Alan Davies is many things: the fall guy for Stephen Fry (and latterly Sandi Toksvig) on the brainy panel show QI; a magician’s assistant who solves murders in Jonathan Creek; presenter of some show about dogs on Channel 5; the tonsorial inspiration for a bevy of mop-topped footballers from David Luiz, to Willian via Matteo Guendouzi; and a reasonably amusing comedian.
He is also a die-hard Arsenal fan and long-time season ticket holder who has done the hard yards over the years watching us lose away in every northern sh*thole town from Oldham to Barnsley.
He’s also quite good at ranting.
His memorable rants include his furious reaction to Aaron Ramsey having his leg snapped by the Shawcross animal, whom he memorably described as “a clumsy idiotic thug,” representing a club (Stoke City) that “are sent out to play like that.”
Another rant about Liverpool’s refusal to play games on the same date as the Hillsborough tragedy led to him being told he should never go to Scouseland again (so, a clever move on Alan’s part there I think we can all agree – a bit like telling a fat bloke he’s banned from the salad bar).
Well, he’s been at it again following our recent rubbish performance against Aston Villa.
This was a good rant. A very good one. So good that I transcribed it after hearing it on his rather good podcast The Tuesday Club yesterday.
What I liked was that it was not a rant against Mikel Arteta, or about the fact that our team rolled over for Villa like a poncey lapdog that wants its tummy tickled. It wasn’t even a rant about Willian, my own bugbear from the performance.
Alan went deeper than that and identified the root of our current problems. Hearing it made me appreciate better the sheer scale of the challenge that El Patron has taken on here at Arsenal. It’s like he’s bought a house hoping to build a conservatory at the back and put a firepit in the garden, but he’s just discovered that the whole structure is infested with dry rot.
Here’s what Alan had to say:
“Talk me through the Unai Emery period signings (I don’t know who’s responsible, if it’s Mislintat or Raul Sanllehi or Unai Emery). Leaving aside Kieran Tierney, if you look at Sokratis – £18 million, not noticeably an upgrade on Calum Chambers or Rob Holding or Shkodran Mustafi, already at the club: waste of £18 million.
“You look at Jay Leno, £19 million, decent enough ‘keeper but not noticeably an upgrade on Emi Martinez who’s already at the club.
“Lucas Torreira, £22 million, half decent player but evidently much too small to play in the Premier League, nowhere near the power to survive in there.
“Guendouzi seems to have bags of potential but is obviously raving mad and we knew he’d been raving mad because he’d fallen out with his manager in France and not noticeably better than Ainsley Maitland-Niles or Joe Willock who already we’ve got in the club, or Emile Smith-Rowe in fact, so no point buying him either.
“And Nicholas Pepe: this kid is a bit of a streaky winger, not fully in control of his legs, a little bit Bambi, will he control it or will he not? He doesn’t know, no-one on the team knows. Brilliant at cutting inside and smashing it in a cross-cum-shot fashion out of play. Really, should we not have just kept Walcott? What is the point of spending £72 million?
“Emery wanted Zaha, and for the money we spent on all that load of crap we could have got Zaha and Grealish. Honestly, the recruitment in that two-year period…
“So Arteta is picking over the rubble of the end of Arsene Wenger, where there are players on monumental contracts… then the kind of chaos of who’s in charge in transfer policy and… that chubby bloke from Spain who looks like he’s just put out a fag who’s supposed to have a contact book that’s going to outdo everyone in the transfer market.
“Then we really bought into a load of flannel about how brilliant we were – do you remember we were told what a genius he is to get Pepe and then pay for him over five years? This is not the first time someone has had to pay in instalments – we still have to pay it! And at the moment he’s worth £22 million not £72 million, if that.
“All of these transfers, I wish they had never happened I wish they had not allowed him to buy anyone. After that final in Baku I said sell the lot… just put all these kids in and find a left back, which we did in Tierney, and then we had a half decent team: we had Martinez, Chambers, Holding, Bellerin, Tierney, we had lots of good talent in midfield, people who aren’t getting much of a look in like Rees Nelson, Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Smith-Rowe, the absolute genius that is Bukayo Saka, the sheer brilliance of Martinelli: I thought this lot could really do something.
“I mean if we’re really going to be crap and finish 12th at least let this lot bond – and as it is we went and spent £170 million or some astronomical amount of money on crap.”
Alan and his fellow podcasters went on to agree that there were signs of encouragement with our most recent pieces of transfer business, in that both Gabriel and Partey look like clear upgrades on what we already had.
But going back to the heart of his rant, can anyone really disagree with any of it?
Something very strange went on with transfer policy at Arsenal over a period of several years. The best we can say is that it was incompetence. The worst… well, the laws of libel constrain me from saying what I really think.
So, if our “ups” under Mikel Arteta are accompanied by some very deep “downs” from time to time, let’s cut the man some slack and take into account the context of the sh*t show he inherited.