – Barcelona meet Sam Allardyce and there are plenty more, as we all know, of his ilk.

Passenal has not worked trophy wise, although, entertainment wise it has been a dream for a season ticket holder like myself but I accept it might be time for a bit of silverware to take up some space in the still bare Emirates trophy cabinet.

I am going to do something now that I have criticised many in the past for doing and that is sing the praises of manu so if you want to get your own back go ahead. The reason in my mind as to why manu kept on winning as much as they did with what seemed like an average team at times was because they had a good balance between power and skill. That’s enough praise, they are now on a down hill trajectory. The reasons are fairly obvious; they have an aging team and the manager does not know which way to turn. They are, in short, where we were a few years ago. There are a couple a key clues that back this up. If Rooney came on the market now do you think he would go to manu or City? When was the last time we could say at this point in the transfer window that we were happier with our signings than we would have been with manu’s? Would you prefer Kagawa and Powell or Podolski and Giroud?

We are coming out of that dip because Wenger has found a way to operate amongst the two obvious financial heavy weights: Chelsea and City. Ferguson on the other hand looks like a spent force; he doesn’t know which way to turn now that he no longer has the financial muscle to buy the top players in the EPL.

Manu we have you in our sights.

Next season’s Arsenal line up is going to be different: for the first time, in a long time we will be starting a new EPL season with power and strength as our main weapons.


Sagna, BFG, Koscielny, Vermaelen.

——-Song, Diaby, Arteta.

——The Ox, Giroud, Podolski.

This is not the team I expect to line up for the first game of the season but it could be.

And if it is, the message to any opposition will be – Be afraid, be very afraid.

Written by LB

R.I.P. to the Man you used to be

July 5, 2012

So we finally had some news about where we are with regards to the club’s contract negotiations for RvP. Van Persie said: I’ve thought long and hard about it, but I have decided not to extend my contract.”

Well, that is fine with me, I can live with that. We would all rather hear him say he has agreed to sign a new contract and is committed etc, etc, but at his age and the sort of wages on offer, it is not inconceivable to image him wanting to finish his career somewhere else.

But where was his follow-up sentence that should go like this: “However, of course I will honour my contract with Arsenal and give my all in my last season, and as a captain I will try to lead this fantastic club to a title or a cup”.

Don’t we – the fans, the club, and his fellow players – deserve that after all we have given to him?

Nothing of the sort – instead he said dryly, after some sentimental, hypocritical nonsense about how much he has loved the club over the last eight years: “As soon as Mr Gazidis is back from his two-week holiday in America further meetings will follow and I will update you if and when there are more developments.”

This, in my opinion, can only be explained in one way: he wants out as soon as possible and has actually found a club – but the prospective buyer and Arsenal are either miles apart on what the price should be, or Arsenal has indeed no intention whatsoever to sell him.

Van Persie’s announcement yesterday smells of desperation. It has all the hallmarks of somebody who is anxious to get out and is getting very impatient because nothing is happening, and a deal might fall through or not happen at all. He appears to be trying to force the issue, and is using the fans as a medium of communication to achieve his personal objectives. This will backfire badly on him.

He has used the classical excuse of accusing the club of not having the same ambitions as he has: “Out of my huge respect for Mr Wenger, the players and the fans I don’t want to go into any details, but unfortunately in this meeting it has again become clear to me that we in many aspects disagree on the way Arsenal FC should move forward.”

What really gets me is his “that we in many aspects disagree”. Being Dutch myself, I know very well the Dutch obsession with being involved in management decision, a strong need for being heard, for consensus, for being empowered. But disagreeing on many aspects is a ridiculous thing to say. It smacks of somebody who thinks he has become bigger than the club, and who has lost his respect for the man who made him what he is today. It also looks like he is making sure there is no easy way back from this.

The gloves have come off and the negotiations will be getting very tough now – and it comes as no surprise that Arsenal Football Club have responded by playing hard ball: We have to respect Robin’s decision not to renew his contract. Robin has one year to run on his current contract and we are confident that he will fulfill his commitments to the Club. We are planning with ambition and confidence for next season with Arsenal’s best interests in mind.”

Some will say, he is playing hard ball with Gazidis and Kroenke to force them to buy the super quality players Robin seems to want at our beloved club. Some will even argue that Wenger is in this together with RvP. But I am not having any of that. Even he would know that this is not the way to achieve such a goal.

Van Persie has turned his back towards the club and is simply leaving us in the lurch just when we needed our captain and best player most. And this hurts like hell, and is something this Gooner really did not see coming at all.

Here is a man we have carried for large parts of his eight years at the club, whilst he was nursing one injury after another.

Here is a man around whom we build a team to service him; to make him look like a world beater.

Here is a man for whom the team gave everything, and made him England’s Footballer of the Year.

Here is a man who was made our captain only a season ago.

Here is a man, who says how much he loves the club – that he has become a Gunner For Life.

Here is a man whom Arsène took under his wing and helped develop into a decent, well-rounded human being, and who said today about himself: “I have grown up and became a man during my time at Arsenal FC”.

One more season was all we needed from him.

One more season to help the new strikers to settle in.

One more season to help The Ox, JW, Ramsey and Gervinho establishing themselves properly within the team.

One more season to simply pay back all that the club and the fans have invested in him.

This has now become impossible. The bridges behind him are well and truly burned.

Robin, you were a legend in the making, a near-hero, almost a Man in Full, but nothing of that is left.

Instead you are now a man no more.

R.I.P. to the man you used to be.


July 4, 2012

Watching live football always has that curious edge of nervous expectancy. Never knowing what will come next draws us back time and again. When events turn against us, we say that it was inevitable, we could see it coming, but when the footballing gods deem it is an Arsenal fan’s moment in the sunshine, nothing quite beats the thrill of an Arsenal goal in the final minutes of a game.

Sometimes even snatching a last minute draw from the jaws of defeat can turn a journey home or an extra drink in the pub from having a funereal air, to being one of relative jubilation. However, the goals which turn 1 point into 3 can produce such a surge of endorphins that the feeling lasts for days. The ultimate last minute winners have even bigger prizes dangling from their goal celebrations. Cups and championships won in the last seconds of a game can produce after effects which last a lifetime.

Here are a selection of ‘last minute’ goals for your enjoyment.

Thierry Henry v Sunderland 2012

We were at Lingfield racecourse for my nephew’s stag do and were suitably miffed when news came through of Mclean’s goal in the 70th minute. We were hopeful again when Rambo scored off both posts to equalise and ecstatic as Thierry rose like a kung fu master to stab the ball home in injury time…….


Thomas Vermaelen v Newcastle 2012

The poetic justice of this goal being scored near the end of the time added on for Tim Krul’s persistent time-wasting makes this my favourite last minute goal of recent times……..

Kanu 1999 v Chelsea at the bridge.

Two nil down with 15 minutes to go, Nwankwo wrote his name into the Arsenal legends book with a hat trick to die for, including one of the best goals you’ll ever see. Take it away Martin Tyler….

Thierry Henry v Man U 2007

To my mind this goal was the first big moment to happen at the Emirates. A goal of such simple beauty and Ferguson’s reaction to it at the end of this makes me laugh every time I see it….

Ray Kennedy v spuds 1971

50,000 in the ground, 50,000 left outside, Shite Hart Lane was red and white for the night in May 1971. My old man and older bro tried to take my younger brother and me to the Lane that night. We only got to the end of the Paxton Road before they decided it was too dangerous for us to continue. This would definitely be my older brother’s main Arsenal regret, as it was such a terrible disappointment to miss the first time we won the League at the sh*thole. At least it wasn’t the last…….

Alan Sunderland v Man U FA cup final 1979

I can remember sinking to my knees on the Wembley terraces after Manyoo’s spawny equaliser only to stand up just in time to witness one of the those ‘hair standing up on the back of your neck’ moments never to be forgotten for the rest of my life……

Micky Thomas v Liverpool 1989

DidIt’s non-Edith Piaf post yesterday summed up one man’s wish to have seen this moment in the flesh. Presumably this would be most Gunners’ favourite last-minute, spine-tingling goal because there was so much riding on it………..

What’s your favourite last-minute Arsenal goal and why?

Written by chas

Regrets? Just the one.

July 3, 2012

It’s the 88-89 Season, and I’ve been to every home game. One game left, away at Anfield, and our first title in eighteen years is at stake. It’s the most mustest of “must go to” games since ‘71. One problem. I have also attended almost every home game for many seasons with three very good mates. Two of us have season tickets, and two do not. Liverpool have allocated about 3,000 away tickets, and the chances of both of us going look remote, and what about our other two mates?

We decided to put Matedom and Friendship first and stick together. One for all, and stay in North London we did.

Twenty three years later, and I regret that decision more than any in my life. It may only be once or twice in a Gunner’s life that these games come along, but I urge you all, never never let family or friends come first. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen while you’re at the game? They may have died, but would that have been worth missing the game for. Of course not. Not a game like that.

This wee post was prompted because last night I went to a Parents BBQ at my childrens’ school. My son has a new best mate, and my heart kinda sank as this boys’ Dad made his way over to do the exchanging phone number thing ahead of the summer sleep-overs. He looked a bit wet to me and his opening gambit of “I hear you are an Arsenal Man as well” did little to arrest my interest. After learning that he had earned his colours by doing the every home and away game in a season thing, as well as the 100 consecutive home games honour, I was still only partially moved. Then he dropped the bomb. He was at Anfield.

He joins an elite group of seven Gunners I know who were at Anfield. I am not jealous of these men. I genuinely see them as superior human beings. They have been to a place I can only dream of, and I know that wrong on my cv can ever be righted.

It is impossible that your stories can be as epically tragic and pathetic as mine, so let’s hear your tales of sacrifice or regret.

Written by MickyDidIt89

Is Jack the New Rosicknote?

July 2, 2012

I don’t want to place too much store in tabloid rumours, but the suggestion that Jack Wilshere will not return to first team action until at least the middle of September is quite alarming.

We all saw how Tomas Rosicky missed over 18 months of first team action with complications relating to a hamstring tendon injury.

His comeback was frequently mooted and just as frequently postponed and it is only really in the last 12 months that we have seen anything like a return to the form he first showed for us.

Wilshere’s injury – a stress fracture of the ankle – occurred in a pre-season friendly last summer and he was scheduled to be out for four-to-five months. In the end we didn’t see him at all for the rest of the season.

Disappointing, of course, but at least we could console ourselves with the fact that he would be fit and raring to go for the start of the 2012/13 season.

Now that possibility appears to have gone South too. His return is slated in for mid September – by which time we may well have played four EPL fixtures and a Champions League group game.

And that’s if he even makes it back on that time scale.

Following the experience with Rosicky and, more recently, the luckless Abou Diaby, it would not be an earth shattering surprise to find Jack’s return delayed further.

Naturally I hope that’s not the case, but an injury (or series of injuries) that keeps a fit young man off the field of play for more than a year cannot be taken lightly.

And we cannot assume that his path back to match fitness will not be trouble-free.

All of which raises a very important question for our club:

Should we be signing a creative midfielder to cover a potential longer-term absence for Jack Wilshere?

The tactical Posts of recent days here on AA – and the excellent comments they spawned – have thrown up ways in which we may not need to directly replace Jack (RvP dropping back to a Number 10, with Giroud or Podolski in front, for example).

And given that many of us expect Wilshere to be the most gifted young player of his generation it’s not as if we can pick up a replacement for pennies (or easily find someone who is prepared to play for a couple of months then drop to the bench when Wilshere returns).

But I am coming round to the idea of us moving for an attacking midfielder in this summer’s window.

Don’t ask me who that player should be (there are many player-watchers on this site who are infinitely better informed than me). But I’m imagining an older player – someone around the 30/31 age range, who has played in Italy or Spain at a less fashionable club but has the guile needed for the role.

They won’t be as good as Cesc Fabregas or as good as we hope Jack Wilshere is going to be, but they will have the technique and touch that was so patently lacking among the English squad at the Euros.

And they’ll be happy to be at Arsenal, even though they know they may not be an automatic starting pick in the longer term

Tall order, I know.

Am I worrying too much?

Can we get by another season (if the worst comes to pass) without being really badly affected by having no Wilshere?

Should we sign a replacement?

If so, who could it realistically be?

Over to you…