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The Critical Gooner: Where Does It Start And Where Does It End?

They used to go everywhere together …

For some fans of Arsenal, the relationship they have with the club is akin to what I imagine a failing marriage, patched up ‘for the sake of the kids’ but fundamentally dysfunctional, feels like.

The feeling of having been here before, the compromises, the same old arguments, the same old sticking points.

Eventually though, the kids all grow up and flee the nest.

And maybe that’s where the analogy, thankfully, ends.

In some retail circles, the idea of under-promising and over-delivering holds currency as the risk of angering and then losing disappointed customers is considered too great to play games with. If you falsely promise a customer that an out of stock item will return to stock sooner than is actually the case, customer anger general exceeds the level of the original frustration of the item being out of stock in the first place.

In the ‘90’s the unknown Wenger promised less than nothing when he first pitched up at Highbury and in his first full season, as we all know, over-delivered in delightfully outrageous fashion. Who knew it would be anything more than a one-off but that first title was followed by success after success all the way through to the opening of the Emirates.

In many ways, the Emirates Stadium was the ultimate symbolic example of the appearance of a football club over-promising and subsequently seemingly under-delivering.

To some extent, we have all become the old married couple trying to get back to the way we once were. Oh for the spirit of Highbury! The romance of the cups, the hopes for the future. As upstarts, over-coming the odds, Wenger’s early years seemed so much more harmonious, so much more fun and the brick bats of outrageous fortune felt easier to handle, somehow, even when we didn’t have it all our own way.

The move to the swanky new stadium, with its swanky seats and prices to match proved to be a damp squib for too many of us, as much of a let-down as the lamentable food and drink on offer within the stadium concourse, over-priced and unloved in equal relative measure.

Most of the fans keep plodding along of course, determined to keep some semblance of the old magic alive and with most of them certain, in their heart of hearts, that our time will come again. And it’s been by no means all bad news with European competition an annual given, a couple of cups and the odd near miss punctuating ten years of a riveting, compelling style of football, widely regarded, according to many neutrals, as the nation’s favourite.

But still the underlying issues remain. The vulnerability to injury. The subsequent disruption and loss of form. The perceived annual wobble as we reach the ‘business end’ of the season followed by the frustrating recovery as thoughts turn to the next season, set up with ephemeral promise and seemingly illusory potential, over and over again.

All of the above, of course, is only true when taken in the context of the aggregation of the whole of Arsenal’s Emirates’ years.

In truth, for most other clubs, most seasons since 2006-16 would have been considered pretty exciting and very nearly very ‘successful’.

However, it is the cumulative effect of all our near-misses that is causing the problems in the marriage. Sure, there are set-piece setbacks most seasons and losing to Man U is just one of a number of ‘accelerants’ causing the bonfire of supporter frustration to flame up in what is now alarming – and alarmingly predictable – fashion. Losing (or even drawing) with Spurs is another. We all know the rest, some seasons they come and some seasons they go.

So, losing on Sunday in Manchester by a goal was always going to be disappointing for all connected with the club.

But it’s the context of the defeat, coming as it does as one of ten years’ worth of defeats at Old Trafford, that causes otherwise moderately sane fans to completely lose their rag. Their very sense of perspective causes them, ironically, to lose perspective. In reality, it was only one game. In our heads – as it is in the record books – Arsenal have failed to win in the League at OT since 2006, a remarkable statistic when looked at as a block of results.

And of course, THIS year, due to circumstances we are all familiar with, we were favourites to win this particular encounter. More fuel to the flames.

To make it all worse, much worse, Spurs only go and win from 1-0 down and the upstarts in the Midlands continue their glorious streak. That neither clubs have been able to perform at this level for more than one season will remain unnoticed by the majority of observers; the ‘fact’ is, and despite the absence of petro-dollar funding, they appear to be over-coming the odds as Arsenal continue to underwhelm.

So it wasn’t just an irksome defeat on Sunday, it was defeat whilst all around, our nearest rivals were winning, and winning in some unanticipated style. Under-promising and over-delivering, if you will.

In some ways, Wenger’s temerity in keeping us so competitive for so long has in rather bizarre fashion, been at the heart of the questioning dilemma experienced by the critical Gunner.

The glamour of European competition, the excitement of extended cup runs and lengthy unbeaten spells in the league sits on one side of a football supporting equation. On the other side, our inability to beat everyone all the time has the now default effect of causing the club to perennially over-promise and under-deliver. Season after season.

Every other manager in the league has come and gone as ultimately they failed to keep their club competitive. This includes Ferguson who knew the game was largely up when he over-paid for van Persie for a final season hurrah which ended in triumph at the cost of many years subsequent rebuilding.

Only one man has outlasted every other serving manager in the country and his record – when taken in context with the records of every single one of his competitors – really should speak for itself.

So where does that leave the Arsenal fan base?

Still leaving home games ten minutes early as they mutter about players who don’t give 110% for all 90+ minutes? Still not turning up for cup games at home, if the empty seats were anything to go by during recent encounters.

The years have ground down many of us into a whimpering mass of half-hearted support, bearing the club colours with resentment over prices and anger at the unspent sums seemingly gathering dust in the accounts. Pissed off with the pies and the, er piss on sale in the stadium. No longer focussed on the delivery of unconditional support for the club they once truly loved, their energy dissipated by the latest outrage vocalised and amplified on social media.

At the end of the day, on Sunday, Man U played rather unexpectedly well for their three points which were hardly undeserved. For 70 minutes we kept Barca at bay. And against Hull, whilst we never looked like losing, our out of form attack could not find a way through.

They say this could – and still might – be Arsenal’s season to win the Premier League. Momentum is clearly not with us in the way it has been with Leicester all season and, more latterly, Tottenham. It will take a monumental effort from the players to regain traction to overtake rivals who will be unlikely to repeat the trick in 12 months’ time with the burden of European Cup Competition added to their unlikely fixture mix.

I agree with many who suggest the Arsenal squad this season have failed to truly hit the heights of the form we all assume they are capable of. The Ozil assist record sits uncomfortably alongside our missed chances tally.

But as fans we all have to ask ourselves one question.

Let’s imagine the team rediscover their shooting boots, remember to lock the back door and deign to dominate midfield to go on a season-ending marauding run that takes us to the very front door of being next year’s champions.

Will we as fans have managed to stay with them? To help push them through the door and over the threshold of footballing bliss.

Or will our boys end up winning – or losing – regardless of the fans.

Have we as fans become irrelevant to the success and failure of our own club?

About ArsenalAndrew

Annoying, former optimist and lifelong supporter of the finest football club the world has ever seen.

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76 comments on “The Critical Gooner: Where Does It Start And Where Does It End?

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed that AA though, like Stew’s work on Sunday morning, I shall have to go away and think about it. The marriage parallel is sharp though even down to the issue of the kids growing up and the dynamic of the marital arrangement changing, and in some cases being made redundant. For many football fans, Arsenal fans who I come across at least, there is no development or change in the relationship, there is no maturing. Too many imagine themselves to be hot and ‘horny’, to borrow from LvG, and that physical gratification is the only purpose of supporting the club. They have no eye, no soul. It is a relationship that cannot endure.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. anicol I think many Gooners feel that too many of the players lack a soul and have no real love for the club(something I doubt many players ever had, but good professional attitude at least makes it look like they love the club), that far too often some seem to be going through the motions, mulit millionaire players who do not give their all for their wages and of course the adulation offered to them.
    AFC have lost or drawn to WHU, Olympiacos, Zagreb, WBA, Norwich, Southampton x 2, Hull, Sheffield Wednesday, Chelsea when at their worst x 2, and a poor Man Utd. Yet it seems when the team is up for it, we can beat Bayern Munich, Man City, Man Utd, Leicester City x 2, the fact that Wenger gives as an excuse that our opponents have spent money is just maddening at this point in time, AFC has large amount of money and do not spend it, AW should no longer be using it as an excuse, also it long past the time that he should be using injuries as an excuse, again we have the money to have a bigger squad so as to be able to cope, also we fail to add the extra players knowing full well, how poor an injury record six or seven of our squad has.

    as far as a family analogy goes, I’d more say the club is more like an old married couple who have scrapped and struggled for money all their life, and always tried to put a few pounds away for the rainy day, but now with a healthy bank balance they can just not change and are still putting away a few pound for the rainy day, while refusing to buy oil for the heating and going cold.

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  3. ARSENAL OFFER ROBBIE BURTON SCHOLARSHIP DEAL WITH SEVERAL YOUNGSTERS RELEASED
    Screen shot 2016-02-29 at 14.11.06

    Arsenal have offered Welsh U17 international midfielder Robbie Burton a scholarship deal for next season.

    Burton, who has already featured for Arsenal at U18 level, joins Reiss Nelson, Emile Smith-Rowe, Joao Virginia, Josh Benson, Dominic Thompson, Jay Beckford, Joseph Olowu, Nathan Tormey and Toby Omole in being offered scholarship terms.

    Goalkeeper George Phillips, who played for the U18s recently, has been told that he is free to leave, whilst fellow shot-stopper Jordan Perrin has departed by mutual consent.

    Rob Howard, Henry Wise, Jordan Williams, Mohammed Diallo, Javaan Campbell, Danny Ballard, Jaidon Anthony and Max Sheaf have all been let go.

    Posted in Uncategorized on February 29, 2016 by Jeorge Bird

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  4. I can only comment on what I see Eddy and the notion that Arsenal players don’t care, or are somehow detached by reason of their wage, from wanting to do their best seems wide of the mark. The claims about lack of heart/soul/bottle always emerge after a defeat, and sometimes a draw, from fans who are perhaps looking for a convenient target for their own disappointment. Clearly that we are still 3rd in the PL, FA Cup holders and still in that completion as well as (clinging on) the CL suggests these soulless could not care less players are doing something right. As AA poses the question above though, are the fans doing it ‘right’ ? Do the fans, some of them anyway, even know what ‘right’ is anymore.

    You will be unsurprised to hear the ticket exchange is awash with Swansea tickets and the Hull replay tickets are on open sale. So much for the sanctity of marriage.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Arsenal U21’s play Wolves U21’s tonight, kick off is at 7

    Arsenal Under-21s Arsenal Under-21s starting XI: Huddart, Moore, O’Connor, Pleguezuelo, M.Bola, McGuane, Sheaf, Hinds, Willock, Nelson, Malen
    substitutes: Keto, Mavididi, Bielik, Da Graca, Bennacer

    Wolves Under-21 starting XI: Flatt, Odoffin, Deslandes, Price, Hayden, Hause, Hunte, Ronan, McAlinden, Enobakhare, Rowe
    substitutes: Upton, Rainey, Randall, Armstrong, Collins

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  6. well anicol you are right, I’m not at all surprised that loads of tickets are available for the Swansea and Hull games, both Cat C games, our fans who so like to claim they and others are being priced out of the game by greedy old Arsenal, clearly do not want to attend Cat C games, there was no spares for Barcelona, there will be no spares for Spurs on Saturday, but even if we win all our games this week and next, there will be lots of spares for Watford in the FA Cup QF, and if we lose to Hull then the BPL game v WBA will see lots of spares. Its all soundbites, and no substance.

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  7. Orbinho
    ‏@Orbinho
    Michael Oliver will officiate Spurs v Arsenal this weekend. Arsenal have won none of the last six matches he has officiated D4 L2.

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  8. Arsenal FC ‏@Arsenal 2m2 minutes ago
    GOAL! Donyell Malen puts @Arsenal Under-21s ahead! 1-0 (16) #AFCU21

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  9. Really Eddy ! so Oliver had referreed us 6 times since he sent Di Maria off ?

    No way – he is a good referee – pleased to have either him or Clattenburg at the Lane

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  10. Arsenal FC ‏@Arsenal 2m2 minutes ago
    Goal for Wolves. An own goal levels the scores 1-1 (18) #AFCU21

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  11. I would expect that the stat refers to BPL games, and does not include the FA Cup game, I can not see him having been our ref in six games since the cup game.

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  12. Unlike Orbinho we have great respect for the FA Cup – I’m surprised Oliver is not going to UEFA 2016 instead of Atkinson although he is still young

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  13. HALF-TIME: @Arsenal Under-21s 1-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers Under-21s #AFCU21

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  14. Well it seem the Blabber from Belfast who has built his entire blog and related financial interests around Arsenal is on a witch hunt vs Arsene Wenger. Apparently he is entire reason why we lost at United yesterday. The completely detached, disinterested view of this blogger and his sidekicks is that Arsene must take the bullet for not winning the title as he did not spend the money. Clearly Arsene should spend as much as Chelsea and United who are sailing far away in the spending stakes but languishing far behind in the tables.

    Given that Wenger made the changes to the team they were demanding by playing a speedy line up with Gabriel replacing Mertesacker, now that it didn’t work, where is the accountability? Well it is all Wenger’s fault, not those who publicly crucify players fomenting the most hostile environment possible for a player to perform. So unlike our Stew who stays as far away as possible from recommending line-ups so he/we can cheer with gusto whomever Wenger thinks is best to represent the club.

    To take the cake the blabber and his sidekick are bigging up Joel Campbell as much better substitution than Alex Iwobi (see the trend), the same player they dogged for half the year as totally useless until he scored two goals and made two assists. If I was Joel, I would be wary of those who were quick to poison the well when players like Adebayor, Song and Eboue had their struggles. You are only as good as your last game buddy.

    Damn Wenger; he made Arsenal the greatest team the world has ever seen in the late 90s and early noughties, making it easy for the Blabber from Belfast and his ilk to bask in the reflected glory but now the going is tough, damn the consistency. The board should be bold and ruthless like Chelsea or Man City (to quote the blabber) and make a change. Damn the risk of failure, it is not my money.

    With friends like these, who needs enemies..

    Liked by 2 people

  15. what blog is that

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  16. Wise and measured piece Andy. I stay clear of the sports media for a few days after such a humiliating result. I am baffled, annoyed, angry etc you name it…because Arsenal are no where near their best…WHY?

    Liked by 2 people

  17. well if Arsenal do remove Wenger from his role as manager, us fans should not worry in the slightest, we have two experts we can turn to, one has already shown his managerial pedigree, and the other is in middle of doing his coaching badges, so we can have a one two of ex Walsall boss, Paul Merson, with Thierry Henry as his assistant. Martin Keown can be added to the staff if another expert is needed. So there are “no excuses”, for Arsenal not acting in the needs be.

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  18. Great post AA.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Arsenal FC ‏@Arsenal 3m3 minutes ago
    FULL TIME: @Arsenal Under-21s 1-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers Under-21s

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  20. edu at a guess likely arseblog?

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  21. Excellent article…..some fans need to look in the mirror when entering the thorny subject of mental strength.
    Like the marriage analogy, but it seems some of our fans need to stray outside the marriage for a little bit of bondage and humiliation, Cynthia Payne style.
    Can only acknowledge the frustrations at the moment…we have not been up to much since the City game….at the moment, it is hard to present a case that we have really moved on this season, old weaknesses appear unresolved. Lesser , but more basic and better organised teams sit above us.
    But things can and do change very quickly. And this is the time of year when in theory, things sort themselves out. Can Leicester and Spurs keep going….history suggests both will run out of steam the way they play (read Kante now out with an injury for a while)….will the experienced Oilers kick into gear….or will things start clicking for us. For better or for worse, in sickness or in health,there are games to go, may as well just back the boys

    Liked by 3 people

  22. Youngsters played well tonight although wolves had long periods of possession in the second half.
    Mavididi came close to scoring when he was introduced late on and also it was worth noting that Bielik was brought on in midfield and not at CB where we have been playing him. Tafari Moore continued his comeback with another assured performance and the other full back Marc Bola was outstanding.
    The other interesting thing to note was the performance of the wolves full back Hakeem Odoffin who was at Barnet and our scouts were very keen on before wolves took him. If he continues his good form he may yet be making his way back south.

    Liked by 3 people

  23. >> what? Le Grove? The Sun? The Dandy?

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  24. ianspace – I still think AFC are missing a trick in not somehow broadcasting the games of our U21s and other ‘junior’ set ups plus the women’s games. No fancy production required or even commentary but just the chance to watch over those considered to be up and coming would be tremendous.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Get out while you can Farhad

    ( bit late that one I know)

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  26. Better late then…I believe the current Everton owner described our erstwhile investor and budding mogul as a “true blue”

    My Word.

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  27. Wenger on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: “He will be out for six to eight weeks but he won’t need surgery.”

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Excellent article AA!

    Liked by 1 person

  29. lots of reports from Nigeria that Kelechi Nwakali has said his deal to join Arsenal is done, and it is a 5 year contract, taking effect in the summer when he turns 18, the fee is said to be around 2m

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  30. wenger said 2 players will be assessed for muscular tightness before the Swansea game, he did not name them, but said no new injuries. He refused to comment on Walcott’s performance v Man UTd.

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  31. Thanks Andrew for this rather bleak review which seems to suggest that The Arsenal has gone from club to corporate. Has it indeed lost its soul, or is it rather the fans from the early Wenger years and back further than that have just lost their youth – and that nothing can ever be that good again? I

    Liked by 2 people

  32. AA, I agree the streaming of youth and ladies games would be a big plus. It connects the fanbase with the players at a earlier level and may stop them being so critical when they come in the side. Hector was my lads favourite player before he even got in the first team.
    It may even increase the capacity as well at these games. Last night I met Jeff who was watching (so he might be on the bench Wednesday). Over the years I’ve met lots of first team players at reserve games and because of the less formal setting they are happy to chat. Mick Hartford and David Pleat were also watching last night.
    The only reason I can think they wouldn’t stream it is because of digital scouting

    Liked by 1 person

  33. I rather think that there is a new generation of Arsenal fans for whom Sunday was indeed a disappointment, especially after the impossible dream of beating Barca so nearly came true – but who will remain convinced that they are following a great team and that their heroes will come good and deliver the goods. Their support will be unconditional – until they too grow old and blame the current incumbents for not being Wenger, Walcott or Welbeck.

    The current twitter mob seem more Dylan Thomas than Larkin: raging rather than resigned, but whatever the angle the illusion of a golden age remains just that.

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  34. “We want to transform the negatives into positives around us and create even more solidarity. Let’s not go overboard. We do not play to be relegated. We are playing to fight for the title. That’s why we have to put criticism in the right place.

    “We had a very, very bad week and it’s down to us to make this week a very good one. A bad week is not permanent. It’s what you make of it and how you respond. That’s the beauty of sport. Things change quickly one way or the other.”

    Nailed it.

    Liked by 3 people

  35. ian you may find that Jeff was not involved last night, for the same reason Bielik did not start, the FA Youth Cup game on Friday v Liverpool, at the Emirates.

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  36. the football world once again shows how mad it has become with the news that Ruben Lostus-cheek the 20 year old CFC midfielder, who has played a total of 12 games, mostly as a sub, has signed a new 5 year contract with a starting wage of £65K a week.
    Of course it should be no surprise that a lad on the fringes of the CFC first team is getting that sort of money, when they have youth team players on up to £30K a week, but it is madness none the less.

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  37. TEAM NEWS: UPDATES ON THE OX AND WELBECK

    Arsène Wenger has revealed the latest team news ahead of Wednesday night’s home Premier League match against Swansea City.

    on team news…
    I will have to check today but I don’t think we have any problems from Sunday apart from one or two who have muscular tightness. Apart from that, everybody should be available.

    on Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury…
    [He will be out for] six for eight weeks. No surgery. We feared surgery at some stage before we saw the MRI. In the end we got, on that front, positive news.

    on it being a blow…
    The next eight weeks means March and April. He should be OK for the Euros.

    on selection…
    It’s possible I will make changes. Some players are still not out of it. I will have to see if I have to be cautious with Danny Welbeck or not. Medically I need advice on that and I will see.

    Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to http://www.arsenal.com as the source

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20160301/team-news-updates-on-the-ox-and-welbeck?#DOoQID3SvTqHVDJg.99

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  38. It may be the Loftus-Cheek contract is with an eye to the player’s and Chelsea’s longer term development Eddy – he has just turned 20 and you never quite know how a midfield player of that age is going to develop, especially one who has played so few games.

    If you don’t tie him up with a contract you risk another Pogba shambles with him leaving Manchester on a free.

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  39. of course there is nothing wrong with giving him a five year contract, but wages of £65k a week is madness for a player with barely any first team minutes,

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  40. arsenal play liverpool in the FA Youth cup on Friday, they last met in the competition back in 2009, AFC beating LFC in the final, here is a look at where both sets of players are now. Wilshere and Coquelin the only two still at Arsenal.

    https://arsenalyouth.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/where-are-they-now-the-arsenal-liverpool-teams-from-the-2009-fa-youth-cup-final/?

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  41. Sniper ‏@clockendsniper 46m46 minutes ago
    As it may have been mentioned once or twice of late but what are the leaders on the pitch at the other 17 clubs below us doing?

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  42. imagine Liverpool fans actually trying to dig out Arsenal for not winning the league this season – yeah I know there are still 33 pts to play for, and they dig outs have started.

    A little reminder of what bottling the league actually looks like

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Arsenal Fixture News ‏@AFCFixtureNews Feb 26
    SHOULD we beat Hull City, our Quarter Final tie at Home to Watford will be played on Sunday 13th Match 2016; Kick-off will be 1:30 pm.

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  44. Siân ‏@SianyMacalarny 17h17 hours ago
    Been thinking about it today and there’s still 33 points to go! We will lose 36 of those no doubt but jeeeeeez cheer up a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

  45. lose 36 out of 33 points, LOL… i actually laughed!

    Its always so amazing the reactions when we lose or draw a game…

    yes we can do better but really… some people need to chill

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  46. In the wacky world of PL wages at Stamford Bridge I imagine £65k a week is a virtually derisory offer, insulting almost, or so Loftus-Cheek’s agent will have said. However I suppose if it does not work out for the boy in SW6 it will bolster his future value on the Chinese market.

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  47. Team Spirit:@ 1:41pm – “Lose 36 points out of 33.” In all my years online with Arsenal fans, the reaction of our bloggers and podcasters to losing to United has been to historic levels of hyper-ventilation and stupidity. Worse bit is they think this team will continue to underperform when there is ample evidence that a Wenger-team can easily turn-it-around a bad patch and go on a long undefeated run. The silliness is proof that our fanbase is just as fickle as most. No question.

    Liked by 1 person

  48. it seems that the two players wenger was referring to when he talked about two players having tight muscles, may have been, Bellerin and Koscielny, as both missed training today. A few of the youths trained with the squad, Bielik, Jeff, and Gnabry

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