Self Censorship at The Arsenal?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main points:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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567 comments on “Self Censorship at The Arsenal?

  1. I think this World Cup has shown us that while the gap in club football is widening, the gap in international football is narrowing. You still have the top teams finding ways to win (or lose as the case may be) but because they can’t just go out and buy players to fix their problems in the short term, and team building takes longer when you’re playing together sporadically, the other countries are catching up. I think this is good for the future of football.

    For all Blatter’s faults and motivations, expanding the World Cup to 32, and now Fifa expanding it to 48 teams is for the good of the game.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m very sad to see Jack go. An outstandingly gifted young footballer who had the potential – with proper protection from match officials – to become one of the best.

    Still, it’s just possible that no longer being associated with Arsenal will make him eligible to play for England.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Released players, young pros, scholars confirmed
    Arsenal Media 28 Jun 2018
    Santi Cazorla

    June 30, is the stated ‘contract end’ date each year, which marks the end of many players’ contracts and is therefore a very important day in the football calendar.

    It is the day when we officially bid farewell to the players whose contracts with us expire.

    Consequently, July 1 is a day when we welcome new young players to the club, and is also a day when young players are signing their first professional contracts with us; and other young players are extending their existing contracts.

    Players released at end of contract

    The following players are leaving Arsenal Football Club on June 30, 2018:

    Marc Bola

    Santi Cazorla

    Alex Crean

    Vlad Dragomir

    Aaron Eyoma

    Yassin Fortune

    Ryan Huddart

    Chiori Johnson

    Hugo Keto

    Per Mertesacker

    Tafari Moore

    Jack Wilshere

    Young players signing their first professional contract

    The following players have signed professional contracts with us:

    Daniel Ballard

    Dominic Thompson

    Robbie Burton

    Young players signing new contracts

    The following young players have signed contract extensions:

    Deyan Iliev

    Tolaji Bola

    New scholars joining

    The following players have signed as scholars with Arsenal Football Club from the start of the 2018/19 season:

    Ryan Alebiousu

    Ben Cottrell

    Matthew Dennis

    Stanley Flaherty

    Alfie Matthews

    Bukayo Saka

    Thomas Smith

    Joshua Martin

    To all the players leaving us, we thank them all for their contributions to the club and wish them the best of health and success in their futures.

    To the players joining and signing new contracts, we look forward to their continued development with us in the years to come.

    Any further developments will be communicated in due course.

    June 29, 2018

    Copyright 2018 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.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Vlad Dragomir’s agent said today that they are still in talks with AFC over a new contract regardless of what list has been posted on .com

    Liked by 1 person

  5. so Chambers is getting a new AFC contract, he joins other “still at AFC only cos he is a Wenger pet”, guys like Xhaka and Eleney in signing a new contract under the new change all regime – Ramsey next.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I see Jens Lehmann has said that Ozil was plagued all season with injury problems,and that he barely trained in January or Febuary, and that not only did he miss the last 3 games of the season, but was unable to train at all for those final weeks of the season.
    This follows on from reports that Ozil played v Atletico Madrid in the EL semi final injured, and that he played many times during the season injured. But hey the malcontents know best, he was clearly faking it and just taking holidays, after all he was never signing a new contract and was saving himself for his bosman free move and the WC with Germany.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Arsenal.com have removed the bio’s of staff and players who we know are leaving or have left the club, well all apart from Vic Akers, oddly enough he was one member of staff we knew was going before the season ended, the club even gave him an award at our last home game of the season.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Will be very pleased to see the likes of Ramsey and Chambers sign.
    As for Ozil, no surprise to hear he has been so incapacitated, he clearly wasn’t at the peak of his powers the latter half of the season.
    The fact that he was picked for Germany under such circumstances shows how highly the coach rates him.
    There has been surely more shit written about Ozil than most , by a media dominated by ex players and supporters of other clubs.
    Come back to Arsenal Mesut and leave Germany behind. But play on for us in the knowledge you have something The Scouse Spitter, Shearer, anyone called Neville, the wife beating dogging racist, Chris kamara, kilbane , an Irishman who walked out on his team in a WC have never got anywhere near

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Moany post here so skip past if inclined:

    At lunchtime I looked to see who’d be playing today. Ah, no games. I was pleased to be honest. I continued my various chores and ended up at a mates home who’s a Chelsea fan. He immediately started talking about football and not for the first time asserted that players shouldn’t hang on to the ball too long dos that’s how they get their legs broken.

    As usual I tried my retort: if a player keeps the ball his opponent should take the ball not the man. Matey shouted me down insisting “pass the ball. It isn’t about Neymar or Hazzard it’s about Brazil or Chelsea”.

    I started to tell matey that ‘you can’t pass the ball if there’s no one close or can’t for whatever reason make a longer pass…’, but he just shouted me down, I’m front of his missus and kids. Some way into the “discussion” I mentioned Arsenal and his response was, “Oh here we go, Arsenal”.

    I desperately wanted to share that if Arsenal and other teams fans (including him) looked beyond being told by the Neville’s, Jame-eeeees, and myriad other bollock-plundits that it’s “good/necessary” to “bring him down/stop them or get in their faces/ there’s nothing in that for me, et al, said fans, particularly Arsenal fans should instead unite and as one call out the nonsense. Imagine if the bugga-bloggers had stuck to their expressed outrage when Aaron was Shawcrossed! But no, people waved money anthem and they joined the press in saying everything Arsenal was wrong (esp. Vengaaaaarh). Then came aftv, clearly set up to profit from Thems commitment to disparage Arsenal and destroy their fan base. Having achieved that the bobby guy was rewarded with a series on channel 4 where he could further advance the whole brand of disaffecting any footy fans in the uk. Bravo.

    I had Jack in the back of my mind. Various peeps say he holds onto the ball too long. IMO any player could hold onto the ball as long as they like. The opponents job is to take the ball off them and if they foul the man with the ball they should be punished, full stop (period). McNair didn’t wait for Jack to hang on too long. He just crushed his ankle without taking the ball and senor Gollum, 5 yards away pretended it didn’t happen. That’s what we’ve been up against at Arsenal for a couple of decades.

    I was so angry I left my mates home and had a depressing bus ride home, thinking of our Jack Wilshere. That game against Barca (2-1 to us, then Bussaca for the return, in a match I’d pay to have a copy of), to make sure Arsenal didn’t succeed.
    (That was 2011 and where were the plunditry and bugga-bloggers venting & spewing? Oh yeah, it was Almunia’s fault, and Vengaaaaars, obvs).

    Some of my fellow bus passengers tried to wind me up – sitting on the outside of 2 seats with their bags on the inside one, or jumping the queue, or standing by the exit doors thereby slowing down the flow of peeps exiting, but I managed to take the high ground by listening to Miles, “So what”.

    Sorry to have troubled you. It’s an offload, I know. (Dumping, innit?).

    Good luck Jack. I’ll miss you. I pray that wherever you go you’ll be able to play football, fairly and with your undoubted excellence.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Echo the thoughts on Jack, a wonderful player, too good to be allowed to thrive in this league under Fergies PGMOL rules.
    Surprised a decent EPL side hasn’t come in for him, yet at least, maybe they know something about his mid long term injury prognosis. What happened to him, Ramsey, Sagna, debuchy , diaby, Eduardo, cesc,and others is a damning indictment on the way the game is played, and refereed in this league.
    If Unai emery is the obsessive planner we are told he is, he will be aware of what we are up against, and will hopefully be planning accordingly.
    Remember an Untold article of the view how things went against us so much when Riley took over, put in place with the help of Fergies LMA, don’t have the stats but serious injuries, as well as many negative penalty balances were hallmarks of Riley’s tenure, especially in the years we were considered a threat .
    Wonder if things will change or will the song remain the same?

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Rantetta

    I was reading Hugh Mcilvaney’s book earlier (collection of his football articles over long career) and took particular interest in a piece about the Fashanu/Mabbutt incident and topic of elbows in football.

    Apparently there was a bit of an epidemic at the time, large number of sendings off and some serious incidents besides Mabbutt one.

    Mcilvaney very critical of inquiry they had into it. Nearly all focus was on …dur,dur,dur…the issue of intent, as opposed to recklessness, responsibility for opponents safety.

    My recall fails me here about names of people involved, but they were two big administrative hitters, Taylor and another equally familiar name. One was new head of player’s union and argued strongly for more protection and to concentrate more on recklessness than intent.

    The other, new head of FA, I think, went as a character witness for a player who had been sent off for breaking an opponents cheekbone and eye socket with an elbow, forcing them into early retirement, and said it was an accident and something that you’d see 200 times if you watched four games of football.

    Maybe there’s a crumb of comfort in knowing these are old issues and, crucially, aren’t exclusive to us (sometimes it has felt like they very nearly are).

    My own take is that it’s a weird cultural thing, wanting to defend thuggery in football, by no means exclusive to Britain but surely worse here than in most major leagues, especially in Europe. Their greatest weapon is insisting on the issue of intent instead of focusing on recklessness.

    However, while there may be something genuine in a desire to see tougher football and protect the rights of those who want to play it that way, self-interest in its various guises is surely a stronger force, and tremendous hypocrisy is in play.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. seen an article on BBC that had former ref Halsey saying he booked a player who asked him to book him so he would reach automatic suspension, miss the next game and be back for his clubs local derby. In fact Halsey claims he told the player to kick the ball away at the next free kick he gave against him and he would book him.

    How many more former refs are going to have to admit complicity in wrong doing before the media, and football fans start to campaign against the pgmol’s “game management” under Mike Riley.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Arsenal’s Kelechi Nwakali has announced that he has joined Porto, he did not say if its a loan or a permanent move,
    I expect its another loan, in attempt to gain him a work permit.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Re: last post. It was Gordon Taylor who was new head of PFA and talking harshly against reckless play, and Graham Kelly who was new head of FA defending it.

    Striking thing in article is that both the author, Mcilvanney and Taylor are say things that apply completely to the horror fouls/injuries on us.

    Weirdly, Mcilvanney uses example of someone doing twice the speed limit and mounting a pavement and mowing down a pedestrian- ‘…the driver might be said to have had an accident…But that does not mean he is not culpable. A flying elbow on the field may be less deadly than a hurtling car on the road but both imply a totally unacceptable disregard for the wellbeing of others’

    I’m fairly sure Wenger used a very similar car analogy in post match interviews after Ramsey leg break.

    Taylor on Mabbutt incident : ‘What troubles us particularly is that Gary Mabbutt is a lad who is known to play the game with 100% honesty and openness. If the absolute fairness with which such fellas play the game is making them especially vulnerable, something must be done and done quickly. Every player accepts that when he goes on the field he is volunteering to risk injury. But he also has a right- and it is now a right that has been legally established in court- to expect that those he is competing against will recognise their duty to show proper care and concern for the well-being of fellow professionals. You don’t necessarily volunteer to have somebody jumping with you who has an elbow high, cocked and rigid and maybe 15 stone behind it’

    The shock and the shame for me is how well Taylor and the journalist made these admittedly simple points…which applied completely to Diaby, Eduardo, Ramsey, Wilshere, Bellerin, but were never made on our behalf.

    I have an uncomfortable feeling Gordon Taylor may have spoken after the Shawcross incident…in defence of Shawcross. Meanwhile, I remember reading a few years back that Fifa asked the FA to consider more than a 3-match ban for either Eduardo or Ramsey one, and were told nothing could be done, because it rested on intent, which can’t be proven.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Re our young Nigerian prodigy, is it me or do we seem to get shafted far more on work permits than say The Mancs for example (City and Utd) It seems so to me. This kid was player of the tournament at a world junior cup and Captain of Nigeria, how can that not count as a special talent?

    Liked by 2 people

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