Thursday
Jun252015

Chewing the fat and breaking some myths



AT, haven't posted in a while (well over a year in fact) but do keep reading your articles with interest. Hope all is good and you're enjoying your 'summer'.

So, to Wenger. I'm neither an AKB nor a passionate Wenger hater, so I think I'm verging on unique on this site. I do however agree with an earlier poster who ventured towards the suggestion that your utter hatred of the man was as misplaced as those who think he is some form of omnipotent being. So, his charge sheet how I see it can be bracketed as thus:

1) Tactically inept and blinkered;

2) Willingness to accept players in the past who were not Arsenal standard;

3) A vast salary (which I don't think is his fault. I'd take £8.5m a year if I could);

4) 'Luck' in the transfer market rather than analysed and insightful transfer dealings;

5) Poor training methods resulting in apparent injury prone players;

6) Reluctance to alter his own stubborn methods and views; and

7) Being French.

I think I pretty much covered them all there, however, forgive me I have been too liberal with my bracketing. But could I ask you to take the time to read, but not necessarily understand or agree with, the positives (below as I see them) from Wenger's time at Arsenal - all of it, not just the baron trophy years:

1) He has reinvented the 'Arsenal philosophy' from the previous GG/SH/BR years, in fact arguably his influence reinvented the philosophy of English football;

2) In his first few years his expansive knowledge of European football brought the likes of Vieira, Petit, Anelka, Overmars, Pires, Fabregas etc to Arsenal and the transformation continued (and yes for each of those you have your Stepanovs, Cygan, Wreh - I know) ;

3) How he took the 'English core' of Seaman, Adams, Keown, Dixon, Winterburn, Parlour et al and prolonged their careers with healthier lifestyles and just made them better footballers;

4) He knew Arsenal had reached their limit and (apparently) was the visionary behind the new stadium and had a heavy operational and strategic involvement in it's design, right down to the dressing rooms and facilities. As soulless as it perhaps can be, strategically it was required to keep Arsenal on the same commercial plateau as the other big boys;

5) The proceeding years of paying back the stadium debts and doing an admirable job in ensuring Arsenal maintained some form of seat at the top of the English football table as well as qualifying from the CL year on year. This assisted in boosting the coffers to pay back the stadium even faster and allow Arsenal at least some movement in the transfer window;

6) How he has built a worldwide reputation of being a fine manager, coach and mentor. This isn't down to luck. Not everyone is wrong. Yes there are divisive opinions of him, but then there are divisive opinions of Mourinho, just like there were of Sir Alex Ferguson;

7) His loyalty to Arsenal. Some will say they wish he hadn't been loyal, but he has. Some will say he's earned a frigging fortune whilst being loyal and he has, but this doesn't detract from the fact that he COULD have moved and COULD have won more at 'bigger clubs'. But he didn't leave. He has stayed and guided us through to the more positive position we find ourselves in now; and

8) Now the proverbial shackles are off, he is splashing the cash to a degree. The man has a frigging economics masters and will always review the commercial viability of any deal rather than just spend for the sake of it, but the outlays over the last 2 summers don't smack of someone not willing to take the odd risk. And the argument that Ozil, Sanchez and possibly Cech are 'falling into his lap' are poor. He signs the big name players, it's luck. He doesn't sign the big name players, he has no ambition.

Basically, what I'm saying is, I feel Wenger can't win. He made a rod for his own back with his early success, but in some respects he has sacrificed that early success to ensure the club remains on a solid footing to keep competing for years to come, without the club compromising it's business model. Yes he's made mistakes, we all have. His happen to be made, however, on the back of early success, a fat salary, an infuriating stubborn side that he takes too long to acknowledge AND living in the public eye.

I couldn't have leveled my points above without a certain level of conjecture, and not every opinion can be, nor should it be, based on stats. I'm sure you'll pull some of my points above apart (if you take the time too) under the guise of contradiction or being just plain wrong, but I haven't researched my points. All I've done is put my heartfelt opinion, based on 30 years of supporting Arsenal, into writing.

Thanks for taking the time.

AJL

++++ 

AT

Although I wasn't expecting to post anything for several months, I thought I'd publish this one. When people put a lot of effort in, they deserve a response, so thanks to AJL.

1) I don't believe Wenger reinvented Arsenal's philosophy, because I dont believe Arsenal had a philosophy to reinvent. For a short spell, George Graham's Arsenal played equally attractive football to Wenger; but GG's cautious nature always saw him retract. Personally, I think that's the intelligent thing to do, because football is about winning not playing attractive football. I don't seem to remember Arsenal fans complaining when they won trophies playing 'boring' football, so criticising Chelsea now is pure hypocrisy. Besides, Arsenal don't play attractive football and haven't done for a very long time; that's as much a myth as saying George Graham won every football match 1-0. Wenger reinvented Arsenal's dietary approach, and while I think it did have a measurable impact - and was an influence on English football as a whole, it was a small percentage difference rather than a giant leap forward, and only then because English football was completely backwards compared to European football. In Italy, for example, Wenger's methods would not have been thought of as unique at all.

2) Wenger did have a good scouting system, but I wouldn't go as far as to say he had an 'expansive' knowledge of European football - it was actually limited to French and African players. In retrospect it seems likely that he got a bit lucky too, because he rode on the back of French academies that just so happened to produce the best crop of young players in the country's entire history. What people often overlook is that Wenger actually has an awful record of bringing players through Arsenal's academy; his record is that of a manager who has consistently poached players that had already been developed at other clubs, taking advantage of legal loopholes in order to get them on the cheap with the promise of first team football.

3) There's no doubt his dietary methods and some aspects of his training had a fantastic effect on Arsenal's ageing 'English core', which was a major contributory factor to his early success.

4) The board were planning a move from Highbury before Wenger even arrived, so it's not true to say that Wenger was the visionary behind the new stadium - that's actually quite insulting to the incredible work that Dein, Fiszman, Edelmann and Friar put in to secure the funding. Because Arsenal were a successful club at the time, it may have helped secure the bank loans, but I can't see a bank being persuaded by something as transitory as success on a football pitch, a much bigger part of that would have been the property redevelopment aspect. Clubs have been building stadiums all over the place, Arsenal are hardly unique - it's more about the expense of being able to find a site local to your existing ground in what is usually a highly populated area. That's very difficult, and costs can easily spiral out of control when you're having to level housing estates and buy up land at extortionate prices etc.

5) Sorry, big myth here. Qualifying for the Champions League makes no difference to stadium repayments whatsoever. It's a fixed-rate long-term loan that, to my knowledge, has never been renegotiated. Arsenal would be financially penalised for paying the loan early, therefore the rate of repayments are static - and will be until 2032. The reason Arsenal have more money than ever is nothing to do with debt repayments and everything to do with vastly improved TV deals over the past decade (which everyone has benefited from), further boosted by improved commercial deals when Arsenal were able to renegotiate them. 

6) Wenger probably built himself a worldwide reputation as a manager up to 2006, and I'm sure many clubs would still take him now, albeit not the biggest ones - that ship's long departed. However, I was often surprised myself when Arsenal were at their peak under Wenger, because when I went abroad he was not perceived as a threat by any suppporter I ever spoke to. I'm afraid Arsenal's Champions League record is abysmal and most European fans see him as a very poor tactician and a soft touch. Let's be honest, if you supported a top club in Europe you would actively WANT to draw Arsenal in the CL, and that would apply to a lot of mid-level clubs too. There's is, and never was, a fear of playing Wenger's Arsenal in Europe - unlike Ferguson's Man Utd or any club Mourinho has managed.

7) Was Wenger loyal or does he simply know where his bread is buttered? Sure, he could have gone to Real Madrid but he also knows that had he not performed to the highest standards right off the bat he would have been out on his ear within 2 years maximum. It's easy to say you're loyal when you dont believe in yourself enough to take on the biggest jobs in world football and money is no longer an incentive because you're already grossly overpaid. I don't see how Arsenal are in a more positive position now, they're in exactly the same position as they have been for over a decade, incapable of challenging for the PL or CL but a danger in the domestic cups if Wenger takes them seriously and gets a favourable draw.

8) He's splashing the cash because TV deals have gone off the scale and Arsenal have increased their income from commercial deals, no other reason - and other clubs are well ahead of Arsenal on both fronts because Wenger cannot enhance Arsenal's profile by winning anything big. He made a mockery of his economics masters when he put dozens of kids on massive contracts, flushing hundreds of millions down the toilet in wages for a bloated squad with a myriad of players that failed and couldn't be got rid of - all the while leaking his best players due to his equitable wage structure and false promises. Economic socialism he called it, while hypocritically pocketing more money that anyone else.

I would disagree that Sanchez, Ozil and Cech were calculated decisions, they were opportunistic decisions. Arsenal got Ozil because Madrid needed money after splashing their budget on Bale, and Barca wanted to offload Sanchez because they spent £72m on Suarez. Indeed Ozil wanted to go to Man Utd but they pulled out at the last minute, and Sanchez would have been equallly happy to play for Liverpool as Barcelona would only accept the highest offer. We all know why Cech is leaving Chelsea, and if it does happen it's likely because the player doesn't want to leave London - so there is only one realistic option. There was no vision behind any of these decisions, if it wasn't for the transfer movements of other clubs none of these players would be at Arsenal and none of them initally wanted to play for Arsenal - although that doesnt mean they're not happy to play for Arsenal.

—oo— 

Comments should be intelligent and well-written. All others will be binned.

Friday
May222015

Arsenal wage bill, an in-depth analysis



Three years after I last provided an ESTIMATED analysis of Arsenal’s wage bill, I have now found time to update and, hopefully, considerably enhance it.

I think it’s important that supporters know where the money is being spent, especially at a club where the manager spends so much time bemoaning his resources.

Like last time, I need to remind readers that while some figures are taken directly from Arsenal’s most recent annual accounts, most of them are estimates. One also needs to take into consideration that a small percentage of players/staff will have left/joined the club – not all of which I am aware of, while certain costs pertaining to bonuses/social security/pensions are subject to variances I cannot possibly account for as an outsider looking in.

Naturally, the wage bill at a huge club like Arsenal, with so many employees, is in a state of continual flux, therefore this estimate needs to be treated as an educated snapshot rather than a 100% accurate analysis.

There have been newspaper reports that Arsenal’s wage budget now stands at £180m+, but with no tangible evidence of that I can only create an estimate based on the latest 'known' wage bill, reported at approximately £166m. This could change considerably over the coming months with various players coming and going. Either way, however, I believe this estimate is certainly accurate enough to define the overall wage architecture at Arsenal, and is without doubt the most accurate analysis of Arsenal’s wage bill that you’re ever likely to find. 

FIRST TEAM WAGE PWK WAGE PA
Alexis Sanchez £140,000 £7,280,000
Mesut Ozil £140,000 £7,280,000
Lukas Podolski (Loan) £107,000 £5,564,000
Theo Walcott £90,000 £4,680,000
Aaron Ramsey £90,000 £4,680,000
Per Mertesacker £90,000 £4,680,000
Laurent Koscielny £90,000 £4,680,000
Santi Carzorla £80,000 £4,160,000
Olivier Giroud £80,000 £4,160,000
Tomas Rosicky £80,000 £4,160,000
Jack Wilshere £80,000 £4,160,000
Mikel Arteta £80,000 £4,160,000
Danny Welbeck £75,000 £3,900,000
Mathieu Debuchy £70,000 £3,640,000
Wojciech Szczesny £65,000 £3,380,000
Abou Diaby £65,000 £3,380,000
Matthieu Flamini £60,000 £3,120,000
Gabriel Paulista £60,000 £3,120,000
Kieran Gibbs £60,000 £3,120,000
Nacho Monreal £60,000 £3,120,000
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain £50,000 £2,600,000
Francis Coquelin £40,000 £2,080,000
David Ospina £40,000 £2,080,000
Carl Jenkinson (Loan) £20,000 £1,040,000
Yaya Sanogo (Loan) £20,000 £1,040,000
Serge Gnabry £20,000 £1,040,000
Joel Campbell (Loan) £15,000 £780,000
Calum Chambers £15,000 £780,000
Ryo Miyaichi (Loan) £15,000 £780,000
Chuba Akpom £15,000 £780,000
Hector Bellerin £10,000 £520,000
Damian Martinez £10,000 £520,000
Isaac Hayden £2,000 £104,000
Krystian Bielik £2,000 £104,000
Gedion Zelalem £2,000 £104,000
  £1,938,000 £100,776,000
     
YOUTH    
Daniel Crowley £1,000 £52,000
Renny Smith £1,000 £52,000
Jon Toral (Loan) £1,000 £52,000
Wellington Silva (Loan) £1,000 £52,000
Harry Donovan £1,000 £52,000
Ben Sheaf £1,000 £52,000
Ryan Huddart £1,000 £52,000
Kristofer de Graca £1,000 £52,000
Tafari Moore £1,000 £52,000
George Dobson £1,000 £52,000
Chiori Johnson £1,000 £52,000
Julio Plegeuzuelo £1,000 £52,000
Stefan O'Connor £1,000 £52,000
Marc Bola £1,000 £52,000
Elliot Wright £1,000 £52,000
Savvas Mourgos £1,000 £52,000
Tyrell Robinson £1,000 £52,000
Alex Iwobi £1,000 £52,000
Ainsley-Maitland Niles £1,000 £52,000
Austin Lipman £1,000 £52,000
Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill £1,000 £52,000
Deyan Iliev £1,000 £52,000
Ilias Chatzitheodoridis £1,000 £52,000
Glen Kamara £1,000 £52,000
Hugo Keto £1,000 £52,000
Stephy Mavididi £1,000 £52,000
Jack Jebb £1,000 £52,000
Josh Vickers (Loan) £1,000 £52,000
Kaylen Hinds £1,000 £52,000
Matt Macey £1,000 £52,000
Aaron Eyoma £1,000 £52,000
Semi Ajayi £1,000 £52,000
Christopher Willock £1,000 £52,000
  £33,000 £1,716,000
     
LADIES    
Emma Byrne £318 £16,510
Casey Stoney £318 £16,510
Jemma Rose £318 £16,510
Vyan Sampson £318 £16,510
Vicky Losada £318 £16,510
Carla Humphrey £318 £16,510
Lianne Sanderson £318 £16,510
Chioma Ubogagu £318 £16,510
Natalia Pablos Sanchon £318 £16,510
Danielle Carter £318 £16,510
Kelly Smith £318 £16,510
Rachel Yankey £318 £16,510
Alex Scott £318 £16,510
Caroline Weir £318 £16,510
Emma Mitchell £318 £16,510
Jade Bailey £318 £16,510
Jordan Nobbs £318 £16,510
Leah Williamson £318 £16,510
Siobhan Chamberlain £318 £16,510
  £6,033 £313,690
     
BOARD    
Ivan Gazidis £41,000 £2,132,000
Ken Friar OBE £10,980 £570,960
Sir Chips Keswick £1,500 £78,000
Josh Kroenke £481 £25,000
Lord Harris of Peckham £481 £25,000
Stanley Kroenke £481 £25,000
  £54,922 £2,855,960
     
SENIOR EXEC TEAM    
Tom Fox £2,000 £104,000
Svenja Geissmar £2,000 £104,000
Trevor Saving £1,155 £60,060
  £5,155 £268,060
     
MANAGEMENT    
Manager    
Arsène Wenger £165,000 £8,580,000
Assistant to Manager    
Steve Bould £30,000 £1,560,000
  £195,000 £10,140,000
     
COACHES    
First Team    
Boro Primorac £5,000 £260,000
Neil Banfield £5,000 £260,000
Goalkeeping    
Gerry Peyton £1,300 £67,600
Tony Roberts  £1,000 £52,000
Youth Academy    
Andries Jonker (Academy Manager) £1,500 £78,000
Steve Gatting (U21s Head) £1,000 £52,000
Carl Laraman (U-21s) £600 £31,200
Frans de Kat (U-18s Head) £1,000 £52,000
Kwame Ampadu (U18s) £600 £31,200
Jan van Loon (U16s Head) £600 £31,200
Luke Hobbs (U-14s Head) £600 £31,200
Ryan Garry (U-13s Head) £600 £31,200
Steve Leonard (U12s Head) £600 £31,200
Greg Lincoln (HFP Coach) £600 £31,200
  £20,000 £1,040,000
     
FITNESS/PERFORMANCE    
Tony Colbert £2,500 £130,000
Shad Forsyth £2,500 £130,000
Craig Gant £1,000 £52,000
  £6,000 £312,000
     
MEDICAL    
Physio    
Colin Lewin £1,000 £52,000
Gary O'Driscoll (Club Doctor) £800 £41,600
Andrew Rolls (First Team Therapist) £800 £41,600
Des Ryan (Sports Med & Ath Dev) £800 £41,600
Ben Ashworth £600 £31,200
Alastair Thrush £600 £31,200
Jordon Reece £500 £26,000
Richard Goddard £500 £26,000
Masseurs    
Darren Page £500 £26,000
Chris Senior £500 £26,000
Chris Harvey £500 £26,000
  £7,100 £369,200
     
OTHER    
Performance/Welfare    
James Collins £750 £39,000
Matt Henley £600 £31,200
Sports Scientists    
Mark Armitage £500 £26,000
Sam Wilson £500 £26,000
Padraig Roach £500 £26,000
Noel Carroll £500 £26,000
Matteo Conti £500 £26,000
Jeff Lewis £500 £26,000
Sam Moore £500 £26,000
Johnny O'Conner £500 £26,000
Analytics    
Mark Curtis £600 £31,200
Niall O'Connor £600 £31,200
Ben Knapper £600 £31,200
  £7,150 £371,800
     
SCOUTS    
Steve Morrow (Head of Scouting) £2,000 £104,000
Bob Arber (Senior Academy Scout) £1,000 £52,000
Ian Broomfield £400 £20,800
Gilles Grimandi £400 £20,800
Tony Banfield £400 £20,800
Danny Karbassiyoon £400 £20,800
Pablo Budner £400 £20,800
Everton Gushiken £400 £20,800
Bobby Bennett £400 £20,800
Francis Cagigao £400 £20,800
Jurgen Kost £400 £20,800
Peter Clarke £400 £20,800
  £7,000 £364,000
     
KIT    
Dennis Rockall (Res/Yth) £1,000 £52,000
Vic Akers £750 £39,000
Paul Akers £500 £26,000
  £2,250 £117,000
     
TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS    
Paul Johnson £750 £39,000
  £750 £39,000
     
LADIES STAFF    
Clare Wheatley (General Manager) £600 £31,200
Pedro Martinez Losa (Manager) £600 £31,200
John Bayer £600 £31,200
Kelly Smith £500 £26,000
Mary Shiels £450 £23,400
Irvin Mukandi £450 £23,400
Jason Brown £450 £23,400
Ciara Allen £450 £23,400
Faye White £450 £23,400
Angela Cuerdon £450 £23,400
Vic Akers £450 £23,400
  £5,450 £283,400
     
OTHER COSTS    
Social security costs £360,080 £18,724,160
Pension costs £35,400 £1,840,800
Player bonus pool £289,575 £15,057,900
Admin staff £116,930 £6,080,360
Ground staff £37,309 £1,940,068
Temporary staff £73,125 £3,802,500
  £912,419 £47,445,788
     
TOTAL                    £166,411,898

 

Unlike three years ago, when I used the wage bill to demonstrate the enormous wastage that Wenger was hiding behind, this time I’m not going to bother. A lot has changed since then, and my views are pretty well known regarding my thoughts on why I think Wenger should be sacked or step down from his role.

Regarding contract expiries, Abou Diaby, Mattieu Flamini and third-choice goalkeeper Damian Martinez contracts all expire this summer. Personally, I expect all three to go, with Flamini being replaced by Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin.

Thomas Rosicky’s contract was also about to expire on 30 June, but the midfielder has just been handed a one-year contract extension.

Lukas Podolski, Ryo Myaichi and Theo Walcott’s contracts all expire next summer, therefore I expect Arsenal to look for buyers over the coming weeks, although Podolski has had a disastrous time on loan at Inter Milan and might be difficult to shift with his wages scaring off most suitors.

What with their age, Rosicky is likely to be kept on a rolling one-year contract, but with the emergence of Coquelin and plausible signing of Schneiderlin, Arteta - whose contract also expires in 2016 - now seems surplus to requirements. 

—oo— 

Comments should be intelligent and well-written. All others will be binned.

Thursday
Feb262015

Wenger – laughing stock of Europe, again



Some pundits were shocked by last night’s Champions League humiliation at home to Monaco, some fans were too. I wasn’t. I thought Arsenal would win 2-0, because half of Monaco’s first team was injured, but I wasn’t shocked at what happened – not in the slightest.

However, Wenger’s incompetence reached a new low last night. I didn’t think Wenger’s ineptitude could get any lower, but remarkably it did.

As soon as I saw the team sheet, I knew Wenger could easily mess this up.

I couldn’t believe the inexperienced Coquelin was left to protect the back four with only Ozil and Cazorla ahead of him. In a big Champions League game, a player who was playing for Charlton a few months ago was tasked with being the enforcer behind two clueless man markers that will never track a late run from midfield.

At the very least, Monaco were going to get chances.

As the match unravelled, it was plain to see how Wenger’s tactical set up was failing. Full backs Gibbs and Bellerin’s ineffective bombing raids forced Sanchez and Welbeck to come in-field, which only played into Monaco’s hands. And because both defenders were too far advanced, manager Leonardo Jardim’s wide players had more space and freedom to receive the ball at the other end, which gave Coquelin too much ground to cover in the absence of his full backs or fellow midfielders. Mertesacker’s lack of pace was frequently exposed as the centre backs got stretched.

Arsenal fell behind to a deflected shot, but Wenger is to blame for that for allowing his opponents too much space in a non-existent midfield.

Wrong players, wrong tactics - Arsenal were beating themselves, but I knew Wenger would not change anything tactically. At half-time, I thought the players would get a rollocking, redouble their efforts, but if Monaco could keep it tight for 5-10 minutes the game would sink back into the same pattern, and not only did that happen, but it got worse as Arsenal grew frustrated and lost what little discipline they had.

With no leadership from the manager and none on the pitch, Monaco’s counter-attacking threat increased. As Arsenal pushed up, Mertesacker’s pace became yet more exposed. If Wenger was going to risk a high line, he should of at least taken the German off and put Gabriel on. Instead, he made the worst substitution I’ve ever seen him make – he removed Coquelin and replaced him with Oxlade-Chamberlain, leaving the defence brutally bare.

That decision was an abomination. It ended up 3-1, but could have easily been 5-1!

Arsenal’s attack was completely dysfunctional. Giroud is an unpredictable finisher – even from 5 yards, Sanchez won’t hold his position, Ozil looked lost in the maze, Cazorla’s runs came from too deep, and he kept losing possession. None of the players could predict a pass or pattern of play; it simply didn’t work.

Ozil is an arrogant big-head, but so is Dimitar Berbatov. Neither have anything to offer unless you build half the team around them; a team that does all their running - because they shouldn't be running if you play them right; they're the metronome that the attack functions around. Only an intelligent manager can get the best out of either player, but Wenger’s tactics made that game perfect for Berbatov, while Ozil looked like a £42m joke. What’s more, Jardim had the balls to take Berbatov off – despite the player's annoyance, and his replacement scored. Wenger was too scared to remove Ozil – he chickened out!

Wenger is a colossal halfwit that’s so out-of-his-depth in the Champions League it’s embarrassing.

Did he scout Monaco effectively? No. Did he set up his team correctly? No. Having got it wrong, did he adapt his team’s shape to counter the opposition/rectify his mistakes? No. Did he provide leadership/instructions from the bench? No. Did he underestimate Monaco? Definitely; playing a 5-man attack tells you that. Pure arrogance.

I wouldn’t blame the players – they didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing. Even if some players should shoulder some of the blame, it’s up to the manager to sort it out at half-time; calm things  down, instil confidence, change the system, make substitutions, issue new instructions – but things only got worse.

Sanchez needs to get out – he’s too good for this shambles. Ozil can’t be happy – he’s going to ruin the rest of his career playing at Arsenal. Both players must be looking at Wenger and comparing him to previous managers they’ve worked with. One minute you’re working under prep kings like Mourinho/Klopp/Guardiola, the next a tactical dumbass like Wenger.

Can the Gunners turn this tie around? Only if the pressure gets to Monaco and they have some sort of horrible brain freeze.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Arsenal is the living dead with Wenger in charge. But I enjoyed the game, and laughed out loud when the third goal went in, because humiliation and embarrassment is exactly what Wenger, the board and his braindead supporters deserve.

—oo— 

Comments should be intelligent and well-written. All others will be binned.

Thursday
Feb122015

Arsenal Truth reviews Arseblog/ANR, et al.



We all read them, Arsenal blogs that its. Over the years, people have often asked me what I think of this blog or that blog, so why avoid the issue? Are the Arsenal blogs doing our great club justice or not? Here’s my quick summation:

ArsenalFanTV
https://www.youtube.com/user/arsenalfanstv
Fast-emerging blog that’s made its name on YouTube and is run by ‘Robbie’, who travels up and down the country conducting post-match interviews with Arsenal supporters. Its cult status has created numerous pseudo-celebrities including Bully (often captured by Sky looking bewildered in the last few minutes of an impending defeat), Claude (a perpetually stressed-out Wenger detractor with a failed marriage) and TY (a Wenger arse kisser that’s lost any semblance of autonomous, rational thought). The vBlog represents the feelings of supporters in the heat of the moment, but whatever their opinions, or delusions, you cannot deny their passion and genuine love for the club.

Pros: very likeable presenter, entertaining, allows fans to let off steam after a bad result
Cons: YouTube comments section is a bloodbath

Rating: 7

Gunnerblog
http://gunnerblog.com/
Written by James McNicholas and some bloke called Gilberto Silva – not sure if they’re one in the same – haven’t paid that much attention. Gunnerblog is a more personalised blog, although the author often features on Arseblog’s podcasts. Nothing fancy here, just rational commentaries on the club including some vBlogs on his YouTube channel, some of which are worth looking at for their humorous content https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SO5nfQEqGOg. Rarely looks at the bigger picture, could do with being a little more assertive in his views, but at least he’s not fake.

Pros: balanced, calm, reasoned views
Cons: fairly unexceptional, voice sounds like a grumbling appendix

Rating: 6

Arseblog
http://arseblog.com/
Andrew Mangan’s baby and probably the best known Arsenal blog. Mangan’s done a good job steering clear of the club’s influence, but unfortunately his inability to be impartial has made it seem quite the opposite – although I can’t find too many examples of Arsenal.com using the word c**thound. Unfortunately, Mangan seems to be led by his readership. The comments section, a big part of the site, is overrun by neurotic AKBs whose general intolerance to anyone with an opposing view appears to control the overall narrative. This could be why Mangan is a ‘Wenger agnostic’, refusing to deliberate over whether the manager should stay or go. He likes to come across as the voice of reason, but really isn’t, his constant ref bashing, for example, is nauseating in the extreme. Could be a great blog if he didn’t pander to his extremist audience.

Pros: beautifully designed website, some good interviews with journos, very funny at times
Cons: too biased, lacks insight, post anything anti-Wenger and his audience is all over you like ISIS

Rating: 5

ANR
http://www.arsenalnewsreview.co.uk/
Good old Myles Palmer – a 60-something blogger who claims not to support Arsenal, yet is consumed with writing about them every day – and has even written books on the subject. Within Arsenal’s online community, Palmer is posited as the devil incarnate for his brutal and unrelenting criticism of Arsene Wenger. However, he’s right 85% of the time and his journalistic background allows him a gravitas that other bloggers lack. Because of this, Palmer’s readership is more intellectual than most, and he allows himself to be moderated by frequently publishing pro and anti-Wenger sentiments, if only to use his readers’ headlines as a source of advertising revenue for his site.

Pros: insightful content, no fence-sitting
Cons: wanders off mid-sentence with inane ramblings about 1970s prog rock or a chance meeting in 1965 with Umberto Eco

Rating: 8

Le Grove
http://le-grove.co.uk/
Primarily written by some bloke called Geoff, and other writers that give the impression of men in suits working in marketing consultancies in Hoxton that spend all day in meetings talking about search engine optimisation. On a more serious note, LeGrove has more recently come round to the conclusion that Wenger’s about as much use as a chocolate dildo, although after a string of positive results authors do have a tendency to sink back into daydream mode. The comments section is large, and probably the most balanced you will find on any Arsenal blog, even if contributors have a penchant for waiting hours on end for a blog to be written just so they can be first to write “1
stunderneath  it. A good, well-written, intelligent blog that proves that football has become more middle-class than working class, not that that’s a bad thing, because I associate the football working class with chavs whereas LeGrove is modern and inclusive, and would probably be accepting of chavs as long as they didn’t breathe on them.

Pros: rational analysis of why Wenger’s a lame duck, comments section mostly comprised of ‘normal’ supporters
Cons: some blogs are written by a Spanish agricultural farmer called Pedro

Rating: 8

Goonerholic
http://goonerholic.com/
An apt name for this blog, because the views represented by contributors appear to be those of self-loathing drunks. Author conjures up the image of a tortured Arsenal fan rocking backwards and forwards in an armchair reminiscing over 50s Arsenal, then extrapolating that nostalgia and failing miserably to apply it to the modern game. Posts are dull as dishwater and totally devoid of personality. Would recommend he creosotes the fence he’s sitting on before it collapses under the weight of its own boredom. Frightened to be critical of anyone or anything; a wholly purposeless and irrelevant blog with nothing to say.

Pros: great if you still listen to The Stranglers
Cons: banal, pelted with rocks for daring to use the comments section to reflect reality

Rating: 3

Untold Arsenal
http://untold-arsenal.com/
The most illogical Arsenal blog on the internet, and probably the daftest blog about a football club ever written. Untold Arsenal is the scientology branch of Arsenal blogdom. Probably written by an American conspiracy theorist that believes Area51 is run by the Sith Lord. Actually used the term “Lord Wenger” in its blog branding without a hint of humour or self-depreciation. Its bias is so putrid, that opening it in your browser is akin to being bundled into a cab and having your mouth smothered by a handkerchief drenched in Rohypnol. To explain a defeat, media and referees are attacked with sustained deliberation, and statistics twisted and manipulated until they emit electromagnetic radiation, which would be quite some feat if the information wasn’t simply used to build a very bad case to support its authors’ perverted views. In extreme cases, for example Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat to Chelsea - when four of Arsenal players should have been sent off, distortion of the truth may necessitate several weeks’ worth of graphs and tables stuffed full of flawed logic, created in a futile attempt to bewilder the reader into believing Arsenal were cheated, and Elvis is still alive.

Pros: unintentionally funny
Cons: treats Arsene Wenger like a long lost adopted father, mad as a box of frogs, website design is like first day of the internet

Rating: 0

Arsenal Truth
http://arsenaltruth.squarespace.com/
Initially part of the defunct OleOle.com franchise, before realising nobody bothered visiting the site, Arsenal Truth is the most undervalued Arsenal blog on the Internet. This is where you find the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, according to the author’s flawless logic. The website is treated with disdain by the majority of Arsenal fans, and because the author is no longer fazed by abuse and is about as patient as a five-year-old on Christmas Eve, most people are frightened to even comment. Readers are intelligent and perceptive, but have to suffer the author’s lengthy sabbaticals, which are usually followed by a predictable u-turn of some description. Posts are dominated by author’s boredom with the club’s malaise and suicidal unwillingness to repeat himself. 

Pros: always right, gratuitous yet deserved abuse of Arsene Wenger
Cons: occasionally obnoxious, wholly negative, disappears for months

Rating: 10

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Comments should be intelligent and well-written. All others will be binned.

Monday
Jan192015

A truly shocking Arsenal performance



Many Arsenal fans will have been shocked by their side’s bizarre performance at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday. The Gunners beat Man City 2-0, yet played with defensive resilience, intelligence and tactical competence. I was shocked, and I presume a lot of Arsenal fans who expected their side to be comfortably beaten were also shocked.

In games like this, it’s sometimes difficult to tell whether the result was simply down to Man City having a very bad day at the office or their opponents skilfully neutralising them and taking advantage of their mistakes. However, I watched the whole game, and although it was obvious that Man City were not at their best – it was certainly a game too soon for the returning Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany, Arsenal should be given huge credit for negating City from the first minute to the last and refusing them the time and space they needed to penetrate.

Although, you’d expect me to say this, considering it’s common knowledge that I believe him to be a tactical cretin, it’s questionable how much praise Wenger should receive for this performance, or the result. In terms of those picked to play, Bellerin only featured because Chambers has been an unmitigated disaster at right back, Monreal only played because Gibbs was unfit, Coquelin only played because Arteta is injured, and Ospina only played because Szczesny has proven himself to be grossly unprofessional.

However, what also helped Arsenal is that their players were playing in their natural positions and comfortably within their limits. Bellerin is a right back, Chambers is not, Ospina appears predictable and composed, Szczesny is not, Coquelin is defensive minded, has pace and a semblance of awareness, Flamini and Arteta are finished, Cazorla is a CM not a winger, and of course, playing deep allows Mertesacker to focus fully on his positional play without having to expose his lack of pace.

Play to the players’ strengths, and you might get a strong performance – it’s not rocket science, it's obvious.

So the team picked itself and the players took the responsibility upon themselves not to be beaten, encouraged by Man City’s wasteful possession – abetted by Arsenal’s pressing game - and the concession of soft goals. Indeed, Arsenal only had two shots on target, but both ended up in the back of the net due to self-inflicted errors. First, Kompany gave away a questionable penalty after minimal contact on Monreal. Cazorla converted. In the second half, Cazorla’s chipped free-kick was headed in far too easily by Giroud – Fernando’s marking was abject.

As the game wore on Arsenal’s confidence grew exponentially. It would have been interesting had Man City got a goal back, but Arsenal did not allow that to happen, thus avoiding a state of panic.

Arsenal’s work ethic was immense, and it seems unfair to give credit to any one individual, but Coquelin in particular showed the passion and motivation required of a player whose future is on the line. Listening to Wenger trying to claim credit for the performance of a player whose contract has been allowed to expire and was only brought back from his third loan spell due to a plethora of injuries is further evidence of his obnoxious narcissism. Meanwhile, Santi Cazorla’s skill and desire produced a phenomenal performance, one that even overshadowed Alexis Sanchez, yet once again Wenger couldn’t resist stealing the limelight to praise himself, citing Cazorla’s ‘vital’ ability as a two-footed pressure-pot reliever whose best position is central midfield. So why does he hardly ever play there?

This is a manager that doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. He just reacts to events. When the performance is drivel, he blames the players instead of himself, when it’s great he quickly takes the opportunity to ensure he receives equal praise. It just makes me detest him even more.

Whether this excellent result acts as template for the future, or is simply a one-off performance dictated by circumstance remains to be seen. However, Wenger would be a colossal fool not to take this opportunity to learn about his players. This game proved that Szczesny and Ozil don’t have the right make-up to play for Arsenal, Arteta and Flamini don’t have the legs, and the omission of Gibbs was a blessing; his lack of positional awareness would probably have cost Arsenal at some point. All five players need to be culled from the squad.

Most of all, this performance is a damning indictment of Wenger. How can it take a team a decade to put in this type of performance away from home against a top club? Because that’s how long it’s been since I’ve seen such a committed defensive performance. It was the performance of a side that respected the opposition, rather than being naively suckered into believing they only had to turn up to have a chance of winning. It was a performance to be proud of.

Now we’ll discover whether Wenger’s craving for self-aggrandisement forces the players to sink back into a system and style that is comically self-destructive, or takes the opportunity to prescribe a new path. Let’s not forget, we’ve seen this before. When Steve Bould and Martin Keown were allowed defensive input, the results were tangible, yet with the acknowledgement ebbing away from him, the control-freak decided he had to abandon it all and re-establish his failed philosophy.

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