Monday
Apr112016

Arsenal’s future bleak with Ozil and Sanchez likely to leave

My mind is made up. It’s taken me until the 33rd game, but I truly believe Leicester City will now win the title. Not much of a revelation is it? But Leicester are in unchartered territory and I’ve never witnessed a team achieving what they are achieving in my lifetime. Every player will go down in history as a club legend, and the season will be written into folklore.

Despite their 3-0 home win against Man Utd yesterday, Tottenham are unlikely to get maximum points in all their five remaining fixtures so Leicester probably only need two more wins, which they’re more than capable of getting.

Lately, Leicester have been squeezing out 1-0 wins George Graham-style as their opponents have adopted a negative game plan sitting deep to prevent them from utilising their counter-attacking potential. It hasn’t been pretty, but Champions need to win ugly at times.

Leicester invariably find a way through packed defences because they’re on a magnificent ride, are playing with great confidence and have individuals like Riyad Mahrez who can change a game in the blink of an eye.

And as Sunderland found out yesterday, one lapse of concentration and Jamie Vardy is still as deadly as ever.

Leicester still have some tough fixtures coming up, but they’re equally as likely to beat Everton or Man Utd because they will have more opportunities to utilise their counter-attacking threat than they would against a defensive team.

Next up for Leicester is West Ham, and you can bet they will deal with Andy Carroll better than Arsenal did on Saturday.

Clearly, Wenger did nothing in training to help his team counter Carroll’s aerial threat. You can blame the players all you want – and some of them are obviously cack, but they’re clearly not being given the right tactical guidance, information or knowledge they need to counter specific threats. In fact, I’d wager they’re not being given any guidance at all. I’d put my house on the fact that Wenger would have said nothing whatsoever about Andy Carroll at Colney last week.

But forget Carroll, I reckon Arsenal are now in danger of losing their two biggest attacking threats. Ozil is slowly coming to the realisation that Wenger is clueless and he is wasting his career working under him. All the signs are there in his press statements, which have caused friction with his manager.

Ozil is 27 and his next contract could be his last chance to play for a big club at the very top. He’s clearly not looking to sign a new deal unless Wenger can give him a good reason to stay.

Alexis Sanchez is in exactly the same boat, his indifference is starting to show on the pitch, where he no longer bothers to track back and help his teammates. These are the early signs of players who are not fully committed, fed up with the players around them and looking for something to be done about it before heading for the exit door.

Both Ozil and Sanchez’s agents will be more than happy to pocket a big payday by moving their players on and Wenger is giving them all the ammo they need to build a persuasive argument for their clients to leave. You can bet that several big clubs will already be sniffing around the duo, as their contracts expire in 2018 and Arsenal will have to sell next summer  - at the earliest - unless they want to risk throwing £60-£70m down the toilet.

After another season of abject failure, symbolised by the incompetence, negligence and arrogance that Wenger typifies, I believe that Arsenal’s future is starting to look particularly bleak. Apart from the contractual issues mentioned above, the club is in a rut and needs to dump a lot of players and spend big.

Debuchy is as good as gone, there is no future for Flamini, Arteta or Rosicky and decisions need to be made on Wilshere – who is draining the wage bill despite never being fit, and Cazorla who is getting old now and may struggle to be the same player after surgery for a serious knee injury. Some would be justified in claiming he is not good enough to achieve the Arsenal supporters’ objectives anyway.

The striking department is a mess. Never has Walcott looked more of the clueless footballing imbecile that we always knew he was, and Welbeck and Giroud will always be profligate. Meanwhile, Arsenal’s defence may be good enough to help Wenger secure his precious Champions League placing – just, but that scenario will shift next season if Spurs and Leicester repeat their heroics and Man City, Man Utd, Liverpool and Chelsea all improve, which I would think is a complete and utter certainty.

At the moment, the future seems bleak whether Wenger stays or goes. Some big decisions need to be made, yet one has to wonder whether there is anybody at boardroom level that is brave or educated enough to make the right choices. 

Regardless, if they leave the nutter to his own devices, it’s ten times more likely the club will nosedive out of the top four and lose its crown jewels (Ozil and Sanchez) next season than Wenger rise like some phoenix from the flames. Any sane supporter must surely pray that 2016/17 will be Wenger’s last, and equally pray the club has an intelligent succession plan in the offing.

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Friday
Mar182016

Roberto Martinez – another clown

My respect for Everton manager Roberto Martinez has nosedived this season; and even more so following his daft remarks concerning Arsene Wenger.

When you look at how poor the Premier League is at present, Everton should be pushing top four, not lingering in mid-table. Their squad is packed with brilliant young talent like Lukaku, Stones, Barkley and Deulofeu, and those players also have the experience of Howard, Baines, Coleman, Jagielka and Barry behind them. However, under Martinez’ guidance Everton have only managed 9 wins in 28 games.

With Arsenal travelling to Goodison Park this weekend, Martinez has labelled Wenger “an inspiration”. Martinez says that Arsenal can still win the title, but if they lose to Everton they could be 14 points behind Leicester by Saturday evening, which would surely end their feeble challenge. So in effect, what Martinez is saying is, Arsenal can catch Leicester - by beating his own team.

On the topic of critics, Martinez goes on to say, "It's the modern world we live in; when we're so easily led to criticise.”

“There is a need to have an opinion and criticise the losing team. The modern game is ruthless and at the back of a defeat you'll get criticised - and everyone has an opinion and everyone knows better than you and that's disappointing.”

Who does that sound like? Clearly, Martinez has no option at the moment but to bow down to his “inspiration” and create his own brand of Wenger bullsh*t, as both managers are busted flushes trying to prolong their stay at their respective clubs by aggressively rubbishing critics.

One has to wonder where Everton would be had David Moyes not gambled his career on Man Utd. When Moyes joined Everton he dug them out of relegation in his first season and qualified for the Champions League the year after. From then on, he finished 11th, 6th, 5th, 5th, 8th, 7th, 7th and 6th.

Despite a good start, finishing 5th, Martinez performance has nosedived over the last two years as Everton finished 11th with 47 points last season and are currently 12th with 38 points. Apart from Moyes’ first season, the Scotsman never had point totals that low in all his years at the club, despite playing in a league of a much higher standard and having a paltry net spend. In fact, Moyes' net spend per season was £803,000 - Martinez' net spend is £34.5m.

Now that Everton has been taken over and big money has landed on the club’s shores, the new owners need to throw Martinez out. Like Wenger, Martinez has no understanding of the defensive side of the game and fans must surely see that he's never shown in his career that he's a competent defensive coach.

Back to Arsenal, who predictably folded against Barcelona this week losing the tie 5-1 on aggregate. I thought Barcelona never really moved out of second gear over both legs. Credit where it’s due, Elneny scored a nice goal on the night, but the rest was the epitome of predictability.

Is Theo Walcott’s career over? Wenger preferred Alex Iwobi to him at Camp Nou, which I found hilarious. He also preferred Flamini to Coquelin, which tells its own story. What was also hilarious is that 20% of Barcelona fans didn’t bother turning up to the game.

The knives are out for Wenger this week, with a lot of ex-players having a dig:

Alan Smith says, “If they fall away, then the board have got to seriously look at the manager's position and I think Arsene Wenger will have to look at his position too.”

Ian Wright says, "At some stage it's got to happen and I think something's got to happen this season with what's happening with Arsenal, especially if they don't win the league."

Emmanuel Petit says, "Should he stay as manager at the club? I don't know. It's probably the time for him to stay but in a different role at the club... I think they need something new."

Paul Merson says, "People may say there's nobody better than him, but there's a thousand managers who could come in and get Arsenal in the top four. If Leicester or Tottenham win the title then I just don't see how he can keep his job."

—oo— 

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Tuesday
Mar152016

Scumbag Wenger hanging on like a dead man

What a shame that it should come to this. You could write a book about it – ‘How to Decimate Your Own Legacy’.

Who was that person that guided Arsenal to three Premier League titles between 1997 and 2004? Seemingly intelligent, erudite and revolutionary – his name was Arsene Wenger. Totally unrecognisable now, he should probably be the greatest Arsenal manager in the club’s history. Instead, through his own arrogance and avarice, he has become one of the most obnoxious and incompetent managers in Arsenal’s long history.

While time and hindsight may declare who is or isn’t a club legend, it will likewise decree the complete opposite. For me, Wenger's journey really is an object lesson on how power, when unrestrained, can be allowed to corrupt; distorting the ego and exposing the ugly character beneath.

I fully understand how people want to hold on to the incredible success Wenger initially had, paint a rosy picture of it and hang it on the wall - ignoring his failures for fear of tainting those memories, but it’s not failure that is the problem, it’s HOW an individual fails.

Like the worst politician, Wenger has always tried to mask his hubristic tendencies. Cowering behind his reputation, he’s spent a decade trying to manipulate the agenda from every angle, often at the expense of doing the right thing for the club. On many occasions, controlling the narrative and attempting to stage manage people’s perception of him has come at the expense of what’s best for Arsenal, yet all he has achieved is to slowly chip away at the pretence of his competency and mortally tarnish his own legacy.

I didn’t watch Watford, but that’s irrelevant. After four paltry wins in 14 matches, the chickens have come home to roost yet again as Wenger oversees yet another shambolic collapse - the collapse to beat all collapses seeing as Arsenal are now Leicester City’s bitch. Wenger’s feeble excuses regarding financial inferiority have always been deflectionary garbage, but they’ve now been reduced to dust.

On the player front, it’s wholly evident that there are splits in the dressing room. Certain players are giving up, many don’t care. As has been obvious for years now, players turn up on their own terms not Wenger’s, and his only hope of rectifying that is blind hope.

What I find so ghastly about him, apart from his tactical ineptitude, arrogance and inability to man manage, is the endless stream of risible excuses that pour from his mouth. His half-arsed explanations have become so lazy, patronising and contemptuous, that even the most hardened Wenger acolyte must surely be numb to his ludicrous alibis.

Furthermore, how dare Arsene Wenger brand those who are perceptive enough to see through his serial incompetence as “farcical”? His seething contempt for anyone that dare question his management borders on despotism. His verbal press conference attacks, evidently contrived, are designed to prevent the media from bleeding the truth to what he arrogantly perceives to be a witless public unable to think for themselves.

 “Judge me at the end of the season” – Wenger’s annual stock-in-trade response - are the words of a coward that refuses to be held accountable for his failures. The man is a thief and a control freak, hording and abusing power to preserve his influence and pilfering the supporters’ hard earned via a morally indefensible salary.

Wenger needs to stop this farce immediately and do the honourable thing; otherwise his career will come to a very ugly end. Although half the fan base is pretty much sick of him, he seems intent on alienating every last supporter until the bitter end. Yet, like all dictators, those with a mental disorder – Hubris Syndrome in Wenger’ case - are rarely able to constrain their behaviour.

But we must remember at all times, Wenger is not bigger than Arsenal and not synonymous with Arsenal. WE are The Arsenal. The supporters will support when the players have left and the managers long gone. And the supporters themselves will pass on the baton. The board and its employees are merely temporary guardians, whereas the supporters represent the institution ad infinitum.

Arsenal needs root and branch change. First Wenger, then the two unaccountable clowns that sit at the top table - Gazidis and Kroenke, who display their ineptitude by refusing to do what any other club in world football would have done years ago, handed Wenger his P45. But these scumbags have rigged the game – they’re all in it together, palming each other off with bonuses, salary increases and “dividends” at the supporters’ considerable financial expense.

If they refuse to act individually or collectively, it is now incumbent on every supporter to defend the principles of Arsenal Football Club and look to remove this collective of spongers.

Win, lose or draw, supporters need to make sure these last remaining games are a living hell for a manager that has lost the plot, but worse, has the temerity to pour scorn on those that rightfully criticise him while exploiting the ignorant naivety of those that continue to excuse the inexcusable.

Wenger can win the league for all I care, changes nothing, and w
hile I see little hope of vast swathes of supporters making his tenure unbearable, I do see it as my duty to try to influence it.

—oo— 

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Monday
Mar072016

Battle of Shite Hart Lane

The top of the table clash between Tottenham and Arsenal on Saturday characterised the pig swill viewers have had to put up with in what has been the worst quality PL of all time.

Let’s be honest, Tottenham are a consistent side but they do not resemble anything like champions and Arsenal are a side of era-defining mental fragility. It was such a poor game, with 20 grown men running around like headless chickens pulling shirts and tripping and fouling each other while struggling to string more than three passes together, or anything resembling the quality you would expect from two teams supposedly challenging for a PL title.

In the early part of the game, Spurs failed to make their possession count. The occasion got to them and they struggled to play with any calm or intelligence.  

When Arsenal opened the scoring with Ramsey’s deft flick, Spurs looked bereft - but you never have to wait long for Wenger’s chumps to shoot themselves in the foot. Early in the second half, Coquelin got a second yellow for an absurd late challenge on Kane and Arsenal duly imploded and let in two stupid, needless goals.

The difference between the two managers is that Wenger is an imbecile that never learns. Having warned Coquelin at half time not to overstep the mark, the muppet still got himself sent off. More perceptive managers would have removed Coquelin from the field of play (or left him on loan at Charlton), just as Pochettino did with Eric Lamela when it was clear that he was starting to lose his head.

But Spurs bottled it. At 2-1 up, they lost their shape and composure and Hugo Lloris made a terrible mistake in allowing Sanchez’ tame daisy cutter to beat him.

Ultimately, both teams imploded at crucial moments and demonstrated their historic fallibilities. This means, Leicester might have less to do than they think to win this title. With both North London clubs now bottling it on a weekly basis and extra games to play in Europe and the FA Cup, Leicester might only need to win 5 of their remaining 9 games.

But the fact is, no team has played better than Leicester this season or is playing better than them at this moment in time. Whether The Foxes like it or not, the title is in their hands. Their only concern now is to avoid picking up injuries to key players, otherwise no other team they face between now and the end of the season should frighten them.

If there is a threat, I now believe it’s Man City who have a final chance to build momentum with a series of easy games. 

++++ 

Ospina (7) Made some good saves, shame he didn't fancy catching anything
Bellerin (5) Positional play a bit suspect
Mertesacker (4) Still going through the motions after winning the World Cup
Gabriel (4) Plays like he looks, assembled from various body parts
Gibbs (4) Is, was and always will be a clueless oaf
Coquelin (3) Played like a Charlton midfielder
Elneny (4) Mediocre at best
Ozil (2) Auditioning for the Invisible Man again
Ramsey (4) Typical Ramsey, great technique for the goal but fuck all else to his game
Sanchez (4) Scored a lucky goal, otherwise poor
Welbeck (5) Stretched Spurs defence but will never be prolific


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Thursday
Mar032016

Arsenal fans must boycott matches/Swiss Ramble

Further hysterics at the Emirates last night as Arsenal collapsed to a half-strength Swansea team whose manager was laid up in a hospital bed. Arsenal took the lead with a good goal from Joel Campbell, but when Ozil claimed he was fouled in his own half, Arsenal’s dumbo defenders waited for a whistle while Wayne Routledge nipped in and scored.

Although I didn’t watch the game, when Peter Cech flapped at a 74th minute cross and Ashley Williams bundled it in, I knew The Gunners were sunk.

Unfortunately, Cech is not the keeper he used to be. He wears a head guard because of a serious injury he picked up many years ago playing for Chelsea and is now cowardly in certain situations. In the dying seconds, he went up for an Arsenal corner and appeared to pull his hamstring chasing Swansea players back.

I watched Leicester on Tuesday and they were unfortunate not to beat West Brom. Because their attitude was spot on, Leicester fans should still be very happy despite dropping two points.

However, Spurs really struggled physically against West Ham. Harry Kane looked exhausted from minute one. Had he been fresh, I would have backed him to score one of the two half chances that came his way.

Apart from the fact they were tired, Spurs lacked physicality in midfield without Dele Alli and Moussa Dembele. Chadli and Mason were too weak in the challenge to give Spurs any sort of grip on the midfield, while full backs Rose and Walker were replaced by the inferior Tripper and Davies. Too many changes in a tired team meant Spurs couldn’t respond adequately to West Ham’s early goal.

It’s obvious to me that Tottenham have to get knocked out of the Europa League by Borussia Dortmund if they want to challenge for the title.

Manuel Pellegrini is now vindicating the Man City board’s decision to sack him. Once the first goal went in, Man City folded like a pack of cards against Liverpool, losing 3-0.

Because Man Utd stole a late win at home to Watford, they’re now level on points with Pellegrini’s men, but have much harder games to come. Despite City being so flaky, I can see them going on a winning streak now, with a string of easy games incorporating Aston Villa, Norwich, Bournemouth, West Brom and a severely weakened Man Utd.

If Arsenal lose to Spurs on Saturday morning, the title dream is doubtless over. If Gooners have anything about them, they will boycott the following home game against West Brom. Apparently, there was a small boycott at the Emirates on Wednesday, with hundreds of empty seats in the upper tiers.

Basically, if you’re fed up with Wenger, stop talking about it and do something. The idea that fans are powerless is nonsense; no manager or owner has ever been known to survive the supporters' long-term wrath, and there’s no better way to protest than by not turning up.

Fans see it, the owners see it, the media get hold of it and if enough people don’t bother showing up it demotivates the players, which is obviously a huge cause of concern for the manager and the board. The only way Wenger is likely to leave in the short-term is if Arsenal finish outside of the top 4, and there is a chance of that happening if their current form continues and that is compounded by severe supporter unrest.

++++ 

On Monday, the website Swiss Ramble published details of Arsenal’s latest set of accounts.

Here are some highlights:

- Arsenal's cash balance stands at £159m, but will rise to approx. £250m by September

- £45m of the cash balance needs to be kept aside for player amortisation

- Arsenal have more cash in the bank than any other club in world football

- Stadium debt repayments remain at £14m pa - equivalent to Theo Walcott’s annual salary x 2

- Arsenal have the third highest net spend in the Premier League over the past three seasons

- Arsenal have the seventh highest revenue in the world, having overtaken Chelsea last season

- Arsenal enjoy the highest match day income in the world

- Bar Juventus, Arsenal’s commercial income trails every team in the Deloitte Money League Top 10. Considering Wenger keeps reminding us how Arsenal are in the CL every year, it makes you wonder what Ivan Gazidis is doing to earn his £2.2m salary (and bonuses) if he can't take advantage of the club's profile

- The wage bill gap of the top 4 giants is closing: Arsenal £192m (current amount not published in latest accounts but probably higher due to spate of new contracts), Chelsea £216m, Man United £203m, Man City £194m. The difference between Arsenal and Chelsea is probably three very well-paid players, of which Arsenal can easily afford.

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