Monday
May072018

The fraud is dead, long live the king

Remember, there are no dictators without followers. Watching Wenger’s grotesque departure at the Emirates yesterday was both confusing and surreal. I must confess, I wondered to myself, why are they celebrating this vile narcissist? Then I remembered, like queuing, it’s a long-held cultural tradition in this country to celebrate an employee’s lengthy service. We wrap a gift and present it to the ageing director, who is applauded by all those he financially bribed enriched, is venerated by the shop floor worker – most gracious for a job, yet is often detested by the personal secretary that had to wash his dirty laundry.

But why do people submit to dictators? And why this one? Dictators teach, but they don't want people to learn the truth about them or the world around them. They are often charismatic and their dialogue hypnotic, but as Wenger’s hackneyed farewell speech yesterday proved – he is nothing but a pound-shop intellectual.

Wenger has rarely addressed the Arsenal fan base, except to castigate them. Cocooned by the trappings of wealth and reputation, one gets the feeling he looks down on the 'ordinary' man. To him, the fans are nothing but fly in the ointment – and he was right to be weary. Wenger’s biggest battle over the last decade has not been his competitors, but muzzling the fan rebellion. In Wenger’s mind, the fan relationship was binary - either they submit totally or they’re enemies of the state. Loyalty is everything to a dictator, because with loyalty, dictators are very adept at controlling the thoughts, opinions and actions of their minions. Wenger’s culture required slaves - no culture can be built without them.

In the synopsis for the great physician Wilhelm Reich’s novel Listen, Little Man!, it talks of the average human being, the ‘Little Man’. It tells how Reich “watched first naively, then with amazement, and finally with horror, at what the Little Man does to himself”. On those that follow a dictator’s every footstep, he writes: “A great man knows when and in what way he is a little man. A little man does not know he is little and is afraid to know. He is proud of his generals, but not himself. He admires an idea he has not had, not one he has had. The less he understands something, the more firmly he believes in it.”

Yesterday’s farewell party for Arsenal’s great dictator was bathed in unjustified platitudes, egged on by a mechanical media and Wenger’s willing accomplices - the Little Man. However, there was one final psychological power grab - an ignoble attempt to protect his legacy by proclaiming the detritus he leaves his successor is worthy of success: “I would invite you, really push, support these players and the staff who remains behind me, these group of players has a special quality. Please support them next season because they deserve it.”

For a decade or more Wenger has sought to protect his power at all costs, now he’s lost that power he couldn’t help but exploit his own farewell speech by seeking to protect his legacy.

Then he swallowed hard and thanked the Little Man for kicking him in the teeth – that must have hurt.

—oo— 

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

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Friday
May042018

Wenger’s tenure ends on a clueless whimper

I tend not to make pre-match predictions, as football is too random on a one-off basis, but last night’s 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid in the semi-final of the Europa Leage was about as close to being scripted as you could possibly get. This was the last 90 minutes of football I would watch as an Arsenal ‘supporter’ under Arsene Wenger’s tenure and I had zero emotion – not a flicker. I watched the game purely as an observer.

Pre-match I would have told you, Arsenal will create next to nothing, their most creative player (Ozil) would not turn up and several momentary defensive lapses would result in Arsenal surrendering a cheap goal or two. That Atletico’s punisher would be Diego Costa was almost a given.

Watching Atletico Madrid was very much like watching the latter years under ex-Arsenal boss George Graham. Over both legs, Atletico had a clear game plan, were phenomenally well-drilled and clinical in decisive moments. Arsenal’s only chances came from situations their opponents could not plan for – a deflected long-distance effort from Granit Xhaka and a Wilshere mishit that fell invitingly for Aaron Ramsey.

Other than that, Atletico completely controlled the game, both in and out of possession, with room for several extra gears if required. Diego Simeone’s remit, carried out to the letter, was for the players to stay calm under pressure, believe in their renowned defensive strengths and allow Arsenal possession from which to counter.

The first half demonstrated Atletico’s patience and composure, albeit reducing the game to a boring and tedious spectacle. Initially, the Spaniards attempted to test Arsenal by playing long balls over the top – isolating Costa against Laurent Koscielny. This almost immediately paid dividends when the Frenchman got caught wrong side of the bearded wrecking ball and was shrugged off like a rag doll. However, Costa fluffed his chance.

Atletico had to wait until just before half-time for Arsenal to predictably self-implode. Antoine Griezmann’s defence-splitting past caught a sleeping Hector Bellerin too far ahead of Costa to make up the ground. The Brazilian protected himself and the ball from Bellerin’s late challenge before placing it beyond David Ospina. It was a rookie mistake from a defender that has little-to-no understanding of the defensive side of the game.

Surprisingly, Atletico did not sit on the lead in the second half. With the 1-0 advantage acting as insurance, they went in search of a second goal, albeit without ever fully overcommitting. Arsenal, meanwhile, often found themselves in useful wide positions, but the wing backs’ wretched delivery gave little chance for advancing Arsenal players to attack the goal. The game fizzled out with the Gunners having created only one solitary shot on target; Xhaka’s aforementioned deflected effort, saved by Jan Oblak. It was all too easy for Atletico, who should make short shrift of fellow finalists Marseille in the final on 16 May.

Ospina (5): Poor communication with the players in front of him
Bellerin (3): Naïve defensively and ineffective offensively
Mustafi (5): Has no leadership qualities or communication skills
Koscielny (4): Managed to make his usual big match ricket despite only being on the field for 11 minutes
Monreal (4): Delivery from attacking positions was abject
Xhaka (5): A couple of effective long range passes, but defensively incompetent
Wilshere (5): Got his head up, but little end product
Ramsey (5): Seems to only want to play on his own terms
Ozil (4): Yet another big match flop
Welbeck (5): Plenty of effort, but constantly wastes possession
Lacazette (4): No service but struggled to link up play

Subs:
Chambers (6): Made some key challenges and did better than Koscielny would have
Mkhitaryan (4): Ineffective

Nobody with any foresight would have expected Arsenal to win the Europa League and sure enough they were effortlessly beaten following their first legitimate challenge, despite having the advantage of playing against 10 men for practically the entire first leg of this semi-final. This is Wenger all over, unable to punch his weight on the European stage, let alone above it.

There will be time to analyse Arsenal's playing staff prior to the new manager coming in, but right now it’s evident that Wenger has left a squad devoid of confidence, character or defensive discipline. It's a mess, incomparable to what he inherited upon joining the club. 

As an aside, I feel that Simeone is not the right man to take on the manager’s role. His tactical style and what he demands of his players would necessitate a mammoth squad rebuild that Arsenal are simply not equipped for.

—oo— 

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

Comments should be intelligible and relevant. All others will be binned.

Tuesday
Apr242018

Why Arsenal should move for Carlo Ancelotti

The dust hasn’t exactly settled, Arsene Wenger’s sacking hasn’t gone down well with his monstrous ego – as if, and his mutant cult is fuming that they’ve lost the battle. More to the point, he still has time to embarrass himself further between now and the end of the season - that could be fun. I must admit, I didn’t expect to be this spirited about Wenger’s beheading, but Ivan Gazidis well-aimed knife to the kidneys has partially restored my faith that at least one person on the Arsenal board has a semblance of ambition.

However, in my book, the quicker Wenger is forgotten about the better and I’ve already turned my attention to who should replace him. Personally, I feel there are inherent risks in giving the job to a young, up-and-coming manager, and would therefore prefer to see a steady hand, not just sailing the ship back in the right direction, but preparing the future for the new breed.

It’s very easy to get carried away with positivity now that the club’s chief tactical cretin has been deposed, but to imagine Arsenal can be single-handedly transformed by the likes of Leonardo Jardim, Mikael Arteta or Patrick Vieira is fanciful at best. The fact is, Wenger has left the club in a horrible mess and dumping that burden on an inexperienced manager might not only be the wrong move for that individual, but prolong the supporters’ agony.

For example, if you’re going to bring in a young, modern coach that favours a pressing style, you have to look around at Arsenal’s squad and ask yourself, who realistically exists that can fulfil that role considering virtually none of the players have any of the psychological or physical traits for that tactic to be successfully implemented?

Wenger has spent the last 15 years signing, training and cerebrally breeding flimsy, lightweight, unaccountable players, few, if any of whom could adapt to the ways of Guardiola or Klopp, let alone an understudy.

To bring in a young coach with that ideology, the squad would have to be completely stripped bare and rebuilt. Not only are the funds unlikely to be available to do that, but it’s a big ask for an inexperienced coach to operate successfully within that pressure-cooker environment, and neither would they have the experience to respond or adapt their singular approach in a way that a more experienced coach would should their methods start to falter.

That’s why I’m going to stick my neck out and advocate Carlo Ancelotti to be the next Arsenal manager. There are numerous reasons why, at this point in time, I believe he would be the right fit:

1) He could cope with the expectation
2) He would gain the immediate respect of the players
3) He would have the gravitas to bring in players above what a 6th-placed club merits
4) He would (eventually) sort out the defensive issues
5) He's tactically flexible and astute
6) He would likely leave a much stronger platform for a younger, more exciting manager to supersede him

For me, Ancelotti could be the perfect stop-gap, clearing up Wenger’s mess, but also possessing the vast experience to lay solid ground for a future prospect, whoever that may be, to take over – perhaps even working underneath him for a period.

If Ancelotti wildly exceeds expectations and becomes a long-term fixture, nobody will be complaining, but he’s certainly less likely to spectacularly fail as a young and inexperienced manager would. We also know Ancelotti is available and he’s worked in the Premier League.

Astoundingly, the Italian's win percentage has increased at every managerial post he’s taken over the last 23 years bar Bayern Munich, which stood at 70% compare to 74% at Real Madrid.  

Ancelotti is not a manager on the wane, but one that is maturing with age - and at 58, he still has a decade on Wenger. I appreciate he may not necessarily be the most exciting and forward-thinking appointment, but what’s the rush? Winning is winning, the club is vulnerable and remember the proverb, fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

—oo— 

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

Comments should be intelligible and relevant. All others will be binned.

Friday
Apr202018

Gazidis persuades Kroenke to overthrow Wenger

There is an old saying, ‘hope springs eternal’. However, for many Arsenal fans that proverb has ceased to apply for a decade. Arsene Wenger’s vice-like grip on the club was so strong – the power he wielded so regressively unique, it seemed like the ivory tower he’d deliberately constructed would never be dismantled.

However, it appears obvious now that the two-year deal handed to Wenger at the end of last season was in fact merely a stay of execution. Rubber stamped by Stan Kroenke, it appears that there was a clause, with the owner taking advice from CEO Ivan Gazidis that would enable him to begin implementing changes that would help facilitate Wenger’s dismissal should the club continue to underperform.

Today, we discovered that Gazidis has won the power struggle. At some point this week, Wenger was effectively told to stage manage his own exit, with the Frenchman deciding to make it look like a resignation rather than a forced exit. Once Wenger had lost Kroenke’s complete trust, the writing was on the wall – subsequent eulogies are nothing but empty words.

At this evening’s press conference at Arsenal HQ, it was what Gazidis refused to say that was the most revealing, especially as it was made clear that there is no room for Wenger to move ‘upstairs’ and that he will leave Arsenal at the end of the season. More than anything, the event was an assertion of power being seized back by Gazidis.

Personally, I’m in celebratory mood (understatement). Over the past 7-8 years, I have passionately called for Wenger’s dismissal, a passion that grew with every passing season until it became exhausting. It would be easy to be a hypocrite, thank Wenger for what he has done for Arsenal Football Club in the long-distant past and leave it at that, but right now all I feel is relief.

What I will say, however, is that in the 1930s Herbert Chapman transformed Arsenal into an English powerhouse, laying the platform for the success of future managers such as Joe Shaw, George Allison and Tom Whittaker. In the mid-80s to early 90s, George Graham awakened a sleeping giant and single-handedly steered the club through a phenomenal period of success, including Arsenal’s first meaningful European trophy.

As with Chapman, Graham’s legacy laid the platform for his successors. Wenger profited immeasurably from Graham’s defensive bequest, yet built upon it with flair, style and dietary practises plagiarised from his European counterparts. Make no mistake this period contained some of the best moments of my lifetime as an Arsenal supporter – moments that will never be forgotten.

However, Wenger gradually became exposed by his own tactical and philosophical failings. Aware of his shortcomings, yet lacking the character to delegate for fear of being unmasked, he disgraced himself by actively creating an egregious and prolonged culture of self-protectionism. Rewarding staff and players by effectively buying their loyalty, and creating a "socialist" wage model that he hypocritically superseded, Wenger fostered an environment of complacency, ineptitude, fragility and sustained mediocrity.

Chapman and Graham were not only great managers, but well-rounded tacticians and outstanding man motivators. They created long-lasting legacies that their managerial peers profited from but could never have entirely fabricated themselves. For me, they are Arsenal’s two greatest serving managers. Wenger sits third - an achievement in itself, but nowhere near as revolutionary as the media narrative he has worked so tirelessly to pervert for his own nefarious means.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Wenger made decisions based on self interest rather than the interests of the club - decisions that were manipulative yet self-defeating; first and foremost designed to enable him to maintain his dictatorial hunger for exploitation, power and control. For that reason, not only did I eventually lose all respect for Wenger, but eventually came to detest him.

I don’t care where Wenger goes or what he does next, I’m just delighted he’s going. The remaining fixtures are about as interesting to me as the previous 300. I’m not interested in celebrating his departure or analysing the body language or performance of the players. What I am interested in, is what or who comes next, and I look forward to Arsenal’s future with a sense of renewed hope following almost a decade of despondency.

However, having been through this ugly experience, which has both tested my principles and forced me to turn my back on the club I loved for 35 years, I’m not quite sure if I can ever support Arsenal in quite the same way as I did before. For me, that is the unforgiveable legacy that Wenger has left behind. I now feel more inclined to analyse Arsenal as an observer rather than a supporter, only time will tell if that changes.

—oo— 

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

Comments should be intelligible and relevant. All others will be binned.

Monday
Mar052018

Wenger – destroyed by his own narcissism

And so the wheels have well and truly come off the Arsenal bandwagon. It’s official, we are a mediocre mid-table club, but I’m pleased to report that Arsene Wenger’s incongruous tenure is coming to an end. After years of straw clutching and futile attempts to mask his incompetence, the balance has been tipped.

Footballers aren’t very bright at the best of times and can be pretty much fooled into believing anything, especially when they’re sold a false narrative and their faith in that is repaid by exorbitant wages washing over their smug, self-satisfied egos.

Wenger creates arrogant human beings for nefarious purposes - it’s all been part of his power grab; the survival instinct. To protect himself and his job, the Frenchman deliberately bought players he could control. He signed weak mentalities and bought their loyalty with colossal wage packets while indulging them more than any other manager would dare. Never accountable for failure, they walk in the same grotesque shadow as their manager.

Over the past decade, results have been secondary for Wenger, success an afterthought. The most important driver was self-preservation. When the fraud looked in the mirror he saw a fraud. Deep down, Wenger knew he was overrated and that his success was based on the foundations left to him by a previous manager. That’s why he had to invent his own mythology, protecting himself by inventing a blame-shifting culture, pursued with aggressive denial and a perpetual distortion of the facts.

Seeking help from those with superior skills and a sharper intellect would only expose him. Therefore, he paid his coaching staff silly money to be obedient and kept them within arm’s reach indefinitely. Wenger has used Arsenal’s wage bill to corrupt his staff and buy their loyalty. If he was as good a football manager as he was a conniving Machiavellian, he would have surely conquered the world.

He’s also a rotten human being and a liar. He claimed the wage bill for his fantasy Uber project, of which he was completely out of his depth in implementing, was done in the name of socialism, but discounted himself from his own model by accepting a far higher salary than any other employee. He is an (alleged) adulterer, which some will claim is his own private business, but became a hysterical paradox when witlessly declaring himself a ”next-level human being”. He asks for respect for his sporting and human principles, while being frequently fined and banned for physically and verbally abusing match officials.

Ironically, however, the super narcissistic ego that Wenger has created and implanted in his players has also led to his downfall. For all their cosy immunity to failure, they still have a semblance of pride, albeit based on vanity rather than dignity. Humiliated by perpetual criticism, rather than examine themselves and judge their own flawed characteristics, they have turned on their monstrous creator and bitten the hand that feeds.

On the pitch, they are bereft. After years of relying on magicians such as Henry, Van Persie, Fabregas and, finally, Sanchez, Arsenal now have no single dream weaver to pull them out of the mire. Confidence shattered, every pass is to an equal failure, every flailing hand the hypocritical gesture of a man who has no right to dictate anything to others.

That’s why there’s no way back. Apart from the fact their manager is utterly incompetent and out-of-his-depth, the squad is simply not physically or psychological equipped to recover in a meaningful way. As a collective, the game is up and the whole nine yards needs to be disbanded. Even if the players were to restore a semblance of belief to a small degree, which they surely will eventually, the psychological damage is irreparable. Every draw or defeat reasserts the imbedded notion that Wenger is not the man to restore parity – ever again.

Wenger has to leave soon, and will. The only question now is, when can the celebrations begin? To me, he will never be an Arsenal legend because he has completely disgraced himself, and I judge people on much higher criteria than their sporting achievements. It's just an unfortunate fact of life that when their true colours are revealed, certain people - even those you once greatly admired, are found to be weak, controlling and manipulative. Wenger has been seduced into destroying his reputation in the egotistical pursuit of recognition, power and control. Don't listen to pundits, ex-players or fans, or fall victim to sentiment, Arsene Wenger is a nauseating piece of work. Accept it and move on; the pleasure he gave you in the long-distant past is no reason to excuse him, that only makes you inadequate.

A dark chapter will soon close, but hope is always around the corner. 

—oo— 

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

Comments should be intelligible and relevant. All others will be binned.