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Looking Through The Transfer Window

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According to the BBC, close to £1 billion was spent on player acquisition in the just closed transfer window, a new record, up 4% on last year at £870 million.  Factor in new salaries and the £1 billion figure may prove a tad conservative, all in. 

Some of these players come from other Premier League clubs but a huge number came from abroad. It’s hard to get accurate numbers but something approaching 160 players joined PL clubs and close to a staggering 300 were moved on, being sold, loaned or otherwise released. Getting a handle on exactly how many have joined and left, and how much money has been spent or accrued from sales, is a tricky business as ‘sources’ all suggest slightly different numbers depending upon which flavour you choose to consult. All the numbers in this article should therefore be treated with some caution and are offered up only as rough guides.

Whilst wholesale squad upgrades might be expected from newly promoted sides and last season’s strugglers (looking at you, Sunderland), the sight of Chelsea moving on around 34 players and Liverpool shifting 22 is something of a surprise. 

Man U have parted with around 14 but arguably with the greatest single collection of well known names saying farewell (Di Maria, Cleverly, Nani, RvP, Evans, Januzaj, Hernandez), their departure board is ostensibly the more shocking.  It’s been reported that to the man, the Manc side that so memorably lost 4-0 at Milton Keynes has now all been shipped out with the exception of De Gea whose registration remains at Man U after this year’s window only thanks, we are led to believe, to Windows ’95 and a corrupt file.  First time for everything, so they say. 

Eighteen are out of Spurs, mostly sold and 4 on loan, according to the Daily Mirror, at least. Watford brought in around 16 players, Villa 13. A bigger surprise here is how few Newcastle – described by some as a ‘zombie’ club – have brought in, around 5 new players.  Most clubs appear to have brought in between 6 and 10 players with Everton and Palace bringing in 6 and 5 respectively.

All well and good, the sheer volume of players – as expertly demonstrated by both Spurs and Liverpool in recent times – is no guarantee of quality.  But aside from the headline numbers, in many ways this has been a remarkable summer of transfers – and non-transfers.

At one time this summer, Man United were ‘associated’ with pretty much every player capable of lacing a pair of boots, both in the EPL and further afield.  That they ended up with just seven new players was more by accident than design and de farce of De Gea’s ‘transfer’ left them with more than egg on their faces. Whilst failing to reluctantly sell their best player from last season, they plunged in with a highly speculative £57.5 million (according to Monaco) splurge on a 19 year old with zero Premier League experience and few goals anywhere. The two biggest elephants in the red half of Manchester squat firmly on questions surrounding the manager:

Why can’t LvG can’t get on with anyone and why do so few players want to move to Man U?  

I just can’t work it out at all.  At the time of writing there are no accurate estimates available for the numbers of players in or out of the club that LvG has not, so far, fallen out with. 

That Angel di Maria features in the list of the vanquished is surely the single most telling factor in assessing LvG’s man-management performance to date with rumours of player tears at tea-time by no means uncommon.  And LvG appears to have left himself short at the front having retained from the old guard only Rooney and a strikingly rebranded Fellaini to perform the scoring honours; given the disastrous goal-keeping situation, this seems a little careless and it means much must ride on the immediate success of young Mr Martial as well as the hope that De Gea can be simultaneously rehabilitated for his final season in the North.

But Man u are by no means alone, at least when it comes to player retention.  

Brendan has now jettisoned something like half the players he (or his ‘committee’) has signed since he joined Liverpool a mere three years ago.  This season alone 15 have gone on loan and 7 sold. Players on loan are not necessarily a negative but in the context of The ‘Suarez Money’ which, like the ‘Bale Money’ before it, is largely a distant fiscal memory, one has to wonder about Rodgers’ ability to target the players the club actually needs.  And the trend, nay stampede, of departing players making their escape from Merseyside is hardly a source of celebration for anyone connected with the club. Yes, Arsenal have player turnover but the big difference lies in the significantly larger amount of cash spent on ‘duds’ by Liverpool in the process.

Chelsea have shipped out a staggering 26 players on loan (Daily Mirror) leaving one to wonder why would anyone bother to sign for Chelsea?

The defending champions have had an appalling start to the season both on and off the pitch and one wonders how much time and energy they must waste dealing with players they don’t really want. Is it simply Jose’s appalling nature that means they require a gigantic pool of players for him to dip in and out of depending on who or what he is blaming for any given setback at any one time.

So who DID have a good window? Man City have done themselves little harm in restricting themselves to around 7 new players but they have spent over £150 million, including daft sums on Sterling (£49 million) and Kevin De Bryne (£51 million). And these are in positions they arguably, and especially in De Bruyne’s case, did not need to fill. Only ten players left the club but Nasri will get his own name plate added to the bench …

And what of Arsenal who have sold six and loaned or released about eleven. It’s still a fair number, but it’s offset by the singular, towering figure of Petr Cech’s arrival in goal.  The release of the news of Welbeck’s surgery mere hours after the closure of the window emphasises still further how few viable strikers there appear to be available to buy, and it puts United and City’s excessive expenditures in this area into some kind of perspective.  

The point at which demand becomes desperation is moot but few would be surprised at Arsenal’s reticence to join in and, in any case, as the John Stones example (not to mention, supposedly, Karim Benzema’s) clearly demonstrates, sometimes it’s not all about the money. Add in complicating factors such as diminished sell-on values for the more elderly buying opportunities (Cavani) and the fog starts to clear a little when it comes to understanding Arsenal’s absence of action at this end of the pitch.

Swansea have added Andrew Ayew at no cost, without doubt, one of the buys of the summer. Pedro and Begovic are the stand out buys for Chelsea and silly money was not required to acquire either. For Liverpool only Nathaniel Clyne really stands out although there are great hopes resting on the shoulders of Benteke and they will have Sturridge to one day return. James Milner, on a free but presumably with hefty wages was also a decent addition and Gomiz has made a promising start to the season.

Although they bought no-one of great note, Everton seem to have missed a trick in retaining the much sought after John Stones. One admires their principles and determination to hang on to the lad but at what cost?

And it is surely a sign of the monied times that Stoke have managed to bring in players from Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Chelsea and even Liverpool.  Get that lot performing and they may spring a surprise or two. Who knows, they may even develop a more palatable style of football, unlikely as that presently seems.

So exactly what can be surmised from this summer’s wheelings and dealings? 

For me, the stand out factor was the scarcity of genuine ‘star’ names signed, given the huge sums spent.  Yes, plenty of names we know and a few we with whom we will become re-acquainted.

Pedro, Cech and an ageing Schweinsteiger seem to be the exceptions that prove some kind of rule.

Few of us are sufficiently familiar with all the new players joining the league so the jury remains out but, I think, it is safe to assume an overall increase in the playing standard of the league.  If there were no easy games last season and last season every game seemed to be ‘must win’ then it’s going to be at least 4% harder this year.

Given that all this may come to pass, Arsenal’s solitary signing of Cech may yet prove to be one of the most significant. He joins Kos, Per, Monreal, Bellerin, and Gabriel in forming what may yet prove to be the meanest defence in the league and certainly our best since the Tony Adams’ era.

The value of conceding ever fewer numbers of goals rises exponentially in a league where the ability of most teams to score more has become a reality. That we have lost Welbeck until Xmas becomes more problematical in the event of injury to Giroud, Theo. Alexis or Campbell.  It’s not ideal but it is what it is.

The remaining strikers and the uber attacking nature of our midfield is such that our success in securing Cech may yet outweigh our inability to supplement and strengthen our forward line.

Time will, of course, tell.

124 Comments

Arsenal Fail To Spend

It appears the transfer window is going to close with Arsenal making just the one signing, that of Petr Cech.

The disappointment of the majority of fans is clear. They wanted more.

They see what they think are weaknesses and can’t understand why these weaknesses have not be addressed. Which is fair enough really because every fan wants to see the team getting stronger and more competitive. Every fan, all of us. To dismiss this feeling of being let down is stupidity. It exists and as such it can’t be ignored.

I read things like this all the time:

You are not telling me with £70 million we can’t buy someone better than Flamini.”

Well actually no one is telling them that – because we could.

Then you get:

If you can’t get world class, you strengthen the squad.”

Now this is when it gets tricky, because this is logic that is undeniable.

It’s a fact that if you replace any player in the squad with a better player, then the chances of winning are increased. The only possible argument against this is that squad harmony could be upset and the famous “cohesion” might be weakened. But that’s a very flimsy argument to say the least. So why not give ourselves the best possible chance of winning?

It’s simple right?

Unfortunately, it’s anything but simple. It never is.

Let’s run with the £70 million figure that seems to be doing the rounds.

If we had used that to buy – let’s say Benzema – that might have given us a 25% (ok, I know I’m pulling figures out of thin air, but bear with me) better chance of winning the league. That’s decent value and money that might be well spent. However, we couldn’t get him. Or Lewandowski or Cavani or Aguero. In fact no one who would increase the chances of winning by that sort of margin.

So let’s say instead we bought Schneiderlin, he is better than Flamini.

Right?

But he is not a DM and so would he be better than Coquelin?

So would he play? Yes he would have been cover, but he might have increased our chances of winning by 1% or 2%. So the outlay must be compared to how much of a better chance it gives us.

Whether we like it or not, football is a business and has to adhere to the basic rules of business and ‘value for money’ is one of those rules.

Someone, be that Arsene, Stan, Ivan or anyone, has to decide how the money is best used.

With transfer inflation it might just be that we can only buy one world class player every other year.

The only thing I know for sure is that I don’t know all the facts and so I can’t really draw any worthwhle conclusions as to why we have not spent more in this particular window.

It looks like we were willing to, but couldn’t find the player or players that would meaningfully increase our chances.

We march on as we are.

100 Comments

“People Want Success. It’s Like Coffee, They Want Instant” *

My fellow Positivitas, another Sunday has rolled round and with our fourth game of the PL season, has settled. I think we are all now a little more confident and able to raise our eyes to look forward and upward.

The game yesterday was predictable in form.

We dominated possession, pushed the home side back throughout the 90 minutes and rendered them impotent (in any genuine football sense), and earned our expected three points. All Toon had to offer was stout defence, which was to their credit, and mindlessly stupid attempts to boot their way back into the game, normally through Coquelin’s shins, which was not. At one point it appeared the Toon players had lost their collective minds as Marriner had to pull out card after card. Had they found themselves down to nine men, or less, then they would have had only themselves to blame.

“Professional” footballers? Don’t make me laugh.

Some comment has been made concerning the sending off and that it had a significant influence on the outcome of the game. I don’t think so. We had dominated the game before the Serbian got his marching orders. We dominated the game exactly the same afterwards. Newcastle were pinned like a butterfly on a mounting board before the 16th minute, they remained pinned to the 93rd minute. I would agree that there are some games when a sending-off can be pivotal, just not yesterday.

Credit to young Francis. I suspect he was targeted by McLaren on the basis that, as a young player, he would lose his head and retaliate. He kept a commendably cool demeanour and let Marriner do his job. I say that maturity and good sense is another indicator of how far, and how fast, the young Frenchman has developed since his return from Charlton.

As for what I thought we did well yesterday I was hugely impressed by the work of both full backs. Defensively they had almost nothing to do but both worked tirelessly to support the attack, to offer an outside option around the Barcodes’ banks of four, and Hector was unlucky to miss out on the penalty that his excellent touch had caused. Both Nacho and Hector used the ball sensibly, passed carefully. A pleasure to watch. Against the lesser sides the attacking contribution of our full backs can be crucial. I would like to see both taking a few pot shots as well.

Good performances from Santi and Aaron, Gabriel sharp and ready to go as a starter, if required.

Less well?

I hardly need to point of the finishing, with Theo and eventually Olly not converting chances that on another day would have given us a far more comfortable afternoon. To be fair to both, only one was a wild miss, with Krul making two good saves for the others. Our lack of quality finishing concerns me, it concerns Wenger, I have no bloody doubt it concerns Theo and Giroud. Hard work needed in training and Danny back after the International break offers the answer, I suspect.

What the opposition did well?

Colloccini is such a good centre back I wonder what he has done wrong to have had to play for Newcastle for the past seven years, especially when you see some of the talentless donkeys signed by CL clubs in England, Spain, Italy and Germany in the years since 2008 (Yes Pepe I am referring to you among others). Coloccini was a rock yesterday in the air and on the ground. Excruciating that the Argentine was the one that deflected in Ox’s shot for the winner yesterday.

I salute you Fabricio as a worthy opponent.

On the “looking upwards” vibe we have slipped into fifth in the table on the strength of probably playing about 85-90% of our potential. Citeh remain the team to beat. Interesting next round of PL games though. We have Stoke at the Ems, assuming they still have 11 players eligible to play.

Elsewhere Manyoo at home to Liverpool, Chelsea at Goodison and most intriguing Citeh travel to Selhurst Park. Both Mancs side face tricky games, and if Chelsea are going to revive, then they face a battle against Everton and a pissed off Martinez after their behaviour with Stones.

Small steps in a long campaign.

Enjoy Sunday!!

*Sir Bobby Robson (as if you didn’t know ) 18 February 1933 – 31 July 2009

107 Comments

Arsenal Versus Newcastle: The Narrow Road to the Deep North East

Have You Ever Seen A Sadder Looking Dog?

Where do I begin? We’re three games into a spluttering start to a season which promises much but has yet to deliver. We’ve lost one on a bewildering afternoon which felt like watching a match after inadvertently switching the Splenda for a tab of acid, nothing quite made sense. We’ve won one in a gruelling fashion which should have been much easier and experienced a draw that felt more like a defeat. It’s been a funny old time.

Perhaps that’s why so many people obsessed over the draw for the European Cup. Anything to take their thoughts away from a difficult few weeks. I didn’t pay any attention to such nonsense for a couple of reasons. Mainly because I felt so low after we were effectively robbed of the points on Monday night that I wanted nothing to do with football for a few days. The other reason was that the announcement of the teams in our group is meaningless. It isn’t a match. Nothing is decided. It just provides an excuse for utterly pointless conjecture as to the outcome of games yet to be played, some of which are still a very long way off. No one to my knowledge has ever predicted the outcome of our matches in the group stage with any accuracy and so the thought of joining such foolishness and speculation left me completely cold.

Then Friday rolled up and I suddenly realised we had a game the next day. And that of course means that a blog hungry public will be wiping the sleep from its eyes and rushing to Positively Arsenal for some words of wisdom. I needed to get an early night, wake up fresh and full of exciting insights into the team and its visit to the North East.

And so here I am. Coffee and muesli despatched with my customary aplomb and this blank page in front of me. The problem of the pre match blog so early in the season is there is so little one can say about either team. As Shotta pointed out in his excellent post the stats suggest that we will come good, we’re making far too many chances not to and we have the personnel who know how to stick ’em away. But that is a fruit which will ripen only in the fullness of time. Right now we’re not in any kind of rhythm when it comes to converting the many chances created. Likewise our opponents today are only three games in and have also posted indifferent results. We know from their recent encounter with Man U that they are capable of some resolute if occasionally last ditch defending we also know they’ve only scored two in three and that has cost them. But then I could say pretty much the same about us. It’s all too unpredictable right now and as you know I’ve never been much of a one for tea leaf gazing parapsychology.

We were quite clearly unsettled by the suddenly thrown together defence on Monday but I was more interested with how the unit grew into the game and put their panicky start behind them. Gabriel especially looked the part by the time the second half got under way and I am confident they will be better today regardless of who starts. Players put each other under pressure with poor passes in and around the area but they did so while trying to do the right thing and that is key. Piss poor play because you don’t know better is a big worry, a hapless execution of an otherwise sound plan is far less of a concern because it is unlikely to be repeated. One glimmer of encouragement was Cech’s performance. He made a couple of decent saves and I hope he has his mojo back because a strong confident keeper is so important when your defence is pulled apart by injuries.

Inspired by Shotta’s effort I thought I would try to do a bit of research for you today. I went to Steve Maclaran’s post match interview following Newcastle’s previous home game and attempted to listen to it. First of all I have to say it came as something of a surprise as I didn’t realise he was the manager at St James’ Park, I thought it was one of Alan Pardew’s coaching staff who’s name temporarily escapes me. Not wishing to appear ignorant I was hoping the manager’s comments would offer an insight into the way his team play and I could base some sort of hashed together pseudo analysis upon this but quite frankly it was like listening to Michael Owen delivering a eulogy. I drifted off fairly early on and apart from him saying something about several of his players having no legs after sixty minutes nothing really went home. An inspirational team talker I suspect he is not. However I have to say if the legs thing is true then we ought to be in with a bit of a chance of a few late goals. I may be no tactical expert but I am pretty certain that an ambulant opposition would be considerably harder to circumvent.

Ensuring that Newcastle don’t resort to the tried and tested practice of attempting to remove the legs of any Arsenal players will be the job of that cheeky scamp Andre Marriner. Now, I may not be any good at predicting the line up nor the result, and frankly my dear I don’t give two hoots for attempting to do either but there are still some certainties in life. The BT Sports commentary will be so woeful that I will turn it off after about eight minutes, switch to the Arsenal Player commentary, turn that off after they’ve read the eleventh email from a disgruntled fan demanding we sign a new defensive midfielder and go into the other room to watch the match on a Russian Sopcast stream. The other fact we can know in advance without fear of contradiction is that Andre Marriner will make some astonishingly bad decisions but unlike many other refs won’t be overly biased against Arsenal just generally incompetent. Although Andrew Crawshaw at Untold Arsenal suggests that Marriner’s real blind spot comes when Arsenal players are fouled in the penalty area. The best advice is to stay on your feet and keep going no matter how blatant the offence because we won’t get the spot kick anyway. To that end I think Theo should play because he’s like one of those slinky spring things that rolls right over, bounces back up and keeps on going whereas Olly being larger and heavier on his toes is more likely to go down like a felled redwood. That’s as close to a PA writer making team suggestions as you will ever get so make the most of it.

Along with team and tactical predictions the other thing I never usually insult you with is suggesting that the three points is all that matters. This trite and tired observation so beloved of just about every other blog is the one thing guaranteed to get my goat. The game is about entertainment and while Monday night’s result may have left us all down in the dumps there was some wonderful football played and I spent the night on the edge of my seat, which is surely what entertainment is all about. I am about to use the word ‘however’. Prepare yourselves. However I have come to the tentative conclusion that maybe we need to just win a few games, get some points in the bag no matter how, if for no other reason than to settle the players down and get them back into their groove. Today and for the next couple of matches maybe the win is more important than the performance. Perhaps, just perhaps those slick performances will start to flow if the side aren’t playing catch up because of points dropped in the previous match. Who knows? Stranger things have happened. Anyway, whatever the line up, whatever the result my faith in the squad, manager and his staff will remain unshaken and I will look forward to each game with the same excitement as I did the last, after all what is the alternative? Wallow in the mire of despair? Yell at the kids? Kick the dog? Go on Twitter and abuse Monsieur Wenger? I don’t think so. I’m a supporter, I think I’ll just support.

 

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Countering The White Flag Brigade at The Arsenal

After the disappointment of not winning at home vs Liverpool, there was the expected emotional reaction by many pundits and fans who have concluded after the first three games of the season that Arsenal cannot contend for the title.

1-Win, 1-Draw and 1-Loss and we are already out of the runnings.

In this rush to judgment various justifications are offered. The most popular thesis is we lack a world class striker, ergo we shall fail to score goals. To back up this argument there is a virtual panic over our goal-scoring so far. I will admit that after three games the figures (compliments of Squawka) are ugly:

TO DATE
Total Goals Scored 2
Avg Goals Per Game 0.66
Total Chances Created 49
Shot Accuracy 44%

The implication, by those already running up the white flag of surrender, is at the current rate Arsenal will end the season with only 39 goals and a shot accuracy that will barely surpass Aston Villa’s infamous strike rate of 44% in the 2014-15 season.

Obviously these pessimistic projections are nonsensical and unrealistic for a team of Arsenal’s quality, unless you are a blatant fear-monger. Whilst not every pundit or blogger goes to these extremes, on a repetitive and consistent basis, the fear is being sown that we do not have the strikers to score enough goals to win games. As would be expected, hopefully by readers of this blog, the record speaks a totally different story.

Just take the past three years, which by the way, concurs with Giroud’s arrival at the club and assumption of the role of main striker.

2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 AVG
Total Goals Scored 72 68 71 70
Avg Goals Per Game 1.89 1.79 1.87 1.85
Total Chances Created 461 404 470 445
Shot Accuracy 48% 54% 52% 51%

The figures demonstrate that based on Total Chances Created we are consistently a 70 goal per season team. Furthermore with our non-world class strike force we have a team which will consistently score from 16% of chances created.

Yet there is very little attention in the press, and obviously none can be expected from the fear mongers, to the fact that so far this season Arsenal is creating chances at the rate of knots.  For the season-to-date we are creating 16 chances per game which, if the rate is maintained, will total 620 for the season. If we sustain our 3-year average conversion rate then we should score 99 goals for the season. Rosy projections obviously but the figures suggest we should exceed Total Goals Scored if we sustain our average. Any professional forecaster would probably plump for a figure somewhere in the middle and project 84 goals for the season.

Arsene Wenger is obviously not in panic mode.  In his pre-Newcastle presser he made the following observation:

“Maybe we are not firing on all cylinders at the moment. By definition, the finishing is a little bit cyclical and it goes in cycles. Finishing qualities come and go and you do not always know why, but certainly at the moment we want it so much at home that we’re trying to force it a little bit.

Somebody needs to remind the White Flag Brigade it is still August. The race has just started and far from decided. We are 8th in the tables, ahead of the defending champions by goal difference. The team is creating chances at a mega rate. History guarantees that as sure as night follows day the goals will come. Roll on Newcastle.

Postscript: Almost a full hour after I signed off on this blog and submitted it for publishing, a story appeared online by Jeremy Wilson of The Telegraph here which was directly sourced from the club and not made on background under the cloak of anonymity, where Wenger made it clear he is concerned about the speculative attacks on the club which are not fact based.

The only thing I want is that when people have opinions, it is documented and worked out before … especially when it is football specialists.”

Without trying to ride on Wenger’s coat-tails, I must admit some satisfaction that Positively Arsenal is one of a few blogs that has been trying to use publicly available data to counter some of the damaging, baseless propaganda that is put in the public sphere not only by the club’s adversaries (PL rivals, greedy-agents, self-serving journalists, etc) but by its own (ex-players turned pundit, Arsenal bloggers and podcasters). Given the easy access to the internet, it only takes a few minutes of research to unearth tons of information proving that Gary Neville, Thierry Henry, Jaime Carragher and company are often talking a load of bollocks and simply giving comfort to the malcontents (George) and those suffering from dysphoria (Andrew Nicoll). We have said it often, on this and another blog which many of us once frequented, that this mindless negativity affects the team, especially in our own stadium. Now we have confirmation by the boss:

“What is a concern is that it puts pressure on players. I love that they [former players] go on television, but what I would like is for them to help people to love football even more. The first mission is to educate people. That is fantastic because the guy can explain things that the guy who has not played at the top level can understand and to get people to really love the game. Some do it very well. The other way I don’t like so much.”

I think he has given us more than enough reason to do our little part in countering the narrative of the White Flag Brigade.

78 Comments

Can Arsenal Win With Lightweights?

We like to hear things that reinforce our opinions.

We agree with those that have the same opinions as us and argue against those who have opinions that differ. Of course we do.  Why would we not? I have yet to meet someone that thinks their opinion is wrong. If they did they would change it. So everyone thinks their opinion is right.

The problem starts when we argue against someone with superior knowledge of a subject and refuse to entertain the idea that they are more likely to be right than we are.

The problem with football is most people believe they have a great knowledge when in fact, in most cases, mine included, it’s nothing more than a basic layman’s knowledge. Then someone comes along – let’s say someone like Gary Neville – and says the same as you. Now Gary clearly has better than a layman’s knowledge so you hold him up as evidence that not only were you right, but you know as much as him, because you have drawn the same conclusions.

To me though, this a a bit like feelling unwell and wanting the opinion of a consultant to confirm your self-diagnosis; instead you speak to a nurse and because he/she confirms your thoughts, you are happy to accept this opinion.

What are pundits though?

As a rule they are either ex-footballers that were good at kicking a ball and not much else, serially failed managers or shock-jock second-rate journalists. They are employed for their entertainment value much more than their football nous.

As a rule they are “paint by numbers” in their thinking. They stick to the formula of how the layman sees the game. How many times do we hear “the United way, the Liverpool way or the Arsenal way” with pundits insisting that managers should stick to a sometimes 40- or 50-year old way of playing, because that once brought that club success. They pick the moment in time where the club had its greatest success with its greatest team and players and insist that is the template.

In the case of Arsenal that’s The Invincibles.

Arsene mixed that formula, it brought unprecedented success and he should stick to it.

Simples.

Well that might well work if the game had not moved on, if pitches had not improved, if the technical excellence of top players had not improved or perhaps if players as good as those from the previous era are now available to be bought and kept.

However, if you attempt to stick to that formula with lesser players, in a different environment, the chances are success will not follow.

If you are playing Dembélé, Schneiderlin and Remy for Vieira, Gilberto and Henry (because they are the nearest you can get or afford) then will it work? I would suggest not.

If you do what many clubs do and follow the formula of buying the best player you can afford, in the accepted mould, you will finish behind clubs that follow the same formula but can buy better players.

A player like Santi would never see the light of day in mid-field.

It might be that we can’t win the league with diminutive technical players like Santi, Jack, Ozil and Rosicky, but I suggest we have a better chance than with second-rate players that fit the accepted mould.

Pedantic George @Blackburngeorge

36 Comments

Reality Leaves A Lot To The Imagination*

Morning +++’ers and I guess that like me you have been gently turning over last night’s game, like a tumble dryer at a slow speed, little flashes of bright cloth, amid a whirl of rather confused and apparently damp fabric.

What of the contest itself?

A disturbing first half. Hesitation, nervousness and careless passing from the outset which appeared to accelerate as Liverpool sensed they might be on for a win and pressed us hard in our half of the pitch. Ironically the best Arsenal pass of the first half which led to Aaron’s ‘goal’ came from Santi, who seemed like he was ill. No, seriously, he looked a bit dazed as he trotted about. His passing was way off target. As for the ‘goal’ how long is professional football going to look ridiculous by refusing to employ technology to assist officials, then bleat long and loud about terrible decisions by officials? I am hopeful that it may happen in my lifetime, though probably not Blatter’s.

As for the other 44 minutes, Le Coq stepped in twice with two decisive and, thank the Lord, clean tackles to deny Scouse forwards bearing down on Cech. One great save and one good save by the Czech/poor finish by Benteke, left us clinging on at half time. So many of those Liverpool chances came as a result of errors on our part, failing to clear a ball, losing it 25 yards out etc. And it was not just Chambers and Gabriel, it was most of the players in red and white shirts.

And when we returned and Mr Oliver peeped the second period into life the world turned upside down. Passes hit their intended receiver (quite NFL that phrase, I shall use it again), Liverpool looked increasingly ragged and could not retain the ball, their young Gomez had to resort to niggly fouls to keep the left-hand side controlled, we made many chances in the box, Giroo huffed, Ozil puffed, Mignolet pulled off a couple of good saves …….. But, disappointingly, we failed to bring the house down. Good contribution from the Ox, Sanchez looked a little subdued. Gabriel looked very assured throughout the second 45 against an aggressive and increasingly frustrated Benteke. Theo unfortunately anonymous for his 10 minute cameo. No cigar last night son.

A point gained, two points dropped? It was the right result on the game so I say the former.

What of the opponents?

In spite of myself I was impressed. A polished performance, particularly at the back from Loveren and Skrtel, Clyne solid, Coutinho tricky. They could be genuine Top 4 contenders again, especially with no Euro distractions. What on earth was Mignolet doing time wasting though?  Idiotic attitude – you had the game in the palm of your glove you fool  – and you were running the clock down. Almost unfathomably stupid.

What of the Arsenal?

Simple solution, score goals to translate footballing superiority into points in the table. We have intelligent and experienced players. I have no doubt that will be Mr Wenger’s priority as he strides into Colney today. I have no idea how he will go about it, that is not my job.

Anyway the game gives me a chance to repeat my favourite five minute home movie of football, A Night At The Emirates. Even if you have seen it before, watch it again.

Enjoy your Tuesday.

*John Lennon 9th October 1940 – 8th December 1980

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