Stand Up if you hate Mark Hughes

December 4, 2010

Two certainties this afternoon. Firstly, that Sparky will be telling his midfield to “let them know you’re there” and secondly, that Mark Schwarzer will have an outstanding game. In my opinion, it is upon these two personalities the game will hinge.

Hughes is man under pressure, having seen his team fall to one point above the relegation zone. However they are the draw Kings of the PL having won none of their away fixtures but drawing 5 out of 7.  In fact Fulham have only won twice this season and I remain sure they will not add that that tally today. Fulham have a nasty injury list, longer than ours (for once) and Bobby Zamora’s broken leg has seriously blunted their attacking threat.

This being a purely personal pre-match and not representing the ethos of the site, I can give vent to my dislike of Mark Hughes. He was a spiteful, dirty player who specialised in kicking the ankle tendons of the opposition and feigning innocence when challenged. He was all I hate in Man Utd (and then Barca where he sank ignominiously). A quiet assassin whose pretence of being a fair and honest player was pure sham. Then into management and  you will not be surprised to learn that his Blackburn team finished bottom of the Fairplay league the 4 seasons he stayed. Upon moving to Man City he proceeded to freely spend the Arab money – €25m for the totally erratic and troublesome Adebayor was great business for us, and the €32m he wasted on Robinho was another example of his poor purchases. At the same time he bought Ben-Haim, Kompany, De Jong, Bellamy and Barry to make sure the team had a violent edge to it. He had 2 wins from 11 before being sacked and has continued his good form with Fulham who have now won 2 out of 15. The man gets paid millions for results like that –  he must have the best interview technique and agent!!

And then there is Schwarzer. Hughes has openly stated that Mr.Wenger was trying to sign him right up to the point Schwarzer signed his contract this week. I do not blame Hughes for wanting to hold onto his player, and it is to the Aussies credit that he was not bitter about being held back from achieving his ambition to play CL football. What I don’t like is the glee with which Hughes thwarted both AW and his goalkeeper, it was the actions of a small, petty man.

Which brings us onto his spat with our beloved Captain. Hughes took umbrage at Cesc’s assertions that Blackburn’s football ethos had nothing whatsoever to do with what Sparky learned at Barca. Then he went public – not something that did him any good at all, after all everyone who saw the game had to agree with Cesc. Hughes demanded respect from Cesc who apologised (under pressure from AW), but if Hughes wants respect then he has to earn it – fans, players, and managers respect people who adhere to the traditions and artistry of the game, not a man who sends out teams with instructions to kick the lunch out of the opposition (apart from a few notable exceptions Fat Sam, Pulis etc)

Enough of my rant ….. onto the Arsenal.

Can we continue to scrape wins or will Fulham get the draw they will come for? If Fulham score first (and with our leaky defence it is a reasonable assumption), we could be in for a long, frustrating afternoon. But our midfield sans Cesc looked great at Villa and with AA and Chamakh on form, we have lots of firepower.

My team:

Bench. Chesney, JD, Gibbs, RvP, Theo, Denilson, NB

I see this game being a classic attack v defence, with many Arsenal attacks floundering on the head and feet of Hangelaand and Aaron Hughes, and Schwarzer desperate to show us what we missed. But we are on the verge of something special with this Arsenal team. Fewer and fewer people believe me but a poor half against S***s doesn’t preclude us from winning the League, and as we have already seen all the top sides have lost points to inferior opposition – let us hope today is not another example.


p.s. Sorry about the rant 😉

Exploited gooners – the final fanshare straw? – written by charybdis1966

August 20, 2010

Written by charybdis1966

As the transfer window nears its end and we all sit and fret about who will be sauntering through the “in” door to supplement our rapidly diminishing squad are we unique in thinking we suffer especially during this time of the year?
Our transfers seem to be such protracted and painful transactions compared to other clubs, or so it seems to your humble scribe, as well as a significant proportion of the Gooner fan base at large.

Maybe it just seems this way because we cannot be objective when we look at our own transfers however the deciding factor in a majority of our transfers appears to be a relatively minor percentage of the transfer fee, as seems to be the case currently with Schwarzer. Of course a number of us will, and perhaps rightly so, say that we will never know the detail of the negotiations, yet it appears to have been the case so often in the past and continues to be so however our intransigence could well end up being self defeating if the gaping holes in our squad are not addressed.

Putting the idiosyncrasies of this case aside it’s palpably obvious that our buying policy has been to get what we want as cheap as possible to the detriment of assimilating new squad members into the squad in a timely fashion or when they are most needed. There’ll be few detractors to the argument that had we acquired Chamakh in January this year we would not have resorted to the lunacy of playing our Meerkat up front, largely on his own.

Hindsight is of course priceless, yet we can only wonder what would have happened to our final league position if our goals hadn’t dried up in the last third of the season if our new forward had arrived earlier.

The inconsistency of our valuation of players viz-a-viz our transfer policy is demonstrated by our sale of Toure/Greedybayor and our current attempt to buy Schwarzer – we overvalue as sellers and undervalue as buyers.

This seems to be prima facie evidence of the correct approach in a buyers/sellers market however if you continue to do this other players in the market, in this case other football clubs with players to buy and sell, will look upon us as skin flints and not just as tough negotiators but ones to be avoided in future.

It can be argued that during the period of financial frugality that has just finished, according to the “We are no long hampered in our spending” messages that come from the club and our manager, it was necessary to adopt this approach but does there seem to be any change this time round?

We were told we would buy early or very later, but how clever is the buying late strategy? What happens is the rest of the selling clubs know we are desperate for replacements in key positions, goal keeper, centre backs and possibly (thanks to our umpteenth injury) back-up defensive midfielder and therefore we can be held to ransom. Also the selling club won’t have time to get a replacement for a squad member who will normally not be surplus to requirements, unless he is part of the Middle Eastland’s exodus or the Real Madrid fire sale of last season’s now out of fashion galacticos, as the Specious one seeks to rebuild the team in his own glorious image.

So the belief arises amongst the disenchanted gooners that we scrimp and quibble about our buying prices and hold out for higher fees when we sell to the detriment of the squad’s integrity and ability to compete meaningfully.

These same fans feel further alienated by the fact that our ticket prices are amongst the highest in the Premier League but very little of that seems to go into investment in the on-field side of the club’s activities and I have to admit to feeling some sympathy to that view.

There is a perception that the club will use every avenue to exploit their fans loyalty by schemes such as having a plaque on a chair or on a paving slab outside the Armoury – fleecing the fans is what I’d call it. Does every club do this? Yes, to an extent but that doesn’t mean the Club can expect the fan base to continually dig deeper into their pockets and proceed with an unseemly haste to pay off the stadium debt early. I don’t propose to delve into the financial ramifications of the Highbury Square development, the “Mortgage” taken out for the stadium and all the other factors that have combined to give the impression to me that reducing and ultimately eliminating debt from our balance sheet is being given a higher priority than it should.

Why should this be the case? Perhaps because a company free of debt is going to be attractive to an investor and a club like Arsenal will, because of its fan base, in the short to medium term have healthy “revenue streams” as Gazidis is so keen to remind us. So are we being fattened up as a club like a turkey for Christmas for a wealthy investor to acquire and gain a return from? In the case of the Manks the Glazers method of gaining such a return was to put new debt on the club to fund their other investments(while drawing exorbitant remuneration for little in the way of executive duties, allegedly) while the ‘dippers Septic owners are holding out for a substantial profit from a new owner before they sell.

And who will have helped our club become so attractive for a predatory takeover?

Well you, the fans.

While Gazidis has no doubt achieved a number of positive things for the club he brings the Septics unique marketing know-how on how to exploit a brand and so his hand is no doubt behind the plaque on seats, named paving slabs and now the fan share idea. While it can be argued that all clubs offer similar services for me this is another attempt to extract more cash from a fan base with the not only the factually correct promise of “owning part of the club” you support, but the false claim that you can have an influence. In any commercial situation minority shareholders are pretty much ignored so someone who owns 1/100th of an ordinary share, as the Arsenal fanshare offers, will have an infinitesimal ability to make any difference to what the Kroenke’s, the Usmanovs or the Bracewell Smiths of the Arsenal world want to do with the club.

This is where the normal rules of business can’t apply – if this were a commercial situation we would have walked away from Arsenal a long time ago as they simply have not (in my humble opinion) given us value for money. However there is a unique “Brand loyalty” which ties all of us football fans, glory hunters aside, to our chosen team and it’s this important factor that has allowed Arsenal to become the cash rich, take-over friendly footballing beast that it now is.
While Club level and the Diamond club give healthy match day returns all will be rosy for the much sought after “Income streams” but continued failure on the pitch could mean the successful business types who populate them will no longer want to be associated with a team that consistently fails to produce success, and by “success” read “trophies.”

This transfer window was supposed to be different in terms of our ability to buy the necessary quality, and maybe convince our home sick, though honourable, captain that our manager is serious in his ambition for the club. The wider implications are that this could mean disillusionment amongst wider sections of the fan base may accelerate.

And while there remains eleven more days for this “ambition” to be demonstrated to me sufficiently for me to invest in the match day experience the signs are not encouraging.

I’ll always be a gooner but the economic reality we live in now means that failure in the transfer window this time will relegate me back to the ranks of the armchair fan as I can no longer justify the cost of the match day experience.

Could we be a stronger team if Cesc leaves?

June 14, 2010

Following Raddy’s article yesterday exposing the press reporting of ‘Arsenal’s behind the scenes dealing’ for the fanciful unsubstantiated speculation it undoubtedly is, I thought I’d be obtuse and join in with the speculation by putting myself in the shoes of a supporter who is prepared to believe some of the stronger rumours that are circulating.

Just for those who may read the headline but not the article, I am not suggesting that we would be stronger BECAUSE Cesc goes to Barca, just looking for the positives IF he does.

Here are some of the mooted changes in personnel at the start of next season if our worst fears are confirmed and Cesc leaves. FC Lorient and Fulham have both confirmed that Arsenal have made an enquiry about their players whereas the Joe Cole story is just a rumour that many are prepared to believe.

Out: Cesc, Gallas, Sol, Silvestre, Merida, Almunia (maybe not sold)

In: Chamakh (already signed), Koscielny, Schwarzer, Joe Cole

Would the balance of those changes make us a stronger team next season?

Starting from the back; even after conceding 4 goals last night, I think Schwarzer is better than Almunia. He’s not top top class but he would give Szczesny the couple of years he needs to grow into our first choice keeper. I’d send Fabianski out on loan to try to rebuild his confidence and keep Szczesny as our number two, maybe giving him the occassional start in the side.

Koscielny is an odd one. I don’t know that much about the player. Arsène is obviously very keen on him, so I suspect he will turn into a gem in the mould of Vermaelen and hopefully bed into the side as quickly. I think he could be better for us than Gallas in terms of motivation, freedom from injuries and aerial power in defence although he lacks experience. A lot rests on the continued fitness of Djourou as it is certain that one, or both of our CB’s will be lost to injury at some stage so we may have to rely on Song to fill in at the back at some stage.

A defensive midfielder to cover for Song is the player I feel we really need but will not acquire, so I hope that Eastmond gets a few first team games as he seems to be the player coming through who is best suited to the role.

OK, Joe Cole is not as good as Cesc, but he’s a clever player who is direct and creates chances for others. He can score goals and play anywhere across the midfield. He has a battling temperament and will give his all for the team. Cole would also allow us to rest Arshavin who I believe was playing with injuries for a lot of last season and struggled to come to terms with the physical demands of  the premiership. The arrival of Chamakh should mean that AA is never called upon again to play the lone striker role.

I fear we have relied too much on Cesc. He has been the focus of our play and this has created scenarios similar to Henry’s last season where players in possession of the ball were clearly looking for Cesc rather than making the quick pass to another available player.

Chamakh will give us a much greater physical presence up front.  He is strong, tall and he can head the ball. The only thing that worries me a little is whether he will be able to build a partnership with RvP (not that we will play 4:4:2), but he is a great link-up player and will be able to play wengerball.

With these changes, the spine of the team should be stronger – certainly at the top and the bottom. The loss of Cesc’s genius would be replaced by a potent attacking force in the final third with the inclusion of Chamakh and Cole. We should not forget Ramsey who I believe will become a fantastic player in our midfield. Diaby should show us more of the attacking brilliance that we witnessed in a run of games last season.  I expect Theo and Nasri to demonstrate their ambition by reacting positively to the disappointment of being left out of the world cup and put in meatier performances next season.

Obviously we will be a far stronger team if Cesc stays and we also add to the squad, but who can be sure that will happen? Consider what the acquisition of Koscielny, Cole and Schwarzer would bring to the team if Cesc leaves. I would expect either TV or RvP to be appointed captain and we would be addressing some of the areas of frailty in the current side.