Are Our Players Too Soft?

October 15, 2019

This is just a quick conversation starter based on something that came up during Ian Wright’s interview with Dennis Bergkamp.

(If you haven’t seen the interview yet, what’s wrong with you? JM posted it in the comments in the ‘Art of Defending’ Post so go and watch it! People often ask if God is real… well, there he is, chatting away to another deity who’s not too far below him in the great Arsenal Pantheon).

There were many fascinating, touching and funny moments in the interview but one part of the conversation struck me as particularly interesting.

It starts with the two legends reminiscing about training at Arsenal (and in particular whether Dennis was ever bothered by Martin Keown’s maniacal behavior and overly physical play). Dennis naturally says he had no problem with big Martin (and implies he was more than happy to give a bit back, which we all know he was capable of).

Dennis points out that there were always two or three confrontations (or bust-ups, if you like) between players in every training session, but that he loved the intensity because it prepared him for real game situations. Then he adds: “I speak to young players as well nowadays. I don’t see that any more now. It’s just very polite and relaxed and everything.”

When I heard that it seemed obviously true (even if I had not really thought about it much before). Arsenal players of more recent vintages don’t give the impression on the pitch that their training sessions are trench warfare.

But it raises some questions. Is this how it is at all teams now? Are all training sessions everywhere laid back and respectful, with no fiery lunges or stray elbows? Would the likes of Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Roy Keane and Steve Bruce be thought of as maniacs if their younger selves were suddenly dropped into a 2019 training session?

Or is that blood-and-thunder approach still present at some clubs? It’s hard to imagine it at Manchester City. Maybe at Liverpool (but highly unlikely). At Manchester United it probably left the building with the purple-conked Gorbalian back in 2013.

If it exists anywhere it’s more likely to be in the lower-table and mid-table clubs, especially those managed by old school British managers like Steve Bruce.

You can see why the top clubs would not be keen on seeing their best players sidelined for weeks at a time because some psycho squad member has poleaxed them during training, whereas the lower clubs probably think their best chance against elite teams is to employ greater physicality.

So here’s the question: has Arsenal lost something by abandoning full-blooded contact in training? Has the Premier League? Has football generally?

Or does the modern way represent progress, a move towards a more sophisticated way of being a footballer?

Towards the end of the Wrighty-Bergkamp chat Dennis talks about watching Arsenal these days and says: “Sometimes it’s good, but a lot of times you don’t really feel it’s the Arsenal how we know it, with the passion and a few players who make the difference…”

Would some Chuck Norris themed training sessions bring the fire back to our boys?

Over to you…


For those that haven’t seen it, this is the video featuring Wrighty and DB10 Rocky refers to …

Perfect Pepe … Ivan was terrible … Ian is Right Right Right

August 2, 2019

First let us all rejoice in the news that the ‘big club with the smallest budget’ just signed the 4th most expensive player in Premier League history.

Welcome Nicolas Pepe. Arsenal now have a front three to match the best in Europe.

Every Arsenal supporter should be over the proverbial moon. This is more than a big signing, this is a statement by the club …. don’t write us off, we mean business and we can do business.

It also puts into perspective the performance of the previous management team who were also working under the tight fisted, disinterested American billionaire (… yes, I’m being sarcastic).

I love Ian Wright, he bleeds Arsenal. I’ve seen him have to bite his lip many times on television in recent years as he struggles to avoid saying what he really feels for fear of damaging the club.

Well now he has let rip … and I love him even more for it.

For those of us (like me) who questioned what Ivan Gazidis actually did apart from delivering slick platitudes, Ian Wright’s words resonate.

Here are just a few lines of what he had to say:

I’ve got to give credit to Raul Sanllehi, head of football and the senior leadership of our club. This is exceptionally good business. This is unbelievable. This is the kind of business Arsenal have missed for so long.

We could mention that other fool (meaning Gazidis) that was there – but I won’t because I’m in a positive vein now. This is the kind of player about whom we’d usually be saying ‘I wish we’d have got him’. Well, we’ve got him.

It’s a deal we assumed would never be done but it’s brilliant. This is the kind of player who, once he settles in, I personally think we’ve got a world-class player on our hands.

I’m not being over the top, I’m not being over-excited. I genuinely believe that from what I’ve seen of him. He ticks so many boxes in terms of goals and assists but for me it’s the directness. We miss that.

We miss a player that can take players on one-on-one and beat them. A player who can receive the ball, dribble, turn and run at players. No defenders want to face that. I’m very excited about it.

This is what Wrighty had to say about the new contract for Matteo Guendouzi:

This is what we should have been doing years ago. Now, someone upstairs has actually got their finger on the button, knowing we need to sign players. We signed Matteo last year ago for £8m. People are now in for him for £30m.

That’s the kind of business that we are starting to do. This is why the people upstairs now are starting to get it. We are getting into people before their contracts run down and that is great business. I love what they are doing.

I have renewed sympathy for Arsene Wenger after all the abuse he took in his latter years. The man who should have managed the situation, who failed to recruit a top quality management team around him, who was the one who was far too comfortable on his fat salary and who was happy to let the blame be directed at others…  was Ivan Gazidis.

So today we can celebrate two things. The signing of a world class player for a club record fee and the demonstration that the wrongs of the Gazidis era have finally been put Right Right Right.



Arsenal’s Century Club – Ian Wright – Wright – Wright

May 26, 2019

Nineteen players have achieved the feat of scoring 100 goals for the Club over the past 96 years. The players are sorted by the number of games taken to reach the 100 goal mark. Ian Wright sits at number 2.

Ian Edward Wright, MBE (born 3 November 1963) was born in Woolwich, London.

Wright’s father absconded and left mother his Nesta to raise her family in a one-bedroom house in Brockley, South London. Ian said “That house wasn’t a good place for me, which is probably why I would stay outside kicking a tennis ball against a brick wall for hours on end,” He was bullied by an older step-brother, but it was his step-father’s cruelty which caused him most pain. “One of the few things my brother and I looked forward to in the house was Match of the Day, and my step dad used to take that away from us – just because he could.”

Wrighty as a boy

Wright’s primary school teacher Sydney Pigden taught him to read and write and made him the register and milk monitor. Tony Davis and Harold Palmer, who ran a local football team Ten-Em-Bee used pick him up at his house and drive him directly to training in an effort to keep him focused and out of trouble with the police. However in 1982, at 19 years old, he ended up in Chelmsford Prison for two weeks for non-payment of driving fines.


Despite having had trials at Southend United and Brighton during his teens, he was unable to attract sufficient interest to win a professional contract offer. Reverting to playing for amateur and non-league teams, he was left disillusioned about his chances of a career as a professional footballer.

But he eventually overcame his deprived childhood, his abusive step-father and a spell in prison to become a professional footballer relatively late in life.  A Crystal Palace talent scout, Peter Prentice, happened to see Wright playing for Dulwich Hamlet and invited him to have a trial at Selhurst Park. “It was only a three-month trial but I’d done it: I was able to call myself a professional footballer,” Wright said. “After nearly 11 years of rejection, bullying, prison and all sorts of nonsense, and I had finally gotten my dream.”

Having impressed then-manager Steve Coppell, he signed professional terms for Crystal Palace in August 1985, just three months short of his 22nd birthday. He quickly made his mark in his first season, scoring nine goals to finish as Palace’s second-highest scorer. When Mark Bright arrived on the Palace scene the following year the duo soon established a successful striking partnership and it was largely their goals which took the club to top flight via the playoffs in 1989. Ian was particularly instrumental that season, scoring 24 goals in the Second Division and a grand total of 33 in all competitions.

An ankle injury reduced his initial impact in the First Division. However, after recovering from the injury he made a dramatic appearance as a ‘super-sub’, in the 1990 FA Cup Final against Manchester United. He equalised for Palace a few minutes after coming onto the field forcing extra time, then putting them ahead in extra time. The eventual score was 3–3, but Palace lost the replay 1–0.

With attention-grabbing goals in the league and in the 3-3 FA Cup Final draw against Manchester United in 1990, it was little surprise when Wright gained the attention of bigger clubs. Arsenal paid a club record £2.5 million for the striker in 1991. At the time Arsenal were reigning champions and there were question marks over the necessity of the signing: Alan Smith, Kevin Campbell, Paul Merson and Anders Limpar were already among the clubs’ ranks He scored on his debut against Leicester City in a League Cup tie, and then scored a hat-trick on his League debut against Southampton. He won the Golden Boot in his first season by scoring 29 league goals, five of which were for Palace, and 31 in all competitions. He scored a hat-trick in the final game of the season against Southampton; his third goal being the last ever scored in the old First Division.

He went on to be Arsenal’s top scorer for six seasons in a row. He played a major part in the club’s success during the 1990s, winning an FA Cup and League Cup double in 1993; he scored in both the FA Cup Final and the replay against Sheffield Wednesday. Ian also helped Arsenal reach the 1994 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup Final, although he was suspended for the final in which Arsenal beat Parma 1–0.

The period that followed proved to be a difficult time for both Ian and Arsenal, manager George Graham was dismissed over illegal payments, and under caretaker Stewart Houston they could only manage a 12th place finish in the league. The arrival of Bruce Rioch heralded a bleaker time; the two did not get on and eventually Wright handed in a transfer request, which he later retracted. The arrival of Dennis Bergkamp heralded a brief but fruitful striking partnership, and in their first season playing together they helped Arsenal finish fifth in the league and qualify for the UEFA Cup. They also reached the Coca-Cola Cup semi-finals, where they went out on away goals to eventual winners Aston Villa.

By the time Arsène Wenger had arrived at Arsenal in September 1996, Ian was nearly 33. Despite his age, he continued to score regularly (being the second highest Premier League scorer in 1996–97 with 23 goals), and on 13 September 1997 he broke Cliff Bastin’s Arsenal goal scoring record with a hat-trick against Bolton Wanderers. His final goal at Highbury came on 4 October 1997 against Barnsley and was his 300th career goal for both Crystal Palace and Arsenal. He scored his final goal for Arsenal on 6 January 1998 in a League Cup quarter-final victory against West Ham United.

While he was still a professional footballer at Arsenal, he published his autobiography, Mr Wright. In 1993, he wrote and released a single called “Do The Right Thing”. The song was co-written and produced by Chris Lowe (of Pet Shop Boys) and reached #43 the UK Singles Chart.

Shortly after his retirement from playing in 2000, Ian was awarded the MBE for his services to football.

In total he registered 185 goals for Arsenal; a record that has since been passed only by fellow Hall of Fame and Arsenal legend, Thierry Henry. On 15 July 2008, he finished 4th in ‘50 Greatest Gunners’ listed on the Arsenal website.

Wright went on to play for West Ham, Nottingham Forest, Celtic and finally Burnley (helping them to win promotion) before his retirement in 2000. Since retirement Wright has made a career in punditry and television work.

Clubs: Crystal Palace, Arsenal, West Ham, Nottingham Forest, Burnley
Caps: 33, 9 goals
Honours: 1 Premier League, 2 FA Cups, 1 League Cup, 1 Cup Winners’ Cup

Shortly after his retirement from playing in 2000, Ian was awarded the MBE for his services to football.

click to see expanded

Ian scored his 100th goal for Arsenal against Crystal Palace at Highbury on October 1st, 1994.


Another London Derby. Another Scorpion?

October 28, 2018

Yet another London Derby. Games at Palace are usually exciting events, let’s hope for a winter cracker this lunchtime.


I am always grateful to Crystal Palace for developing the talents of Ian (God 8) Wright. I fondly recall his brace for Palace in the 1990 FA Cup Final against MU. That little chap brought me so much pleasure – thank you GG for signing him.

Thinking of GG, he scored a couple of stunners against Palace (as LBG wrote) but none as good as Giroud’s from 2017.

Which brings us to today. Arsenal are in wonderful form, can it continue? I see no reason why not not. The chaps will be rested (apart from those who played in Lisbon).

So far this season we have seen a constant change of formation and it is almost impossible to predict what is UE’s choice of tactic. How can it be that we play so poorly in the first halves and then improve so radically in the second? Is it really rope-a-dope?

We have to be excited by the quality of the new signings and also the development of our young players. The future looks very bright.

Palace are struggling but have the ability to upset any team at Selhurst Park. In Zaha they have a much-in-demand winger, one we have been linked with over many years. I am not convinced by him, we need consistency and Zaha is a bit too mercurial for me. We have the better rounded and younger Iwobi.

My Team:


Catwalk  Mustafi   TGB    Swiss Chap

Another Swiss Chap      Terrier     Nigerian

Genius German

Laca   PEA

Will Emery play two upfront? He doesn’t usually. SO, given PEA started in Lisbon, it is likely he will be benched for Mhiki and get another brace in his 30 minutes.

Left back remains a problem. AMN (Cons) got a few minutes in the U-23s but to play him against CP’s biggest threat (Zaha) would be risky. Nacho and Wardrobe are still not ready, so we have to play Lichtsteiner or Xhaka. Xhaka is no LB, he looks lost, so another run out for our ageing Swiss full back, a master of the Dark Arts, I love to watch his opponents infuriated by his “Italian “skillset” but hope Nacho is fit enough to play.

Enough of this rambling …

This is not an easy fixture and should we rack up No.12, I will be very, very happy.



Hungry Perez Can Do A Wrighty

September 6, 2016

Cast your mind back to September of 1991. George Graham had just lashed out a club record £2.5 million to sign 28 year old Ian Wright from Crystal Palace.

Here we are in September 2016, and Arsene has just signed 28 year old Lucas Perez (well, he will be 28 in 4 days’ time) for £17 million.

LPPerez has had to work hard to get where he is. Born in Coruña Spain, he travelled Europe with stints in Ukraine and Greece before returning to play for his beloved hometown team, Deportivo. There, he helped his club avoid relegation by way of goals, heart and fight.

While all International breaks are a pain in the arse, the first one hurts especially as after the footballing vacuum of summer, it’s sprung on us after only three games. However, the first one usually gives us the opportunity to review new signings and do some tactics bollocks about new formations shit and how things will pan out as a result.

Sadly, while we’ve seen exceedingly promising performances from Xhaka and Holding, we’ve yet to see Mustafi or Perez. For now, however, Mustafi doesn’t matter because we’re discussing Perez.

Like many, youtubing clips are the sum of my knowledge regarding Perez, and while we know the stats, that was Deportivo in Spain, and this is Arsenal. Here, he plays with Mesut.

At this point I must lob in a cautionary note. During the height of the summer’s transfer fever, I scanned newsnow. “A source” had said we’d bid for Vardy, and also explained one of the reasons he had decided to stay in “over land and sea and Leicester” was that he’d had a conversation with Arsene, and he hadn’t liked what he’d heard about his proposed role at Arsenal. To me this implies either he wouldn’t have been guaranteed first choice striker, or far more worryingly, it’d been suggested he play wide.

I’m hoping Perez had no such conversation, and cannot wait to see him play. Then, next international break, we can do tactics and formation bollocks and talk about the New Wrighty.


Kevin or Joel Campbell?

October 27, 2015

I remember seeing us play Sheffield Wednesday way back in the Days of Yore – so long ago that Arsenal fielded 10 English players!! The only Johnny Foreigner was the great Anders Limpar. We won 7-1 with goals from the Swede, Kevin Campbell, Wrightie, Smudger and The Merse.

That day I was out on the left side of the North bank, near the West stand, uncovered with yards of space around us. Standing up. Yes, we took our lives into our own hands and stood. The attendance that day was a mere 26k. Could we ever see our attendances drop to that level again?

Of course none of that has any relevance to today, except it would be great if another Campbell scored tonight.

Just a thought …. how brilliantly would Ian Wright fit into our current first 11?

So who gets a run this evening? Cech has to start as Ospina is unfit, Chambers, plus a few other fellows.

Perhaps like this:


Debuchy    BFG    Chambers     Gibbs

Flamini    Ox    Bielik

Iwobi    Walcott  Campbell

Front line is unbalanced as is the midfield and in this team it would require the Ox to take a more influential midfield role than he has played so far. The bench can be filled with first 11 players.

Why not Ozil etc? Because we should prioritise the PL. Injuries have started to hit deep in midfield, a couple more and we will be banjaxed, so why risk it? 

I guess we will know from the starting line-up how much Mr Wenger wants to win this game and how much he is making the C1C his priority. It is a cup he has yet to win.

SW beat Newcastle in the last round so are clearly no mugs.

It is many years since we played SW in the Cups and I have just remembered the games at Wembley when we played SW three times to win the Cup double. I went to all three and evidence of how dull they were is that I can only remember the Morrow/TA incident! I am hoping for more entertainment tonight.

A week ago we beat the world’s best team, tonight we play lesser opposition. AW talked of the “perfect week”, why not make it a “perfect fortnight”?


Arsenal’s Greatest Premier League Team

November 20, 2014

Seaman – no question, surely?


Cole – vile human being who never seemed to ever have a bad game for Arsenal.


Campbell – immense in every sense of the word.

Gallas – couldn’t decide between Adams or Koscielny, so went for Gallas. J

Lauren – Dicko and Bacary in his prime were in with a shout but Ralphie wins because he was photogenic and did this.



Ljungberg – for his virtually goal a game run-in to the 2001/2 season. Stepped up when Bobby got injured.

Vieira – You just knew from the moment you saw him he was going to be an Arsenal great.

Fabregas – I can barely type his name without chundering but oozed class from every pore when wearing red and white (well for most of the time, anyway).

Pires – took a season to settle but once lift-off was achieved – Wow. Loved playing and scoring against the spuds. What more can an Arsenal fan want?!

Wright – imagine how many goals Wrighty could have scored if he’d been playing in the Arsenal team of 2001 – 2004?

Bergkamp – grace and elegance personified but with a devilish streak which made him a winner.



What do you think?