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Arsenal: Sutton Unbuttoned

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Good Morning Positives,

An interesting evening at Gander Green Lane. The expected result and, on reflection, an evening that I probably should have expected. The non Leaguers came on in the same old way, and with our superior firepower we despatched them in the same old way. Twas it (almost) ever thus when a very big club meets a non League minnow?

I admit I had been hoping for a more resounding victory, three goals up at the half hour market least, and the chance to ease off for the remainder of the game before a 5-6 final count. That is not however the Arsenal way, and in spite of my jitters it made for a better match to watch, with Sutton still dashing forward until the final whistle.

Of our players I thought Rob Holding had a good game, growing assurance on a windy night and a pitch though flat had an unusual bounce and the speed of the ball across the plastic was slightly different to grass The Ox was probably our best player, albeit a late entry. Industrious at the back when he needed to be, willing to give us width going forward. I shall forgive his error in the final few moments as by them as in Munich, the result was never I doubt. And Theo of course, captain on the night and 100 goals up. To be honest Theo had one of his less effective games I thought last night and what the plastic pitch offered him in speed of movement and acceleration it seemed to reduce in his ability to control the ball. Good night for Perez again. As I have said before, other than two or three PL clubs, the Spanish striker would walk into most starting line ups in England.

The negative sides I believe Alex Iwobi has his ankle strapped and iced after the kick he took. And Jeff ? Not a good night for him last night, hesitant from the start and the game went on around him. Hard to recognise the player who performed so well, so confidently, in the last round at St Marys. I think a loan spell and regular week in and week out football for JRA an absolute necessity.

Our opponents, 293 places below us in the English Football League pyramid, or some such tosh, acquitted themselves admirably on what as probably a match they will remember forever. For a few, particularly Deacon, it must surely be a ticket to back into a league club and rekindling their former ambitions.

That is all from me today. I see we did not give Sutton a pennant at kick off – much to the hilarity of the BBC commentators. We are however a little classier than that.

 

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We have a lengthy break before the next game, and it is a biggie. Perhaps a chance to relax and breath a little, for the players, the manager and above all the most important group of all at our mighty football club, the fans. Enjoy your week.

 

 

195 Comments

Arsenal Versus Sutton: Black Magic

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The way the match started took us by surprise. We exchanged a look which spoke volumes. It was one of those moments for which the footballing book of clichés was conceived. The home side kicked off, a long ball forward, three runners breaking from midfield, bewilderment and confusion shaking the visitor’s defence, a leg outstretched in the mêlée, the keeper beaten. Less than a minute played, the score was already one nil.

Surely we were in for a rare feast of goals. If the hapless defending and powerful, direct running of the home side were to be repeated a few more times this could be an embarrassing trip north for the Wells City team.

Little did we suspect as we glanced knowingly at one another that thanks to some truly inspired keeping from the splendidly named Ed Baldy in the home goal mouth, we had, in fact, already witnessed the decisive moment. The result would be one nil, Odd Down had secured the points in the first seconds of the match and in truth never threatened the visitor’s goal again. Nor did they need to.

There were some nice touches, some bruising tackles, one moment which nearly resulted in fisticuffs and we strolled home feeling our six pounds had been well spent.

We are both Arsenal fans but for the day we had decided to go along and support my companion’s local team. And you’ll never guess what? The experience, despite over ninety minutes without a sniff of another goal, was easily the most enjoyable football related afternoon I can remember for many years.

After the howling insanity which followed what was no more than a disappointing result last week, returning to the simple pleasure of football for football’s sake was the perfect antidote. It made me realise how little I now care for the ridiculous overblown pomposity of Sky’s Premier League and its attendant hysteria. I’ve had enough. I’ll never stop caring about Arsenal, that thorn is sunk too deep to be easily pulled, but I can’t be arsed with all of the bullshit that goes with it any more.

Thank goodness then for non league involvement this evening. Thank goodness for the eccentricity of the FA Cup which can still throw up Sutton United versus Arsenal in an important competition and with a quarter final place at stake. This game at least feels somewhat removed from the usual fandangle and hyperbole that has all but poisoned any hope of enjoyment in the Murdoch Money Go Round.

I suppose I’m referring to the much vaunted ‘magic’ of the FA Cup and my God we could do with someone to wave a wand and give everyone back a little perspective in these febrile days of shameful self flagellation. With one non league side already through and destined to face the winner of tonight’s tie there is certainly enough romance for softies like me to reaffirm our love for this venerable competition.

Lincoln, I imagine, are torn between which outcome suits them best. If Sutton do to us what they did to Burnley then they will face non league opposition in the quarter finals and have the best possible chance to progress to an historic Wembley semi. If we manage to avoid being the fall guy in the biggest upset in the history of the tournament then they get to visit the Emirates – one of the greatest away days for any team. It’s win win for them really given the way the draw has panned out. If they do face Sutton and beat them they would probably meet Chelsea, Man City or Millwall. One of those they will fancy beating and the other two they’d be happy to share a pitch with. It’s fascinating stuff and whatever the outcome this has been a wonderfully unpredictable competition.

I assume we will see a similar side to that which last played in the FA Cup. This isn’t weakening our team as a mark of disrespect to either the opposition nor the tournament. This is realpolitik in an age where footballers are like racehorses brought to a level of fitness so taut that they are at once fast and powerful, and yet balanced on a knife edge with every fibre and sinew stretched to near breaking point. With vital league matches and a huge return game in the Champion’s League on the near horizon players have to be managed, rested and rotated.

Anyway, as much as I want to win, it’s just another football match and the nonsense I’ve witnessed in the aftermath of the Bayern game has made me ever more determined not to get sucked into the debate nor the histrionics surrounding it. Shout and moan all you like and the circus will roll on regardless. You had just as well demand an actor get sacked from the film you’re watching in the cinema as demand this player be sold or that manager brought in. Either way you’re living in La La Land if you think your voice matters.

Positive or negative fans have a simple choice; watch the game, or don’t watch the game. It will happen either way and it won’t notice you. Unless you come and watch Odd Down FC’s next home fixture against Longwell Green Sports. The attendance would then go from fifty to fifty one and I can guarantee your voice would get heard. I wouldn’t yell abuse at any of the players mind you. They’re big lads, and I don’t think they’d be quite as restrained as the Premier League stars you swear at on Twitter.

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Scorn and Contempt For The Arsenal

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The shock of going down to Bayern by 4 goals last Wednesday is a loss that many Gooners are still trying to come to terms. None of this grieving is helped by the sensationalist mainstream media and the army of trolls from other clubs who are doing their best to pour scorn and contempt on The Arsenal.

Using the voice of famous club legends, the BBC did its best to convince fans a bigger loss was imminent. They quoted Martin Keown as telling BT Sport:

“Arsene must be considering his future now.”

And ex-Arsenal defender Lee Dixon became a mind reader overnight:

“That is the first time where I’ve seen him where I’ve thought, ‘he thinks it’s time’. The fact that he hasn’t been able to get a response from the players in the last few weeks might be the final straw.”

They reported that Ian Wright posted his frustrations on social media and declared he was “not watching anymore”. That was before resorting to one the usual tricks of the mainstream media, i.e. giving credibility to a piece of fake news. They repeated a totally debunked story from prior week, when Wright reported Wenger did not expect to stay on next season. Wenger himself denied making any such disclosure.

Just in case you weren’t convinced, a quotation from Bob Wilson while on BBC Radio was added to the mix:

“I wouldn’t be at all surprised that Arsene now, with the amount of headlines that are coming his way, will look at that and say ‘two decades’.

As for the print media, the Times’ chief football writer Henry Winter described the Gunners as a “laughing stock”, adding that he felt Wenger’s best days are behind him.

“He has lost his leadership skills, there’s no invincible streak in him any more”

Among trolls from opposition teams, former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand said Arsenal showed no fight or aggression.

“They looked spineless,”

“You want to see fire in their belly and that’s the most disheartening thing for me.”

By the way don’t remind Ferdinand that United did not qualify for this year’s Champions League and in the past his club has tasted some heavy defeats. Losing 1-0 to the mighty Lille, 3-1 to Gothenburg, 0-4 to Barca all in the group stages match, and 30 years before that went down 0-5 to Sporting Lisbon in a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-final second leg on March 18, 1964. Facts can be very harsh especially to a blowhard with no historical perspective.

Former Chelsea winger Pat Nevin, whose ex-clubs did not even qualify for participation in the Europa league this year and never played a single game in the competition, is now an expert on the Champions League:

“It’s exactly the same in the Champions League and it’s a real shame, it just feels very close to the end. I’ve never said it before about Arsene but it does feel that way now.”

As readers of my data-driven blogs are aware, none of this over-reaction by the media and by our fans is surprising. As I have shared from the literature on investor psychology this is typical of media and public attitude to the stock market. The media had a commercial interest in hyping Arsenal’s prospects before the game. From what I read and saw, Bayern v Arsenal was going to be the biggest sporting event on the day’s calendar. From my little knowledge of the English media it would have been the lead story in every newspaper and endlessly promoted by BT Sport who were televising the game. Millions of pounds of advertising revenue and media tie-in were on the line especially if Arsenal was to come out of Bavaria with fighting chance to win the return leg.

Arsenal not only losing but losing heavily would inevitably result in an equal and opposite reaction to the pre-game hype. (Newton’s laws of motion remain as applicable as ever.) No wonder Mr. Winter of the Times resorted to hyperbole and blaming Wenger for losing to superior team. Afterall his sensationalism will not only sell papers but give further credence to his anti-Wenger screeds. Apparently he recently had a tete-a-tete with Gary Neville who called out a WOB with a ‘Enough Is Enough, Time To Go’ placard at the Chelsea game. Neville commented:

“He’s an idiot that guy.”

“Arsene Wenger doesn’t deserve that, obviously the Arsenal fans are disappointed, but to pre-empt by bringing a banner into the ground, it’s a joke.

“Remember, the consistency of finishing in the top four might not be acceptable for Arsenal fans, but the alternative might be that you finish below those positions.”

To be honest, Gary sounded like almost any of us at PA. In reply, Winter, who I must stress is now the head football man at the Times, in one of his columns responded that Neville:

“badly misread the mood of huge sections of the Arsenal support and, also, arrogantly dismissed their right to protest.”

One is left to wonder which sections of the Arsenal support Mr. Winter is plugged into as the latest poll I am aware of shows over 53% of Arsenal fans want Wenger to remain and furthermore no fan has the right to protest within any stadium. By paying a ticket they have the right to a seat to watch a game but not to protest, in the same way readers of the Times have no right to protest within pages of  the paper any b.s. written by Winter et al.

But I digress. The media’s “confidence” that Arsenal may progress has turned to contempt. A similar negative sentiment has swept the fanbase with feelings ranging the gamut; indifference, dismissal, denial, fear and panic.

Pre-game Arseblog was crowing:

“Can we go back in time and let in another goal against Paris Saint-Germain in the group stage so we can play that Barcelona lot? They’re rubbish.”

Post game he was contemptuous of Arsenal, no different from his media colleagues:

It called time on some of the players involved. And I think it has called time on Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal career.

If I had the power, when Arsene retires, I would call time on Arseblog’s career as a blogger as he owes his entire being to the success Arsene Wenger has brought to the club including 20 years of consistently qualifying for the champions league. Without this success the Sage of Dublin would never have the size audience he now has to spew shite on the man who is the primary reason he became one of the biggest bloggers in English football. Now he can leverage that audience commercially; the media gigs and tie-ins with razor vendors, fantasy football, gambling sites etc. What a beautiful life. When promoting the end of Arsene Wenger he should look with fear and trepidation at the plight of United bloggers who, because their club’s fortunes have dipped precipitously since Ferguson retired,  have no way of keeping up with his commercial success. The Sage of Dublin can at least argue he supports one of the consistently top-3 clubs in England.

Unlike our more “successful” blogger, my colleague StewBlack had no illusions about the odds facing Arsenal in Munich. I will quote him extensively:

“Let’s pull no punches we have not been in the best form of late. As ever injuries and international duties have created instability at the heart of the midfield, these, combined with Xhaka’s suspensions are, I would hazard, at the root of our problems. We have, in spite of these issues, managed to grind out enough results to keep us in contention but against the real form team were found wanting.

“So what does this all mean for tonight’s game? Clearly we can’t rely on luck but it would be nice and indeed useful to catch a few breaks this evening. We’re playing one of the tournament favourites at their own ground whence very few foreign teams return victorious. Bayern have, in their last five matches conceded only one goal and scored eleven. No one is underestimating the scale of the hill we need to climb tonight.”

Based on Stew’s analysis, we went into the game as underdogs and we got whupped as underdogs. Nothing changed statistically. My only difference with Stew and others is that without Santi Cazorla, our chances of beating Bayern were slim and none and, in hindsight, slim did not take the Arsenal jet to Germany.

I have done the research showing that historically Santi is our most valuable player, “quarterbacking” our midfield from deep. Seven (7) PL games this season with Santi, AFC’s ppg was 2.7; nine (9) games without him it fell to 1.3. There have been nine (9) more games since then and I suspect our ppg is just as bad if not worse (need to update). In his four years with the club, with Santi the average ppg is 2.09 but for Arsenal overall (accounting for games without him) the ppg was 1.92.The average PL winner in those years averaged a 2.26 ppg. Simply put, without Santi’s assists Arsenal has never been in contention for the title.

In preparation for this blog, I researched the Squawka data for AFC’s midfielders this season and by far the two best midfielders are Ozil and Santi based on Avg Performance Score. The difference between Santi and 3rd place Iwobi may be 2 points but there is a huge gap offensively; in Shot accuracy, Avg Pass Accuracy, Avg Chance Created, and Avg Goals Scored. One day I will publish the rest of my findings.  Readers may be shocked by the ranking of the remaining midfield players from 1 to 8.

Ozil Cazorla Iwobi
Avg Performance Score 27 25 22
Total Appearances 22 8 21
Shot Accuracy 50% 67% 47%
Avg. Pass Accuracy 87% 91% 87%
Avg. Pass Length 15m 16m 14m
Avg. Chances Created 2.68 1.25 1.14
Avg. Goals Scored 0.23 0.25 0.14
Avg. Defensive Actions 1 2 1
Avg. Duels Won 53% 28% 55%

The data is clear and consistent. Until the club’s technical leader returns from injury AFC will struggle to play effective, offensive football.

In my judgment, the biggest blow suffered in Bayern was our confidence. As Arsene often reminds us confidence is very fragile; quick to go, slow to rebuild. I am confident the manager will help the team rebuild this confidence despite current doubt, suspicion and caution. It is an eternal cycle; always was and always will be.

132 Comments

Arsenal: Battered in Bavaria

IMG_2661.JPGGood morning Positive Arsenal fans,

I apologise for the late running of the service this morning as I have been out in the fresh air and the sunshine, clearing the tubes and clearing the mind before a day shaping the world to my preferred design.

Of last night’s game a formidable disappointment and the almost certain exit from the CL at the Round of 16 for the nth season in a row. The result proved a little more excruciating as for about 30 of the 90 minutes I saw us and the Germans battling evenly with one another and had a realistic ambition to leave Bavaria with at worst a narrow one goal defeat, probably a point and even, at best, an extraordinary win. Munich backed away from Sanchez as though he had ebola, Hummel looked like he should be playing for Klopp and even Alonso (for a few minutes) looked out of synch and the game passed him by. The minute counter then turned to 53. There followed ten minutes of fast, purposeful attack and clinical finishing that destroyed us. A number of players looked slightly dazed and I know I was. I see from Arsene’s quotes that he thought the same. The 5th and last goal heaped absurdity on top of frustration.

We know what happened but perhaps why it happened is more debatable. There are no shortage of answers that focus on personnel, on tactics, that “if only X had been standing at Y ….” or “ if Z had started instead of A….”. Chief among the hackneyed answers are the “ if only we had M in charge and Arsene had left/been sacked/committed seppuku …..” Understandable that one seeks the lifebelt of rational comfort but specious in my view.

Well my shy at answering the Why question is that we do not play teams anywhere near of the quality of Bayern Munich week in and week out and unfortunately when we did come up against them we struggle. They play with a pace and a purpose that we are not able to compete with over a full 90 minutes. We can stand toe to toe for a period. If luck goes or way and we can tip them out of their game, they meet a mad referee or they have an “off night” we can occasionally win. Nine times out of ten however their players, individually and collectively, are superior to ours. Over these two leg ties then the chance that you will get your one in ten chance back to back is very small indeed.

There are probably three perhaps four teams in Europe who are and have been at that superior standard to us. We have striven to take that further step. If one looked at the AFC starting line up last night then it was the strongest I would have chosen, and the bench was packed with proven experienced good players, Yet still we came up short. We have not stood still. We have better players and better playing systems tan we did two years ago five years ago etc. However as we have improved and moved forward so these sides have also moved developed. The weaknesses that Bayern had last night, an ageing and slower Alonso, an indifferent Hummels, a foolishly conceded penalty that then they allowed the rebound in, they managed to overcome and in the end gained a well deserved victory.

Let me make my opinion on one point perfectly clear. If Manchester City or Leicester City, or Tottingham if they had managed to stay in the CL, or Chelsea or Liverpool or Manchester United if the had even managed to qualify for the competition had been out there last night at the Allianz they would have been on the end of exactly the same drubbing. Like us they don’t face that quality each week. They are no more likely to have coped than us.

What can we do – what must we do ? No easy answers, no trite solutions. No “if X had been standing at Y instead of Z … “ or the latest “ defensive midfield beast” magic signing.

Work hard, ensure every single game, starting with Sutton, is approached with the absolute, single minded seriousness that our opponents displayed last night. Learn from defeat, do not wallow in disappointment and recrimination.

And finally, the most ridiculous picture I have ever seen.

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Enjoy your Thursday.

135 Comments

Arsenal Versus Bayern: Be A Lady Tonight

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Ever since Mills explained to us all how the concept of luck is one we ought to abandon I have attempted to remove it from the arsenal of verbiage which I bring to bear on these pages. The problem I’ve discovered is, as with all proscribed words, one simply finds new ways to say the same thing. As much as we can philosophically and logically dismiss the very existence of fortune we still perceive it weaving an arbitrary thread through our lives.

Allow me one illustration if you will. As I sit and write these words I am listening to the rain coming down in a steady, relentless effusion. This downpour was just getting into its stride as my daughter and I crossed the threshold of her driveway having taken our dogs on their morning constitutional. We had walked for the best part of an hour in unseasonally warm and above all dry conditions and agreed that we had dodged a bullet, been, if you will, extraordinarily lucky.

Yesterday evening, coming home from a valiant attempt to present a radio show through a stifling head cold, I wondered at the hand fortune has dealt Arsène this season. The brickbats he has received in the past for finishing second in the group stages of the Champion’s League have been as hysterical as they have been unwarranted. The simple fact is you have to beat some good teams to win any cup competition regardless of when you meet them.

So this season he delivers the first place finish demanded of him by the snotty nosed ingrates among his ‘fan’ base and what happens? The runners up in his group go on to meet the mighty Barcelona who, on last night’s evidence at least, appear a mere shadow of their former mighty selves. The one year when finishing second and facing the Catalans might have been a desirable outcome he has the rank bad luck to steer his side to a two legged tie with the wholly more efficient German champions.

Let’s pull no punches we have not been in the best form of late. As ever injuries and international duties have created instability at the heart of the midfield, these, combined with Xhaka’s suspensions are, I would hazard, at the root of our problems. We have, in spite of these issues, managed to grind out enough results to keep us in contention but against the real form team were found wanting.

So what does this all mean for tonight’s game? Clearly we can’t rely on luck but it would be nice and indeed useful to catch a few breaks this evening. We’re playing one of the tournament favourites at their own ground whence very few foreign teams return victorious. Bayern have, in their last five matches conceded only one goal and scored eleven. No one is underestimating the scale of the hill we need to climb tonight.

So let’s look on the positive side. They can be beaten. Dortmund, Rostov and both the Madrid sides have done so this season. Arsenal has beaten them in this very competition and in Munich to boot. Olivier Giroud scores against Manuel Neuer for fun. When facing two legged tie I always feel happier playing away from home in the first match. Come back with a goal and then a draw or a narrow defeat is anything but a disaster.

Whatever happens banish all thoughts that it might have been us thrashing Barcelona last night and remember that this is only the preliminary. Nothing will be decided after the final whistle, we shall be at half time with everything still to play for on March the seventh.

Above all remember that no matter how unconvincing we’ve been in the league recently we still possess some of the finest players in the world and one of if not the finest manager in the world. No one gave us a chance in any of the great historic European nights in our history so why should we pay any attention to the negative ninnies who write us off before a ball has even been kicked? Remember these are the same voices who predicted with total confidence that we had blown our chance of topping the group in the first place. They were wrong then and they can be wrong again tonight.

If you are travelling to München or have already arrived then may I recommend the Augustiner Keller which can be a whole lot of fun even in the cold weather. If like me you can’t manage to get away to watch the match in person then you can always recreate the atmosphere by having your family members dress in shorts and braces and splash you with Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissebier while delivering a lusty chorus of Hände zum Himmel. If nothing else it might drown out or at least distract you from the awful commentary in which BT Sport so prides itself.

Wherever and however you are watching I hope you have an enjoyable experience and that the result sets us up for an exciting second leg. My prediction is a three nil away win with Ospina saving a penalty and Giroud scoring all three goals. Whatever the score though, I won’t be unhappy to see a return to ‘Lucky Arsenal’ in tomorrow’s headlines. Has a certain ring to it don’t you think?

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Adultery: An Arsenal Love Story

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Valentine’s Day is around the corner and love is in the air. Apparently approximately 150 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, making the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas. Woooosahhhhh!

In the spirit of the season I must admit my current romance with Arsenal Football Club. I eat, drink and blog it. But I have an adulterous past.

My earliest relationship with football was born of out total innocence. As a young teenager I fell head over heels with the 1970 world cup winning Brazilians. Almost all were “ballers”, blessed with great technique and molded into one of the greatest teams ever (Apart from Pele, they had Tostao, Rivelino, Jairzinho, Gerson, Clodoaldo, Carlos Alberto, etc). From a distance, it seemed they were dedicated to not simply winning but winning with style. Despite the efforts of the English press to write them off as a soft touch, (“fancy dan foreigners”), they simply out-footballed their rivals in 1968. The highlight was that classic final with the Italians. Being my first football love nothing since can ever equal it.

But as I became older, my affections strayed to the 1974 and 1978 Dutch team, the pioneers of “total football”. Their failure to win a world cup will never erase memories of the then revolutionary concept in 1974 that all eleven players on the field must be technicians capable of playing in multiple positions. Being a love-struck teenager I cried tears when they lost in the finals to what was then called West Germany. Four years later, when they lost to Argentina in the 1978 final, I was already hardened to the vagaries of love. I was partially lusting for the winner to come from the western hemisphere but to be honest I will always share with the Dutch, especially Cruyff, Neeskens, Johnny Rep and company, a feeling of remorse for a great team that twice came to  the mountain top but never saw the promised land.

While writing, I recognize that being young I made no commitments when it came to football; I was a serial adulterer. By 1986 I was fully in the camp of Argentina and Diego Armanda Maradona. Now more mature, my politics was beginning to inform my choices. Because of my anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist convictions, I was aching for every possible symbolic revenge against the English after their defeat of the Argentinians in the Falklands War four years earlier.   Never did I imagine there would be two singular, unforgettable events in world cup history by Maradona; the “hand of god” goal and the subsequent one-man demolition of Messer Beardsley, Reid, Butcher, Fenwick, Butcher (again), and finally goalkeeper Peter Shilton. Yet in four years my heart was broken when the “god” of football, as he was known in my hometown, had his then immaculate reputation sullied by his being expelled from the 1994 world cup for drug use.

It took me nearly 10 years to once again fall in love with a football team. I was introduced to AFC by a sibling in the 04/05 season, shortly after the Invincible year. By that time I had long immigrated to the US and had been cut-off from football except when the networks did their obligatory coverage the world cup. I even made it to France in 1998 to give my support to Jamaica, my homeland, in their world cup campaign.

But no team moved me like the Gunners once I saw them up close and personal, with the help of satellite tv. I was captivated by Wengerball; slick one-touch passing combinations, speed on the counter-attack, clinical finishing and, best of all, the ability to take on and beat an opponent one-v-one. I was gobsmacked by Bergkamp (when he played), Patrick Vieira and Titi Henry. They reminded me of my first love the 1970 Brazilians; they not only had to win but win with style.

Later we were to learn that Arsene Wenger may have been similarly inspired. In 2014, speaking of the challenge of fitting several #10s in the Arsenal team, he remarked:

“When you look at the Brazil team in 1970 they had Tostao, Rivelino, Pele, Jairzinho, Gerson, Clodoaldo. They all played number ten in their club.

“They didn’t know what to do. They put them all together and they won the World Cup in a convincing way.”

After entering this relationship with AFC I quickly learnt this was no love for the faint-hearted.  It became evident by the end of the 04/05 season we were witnessing the break-up of the Invincibles. The owners of the club, with Arsene’s agreement, had undertaken one of the most daring, ambitious projects of any in the premier league; the building of a brand new stadium with a capacity for 60,000 fans at an estimated cost of £390 million. The priority was no longer winning titles but paying for the stadium.

While many fans initially signed on, thinking it would be an easy ride, illusions were soon disabused when the foreign oligarchic owners of Chelsea and later Manchester City started firing £500 notes across the lawn at Highbury, trying to buy the best Arsenal players. In fact they were partially successful as AFC had to sell some of its best assets to pay for its stadium. Those clubs went on to eventually win things while Arsenal relied on project youth and the genius of Arsene Wenger’s management to remain competitive, always in the top-4, always qualifying for the champions league.

Thirteen years later on the eve of Valentine’s Day, I am as in love with Arsenal and Wengerball as I was the first day I saw the gunners gliding over the turf at Highbury to snatch my adulterous affections away. Never in those years was I ever convinced by the faint-hearted, by the cowards and the weak-willed that the manager, who had achieved three-titles and two-doubles prior to my supporting the club, had somehow lost his touch and we were at the end of an era. Despite still being substantially outspent by United, Chelsea and City this season, Arsenal is currently in second place in the league. I am convinced by the unbiased data, if we had not lost out technical leader Santi Cazorla, we would not be so far off the pace and be better positioned to challenge for the title.

I still love you Arsenal, oh yes I do.

88 Comments

Arsenal Hand(le) Hull

Andy Nic. is on his jollies so its fallen upon me to serve up a slice of positively today…………………Cheers for that Andy.

Let’s start with the easy bit, shall we?

Three points and a clean sheet. Err, mmm, err …………… oh yes, and The Ox played really well.

I felt that when we were handed the first goal, we had done enough to take control of the game. There were some bright moves, interplay and we should already have scored, with Alexis being unusually wasteful when he really had to score.

After that, I have to say, I think we were a tad poor. There was a nervousness in our passing that made us look ordinary at best. Hull were allowed to move the ball through midfield unopposed. We dropped deep, and that’s fine, but we looked anything but assured and organised. There was acres of space out wide and that really shouldn’t be the case when we are all set.Hull didn’t dominate or do enough to deserve to score, but if they had have done, we couldn’t have felt hard done by either.

We somewhat plodded our way through between the first goal and the 93rd minute penalty. That said, I felt Perez and Welbeck made us look better when they came on. Also ElNeny looked like he wanted to drive the team forward and press more once he came on.

I want to say that the first goal should have stood because it was not intentional handball. but honestly. I’d have been spitting feathers if that had been scored against us.

So that’s about all I have really. Enjoy the rest of the weekend and don’t worry about Bayern, I’m sure we will be better for that.