Transfer Window? I’m an Arsenal Supporter, Get Me Out of Here!

June 8, 2021
A real transfer!

Oh, how I hate the transfer window. 

I know most supporters love this time of year, where they get some shiny new toys to enjoy. But it’s been proven in recent years that our shiny new toys seem to mostly come from the rubbish section.

Since Arsene Wenger left we have made very few proper transfers and it seems like the scouts have gone cockeyed.

18/19 Season

Lucas Torreira – £29m

Most believed Arsenal needed a pure CDM to recover balls break up play etc,  so this was a purchase I understand.

Berndt Leno – £25m

We needed competition for the aging Petr Cech and Ospina was not rated at the club, so I understand this purchase as well.

Sokratis –  £16m 

Why were they trying to build us into a Dortmund side? This was such a waste of money. Yes, Arsenal had been horrible defensively but why did they think he would be the solution to this problem?

Guendozi – £8m 

Guess he was one for the future .

18/19 Overview:  We had a new coach and he wanted to bring in players – I get it. In hindsight, all were bad purchases but I understand them all apart from Sokratis a(nyone who watches football should have known this would be £16m wasted).

19/20 Season

Nicolas Pepe – £80m 

Pepe was a great player in the French league at the time we bought him. I was happy at the time that we didn’t purchase Zaha (as Sue wanted in hindsight). Now I wish we had Zaha, because buying players who are not accustomed to the Premier League has not been great for us. I think in general it was a bad transfer because during the 19/20 season Saka was  emerging and I felt he had what it takes to be a great player (which was another reason I didn’t want Zaha – so that Saka would be able to receive game time).

William Saliba – £30m 

One for the future.

Kieran Tierney – £27m 

Money well spent.

David Luiz – £8m

As mentioned in relation to the 18/19 season, Arsenal have a soft defensive spine so we decided to get Luiz. But anyone who has watched Luiz knows he is a liability 

Gabriel Martinelli – £8m 

The only problem I have with this transfer is that we brought in yet another young player for the future when we already have others who have not been given a chance. As a prime example we have Nelson, who had a decent loan spell in the 18/19 season yet still we get Martinelli. He might eventually be a better player than Nelson in the long run, but Martinelli wasn’t creating too big a buzz in Brazil and even if he was we could have signed him and loaned him out and let Nelson develop with first team. Then, when the 20/21 season came around, we would have known what to do with him instead of leaving his career in limbo.

19/20 Overview: Wasted another £16m on Luiz and Mari, and if we haven’t wasted £16m on Sokratis the season before we could have gotten someone such as Tarkowski for the 19/20 campaign. Tarkowski might not have been the answer (remember when Kean went to Everton – he was horrible) so it could just be that Burnely’s defensive system is really good.  Even so, I am sure everyone would rather us gamble on a Tarkowski rather than the likes of Luiz , Sokratis etc.

20/21 Season

Thomas Partey – £50m 

As Torreira didn’t work out, a new manager comes in and decides Partey is the one he wants.

Gabriel – £26m 

The last Lille transfer worked so well for us we decided to let them screw us for the third time. I wasn’t a fan of this transfer at all (especially after the Pepe and Gervinho experiment). Surely having gone with the likes of Sokratis previously someone at the club might have thought that £26m would be better spent on someone who already knows the league (Tarkowski).

Cedric Soares – £5m 

if I remember correctly he was injured for most of his loan spell with us but we still decided to sign him.

Pablo Mari – £8m

Another never-heard – of player added to our brittle back line.

20/21 Season Overview: We wasted £39m on Gabriel, Cedric and Mari. Most would say that Gabriel was a good transfer so for those then we only wasted £13m, ask yourself who you want starting next to Holding next season: Gabriel or Saliba?

21/22 Season

So I have to watch this drama all over again. We are all saying we need to be patient with the team and the Manager yet instead of patience we want a quick fix. Rome wasn’t built in a day. What we need are smart purchases. 

“Let’s buy Beundia – he’ll help PEA score goals this season.” So, weren’t the likes of Saka, ESR, Pepe doing that last season? It looks like we’re not getting Buendia, but if we had bought him it would be to rival ESR: does that mean ESR is going to be a squad player again? I know we need cover in case of injury etc, but surely someone inside the ranks can help with this. If we buy a Buendia type player for £30m then obviously they would be starting in front of ESR next season.

“Get Bissouma – he’s the best ball winner in the league.” I mean, he plays for a Brighton side who do nothing but defend so obviously he’ll win a lot of balls. Wasn’t Torreira supposed to be a great ball winner when he came to us as well?

Thus far we still haven’t even touched the main issues in the squad: a proper RB for when Bellerin is injured; and a back-up for Tierney. These I see as the actual issues to be dealt with for the 21/22 season. 

Realistically, what should our goal be for next season? Win either the League Cup or the FA Cup and finish high in the league which – to be fair – should be around 5th because it won’t be easy breaking into the Top Four against City, Liverpool, United and Chelsea (who already have better sides than us and are actively looking for elite players such as Kane, Lukaku, Aubameyang, Grealish, Haaland, Mbappe etc). 

But with the added advantage of no European competition our players should be able to do better than last season. 

Would additions like Buendia and Bissouma get us into the Top Four? I say no, so strengthen the areas we need to strengthen and trust in the youths. 

And allow me to have a peaceful transfer window 

Fred


Sticking Up for Silent Stan

June 7, 2021
Time to cut Stan some slack?

I may have missed something: I have not been in Antarctica, or testing Musk’s Mars Tesla in Outer Space; I keep at least a cuticle on the pulse of general news, sports news and especially (naturally) The Arsenal. Evidently, the entire population of the world loathes, hates and despises Kroenke Sports & Entertainment. Except me.

I just can’t see why. What has this organisation – or, to be accurate, this man, for it is Silent Stan who draws the greatest opprobrium – done, so to exercise sports fans?

He is accused of overseeing mediocrity, that his sports franchises in the US put dividends for the owner before success on the playing area.

This is not a straightforward matter to adjudicate, because of the meritocratic way that sports in America try to function. It is very difficult for a team to maintain excellence at the top because of the cap on expenditure/salaries, and the way that recruitment is pegged to previous achievement.

However, in this era that encompasses the Arsenal, the LA Rams NFL team has sustained success, including making it to the Super Bowl just three years ago, and making the Play-Offs since; the Denver Nuggets are in the current NBA play-offs; the Colorado Avalanche have advanced through the first round of the current NHL play-offs.

Not all the teams are up there, but this list isn’t as disastrous as say last year’s scurrilous Guardian article would have us believe. Additionally, while Joe Supporter would always love to see twenty new billion-pound players signed up every year, the canard that KSE don’t put their hand in their pockets doesn’t stand up to examination.

Firstly, until recently, Arsene and the Board tied their philosophy to FFP, and the belief that ultimately, a self-sustaining model would triumph, as profligacy was penalised. Unfortunately, that boat has sailed down the CAS Swanee. Megarich owners in the system as it stands can splash whatever cash they want.

Secondly, whereas one might be critical of the specific players brought in, it is impossible to claim that money wasn’t spent. If it was spent unwisely, well then, Stan has as much to gripe about as you, but the arrival of Aubamayang, Pepe and Partey amongst others cost plenty of ackers.

Maybe it’s because he is Silent Stan, with an almost hermit-like low profile, that fans deride him, and hanker after Ek. Puzzling, if that’s the case. I saw the delight on his face (why would it not be genuine?) when we lifted the FA Cup. He might not be a life-long supporter, but I’m happy to accept that he is a supporter.

Maybe it’s the opprobrium that seeped across the Atlantic, because he removed the St Louis Rams back to LA (where they mostly were in my early years). That may be a cruel decision for the people of Missouri, and I have no idea why he did it, but it is a decision that has nothing to do with sporting success or excellence.

I am hoping that a mob comes onto ArsenalArsenal and lobs grenades at me for being so stupid, and an apologist for a monster, but that amongst the vitriol, there are some cogent ideas which will clear my fogged horizons (so that I’m not guilty of closing with a mixed metaphor, the fog is due to the grenades going off!).

Max


Tottenham’s Next Manager: an Arsenal Perspective

June 5, 2021

The new man at Spurs?

You may have heard the sad news that Tottenham’s attempt to lure Antonio Conte as their new head coach has failed.

Quite inexplicably, the Italian came to the conclusion that the North London club (who have not won the league for 60 years nor any trophy at all for 13 years) are not ambitious enough. Can’t think where he got that idea.

It’s back to the drawing board for the Lilywhites so, in a genuine attempt at neighbourly solidarity, I thought it would be helpful to offer up some names for them to consider.

I’m not going to list the more obvious candidates at whom I’m sure they will now be looking: Harry Redknapp, Glenn Hoddle, Christian Gross, Tim Sherwood, Juande Ramos and the like – I shall leave that to the professional sports writers and, instead, offer some more “left field” suggestions.

  1. Mackenzie Crook

For a club that has really struggled to locate silverware (or any other precious metals) it would be a stroke of genius to recruit the star and writer of the hit TV series “Detectorists.” As well as being an expert at finding lost treasure with his metal detecting device, Crook is a popular and instantly recognisable figure and his experience of starring in The Office alongside Ricky Gervais will give him a head start with the tortured internal politics at Spurs.

2. Lucinda Lambton

Not at the top of many people’s shortlists and undoubtedly lacking in experience of coaching players at the highest level, but the writer Lady Lucinda Worsthorne (to give her her full name) would be a terrific leader for the club and its infrastructure as a whole. As the author of “Temples of Convenience & Chambers of Delight: the Loo Bible,” she is an expert on Britain’s public toilets and would surely relish the chance to make the most of the Armitage Shanks Arena, the largest public karzi in Britain.

3. Pickles the Wonder Dog

If Mackenzie Crook is not available (there are rumours that Barcelona have their eye on him) then Pickles the Wonder Dog would be a great fallback option for Tottenham. He, too, has a track record of finding missing silverware – in his case no less a trophy than the World Cup. The Jules Rimet trophy was stolen in 1966 (when the World Cup was being held on these shores). It was shaping up to be a massive national embarrassment until Pickles, a black and white collie, retrieved the trophy in Upper Norwood while out for a walk. Good boy! (You might reasonably point out that Pickles was called to the great lamppost in the sky some 54 years ago, but that should not be a problem for Tottenham: after all, they appointed Jose Mourinho and he’s been one of the Undead for at least 200 years).

4. Colonel Sanders

If you’re looking for someone to take a sad, skinny chicken and turn it into a world-beating brand, the Colonel is your man. And “finger lickin’ good” would be a popular new motto among fans who struggle with the concept of cutlery.

5. Alan Titchmarsh

Gardeners will be familiar with the problem: you have a dark, shady area in an unloved part of your plot where things just won’t grow. It takes a lot of skill and nurturing to get plants to thrive in such circumstances and only a horticulturist of Titchmarsh’s expertise would have a chance of getting it right. Tottenham have always struggled to prosper because of the huge, dark shadow cast over them by The Mighty Arsenal, but give Titchmarsh the job and you never know: those sad little lilywhites might just bloom again.

6. Hercules

At the extreme end of the options is the ancient Greek hero and demigod Hercules (aka Heracles). He’s a long shot, but if Tottenham’s owner Joe Lewis – frustrated with years of failure – is in the mood to blow it all up and start from scratch then Hercules is the man for the job. The hero was once famously challenged to clean the Augean stables. These stables held a thousand divine cattle and had not been cleared for 30 years, so the task was considered to be impossible. However, Hercules used his great strength to re-route two rivers to wash out the decades of filth. In N17 he would probably opt for diverting the course of the Moselle Brook (which flows into the River Lea) in order to clean out 138 years of sh*t.

7. Dr Jordan B. Peterson

The Canadian psychologist famous for helping to put thousands of young people on the straight-and-narrow by telling them to “first clean your room” would be just the man to help Tottenham deal with the deep psychoses which have built up at the club over many generations: delusions of grandeur; imposter syndrome; sibling rivalry; inferiority complex… Dr Peterson would have his work cut out.

8. Saint Jude

Jude was one of the Apostles of Jesus (not to be confused with Jesus’s betrayer, Judas Iscariot). He preached for many years after the crucifixion before himself being martyred in 65 AD. So why could he be the man for Tottenham? Well, Saint Jude is the Patron Saint of Lost Causes.

Have a pleasant weekend.

RockyLives


Will the Real Thomas Partey Please Stand Up?

June 3, 2021
What do we do with Thomas?

Are you confused? I know I am.

I mean, what exactly is Thomas Partey? What is his best position? In what role will he be most effective for Arsenal?

The Ghanaian arrived in N5 with a lot of hype after excelling at Atletico Madrid over multiple seasons.

His first campaign at Arsenal was blighted by injury, but he showed glimpses of real quality as well as some worrying lapses in concentration and occasional sloppiness on the ball.

My instinct is that his upside is very high and that in the right formation he could be a game-changing figure for us, but what is that formation? And what is his role in it?

Some see him as a defensive midfielder. The most legendary occupant of that role in recent Arsenal history, Gilberto, even gave Partey his own vote of confidence earlier in the season.

But he has not often been used in the same way as Gilberto was (the anchor of midfield, seldom committing to going forward and always ready to snuff out opposition moves). Partey has usually had either Xhaka or Elneny playing in a slightly deeper role behind him.

Only when Partey has been teamed up with Ceballos in central midfield has he been obliged to be the ‘rear guard’, with Ceballos usually drifting out to a sort-of left midfield position.

In those games Partey was often caught on the ball by opponents and lost possession or was pressured into making misplaced passes, but it wasn’t entirely his fault: the lack of a proper central mid partner often meant he was being swarmed by opposition players.

Those who don’t see him as an out-and-out DM tend to see him instead as a Vieira type player – someone with power and pace who is able to do the destructive work of winning the ball in the middle of the park, but can also drive forward to launch attacks.

When considering this it is worth remembering that Vieira generally had Gilberto behind him.

Partey certainly has the physical and footballing attributes to fulfil that combination role (destroyer/creator) although compared with another recent box-to-box star, Aaron Ramsey, his strengths are more on the ‘destroyer’ end than the ‘creator’ or goalscorer end, but there’s more than one kind of box-to-box player.

So… should Mikel Arteta be looking for a new Gilberto to allow Partey to be the new Vieira? Or should he be looking for a more creative (but also combative) midfield partner so that Partey can be the new Gilberto himself?

If it’s the former (Partey as the new Vieira) then it has ramifications for the choice of midfield partner and would, for example, rule out Joe Willock, since Willock is definitely not a DM.

Perhaps that’s where talk of a Bissouma type signing comes in: he could be the Gilberto to Partey’s Vieira.

If, on the other hand, Arteta decides to make Partey the primary protector of the back four, then you could see a partnership with Willock – or with a new signing like Buendia – working well.

Given that, as I mentioned, Gilberto has given his stamp of approval to Partey in the DM holding role, that may not be such a bad option.

There is a third option I have seen mentioned, in which the DM role itself is seen as anachronistic and in which, instead, we opt for a pair of powerful and mobile central midfielders who share the responsibility for shielding the defence but also for getting forward when we’re in possession. This worries me somewhat but would open the door for a Partey-Willock combo.

What do you think?

(By the way, when talking about “the new Vieira” or “the new Gilberto” I am not trying to say the current players are on a par with those Invincibles, I am just referring to the type of roles: so please don’t bash me over the head with “not fit to lace Vieira’s boots” type comments).

RockyLives


Arsenal Fans Losing Patience

June 2, 2021
Are we being fair or unfair to El Patron?

Patience is a virtue, supposedly.

If so, it is not a virtue that has been much in evidence among the Arsenal faithful this season.

A significant proportion of the fan base has lost faith in Mikel Arteta as the man to lead us back to the heady heights of Champions League qualification and contending for the Premier League title.

And that’s a bit strange, because many of these were the same fans who were falling over themselves to talk (and write) about needing to “have patience” and “give it some time” when Arteta was first appointed.

Everyone recognised we were in a bit of a hole after experiencing humiliation in the Europa League final under Unai Emery and a subsequent collapse in form in the first half of the following season, so when Arteta became the youngest head coach in the EPL people seemed to take a philosophical approach to what was expected of him.

I saw many columns and comments along the lines of “we must accept there will be ups and downs along the way; it won’t all come right overnight; he’s a young manager who’ll have to learn on the job so let’s cut him some slack.”

There was not much cutting-of-slack as we tumbled tamely out of the Europa League semis and stumbled to an eighth place finish in the EPL, failing to qualify for Europe for the first time in a quarter of a century.

Perhaps Arteta is a victim of his own success.

By unexpectedly winning the FA Cup in his first half season in charge at Arsenal he may have convinced us that he really was the messiah and that good things would inevitably follow.

In fact what followed – in the first half of the season that has just finished – was very NOT good. At times it was as palatable as a bowl of vomit with a dandruff garnish.

It was obvious that Arteta was making mistakes (persisting with the abysmal Willian; tinkering with formations; failing to tackle a culture of inattentiveness and mistake-making). There was genuine cause to doubt whether he was the man for the job.

I suspect that patience first began to run out during that terrible losing run up to Christmas, in which we played 10, lost 7, drew 2 and won only 1 – taking 5 points from a possible 30. There was talk of relegation in the air and it did not seem particularly fanciful.

There were rumours Arteta was facing the boot and plenty of fans seemed happy (or at least unbothered) by the prospect.

But shouldn’t that have been exactly the time to remember what we had said when Arteta was appointed? How we assured ourselves at the start of his reign that there would be downs as well as ups?

Fortunately there was a genuine up side to come immediately after Christmas. From Boxing Day onwards we became more consistent, harder to beat and created more chances. Our form in the final 22 games of the season put us third in the EPL behind Manchester City and Manchester United across that period.

And yes, I know that it’s the league table across 38 games that counts, not across 22 games; but recency is important too.

If our form in the first half of the season had put us third and we then tailed off to eighth in the second half of the season, there would be serious grounds for concern because our trajectory would have been negative. This is what happened during the Unai Emery period: we started well under the Spaniard and got steadily worse.

But under Arteta the trajectory is positive. The recent form has been good. Not perfect by any means and certainly not attractive enough at times. But again, how many of us said when Arteta arrived “his first job is to shore up the defence and make us hard to score against.”? (Do you remember those games under Emery when even low ranking teams were clocking up 20-plus attempts on goal against us?).

Arteta has achieved that task – in fact you could say he has overachieved when you consider that, even including that terrible pre-Christmas run, our defence let in fewer goals over the season than any teams apart from Man City and Chelsea.

He also clearly identified some of the off-field problems at the club, leading to the ousting of Mustafi, Ozil, Sokratis, Kolasinac and Guendouzi. By all accounts London Colney has been a much happier and more united place since January.

To this writer’s mind, Arteta is doing exactly what we thought he would do when we hired him: have ups and downs; make mistakes; correct mistakes; but gradually put us on an upward path.

It may not feel like that given that we face the rarity of a season without European football, but we are progressing and Arteta deserves our continued patience.

You could reasonably suggest I am being too kind to him and that it was perfectly legitimate for people’s patience to run out at Christmas. There is no hard and fast rule for how long a “grace period” for a new manager should last, but I believe we – and Arteta – are still in it.

Mind you, next season – without the distraction of European games – if we are not mounting a serious challenge to be in the top four by Christmas then even my patience will finally be reaching the end of the road.

RockyLives


Willock and Odegaard – what to do?

June 1, 2021

So Willock went to Newcastle in January, started tentatively there and then ended the season in fine form especially in fine scoring form…His good performances led to him winning the Player of the Month Award – well done to him!

As Willock left us for Newcastle, Odegaard joined us on loan from Real Madrid. He has shown courage and good ability as well both in keeping and passing the ball. Arteta seems to enjoy his work rate and attitude too.

On one hand, we have an academy product who has done exceptionally well on loan at Newcastle and on the other hand, we have another young player with great ability. What to do?

Willock is our player but it seems that Arteta had a hard time getting the most out of him. He clearly showed that he can do well in the EPL but maybe he needs a different system and coach to flourish OR maybe he is now ready to flourish with us too. What to do with him? Shall we keep him or sell him to the highest bidder?

Odegaard is poised to return to Madrid and with Zidane gone and apparently Ancelotti coming, it could be that Odegaard would be keen to take his chance and try to play for the Casa Blanca or he may be keen to stay with us in the EPL. If he wants to stay, I think Arteta would like to keep him but he ll cost a minimum of 30-35 Mln EUR, which may be a big chunk of our transfer budget…So what to do wit him? Shall we keep him or not?

And I did not talk about them but we also have Torreira and Guendouzi on our payroll but it seems we will listen to offers for both these players so no post on them..yet