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Arsene Wenger Should Go, And Go Now.

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Before I go into my thinking let me make state my opinions:

  1. Arsene Wenger is the club’s greatest ever manager
  2. Arsene Wenger remains one of the world’s best managers
  3. Arsene Wenger can achieve as much success as any possible replacement
  4. Arsene Wenger should leave at the end of this season

So how can I say 4 after the previous 3?  Let me try to explain.

Arsenal are not a poor club; compared to the vast majority of clubs we are rich. However, compared to 3 other English clubs we are very much the poor relation. The problem is a huge swathe of our fan-base flatly refuse to accept this reality.  So let’s look at the reasons why so many think we should be able to compete with these clubs and why their thinking is wrong.

We are the 5th most valuable football club in the world and worth more than City and Chelsea.

Yes we are, but you can’t spend your share value.  An owner could of course borrow against it and fund the club that way, as Manchester United basically do, but our owner chooses not to. So just like the value of your house does not mean you can buy a new Ferrari, the value of the club does not buy players.

We have the largest cash reserves in football.

Yes, we do, but all of our cash reserves are shown in our accounts.  City and Chelsea’s cash reserves are in the bank accounts of their owners and don’t show in their accounts. And importantly, their owners are prepared and willing to spend their own money to subsidise the clubs. Ours has no such willingness. It  doesn’t matter how rich your Dad is, if he won’t fund your lifestyle, you are on your own. The fact that Stan is fabulously wealthy does not help a jot if he insists on the club paying its own way.  And he does.

There is a proven 85% correlation across all leagues of money spent (on fees and wages) to success.

Did LCFC club outspend the rest?

No they didn’t. They were a once in a lifetime exception, and people should understand that for every 5000 to 1 winner, there are 5000+ losers. Using this freak result as an argument against years of proven data takes an incredible amount of stupidity, but that doesn’t seem to put people off.

Until fans accept that there are 3 teams much more likely to win the league at the start of every season there will always be rebellion. I don’t care who the manager is, each and every year there are 3 teams that will have vastly more expensive squads and who will most likely have out-spent us on transfers in the previous window.  Some fans will ignore the financial gulf and demand we “compete” with the super spending clubs. But why?

Well, Arsene Wenger for a start.  His massive early success set the bar, and the change that has happened in the game since is ignored. We want doubles and unbeaten seasons, no sausages for us, oh no-sir. We deserve better.  We have tasted it, many are fans because of it and we demand it again.  And again.

But we just want to compete I hear you say?

But that is bollocks, because if we did compete, the same fans would be accusing the team, manager and club of “bottling” it if we didn’t go on to win.

The connection between the fan-base and the team is broken.  A huge portion of fans blame Arsene.  If he achieves the finish we should be achieving – 4th- this will be hailed a failure.

But here is the thing. Any future manager getting 4th or better will have succeeded.  Only Arsene can both achieve and fail at the same time.  He needs to massively over-achieve for it to be seen as acceptable.  If we finish outside the top 4 this year, it will be his first failure in real terms. But it is accepted thinking that he has failed for 13 years.  And this thinking will remain as long as he is manager.

He has to leave before fans will see and accept that he is not the problem, and never has been.

The players appear to back him almost to a man. But until he leaves they will hide behind him and he will let them. He will take the flak for the players and the board until he leaves.  I doubt a new manager will be as selfless.

Also the players could be carrying his burden onto the field.  The pressure applied by fans and the media will not be released while Arsene is in the driving seat.  They are sure he is the problem and will not consider an alternative view.

All this does not justify our current form which, by the way, is unprecedented in 21 years, but it might go some way to explaining it if people would be prepared to be a little open- minded.  The problem is they are not. They are convinced.  And only Arsene leaving will satisfy their lust for blood.

Arsene simply cannot win. He should leave, even if the club will actually be worse for it.

That said, if he stays, he will get my 100% support.

Because, well you know?

He’s Arsene Wenger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

76 Comments

The Attempted Lynching of Arsene Wenger By The Lamestream Media

lynching

After years of consistently failing to gain any traction with their lies that Arsene Wenger is under-achieving, the mainstream media is now giddy with delight. For the first time in 12 years Arsenal is seriously struggling.

All the enemies of the Arsenal-way and their fellow travelers are now “jizzing” with delight, practically drooling in their underpants. Now is a real chance to sow fear and doom, to split the fanbase and  to put pressure on the Board to fire the manager who has not only been its most successful but, only last year, guided the club to second place in the Premier League and one year earlier completed back-to-back FA cup victories.

But then again, most sensible Arsenal supporters with two functioning brain cells and a working synapse are aware, long before the current political uproar concerning “fake” news, that Arsene and AFC have been victims of bias and slanted journalism for years. None of the following headlines come as any surprise.

The Sun:

 “Arsene Wenger is taking the p*** out of Arsenal fans by continuing his selfish soap opera”

ESPN:

“Arsenal top-four failure would be a disastrous end to Arsene Wenger era”

It is entirely predictable that the mainstream media’s will use a poor run of form to convince the fickle public that this is sufficient reason to condemn a manager who has been the most consistent in the Premier League over the past 20 years not to mention being the most successful in the history of Arsenal Football Club. Is there a better example of George Orwell’s double-think. For those who celebrate Orwell but conveniently forget his writings, let me remind you of his definition of double think:

“To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic… “

A perfect example was Jim Beglin, who was Jon Champion’s sideman in their commentary of Arsenal’s match versus West Brom as broadcast by NBC here in the US. He, at around the 2 minute mark,  could without contradiction, make the following comment with respect to Arsene:

“He doesn’t deserve the criticism cause he has been an Arsenal great….The problem with Arsenal fans is they feel they need to voice their frustration (be)cause he is no longer an Arsenal great.”

Isn’t that a precise example of double think?

Neither Beglin or Champion, like the rest of the other sock-puppets in the mainstream media, have the “cojones” or the integrity to admit that Arsenal’s bad spell has nothing to do with Arsene’s ability to coach or to manage a team. Even Wenger’s most fervent defenders are the first to admit the team messed up on defending two corners but a fair minded observer would disclose that West Brom is very, very good at corners having scored 12 prior to the Arsenal match. Why should it take Wenger to point out that so far this season the team has been quite good at set pieces and corners?

What is even more abject is the refusal of almost all the pundits and experts to acknowledge that Arsenal was greatly weakened by the absence of its two most highly accomplished midfield technicians, Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla.  As I have repeatedly emphasized the data shows the team relies on the creativity of both players to offensively dominate the opposition by creating chances and scoring goals.

Surely it is clear to even the least perceptive of the mainstream media that Ozil is very important to Arsenal. It was only one week earlier, in the FA cup game versus Lincoln City, that in the first 20 minutes Arsenal huffed and puffed without creating chances until Ozil joined the proceedings.  The visitors were eventually spanked 5-0 as the German orchestrated the offence. Surely the mainstream media has access to even better sources of data than this lowly blogger which demonstrate that in the absence of Carzola, Ozil is more vital than ever to Arsenal.

2016/17 Win Draw Loss
With Ozil 67% 14% 19%
Overall 55% 19% 26%
Difference -12% 5% 7%

Without Ozil, there is a 12% decline in the number of PL games won and a concurrent 7% increase in games loss compared to overall team performance

This has been the general trend ever since Ozil joined the club in 203 but is even more pronounced this year. The table below illustrates.

2013 to date Win Draw Loss
With Ozil 60% 23% 17%
Overall 57% 23% 20%
Difference -3% 0% 3%

To back up my findings, I did some further analysis of the Squawka data I published early March and the offensive disparity between Carz-Ozil and The Rest of midfielders quite alarming. By the way: this is not to put down any of the The Rest but there is a reason why Carzola and Ozil are winners of World Cup and European Championship medals versus none for their midfield colleagues.

Carz-Ozil The Rest
Avg Performance Score 26 17
Avg Appearances 15 18
Shot Accuracy 59% 26%
Avg. Pass Accuracy 89% 88%
Avg. Pass Length (m) 16 16
Avg. Chances Created 1.97 0.80
Avg. Goals Scored 0.24 0.05
Avg. Defensive Actions 1.5 1.83
Avg. Duels Won 41% 49%

The midfielders available to Arsene on Saturday are collectively inferior in quality to Carzola and Ozil.

·       34% disparity in Avg Performance Score,

·       Shot Accuracy is 33 percentage points inferior

·       Avg Chances Created is 59% worse

·       Avg Goals Scored is 79% less

On the defensive side, The Rest has much better statistics in terms of Avg Defensive Actions and Avg Duels Won. But at the end of the day football games are won by having the ability to score more goals than the other team.

It was therefore no surprise that despite being nice and tidy and mustering over 77% possession Arsenal was unable to create sufficient Chances and Shots on Target to keep West Brom at bay as evident by the the following statistics from whoscored.com

West Brom KEY STAT Arsenal
12 Shots 11
8 Shots on target 2
58% Pass Success 88%
41% Aerial Duel Success 59%
10 Dribbles won 10
14 Tackles 10
23% Possession 77%

In fact, once Pulis and his players recognized that Alexis was the main offensive threat, they set about fouling him rotationally with referee Swarbick, like most English referees, unwilling to protect the most skillful player on the field. He was fouled four times before a call was first made. The sixth foul by Rondon was a cynical clatter to prevent a breakaway, no yellow card.  The seventh and most severe by Mclean was a full bloodied studs raised challenge from the side, infinitely more forceful than those which earned Xhaka his two red cards; yellow card only. Job done, however.  Alexis’ ankle had been smashed and he was never the same after.

Meanwhile the representatives of the mainstream media, Beglin and Champion, treated it as one big joke:

Beglin: “McLean tackles like a fullback not a winger.”

Champion: “Tackles like a lumberjack”

The clear assault on Alexis Sanchez did not earn West Brom, its manager or players any reproach, any sanction from the combined wisdom of Robbie Earle or Kyle Martino who did  the half-time analysis for NBC’s PL broadcast aimed at us rubes in North America. Nothing happened. Nothing to see here.

By the end of the game however the sock-puppet media lost no time in declaring Arsene was solely responsible for Arsenal’s loss, was somehow out of touch and should be hounded out of the club. Like any lynch mob, the mainstream media and the mindless screeching WOBs, Scarfists and assorted malcontents have no intention of letting the facts come to the fore, they hope mob rule will prevail.

Last week Sir Chips told them to eff-off. Isn’t time for more good people to step up and put the lamestream media in their place.

61 Comments

Arsenal: Provoked with Impunity

IMG_2651.JPGGood morning Positive Arsenal fans,

Another savage setback in Sandwell yesterday. 2017 has turned into a bit of a monster hasn’t it ? In 29th January, having seen our second string thrash Saints in the Cup and with a safe three points against Watford scheduled, before our trip to take on Chelsea the season’s future looked rather different. Only seven weeks ago ….? Just 11 games – Seems a bloody age !

Of yesterday’s lunchtime match until James McLean crunched into Alexis’ ankle we were comfortably in the game. We were not fluent going forward but doing enough to score again and, in due course, probably could/would/should have collected the points. The Chilean had looked sparky, had scored and was leading the Baggies a merry dance. With our balloon popped, or apparently Sanchez’s ankle ligaments crocked to be more accurate, we seemed to retreat into a protective ball, a little shocked, a little hurt.

And after that we lost the game. West Brom are not a bad side, a team built by Pulis in his functional “no-nonsense” image. Like Watford, like Everton, however they are a team of footballers who individually do not have the quality of our players, do not have the wide experience of domestic club, European and international football, do not have the technique in passing and control, are in most cases slower. These are the artisans of the football world. But yet again they put together what talent and energy they had and earned their points. They defended with grim determination and their concentration did not waver. When three chances to score came their way they took them. Two well taken corners, BANG BANG. One scruffy half shank of a scramble on the penalty spot from Robson-Kanu.

For our side we have a hell of a lot of passes and 77% possession. Once we had slipped behind to the second goal we really did not look like we were likely to recover. The eyes glazed, the shoulders slumped. What was slightly disappointing is no one kicked McLean (or stamp on his head as is the current fashion) after what was a vicious tackle on Sanchez. Why are we soooooo “nice” ? We have very good players. And those same players until the end of January had it in them, and managed week after week, to win games in the final few minutes, and to take back the initiative in contests. For the past seven weeks that talent has deserted them.

On the one side we have WBA whose output, whose product, is greater than one could expect if one piled up the components. On the other is us, whose output is falling well below that which the constituent parts ‘should’ yield.

Right that is the hair-shirt bit done.

We thankfully have the international break during which, I hope, the manager and the players can come together and identify what technical failings we have, defensively and offensively, and address them. We still have at least 12 games to go this season.

Despite the hysteria following yesterday’s defeat there remains an FA Cup to play for and crucial games against Citeh X2m, ManYoo and Spuds to be fiercely contested. And we have good player who can and will contest them as is their very lives depended on it. The points in the PL games can still provide a top four or top three finish, and that is still worth having despite what the ingrates will tell you. The results of those forthcoming games will be even more important than the previous 11 games since January. It is time for everyone in the club and who supports arsenal to put their shoulder to the wheel. In eight weeks time the season may look very different.

And I know no-one on here is foolish enough to take me at my word of a person’s life depending on the result of a football match allow me to share a family anniversary with you. 100 years today the 23 year old Lance Corporal John Nicol 9th battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders was killed at Arras.

 

NICOL_J copy

 

I am off to breakfast. Enjoy your Sunday.

 

 

 

 

138 Comments

Arsenal Versus West Brom: Pardon My French

beauty beast

Tony Pulis. There I said it. I know George hates it when we use foul language on his blog. There are outlets which won’t promote Positively Arsenal if it employs such revolting epithets and we are all about the numbers here as you well know. The advertising revenue alone keeps us in swimming pools and pearls and we must not piss off our sponsors.

However there comes a time when difficult issues must be faced and the Pulis is one of those issues. It wasn’t always so. Back in his playing days he was part of the Bristol Rovers golden generation along with ‘Jockey’ Wilson, Devon White and Ian Holloway and I applauded like a Stoke fan every crunching tackle, every score settled.

Of course he blotted his copy book by going on to manage at Ashton Gate, a move which ensured he was despised by both the blue and red halves of the city. After a long and celebrated stint in the Potteries he has now wound up at West Bromwich Albion and thither the mighty Arsenal must travel today and secure a much needed three points.

You might recall I mentioned a young man of my acquaintance who travelled up to London town for the recent FA Cup tie. I saw him last night and asked about his Emirates experience and his face split into a huge grin as he recalled a wonderful day out. He showed me his latest Arsenal shirt and then we got down to the nitty gritty. ‘How was the match?’ I enquired. His answer, refreshing in its honesty, neatly summed up much of our season, ‘We were rubbish in the first half’ he replied ‘but then we were great and won five nil’.

Not so complicated this football lark, is it?

The problem we often experience when anticipating a match is not knowing which version of Arsène Wenger’s project will show up on the day. The tentative, nervous, pass it about at the back under ever increasing pressure until they give up and let the keeper hoof it forward edition, or the free flowing, inventive, confident, improvisational theatre of full blooded Wengerball. Sometimes we even get both in the same game.

People say it’s infuriating, I see it as an intriguing example of the huge role mental confidence and relaxation plays at the highest level in any sport. Andy Murray gave an interview where he said that losing in the Wimbledon final to Federer was the ultimate piece in his jigsaw to becoming a top player. Defeat in the game he’d always seen as the pinnacle of potential achievement meant he’d experienced the worst. With that out of the way there was nothing left to fear, and he could play with a freedom from which he’d previously been inhibited. He wasn’t a better or worse player he just got his head right.

You could see in Aaron’s finish last weekend how important it was for him to find the net. A couple of chances had gone awry, the kind of chances he was dispatching with aplomb in his best season for us, and even though his goal was essentially a tap in he really needed it and whacked the ball into the net with a cathartic flourish. Will it open the floodgates? Time will tell.

Aaron, like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain cannot be judged on this or recent seasons because both players are endlessly coming back from injuries. That or just about to get injured. It has been a frustrating time for them and I’m sure we all wish them a long sustained spell of good health and a proper chance to show what they are capable of.

Let’s hope Pulis and his boys don’t set out to further the injury woes of any of our players. It would be nice to see a sporting contest. The casual observer might deduce from our recent results that Arsenal is there for the taking, and this could, I suppose encourage in West Brom an adventurous spirit. I’d welcome this as the old attritional warfare against deep set defensive tactics is never easy on the eye. In any sport you cannot attack without creating vulnerabilities in defence so it might open the game up were they to sense blood.

I don’t actually believe Mr P will make the mistake of taking our results at face value. There has been some wonderful football among the dross and he will know that on our day we can demolish any side. The question he’ll be asking is very similar to the one I posed earlier. Which Arsenal side will show up at the Hawthorns today? Don’t be surprised if it’s a mix of both. To achieve one of the three hallowed places beneath champions elect Chelsea will call for some determined hard work as much as for fast moving, eye catching football. I’ll take a one nil win and some backs to the wall defending if it sets us on the right track for the run in. Of course I have the advantage of not travelling all the way to B71 and forking out for match tickets so I can be a little more relaxed about the nature of the performance.

If you are going I hope you enjoy a sizzling treat of speedy, confident Arsenal at its best and a result to match. If like me you will be at work from this morning right through to tomorrow lunchtime then I hope you avoid hearing the score and somehow navigate to the match on Arsenal Player without their giving the game away. They love to do that to us. Pages of headlines telling what happened before actually arriving at the match highlights and even then the video itself often displays a still clip from late in the game with the score clearly visible next to the time. It grinds my gears I don’t mind telling you.

See? Who says we’re afraid to criticise the club?

 

224 Comments

Arsenal: When Sir Chips Told The Mainstream Media To “Eff Off”

Eff you

After losing 5:1 to Bayern the English media have done everything to downplay the quality of Arsenal’s performance up to the 55th minute, ignore the diabolical refereeing (Wenger described it as “unexplainable and scandalous“) and to ratchet up the hysteria for Arsene to be fired prior to renewal or conclusion of his contract.

Leading the charge of the English media is one James Olley, Chief Football Correspondent of the Evening Standard. Before PSG was screwed over by the same UEFA referees he was a man filled with certitude.

“Arsenal were simply not good enough to compete at the highest level and after more than £85million investment in a squad Wenger had huge faith in, it is a damning indictment of the manager and this group of players (My emphasis).”

Despite the Standard being a rag that is given away to evening commuters, Mr Olley’s views are of such import that the Sage of Dublin made him his guest of honor on his Friday podcast to spew his diatribe to his army of followers. So let us dissect Olley’s views.

Did the manager ever have any illusions about the gap in quality between his club and Bayern? Unlike Mr Olley’s bill of indictment, the manager in his pre-game presser did not have great “faith” in his team’s chances:

“Let’s not fool ourselves, we have a one or two-percent chance. But you never know. That’s why we have to focus on the quality of our performance and our commitment.”

But should Gooners or neutrals be expecting superiority over Bayern because Arsenal invested £85million in the squad last summer? Apparently Olley believes after one summer of big spending Arsenal should be beating one of the traditional powerhouses of Europe (2-times Champion League and 3-times European Cup winners) and 26-times Bundesliga winner. If one merely focused on the headline statistic, i.e. market value of both squads; £472.73m  for Bayern vs £418.20m for Arsenal (a 13% difference), and this is before making any adjustment to account  for the more inflated English market, one would think it is a small gap.

Don’t expect Mr. Olley and his interlocutor, the Sage of Dublin, to dig down into the data as this would expose the shallowness of their claim that Wenger is all to blame for Arsenal’s defeat. Unlike them, we at Positively Arsenal demand data and facts to form a conclusion rather than act hysterically and emotionally.

A deeper analysis of the market value of the players representing both teams show a £20 million edge to Bayern, according to transfermarkt.co.uk Again it must be emphasized that England suffers from significantly greater inflation than Germany where Bayern can pick up a player with more or less the same qualities as one in the English market at a lesser transfer fee. This applies to wages as well.

ARSENAL
David Ospina £5.95m
Laurent Koscielny £18.70m
Shkodran Mustafi £25.50m
Nacho Monreal £12.75m
Héctor Bellerín £21.25m
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain £17.00m
Aaron Ramsey £29.75m
Francis Coquelin £12.75m
Granit Xhaka £29.75m
Olivier Giroud £21.25m
Mesut Özil £42.50m
Alexis Sánchez £55.25m
Lucas Pérez £14.45m
Theo Walcott £18.70m
Total Market Value £325.55m

V.S.

BAYERN
Manuel Neuer £38.25m
Mats Hummels £32.30m
Javi Martínez £21.25m
David Alaba £34.00m
Rafinha £4.25m
Thiago Alcántara £25.50m
Joshua Kimmich £21.25m
Arturo Vidal £31.45m
Xabi Alonso £2.98m
Robert Lewandowski £68.00m
Franck Ribéry £6.80m
Renato Sanches £25.50m
Arjen Robben £8.50m
Douglas Costa £25.50m
Total Market Value £345.53M

The fact that the financial disparity, when 11 v 11, was only 6% goes somewhere in explaining why Arsenal was competitive for the first 55 minutes. But once the officials decided to tilt the tables in Bayern’s favor by not only granting a penalty for Lewandowski’s appalling imitation of Jamie Vardy’s favorite diving technique, but going further by sending off Arsenal’s best defender (Koscielny), the disparity became a gulf. Approximately £20 million in talent was sent to the showers.

By the way: I am no great fan of transfermarkt’s valuation as a source of unbiased data but it certainly goes somewhere in exposing the shallowness of Olley’s selective use of transfer spending to support a predetermined point of view. As usual, I publish my data so readers can do their own analysis and agree/disagree with my conclusions. If time allowed I would have researched age,  years as a professional, performance rating (Squawka), etc., to assess the qualitative difference between both starting XIs.

Back to Mr. Olley’s campaign to discredit Mr. Wenger. One day after Bayern his headline was Arsene Wenger cannot be allowed to decide his destiny – he is holding Arsenal back:

“It is difficult to imagine how bad things have to get at Arsenal before the offer of a two-year contract extension to Arsene Wenger is withdrawn.”

Apparently this provocative headline earned him the invitation to do that Arsenal podcast. Birds of a feather certainly flock together.

It took Sir Chips Keswick, chairman of the board, to put Olley and his cohorts in their place by letting them know who decides Arsene’s and Arsenal’s destiny. He issued an official statement on Thursday, March 9th which stated:

 “Arsene has a contract until the end of the season. Any decisions will be made by us mutually and communicated at the right time in the right way.”

None of that dreaded statement of confidence, that platitudinous public relation puffery used by Board chairmen to assuage the media and incredulous fans to insulate themselves from criticism while they plot their options. It was a simple statement of fact; a big, polite “eff off”.

Olley was not dissuaded. During the Lincoln game, like so many in the English media, via a series of tweets, one could sense how desperate he was to have an upset and his ensuing disappointment.

In his post game report Olley came to the remarkable conclusion that a 5:0 trashing was underwhelming.

“The performance was underwhelming as Lincoln held their own in a fearless and well-organised display but Wenger got the result he desperately needed to avoid further discontent.”

My friends, this is the state of the English mainstream media and its profitable footballing division; a state of rank bias and mendacity. And colluding with them are bloggers and podcasters who pursue ambitions completely divorced from the hard facts and reality that affect the club they claim to support. Rather than trying to educate and inform the fans they are in it to promote hysteria and emotionalism. What a shame!

22 Comments

Arsenal: the lightness of the Cup

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Good morning Positives,

An FA 6th round tie was always, and probably will always, be a special fixture. Yesterday gave us a ‘classic’ Cup football confrontation, the mighty Arsenal, though slightly bruised after recent events, against the resolute, full-of-heart underdog of an opponent.

I was pleased to see Arsene set out a strong starting line up and bench. I say that not because I doubt that Rob Holding, Ospina or AMN would have failed achieve the same or perhaps even a better final result against Lincoln. It was a tie we were always expected to win, and would have done so whoever played after all. No, it was good to see that for once all our big guns had an opportunity to play together for 90 minutes in a game that allowed them to enjoy their football, to pass, dribble, shoot and use their craft. Above all, for the first time this year, we scored goals together. It was five, we know that it could have been ten or more as the game lapsed into attack v defence after half time.

I do not know about you, and the kind of jobs you do and the challenges you overcome to earn a daily crust, but occasionally I really enjoy dealing with a project that is straightforward, predictable, easy. The simplicity reminds me of what is important in what I do, and reminds me what is just pointless  background noise. It helps me re-set the compass. And so I felt it was for our players yesterday, who from where I was standing at least seemed to “ENJOY” the game. That most fans stayed on after the game to clap our own and the Lincoln players I’d say that it was a good evening. A football match as entertainment – who would have thought it ?

I make no pretence of having seen enough of the game to pick a man of the match. I must however give a more general tip my hat to Shkodran Mustafi who over recent games, particularly when he has found himself fighting a lone centre back battle, has performed valiantly.

If any reader thinks in emphasising our superiority I am being harsh or dismissive of our East of England opponents, I am not. Every man of them played to the very limit of his ability and energy. At 3-0, 4-0 they dashed about the pitch to try and press us with a ferocity that Her Klopp would have been proud off, their pink clad keeper flung out his limbs in all directions as he faced the gallery of red and white marksmen queuing to take their turn. In the first half their tenacity and organisation served them well, and for all the sneering “but they are non-League” commentary from the punditistas Lincoln held us at arm’s length better and held out for a damn sight longer than Bayern Munich had managed on Tuesday. A word of praise for their winger Nathan Arnold. Not often you see Kosc left on his arse and Arnold’s finish required the very best from Cech to deny the visitors. Their fans went home delighted, a day they will never forget.

So I think a satisfactory afternoon, enjoyable for Arsenal players, the manager and Arsenal fans (well the sane ones anyway). Clearly there are no great tactical or strategic lessons to be learned in one off Cup games. I hope however that it reminds the players why they do the job, that in a game mired in money, in the media blizzard, in the machinations of agents and boardrooms that they can still revel in their skills, their fitness and movement. Taste that Cup glory, just for the evening.

Two more 6th round ties to go and I am sure you will be with me in wishing the Lions all the best for their game at the Lane.

Enjoy Sunday.

112 Comments

Arsenal Versus Lincoln: Waiting For The Great Leap Forward

great leap

Finding myself on my uppers and trying to claw my way out of a protracted period of poor health, I’ve taken to earning a few quid by going out to work. A wildly radical idea which, like Arsenal’s season, has yielded mixed results.

Lately I’ve been working for an organisation which provides support for adults with disabilities and learning difficulties. It is an area of employment which offers wildly varying emotional rewards and extraordinarily poor financial ones. No one employed there is in it to get rich but there are some highly motivated and above all decent people both giving and receiving support. As you can readily imagine in such exalted company I stand out like a blind cobbler’s thumb.

One of the people I’ve spent some time with is an Arsenal supporter and other than that I shall respect his privacy and tell you nothing of his circumstances. I can tell you he has been in a ferment this past week because today he’s travelling up from the West Country to the Big Smoke in order to watch his favourite team play in the FA Cup. Yes it would have been cool to have seen that particular shift pop up on my rota, no it did not.

What is wonderfully refreshing about being around this particular Arsenal supporter is his undaunted passion for the game. Regardless of the results and the negative commentary he listens to from the pundits he always seems happy to be a fan. What he singularly fails to do, and this really sets him apart from you and I, is to follow the team online.

What a joy to be around someone who doesn’t indulge their disappointment beyond a quick conversation with me or one of the other staff members but instead gets on with looking forward to the next game. It has been an invigorating, affirming and wholly positive experience. It of course throws into sharp contrast the verbal war zone of Twitter and the poisoned pond of the comments beneath the variously negative or sarcastic Arsenal blogs. I trust he will be allowed to enjoy his match day experience without the ridiculous, ruinous masochism of the disenchanted infecting the atmosphere. A fun filled carnival of football followers or a malignant miasma – only his fellow fans can decide.

Personally I shan’t be watching as I have landed a photography job at a gig being organised to celebrate the birthday of a well known local musician. Should be a good blend of light hearted portraits and band shots, not to mention every photographer’s nightmare; capturing the ‘fun’ of a party in a darkened hall. Moving subjects, poor lighting. Say no more.

Those of you who will be watching the game ought to be in for a treat. If the wonderful football we saw before the plug was pulled on Tuesday evening is anything to go by then Lincoln City are in for a torrid time. At stake, a semi final in our only remaining cup competition. Having won this venerable trophy in two of the last three years we all know what a wonderful end to the season such a prize can provide.

It is a simple and obvious fact that from now until that fateful day in May we have so much to play for. The battle for a top four finish is as fierce this season as it has ever been. Spurs, no doubt stung by the final day debacle of 2016, will be doubly determined to end their dreadful record of finishing below us year after year, and of course we are only a couple games away from the potential of a Wembley final.

Given that little list, anyone, whether they come from a pro or anti standpoint, who wastes their time and emotional energy getting excited about anything beyond the games themselves, surely deserves to have their bumps felt. Forget what may or may not be going on in the changing room or the boardroom. Spare no thought on the manager or players’ future plans. Don’t bang your head against the impenetrable wall of poor decisions and woeful commentary. Seriously, give it all up, nothing will change, nothing you do, think or say will make a scrap of difference. So why not just enjoy the game, revel in the tension and excitement of the run in and take the summer off until we go again in the Autumn?

I know one young man who will be doing just that and I’ll tell you something for nothing, he’ll be a whole lot happier than you or anyone else who gets themselves sucked into the morass of pointless argument, opinion and debate. Why not try it for just one game? Watch, enjoy, then just get on with your life until the next fixture comes around. Who knows, you might actually start enjoying football again.