Archive for January, 2014

Sense of Entitlement

So, I support Arsenal, have done since 1991. That ought to be enough yeah? Been to Highbury, am a club member, buy multiple shirts yearly, etc. So all should be right in the world and any other Arsenal supporter shouldn’t be able to pull out the, “but you’re not local” or “high ticket prices – money spent” card right? Wrong.

The truth is, like any other big club, the majority of the supporters are actually NOT local. That global recognition is what allows for the growth and prosperity of Arsenal. It seems though that there is a local element that feels itself superior in some ways. I get it to some extent. I just don’t see how one can take ownership over it and say you are a bigger fan based on proximity, in this supposed age of information when everything is available at the touch of your fingertips; one has access to anything – anywhere. Although I do respect all local supporters as I would be involved in all things Arsenal as they are able to be; I do lament the fact that SOME, not all, feel superior to us foreign fans. Worse yet, that some feel the need to voice that superiority on a fairly regular basis.

Attending Matches

Well there is nothing I can do to have Arsenal come play in Barcelona every weekend, although at the rate with which we’ve sold them players in the past it was almost reality, but I digress. It is a wonderful thing to live locally to the team. One can walk, taxi or take the metro to the match, meet friends before and after for a drink at the pub, etc. Does that make you a better supporter than me? Well no, but some sure do seem to think so. That scenario makes you luckier than most and you should revel in that rather than use it as a point to win a baseless argument.

Ticket Prices

There is little you or I can do to change that as much as we would all like and some are attempting to do. The extra pounds spent on tickets do not buy you more “supporter points” with the football Gods. If you want to bring up ticket prices in comparison to trophies won over the last eight years go ahead – that’s a very compelling argument to make to the club. But what you spend on tickets doesn’t make you a better supporter over someone not local, sadly that’s not the prevailing opinion of some.

My Story

I feel connected to the club on several levels just like the next supporter. We all have something that hit home with us to connect us to Arsenal. I will share my personal story with you as an example why sometimes foreign supporters will go to extremes to watch the club in action. It might make you think before “going off” on a foreign supporter next time.

Some of you have heard this story before. I started following Arsenal in 1991. That year I met a foreign exchange student at my school and we became friends, as time went on she became my girlfriend. She introduced me to Arsenal and I was hooked. Back in those days there was no internet as we know it now. Cable and satellite services were ok but in its infancy as far as pay-per-view. So what where my choices? There weren’t many let me tell you.

In 1991 the option was tape delay and wrap-up shows as the EPL as we know it now would come into effect the following year. Starting in 1992 (and the subsequent 9 years) I could watch all EPL matches in a given weekend for $69.99 (if memory serves correct) or a specific match for $49.99 (that would later turn to $39.99 for every match). In those years the exchange rate for dollars to pounds ranged from $1.40 to $1.90 (so let’s call it a medium of $1.65), so on a weekly basis I paid 30ÂŁ to watch the Arsenal play via these services. Let’s not even mention getting up at 5-6am for early matches on a Saturday or Sunday (later matches were 8-9am so a bit better). Add the cost of midweek cup matches that cost the same, plus shirts being shipped over, etc. Well, all that added up to a pretty penny in those days.

Tickets could be had for as little as 8ÂŁ in those days if you remember. Obviously as the years wore on the prices went up but some tickets could still be had under the 30ÂŁ I was paying weekly to watch on TV. Some supporters will only go to home matches so that reduces the amount spent – while I spent 30ÂŁ minimum on every match, home and away to watch Arsenal. HUGE difference wouldn’t you say? I did this for nearly 10 years. From 2000/01 prices became more economical with better coverage, but were still a rip-off. I don’t even want to get into what it cost to fly from US to UK, hotel, meals and all the rest to watch the team play. But even all the money spent I mention doesn’t make me any bigger of a supporter than the next person and I very rarely bring it up. So why do some feel the need to try to rub the amount spent, matches seen live, etc. in others faces as proof that they are better?

Relax, Reflect, Adjust and Support

My point of all this detail, the pricing breakdown and the rest is very simple. I direct the next few statements to the supporters that think themselves “superior”. The amount you spend, the numbers of matches you see live, the fact you are local, etc., none of this gives you any reason to belittle or call yourself a “better” supporter over any other person that follows the team. In fact the more you beat that drum, the dumber you look. This becomes even more evident when a supporter can bring out a similar story to mine. Trust me, there are hundreds if not thousands like it.

Supporting a team is a very peculiar thing. We love sports as a society; it can provide an escape – a connection to someone or some time. Sports can make a bad day better and a great day fantastic. It can work in reverse too! Anything that can affect you so much shouldn’t be taken so lightly as to try to measure it in dollars, euros or pounds. Supporting Arsenal has left an impression on my life. Coming to Europe to visit during those early years of my adulthood made up my mind that this (EU) is where I wanted to move. The impression this club has left on me is something I can’t forget, I live it every day. My story is but one of a thousand similar cases.

So I caution the “superior” supporters for whom this entry was written – before you make a comment about how you are a better supporter for any of the reasons discussed; remember there are those with far more complex stories than yours. Enjoy the luck of being local to the team you support, you don’t know how enviable of a position you are in and how others wish they had the same luxury.

Everything mentioned doesn’t make you any better and it certainly doesn’t make their love for the club any less. I would suggest all this frustration and energy be directed into supporting the team and cheering on the lads as opposed to putting others down or competing with them to see who has the biggest ticket drawer.

Up the Arsenal!

If you are a foreign supporter and have a crazy story on how you became and Arsenal supporter I’d love to hear it! I will be making a permanent page for them in the near future so stay tuned!

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I don’t even know where to start. Various outlets that shall not be named come out to say he’s been lacklustre. Some supporters have stated that he’s not been worth the fee paid.  It seems there is some widespread disappointment of Mesut’s opening months of the season. Where did it all go wrong? Well that’s easy to pinpoint, people at every level not understanding what the player brings and what’s been missing from the team to optimize his performances.

Ă–zil’s “pros” run deeper than X goals, X assists, X chances created, X passing percentage,  although those are not too shabby. According to Squawka those numbers currently sit at 4 goals, 7 (others list 8) assists, 51 chances created(the most in Europe) and 88% passing percentage in 17 league appearances. Add to this tally 6 pre-assists or second assists, like the one he had versus Villa when he sent Monreal in who squared the ball for Jack’s goal.

I had the privilege of watching the player live on a number of occasions whilst I lived in Madrid and was always taken aback by how easy he made everything look. I want to delve deeper into what he brings to the Arsenal squad that just isn’t clicking at the moment which has opened the door for these silly complaints from supporters and pundits alike.

Clinical Forwards – Midfield Shooters – Runners 

Ă–zil is lacking three types of players that would benefit from his superb passing and eye for space. The first type is a clinical striker. Giroud, for all his work-rate, combination and hold-up play, is not a clinical striker. He currently sits second from bottom in conversion rate of the top EPL clubs strikers, with a staggeringly low 12.5%, only Soldado is worse; here. Let that sink in. If you go back and watch past matches you will see a multitude of Ă–zil’s passes that have made their way to Giroud in scoring positions only for him to squander those opportunities or not read the play properly and not receive the ball at all. Theo Walcott was a bit better at 15.2%. Bendtner was the best in his limited appearances with a percentage of 25%. The signing of a premier finisher would help Ă–zil and by default, the club.

The second type of player that Arsenal lack at times are midfielders who actually shoot the ball. For all the creativity in the team, the Gunners still want to walk the ball into goal at times. It was refreshing to see earlier in the season Ramsey and in recent weeks Jack then Santi make this less of an issue, but overall it is a problem more often than not. How many times have you sat and watched a match and yelled – “SHOOT!!!”?  Özil himself is guilty of this at times, but coupled with others that do the same, it can lead to long periods of frustration as we have witnessed. A bit more aggressive approach could make all the difference.

The third type of player is a pacey runner that can get behind defences. Arsenal have the poster boy for this type of player, Theo. Unfortunately he’s not been on the field with Ă–zil enough to see that combination thrive as it will in the future. Fortunately with the emergence of Gnabry and the return of Oxlade-Chamberlain, we may yet get to see that type of combination this year. Ă–zil is at his best moving the defence with his quick touches and subtle runs, then unleashing a killer pass for a runner that leaves him clear on goal, there was evidence of that in the match versus Sunderland where he put Theo through several times but the finishing simply wasn’t there. Once this relationship starts to develop, it’ll bring out the best in all parties involved.

Chess –Adapting to a New League – New Teammates 

One of the things I see that brings a smile to my face is how clever the player is. He can move a defence with a deft touch, a slight turn, or a quick pass. The problem is that his new league is not necessarily faster than La Liga, but certainly more physical, and he’s still adjusting to that. He plays chess out on the pitch and his teammates are not quite in tune with him as of yet which leads to misplaced passes, runs that never come, etc. Everything seems to be one step off at the minute, but when it clicks it will be deadly and precise.

In matches where some deem he’s not made a dent, they don’t pay attention to the quick passes that create space for others to make a play. They ignore the runs he makes that pull a couple of defenders with him or the slight turn that makes a defender hesitate and leaves a teammate free to go clear on goal. Those plays don’t show up in the stats and hardly anyone talks about them which is a shame, but if they paid closer attention, one can better appreciate how he can subtly affect the match without having a direct impact.

Mesut also commented the other day on how he was impressed with Rosicky and how he enjoyed playing alongside him. This isn’t a surprise because in many ways, they play very similarly. One thing that strikes me is the tempo at which TR7 plays – always driving forward. This is the same tempo Ă–zil had at Madrid and Germany. I’ve yet to see MĂ– go full-out at that speed with Arsenal. I don’t know if that’s due to him wanting to play at the pace of his teammates, if he’s trying to play more within himself or if it’s just a matter of acclimation or system. If Arsenal can play more up-tempo I think you could see the best of Mesut sooner rather than later, and the best of the team as we witnessed in the second half Saturday versus Fulham. Ă–zil and the team as a whole suffer at a lower pace.

Fear

One thing you can’t measure with any stats is the fear he instills in the opposition. The opposition know they must watch him closely, they know of his quality and likely game-plan for it. You only have to look at what Mourinho said about the player prior to the league meeting between Arsenal and Chelsea in December: “I think I know how to try to stop him to be in the game 90 minutes, with 90 minutes of direct influence. But it’s impossible to stop him for 90 minutes, because these kind of players they will have always a moment or a couple of moments where you cannot stop them and they end up showing why they are so good. To stop him completely, I don’t believe we can.”

That kind of respect and necessity for planning can’t be measured and that’s what a talent like Ă–zil brings to the table. The fear factor that can lift a whole squad as it has since his arrival.

Conclusion

At the end of the day there are some things that are clear. The player isn’t playing at 100% yet but that’s due to several factors as I’ve mentioned. Some can be easily tweaked and better results can be had right away. Others will take a signing or two to fix and we’ll see that in the future. But one thing is clear above all else, if you are one of those complaining about Ă–zil or making a statement that he hasn’t been worth the money – You don’t know Ă–zil…and likely you don’t know football as it’s meant to be played.

The best is yet to come from both player and club. It’ll be fun when things click, don’t blink – you might just miss it. Up the Arsenal!