155 Comments

Is Stan Kroenke Now Arsenal’s Saviour ?

So the great new dawn is upon us. We have rid ourselves of Arsene Wenger and his gang of incompetents, and replaced them with high class people that can bring us the success we deserve.

It’s absolutely fantastic. The players are drinking water, smiling,training hard, young players are involved and the manager is hands on on the training ground. These things never happened before , now did they?

That there have been major changes in personnel is undeniable. That they are all top people in their fields of expertise appears to be the case, they are certainly experienced with good track records.  Its more people with more individual responsibility and a coach with much less. Modern football? Or should I not say that because “modern football” is frowned upon by the “we want our Arsenal back” hoards. But I digress.

The point is almost every fan is happy, us included, the future looks bright. But what has actually changed other than our perceptions?

We have spent about £70m up until now, I suspect there will be outgoing and our net spend will be considerably less. So are we spending more? Is the new regime spending the money Arsene refused to? Seems not ?

Have we dipped into the £250m in the bank that should be spent on making the team as good as it can be? Seems not ? Perhaps that’s not for spending then, or not anywhere like that figure?

Are we competing for the likes of Marhez ,with City, or are we still buying from the second shelf ? It seems we are not and we still are  ! So what’s the big change?

Have we tied Aaron Ramsey down to a new deal, or is it dragging on? Dithering?

Now here is the rub, the moment many readers start shifting uncomfortably on their seat, searching for an answer that doesn’t destroy all their hard earned narratives.

If you are happy with all things Arsenal now, you have a certain Stan Kroenke to thank.

Without spending any more of the clubs money, and of its reserves ,or dipping into his own pocket for a single silver dollar, he has given everyone what they wanted ? Without being a football man or spending time at the club he has granted the wishes of the permanently malcontent.

His useless puppet (Ivan) is now the dogs bollocks. We are Kroenke FC , being driven by Ivan, and he is the very image of a none football man.

So if everything is rosy in the garden, and I hope it is, then we should be very much KROENKE IN ? He has come through big time and perhaps all the hate was for nowt?

 

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100 Comments

Arsenal’s Away Form Explained – Our Narrative.

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I was reading through the comments and found this from Eduardo, it perfectly explains my own thoughts on the subject. For anyone calling bullshit on it , Shotta has given us data to back this up in several of his blogs.

“I would say that we did not approach away games any different than home games, but two things, three as the season went on, altered the results

1. The biggest one for me, the refs away from home really did give us an awful time, lack of clear cut penalties, phantom penalties against us, the non calling of fouls for us cos Arsenal don’t like it up them,

2. Simple mistakes by our players, we seen our players make some crazy decisions in away games that we just did not see at home, we also played with a little less tempo away, meaning our attack was blunted,

The third thing was as the season went on, and the away form struggled, the players’ confidence away from home fell apart, it might only have made a 10% drop in performance, maybe even less, but that was enough. Our players got to the point where it seemed they just expected the officials to not give us the penalty, to flag us offside, to hand a penalty to the opposition, or for one of our guys to fuck up royally, if you like a self fulfilling prophecy. At home we were winning, so they played expecting to win, away we were losing and so it continued.
Its a new season, a new dawn, it could very well be that we will go the season unbeaten away, and struggle at home. A lot of this can depend on how we start the season, get the early wins and things can flow, struggle either at home or away and not only can it get in the players’ heads, but the NARRATIVE will be set in the media, in the blogs, etc, and it will make it so much harder. Of course get on a run of wins and maybe, just maybe, the Narrative will be Emery to lead AFC to title in first season.”

 

203 Comments

The VAR Revolution; English Football and Arsenal

VAR graphic FIFA

VAR at the 2018 World Cup is the 21st century Russian Revolution. It is the football equivalent of  “Seven Days That Shook The World” over 100 years ago.  As happened in Europe and the world, for decades thereafter, nothing in football refereeing will remain the same after the VAR revolution at the 2018 World Cup.

Despite the bitter, vicious whingeing in the media by the luddite pundits who bang on endlessly that it is the end of football, i.e. the end of those “good times” when referees, wittingly or not, could erroneously award penalties and off-side goals without real-time review, despite the doubters, VAR has burst on the world stage proving that with technology the accuracy of refereeing decisions can decisively increase, especially on those game-changing decisions.

VAR is 99.3% correct

According to FIFA’s referee committee head, Pierluigi Collina, so far at the World Cup, 99.3 percent of “match-changing” decisions were called correctly at — “very, very close to perfection” — based on assessments by him and other senior ex-referees.  Who in their right mind, after seeing world cup after world cup (my 12th tournament since 1970) where usually “smaller nations” get screwed over by a decisive penalty or off-side call, could be against VAR? Which England fan, with two working neurons and the ability to think independently, could be opposed to a video ref review after Maradonna’s infamous “hand of god” goal? Which Gooner, having experienced in the PL a 120% plus increase in Penalties-Against the club in the ten years up to 16-17 compared to the previous period, be satisfied with the current state of affairs?

Defining the revolution

So why is this a revolution?  There is no bloody uprising, no raging factions of Girondists vs Jacobins, Mensheviks vs Bolsheviks, etc. engaged in terminal struggle. Yet it is my hypothesis that the impact of VAR is potentially as significant as any other revolution in the sport. First, the absolute power of the refereeing authorities to make game changing decisions without recourse has ended. It may take some months to become reality but the success of VAR on the world stage is the beginning of the end of those refereeing organizations who have delayed and procrastinated on the use of technology to ensure football officials get the big decisions absolutely right.

It is remarkable that up to 2018, football will be the last among the major sports to adopt technology. Is there anything more incongruous; in a world of 4k, ultra definition TV, where viewers can literally see every bead of sweat on a player’s brow, much less a blatant foul or hand-ball offense in real time, the Premier League with all its multi-billion tv revenue, will be the last among the major European leagues to adopt VAR. Truth, they say, is stranger than fiction.

How often have we seen referees dismiss with arrogance and impunity appeals made by players-managers-fans to reverse decisions that were blatant errors on their part. A mealy-mouth apology at end of season via a journalist or some other friendly audience regretting the error will not bring back 2 or 3 points dropped because of a bad decision. Multiply such “errors” two or three times over a season and three lost points multiply to as much nine. One doesn’t have to be a statistical genius to appreciate that in a league of fine margins, with a top-4 place more than a trophy (now the equivalent a gold or platinum plated Preferred Card to the riches of the champions league) that refereeing errors are simply unacceptable in deciding the results of games.

Even more revolutionary, to my mind, is how VAR will restrict the ability of the honchos who are the real power in the various leagues (Premier, UEFA, FIFA, etc.) from being able to appoint their favorite referee to manipulate a game to achieve a desired result. The biggest and most recent scandal, Calciopoli in Italy, centered on the fixers being able to have their favored corrupted referee appointed to do certain games. Fortunately for the Italian investigators, who busted the perpetrators, they had recorded telephone conversations between the plotters. No hard evidence has emerged of English referees being corrupted despite the increased legitimization of gaming companies being involved with English football, the massive rise in sports-related gambling rings in Asia and elsewhere and the reports of certain referees receiving favors from bookmakers. But some of us refuse to be intimidated by accusations of being conspiracy theorists, refuse to abandon commonsense, and refuse to ignore the laws of human nature. Throughout history wherever there is massive amounts of money to be had, without transparency and aggressive policing of the players, corrupting forces will flourish with gay abandon.

Disarray in the English media 

The striking thing to date is how the VAR revolution has the English media in general disarray. Until recently, anything about the World Cup, particularly Russia, was negative. Football lovers were urged to avoid land of Putin as it was a cesspool of racist, violent football hooligans. Apparently the legions of fans who traveled from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and many European countries to support their teams simply ignored the advice of certain media and were/are only too happy to enjoy the hospitality of the Russians and to party from city-to-city, unmolested.

Pre-world cup the English football media was generally united that they, with a few well chosen propaganda points, could deceive the public that VAR doesn’t or couldn’t work. One prominent example is Barney Ronay of The Guardian, in my opinion their best exponent of Orwellian double-speak, who as recent as last January after only the 3rd trial of VAR by the Football League concluded:

“The fact is, for all the expertise, the manpower, the money spent, VAR just doesn’t work in football. It diminishes the experience of watching in the stadium. It skews the game decisively one way. It is one of those ideas, like bendy buses, or communism, that would simply be better off abandoned.”

Notice by the way the allusion to communism. Apparently you have to be a communist to want fair-play in football. Is there anything more Orwellian?

Eight months later the Guardian is a little more “guarded” (pardon the pun), one may say even ebullient in their assessment of VAR. In a column headlined The video ref is the rising star of this World Cup, penned by a Jack Bernhardt and published on June 19th, long before the conclusion of the group stages of the World Cup, he wrote:

“Sure, there have been a few high-profile mistakes. VAR should have spotted Harry Kane being wrestled to the ground by Tunisia’s defenders last night, and if England hadn’t won the Sun would have run the headline “What a bunch of VARseholes”. But to me, VAR is much more than a silly extra gimmick, or something new and shiny that exists just to irritate Mark Lawrenson – it’s actually changing the dynamic of the sport.

“But if a referee knows they can review a decision, it becomes inherently less arbitrary. As such, everyone has more faith in the system, so there are fewer frustrated outbursts, and less of a need for a referee to stamp their authority on the game. That’s borne out by the stats: with no red cards in the first 14 matches, this is officially the cleanest start to a World Cup in 32 years.”

Beware the counter revolution

The success of VAR is not guaranteed. Like any revolution, there will be a counter revolution. Europe is replete with examples. The French are now into their 5th Republic. The Soviet Union has ceased to exist.

The Powers That Be (PTOB) may be off-balance by the current success of VAR but it won’t be for long. Without a vigilant footballing public I am absolutely sure it will be corrupted to the detriment of fair play. The referees are not perfect and they are swayed by their inherent, historical bias towards the traditionally big footballing nations (easily change that to big-spending football clubs). Carlos Quieroz is absolutely correct that Ronaldo should have been sent off for that deliberate foul vs Iran, not a yellow card after the VAR review. The Moroccans have filed a complaint to FIFA showing 10 instances where they were shafted during their game vs Spain. Similarly the Serbians are still incensed by decisions against them in the game vs Switzerland particularly that incident when Lichsteiner and cohort wrested Mitroivic to the ground with absolutely no call. Already The Telegraph via Keith Hackett are arguing that “VAR officials are hunting for decisions to make and interfering when not needed.” But, as the smaller footballing nations at the World Cup have experienced, there is need for more VAR when the referees have made errors, not less.

As for those of us who support Arsenal and follow the Premier League, it will be interesting to see how our lords and masters react to the success of VAR in Russia. As ArsenalAndrew, who is a long-time advocate of VAR tweeted:

All I shall add, there is a crying need to “ReformThePGMO.”

567 Comments

Self Censorship at The Arsenal?

censorship

It’s hard being a contrarian on Arsenal Twitter these days. Like any strict, self-regulated community, there is a stridency among a majority of posters that demands and enforces conformity. It punishes dissent via the block, unfollow and mute buttons for committing any of the following heresies:

  • Not vocally supporting the new manager
  • Criticizing any of the mooted new signings

Instead of summer hostilities between the former WOBs and AKBs, which usually reach boiling point during transfer season, both sides for their own reasons are currently wishing and hoping for the new manager, Unai Emery, to succeed, bigly. Obviously the ex-WOBs are delighted that their bête noir, the cheapskate, deluded, out of touch, omnipotent (choose your epithet) Arsene Wenger is now gone. Should Emery succeed, it will be a ringing endorsement of their long-held claim that the club was being held back by the former manager.

On the other hand, it seems to me, the so-called AKBs are on the defensive, not wanting to be seen as mindless acolytes of the old gaffer, fearing they will give credence to the years of repeated taunts by the anti-Wenger crowd that they support Arsene FC rather than Arsenal FC. They too are just as wishful and hopeful that the new manager, who seems to be as modern and progressive as the old, will be able to overcome all the external and internal obstacles that held the club back.

WOBs, AKBs and the Middle-Of-the-Roaders

Strange and as incongruous as it may seem, former WOBs and AKBs are now locked together, singing the same tune; leave Emery alone and he will succeed.

Let us not fool ourselves. While there appears to be two extremist camps in the Arsenal fanbase, there is definitely a large, if not larger, middle-of-the-road contingent which often takes one side or the other depending on results. It wasn’t that long ago, for example, we had the experience on the opening day of a new season at the Arsenal stadium, with the transfer window still open, that a majority were in uproar demanding the club spend some “facking” money as the club was losing to Aston Villa. The fact that Arsenal eventually came 3rd or 4th that year, qualifying for the Champion’s League, at a time when it was still struggling under the stadium-related austerity, stands in sharp contrast to the £200 million spent on transfers these past two years while coming 5th and lately 6th in the Premier League.

So conventional thinking has concluded that leaving Emery alone, rather than the relentless attention to the every move and statement made by Arsene Wenger, is now a guarantor of success. The underlying assumption is the belief that the Wenger years, particularly the most recent, were a failure which Emery must avoid. The problem is this hypothesis is not fully supported by the facts.

Note the “unbiased data”, on which we should rely, is diligently avoided by the mainstream media and most of its cohorts on twitter and in the blogsphere, who are now bloviating with optimism and goodwill towards Emery.

Take a gander, below, on some key performance metrics for the last 11 years of the Wenger era.

Year Played Won Drawn Lost  GF GA  Win % Loss %
07/08 58 36 15 7 113 52 62.1% 12%
08/09 61 33 16 12 113 55 54.1% 20%
09/10 55 33 8 14 116 63 60.0% 25%
10/11 58 31 13 14 113 55 53.5% 24%
11/12 54 31 9 14 96 67 57.4% 26%
12/13 53 29 12 12 105 60 54.7% 23%
13/14 56 37 8 11 99 57 66.1% 20%
14/15 56 35 11 10 109 53 62.5% 18%
15/16 54 28 12 14 91 59 51.9% 26%
16/17 55 35 8 12 121 65 63.4% 22%
17/18 57 30 10 17 108 70 52.6% 30%
Mean 56 33 11 12 108 60 58.0% 22%

Main points:

  • Wenger achieved an average win percentage of 58% across all competitions never falling below 51.9% and going as high as 66.1%.
  • 52% was good enough to qualify for the champions league up to 15/16. But in 16-17 a 63.4% win rate and a FA cup was apparently not good enough for some in the club hierarchy as evident in Wenger’s 2-year contract, which in retrospect was putting him on notice.
  • In 17-18, the win percentage was 52.6, not the lowest historically, but it was marked by the highest ever GA, a total of 70, compared to an average of 60 GA over the 11-year period.
  • Wenger’s loss percentage while averaging 22% increased by a dramatic 8 percentage points between 16-17 and 17-18 coinciding with the highest ever GA of 70 in the latter year.

The GA seems to be the key. As Finsbury, a long-standing and frequent contributor to Positively Arsenal has repeatedly argued, Wenger’s biggest challenge in 17/18 was maintaining or recreating the defensive stability he had achieved during the four year reign of Mertsacker-Koscielny, which was one of the premier central defensive partnerships in club football. The 2016-17 season-long loss of the BFG and his subsequent relegation in 17-18 to a mere squad player combined with Koscielny’s well publicized chronic Achilles injury coincided with a growth in GAs from 59 in 15-16 to an unheard of 70 last season and the dramatic increase in losses from the average of 22% to 30% over the last two seasons.

Based on the facts as presented, surely it is reasonable and necessary for us to ask Mr. Gazidis and his rising number of busy-bodies (Mislintat, Sanllehi and a Marcel Lucassen who is to become Director of Football Operations on August 1st) the following questions:

  • How will the signing of Lichsteiner, a 34 year-old injury-prone right back, improve and stabilize Arsenal’s central defensive partnership?
  • In a world where a Virgil Van Dijk costs £70 million, how do Arsenal plan to replace the retired Mertsacker and an ageing injury-prone Koscielny?

At a time when mainstream media, Twitter, Facebook and Google are doing their best to censor and block non-conforming points of view, it is frightening the level to which Arsenal-twitter has engaged in self-censorship to not rock the boat during this transition to new management. Apparently Ivan and his team are now omniscient and omnipotent. They have free reign, without any challenge by fans, to give Emery any players they deem necessary, because, to paraphrase managerial genius Tony Adams, coaching is over-rated, what matters is the director of football and those who do player recruitment.

So “keep schtum”. Don’t rock the boat. It will all work out in the end. Hmm.

88 Comments

Arsenal: Study the past, if you would divine the future

@foreverheady ponders the rippling pool

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Managers come and managers go, but the Arsenal dance goes on forever, as Pete Brown almost said back in 1970. By and large though, our managers spend longer looking good on the dance floor than most, with just four men, Chapman, Allison, Graham and Wenger setting the playing style of the club for over half its long history.

Can we expect a similar length of tenure for Unai Emery, or will Arsenal now follow the example of most other top clubs and change the boss every few years or so? Most commentators seem to think that the latter course is more likely, although should our new man prove a reasonable success history suggests that he too might be in for the long haul. We’ll have to wait and see, and one day no doubt time will say nothing but I told you so.

The last few weeks have been interesting ones for Arsenal fans: whether you were Wenger in or Wenger out his resignation came as a shock, greeted triumphantly by some, occasioning grief for others. But whatever camp you were in and however you reacted to the emotional final goodbyes it soon came down to the king being dead, long live the king.

As Robert Frost so succinctly observed, “they, not being the ones dead, turned to their affairs.” and so it is with us as we debate the style the new man will adopt, predict the players he will move on, the ones he will keep, and the ones he will usher in. There is a delicious sense of being confronted by a whole series of known unknowns, and Tom Stoppard gets it about right in his play Arcadia: “It makes me so happy. To be at the beginning again, knowing almost nothing…. A door like this has cracked open five or six times since we got up on our hind legs. It’s the best possible time of being alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong.”

Arcadia of course promises us a blissful release from the labours of the day, a promised land where we may rest a while, and this to me is what Saturday afternoons bring (OK, I know that most matches don’t happen on Saturday afternoons any longer, but you get what I mean) and the thought of a new side playing in a new way with a new man in the dugout has certainly piqued my interest.

But as Shotta warned us last week, perhaps remembering Poussin’s shepherds, however luxurious the promise of paradise, disappointment is also an ever present in Arcady.

Who knows, but what might be interesting is to pause for a moment and think about what a manager – or Head Coach as they are more fashionably known these days – actually does. And this is another thing that most of us who have never managed a Premier League team don’t know – but it certainly doesn’t seem to stop people from having very strong views as to just what the manager should be doing. Actually I think I am a very good manager: I watch most of the European Leagues, scout extensively on YouTube and pay great attention to the tactical breakdowns on Monday Night Football. I know just when to bring on my subs and have no truck with players who give less than a 100% for the shirt, knowing as I do just how heavy the cannon is.

What perhaps I am less good at is getting my ideas across to players who do not speak English as well as I do, given that my grasp of French, German, Italian and Spanish is sketchy, whilst my Dutch, Russian and Swedish is non-existent. I find it hard to know just when and how my tactics need changing because the opposition manager has altered his in an unforeseen way. I am not always at my most confident when I need to factor in the risk/reward quotient of making substitutions before the 70th minute given the medical advice I have received that two of my players are likely to tire in the last quarter, or when a substitution has been forced on me in the first half and three of my players are already on Yellows. I am not very good at keeping the right balance between stick and carrot when dealing with a player who has just discovered that his Mother has cancer, and despite plenty of experience still find it tricky to keep the egos of 20 young alpha males appropriately in check and balanced, especially when the agent of one of them finds out that another player is on more money than his. Or that a rumoured new signing is likely to see a regular starter move on to the bench.

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And I have still not quite worked out why players have good days and less good ones, or why a player won’t pass to another one, or why the presence of the most obviously talented member of the group seems to inhibit the form of the rest of the midfield unit. So maybe this managing business isn’t quite so easy after all, and a bit of me feels for Unai who I see is already being criticised on account of various transfer rumours that fans either approve or disapprove of. It seems that whoever we buy is either too young or too old, too expensive or too cheap, too little or large. He is not as good as Arsene or is much better. He has too much authority, or not enough; he is a maverick and doesn’t understand the Arsenal way, or is an embarrassing yes man only too willing to bed down with mediocrity. Who knows? I certainly don’t, but find myself already wishing away the summer that I have been looking forward to for so long. And it’s a china orange to the whole of Lombard Street that just about every true Arsenal fan is feeling just the same way as the long countdown to early August begins.

85 Comments

Arsenal And The Big Mess It’s In !

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Are Arsenal as bad as everyone is making out, are they in the mess we are constantly being told they are? 

On average to win the PL you need 87 points, Arsenal last season finished with 63 point which on the face of it is miles behind that total, but let’s look at the games Arsenal lost :-

Liverpool away 

Stoke away 

Watford away*

Man U home 

Man U away 

City away 

City home 

Spurs away

Swansea away*

Newcastle away*

Brighton away

Leicester away

Bournemouth away*

*lost from winning positions

Drew :-

Chelsea away

Southampton away

West Ham away

Liverpool home*

West Brom away*

Chelsea home*

*drew from winning positions

So from those results can Arsenal pick up the 24 points they need. If and yes it’s a big IF, if Arsenal can hold on to winning positions in games then they are looking at 18 extra points. Okay I accept that you can’t always hold on so if we say in 2/3rds of the games that’s 12 points.

That leaves games in all honesty they should not be losing, Stoke, Brighton and Leicester all away, if you are looking to win the league these are game Arsenal should be winning, the last two loses near the end of the season we more of an issue with out woeful away form and a lack of confidence. Stoke was down to appalling officiating was it 2 or 3 penalties we could & should of had?  So that is another 9 points, that leaves three points needed to get to the 87 points, I know it’s all ifs and buts, but are we not capable of gaining those results with the squad we have?

Are we in the mess that everyone is saying we are and has Wenger left us in a bad position? Confidence away from home ,as seen above was a major issue, for all the mental strength Wenger used to bang on about in his press conferences, we lacked that last season away from home. With a change of manager can he improve that confidence, it will be interesting to see how he handles the inevitable bad decisions Arsenal get (stoke & Watford away for example)?

Going forward Arsenal are as good as spurs, 74 PL goals each last season and that was good enough for them to be in 3rd. Emery needs to improve the defence, but allow the attack to continue scoring as it is and by the sound of the rumour mill defenders and a defensive midfielder are high on his shopping list. 

We have also been accused of being a mess behind the scenes, but over the past 12 months we have seen

Sven Mislintat – Head of recruitment

Raul Sanllehi – Head of football operation

Huss Fahmy – Contact negotiator

Darren Burgess – Head of high performance

Jens Lehman 1st team coach

Sal Bibbo – Goalkeeping coach

Per Mertesacker – Academy boss

Lee Herron – Academy football operations manager

Richard Allison – Performance Nutritionist

Tom Allen – Lead sports scientist

brought in, plus  Emery and whatever backroom staff he is bringing in with him.

To me that looks like the board have had a plan and are executing that plan to make Arsenal less reliant on one man (Wenger) and creating a proper structure to the club from top to bottom. Does that sound like a club in crises or a mess like Wright, Morgan and the rest in the media are saying. 

We were accused of being in a mess around the appointment of a new manager, but again this was more to do with the media creating headlines because they didn’t have a clue what was happening. In business is interviewing all available candidates and then having a second round of interviews not showing organisation and planning does that not show due diligence and responsibility to the club and fans? 

So are we a mess, are we as bad as our league position shows? 

I don’t think so, but I do always try to have a positive outlook on Arsenal and as we know it’s negativity that sells and creates headlines. Some prominent bloggers/vloggers are already laying the foundations to criticise the board if things do not start well with transfers, but if we look at the club from a positive angle, we are not as bad as everyone is saying.????

@Swales1968

329 Comments

Arsenal Fans: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Emery and Wenger

In the midst of all the giddiness and joy among Arsenal fans at the prospect of a brand new, literally shiny, high profile manager taking over the reins of management from that wizened, grizzled old grand-dad we had all gotten used to, something just doesn’t ring true.

Don’t get me wrong. Although am a well known partisan for Arsene Wenger, I have nothing against Unai Emery and wholeheartedly welcome him to the club and truly wish for him all the success possible. He is young and handsome, a very telegenic face, around which the PR people at the club can only drool. Apparently, when unveiled to the media, he said all the right things which had the hacks in rapture as they pounded their keyboards, oiled their tongues for radio or were dabbed with makeup before video recording the usual clichéd segment for TV. Most of all he has a brilliant CV, starting in the boondocks of Spanish football taking a couple of clubs to promotion, excelling at Sevilla with 3 Europa League titles and, prior to Arsenal, managing one of the biggest-moneyed clubs in Europe ending with a quadruple of titles. Surely he is the perfect man for the job.

And that is what triggers my contrarian instinct. The script is just too perfectly written.

By the way, we all have a contrarian streak genetically coded into the deep reptilian recesses of our cranium, the one that tell us: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”. But too often, most of us get suckered by our emotions, based on narratives fomented by the mainstream media, and forget to listen to our brains, not our heart.

Something is “too good to be true” with the narrative we are now being sold. According to almost all the usual suspects  Emery will save us from the washed-up, stupid, old fool who only managed an Invincible year as part of 3 league titles, 7 FA cups and kept us in the top-4 for 20 out of 22 years:

Emery will get Arsenal more organised than they have been”. (BBC)

“What they will be getting is a coach who is fully committed and, in his approach to preparation, a startling break from what they have been used to. If Wenger’s twilight years at the club produced a team that often appeared under-coached, then the reign of Emery will be the exact opposite.” (Independent)

“Where Arsène Wenger’s teams may have descended into the painfully one-dimensional, Emery’s outlook is one of nuance and precision, which may well suit Arsenal’s developing team rather more than the entrenched, haughty collection of Parisian stars.” (Guardian)

Disorganized, Under-coached and One-dimensional

So less than two weeks after Wenger’s final game the football media takes off the gloves; no more of the hypocrisy, flattery and lofty odes to one of the greatest managers in English football. His teams, in their own words, were disorganized, under-coached and one-dimensional. Thus the need to hire Unai Emery who it is predicted will bring glory to north London, apparently the type experienced by Sevilla and PSG.  Mark you Sevilla last won the Spanish league title in 1945-46 and PSG has not even made the Champions league final since gobbling up hundreds of millions of the best oil money the sheiks of Qatar could throw at the club over the past 7 years.

Apparently things were so bad under Wenger, Arsenal’s last trophy of worth was the FA cup as far back as May 2017. Moreover, things were so bad in the 17-18 season, they had a mere 14 home-wins, the second highest in the league.

This is the same media (as well as most bloggers and podcasters) who choose to ignore the fact that since 2005, Wenger has progressively been outspent by three clubs in the premier league. In fact one news media, in their effort to downplay the magnitude of the disparity, characterized Arsenal as the 3rd strongest club financially in England. In other words, this liar and misleader, was suggesting Arsene should be consistently averaging 3rd in the league because of the financial resources available.

Clearly the new manager, who is currently being feted and glad handled, is already being setup. He is expected to outperform Wenger’s average 4th place finish over the past 12 years at a time when United and Chelsea are desperate to make up the difference with City, there being a gap of 19 points between 1st and 2nd at the end of last season. Moreover as was reported in sputniknews.com, Abramovich recently had his Tier I visa held up by the UK government, a privilege to freely travel back and forth which is tied to volume of his investments in the country. It doesn’t take an expert to predict he will make another handy investment in Chelsea in the next transfer window to prove his bona-fides.

Why this elaborate set up?

Why are we being sold such a grand story of failure by Arsene, so much so that the club needs a savior, a metaphoric David to rescue Arsenal from the Philistines? Isn’t it amazing that in 2 years, Arsene moved from being the most powerful man at Arsenal to being a has-been. Be reminded that the 16-17 season started with great optimism, the club having acquired Mustafi, Xhaka and Lucas Perez to supplement the group who came 2nd to Leicester the prior year.  But at the start of the season and Mertersacker, one of the cornerstones of the central defensive partnership, suffers a season-ending injury. The new Koscielny-Mustafi or Koscielny-Gabriel partnership is unable to replicate the level of the old-firm. In October, Santi Sazorla, the mastermind of prior year victories over United, City and Chelsea also suffers a season-ender. To this day the combined ‘expertiste’ of the media makes no connection between the injuries to two of Arsenal’s best players and the club coming 5th that season. Instead there is a massive blame-game on Wenger. When he was offered only a two year contract, it was self-evident his future was in doubt.

What is most striking is how this was the opening for the chief executive, Mr Gazidis, to seize power away from Mr. Wenger. In the summer of 2017 we are informed the CEO has moved his offices from Arsenal House to London Colney, the training ground. In relatively short order Mislintat becomes chief scout and Sanllehi as head of football relations. As a famous denizen of this blog tweeted there are now 5 people doing the job Wenger performed by himself.

But while the corporate office has grown bigger and surely more expensive, Arsenal suffered on the field with points lost not only due to player inconsistency (at least 8 first team players from 2016-17 are gone) but also from a pattern of poor and biased refereeing by the PGMO. If the CEO and his team were campaigning for VAR in the executive suites of the Premier League it was a “silence of the lambs”.

The Coup

What convinced me that the Emery appointment may be just one big show is a piece in the Guardian by one David Hynter which suggests he was ordered to do a PR piece on behalf of Mr Gazidis. They are quick to highlight the following:

  • Gazidis is responsible for signing Ozil
  • Gazidis is, first and foremost, a football lover.
  • Gazidis has long advocated a management structure that does not rest on a single point or employee because, when it fails, there is the potential for the whole thing to collapse. He has wanted a broader coalition of talented specialists greater than the sum of its parts and, for so long, his efforts were frustrated by Wenger, to whom the club’s majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke, was in thrall. Wenger had a hotline to Kroenke and he could shape or veto Gazidis’s ideas.
  • Gazidis wanted a director of football but Wenger pushed his friend Dick Law into a position of executive-level authority.
  • Gazidis wanted greater expertise in data and contracts and hired Hendrik Almstadt only for Wenger to say he did not want him.
  • Gazidis oversaw the purchase of the data analytics company, StatDNA, but Wenger was not a fan.

Hynter concludes with a flourish:

“It was a meticulously orchestrated coup and Gazidis carried it off while showing all the respect in the world to Wenger, who has watched virtually all of his people leave the club. It has felt like a plot-line from Gomorrah, the Neapolitan mafia drama. Gazidis was not always the favourite to outlast Wenger. Now, his position looks stronger than ever.”

I could not have said it better than Mr Hynter. The evidence clearly points to a coup. He says it in triumph but I am disgusted by the lowball tactics that have been employed.

As an aside, while I arrived at a similar conclusion, by taking the available facts to their logical conclusion, because yours truly does not write for a big mainstream newspaper,  I would be accused by the charlatans in the media (as well as the bloggers and podcasters) of being a conspiracy theorist for calling out Mr Gazidis for being Wenger’s Brutus.

Unfortunately, most coups fail because they are based on lies and the golpistas (Spanish) rule without the consent of the people. That is why I fear for Emery. He may think he is a big-time Charlie but he is just a chump in a giant con being played on Arsenal fans. The new manager will find the Premier League is made up of several merciless sharks; mainly the three clubs with giant financial teeth whom he cannot compete in the transfer market, the other big one being the PGMO whose job is to protect the big boys from being upset as the PL needs the external money to keep flowing.

I wish Emery all the best but the signs aren’t good. He is on 2 year plus one contract suggesting he is a placeholder, a short-term appointment. Does this mean Arsenal has ended its tradition of managers being long-term appointees with time to build a team that can compete for titles without busting the bank?

Am not predicting the future, but as much as most fans are optimistic that under his management it could get better for Arsenal, I am duty bound to warn my readers that odds are even and it could get worse. Be afraid, be very afraid.