Today we discuss recent games and the Super League, I don’t get the outrage and immediate condemnation, but @shotta_gooner does.
Today we discuss recent games and the Super League, I don’t get the outrage and immediate condemnation, but @shotta_gooner does.
Good morning all.
Today at 1.30 Fulham come to the home of football to face the mighty Arsenal.
The mighty Arsenal on a bit of a roll , by the way. In our last two games we have comfortably seen of Sheffield United and Slavia Prague. Ok, not the mightiest opponents, but we have dispatched them with somewhat of a flourish. Things are looking up. We may not be flying high, but at least there is a bit of an accent, we should enjoy it while it’s going.
Fulham are desperate for points, but they are finding them very hard to come by. They find themselves in 18th place, and 7 points behind 17th having played a game more. In other words, they’re relegated. They have lost their last four games and although they play some nice football, it’s not nice enough to get them any points.
If memory serves it’s a battle of the two youngest managers. Both have struggled this season but neither of their jobs seem in danger, That’s odd these days.
I’m back to guess work on who might play , personally I would go with the same eleven that started in Prague but of course I have no idea about fitness levels or anything else, so it will likely be all change.
This is a game I expect us to win comfortably and with a bit of style too. We need a bit of cheering up and I think we will get it.
Enjoy the game and stay safe
Today @shotta_gooner has to try and restrain me as I go an a maniacal rant about Arteta’s “achievements”. the state of our play and I blame all my worldly woes on our dapper manager.
The end is neigh.
Good morning all.
Tonight we play Sheffield United, comfortably the worse team in the league. After 30 games they are on 14 points with a goal difference of minus 35. This should be a stroll in the park, a gift 3 points, we should be a shoe in, but…….well you know?
Three points could see us climb back up to the dizzying heights of 9th place, exciting eh?
Apparently our captain, Aubameyang, is the first person in the country to catch Flu this year,. If you’re having that!. ESR is out and Odegaard is a big doubt, this on top of Luiz and KT both being out for several week. It never rains but it pours. Still, Arteta’s army have a ready made script should the worse come to the worse.
Having made a bit of a ballocks of our home leg in the Europa League, and with all of our eggs in that particular basket, can Arteta risk resting key players like Xhaka and Partey? Perhaps he should, but the natives are finally getting somewhat restless and he surely has to win this game. There’s a limit to the patience of even the more process trusting fans. The ice is getting thin.
There’s talk that many of the senior pros are fed up taking the blame for our results and performances and to be honest, I would be shocked if that was not the case. There’s only so many times they can roll out the remaining popular players to tell us how impressed with Arteta they all are and what a happy camp it is. Unfortunately there is no Mesut Ozil to scapegoat for leaks and disquiet in the dressing room, so even that tried and tested deflection wont wash.
Basically, yet again, I have no idea what team will take to the field and honestly, I’m struggling to care. It’s painful to watch this football and even more painful to write about it. I hope the rest of you are still engaged, and I could be again, but I need at least a little taste of something to be enthusiastic about.
For me the biggest problem I have with Arteta is that he is here 16 or 17 months and for the life of me I don’t know what sort of football he wants us to play, surely to God its not this stale, negative, counter attacking sufferball with Tierney crossing stuff aimlessly that we see so often. There is no formation or good style of play that you could say well yes that is what Artetaball will be.
People bring up that it took Klopp a few years to get Liverpool to be the top side they are now, but from very early on in his tenure at LFC you could see what he was trying to get them to do, in his first full season his biggest problem was that at about the 60 or 70 minute mark his players were out on their feet and they lost so many points in the latter stages of games due to it. But you could see his gen gen football, but what the f*ck is it that Arteta is meant to be building?
If I was seeing something that gave me confidence we are implementing a certain style of progressive football, I could get behind it, even if like Klopp in the early days at LFC it was a little flawed, but you can not convince me what we are seeing under Arteta is just a step away from being something special. Even the bloggers and twitteratti who are very vocal in their support of him don’t even suggest we are close, no its all about him needing 2 or 3 more transfer windows where he can end up with a squad that are completely his own. I’d have no problem with that if there was any sign that Arteta actually has a game plan, a style of play that will bring success. They try to tell us he has fixed the defence, yet tell us he needs a right back, a right sided CB and maybe even a keeper, that doesn’t sound like its fixed to me.
As for attacking football under Arteta, there is nothing that gives me even a glimmer of hope that he even wants us to dominate and take teams apart. He keeps going on about 2 or 3 chances in a game should be enough to see us win or at least get something out of the game, that is Sean Dyche type thinking, its not befitting of an Arsenal manager.
Tonight we play Slavia Prague in what has become a massive tie for the club, manager and players. Quite simply, it’s our season and a big part of next season too. All of our eggs are in the Europa league cup now, seriously, ALL OF THEM!
We sit 10th in the PL with little or no prospect of getting European football through the league position, we are out of both domestic cups, so no way in through them either. We are playing in the last chance saloon with a piano that is very much out of tune. However you look at it, it’s a desperate situation for a club like Arsenal. Or should I say “for a club like Arsenal used to be”?
Winning the competition, very much a second rate competition, in itself is not that important, I mean seriously, it’s a competition for losers and second rate clubs, but it comes with qualification for the Champions League, and that’s a massive prize, far bigger than the trophy itself. The financial benefits of the Champions League are huge, and even if we get dumped out after the group stages, we might have the losers cup again to see us with something to play for come to the end of next season. The owners will be desperate for the cash windfall. Also fans will cling to the hope that with Champions League qualification the club will be in the transfer market for Champions League players.
On top of the cash bonus, people think that we will be able to attract better players because they want Champions League football. I believe they do, but I don’t think qualification through the Europa will do the trick. Players will look at our league position and conclude that future participation is a long shot.
That we find ourselves with all the eggs in this second rate basket is a worry, to say the least, but it’s where we are and we have to try to win it.
Fail to win this competition and we can safely say the season has been an unmitigated disaster. We started of as the 8th placed team and now we are 10th, the squad is ageing and we are depending on loan players to start games. What a mess.
Anyway, to the game itself.
Let’s be honest, we should be thinking Slavia Prague is a formality. Suddenly though, I’m reading blogs and tweets that tell us what a difficult opponent they are. Well they might be, but it’s not because they are good, it’s because we might be awful. Another Liverpool like performance and the Dog & Duck could be difficult opponents.
KT is out for 4-6 weeks, this is a disaster but not as big a disaster as us being so reliant on a left back that it becomes a disaster when he’s injured, again.
Also missing will be David Liuz, like him or not, that too is a big miss for us,
Good news however is that Xhaka, ESR and Saka should all be fit and Odegaard’s knock seems manageable.
Again, I have no idea who Arteta will pick and what our tactics, if any, will be. Well I hope for his sake he gets it right for a change, because failure might see him chased out of Dodge, if not now then when the fans return to the stadium.
I’m sorry that a game against Slavia Prague is such a massive event, but this is what it has come to.
#Wengerout they said!
Enjoy the game and stay safe. We might win at a canter and have a week of celebration?
The problem with Mikel Arteta, thanks to his long association with Arsenal, his excellence as an Arsenal player, his unflappable cool, amazing hair and piercing stare, is that we all either quite like him, or like him a lot. The static nature of the Arteta Out ‘movement’ is too obvious a point to labour. Nobody really wants him out and certainly nobody wants him to fail. Yet.
Whilst some think he is failing, others point to the sign saying ‘trust the process’. As yet, (and possibly due to prevailing social conditions) there have been few concourse fights called over the matter, and as of today, being pro- or anti-Arteta is not yet a resigning matter from any board of friends or fan collective. Nor is it yet a source of malignant material for social media figures, or grist to the ghastly ‘fan’ tv groups’ mill in the way that the polarisation of Arsene Wenger once provided such valuable service. People are not yet ready to fall out over the red flags waving over Mikel Arteta. And there is as yet no meaningful market for the nascent ‘Arteta Out‘ clickbait industry.
But when Arteta does go, it’ll be a pretty big moment in the history of Arsenal.
By some weird quirk, he remains the only significant link with the Wenger years, and, by extension, ‘Wenger’s Arsenal’. (This, of course, excludes Hector Bellerin, who, some say, may well be gone from the club before the summer is out). When Arteta departs, it will be no exaggeration to claim that the attempted metamorphosis that had been under way at Arsenal since Arsene Wenger joined the club in 1996, will effectively be over. This circle of the club’s life will have been completed, but not in ways any of us hoped for, or expected.
The Grand Plan that emerged from the early Wenger years would see us, theoretically, transformed from being one of the biggest clubs in London to one of the biggest clubs in the world. Truth be told, we were probably already one of the biggest clubs in the world thanks to a lengthy, albeit inconsistent history of periodic success, and an unbroken stint in the game’s oldest league. And Highbury was hardly a backwater. But, you know, we were all set to join the absolute top, topper-most table of Planet Football – supping luxuriantly alongside the Barcas and the Bayerns of the world. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, what actually went wrong was a new source of funds and matching tolerance of unlimited spending was discovered, welcomed in with open arms by a salivating, pumped up, leg’s apart league. One that was very comfortable with selling it’s very soul. And in return, that league duly became the richest home of the sport on Earth. At this precise moment, football went from being the Beautiful Game to the wealthiest one. Outrageous spending blinded most of us to the eventual costs, for which we continue to pay, and pay heavily.
Chelsea’s vulgar arrival on the stage in 2004 was simply the start (if you ignore Sky’s and the Premier League’s more muted arrival some years earlier). Worst was to come in the form of the slightly less provocative – but even wealthier – Manchester City. Freshly minted, they wasted no time in becoming the noisiest of neighbours, supercharged on oil and with a spending brashness encouraged by still more tolerance of unlimited club funding of what was, after all, only supposed to be a bloody game.
In fairness, none of this can be put at the door of Arteta and he could hardly have chosen a more challenging time to join the club. But the journey the former player has taken, from delighting the fans with the excellence of his own on-field performances has morphed to a so-far less inspiring stint as a manager. Despite winning two cups, his insipid, at times dismal, team displays can be characterised as a feast of initial promise which all too rapidly morphed into an unpopular plate of frustrated disappointment. With a side dish of fear-for-the-future, served cold.
So exactly where are we today, with Arsenal FC?
At the very least, we all know we are in for a ‘busy summer’ – Mikel has all but said as much and the writing on the ball is clear for all to see, as a number of players are set to move on.
But this is where it gets interesting – which players?
Are we talking Ainsley Maitland-Niles, by any chance. Eddie Nkitieh? Or Aubamayang and Willian? The mood music appears to be swirling around the former pair as it doesn’t appear to matter how nonchalantly the latter two complete their laboured, generally disinterested shifts on the pitch, Arteta, you feel, will seemingly never call the pair of them out by rewarding them with an extended run in the reserves.
Who knows, maybe Eddie – England’s U21 record goal scorer – just is not Arsenal material. Yet, Maitland-Niles has gone from winning the Man of the Match award for our win in the Community Shield last August, to playing a critical role in West Brom’s slaying of Chelsea, at Chelsea, 2-5, just a couple of days ago. Somehow or other, 2nd from bottom of the Premier League West Bromwich Albion, have managed to find a starring role for Ainsley in a team battling for league survival. One that Mikel simply could not locate. A problem that just does not apply to his first choice forward line, it seems.
For Arsenal, this season is perilously close to being characterised as the dreaded ‘season of two halves’.
The less said about the first half is still too much said, although covid conditions have proved challenging for everyone. Arsenal were about one game away, at one point, from an unenviable berth at the scene of this year’s relegation battle, but were saved from such ignominy by a revelatory – if not thrillingly inspired – switch to the ‘kids’, in the shape of Emile Smith Rowe, Saka and others.
Gradually though, and thanks in part to injury, the first team has regretfully morphed back to it’s unwelcome pre-Xmas shape, with results to match. But it’s hugely concerning that it took until Xmas for Arteta to realise who his best team is. It’s just one of a number of red flags over Arteta that cause me the greatest concern regarding his future prospects as the Arsenal Manager.
Warning signs were already evident over the still hard to explain plight of Ozil, Guenduzi and one or two others. And whilst I was willing to assume Arteta had reasons for his outcasting of those two named, his treatment of a third player was, and remains, unforgivable, in my view.
When Leno dropped out of the first team due to injury last June, 27 years old Emiliano Martinez (birthday 2nd September, so still 27, not yet 28 – have I got this bit right, George?) stepped up to the plate – and how! Coming off the bench to replace freshly injured Leno against Brighton on the 20th June, he saw out the entire remainder of the season, was commended for a string of commanding, stellar performances, and made crucial saves against Chelsea to help win Arsenal’s 14th FA Cup. Incredibly, the ever-ready, always-prepared Martinez played just 15 games for Arsenal in 8 years, but was nonetheless visibly emotional and reduced to tears at the conclusion of the FA Cup. He then went on to do it all again, this time against the mighty Liverpool in the Community Shield with Arsenal again winning, this time on penalties, against literally ALL expectations.
Exactly the kind of player Arsenal have always needed.
But, despite being arguably the better ‘keeper, with a greater command of his box and generating superior confidence in the minds of his own defenders, this Arsenal stalwart, who joined the club back in 2012 and was in possession of the goalie’s jumper at the start of this current season, was somehow relieved of said jumper and sold for a bargain price of ‘up to’ £20 million to Aston Villa, currently ahead of us in the league, sitting pretty in 9th.
These funds are said to have gone towards the purchase of the excellent Thomas Partey – but also Martinez’ rather odd replacement, the Wenger-hating Runar Runarsson.
There are times when Arteta’s Arsenal play very well, but I never really know when that is likely to be.
And Arteta’s red flags – the one’s that fly over his treatment of Ozil and Guendouzi, his sale of Martinez, his persistence with the sluggish PER and the reluctant Willian, as well as alongside his perpetual sidelining of available talents in the form of Martinelli, Nketiah and others, continue to fly strongly in the breeze.
We all want Mikel to succeed – because we all still like him – but his decision-making is the primary source of concern for the future.
Sure, some will trust the process while others, at some point, may start to protest. Either way, despite his perfect hair and steely demeanour, the jury is still very much out on Arteta. He has, by my reckoning, two transfer windows left. Will his decision-making yet step up to the mark in the way at least 3 of his disappointing ‘stars’ currently refuse to, by and large? The coming weeks will give us several clues. And the return of fans to the stadiums will likely force one or two hands, one suspects.
In the meantime, will his capacity to stubbornly stand by those under-performers, at the expense of better, albeit less experienced and younger alternatives, be finally tested to breaking point?
Or will those red flags continue to flutter?
And what of Arsenal, after he goes?
Will we finally return, once and for all, to our more modest, traditional mid-table position, eventually with players of similar quality to match and only the occasional ‘break-out’ season to look forward to? Will our still lofty expectations, lifted outrageously high for so long by one lone, stubborn but brilliant Frenchman, experience the ultimate re-set?
Will we ultimately come to regret that tumultuous, hasty and unplanned clean-break with Arsene Wenger after all?
Have the red flags already been flying for longer than most realise?
In this weeks podcast @shotta_gooner and I accept Arteta’s conclusion that the rubbish we churned out against Liverpool was his fault. Of course he had hardly gotten the words out before he shifted the blame to the players and threw them under the first Bus he could find. But hey? On the plus side, he looks well dapper on the touchline.
Saturday night’s game is against the defending champions, or nondefending champions you could say.
We have had a miserable and disappointing season, but imagine how Liverpool fans feel? They were touting themselves as the greatest PL team ever and talking about the Klopp dynasty to come, instead they find themselves in 7th place and 25 points behind City, nearer to us in 9th and only 4 points behind them. Think how bad we have been and they are almost as bad. The poor souls. Shall we shed a tear?
Both sides have won 2 of their last 5 games so it’s an even game, unbelievably. And even more unbelievable is that this form is a bit of a revival for both sides. I’m shaking my head as I write this. Neither club has a snowball’s chance of making the top 4 with 9 games left! What the actual f*ck?
Anyway, on to the game.
Goodness only knows the fitness and tiredness levels of our returning players. We do know that Luiz is out and that Xhaka was to sick to train on Friday. Now for all the stick Xhaka gets, we could be in big trouble if he can’t play. He’s by far our most import and and consistent player that rarely misses a minute of game time. I don’t expect to see either Saka or ESR, with both of them struggling to shake of muscular problems.
There really is no point me trying to think of something more to say, because I have no idea what we will see in terms of formation, line up or performance. Our success against them came with 5 at the back and a backs to the wall effort , shortly after they had won the league last season, buy they were half on the beach that day and we seem to have moved away from the total negative tactics we employed then and in the run in to the FA cup win, So who know? Perhaps you think you do? So tell me in the comments.
Enjoy the game and stay safe.
To any new readers, Fred is a character and any resemblance to real people is purely accidental. PG
To all PA readers, my name is John Paxford, and I’m a relation of Fred Paxford, who died about a month ago. We found in his last papers this note that he was hoping for me to write up and send to you as we did in the past but that wasn’t possible. I know it gave him great pleasure to read or for me to read the responses to his thoughts and in a world where he felt increasingly alienated, Positively Arsenal was a sometime oasis. I leave you with his final words…
Hullo there, I’ve found out I’ve got that blasted virus and I wanted to write something to you as Im not sure what will happen. I’m not frightened but its a bit uncomfortable. A lots happened since I wrote last, about a year and a half ago some kids got into my house and garden, sprayed obscene things on the walls, nicked a load of bits and peices and trampled my runners and bloody set fire to my shed. Normally it takes me a couple of hours to get to the shops and back and they must have been watching. The fire brigade was there waiting for me, having put it all out, they did their best but really it broke me. So I moved out after nearly 60 years and ended up here in Milton Keynes in a sterile little flat for one person, no garden nor much else, certainly no runners or my irises, I miss cutting my lawn and looking at the smooth green. After all those years in the same place its been a tough one to deal with. I had to get rid of most of the old furniture and much of my wife’s things–that was a real sore one for me. It was great comfort to still be able to look over at her chair and imagine her lively, witty conversation. You would have liked her.
There’s a widowed late middle aged social worker, Mrs Partridge she calls to see if I’m alright and has a natter, and some of my family are close by but its not the same. Finally life and time and age caught up with me; ignored on the street and ignored in life. Unwanted, But to me its just another thing to take in your stride. Plenty have experienced this before I wound up in this situation, no need to make a fuss.
Then I lost my faith. All those years with the Arsenal, 80years is a long time. It happened sometime before the Cup final, (it was maybe even a year before) and that all seemed a right old to-do, not really a cup final, more of a practise game, but even when he dropped the Cup old Aubameyang has that winning smile that could charm anyone and get through the worst storm. Its never one thing in life that breaks a situation, but many things together. My Grand Nephew comes over and shows me things on his phone and funny flat pad thing. I saw again the Arsenal fan television people, and thought what a load of silly sods, but then they would think the same of me. Not very sporting are they, getting so hot under the collar about it all, yet happy as Larry when Arsenal win. I used to think they were just potty but then I saw the poison working its way deeper and deeper into the clubs veins. I’m not sure what a man of my age was doing looking at them but I simply was always interested in Arsenal and what was happening, but some trains I dont want to climb aboard. The computer world just seems another human dream gone wrong. But that’s just my opinion, Im sure it has great things too—like old PA for instance!
But looking around all my old Arsenal friends have gone on ahead so its just a new generation I suppose, but what a load of much ado some young-uns make about things? I then looked at the owners and like most dealings today they seem concerned to only make a profit? They forget, yes the object of the game is to win, but we play and watch for the sheer excitement and enjoyment of it all, not some bloody profits! Old flyby nights I call them! I’m sure you like the manager, he was a decent player but he’s not my cuppa, I still reckon he needed a few years before taking the job, yes I know we grabbed the Cup, but Sheffield United were formidable with that home crowd, could we have beaten them under such pressure from their noisy fans? Sometimes I wonder if old Wenger walked off with the clubs soul under his arm when he went, just to keep it safe for sometime in the future? I know its state of the art but the shiny stadium seems a bit sterile for me, and seeing it empty isn’t so bad but its seems a bit hard and characterless. But for the new ones Im sure its home just as Highbury was to me and my friends for all those years. Trouble is I just started looking at what I was still following. I saw it was unrecognisable! Who would have believed that Arsenal could have changed so much. I then stopped feeling connected with a lot of the players, they seemed distant, like I’m too old to be doing all this, at my age, the old heroes have all died or gone into obscurity: fame, is only obscurity waiting! For Arteta’s boys time will also come too. When you look back it makes you feel sad really, all that effort and doing your best to just become a memory or just plain forgotten.
I then stopped looking at the results, and just tried to get through each day. It was bad enough losing my wife, but losing your faith in life, your friends, your community after 80 years is no mean thing. It sort of led me to black moods and a strange hopelessness.
Then one day a few weeks ago, I was going through some of mine and Joan’s things, and I found a book she gave me when we got married as a wedding gift, it was the Little Prince by Antoine Saint de Expury. I think there’s a bit of an accent somewhere, but my French wasn’t too hot, Joanie could speak it though. So I dusted it off, and the inscription brought a tear to my eye: “To my darling Frederick, on the occasion of our wedding, April 1956. Only with the heart can one see rightly, what’s essential is invisible to the eye. Ever your wife, Joan”
I found myself thinking about this, and I sat down and thought for a bit. And recalled of all those years, those eighty years of Arsenal, not just the Rolls Royce that Wenger built, nor the new hope George Graham gave us or Terry Neill but way back beyond Bertie Mee and the 70s glories and mishaps, but back the 50s and old Billy Wright and Mr Whittaker from when I first went, my first loves and my first identification with something. Nobody talks about those days and all those faces, all those goals those moments of joy and sadness, the years of frustration, how things changed from rosettes and rattles and jokes on the terraces to the crumbling old lady that Highbury was in 70s and 80s and the shocking fighting and then the new building work, how clean it was on the new North Bank. My last game was Feb 1999. Ha! I was still a young -un then!
I thought of my old mates and the laughs we had, and my old Dads mates, some of whom went to the old Invincta ground, old gaffers but nice fellows who worked at the Arsenal but later still made the trip up North to Highbury, till it got to difficult. All those laughing faces, red shirts and white sleeves and stubble came out of the mists of time and were as real for me as Henry is perhaps for you. I saw them with the heart, Arsenal, my second greatest love. Not the same as the love for my wife but a love as deep as any other you can have for things. My loves were my wife, Arsenal and growing things in my garden. Joan’s last gift to me was re-reading the dedication in the book, even if things are falling apart or no longer what we want we can still see with the heart and hold on to another day.
My Arsenals gone, but its still your Arsenal, and new dreams will be made and hearts broken, in life’s big, daft relay race to who knows where, will carry on?
Well, time for a cup and a slice of jam and bread. All the best to you. Keep your faith as best as you can, do it for me if you cant find another reason. One day it will all pick up again. Take care of yourselves.