The Rules of Being an Arsenal Player

August 7, 2018

More Rocky – with slightly amended dates but with no removal  of references to Lord Bendtner, catastrophic displays against Burnley and his pink boots! Enjoy.

One thing a new season should bring with it is a clean slate. Before a single player – sorry, ball – has been kicked in the 2018/19 season, every squad member can be a potential hero, every new signing can be the final piece of the jigsaw, every limb and sinew can be strong enough to last a whole campaign without breaking down.

And in that spirit of optimism, I want to humbly make a proposition to the players who will wear our beautiful red and white next year.

Like all supporters, I have strong views about the relative merits of our squad, about who should play where and how they should play, but I do not presume to usurp the role of the manager and coaches. That’s their job. My job is to be a supporter, and it’s in that context that I want to make my proposal:

“Dear Arsenal Players

As representatives of Arsenal FC you are the inheritors of a long and splendid tradition and every time you walk onto the pitch you carry with you the hopes and dreams of a vast community of supporters, from small children to centenarians.

But whether you were scooped up by our scouting network straight from the creche, or whether you are newly arrived among us in a whirlwind of press frenzy and feverish expectation, you need to know about The Rules.

Not just any rules, but The Seven Rules of Being an Arsenal Player.

The Rules were once known by heart by every Arsenal player and they hung on the wall of the home dressing room at Highbury in a metal frame made out of old shell casings from the Woolwich Arsenal.

Somehow, during the move from Highbury to Ashburton Grove The Rules went astray. There are various rumours about what happened to them: that they were lifted by George Graham when he popped in for ‘one last look’ at the old place; that a Sp*ds supporting construction worker grabbed them with the intention of taking them as a trophy to N17, only to find that he couldn’t part with them and now keeps them in a shrine at his smelly one-bedroom flat in T*ttenham where at nights, on his own, he secretly dresses in red and white and watches old videos of the 1971 and 1989 seasons; there’s even a story that a spectral Herbert Chapman took them into the ether with him, ready to return when we are at our most daunted and our enemies are crowding all around.

Whatever the truth we can only hope the original document will one day be found again. But for the time being, you players ought to know what was written on it: a list of Rules based on your responsibilities as players to us, the fans. Here they are:

1. Always Salute the Travelling Support

When we lost at Blackburn in the penultimate game of the 2009/10 season, I heard that only two of our players went over to show their appreciation to the thousands of fans who had made that Godawful journey to the arse end of nowhere on a Bank Holiday Monday. If true, that’s a disgrace. Most supporters earn less in a year than you earn in a week and they forego holidays, new cars and all manner of comforts to support Arsenal. Even if we have lost, even if we have performed dreadfully, there is no excuse for not saluting the travelling fans at the end of a game.

2. Always Salute the Home Support

I know it sounds obvious, but the home fans also deserve your appreciation. I have been at many games at the Grove where the result or performance has not been as we would have wished and half of you have trudged down the tunnel without even a backward glance at the supporters. You may be feeling disappointed, or even embarrassed at your own performance, but believe me, we will still appreciate it if you face us and acknowledge our support. You will be applauded off no matter how badly you have played.

3. Keep Your Agent Under Control

Agents are an unwanted but apparently necessary evil of the modern game. If you have to have one, try and remember that they work for you. So even if you are looking to move away from our beloved club, you should do so in private and not in public. Allowing your agent to tart you around Europe via the back pages of the red tops like some old slapper shows no respect for us, the fans, or your team mates who may be adversely affected by the publicity.

4. Play Up, Play Up for the Arsenal

We understand that your fortunes on the field will vary, that some days it won’t go for you, that you’ll be carrying an injury or you’ll be struggling in an unfamiliar position or your touch will have mysteriously vanished. That’s OK. We also know that on other days you’ll be a world beater and we sincerely hope there will be more of those ones.  But what we can’t forgive is NOT TRYING. Even if you’re having the biggest stinker of a game of your career, we’ll forgive you if you are trying your hardest. Just look at how we applauded Nicki Bendtner during his performance against Burnley, when he missed seven open goals. We didn’t mind because we knew he was still trying and not hiding.

5. Respect the Club and Its Traditions

Do not give interviews saying that one day you might like to play at a ‘bigger’ club: you are already at the world’s biggest club. Do not kiss the badge then angle for a move elsewhere. When you refer to the club in public, refer to it as The Arsenal: that will immediately tell us fans that you know and respect our traditions. If you happen to leave, always speak respectfully of your former home (for evidence of how to do this, look to the words of Henry, Pires, Bergkamp). Do that and you will always be welcomed back.

6. Know That The Club Is Bigger Than You

We live in a footballing age of colossal wages and colossal egos. And as a player surrounded by yes-men and hangers-on it is easy to become self-obsessed. But if you just open your mind you will find it even more rewarding to recognise that you are a part of a great historical project. Take comfort in the fact that you are an actor in a story that also includes Cliff Bastin, Alex James, Ted Drake, Jack Kelsey, Charlie George, Bob Wilson, Liam Brady, Malcolm Macdonald, Ian Wright, Tony Adams, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and others too numerous to mention. Embrace that heritage and the heritage will embrace you long after you have hung up your luminous pink boots.

7. Know Your Enemy

You’re a professional. You have to treat every game as it comes, the next game is always the most important etc etc . But never forget that for we supporters, playing the muppets from up the Seven Sisters Road is always something special. That’s the game where, more than any other, you really do have to put heart and soul on the line. For more than a decade we have kept them firmly in their place. Now, after our first PL defeat in such a long time, they are sniffing around us like jackals around a distracted lion. Next season it’s your duty to put them back in their place. Nothing less will do.

Follow these rules and you will help to rebuild a contract between players and supporters, one that has been cracked and creaking these last few years. You still have our support, but, let’s be honest, the relationship has been shaky at times and on both sides we have been guilty of behaving less well than we should.

But if you keep this simple charter close to your heart, you will truly feel the atmosphere change and you will experience a virtuous circle of mutual support and success.

2018/2019 is a fresh start. Let us rediscover the love.”

Written by RockyLives


Do Players Need to Like Each Other

August 6, 2018

A mention of the incomparable Rocky yesterday had me glancing through some of his old posts. The current mood at Arsenal Football Club seems to one of bonding and happiness and is part of the reason for the optimism surrounding the Club going into the new season. Esprit de corps – is it necessary for a successful season? Do players have to play for each other, above and beyond their desire to play for themselves? What do you think; do you agree with Rocky? 

Bear with me… this is, indeed, a Post about the current Arsenal team (it will get there eventually).

Way back in the early 1990s an ex Arsenal lad who had moved to pastures new was tearing up the Premier League, scoring goals for fun.

I refer to one Andrew Cole, who had two great seasons at Newcastle from 1993 to 1995.

Such was his form and prowess at the Barcodes that he earned an England call-up under Terry Venables. He made his debut as a late substitute against Uruguay – replacing a certain Mr Edward Sheringham. As Sheringham left the pitch he offered nary a glance towards the debuant; not a handshake; nor even a quick word of encouragement, far less a pat on the back. He just acted as if Cole did not exist.

The perceived insult wounded the tender soul of young Andy and he vowed never to forget it.

Fast forward a year or so and Cole signed for Manchester United where, playing alongside Eric Cantona, he continued to thrive.

But in football, as in life, fate often has a way of putting chewing gum on your bus seat and, sure enough, in 1997 Eric Cantona left United and they replaced him with Mr Edward Sheringham.

As Cole put it some years later: “In the summer of 1997, after Eric Cantona left Manchester United, Sheringham arrived. We played together for years. We scored a lot of goals. I never spoke a single word to him.”

And during that period United were certainly successful.

So does it mean that relationships between players don’t matter? That team mates can hate each other with the sort of loathing that a Totteringham fan has for bathwater?

Well, there are certainly other examples beyond Cole and Sheringham (who, let’s not forget, went to Man United but was still a runt). The Bayern Munich and Germany midfielders Lothar Matthaus and Stefan Effenberg would each have happily seen the other fed slowly into a wood chipper; and in the days of the Wimbledon Crazy Gang (younger readers, be thankful you don’t know what I’m talking about) John “Fash the Bash” Fashanu shared mutual antipathy with Lawrie Sanchez.

In fact it got so bad that Fashanu and Sanchez decided to “sort it out” during a training session. As a black belt in karate, Fashanu was expecting to teach Sanchez a lesson – but I remember Tony Adams once described Sanchez as the hardest man in football (a bit like the Pope describing someone as the holiest person on earth).

Fash’s memoirs take up the story: “Sanch gave me a shot and, give him credit, it wasn’t a bad shot. But I thought, don’t hit Sanch, don’t mark his face, and my mind went back to when Muhammed Ali fought against the martial artist in New York, and the martial artist just kicked the back of his legs until it broke the tissues in his calves and he submitted. So I thought I’d teach Sanch a lesson and gave a sweep of the legs, but Sanch has calves like most people have thighs and he didn’t move. So I gave him another couple, but Sanch came back at me. So I thought, I’m gonna take this guy out, and I hit him with one of the best shots I’d been training with – BAM! Take that, Sanch! – right in the solar plexus, a shot that would supposedly knock a horse down. And still he stood there. Then Terry Burton came over to break us up.”

Happy days.

Anyway, this question of whether it’s better for players to like their team mates occurred to me while watching our game against Liverpool on Saturday.

You will remember the chance that Luis Suarez had towards the end of the match, as Liverpool were struggling to fight their way back from the firm slapping-down which we had been administering.

Suarez profited from a mistake by the BFG and bore down on goal from Liverpool’s left side. He tried a shot which went across the face of goal and wide, not troubling Szczesny. Daniel Sturridge had been racing into the right hand side of the box and felt that Suarez should have passed to him rather than shooting. Whether or not Suarez should have passed is neither here nor there. What happened next was fascinating: Sturridge threw his arms out and back, like a child trying to be a superhero; he jutted out his chin, his eyes bulged and he donned the time-honoured countenance of the mortally outraged (think Stephen Fry being told that – no thanks – no-one was interested in his latest anecdote).

All this was directed at his team mate, Suarez. It was not a brief, understandable moment of frustration of the kind any player can be prone to: Sturridge held this tortured pose for many long seconds. His suffering began to take on Jesus-like dimensions. Poor old Suarez glanced his way but chose not to engage.

At the time I thought: “these are two players who don’t like each other: two selfish goal-grabbers who are in this only for personal glory.”  If you feel your colleague should have passed, you talk about it later – you don’t try to humiliate him in front of millions

And despite the examples mentioned above – of bitter feuds festering in successful teams – it cannot, as a general rule, be good to have disharmony within a team.

Look at Arsenal in recent years.

There is no question that we’ve had some troublesome individuals in the dressing room: Samir Nasri, who could probably make the Dalai Lama swear; Emmanuel “all about me” Adebayor; William “Slightly Deranged” Gallas.

And one of the factors in our gradual improvement has been the clearing out of the disputatious types and the forging of strong bonds between the players who remain.

There seems to be a good, mutually supportive vibe among the YBCs (the Young British Core), but experienced, level-headed foreigners like Arteta, Giroud and Mertesacker have also clearly been instrumental in creating unity and fellow-purpose.

It may be easier to say during the sort of successful period we are currently enjoying, but I really feel our squad of players like each other and are playing for each other rather than for their next big money move elsewhere. No-one exemplifies this selflessness better than Olivier Giroud, who seems as happy when he assists as when he scores.

So, to sum up, Sturridge and Suarez will continue to score goals, but football success is often down to fine margins – and not being united on the field is one of those things that can have a slight, but significant, negative impact.

Over the course of the season I would back our Harmonious Heroes to do better than ‘Pool’s Fractious Forwards. We will see.

Written by RockyLives

More Gears to Come – Arsenal beat Lazio

August 5, 2018

Going into the game, expectations were high with the prospect of a debut for Lucas Torreira and a return for the Albanian Eagle. Impressions after the match were dominated by the impact second half substitute Matteo Guendouzi had on the look of the Arsenal team.

The match began as if it was a training scenario, Arsenal having virtually 100% possession and Lazio making thousands of small shuttle runs denying space and chances.

Laca was on target from a fine volley; the dinked pass from Lichtsteiner a real treat and in complete contrast to his ebullient roughhousing. I really enjoyed watching an old school defender employing the full range of tricks of his craft. Stephan Lichtsteiner won’t be bullied this season, that’s for sure. It would have been very interesting to see how he would have coped with Hudson Odoi the other night. I’d imagine the chav may have found himself flying into the first couple of rows of seats at some point!

Reiss Nelson was sharp to follow up Alex Iwobi’s effort off the post giving the boys in the “peacoat navy” (seriously ) shirts a deserved lead. Lazio finally woke up, finished the half stronger and were, perhaps, a little unlucky not to equalise with both a chip on to the bar and a clear header.

Auba scored after fine work from Elneny and Lacazette on the edge of the Lazio area. The intensity of the game dropped after numerous substitutions and Lazio clearly lacked the sharpness a tougher preseason might have given them.

The final 20 minutes was my favourite part of the game with all the big hitters, Mesut, Micki, Auba, ESR and Matteo on the pitch at the same time. Arsenal became a purring Rolls Royce coasting to victory. Whether the Premier League will allow us the luxury of seeing so much skill and pure talent on the pitch at the same time is another matter entirely.

Guendouzi was majestic, playing with the unabashed confidence of youth. Mesut loved his cameo and the highlight came from Micki with a sublime turn and nutmeg.

Calum Chambers played particularly well in the first half. He really seems to be maturing into a fine defender and his passing from the back adds a level of calm we didn’t see against the chavs on Wednesday.

Lucas Torreira’s debut was pretty quiet. His rapid shifting of the ball forwards was very pleasing to watch. More to come from the Uruguayan undoubtedly.

All in all a very decent, if not spectacular, run out, though which players will make the cut against City next week is anyone’s guess!

Torreira Debut? – Arsenal v Lazio

August 4, 2018

Today’s friendly in Stockholm is Unai Emery’s last chance to get the measure of his squad before next weekend’s Prem curtain raiser against City.

The biggest question and most enthralling prospect for the game is whether we might get a look at Lucas Torreira in an Arsenal shirt.

Who will start the game at centre back? Mustafi and Sokratis looked less than convincing against the chavs. Time is running out for an obvious settled partnership to emerge. Perhaps Calum Chambers might feature in his preferred position?

Ramsey is out with a perfectly timed tightness in his calf. The Beast is out for 8 weeks. Interesting to see if ESR gets another chance. Xhaka alongside Torreira could be fun.

Up front I’d like to see Auba and Laca in tandem as it offers up the most chances of scoring goals.


Lichtsteiner Chambers Mustafi Monreal

Mkhitaryan Torreira Xhaka


Lacazette Aubameyang

Hark at me choosing a team for a friendly. How preposterous! Maybe choosing players I’d want to see start against City,  more like.

I know virtually zero about SS Lazio but they finished 5th in a Serie A which appears to be re-establishing some of its former strength, so they’re no mugs.


The Ramsey Question

August 3, 2018

The transfer window closes shortly, and I believe the manager has hinted business may be done, albeit with the inevitable ‘but you never know’ proviso tagged on.

I’m guessing the tag refers to unfinished business as far as Ramsey is concerned, although, as usual who knows whether arrangements have been concluded behind closed doors.

The way I see it:

Hot on the heels of the Sanchez and Mesut contractual. Issues at the same time last year, then I’m sure the club have matters in hand as far as they. Can

My laptop keeps putting full stops everywhere. Any bright sparks. With ideas?

Part of the thinking must include whether Emery considers there are 1st XI gaps remaining, and I say that because to acquire that quality of footballer may necessitate big funds, so a Ramsey sale/exchange. Could solve both issues.

My take on the footballing side is that we can live without Ramsey. Of course he’s good, but I’ve never had Aaron on my essential list, and I’ve long argued that you cannot play him if you have a  Mesut in the traditional No 10 role as I feel the side is better balanced with two more defensively solid players behind, but of course Emery. May have his own clever ideas on that aspect.

Ok, now for some honesty. I’m writing this while thinking…”what the hell am I doing? I really  don’t care either way. He’s an ok footballer who’s had some truly heroic Arsenal moments, but as a man….nah, can’t warm to him. Stay or go, whatever, as I struggle to see him. As more than just another mercenary. Ok, so many are,  just have this nagging feeling he does it for Aaron Ramsey not The Arsenal”.

Written by mickydidit89 and a dodgy laptop

Last Gasp Laca – Chelsea Chastened by Iwobi pen

August 2, 2018

Let’s just cut to the chase, dive straight in and talk about the best part of the ninety four minutes, no I don’t mean the last gasp goal from Lacazette that saved us from one of most horrible feelings that there can be no matter what the competition – losing to Chelsea is never a good look and never a good feeling; no, I am talking about something so much more uplifting, what is it, what is it, all this build up, is it going to be worth it? Oh yes it is – Guendouzi’s body check on Hudson-Odoi. The irritating upstart had been messing Hector around all game when suddenly bosh, have some of that you dirty chav; Guendouzi who is rapidly coming one of my favourite players showed him what is what and left the annoying blue mess writhing on the deck.

It is staggering that he is only 19 and has been playing in French lower league. There is no doubt in my mind that he has made Elneny redundant and some may say Xhaka too. Granit is a bit of a marmite player so I understand where some people are coming from but it is a bit early for that. Incredibly there is a lot of similarity in their style play but if anything the young Frenchman moves that ball around just that bit quicker, so although, I don’t expect that it will be long until Granit returns he will know he has serious competition for his place and he will not have the protection of being a shiny new Emery signing: Xhaka is a product of the old regime. Should be interesting, we shall see. Can’t stop thinking about that body check – love it.

Chelsea put out a pretty strong side and carved our defence open like a Sunday roast. You can say that with Monreal, Torreira and Xhaka in the mix things might have been a bit different – perhaps, but even with all three of them there I don’t think we would have stopped their goal and what’s more I predict we will suffer an awful lot more of that kind. Koscielny might have done something about it but that is a long way off.

The best form of defence is attack, well it is going to have to be, although, fortunately we are blessed in that department. And there is Iwobi – Barn Door meet Iwobi, Iwobi meet Barn Door, no Alex it’s over there; he should have scored and given us a slightly calmer finish.

But cometh the, (how on earth am I going to make this one work? No idea.) cometh Lacazette. We all saw it; he was more potent in 5 minutes than the rest of the attack had been for seventy minutes. The Butcher’s Dog got himself on the score sheet again and has surely earned himself a starting berth against City.

Cech was awesome. The step up for Smith-Rowe was a tad far; I bet he regrets not taking the shot on when that golden chance appeared. Kolasinac: we have done this one, he is just filling in. The central defence pairing, well if you can see some upside please let me know?

Mah, it was only a friendly and we avoided losing which no one likes. Next up, the caring sharing, kind hearted souls from Italy’s capital – Lazio. Onwards and upwards.

Written by LB

Arsenal v Chelsea – plans firming up

August 1, 2018

Apparently today’s friendly in Dublin is still part of the International Champions Cup so it’s all to play for!

New chav manager Maurizio Sarri will be at a similar stage to Unai with ideas forming as to who will be playing for him in the new look West London set-up.

With only today’s and Saturday’s game in Stockholm against Lazio remaining, time is running out for Unai Emery to decide which players are edging towards his first Premier League selection.

Even before this week’s return to training of Granit, Nacho, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Lucas Torreira, there appeared to be a multitude of options. Now is the time for those to be whittled down.

Historically, the youngsters who impress on pre-season tours often get moved to the sidelines once we get down to the nitty gritty of the League. In a way I’m hoping that Matteo Guendouzi and Emile Smith-Rowe are, at least, given the opportunity to claim a spot on the bench for early Prem games. They’ve been like a breath of fresh air.

Regardless of that, I’m sure Emery, Carlos Carcedo and Stevie Bould will come up with the right players and formation.