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Proficient Arsenal

 
As usual when wrestling with the match write up I was looking for the “word” that captures the victory at Hull. The keystone of text on which the rambling edifice depends, the one single expression that you, dear reader, will retain as you reflect on the five minutes you invested this morning on the PA site.
 
What exactly is the ‘word’ for that performance at the KC yesterday ?
 
I played with a few; Polished – professional -  competent – refined – strong – organised – sophisticated – cultured – cultivated – developed – powerful – authoritative – razor-sharp – distinguished – well oiled – commanding – superior – unassailable – talented – clever but none quite fitted the combination of speed, skill and intelligence that characterised our performance and our victory against the Tigers yesterday.
 
And then I saw it – PROFICIENT
 
The combination of art and science I had the pleasure of watching yesterday was proficient, a performance in which all the elements came together and meshed perfectly.
It started at the back and the opportunities that the home side had Szcz dealt with, he commanded the box, punched or caught the high balls and saved what occasional goal bound shots. The back four deal gave very little away, no stumbles or errors and a welcome clean sheet after a few games I which we have not been at our defensive sharpest.
 
Ah the midfield – Ramsey, Ramsey, Ramsey …………………………. I can say no more – my superlatives have failed. Santi vigorous, Ozil cleverer than a fox, and Mikel in charge across, the middle, dental problems notwithstanding.
 
 And our strikers , yes yes I know we play one man up but yesterday it seemed to me that Olivier and Poldi buzzed about in front of and behind each other, pulling the defenders out of shape, both strikers irrespective of their official; job title. Finest finisher in the club award ?  Give it to the smiling German.
 
And a fine cameo from the Ox, my goodness you can expect some severe competition for Cup final places.
 
Proficient – yes that is the word.
 
Not sure what to make of Hull, damage limitation when it went to 0-2. I anticipate a brighter effort on the greenfields of Wembley.
 
 Enjoy your Easter Monday wherever you are. I am off to Stratford for Henry IV Part 2 with Number One daughter. 
 
  “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” 
This morning we have Andrew @anicoll5 to thank for our little sunshine bus trip
318 Comments

Can We Cross The Great Divide?

great divide

Never mind the buglers, where’s the FA Cup/4th place or better?

The fans are split, that’s a given.

But they are not split between AKB’s and WOB’s.  Oh no, there are another set that sit between the two extremes.  Just like in politics, the battle is won or lost in the middle ground. The vast majority of fans are floating voters.  Within this middle ground there will be – and is – a full spectrum of ever changing feelings.

I would guess that up until Xmas the vast majority were happy and very much behind the manager.

Now? Who knows?

But it will be a whole lot less.  And the amount they have shifted their positions will also differ greatly. Some will have had enough, while others may just have some nagging doubts.

Here is the crux.

They are all Arsenal fans.

They all want what is best for them.  (Oh sorry – I meant “what is best for the club”).  They all want us to win every game, they all want to win stuff, and they all want to be happy.

There is however, a basic divide.

Have the last 9 years been a success (as I believe) or have they been a failure?  Therefore, has the manager overachieved or underachieved ?

David Dein recently said that the stadium move would have been impossible without the success Arsene had brought. Ray Parlour said that some of the loans to build the stadium were conditional on Arsene signing a 5 year deal.  Arsene has told us he agreed to stay knowing that the league title was very unlikely. Ivan has admitted that there were indeed financial restraints that they had previously denied .

So taking those things into consideration, what was in Arsene’s job description? What did the board actually ask of him?

What was best for the club?

Arsene himself had said that his priority was qualifying for the Champions League with the financial rewards that follow it.  He did that every year, and given his resources, that was an over-achievement. This isn’t my opinion, it’s a fact backed up by impartial data. The AST had an analysis done (I suspect they were disappointed with the results) which proved beyond doubt that this was the case.

People will point out that it’s not his job to make the club money, his job is to win trophies, but the reality is that his job is to achieve what his employers ask him to achieve.  That may be very different to what a fan would want him to do.

If we finish in the top 4 and win the FA cup, I expect the undecided will once again shuffle towards us.

If we don’t?

Well we know all too well what will happen.

 

 

47 Comments

FFP Please, FFS!

 

wheels

Will the wheels of Arsenal’s fortunes finally turn together?

The next stage of the implementation by UEFA of Financial Fair Play is due to play out over the coming weeks and months – and mighty interesting it should prove, too.

It’s taken what feels like an age to come into effect but the Summer of Reckoning may finally be upon us for a number of our favourite clubs – PSG and Manchester City  being at the forefront of everyone’s affections on this front.  Whilst this ‘reckoning’ could fickle out in a damp squib of laughable fines or lengthy delay-inducing appeals, given the recent unprecedented (I think) transfer ban on Barcelona for recent transfer transgressions, I’m actually more hopeful that UEFA are of a mind to finally stamp their authority on the financially reckless and the morally lawless.

As a particularly pleasing side benefit, it should, once and for all, help the penny to finally drop in the minds of all those who have refused to understand how essential self-sustainability in the financial make-up of all clubs actually is.

Hopefully the days of Citeh-style excess will now prove to be finally behind us. And whilst the football playing field may never be perfectly level (especially for the smaller clubs) the era of Sheik/Oligarch hi-jacked clubs jumping in with a modest fanbase but over-loaded with cash, subverting all the player markets as they go, may finally be at an end. Doubtless PSG will have something to say about this – and possibly in the courts – but it is hard to envisage a successful rearguard action by them given the wider economic context the bulk of the football world has to operate in, not to mention the overall moods of governments and governing bodies almost everywhere.

That the timing of this next stage in the unfolding of FFP so neatly dovetails with the turning of the Arsenal commercial wheel should escape nobody.

World Cups aside, this will be the real story of the summer:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/manchester-city/10766475/Manchester-City-to-be-made-to-pay-a-high-price-for-spending-spree-under-Uefa-Financial-Fair-Play-rules.html

There may be only a few of us naive enough to have faith in FFP, to be honest, and  its effective resolution is by no means a done deal.

Despite having been politely but firmly put in my place on FFP over the years both here and on ACLF, I’ve still retained my faith in it for two main reasons.

Firstly, given the wealth of our owners and their connections – and remembering also Danny Fizman’s indication that AW had access to £100M if he wanted it – given all that and despite the very real difficulties of the last few years as symbolised by the ‘different directions’ identified by RVP, for one – then the club itself must have had a very real belief in FFP as a process which would either penalise AFC if ignored, or effectively reward it, if observed.

Secondly, the spectre of football clubs failing en masse across Europe was intolerable to a somewhat unholy trinity of European government, UEFA and the clubs themselves. Remember, it’s not just about curbing the worst excesses of the biggest clubs, but any club tempted to spend beyond its means. Small clubs desperate to retain top league status were routinely pre-spending anticipated revenue streams risking disaster in the process. How many more Leeds? How many more Rangers? Two once mighty beasts still struggling to survive as much smaller entities? Portsmouth and QPR are another pair of English clubs – smaller – but now struggling, who once enjoyed their unearned days in the sun.

One question I would like to one day ask of Ivan or Arsene relates to the timing of all this and to what extent, if any, AFC deliberately structured their balances to deliver them a massive transfer warchest comprising spendable assets at a time when all other clubs would be obliged by FFP to rein everything in?

Finally, the very fact that one of the most financially profligate – Jose, not ‘Arry, in this instance – is having to sell (indeed, has already sold) before he can buy suggests to me that to even the once mighty Chelsea, FFP may mata, after all.

That the angry, impatient and seemingly ignorant element of Arsenal’s fanbase appear to have failed to trouble themselves with a consideration of the wider financial horizons should hardly surprise us – we are football fans first and foremost, not economists. But our collective ignorance on this, alongside the failure or willingness to appreciate the devastating impact of injuries on the team is very telling.  Some are trying to blame AW for those injuries in the same breath as they blame the club for not spending more, sooner.

And it’s true, we have access to so much information and ways of sharing it, yet so little insight or wisdom to apply to it all. And if that sounds more than a little pompous I make no apology for it. Sitting through the appalling booing that gripped Wembley on Saturday at the substitution of Podolski – I’ve been repeatedly told it was aimed at Arsene, not the player, but frankly, regardless of its intended victim – I’m in little mood to continue to tolerate the excesses of the club’s own fans.

Arsene, in the eyes of many, appears to be on the brink of walking away rather than re-signing.

If true, given all of the above plus so much more, it would in many ways represent the greatest tragedy in the whole history of the club.

The fans, in my view, would very much deserve whatever it is they think they are wishing for. The ultimate irony is the legacy Arsene eventually passes on will do more to avoid an extended period of change and uncertainty of the kind currently gripping Manchester United, than many possibly realise.

And whilst Ferguson’s reputation may be judged on his history, the future will be all Arsene’s as AFC sit, deservedly and indefinitely, at the top table in world football.

The tragedy – the sadness – could come in the form of Arsene Wenger being prevented by the reaction and behaviour of the club’s own fans, from driving us to the very top of the summit himself.

It’s been a long time coming.  And as is currently the fashion on reality tv to never fail to mention – one hell of a ‘journey’.

I know I’m not alone in hoping the final leg of the trip will be undertaken with all still very much on board.

But the question for Arsene may ultimately prove to be, however – do enough of us still share that hope?

88 Comments

No Hammer Blow Tonight

I was delighted when Arsene Wenger took the trouble to write me an email yesterday about the win over Wigan, the remaining Premier League fixtures and the battle for fourth place. He ended by saying: “We have been in this situation before and I think we have the focus, the quality, the spirit and the desire to achieve what we want.” It seemed somehow typical of him to take time out of his busy schedule to find such reassuring words for me, and it all contributed to the rosy glow that had enfolded me ever since Santi slotted that final penalty late on Saturday afternoon. However, his sentiments didn’t seem to have such a positive effect on Le Grove’s apostles, who were positively apoplectic this morning about the situation that The Arsenal find themselves in: indeed, the manager was openly mocked for his letter, and I guess the sad thing is that he always will be now by certain sections of the fan base, no matter what he achieves between now and whenever he decides it’s time to call it a day. What I did find interesting was the scorn that was poured on the Untold lot, and in particular the link made between those who support Arsene Wenger and those who hold any kind of religious faith: both positions were laughed loudly out of court as being quite ridiculous, it somehow not quite occurring that it was they themselves that had made the comparison.

But strangely their leaps of logic made me think of the following lines from Melville’s Moby Dick (and I wish I was mature enough not to find that funny).

“There, then, he sat, the sign and symbol of a man without faith, hopelessly holding up hope in the midst of despair.”

If, as I suspect, we have all felt like like that from time to time in our Arsenal journey, then how much more must the manager have felt like it in the aftermath of crushing defeats and unwanted embarrassments. But what else is there to do when all seems lost? You can’t just give up, so you might as well light your lantern and provide something for the crew to fix their gaze on in the hope that things might somehow seem better in the morning. However, right now I don’t find the Manager’s words at all empty: we are in a good position and are very far from despair – we have been here before, and if anyone doubted the spirit and desire then they should have had all doubts removed by the Wembley performance. There seems to be a common perception that 120 minutes and penalties will have left us spent, exhausted and not at all ready to take on West Ham. But the bookies don’t think that: we are 4/9 to beat them with as big as 7/2 the draw and any price you like on a real hammer blow to our Champion League credentials. And you can bet the manager and players don’t, and nor do I. I reckon that the burden of expectation pre-Wigan has been pretty intense for the team, and that has now been gloriously lifted. Expect to see us quick out of the blocks this evening, with Podolski, Rosicky and Giroud all particularly keen to stake their Cup Final claims. Jenkinson too, and Gibbs will provide fresh legs, while Kalstrom may also play, which will be interesting. I expect we won’t see quite see so much of Ramsey, Oxlade, Santi and Sanogo (my new favourite player), but they will be waiting in the wings, and I also expect that the manager will make at least one tactical decision that will surprise us all a little bit. For the first time for quite some time I am really looking forward to the game, and although I am sad that the Box Office wouldn’t let me purchase two tickets for it last week (you’re only a Red Member, Sir: more than my job’s worth to let you buy both), I shall be very much there, right in front of the TV, ready to do serious battle with anyone who says that this is a poor squad managed by a man who no longer knows what he is doing. I don’t need to believe in him: the stadium we are playing in is proof enough of his genius.

 

Once again this post was brought to us by @foreverheady .

 

 

 

58 Comments

Wigan Warriors-Arsenal,Not Them !

What a jigsaw of a day ! 
 
It has take me a little while to put the jigsaw together – but I have it at last.  
 
Waking up this morning (eventually) the events of all of yesterday, from waking up in the early hours with the fan’s usual nightmare of leaving my match tickets at home, a potter in the garden, the uneventful trip to London, early to the stadium, the gradual slow rise in tension as the kick off approached, the slight tick of adrenaline, nothing more  …………………………………… no inkling at all really ……………none …..
 
Then two and a half hours of emotional, mind bending, throat wrenching, expletive exhausting football. YES FOOTBALL! 
 
And what a semi final it was – by no means anyone’s idea of a classic football encounter. No football connoisseur or coaching guru will have marked yesterday in their book of notable landmarks. 
 
The Pie Eaters controlled, resolute, unimaginative but, as they had proved in their two most recent FAC games against Citeh, never a side to be under-estimated. Don’t ever try to tell lightning how many times it has struck or will strike – lightning is not interested in your opinion or even your statistics.
 
For Arsenal that bit of hesitation in our passing, a degree of rust in our flow across the park with the ball, the back of the players’ minds exercised by the certainty that for us to win was expected, but to lose would be calamity.   
 
And so the game unfolded. From my eyrie might above the goal I watched, as you all did, the efforts we made to push Wigan, to look for holes, to chase and harry, to find that opening that would bring the goal and settle our collective nerves.
 
Sanogo worked and worked and worked, then ran some more.  The Ox was by far our most effective performer. Aaron tried to bring his energy and some intelligence into the contest, to differentiate between a side who play as we can, and he Championship scufflers.
 
But it was not to be. An error –or a freak injury – I do not even know now having watched it again on the box last night handed the penalty to Gomez and suddenly the challenge before us took on a steeper tilt, and the  clock which had measured the afternoon as a neutral custodian of time now began to menace us. 
 
Cometh the hour, cometh the man – as so often the BFG showed why he has earned 100+ German caps and, having watched the headed finish again on TV, is a much finer footballer than many credit him for.
 
The final minutes and extra time, flashed by. By then my voice had gone, my mind was going, I had words with a pair behind me who had pressed my button on Sanogo’s alleged shortcomings once too often ( the looks of horror at the row on the fans around us were fair to behold). The players were shot, both sides running on empty tanks, legs barely able to sustain a run over ten yards much less a decent shot.
 
And so to penalties – my personal horror – I hate penalties – hate them – stemming perhaps from my first ever penalty shoot out in the Heysel. I peered into the abyss, and the abyss peered back.  
 
Fabianski – an individual triumph but a triumph that embodied the collective effort of a team that gave its all on a day when it mattered.
 
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.
 
But go to the FA Cup final
Thanks to Andrew( @anicoll5 ) for today’s wonderful post
109 Comments

Come On Arsenal -Come On Arsenal Fans !

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” Mark Twain.

In my more optimistic moments I like to think this is the crux of the matter with regard to the Arsene doubters, and there’s more than a little ageism around when it comes to some of the Twitter comments. Indeed, many of the Tweets and the Tweeters remind me of the child who is forever telling his parents how much better and cooler all of his friends’ parents are. All week I have been promised “Twitter meltdown” should The Arsenal come up short against Wigan, and have even seen pictures of nuclear explosions posted as a warning of the least that AW can expect should he fail to deliver on the Wembley stage. In fairness, that’s not such a bad metaphor: it’s clear that the nucleus of Arsenal support was split some time ago, and I can only hope that a top performance today, and then a string of good results in the League, will allow that energy to be harnessed in a positive manner.

There was a time in the Everton game last weekend when such positive hope seemed futile. As we moved the ball laboriously back and sideways we looked a far cry from the side that carried all before it through much of 2013, our defensive frailties and toothless attacks making me wonder if I would ever get my Arsenal back. It hardly seemed possible that this was the same team that had swept Napoli so imperiously aside back in October, but of course, the point is that it wasn’t the same team at all. It was a team that had been decimated by cruel fortune, and for a moment it seemed to have no answer when Sagna was cynically dispossessed deep in the Everton half before our defence conceded its second comedy own goal in little more than a week. It all seemed too much, it simply wasn’t fair, and no wonder than more than a few shoulders slumped.

 

But then something rather special happened as Ramsey and Oxlade entered the fray. Although both were on the injury comeback trail, and hence were never going to be risked for the full 90 minutes, they made a significant difference: the game had already gone, but they brought more than fresh legs to the side. Suddenly there was forward momentum, vision and pace. Even more importantly there was belief. Belief that this side was good enough, belief that individuals could make a difference, belief that the season wasn’t going to implode. More players are returning too: Gibbs is back, and Kos, Mesut and Jack are on the horizon. Their return could well see us back to something near our best, and remind us why this squad is on the verge of something special. Today is a big day for us all. For the manager, for the players, and for the fans. We all have a stake in it, and we have been looking forward to it ever since Santi scored that wonderful goal against Spurs at the very start of this cup run. Aaron Ramsey reminded us all last weekend that we do indeed have a reason to believe, and I for one can’t wait to see The Arsenal back at Wembley again.

 

So put away your doubts, and remember that we are by far the greatest team the world has ever seen.

 

Today’s post was brought to us by The Gnabster   @foreverheady

23 Comments

Just Read This -Please.

I have never done this before, and I doubt it will ever happen again, I haven’t asked our friend Mean Lean permissions so I hope he is not upset.

Everyone must read this  http://www.arsenalvision.co.uk/articles/4605-its-time-for-a-change.html   its by @The _Beck and its the  “Citizen Kane ” of blogs supporting the Club.

 

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