81 Comments

It’s A Funny Old Game, Football Finance

funny old game

Is it the game that’s funny, the fans or Arsenal’s cash flow?

I was chatting to someone during the game last night who made the point that in the 1960’s and ’70’s we hardly knew who was running the club beyond the Manager. Relatively little was really known about Bertie Mee, even, let alone the Assistant Manager, Physio, the Board, majority or minority shareholders. Attention was fixed on the players pretty much exclusively and, happily, on the wider stage, the ‘culture’ of the game was sufficiently slow and violent to exclude most referees from too much scrutiny.  Probably helped that there was next to no football on tv compared to the modern game.

The idea that the ordinary, unbriefed fan might be making judgements about the cash flow of the club in that era would have been completely laughable.

As many are aware, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

But this has been one of the biggest gifts of the online age; it’s ability to throw up wave after wave of those willing to be exposed as having noticeably thin scraps of expertise loosely dressed up as ‘knowledge’ propagated on a platform with almost infinite reach. This indiscriminate dissemination of half-formed views is as efficient as the ability it offers the unwary to dash their own personal reputation on the rock of flimsy logic and foolish conjecture.  Sharing their views, fleetingly presented as ‘the facts’ until the white horse of truth gallops in from the wings to save us all.

So, another very decent article from Trader Chris on PA yesterday highlighted that few habits are as potentially risky to one’s credibility as making wild and largely unsubstantiated claims about the club’s accounts whilst possessing next to no understanding of the mechanics of cash flow or the importance of budgeting.

Such people – and this probably applies to 99% of fans – really should just concentrate on the football.

Especially those at the back.

Talking of the football, a decent result last night against a magnificently supported German outfit, none of whose supporters, to my knowledge, appeared to be discussing depreciating assets or waving hi-end A4 “Klopp Out” banners. Someone tweeted me that this is linked to the price of their tickets although I don’t recall seeing similar scenes on the terraces in the lower and presumably cheaper echelons of the English league. But, we are told, the downward pressure on morale caused by having to pay for the ‘most expensive tickets in the game’ is now one of the keys to understanding the mindset of the typical Arsenal supporter.

To me it, Arsenal’s German Quarter just looked like 3,000 fans taking pride in themselves as much as their team and they are a credit to their club, regardless of any debate on ticketing prices.

borussia fans

Give yourselves a hand …

For Arsenal, the result was pleasing both in the score and in the manner of the way a team that is still badly fractured by injury went about it’s business.

Some have heralded the significance of the return to form of Aaron Ramsey who has himself recently alluded to the fine-tuning going on at squad-level in training and on the pitch.

The loss to any side of players with the outstanding form of midfielder Aaron Ramsey alongside the injuries to key contributors  in attack and defence such as Theo and Kos would have had huge consequences.

That the winner of our Champions’ League group is still in the balance not to mention our place in the English league, is little short of a miracle given the vital importance of these three players alone. Factor in the rest of the injuries and we can see that actually, although not all results have gone our way and in-game finishing and defending errors have clearly been made, what we have here could yet prove to be our strongest squad in many, many years.

That the three of Kos, Theo and Ramsey are about to be reunited is of huge significance both for the Premier League and our future progress in the Champions’ League.

Now if people were to stop wrestling with transfer budgets and get to grips with the realities of the season, they might just begin to appreciate all this.

Sadly, as evidenced last night at least, the joy of an Arsenal win is rarely as heartily celebrated on Twitter or the Blogosphere as are the setbacks, so in certain quarters I suspect the ‘expert’ focus of some may lie elsewhere, for now, at least.

Funny old things, fans.

42 Comments

The Great Arsenal Cash Reserves Myth

A guest post from  @TraderChris87 . 

I cant stand for his figures so dont shoot the messenger. 

 

 

A common criticism of the club is that “we have massive cash reserves and we don’t spend it”. Someone on Twitter yesterday said to me that in 2009 we had £72m of “spare cash” that we didn’t spend.

When the financial figures we’re released in September of this year there was uproar at the cash reserves figure announced being around the £200m mark. This did not go down well with some fans who perceived gaps in the squad that needed addressing.

Well yesterday I wrote a post on here in which I said there were a lot of stupid fans “who don’t know the first thing about running a football club or economics.” This is a classic example. £208m in cash reserves were announced but anyone who think that there is anywhere near that figure available for spending on players is a complete moron.

First of all the club have to keep £35m of those reserves available for debt servicing, This was written into the contract of the loans for the Stadium construction. According to the ever reliable Swiss Ramble, we owed £53m in past transfer fees (for example, the Ozil transfer) as we negotiated an installments payments on certain transfers so we needed to keep some in reserve to pay those installments. That already accounts for £88m of those cash reserves. Meaning we were at £120m of “spare cash”. However we were owed around £20m from previous player out goings so lets call it £140m.

However the figures announced were as of the end of May. This means that those figures do not include our transfer fees for the summer just gone, With a net spend between £55m-60m this summer, our “spare cash” is down to £80m.

Another thing that must be taken into consideration is that these figures are announced at a time where the club have just got a large majority of the Season Ticket renewals, which mean this figure will always be highest around the time the figures need to be prepared. This is needed for day to day running of the club and paying wages to players and staff until we get a chunk of TV or Commercial revenue. I cannot find any information for when exactly this gets paid to the club. Even with a conservative estimate of £40m of that (Match day revenue is a third of our turnover and roughly estimating half of that (Total 16.66% of Turnover) is season ticket holders (£50m) and our Wages + Operating cost = £240m (16.66% of which is £40m) going to Operating costs and our wage bill. Leaves us with £40m of “spare cash”

Well we have £40m available….why didn’t we spend it?

Well first of all Arsene has mentioned “technical stability” of the squad on numerous occasions. Which essentially means, adding too many new players into the squad at one time can do more harm than good. With our new signings count at five maybe it was a factor in not signing anybody else. When you look at Tottenham & Liverpool adding 8-9 new players last summer and this summer respectively it is difficult to argue with him.

Another reason as to why we may have not signed anyone else is due to the right players not being available or available for a price worth doing a deal at. For example, a few names being floated around this summer as the answer to our perceived problem in defensive midfield were William Cavarlho, Morgan Schneiderlin and Sami Khedira. William Carvalho, a third party own a significant percentage of him meaning that Sporting wanted an extortionate price for him to make up for the share that the third party would be paid. Morgan Schneiderlin, Southampton refused to sell or even negotiate for. Having just sold several players they wanted to steady the ship and were in a financial position to be able to refuse any advances. Sami Khedira on the other hand, rumors were going around that he was available. However at £20m with a year left on his contract and rumored £140,000 per week wage demands (£7m per year), a five year deal would have been costing us at least £60m in total (Fee, Wages, Bonus’, Agent Fees, Signing on Fees etc). All this for a player that was out from November to May last season with a serious ligament injury and has subsequently been injured for 7 weeks of the season this year so far.

Ultimately, nobody knows who Arsene will decide to buy in January/next summer. All I can say is that I’m sure he’ll make the right decisions. Building a team takes time, not just one transfer window. Sometimes you have to wait for the players you want. We could not have got Ozil or Alexis at any other point other than when we did. Lets face it would you have rather paid £30m last summer for Willian or Lamela or wait a year and get Alexis. I know who I would rather have. So I for one would rather have some “spare cash” than players who were not up to the necessary standard Arsene wanted or to improve on the players we have.

Hope everyone has a good day and enjoys the game tonight. COYG!

 

55 Comments

Why I Am Disgusted With A Lot Of Arsenal Fans.

A guest post from  @TraderChris87

 

Three weeks ago, Borrusia Dortmund took on Bayern Munich. Whilst a few years ago this may have been a clash of the heavyweights in a Champions League Final, this is no longer the case. Dortmund struggling with injuries and having two of their best players poached by Bayern in the last couple of seasons and 2 of their current stars heavily linked with a move away are currently struggling in the bottom half of the Bundesliga, even staying bottom of the league for a short period of time, you would think that Jurgen Klopps job may well be on the line. Yet after a recent game, in a post match news conference, a Dortmund fan told Klopp “You led us to success and we will lead you through the crisis,” which got me thinking.

Honestly, I am ashamed to listen to Arsenal fans speak on TV, comments on post match reports and obviously on Twitter. To me I find it disgusting the attitude they posses to Arsene Wenger, Someone who has given his life to our club, made us successful beyond anyones wildest dreams, playing beautiful football winning trophies and quite literally, made us unbeatable. All this whilst revolutionising almost every aspect of the English game from training methods to scouting. At that point did he rest on his laurels, absolutely not. Realising that to make us a true giant in world football, we would need revenues to match those of the biggest clubs, he guided us through a tough transition financially whilst we navigated our move from Highbury to the Emirates, keeping us playing in the Champions League for the 18th year running, a record that only Real Madrid boast.

Most managers wouldn’t have even accepted the challenge of not only keeping us in the Champions League so we had the revenue to pay off the short term debt on the stadium (who knows how many years of not being in the Champions League would have set us back financially). Not only did he keep us competitive, he had to make a profit on player transfers most seasons at a time where Chelsea and Man City were spending quite literally billions and Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham were spending. Yet you never once heard Arsene complain about this restriction.

Does he get any appreciation for guiding us through a very difficult period? No instead he is getting hurled abuse by stupid people who think they know the first thing about running a football club, tactics, man management or economics. All this just a few short months after winning the FA Cup.

Well we have spent money and are still struggling some may say. Yes we are struggling at the minute there is no denying that. We are all disappointed at recent results and I can understand being frustrated but hurling abuse at the manager and calling for his head are definitely not the answer. Also, 2 transfer windows of having a net spend for around £100m does not mean we automatically have the right to be beating teams who have had the best part of a decade of spending a billion. Financial Fair Play may even the playing field. It caused Man City to curb their spending the summer just gone and Chelsea were only able to spend £80m on Fabregas, Costa, Felipe Luiz because of the £40m they had previously spent on David Luiz and Lukaku, allowing them to profit from those sales to spend the money.

Looking at our squad subjectively we are not far off competing for the title, I honestly believe that once this team starts gelling, things will turn around for us. Shad Forsythe needs time to implement his methods which will hopefully ease our injury problems and it will take time for Sanchez and Welbeck to learn the way their team mates play. You still see them making passes where nobody is running or them not anticipating passes from certain players etc. This will take time. All I can say is that when Arsene turns things around and when he gets us winning trophies again, which he will, there will be alot of fans who don’t deserve to celebrate and who need to look at their behavior and they way they have acted and hang their heads in shame.

108 Comments

May The Best Team Win – Or At Least Have More Shots On Target Than Scored

may best team win

Arsenal supporters from a different era …

The salient points from yesterday’s game, courtesy of Northbank1969:

“I’m still looking on the bright side. We are still only two points from 4th place, the boys can turn this season around. They played some excellent football yesterday and no single player can be blamed for the result. It was just one of those days.
We’ll still finish above United.”

There’s famous old film footage in the Arsenal Museum of what appears to be a pre-war, pre-match game with what is definitely a pre-Payton Supporters’ Club member parading a placard around a packed ground with the words: ”May the best team win”.

Yesterday, the best team did not win.

But it was hardly the fault of Man u or, surprisingly, the ref. Of course, we can point to McNair’s ankle-breaker of a tackle on a wet pitch that went unspotted by the ref – and most others in the stadium, in real time. And Fellaini’s similarly unspotted, unpunished agricultural shove on Gibbs which led to the most unfortunate of deflected goals.

As is the case in every game I’ve watched this season, outcomes would have been so very different had video technology been in use. But it wasn’t in use yesterday so Jack’s assailant got off Scot-free and the simple pre-goal shove that took out two of our defence was legitimised by the honourable willingness of Ches to stagger to his feet rather than stay down injured, an act which in turn helped the ref to turn a blind eye to Fellaini’s rustic tactics moments before.

Our failure to score, having dominated Man u to the point of opening up a multitude of chances was the reason for the defeat. Not United. Not the referee. And certainly not the Arsenal Manager and his supposedly empty tactics book, his failure to by a DM or play with the handbrake on. Or off – or whichever charge is en vogue this particular week. It was hardly tactics that led to a slew of chances landing in De Gea’s hands or over his cross bar.

Like Stew, from yesterday’s post, United are the team against whom I most hate to lose.

Chelsea are a close second, admittedly, but they have a touch too much of the Johnny-come-latelies about them. United are – or certainly, under Red Nose, were – the ultimate visitors from the dark side. But, post-Ferguson, they look a very different prospect and its hard to see them returning to their dominant position in English football anytime soon. Yesterday they were very much there for the taking and once their post-match celebrations have ebbed away, their injury-hit squad’s inadequacies and it’s gaping vulnerability, will be very much apparent to all future opponents. The state of their defence, the fading of van Persie, the going down of the Young. The patchy contributions of their new mega-waged, mega-signings. All must be of immense concern to united followers who, deep down, will recognise the lucky win for what it was.

Today, of course, it’s all about The Arsenal, and the media and fair weather fans are again in inglorious cahoots echoing hideous harmonies rising and falling on our own perceived vulnerabilities. As is now almost traditional for this time of year, they merrily seize on any scrap of ‘evidence’ to justify and re-fuel the current orgy of criticism and abuse against the same club, manager and players they simultaneously still claim to ‘support’.

After yesterday’s result they must be feeling all their Christmases have come at once.

Indeed, so many of the ‘Arsenal ’til I Die‘ mob had left the stadium early to start up their celebration of failure in the bars around Holloway Road and beyond, that shockingly substantial numbers failed to see the extra eight minutes of added time, or witness the worldie from Giroud. They were certainly not present to give their all to support the team that was clearly giving it’s all. But a team that had failed to finish and ultimately was undone by a deflection and a hit-and-run winner as it worked over-anxiously throughout the match for a breakthrough, clearly deserved much more than it got, both from the gods of chance and at the hands of their own fans. Or some of them, at least.

As Northbank rightly says, we played some excellent football yesterday and though the result didn’t go our way, the end of the world is most certainly not upon us, whatever the Goners might have you believe.

The team will work to bring supporters back on side, the injured will continue to return, the squad will be strengthened by continued assimilation of the newbies and, doubtless, one or two January signings will catch the eye. The team will calm down, and will aim, we are told, to become more ‘efficient’ in defence and attack.

As ever, my only real concern is the mental state of some of our supporters but there is little to be done about that.

Had they stayed to the end and given as much as they demanded of their own team, I might have more time for them. I do understand people being upset and very much include myself in that – it was United, after all, and a mis-firing one at that. But before fans get started on complaining about players/manager/tactics going missing, they need to look at themselves and ask why they allowed themselves an early ‘in’ at the bar, to allow the 12th man to disappear with the best part of 15 minutes still to play? Why did they make themselves at least partly culpable?  It looks terrible when you see it happening at other clubs; with our record of turning games around in the last few minutes it’s pretty much unforgiveable to bale out before full time is up against any opponent.  Let alone Manchester United.

The squad will doubtless be devastated by the result – that much was evident at the final whistle.

But they’ll encouraged, too, by most of the performance and it will be that which is carried forward to the next game.

73 Comments

Pass The Sick Bag – It’s Man United

First up today is Steww

I’ll let you into a secret. Not all of us regard the North London derby as the biggest game of the season. I’ll go further. None of us should regard the North London derby as the biggest game of the season. In fact only Spurs fans should regard the North London derby as the biggest game of the season. For them, beating us became the holy grail. Year after year, season after season the dream of finally winning a match against Arsène’s Arsenal had them tossing and turning at night , feverish in their hopeless dreaming. They knew they would never win anything of significance would never join us at the top table with Europe’s elite, but would live forever in our shadow hoping that one day a lucky shot would bring them a brief transitory moment of joy which they could put onto a DVD and then masturbate in front of for years to come.

Before you rush to unfollow me on Twitter just hear me out. I know that for North Londoners there is a genuine local rivalry going back years, to before Spurs were even a London club in fact, and I respect that. But even if you all decided to take an unlikely interest in the fixture list of Welton Rovers I shouldn’t expect you to suddenly hate Radstock Town or Paulton Rovers. The people of Peasedown St John may be a hissing and a byword in the leafy lanes of lovely Midsomer Norton but I don’t expect the good folk of Hartlepool or Antrim to despise them just because we higher evolved people have an ancient rivalry with the thumbless mutants from up on Bath hill. The point is that nowadays Arsenal is supported on a global level, and while we all enjoy seeing a silly side like Spurs getting stuffed they aren’t the real enemy for much of the fan-base. The truly despised team for me has historically always been Manchester United.

There are some who have moved away from Man United, preferring Chelsea as the demons du jour . There are people who tell me I despise whoever is at the top of the league simply because that is a place I regard as rightfully ours, that my feelings stem from jealousy at another’s success. You can psychoanalyse it all you like but the simple truth is that along with huge swathes of the football supporting population I have never ever liked Man United and there has been a deep seated rivalry between us and them for as long as I can recall. When I used to watch matches on television, before being forced from that medium by the appalling one eyed agenda driven drones spewing their pro United bias from the commentary box, I would record the United game. This wasn’t so that I could rewatch it over and again but so that I could fast forward through any of their possession and thereby minimise my exposure to them and their horrible players. I have always struggled to watch them and as Ferguson’s grip on the referees and the British media and football establishment in general reached its apogee it became all but impossible for me so to do.

Of course post Ferguson they have become a whole lot more entertaining to watch. Granted there is still Rooney’s presence to turn your stomach and that grey haired old man they sometimes wheel out up front is an off putting spectacle. I still wouldn’t recommend watching them whilst eating, but they have shed the indigestive collective of Evra, Vidic, and Ferdinand in recent times and that has helped lessen their toxicity enormously. It doesn’t hurt that they can go out and lose to the likes of Milton Keynes either.

The problem is that even in their wildly unpredictable current condition they seem to exert some kind of malicious hoodoo over us. Remember Old Trafford last season? We had never been better set to humble them in their own home until a mystery virus meandered through our squad on the morning of the match. The home side were effectively playing against a team shambling about in hospital gowns – those that could be dragged out of bed to actually take the field did their best but the result had a horrible predictability about it once we’d heard of the contagion in our ranks.

This time around neither side is in the best of nick, either can lose to anybody but unlike us they don’t look really capable of beating very many teams either. At our best even in this stop start season we could take them apart. Unfortunately we could also dominate possession and lose to a couple of quick counter attacks, it’s an outcome which we don’t want to consider today. A lot of people are predicting a very open game based on both sides having a loose hinged back door allied to attacking mentalities. Of course that entirely ignores the fact that Arsène will want to tighten up the defensive side of our game having seen us pegged back from winning positions in recent matches. I’m excited at the prospect of Theo’s continuing recovery and were he not suffering with his groin, he might have been expected to start in place of Sanchez who will be eating his breakfast while the rest of the squad are having their supper. Or something. I take my holidays an hour down the road at Brean so I’m not all that clear on jet lag, what it is or how it affects people. With Welbeck knackered wasting his talent playing in a pointless international, Giroud not match fit, and Sanogo just back from injury I haven’t a clue who will start up front. Sadly it is atrocious luck with injuries which once again will define our season. Not the manager. Not the tactics, the training, the referees, the opposition’s spending power but pure and simple rotten luck.

It’s hard to bear but for today’s match it is rendered almost irrelevant as the opposition have had their fair share of injuries too. Nowhere near as disruptive as ours nor over such a long period but when you look at the side they cannot field today it does look as if the playing field may be a little more level than usual. The Mirror even goes so far as to provide us all with a graphic. Funny, I can’t recall journalists making such a song and dance about the way injuries have destroyed our title challenge season after season but then, Arsenal aren’t the media darlings that United have always been.

Today I shall be watching the entire thing from the kick off and I hope that we can stick it to Mike Riley, The FA, Sky the BBC et al and take their favourites to pieces. If Giroud really is fit enough to start and can hit the ground running I believe we have more than enough to beat them even with the players we will be missing. He has been the grease in our gears since he arrived, at the heart of so many of our best moves and very best goals. A massively underrated player, who has the prefect first touch, the vision, the selfless team play and a pretty good eye for goal but above all he keeps the ball moving. So much of our attacking play has looked faltering without him. Oh, and he’s pretty handy defending corners and other set pieces which I have to admit would be no bad thing.

So chin up Positivistas, today is, for me, and many other non London based Arsenal fans, the big one. Can we win? Of course. We can win any game, the script hasn’t been written yet and this Arsenal team hasn’t shown what it is really capable of yet this season. This evening would be a perfect time to start.

And now we have Andrew @anicoll5 , (don’t tell me this blog is on the decline !)

The cyber static clears, the media can break from its incessant clatter for a moment, the blogocracy can wind its collective neck in in anticipation, and that instant of hush caused by  another football contest, and one that is traditionally between the two biggest clubs in the country, and usually a highlight of the season’s fixtures for both clubs. While I rely on the figures produced elsewhere this is the 200th league game between the clubs, stretching back to a 3-3 draw between Woolwich Arsenal and Newton Heath on the 13th October 1894.

And into the silence, albeit a short silence until the noise starts up again,  I come with my three ha’pence worth. Let me illuminate the scene tonight, as I see it;

It seems to me a long time since the final whistle blew in South Wales. The opportunity finally arrives to right the wrongs of the Liberty, to set our compass for the Pole and stride onwards.  To open our eyes and our minds to the joy of football, and more particularly Arsenal football, again.

A wet day in London and likely to remain so to kick off and through the game. And what therefore can we expect to see as Mr Michael Leslie Dean, hops, skips and a puff of his shiny pink cheeks at 5.30 p.m. Our first meeting with the Wirral whistler this season I see,  which just goes to prove you can’t keep a good man down.

I shall not stray into the statistics that attempt to measure the event and predict the future based upon the arithmetical measurement of previous events. As Rich so eloquently explained this week( I think), statistics are right about 50% of the time, and wrong 50% of the time. I will not ponder who ill be deemed fit and remain fit until 7.20 p.m. , and who will not. We all have our favourite players and hypothetical starting line up, an infinite jigsaw of flair and steel. You are a well informed bunch and know enough to make your own minds up.

Both sides come into the game below full strength but with more than enough good and experienced footballers, particularly in the attacking departments to ensure that it will not end 0-0. I do not however ser a lot of goals. The handbrakes will be on, the result of paramount importance for both sides.

Both sides have had at various times in recent weeks, against the Belgians for us, against Leicester for our visitors, a dose of the ‘yips’ that embarrassed both clubs, players, manager and fans. For me that suggests that today there will be less concentration on the high pressing game we have tried this season, Mikel will tackle more and run less, more care taken of possession and no time on the ball or for self indulgence. Again that suggests the scoreboard will not click over more than once or twice.

I sense however it will be our afternoon. We are physically stronger this year, slightly cleverer, and at home. The Ems will rock, as it always does on big game afternoons. And it will bring our first win since Sunday 1st May 2011. What will make the difference, where does he spark of confidence come from  ?

 

“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

 

So said the immortal Vince Lombardi. It is wisdom and a message I think that our players have grasped and can put into practice in the undeniably tight contest tonight.

158 Comments

So, You Think You Know Football ?

Today a guest post from Rich @AlternativeArse 

 

 

It’s often been something that makes me think. How many Arsenal fans actually play/played football on a regular basis? From their apparent understanding of the game, it would appear not that many.

Now, I’m not a qualified coach, nor am I that good at football. I can run fairly fast, like to think I have an eye for a pass and understand how to play. I played to decent standard at school, have made a few cup finals in the local Sunday league divisions and even played Saturday football for a brief period.

Nowadays, I play 5-a-side in a local veterans league. I think the standard is pretty high; I’ve come up against goalkeepers who have played for Luton Town, and even teams that take part in annual international tournaments, but no matter who I’m up against, the football is often quite good.

On a Friday nights, we play a friendly match. It’s usually 6-a-side but it’s more of a practise than a full on competitive match. There is no ref, so it’s not quite as combative, but still people like to win and score plenty goals.

One chap I play with is renowned for having a very accurate left foot. He will shoot on sight from just about any distance and usually the ball will end up in the back of the net. However, one week, he couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo.

He did hit the woodwork 3 or 4 times, but we laughed at his inability to score because of how out of the ordinary it was. The more he tried, the worse it got. His usual accuracy had deserted him for that period of 60 sweaty minutes.

Another story of randomness, would be a game I played in last Friday. My team found itself losing by about 9 goals with about 10 minutes to play. Not only were we getting pummeled, but also frustrated with our inability to hit the target as the opposing team enjoyed an almost unopposed goal fest.

That was until one of my teammates scored a halfway line belter.

That was swiftly followed by a flurry of around 10 strikes with only a couple in reply. Sure, we ended up beaten by the usual last goal wins, but the scoreline was a much more respectable and pride had been restored.

Why did all that happen? Really, we had no idea.

Football can be a funny old game.

Those of you that play or have played, I would hope are able to appreciate this viewpoint, especially if you played regularly to any standard.

The unpredictability of the game is something that can’t be explained. It’s human, it’s random and it’s something that you can’t manage or control, no matter how good the players are and no matter how assured the tactics, the human influence that is involved in football, will always affect the outcome.

My point is, that my experiences playing in the veterans league, and other’s experiences playing football, can easily be compared to how the Arsenal are playing this season.

You see, I would argue that Arsenal aren’t playing as poorly as people make out.

I would argue that Arsenal don’t need any more signings in the January window.

I would argue that Arsene Wenger is as tactically astute as the next manager.

Why? Because football really is a funny old game.

Arsene and Arsenals task is to try and effect the random elements and turn them in our favour, but there certainly isn’t any call for sackings, players being dropped to the bench or the back room staff muttering of discontent and disillusionment.

Fans need to be a bit more realistic in their assessment.

Our league form is, well…as normal…

This season, folks are getting very wound up about our position in the league and our lack of progression up the table. The latest loss to Swansea went down like a lead balloon amongst the Arsenal faithful, and subsequently we dropped from 5th to 6th.

6th position and 17 points. Ohh the terror.

With only another 27 games to play, you might think we are fighting a relegation battle, judging by some of the reaction. If you look to past seasons league positions at this stage, you might be surprised we are actually par for the course;

season_comparison_01

Premiership Table 2014 & 2013 to November 13th
statto.com

season_comparison-02

Premiership Table 2012 & 2011 to November 13th
statto.com

Our league form fluctuates in the top half of the table every year as our squad looks for form and players get on their game and grow in confidence.

Such is the way of football. It’s difficult to predict, and this happens every year, with a few exceptions of course; last season for instance.

We might not be top this season, but Arsenal are still competitive.

This season, the knives appear to be out in a big way, probably because in comparison, we had such a good start last time round and Chelski are running away a little bit. But there are plenty of games to go, and don’t forget the players we have out injured.

Injuries?!? Arsene should have prepared by buying more players!

I disagree. The players that we have already are good enough and despite the absences, Arsenal are still playing very decent football.

Those of you who aren’t convinced that we are playing well should also pay a bit more attention how we are playing, not just the results.

But the results are what matter!?

Yes they are. But we have to be playing well in the first place to achieve better results. And Arsenal are set and ready to go in that respect.

Defending is not the issue…scoring goals is.

Some ans are currently talking about the need for a new centre back and a new midfielder, as we are apparently scoring goals with abandon through Alexis Sanchez.

But we are not.

Despite the heroics of our Chilean and his firey boots of thunder, putting the ball in the back of the net appears to be Arsenal’s undoing, again.

Our ability to convert the chances we create is letting us down, big time;

Chances created by premier league teams so far this season.

Chances created by premier league teams so far this season.

 

The statistics speak volumes. Second in the chances created table for the Premiership so far. It’s a a pity that the assist figure isn’t higher as if it was, we would be winning more games.

This can be reinforced further by looking at how our shooting fairs against the other sides in the premiership, as in the past, that’s always been a quandary;

premier-league-shots

Shots taken by teams in the premier league this season

Oops. Second again. Higher than all the teams above us in the league, bar Man City, and we are taking the most shots outside of the area. Plenty of shots…just not many goals. Be that because our players go boss-eyed at the sight of the sticks, or that opposition are literally sacrificing themselves to keep the ball out of the net, who knows, but if you don’t take shots, you don’t score goals.

Just to appease you, as you probably don’t believe those figures…I took a look at our defensive performance too;

premier-league-defence

Defensive performance by Premier League teams so far this season.

Huh? Third ? According to the statistics, we have a better defence than Chelsea ? How can this be ?

Well, there are several factors that can influence these figures, and this is how I interpret them;

The lower the score, the better a team is at dealing with opposition through it’s midfield, with the forward players tracking back to defend. Either that, or the defenders never really have to do much defending, because we are always attacking, or we maintain a lot of possession.

That is the best way to stop the opposition scoring – don’t let them have the ball.

But those defensive numbers don’t take possession into consideration – that’s a different statistic.

The numbers would suggest that we are actually defending very well, all over the pitch.

Of course, there will be anomalies, but what you can’t count in all these figures is the number of goals we concede through no fault of our own. Through elements out of our control. What I mean by that is the oppositions ability to fashion a chance themselves – be that from a free kick, good play or how the ball bounces.

Gylfi Sigurdsson’s epic against Swansea is a prime example, as is the Anderlect offside goal and Southampton’s Clyne strike in the Capital One cup. They aren’t errors of Arsenals making, rather the oppositions ability to capitalise on brief opportunity, and you can’t do much about that.

Arsenal are creating a world of opportunities to win matches, we simply aren’t making the most of then at the moment.

Still not convinced ?

Well how about if I show you that Arsenal are currently 12th on the list of chances created per game in Europes top 5 leagues;

europe-chances

Chances created – Top 5 European Leagues this season.

Or how about that statistically speaking, Arsenal are the 7th best performing team out of those same leagues ?

europe-performance

Team performance score so far this season – Top 5 European Leagues.

Yes so it’s a performance score…that really mean nothing, but it’s applicable to all teams and a good way of measuring how you are playing, and Arsenal are playing very well. We are not winning, but we are playing very well.

The fact is, that you can play very well in all your matches, you can create the chances and defended resolutely, but if the ball simply won’t go in the net…then it’s not going to be your day.

Scoring more goals than the opposition is what really matters.

But isn’t that just the point?

Regardless of how you play, regardless of the statistics and numbers, from veterans league, all the way up to the premiership, there is no football script. There is no “win the game” power up, nor is there a switch that turns on skills or goals.

In reality, it’s all about specific moments on the pitch and how individuals deal with them in a split second. Even the galactic mind powers of Arsene Wenger, controlling all he surveys like a zombie king, can’t stop Arsenal’s opposition from having an excellent match winning moment or give the referee sight beyond sight.

That is after all what they are are also on the pitch for and if we can’t get the ball in the net, we’re not going to beat them no matter what we do.

That is just how football goes.

50 Comments

Arsenal Must Stay On Course.

A post from Tim @foreverheady stolen for the comments section without his permission 

Leaving aside a couple of free kicks there is quite a similarity between Alexis’s goals this season and Aaron’s from last season. Someone clever would be able to do a video compilation of them both, no doubt, The main difference it seems to me is that by and large Aaron had Ozil playing alongside him and he was able to control the game in a way that we haven’t really seen this season. If Ozil returns to full fitness I suspect we will have an excellent second half of the season, irrespective of anyone else we might buy in January.

At the moment just about everyone who posts on Twitter is saying that Arsenal and Arsene (and they use those nouns interchangeably) lack ambition and won’t or can’t change. It seems to me that it is precisely the opposite of that. We are not doing brilliantly at the moment (and not as well as last year) partly because of terrible injury problems but mainly because we are in the process of trying to ambitiously change from being a fourth place club to a first place club. As any amateur golfer would know, trimming your handicap from 20 to 14 is very easy, 14 to 8 quite easy, 8 to 4 doable, 4 to scratch exceptionally difficult. Those early changes can be made by better management, greater organisation and a few tweaks here and there. The last change probably means a complete swing overhaul and a frustrating period when you seem to be getting worse rather than better. It is tempting then to go back to what you knew and were comfortable with and settle for being very nearly very good.

It will require fortitude and patience but the side will end up better if everyone sticks with the process. If, however, there is so much noise and discontent that the Arsenal board decide that they need to change course and go back to safety then we will never have a chance of challenging Chelsea, City or United. I am aware as I write this of how easily it would be for the likes of Le Grove of ACLF to pour scorn on the idea, and point simply to the need for a powerful defender and more pragmatic match day tactics. And, of course, they would be right to an extent, but I think what we’re trying to do is to play the kind of total football that saw Germany dismantle Brazil and go on to win the World Cup. So it seems to me that while it might be appropriate to criticise Arsenal and Arsene for all sorts of things (and heaven knows I do at times in my more private and frustrated moments) it is about as wrong as it is possible to be to say they lack ambition.

And some words of wisdom from the late great ZimPaul

“”One thing is the frustrated fan hurling cheap insults against any target, including Emmanuel, Aaron, Abou, Theo, Denilson, so many others, and always Wenger by default, to vent their infantile anger at not being at the “top table” of trophies for a rather short spell, without thought of incredible ambitions the club had already achieved, was in the process of achieving, and had set its sights on, and the calm, decent manner it was going about all this. Despicable and stupid.

Then what does one call the informed and erudite fan, who knowingly, willfully set out to manipulate malleable, weak minds with outright lies, selective lies, omission of facts, outrageous claims (often dressed up as modest, humble appeals for change and “end of an era”), manipulating and flinging about all manner of base emotions, with the objective to erode team and club morale, it’s achievements, and get Wenger out?

And then what does one call more influential individuals and journalists, pundits, ex-players, football establishment types, who conjured up and fabricated an entire anti-Wengerball culture, week in week out, appealing to Arsenal’s time-honoured (British) traditions and glories, and so set out and all but conspired to use their influence to destroy Arsenal’s achievements during a vulnerable period of building for the long term?”

When will we ever learn, when will ever learn ?

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