Monday
Jan152018

Is Wenger scavenging bins again?

What a sorry mess Arsenal is in right now - all horribly predictable and only likely to get worse, especially as the anti-Wenger protests are about to restart. Whatever you think about these protests, including the low attendances, they create a media discourse that is exhausting and distracting to Wenger and the players, often turning Arsenal into a national farce.

The defeat at Bournemouth at the weekend gave a glimpse into life without Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, and it wasn’t pretty. Without them, Arsenal is a shabby mid-table Premier League outfit, or worse.

As we have seen over the last decade, Arsenal was often propped up by the genius of Van Persie, Henry and Fabregas. Diamond encrusted rings on a compost heap of mediocrity; these players almost single-handedly ensured Arsenal scraped Champions League qualification. But all three grew impatient with Wenger and decided to play for more ambitious and competitive clubs. All succeeded.

As we have known for many months now, Sanchez has long-realised he is wasting his efforts at the club, and we should lose all respect for Ozil if he decides to stay as it could not possibly be for sporting reasons.

Deemed by their respective clubs as expendable, Ozil and Sanchez were acquired late in subsequent transfer windows. In both cases, Wenger was caught hanging round the bins on deadline day looking for expensive cast offs to inspire his failed regime. Now, desperate for ‘quality’ reinforcements, he’s at it again.

Current high-profile club rejects being linked include winger/striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – a no-doubt talented yet deeply divisive and ill-disciplined individual, Man Utd failure Henrik Mkhitaryan and the similarly overrated Riyad Mahrez. Younger players such as 20-year-old Bordeaux winger Malcom and Anthony Martial are also being touted, but they’re not going to produce anything close to rivalling Sanchez’s output.

Whether the rumoured interest in these players is real or imaginary, any signings made by Wenger this month would only be the desperate flailings of a manager that has no plan and no vision. In-keeping with his failed acquisition of Jamie Vardy last summer, he’s merely playing Football Manager, desperately scouring the market for whatever high-profile cast-offs he can find to plug holes in his sinking ship. By signing these players, he might kick the can down the road a little while longer, but for what purpose?

The fact is, Arsenal needs to be rebuilt and the club should not waste any further time going about it. Wenger has nothing left to offer Arsenal or the game of football. He’s a dinosaur, so focused on maintaining power and longevity that he’s lost all semblance of rationality, and the dressing room along with it. The players only turn up when they feel like it, with varying degrees of success failure.

But will this happen? Most unlikely - the board’s ignorance and inertia is seemingly set in stone. As the club agonisingly slips into a state of middle-tier Premier League mediocrity, all we can do is watch its slow-burning demise play out and, with it, Wenger’s legacy disintegrate to dust. Personally, I welcome that, it's everything this egomanical, selfish man deserves, hence why I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about yesterday’s defeat.

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Arsenal Truth can be found on twitter @ https://twitter.com/trutharsenal

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Thursday
Jan112018

Wenger out, Ancelotti in

That’s the rumour. But it’s just a rumour, God save us.

So, what do we know about Wenger and his contract? We know it still has 18 months to run, but the only reason he was not offered a rolling one-year contract by the board last summer was due to the distraction of weekly press speculation about his future and those ever-increasing supporter protests.

That’s why I believe Wenger will not see out another Arsenal contract, because the club is only giving him the leeway of an extra year to stop the speculation, not because they necessarily want Wenger to stay to the full extent of the contract. Indeed, as Wenger will only have 12 months to run at the end of this season, Arsenal will have to offer him another contract extension to avoid a repeat of last season’s saga.

There is also room for optimism that Wenger will finally fuck off due to Ivan Gazidis’ decision to start implementing changes behind the scenes. Wenger allies Steve Rowley and Dick Law have been ousted, while Gazidis has employed Sven Mislintat as head of recruitment and Raul Sanllehi in the role of head of football relations. This action has clearly wounded Wenger’s narcissistic ego, hence his bitter response suggesting he already knows every player in Europe and that Mislintat will have little effect. I quote: “Sometimes, in a little club in Germany, he might know somebody we might ignore”.

It should also be noted that earlier this month, for the first time in 22 years, Arsenal signed a player without Wenger’s permission, Greek centre-back Konstantinos Mavropanos.

As actions speak louder than words, we can perhaps speculate that Gazidis is not quite as comprehensively clueless as has so far been proven but has, to some extent, been playing the long game. Although he seems to have little substantial influence over owner Stan Kroenke, he has at least managed to convince him of the need to plan for a Wenger-less future. And the fact that Kroenke obviously agrees this is something that requires contemplation can only have the benefit of lowering the guillotine over Wenger’s neck, putting him under even more pressure.

Unfortunately, it’s still unlikely that we’ll wake up one day and find that Wenger has been sacked, but there is the definite likelihood that the club will instead dress up some bullshit end-of-season ‘mutual agreement’ press release explaining his departure.

The hope also has to be that Wenger fully departs rather than hangs around like an infected anus ruminating over every boardroom decision with his usual hubristic, self-serving analyses. As much as it grates, we’ll probably have to accept the old fraud gets a statue too; a small price to pay for getting rid of one of Arsenal’s most successful yet perversely bad managers of all time. Few have starved this great club of major success for so long, and not just in terms of winning the Premier League or European success, but getting anywhere near competing for them.

The only question now is who should replace Wenger? In recent days, Carlo Ancelotti’s name has sprung up. This is someone that I suggested several years ago would be a good option to manage the club when Wenger leaves. Many see this as the safe option and would prefer a younger manager with more energy and revolutionary tactical ideas. However, although I agree with that mindset to a large extent, the club is in a situation where it first and foremost will need someone with Ancelotti’s vast experience to steer it back in the right direction, if only for a limited period.

Bringing in a new, young manager at a time when Arsenal will have probably lost its two most high-profile players in Sanchez and Ozil, with a host of other first teamers eyeing the exit door due to their contracts being run down and several others either retiring or wrecked by injury, would be a big risk.

At this rate, when Wenger leaves what would be left is basically a youth academy and a bunch of crap ten times worse than anything Bruce Rioch left him, which may not seem very appealing to Ancelotti, but for Arsenal, the Italian’s experience would bring both gravitas and contacts. The players will listen to him, respect him and the chance of top quality players joining Arsenal to help resurrect the club are for more feasible with Ancelotti on the other end of the phone than, for example, the (also rumoured) inexperienced Mikel Arteta.

So yes, I would welcome Ancelotti, but then I would welcome Neil Warnock if it means never again having to look at that nasty, manipulative, disgusting old fraud Wenger perched on the bench like some constipated owl, pissing and moaning at the zombified ragbag of ambitionless staff he's paid to keep schtum for as long as he's in charge.

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Arsenal Truth can be found on twitter @ https://twitter.com/trutharsenal

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Wednesday
Jan102018

Wenger's players suffer from the 'law of collective averages'

Babatunde M. Olayinka writes:

Dear Arsenal Truth, 

Welcome back from your long sabbatical away from the blog. Or, did you return since and I didn't notice? 

I think I totally get your point that a team with Arsenal's resources and rich history (3rd most successful English football club) should not be relying on referees assistance or mistakes to win, draw or lose matches. We should be much better than that.

Sadly, when the team is reduced to garbage, as we have had for the past 10 years, and no longer compete for the available top honours, fans are naturally motivated to seek solace in an alternative narrative. Hence, the referee and FFP become easy scapegoats.

Do not blame fans. It's what we do. It's who we are. I have an in-law who believes that whenever Arsenal loses, regardless of how shitty the performance was, it’s all "ojoro", meaning Arsenal was cheated. Nothing you can analyse or show him will change his mind. That was a few years back. Now, he is finally seeing the light of how truly crap we've become. He hardly watches our games anymore. Like so many of us in this part of the world. Whilst our love for our club will forever remain strong, we needed to make a conscious decision to choose between Arsene Wenger's Arsenal on one side and our good health and sanity on the other. The choice is easy.

Every great player that comes to Arsenal these days becomes good and any good player becomes average.  Average players become shitty. That's our current reality and this stems from the law of collective averages if I might term it that. When you throw a brilliant child into a class of equally or more brilliant children, this new child is heavily challenged and digs deep to maintain or improve his performance with the consequence of getting phenomenally better. 

Likewise, throw same brilliant student into a pool of average or poor performing students, over time this student tends towards the class average and becomes worse off. There are too many names to cite in Arsenal over the past 10 years who fit into this bill that I just won't bother. But the reality is through a farcical combination of poor training, poor player selection, poor preparations, poor strategy, poor plan B, poor leadership, poor motivation and poor consequence management,  Arsenal have become an over achieving mid-table team.

That's all we are now and things will continue to get worse unless the club owners rescue the club from the steel clutches of Arsene Wenger. which they don't seem able to or interested in doing. This is never about financial doping by other clubs. That contributes maybe 5 to 10% to success. But the remaining 90% is down to the basics of what makes football the beautiful sport. And we just aren't doing those things any more.

__
AT

Some of Arsenal's most passionate fans hail from Africa. Thanks to Babatunde M. Olayinka (Tundy) for his insightful contribution.


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Tuesday
Jan022018

Dean 'error' excuses perverted Wenger

My search for truth, not just in football but life, led to the creation of Arsenal Truth, which became a weird backwater football blog that no one took much notice of. It peaked several years ago when I had the bright idea to publish Arsenal wage bill estimates, which seemed to attract every blog in town, national newspapers and the BBC.

My objective analysis of the club created a unique viewpoint, but most supporters are not interested in objective analysis until things become so bad the situation is undeniable to all but the most dissuadable. You see football fans invest a lot of emotion. When their team wins, they feel emotional pleasure, when it loses they feel pain. To alleviate the pain of defeat, fans cushion themselves by distorting reality. By distorting reality, they reframe hope, allowing them to keep the pleasure dream alive.

But it’s very interesting if you’re brave enough allow your bias to flake away and observe everything a lot more clearly. When I was a dumb teenager, I used to be like almost every other Arsenal fan, thinking every decision against my team was wrong or there was a conspiracy against the club. I now realise that was garbage, and worse than that, my bias was open to manipulation by those that seek to benefit from it.

When you’re truly objective, you come to realise that, in life, human beings make mistakes and there’s nothing wrong with that. These mistakes are almost never deliberate and certainly not related to individual malevolency. Indeed, mistakes are not a bad thing – especially in football. Mistakes, whether they come from players, managers or referees, create unpredictability and unpredictability creates optimism in hopeless situations.

But most fans do not see it that way. Confirmation bias means that mistakes are never in a supporter's favour but always against. Of course, that’s impossible as referees make a multitude of minor mistakes in every game, all of which have a contributory net effect on the result but must have a benefactor, so why not your team?

Against West Brom, Mike Dean allegedly made the mistake of awarding a penalty when Callum Chambers hand was struck by the ball in the dying minutes. Being unbiased, the hysteria and sheer hypocritical reaction by fans, players and the manager has quite naturally amused me.

First, Wenger told unadulterated lies by claiming that Chambers hands were by his side when they were not. If you study video, it’s clear that Chambers hands, although not outstretched, were raised and actually move towards the ball when it was struck. That does not necessarily make it a penalty, as players sometimes make involuntary movements that cannot be attributed as deliberate. However, Chambers actions enabled the opportunity for Mike Dean to make a misjudgement, which he did.

Interestingly, one pundit, Tony Cottee, claimed that the handball was deliberate, explaining: “If you watch what he does, he puts his hand there. His hand is in front of his chest because he’s worried about the ball hitting him on the chest,” he said. “Let it hit you on the chest.” That indicates that Chambers action is deliberate, although I’m not sure I agree as I feel the movement is involuntary. For example, if someone smashes a ball at your face, your hands will make an involuntary movement to protect yourself. It’s still handball, but that cannot be construed as deliberate. However, you can see how, when applied to the ball striking a player’s chest, the same action could be open to different interpretation. The other interpretation is that the ball was too close for the player to get his hand out of the way regardless.

More interesting, however, is how Arsene Wenger has jumped on Dean’s error in an attempt to pervert the narrative and distract from Arsenal’s below par performances this season. Instead of isolating Dean’s error to one particular game, he takes the opportunity to use it as an excuse for his general underperformance as a manager by pointing to several other supposed errors committed against his team throughout the season by other referees.

Of course, Wenger fails to mention any of the errors committed by referees made in favour of his team. Furthermore, what you won’t hear from Wenger is the litany of mistakes that Arsenal players committed throughout the game prior to Dean’s mistake. Of course, a manager will never come on TV and berate his own players for making the many more mistakes than a referee could ever dream of making, but to ignore them as not being a contributory factor to the result is utterly ludicrous.

The rational viewpoint to take would be, why blame the referee for a mistake when every misplaced pass, positional error or foul committed by your own team throughout a match is what inevitably created the conditions for the referee’s mistake to become a critical factor in the result?

The fact is, to be successful in football you have to mitigate the effect of mistakes. Do you think bad decisions did not go against Arsenal’s Invincibles? Of course they did, but Arsenal’s team was so strong and their consistency so high that mistakes were mitigated, enabling the team to not only benefit from mistakes that went in their favour but diminish those that went against them. The same rule applies to every team that ever won anything meaningful.

That’s why, Wenger’s philosophically dense and disrespectful analysis of the referee’s decision is worthy of an FA charge. Dean made an honest mistake, apologised for it on the pitch after the game (video evidence is available), yet was subject to verbal abuse by Wenger behind the scenes and was later accused of being deliberately dishonest in his decision-making. Such behaviour is ugly and not befitting of a football club that supposedly claims to have ‘values’.

In the meantime, people should stop moaning about refereeing mistakes as it’s very boring and very pointless. It’s extremely unlikely said mistakes will ever stop or be reflective of a team’s collective performance over an entire season, and they pale in comparison to the number of mistakes made individually and collectively by players and managers before, during and after a game.

Refereeing mistakes need to be treated the same as player mistakes, human error contributing to the end result, and a fair reflection of the game. To override them and win consistently, be far superior to the opposition – if not, you only have yourself to blame. Arsenal should be far superior to bottom-of-the-league West Brom.

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Thursday
Dec142017

Arsenal on the precipice of self-destruction, yet nobody seems to care

My last post on Arsenal Truth was six months ago. Basically, with Arsene Wenger signing a new deal it was obvious there would only be regression and no further reason to support the club, let alone continue to write about it when it’s institutionally corrupt. However, I kept the blog open because, remarkably, lots of people still visit the site, I still get emails and you never know when you will have the urge to write something.

Trust me, ditching this blog and ditching Arsenal was the best thing I could have done for myself. As tedious as it was watching a club so horribly stagnant, writing about it, even semi-regularly, was even more pointless and debilitating. And while stagnation in itself is not a good reason to stop supporting your team, watching its hierarchy thieve ever-increasing amounts of the supporters’ cash to line their own pockets in the face of abject deterioration is.

Not in my name.

Even now as I write this, the whiff of distaste and boredom for everything Arsenal now represents has returned like a ghostly mist. How people can still actively spend extortionate amounts of time and money to watch the futureless garbage being served up by Wenger genuinely amazes me, but each to their own.

The only reason I am writing this blog now is in the hope and, probably deluded, expectation that Wenger’s tenure will be over within the next six months. At that point, Le Fraud will have only one year remaining on his deal, and assuming the club doesn’t want to go through last season’s ugly debacle of weekly protests and media interrogations, a decision will have to be made regarding the extension of his contract.

Unlike previous seasons, however, the crushing staleness that is Arsenal Football Club is set to reach all-time lows. Not only is the club seventh behind Burnley, but Wenger’s farcical and selfish decision to reject circa £100m to keep hold of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil for one final season is hitting the club hard, both financially and productively.

Last season, the duo scored 42 goals between them and probably assisted 70% of the others, this season they have scored a predictably paltry 7. Tools have been downed, they’re eyeing pastures new. While Arsenal frantically attempt to cut their losses, if both players do not leave in January it's possible they will sign pre-contract agreements with other clubs. At that point, in effect they will only be Arsenal players in name and have no legitimate reason to perform.

Further beyond that, the club is set to lose more experienced players in the summer. Mertesacker will retire, Cazorla will clearly never kick a football again, by all accounts Koscielny’s achilles tendon is being wrecked, Wilshere’s contract is close to expiry and Walcott, Cech, Giroud, Ramsey, Welbeck, Ospina, Debuchy and Monreal will all be within a further 12 months of leaving for nada.

Whatever you think of that ragbag of players, they’re the difference between a Premier League team and a Championship team, and more to the point, why would they stay? Ozil and Sanchez’ disinterest will soon become their disinterest; another eight first team players looking for a way out of Wenger’s dumpster.

Basically, Arsenal is on the precipice of sinking into a mid-table obscurity that could be ruinous to its short and even long-term future. The squad is haemorrhaging players and receiving little to no cash from those departing, income is sharply down due to non-Champions League participation, attendances are lower and the upcoming renewal of Arsenal’s commercial deals is likely to take a hammering. What’s more, the ability to attract players when so many clubs in the Premier League and Europe offer a far more attractive proposition is prohibitively stark.

Of course, rival clubs will also falter, and often do, but they’re better run and their owners invest for the future and actually seem to care. As Chairman Sir Chips Keswick said at the AGM, don’t bother complaining to the man sitting to my left (the club owner), you can read his opinions in the paper. As we now know, the board’s chief consideration is self-preservation and thieving from the till, awarding themselves ludicrous wage hikes and bonuses.

Either way, the club is heading down an extremely dangerous path as the manager, perhaps deliberately, heads remorselessly towards a cliff edge, with the prospect of leaving the club in a horrendous mess far worse than anything he inherited. Indeed, by the time Wenger is done with Arsenal, we might be wishing he never joined. Were three titles in the space of six years really worth 14 years of Premier League and European underperformance and mediocrity, perhaps followed by another 10 in the wilderness? For West Ham maybe, but Arsenal - the second biggest club in England before he joined? I somehow doubt it.

On the plus side, my Arsenal highlight of 2017 was receiving the Arsenal DVD ‘89’ through the post last month. A brilliant and emotionally riveting documentary, memories of the best night of my Arsenal-supporting life came flooding back. I urge you to buy it, if you haven’t already.

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