Arsenal Highlight the New Normal With 55 Redundancies.


If The Arsenal is the only club making redundancies I’ll be surprised, and if it remains at 55 then they will have done well. Yesterday’s announcement was a timely reminder of reality, not just for this club, but for football in general – and, although it pains to say it, for the world beyond. Since the return of televised football and the attendant drama of league seasons ending and promotion and relegation issues finalised, it has been easy to turn a blind eye to the lack of crowds (tv production teams quickly learnt to avoid shots of empty stands, became better at piping in crowd noise) and to pretend that everything was OK. For us, with glorious victory over City and then Chelsea to win our 14th FA Cup, it seemed that the age of Arteta could well be ushering in success of Wengerian proportions.

But Covid 19 is not going anywhere (and Covid 21 and 23 are waiting in the wings no doubt) and normal service won’t be resumed until a vaccine is found, tested and then rolled out world-wide. That is unlikely to be until springtime 2021 at the earliest. The UK government’s hope to have fans back in stadiums this autumn is already dashed, and the imperative to get schools open again will surely mean other freedoms will be curtailed. With a second corona wave feared as autumn turns to winter it will be harder and harder to keep playing squads, coaches, medical teams, referees and linesmen free from the virus. Nobody will be going to the Emirates anytime soon.

Sports that make for easy social distancing have been back on the menu for enthusiastic amateurs for several months now: great news for cricketers and golfers and tennis players, and its encouraging to see that football (training at least) is beginning again. The hope is that competitive matches will start later this month, but so much depends on the virus remaining under (relative) control, and with local lockdowns now happening I cannot see too much football happening outside the professional game this coming season. I strongly suspect that the UK will not be alone in this, and I worry for the development of young players across the world: for all sorts of reasons it’s probably not a great time to be a scout.

So I think that sad though it was to hear of redundancies I fear we will hear of more and more. I wonder how many fans have already renewed their season tickets, or indeed whether the club has even asked them to do so. I probably would not have renewed my Red Membership had I remembered it was on a standing order so I expect that many more savvy than me will not have contributed to the ongoing wealth of KSE Inc. I wonder too how easy it will be for fans to afford expensive TV subscriptions if their own jobs are jeopardised, so I suspect there are some ongoing and quite tense discussions going on between networks, leagues and governments. I would be particularly fearful if I was involved in promoting European Cups and Leagues come September.

Arsenal FC is everybody’s favourite whipping boy right now (and when, to be fair wasn’t it) but although you may find fault with its timing or its PR or even the whole way the club is run I strongly suspect that it is in a far better and more honest situation than many clubs in the Premiership. Heaven alone knows what it looks like in the lower leagues, and although I don’t think it will quite come to this, I do fear for the future of the game itself. In his magnificent poem MCMXIV Philip Larkin talks about the way the outbreak of the First World War was received, picturing the innocent way the men lined up at the recruiting stations as if it were ‘all some Bank Holiday lark’. Never such innocence again, he concludes, and I find myself in similar cast of thought as I hear Prime Ministers and others who ought to know better assure me that everything will be back to normal by Christmas time.

But then what do I know? Easier by far to blame it all on Big Stan or Mesut Ozil while getting ready for a trip to Piebury Corner and The Tollington.

Tim Head, @foreverheady


Voice of The Happy Meerkat As Arsenal Win 14th FA Cup

Latest podcast: Finally Gooners have something to be truly joyful after our worst season in 25 years as Arsenal win their 14th FA Cup. Shotta and Blackburn George aka Arseblagger give their analysis.

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Your comments are welcome.


We Are The Greatest FA Cup team The World Has Ever Seen – Literally


That really couldn’t have gone better, it’s always better when it’s a come back. A come back in a game is great, but when that game makes the season into a come back, ah, that is sweet.

We looked very much second best for the first 20 minutes. They were all over us like a rash, making chances for fun. Or so it seemed to me from behind my sofa. I feared the worst, but seriously, what do I know?

Ceballos, who had been brushed aside in the build up to their goal, and the rock that is Xhaka, got a grip of the midfield and we came back strong. The attitude was perfect, we used the space in behind, with long balls into space at every opportunity, a ploy that saw us draw level when Aubameyang got on the end of one and was hauled down in the box. I’ve seen Liuz sent off for the same offence, but it was just a yellow. The explanation was that he tried to win the ball, he didn’t, it should have been a red. All the same we dominated the game until half-time and could easily have gone in ahead.

Chelsea worked their way into the game in the second half, but just when it looked like we might struggle to hold them, Hector, full of vegan energy, powered through the midfield and the ball ended up at Aubameyang’s feet, a jink and a left-foot chip and it was 2-1.

I never felt we would lose from that point.

No need for me to pap on, you all saw the game, it was a good game and we thoroughly deserved our 14th FA cup victory. It sees us back in Europe and gives more power to Arteta’s elbow.

By the way, some of the performances of our players were epic.

Speak soon.


Pedantic George


Arsenal vs Chelsea FA Cup Final Preview: No Pressure!

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The curtain comes down on the English football season as two familiar London rivals, Arsenal and Chelsea, go head-to-head at Wembley in the FA Cup Final this afternoon.

The Gunners knocked out holders Man City in the semis, whereas the Blues had to get past Liverpool, Leicester and Man United on route to the final.

Good day one and all.

This hasn’t been an easy season for Arsenal at all; winning just four of our first 15 Premier League games had us at a real disadvantage. But since Mikel Arteta’s arrival mid-season, we have seen a steady upturn in performances. However, the lockdown put a real dent in our momentum with results since the restart not completely satisfactory. This saw us finishing just outside the European qualifying spots in 8th-place.

So it all comes down to this; one game that could transform a disappointing campaign into a moderate successful one, with entry to next season’s Europa League. One game that could be the difference between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang extending his Arsenal stay other not, one game that could be the difference between getting a shiny new toy, or promoting from within.

The Gunners do have pedigree when it comes to reaching the finals in the FA Cup and will hope to continue that trend today. However, the Blues are as prolific when it comes to playing in finals, but hopefully Baku is the furthest from our lads’ minds.

Frank Lampard was appointed at the start of the season with the club under a transfer embargo and having just sold their talisman Eden Hazard. Considering he guided his young side to top-four and reaching the FA Cup Final, he has done remarkably well in his maiden season.

However, that will not be enough, because with this their only chance at silverware, winning the Cup will be as important to them as it is for the Gunners.

Chelsea are unbeaten in their two league meetings with Arsenal this season (W1, D1). Interestingly, both matches were played with Arteta and Lampard in their respective dugouts. The Blues’ 2-1 win at the Emirates was Arteta’s first home game in charge. At Stamford Bridge it was very different with the Gunners showing real grit to come from behind twice after going down to 10 men in their 26th minute, to draw 2-2.

So this is the start of a new chapter in the battle between two rookie managers looking to win their maiden trophy in the Cup they lifted as captains.

Team news

Arteta used a 3-4-3 formation in the 2-0 win over Man City and is likely to go with that again, as well as a similar looking lineup. Though with Mustafi injured, Rob Holding once against get the chance of starting in the final of this competition.

Hector Bellerín missed the Watford game with a calf issue but was back in full training. So too first-choice goalkeeper Bernd Leno; however, Arteta has already confirmed that Emi Martinez will start between the sticks.


No two teams have had more success in this famous old trophy than these two since the turn of the century.

This, of course, will be the third time in the last four seasons these sides meet in a finals, with varying success. With Chelsea finishing the league season 10 points better off than the Gunners, one would assume them having the edge, but it is Arsenal that have the love affair with the FA Cup in recent times … so this could be a very closely contested, low-scoring, yet very entertaining match. COYG!

— @LaboGoon


Arsenal vs Watford match preview


After 11-and-a-half months it’s finally the last round of Premier League fixtures on the 2019/20 calendar, with Arsenal hosting Watford at the Emirates Stadium.

The Hornets are staring down the barrel, needing at least a draw to have an outside chance of avoiding relegation, whereas the Gunners come into this match on the back of a shock 1-0 loss to Aston Villa.

Good day one all.

Arsenal has been very hit and miss in recent weeks; notable wins over Wolves and Liverpool in the league was followed by a superb FA Cup victory against Man City, but defeats either side of The Reds clash have left us 10th-place in the league table.

Of course, it’s disappointing but we also shouldn’t ignore that we are in a period of transition since Mikel Arteta walked through the door mid-season. However, with next weekend’s FA Cup final against Chelsea still offering a shot at redemption, we simply cannot go into that match on the back of successive defeats.

As luck would have it… Watford come into this game having lost each of their last five games on the road across all competitions.

An incredible 3-0 victory over league champions Liverpool on 29 February, ending their then unbeaten league run, hasn’t given the visitors the boost they thought it would, as they won only two of their nine matches since (D1, L5). Nigel Pearson was dismissed just two days prior to their 4-0 trashing at the hands of Man City in midweek because of that failure.

If they are to dodge the relegation trapdoor then simply beating the Gunners may not be good enough, as they would also need the misfortune of Villa who will be equally desperate for a win against a West Ham team, that may already be on the beach. Not a great position for Watford to be in, but caretaker coach Hayden Mullins will be expecting from them to at least hold their end up.

Team news

With six days between today’s game and the FA Cup final, Mikel could field a strong XI, considering he already made six changes for the Villa game. Skhodran Mustafi, of course, is out injured so Rob Holding could come into the side alongside David Luiz and Kieran Tierney.

I think the toughest decision to be made concerns Ainsley Maitland-Niles. He was on the outside of the team but hugely impressed versus City, so whether he would make way for our new number 7, Bukayo Saka, will be telling this afternoon.


With Arsenal’s incredible home record since the start of the year, this fixture is perhaps not as daunting on the face. But Watford is such a petty side that if they feel they really are getting relegated, this match has the potential to get real ugly.

Be that as it may, hopefully we remind Troy Deeney just how big our cojones and send them packing to the Championship with a “you’re welcome” parting shot.




Was Sanchez Better Than Bergkamp?




Goal scorers are always regarded as the best players if they are posting good numbers. Now that might be fair enough if you think that is all that matters. Now I’m a big believer in that a players stats is a good reflection of his ability. But I mean all the stats, not just goals and assists. The problem is that some stats are disregarded and some have not been collated because it’s not possible to quantify them accurately.

For example, how do we measure which was the key pass or movement that opened up the game leading to a goal or a chance? A pre assist or a pre pre assist , could be much more key than the final assist, which could be as simple as anything.

How do you measure the understanding a player has for his team mates? If someone is pulling opposition players out of position , opening up space for the assist or goal, how is that measured?

How do you measure when a player passes to a team mate and he has time and space to create or pass the ball on again, against a hospital pass or one that will surely result in loss of possession? They are both recorded as completed passes.

How do you measure the skill of a player finding good space, if he doesn’t get given the ball?

How do you measure the cost of squandered possession if it’s a while before the goal against us is scored, or how much energy is used by the team trying to regain possession?

But “GOALS AND ASSISTS” they scream, when rating players.

Most fans watch the ball, so if a player chases the ball, hogs it when he gets it and takes a shot from anywhere, fans will be impressed. Not all fans of course, some actually understand the game.

Some of you might already have guessed that this blog has been inspired by my opinion that Sanchez was not a world class player for us, and perhaps the most overrated player in the clubs history. Not because he wasn’t an incredibly gifted player, because he was also incredibly bad at many of the things that define a great player.

I have to be honest, I didn’t want him when we signed him and thought he would not fit with our style. That style was based on dominating the ball with technically gifted players, since Arsene had introduced it(very much before Pep at Barca) in 2008.

When Sanchez arrived, we had Jack, Santi, Ozil, Rosicky and had began to look like contenders for the title and started winning silverware. Despite he himself being technically gifted, he was the opposite of these players. He often lost the ball 30+times in a game, our team play became disjointed and we were left exposed to counters. Occasionally he had games where he didn’t squander the ball, and frankly, he and the team then looked very impressive.

People will talk about his “peak” season, where he was prolific with goals and also more than decent with assists. But that coincidentally was the first time in 20 years we finished outside the top four. Go figure.

So let’s think about just how much sense the “BUT GOALS AND ASSISTS” merchants make.

Dennis Bergkamp made a goal or assist every 1.74 PL games

Sanchez made a goal of assist every 1.20 (all comps) games.

So those stats would tell a “BUT GOALS AND ASSIST” merchant, that Sanchez was better than God himself.

Ramsey scored 40 goals in 262 appearances, one every 6.55 games (PL)

Vieira scored 27 in 279, one every 10.33.

Assists are even more in favour of Ramsey

So “BUT GOALS AND ASSISTS” merchants would have us believe Aaron was better than Patrick. Now I’m a huge Ramsey fan, but I would laugh at myself if I made such an assertion.

There you are then, judging a player’s worth to the team ,based on stats alone is stupid, but judging them on headline stats is utterly ridiculous.

Finally, if anyone thinks I’m calling them stupid if they thought Sanchez was a great player, I’m sorry, because that’s exactly what I am doing. His form since he left Arsenal and didn’t have Ozil and Arsene, to make him appear good, is the real reflection of him. The proof of the pudding, as they say.

Pedantic George






What Is A Successful Club, And Why?




What counts more in a football team? Is it the quality of the players? The manager? The playing system? Stable ownership? The fans? Which one? All of them? Of course the answer is all of them how does each of the above measure in relation ?

If someone attempted to add up all the parameters, that’s after multiplying each parameter with a gravity coefficient factor, he/she’d most likely not conclude the equation, because simply the factors used would feel random, spontaneous and not very serious. What does “good ” player mean? What is a “good” manager and what is a “good” system? Does strong ownership also mean successful ownership? How does the fan help the team achieve VICTORY?

On to ours then, we need to let go of the dichotomy over ownership matters or managerial matters or players matters or formation matters. We need to stop comparing the era of riches (1998-2006) with the period of “saving” going on the past 7 years ( if more) and look straight at the truth. Good players are those who offer to the team and the cause. A good manager is one who gives to players the opportunity to offer to the cause of the team. A good system is the manager’s medium that will enable the players to produce deliver and excel. But for there to be an efficient system there needs to be planning. For this planning to exist you must have a director/owner hierarchy, a board, that supports the manager, and has the financial convenience to also support the manager;s choices in a depth of time and not knee-jerk and short-term. For all this to work though the team also needs the fans on their side. None of this can happen without the support faith and belief of the Arsenal crowd. It doesn’t matter what you have but how you combine what you have with HARMONY.

We get bombarded about tactics, about being weak as a system, that we don’t press or play high enough or deep enough or sideways enough or this and that. We read about players constantly , expensive and cheap, about managers who can do better and not, and so on and I have realised after many years that its all a bunch of crap really. I’ve seen players who have come from the unknowns and have become legends, players who were expensive purchases flopping miserably, coaches who didn’t exactly fill you with confidence going on and winning the lot, or leaving a mark behind imprinted in the memories of fans forever and other managers with high a profile cv destroying whole teams in the space of weeks. And why all this? Because the public wants “titles” that’s why. Because the pressure from people to win trophies has become unbearable, they want instant results, hungry for titles. Fair enough, but such mentality wont lead us anywhere.The fans of Arsenal need to stop looking at the past 7 years with scorn and hate for the lack of silverware and concentrate, as noted earlier, in becoming the factor that will push the team FORWARD for years to come.


Judge us in May (May 2024 that is.)

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Good morning positive people.

Arsenal Andrew has a few words of wisdom for us and the fanbase.


“Well, we did predict a more subdued performance following the thrillers v LFC and Citeh, and so it proved. All eyes on the cup final, one imagines and it would not surprise me if Watford cause more anguish in the meantime.

I think we have to understand that the Mikel Arteta direction of travel is where we want it to be, even if the squad currently is not. And let’s bear in mind it took Klopp 4 years and £400 million to create today’s Liverpool juggernaut** and even Ol’ Red Nose was close to the sack before his Man u came good. Okay, I know it only took Arsene Wenger one full season but hey, let’s be reasonable, he had the benefit of being Arsene Wenger.

It’s taken Citeh years of unregulated and unpunished financial doping to come within 15 points of this year’s champions. So given the restrictions on funds, we have got to recognise that there is likely to be only so fast – and so far – that Arteta can currently go with Arsenal.

Wenger’s genius was to take a mid-table club with mid-table funding to be competitive at the top table, not just for a few seasons, but twenty. He was so successful at this that most observers felt it was the club’s DNA that took them to that point rather than one man’s brilliance. Some people spent ten years or more claiming Wenger should have done more with what he had.

History already suggests he did far more with the limited resources available, than anyone could reasonably expect. And we already know there are those with far more resources who have achieved far less and who have received a fraction of the criticism Arsene received.

So one can only hope that this AFC fanbase at least can be fully aware of this lesson, get behind Mikel, and give him the chance, measurable in MULTIPLE SEASONS, rather than games, to take us back to where Arsene routinely led us.

Obviously a first FA Cup would do very nicely indeed but a final in his first half season ain’t bad.”


A Blip Or A Reality Check ?

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After the lord mayor’s show, comes the dust bin cart, and however we cut it, however we accept the mitigating circumstances, that was a dust bin performance.

I think the problem is that we got two results against Liverpool and City from hard work, organisation and effort, not from creative flowing football, and fans assumed one way of play would mean the other would follow. Well it didn’t. We went from all the players following instructions and being exceptional in their execution, to none of the players executing a decent attacking performance.

There really is no point questioning Arteta’s selection, because we simply don’t know the fitness levels of the player or what his plans are for the next two games, and Chelsea has to be the priority.

It’s clear to me that Xhaka is the main man in this squad, but he has been playing every minute of every game, he needed a rest, the problem is that we were so poor without him that he had to come on at half time.

We are crying out for a creative player when we play teams that we will dominate with possession and territoriality. Ozil is by far our most creative player , but for reasons unknown, he is persona non grata, so he was sadly out of the equation. There simply isn’t anyone else.

There’s no point crying over spilt milk, it was a bad night, but it’s fair to ask why? Anyone can beat anyone, as Liverpool and City have proven, but don’t think for a moment that their fans won’t be asking why they were poor against Arsenal.

I believe it will take 3/4 years for Arteta to just get us back competing for  champions league place, but again, we are entitled to point out that someone has done the damage to the squad in the last two years that has made the project so big.

Anyway, onward and upward. We have a cup final to look forward too.


Pedantic George.





Arsenal vs Aston Villa, match preview

It’s the penultimate round of Premier League fixtures of the 2019/20 campaign and Arsenal is on the road again, going up against relegation-threatened Aston Villa.
The Gunners will be hoping to make it three-straight wins across all competitions, whereas the Villains, well, they’re staring down the barrel and fighting for top-flight survival.
Good day one and all.
Arsenal put their past failings against both Liverpool and Manchester City behind them with two impressive wins within four days. First beating The Reds 2-1 in the league on Wednesday, then booking their spot in the finals of the FA Cup thanks to a 2-0 victory over City on Saturday night.
With three games left on our calendar the aim now is to maintain that good run, culminating in the Wembley clash against Chelsea to show that the club is indeed heading in the right direction under head-coach Mikel Arteta.
For the Gunners to make European football through the league, well, Crystal Palace is playing in flip-flops so we would need Chelsea to beat Wolves on the final day, as well as us winning our last two games by a few goals. However, if that doesn’t go our way, we have an escape route of winning the FA Cup final to keep the continental hopes  in our hands.
Conversely, it has been a very disappointing return to the Premier League for Aston Villa; who with just eight wins from 36 games are 18th in the league table, three points and a 4 goals worse off than 17th-placed Watford.
Dean Smith, however, will feel that avoiding defeat here would give them a real shot at survival going into the final matchday, considering the managerless Hornets have Man City (tonight) and Arsenal still to play.
That said, having lost each of their previous six matches against the Gunners the odds are not looking good for the Villains. So if they are to turn that around, they will need to dig into all of their mental resources and ability tonight.
Team news
Arsenal is likely to go with a similar XI as the one from the Reds game with Cédric Soares, Rob Holding, Bukayo Saka, Lucas Torreira, Reiss Nelson and Sead Kolasinac all expected to start.
Eddie Nketiah also returned from suspension and could lead the attack, while if Mesut Özil has fully recovered from a back problem, may well make his first appearance since the restart.
This is a massive game for Villa who will be desperate for all three points, however, with Arsenal determined to finish the season on a high they will not be in a charitable mood. COYG!
— @LaboGoon