Posts Tagged ‘Transfers’

Yesterday there was a report from the journalist Paco González of Cadena COPE/Mediaset Sport that our very own Arsène Wenger had “phoned” Karim Benzema in an attempt to convince him to move to Arsenal. As it is summer time and the typical crazy transfer season mentality takes over conventional, rational thinking, not many people bothered to see what else the journalist had to say about the situation.

Let’s just begin with what was actually said and the proper translation of it.

Paco

Paco Gonzaléz has assured that Arsenal have called Karim Benzema this summer to convince him to leave Real Madrid but that the forward has rejected any proposal.

“Benzema has rejected Arsenal. There has not been a formal offer to Real Madrid, but this summer Wenger has called for the second straight year.” said the reporter on Cadena COPE where he explained that “the rumour that was going around (implied) was for Dzeko, but in the club they have it clear that it’s neither Dzeko nor anyone else.”

Now. You can plainly see that even though a call was supposedly made, there was an outright rejection, and for the second summer running. I won’t get into the implied tapping up that occurred here, so let’s move on. I find it interesting, as I have told several people, that Madrid had several objectives for the summer and when they saw those objectives weren’t going to be possible, they moved to plan B which was to concentrate on role players and shoring up certain areas of the pitch, which they have done and likely will continue to do. The last bit about Dzeko was a rumour that was floating around about Real Madrid looking at a certain striker and Paco saying that it was dismissed. He went on to clarify that Madrid are not interested in Dzeko or anyone else but still remain intrigued by Castilla prospect Borja Mayoral if they do have a need for a striker. If you are to believe the above report from Paco, you have to believe the entirety of it. You can’t pick and choose what to believe.

Some will say “But remember Özil said he wasn’t going to leave in a press conference!” Yes, that was outwardly in a public setting & while speaking to the press where, despite what is going on behind the scenes, Madrid like to keep everything looking all proper and tidy. Despite him saying this, behind the scenes for the better part of a week, the negotiations where already being finalized for his move. In this instance nothing is being played out publicly so Benzema telling Wenger/Arsenal no over the phone isn’t for theatre. There is no audience to pander to.

Furthermore, the recently extended Benzema is very happy in the Spanish capital and is ready to fight for his place (which Paco alluded to by saying he would indeed have to win his place) and for his squad, Perez still believes in him, and an internal memo conducted by Benitez and staff came to the conclusion that overuse of star players caused timely injuries that led to the trophy-less season. Can things change? Of course they can, but not likely to.

So once again we have a certain part of the media and a certain part of social media that take only the parts of the reports they like and disregard the others. When one starts to edit out parts of reports to suit their wants, I guess you can see how they’ll believe anything.

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After having written Schrödinger’s Arsenal, it was a natural continuation to take another thought experiment and introduce Arsenal variables to see if it could stand up to scrutiny. There were many experiments that were intriguing, but then I stumbled onto one in an old textbook and knew right away there was no need to look any further. It was a perfect fit for the one subject that all Arsenal supporters weigh in on, almost on a daily basis – Wenger.

 

The Theory

Before delving into the actual experiment one must understand what it is trying to disprove, mainly the theory of physicalism. This philosophical theory states, broad strokes view, that mental processes are the result of, or can be reduced to, physical processes in the brain. There are many unique theories both philosophical and scientific that stem from this but all contain the same notion, that there is only one substance with a place in ontology, the physical. For the moment this is all we need.

 

The Thought Experiment – Mary’s Room 

This variation is quite modest and tackles one example of a multi-layered argument first made by Frank Jackson in 1982. It’ll do for the purposes of this entry. Mary’s Room is a very simple thought experiment that means to prove physicalism false, specifically the branch of physicalism that claims completeness of physical explanations of mental states.

Mary has been confined her entire life in a room which purposely lacks any colour. She’s never seen colour although she does have the ability to see it. Through books, also devoid of colour, black and white monitors and other colourless media, she is practised in neuroscience to the point where she is an expert on the subject. Mary is educated on everything possible about the perception of colour in the brain and all the physical facts about how light works and the process necessary to see colour.

After Mary’s education is complete she is allowed to leave the room. This is when, for the first time, she experiences direct colour perception. She sees the colour yellow and just by seeing it, learns something new about colour perception; what the colour yellow looks like.

Jackson concluded from this simple thought experiment that if physicalism is true, Mary would have gained all the knowledge about colour perception through her education, but since she learned something upon leaving the room, physicalism must be false. He goes on to explain:

“It seems just obvious that she will learn something about the world and our visual experience of it. But then is it inescapable that her previous knowledge was incomplete. But she had all the physical information. Ergo there is more to have than that, and Physicalism is false.”

Got it? Good. Now, what does this have to do with Arsenal? I’m glad you asked.

 

Wenger’s Room

For the purpose of this entry, we’ll say that Wenger’s 10 year trophy-less time was his period in the colourless room.

Wenger, for all intents and purposes, was severely restricted for most of those ten years. In theory he had a transfer budget, but it wasn’t what it had been upon his arrival. I say he was restricted for most of those years as it was obvious from the expenditures the last few years that the restrictions were lessened by the end of the drought.

So Wenger in this white room, had to educate himself in financial restraint. Selling off top-end assets, acquiring lesser assets to combine and attempt to replace the originals for the sake of qualifying to the CL year after year. Maintaining that status quo and paying off the stadium debt became paramount and winning titles, or at the very least truly competing for them, was something that was lost in the bargain. Legends were replaced with boys with big dreams, big demands and no backbone. Wenger during this time became a good businessman, but as a manager was unable to mould those kids into champions.

Lesser managers would have seen the club drop out of the top four, sat with a new stadium and increasingly less attractive product on the pitch and in financial turmoil. Better managers, wouldn’t have stuck around under those restraints. Wenger taught himself rather well and was able to push the squad on year after year. Sometimes underachieving, sometimes overachieving, but always in the mix near the top. The football, whilst not title-winning, was attractive, until, ironically enough, the restrictions began to lift and there was more money available. Wenger was finally let out of the white room, but had he lost his mojo from the early years at Arsenal? It certainly seemed so. Attractive football with memorable matches were replaced with laboured wins and forgettable losses.

The club seemed behind the curve in things like training methods (one example), that were once hailed as revolutionary. The time in the white room seemed to have dulled Wenger’s ability in the one thing us as supporters care about the most, the product on the pitch. Take all the things mentioned and add the increasingly bizarre way that Arsenal, year after year, climbed the injury table you could easily come to the conclusion that he had “lost it”. Was it fair? Absolutely not. Was it likely. It appeared so, as there was no evidence to the contrary bar the annual trips to a competition Arsenal had very little chance of winning but needed to stay ahead in the financial game. Even when the restraints were slowly lifted the team lost players and signed the likes of Squillaci. Even with good times around the corner, there still were/are, some growing pains. There was an increased rate of turnover as “Project Youth” came to a halt and there was a greater effort into recruiting more mature, experienced players that were indeed, more talented as well. Wenger was seeing colour again as if for the first time, learning something new…or re-learning.

So now, over the past few years with lessened financial restraint, the boss has reinforced the squad with the likes of Özil, Sanchez and just recently Petr Čech. Obviously unshackled Wenger has found his stride with two FA Cup wins in two seasons and partial runs at the title derailed either side of Christmas due to injury. Has the old man learned something he was missing or just back to basics now unburdened with having to be cheap as opposed to just prudent? For me, I would like to think it’s a bit of both. Wenger came out of this period with a more hardened sense of truth. He saw boys he groomed into top players turn their back on him and betray his trust. This definitely had an effect on him, you can see it in his shrewd decision-making of late. Sitting Vermaelen, as captain, benching Szczesny in league play for Ospina, etc. I could go on but I think you catch my drift. The reinforcements he’s added and is seemingly continuing to add show the restraints are now a distant memory. The youth that is now being given a chance have a deeper sense of loyalty as well. Lessons lived, lessons learned.

All in all, whether we like it or not, Arsenal went through this period and the face of it, the embodiment of it was Wenger. Through thick and thin the man stood there and took his shots, deserved or not, and for that he deserves praise. The juggling act he performed to maintain the status quo certainly hurt the rest of his duties, denying that is just folly, but the man, like the club, persevered and learned from it. Now we can watch a revamped side push on and truly compete for titles, with a few more additions and a bit of luck! The journey is not complete, when is it really ever complete in sport?

The lesson’s learned IN the room in this case are just as important as the lessons learned and actions taken once free of it. The club is in an enviable position to push on now and for that, we should all be grateful.

 

That Thing Called Winning

Posted: November 23, 2014 in Arsenal FC
Tags: , , , , , ,

On the back of a loss, or losses as it were, is always a tough position from which to have some perspective on a situation, especially one so complex, but with recent results and time that has passed, one has to ask – What’s occurring at Arsenal?

For me, like many, this isn’t a new question and the answer isn’t as simple as “it’s X person’s fault”.

I look at the basics of sport. Winning is cyclical for the top clubs, there will be up years and down years (for the successful sporting organizations, the up far outweigh the down), but in the end, winning or losing is a habit. That habit grows into a culture that surrounds an organization in its entirety, for good or bad. There are no guarantees in sport, but the culture within a club makes it so that everything that it takes to win, on a consistent basis, is that much more attainable. Conversely, a losing culture makes those things that much more unattainable.

When winning at all costs takes a back seat and an organization conforms to something less, for whatever reason, getting it back is difficult. The culture of that organization changes – it really undermines sport as an idea, when an organization doesn’t do everything within its power to win.

When did that culture of winning at all costs and doing whatever was necessary change at Arsenal? Easy – the move to the Emirates.

Now before I go much deeper into this post, I want to say a couple of things that are essential. I am not a “Wenger Out” guy. I don’t think that what is happening at Arsenal is entirely his fault and I’m not quite sure that sacking him alone will change the fortunes of the club. That said – one would be delusional to think that Wenger is faultless. Another point is that moving to the Emirates was necessary to compete with the elite in Europe, but as I will share, my belief is that the way this move was handled has greatly contributed to the current situation at the club.

The sale of key players and departure of key people such as David Dein made the years after the move to the Emirates a clear transitional period. Wenger came into the Premier League as an innovator and this time period changed him into a caretaker. Signals were sent out that, although winning, and as a result challenging for titles, was the goal, there were clear self-imposed restraints that would limit the extent of those challenges.

A team can’t have it both ways. An organization can’t say they’re doing everything to challenge for titles then admit that they aren’t doing everything to win. Yet, that’s exactly what Arsenal did. This is where that acceptance of something less than winning at all costs, settling if you will, came into the club. A real shame after such a successful run on the pitch and what was supposed to be the continuation of that off the pitch with the move to the Ems. The attitude became, “We’ll try to win, but if we don’t, we all know why.” Cue nudge of the elbow and a wink.

Harking back to my comment of Wenger the caretaker – Innovation in any field requires constant vigilance, it also requires a freedom to pursue it. When you are tasked to go from innovator to recruiter/accountant (I jest)/youth talent developer/scout/etc. one can see how constant innovation to say, on field tactics, may suffer, along with everything else taken on. Now, this is partly Wenger’s fault, taking on so much at the detriment and sacrifice of himself and his legacy for the club, that’s admirable (I am sure the hefty wage didn’t hurt either), but it’s also a view to a man that doesn’t relinquish anything to anyone because he doesn’t trust them to do it better than him. That good old Wenger stubbornness we all know.

Some people put the onus on the players to perform, which is a great point and more than fair, simply put, they haven’t this year (or many in the recent past). But let me also ask this – motivation comes from belief in what you are doing, from the belief in the person(s) leading you, in the belief that if things don’t go right, there is a Plan B. When have you seen Arsenal have a Plan B in recent times? So you’re set up as a team, despite individual or team form, sent out to execute a plan that may or may not work (hasn’t of late) and know full well that if it doesn’t you’ll just be told to execute better or the adjustments made aren’t enough to pull out a result. How motivated would you be? How motivated would you be when contract renewal time comes around? Motivation isn’t solely internal.

I’m not going to get into what should have been done differently in this match or the other, that’s miniscule in the grand scheme of things, but as a whole I think we can all agree that the stubbornness shown by those leading both on the pitch and off the pitch has cost the club in many aspects. The mistake was giving one man so much power; the counter-balance to such a strong personality was lost when Dein left. The further mistake was accepting that winning would have to be sacrificed, even if just for a short time or to a small extent. The move facilitated all these actions, but now how do you rectify it, how do you turn back the clock to that group think, how do you get that winning habit back? It’s not impossible, but difficult, changes may be upon us.

When I say changes, I don’t mean sack X person or sell X player only. It also doesn’t mean buy X player or hire X manager only either. The issue is widespread and the answer is complex. Look at what happened to Liverpool and what’s happened to United, Arsenal could easily spiral there. The admirable part of all of this is despite the addition of workload, the turnover of personnel somehow, Wenger has managed to keep Arsenal in the top 4 all these years which is also the downside, the acceptance that that’s all that could be achieved and deemed “fine”.

Winning is a habit. That habit promotes a certain culture within a sporting institution. Arsenal has lost that habit and culture. Getting it back will be a tough process. How long it will take is anyone’s guess. A look at this year’s results to date point to the solution being further off than any of us thought. Failure to win in sport, especially for a top-tier organizations, have consequences or clear responses to correct the issues standing in the way of achieving those results. Arsenal has had little of that for a long time. One of the tough questions is – “When is enough, enough?”.

There are a lot of questions and only partial answers, no one has the complete solution. The hope, for all Arsenal supporters is that the answers come sooner rather than later. The hope is that winning becomes a habit at Arsenal again.

Up The Arsenal.

This piece never made it to this site, originally written the 9th of July – so here it is.

Information. It’s what everyone wants.

We connect to Facebook, Twitter, every football site imaginable to get those precious bits of information. The problem is, that “information” is usually anti-Arsenal, late or altogether wrong. I imagine a scenario in “football journalist’s” (I use that term loosely) offices in which they have several dart boards up with team, players names and fees. They have pre-written scripts that have blanks ready for those missing pieces and all they have to do to finish off the often times predictable story is to throw those darts to get the appropriate info for the next mash-up.

It really is that desperate and that ridiculous. Phantom players, phantom teams, phantom fees and in the end, what is it? Phantom news.

So, we as football supporters struggle with what to believe, what sources to read, who to listen to.

So, when I got a message in mid June that read, “We’re signing Alexis Sanchez.” My first response was, “get the f%@# out of here”. Why? Well, Josep Bartomeu (Barca’s president), had a press conference two days earlier where he said they were not letting any of their top players leave. So my thinking naturally was, “Alexis is a top player, no way he’s going.” (Cesc was sold days later, so much for his word!).

So I messaged back, “Are you sure?! Really? How reliable is the source?”

He messaged me back, “Reliable. Trust me.”

Trust.

Trust is a funny thing, it’s earned, not given. Did I trust the person sending me the text? Absolutely. You have to understand, this is a person that has never claimed to be in-the-know and doesn’t want credit as such. This person, well, they had no reason whatsoever to lie or any track record of it with me. So I began to get excited. Should I tweet it? Should I shout it? What could I do?

Then came the next message, “Nothing about this online please.”

So, there I sat, mid June, one of the bigger AFC transfer stories about at that moment and I’m asked not to say anything online. What do I do/say?

“Ok, you have my word.”

Given the origin of the news, I knew the request didn’t extend to the podcast members with whom I regularly speak with, so naturally my next text was to them:

securedownload

As you can see, I wasn’t the only one that was told, there where others who also knew and also kept this to themselves, as asked, until it was official.

So the countdown began and so did the inspection of some of the most notable ITK’s on Twitter. Finally there was something I could measure to see what outlets and who was reliable. Besides Geoff, you know Geoff, not one of the ITK’s got it right. One very arrogant ITK, who loves a fight, on the same day tweeted that Liverpool were given the go ahead to bid for Sanchez as Arsenal where only after Draxler only! Laughable.

It went on and on and on. As if any of us needed any more proof. There are but one or two reliable ITK’s or better yet, people with accurate info from time to time, on Twitter. They can be wrong sometimes, but that’s because situations may change, but their track record over time speak for themselves.

We all know Twitter is filled with supposed ITK’s. They have Google Translate on a separate tab at all times. They follow every journalist from every country, every sporting news outlet and they pretend they know how reliable these outlets are. They take anything Arsenal related or relevant and plop it into Google Translate and then tweet something along the lines of “I was told/I heard today that xxxxxx would happen.” You know these lot. When they are proven wrong later, they blame the journo or outlet. When they are “right”, they pump their chest out and tell everyone how right they were, but never telling you the person who “told them” was or that in fact that they read it…these lot are a disgusting, self-absorbed, attention seeking bunch. I won’t even get into the Indykalia’s and Fairthorne’s of the world.

So there I sat, day after day, knowing what was happening and seeing it take shape. So, I decided to do what I always do. I took local news from radio, tv and print and passed it on; I translated it properly (I’m a native Spanish speaker) and sent it out to followers on Twitter and listeners on the podcast.

“What are our chances John?”, I was asked. “Looks good.”, I replied; or something to that extent. I got slated a few times for things I posted:

All locally reported and passed on, along with other similar posts. These reports coincided with what I already knew. All the meanwhile, all the lads from the pod who were privy to the info and I just chatted and saw how everything was taking place and we all commented on the evolution of the story. Over time, something became apparent and we all came to the same realization, the reporters haven’t a clue either.

They may get news earlier and some have better contacts than others, but for the most part, they are grasping at straws, much as we do. They get bits of info and they connect the dots given past experiences and relationships with the clubs they follow and report on. In the end, they are only slightly better informed then we are. It’s not eye-opening really, we kind of knew that didn’t we? But “kind of knowing” and “actually knowing” are two different things.

How do so many get it so wrong so often? The journalists at least have an excuse, they are working with what they have and if what they have is almost nothing and other outlets from other countries have some info, they try to piece things together. It’s their job, after all, to print stories. They call it rumour/gossip and move on to the next “story”; a successful job as long as it gets hits – So the bigger the story or rumour, the better. Do I agree with it? Nope. Do I understand it? Yes.

But why do these wannabe ITK’s do the same? What is the motivation to dupe people? Is it the followers (of course it is)? What is the necessity to lie about their intentions and their “news”?

Very simple. A lack of attention. They are very bored or very ignored. Take your pick.

I have been wrong many times, not as often as I have been right – but I always hold my hands up in those cases; Cesc moving, hell, even Alexis! Way before I got THAT message – “We’re signing Alexis Sanchez.” Why? Because I only pass on local news and make educated guesses. Nothing more or less.

ITK’s, real ITK’s are never wrong. They know what’s happening. Real time, real info, all the time.

Are you ready for this? THERE ARE NO REAL ITK’s ON TWITTER, ON FACEBOOK or ANYWHERE else. They covet their jobs or the jobs of those that give them info too much. There are people who may get info from time to time and pass it on, but anyone that knows anything, will not share it 100% of the time for fear of losing their position or having their contact lose their position. Be happy with those few credible sources that tell you “we have bid x amount for this player, will it happen, I don’t know.” You are already ahead of most journos having those tidbits of info.

There are some people on Twitter and other social sites that want a higher standing or want to pretend to know things and people they don’t. Pity them. They are a needy bunch, they are easy to spot. You know their names, you know their “style”. You know who they are. Call them out, they need a reality check. They make those “If X happens, I will deactivate!” tweets and promises. They will never do it, but hold them to it! We would all be better off! (The most they will do is change their display name, we know this, but let’s make it inconvenient for them at the very least).

Conversely, there are people who want to give you hints and want you to know the small bits of info they get. Be grateful. Stop the abuse. Use time and past revelations to see if they are legitimate.

For the first time in June, I got info ahead of time instead of a detailed explanation after – I was briefly “ITK”. Guess what? It wasn’t fun. It was so hard not to yell it from the top of my lungs, but I gave my word, so did other’s and we just smiled – that was enough for us!

The person who gave me the info doesn’t want it shared who exactly he is, but some of you know. He has taken a lot of heat for views, but he is someone not after attention of this nature. Funny how that is. The ones with the info want none of the credit/attention and get most of the hate. The ones with lies get most of the attention and praise and continue to operate despite their obvious deficiencies and lies.

It’s a game. It’s horrible. It’s ITK tic-tac-toe and like the real game, you only win by enjoying the game, not being right/wrong as it often ends in a draw.

Enjoy this summer Gooners, it’ll end up being a memorable one once you get to look back on it. At the end of the day what matters is the club, our season and where we can go from here. Now that the restrictions of the past have somewhat been lifted, we can build upon the success from last year and take that often talked about, “next step”. The future is bright, and guess what? We all win as supporters – Isn’t that what matters?

Up the Arsenal.

There has been much said in the British media about a possible raid on Real Madrid by our beloved club.

What is reality? What is media garbage? Where are these links coming from? Let’s look at the four players linked and the reality of the situation.

Casillas – This is the most far-fetched rumour. The likelihood that Lopez keeps Casillas out of the GK duties much longer is small. The only way he would move anywhere is if Ancelotti where to tell him, flat-out, he’s #2 and had no chance, unless injury played a part, to regain his spot. Even then, I see it as an unlikely scenario this late in the window. Let’s say it where to happen, that scenario would see one of the top 3 GK’s in the world(if not the best when on form) on the market and would incite a bidding war Arsenal are unlikely to win. He would be valued above 30m€ in any case. RM is under no obligation to sell with his contract running through 2017.

Benzema – This is the second of unlikely scenarios. Despite being booed by supporters at the Bernabeu, one has to understand that under dire circumstances the likes of Ronaldo, Iker, Ozil, and many others have been booed at one time or another by a very fickle audience. So this has no bearing on his situation, as he’s been cheered many more times than booed. That said, he is also the special project of president Perez and now assistant coach Zidane, without even mentioning the fact that Madrid are his boyhood favorites. There is little chance he leaves, with Madrid having sold Higuain to a view of depending on Benzema, Jese and Morata to fill the position until next year when RM look to add a world-class striker; widely rumoured to be Falcao. Add to this the news that youth team product Alvaro Morata is likely to leave for Espanyol on loan and chances that Benzema is leaving have shrunk even more from the minuscule possibility it was before. Under an increasingly long shot scenario that the striker is sold, he would be valued above 40m€. His agent has also come out recently and proclaimed to be working with the club for an extension.

Ozil – Whilst I also find this move unlikely to occur, it is definitely more possible than the first two. Ozil is very finicky and likes to play in the hole, behind the striker and is unhappy on the wings or being substituted as evidenced last night. Yesterday Ozil was subbed, he shook Ancelotti’s hand, went to the changing room to shower, changed and sat with teammates until the final whistle. Instead of going to the changing room once more, he elected to go straight to the team bus foregoing the mix-zone and speaking with the media. He later tweeted, “6 points in two matches, That is what’s most important.” Earlier it was rumoured that Ozil’s agent, being in the process of working with RM over an extension created rumours of false interest from United and this supposedly angered Madrid. This is what is said to have made the Spanish giants open to a sale. His value would be above 45m€. Madrid have a wealth of midfield depth, so unless a huge offer came in, they’re likely to move a lesser valued member of the squad on.

di Maria – Out of the four players, this is the only name that has been mentioned since the beginning of the summer as a departing player as well as the only player whose initial story was reported from Spain, not Britain. I believe this to be the only clear-cut option of the four. di Maria is a good player, but with the pending arrival of Bale, is seen as surplus as there are many players in Madrid that can play a variety of positions. He has started both matches thus far, but his latest match last night is widely reported to be his last for the club. There has been reported interest from PSG, Galatasaray and other clubs. Most seem to think Arsenal has put in a bid widely reported as “favorable” to Madrid. Only time will tell. His value is at a little over 30m€.

Transfer windows are full of wild speculation and misinformation but most of all, agendas. Why would the British press continuously link Arsenal to names that have very small chances of moving? Ask yourself why AFC losing to Villa is seen as a club in crisis, but City losing to Cardiff is seen as a top effort by a small club? The agenda is clear and has been for some time, so take everything you read with a grain of salt.

To recap, I believe the only name that is possible is di Maria. Ozil may be a possibility but Arsenal would have to nearly triple their transfer record fee to secure that signature. Casillas and Benzema I see as nonsense at this time.

Whoever it is, I expect AFC to sign some players after securing CL group stage football tonight! UTA, COYG!

Monaco are taking the meme of “Buy ALL the players” to heart as they look to dethrone PSG as this summer’s Man Citeh. Whilst they buy and continue to be linked with attacking players, they are taking making some Gooners nervous and demoralizing others, who are all saying in unison “Why is that not us?!”.

Arsenal are not Monaco, PSG or Man Citeh; the club was never likely to splash large for 1 player, but for a collective that will improve the good base of players in the squad. This is going to be a long summer but one with departing players that actually benefits us(bye-bye deadwood and malcontents or both!) and some reinforcements coming in to meld with the team that finished the season with 26/30 points.

For me that’s the key, the lads showed that they are capable of stingy defense and assurance(be it nail-biting) to reel off wins at a clip. What needs to be strengthened are a few key positions and the squad can begin the league next year how they ended this one. We all know where reinforcements are needed, so there is no point in continuing to mention it, but I wouldn’t expect any more than one, maybe two “well-known” name to come in whilst those positions are filled, but for me that’s okay. I’d much rather have a TEAM than a group led by a couple of players. We all saw how under-achieving was prevalent over the last few years with the likes of Cesc, Nasri, Judas, Song, etc. “leading” the squad. The result of off-loading those players and opting to start anew? More goals scored, less goals conceded, and more league points 2 straight years. And they said those players were “irreplaceable”. Ha.

For all the flash that Arsenal brought to the field from 2006-2012, there was little substance, always folding when it mattered most, early on it was due to departures of key figures while later on it was down to players considered by a naive few as “new legends” that weren’t ready for that title. The squad this year once more had to endure an influx of players, which led to a slow start, in my opinion it’ll be different this summer. That will lead to a better start with key additions, very few departures and a team that has started to believe in itself.

Let’s have more players that will add to this “us vs the world” mentality that the current squad has and I can see us lifting a trophy this year. It was shown that when clicking this team can compete with anyone, a few more key additions and little subtraction will them clicking more often than not. It’s not like the United squad this year was all-world but they were efficient, that’s what Arsenal need to be, efficient as they were to end the season.  So don’t fret Gooners, we have good times ahead.

UTA, COYG!

First Published on arsenalvision.co.uk:

Hello Gunners. I haven’t written in a while, as I’ve been taking in the news, transfer rumors, etc. I usually do a post match rating and analysis, which I have taken a pass on doing the last couple of weeks because I have seen, read and heard too much to digest and address properly without a bit of perspective.

So after all the Sahin talk, the misinformed comparisons to Mata, the various moves by other clubs, the  sales of RvP and Song, the possible departure of Theo, the two draws, no goals scored, etc.; where is Arsenal as a club?

Well, the view and points I am about to make come from a Gooner that supports the club, not the players. I am not an Arsene apologist either, but I do in fact give credit or criticism where it’s due. I support our philosophy, but understand that sometimes that must be broken to fix the problem. Sometimes going into some debt is ok. As a self-employed entrepreneur I can tell you, not all debt is bad debt, but we are nowhere close. So let’s begin.

Philosophy

Everyone knows Arsenal’s philosophy footballing wise. The team plays very attractive football and is always amongst the better teams technically. Since 2005 all that pretty play has led to many disappointments. Was it the philosophy or those implementing it?

Football wise you would have to say that Arsene brought in the right type of talent for the team to succeed, otherwise AFC players would not be coveted by the top teams in Europe. Man management wise you would have to say poor decisions were made as to the type of characters chosen.

A thriving youth set-up, top-notch facilities, amazing stadium, and all the rest of the package make Arsenal one of the top sports franchises in the world. While the #1 goal is to win trophies, we all agree there, how we get there can be just as important. Will the 7 year wait be worth it if when we win, we do it the Arsenal way? In my opinion, it absolutely will. Add all the things that were accomplished internally along the way and Arsenal are sitting pretty to commence the next phase which is to go back to winning trophies.

You only have to look at the top 10 franchises in the world to realize that we are not alone in recent trophy less years…New York Yankees (2000-2009), Dallas Cowboys (1995-Present), Washington Redskins (1991-Present), LA Dodgers (1988-Present), and NE Patriots (2004-Present). So value certainly doesn’t guarantee success, but looking at that top 10 it lets you see Arsenal are in some rarefied air and indeed an elite club. AFC has come a long way without winning trophies in the last 7 years, so that begs the question:

Where do we go from here?

Debt

Some say Arsenal need to spend whatever to get the players needed to get ahead and mount an all out assault for trophies. I sometimes land in that camp, but only for the right players.

Others have a view that getting into too much debt and changing Arsenal’s philosophy will lead to the club ending up like Malaga, which I also agree with.

It is not an easy issue to overcome and Gunners are split over it. Is Arsenal  a selling club, a buying club or as some suggest a trading club? I believe they are a trading club.

That doesn’t make AFC more ambitious, less ambitious, frugal or quick to make coin. That makes Arsenal a realistic buyer and seller in the current climate.

Now, all of that said, not all debt is bad debt. Paying 35m + X wages for a player of considerable talent can pay off in a team morale boost, talent and competitiveness. Add too many of those players and you can have too many cooks in the kitchen. The balance is ever so important and I trust Arsene to know what that balance is better than you or I; take a look at 03/04 as an example.

Will Arsenal dip into the deep coffers and overspend to get the players that are perceived as needed or will they continue on the road of buy cheap, sell expensive and constant turnover? The answers to those questions are going to be dictated by the results this year more than any other. When the answer comes, unless it comes with trophies, it won’t please 100% of the fan base, some will be happy and others upset, that’s the reality of the modern fan as well.

These questions then lead to the ever important personnel issue. Have the additions and departures to AFC this summer thus far been good for the team?

Sales/Purchases

Let’s make this simple;

Podolski: Experienced, technically proficient player. He is already making adjustments to his game to suit AFC play.

Giroud: Raw, talented and made for EPL play. Will take time adjust but likely to pay off huge.

Cazorla: Already plays like he was brought up in the system.

RvP: AFC waited patiently for 6 1/2 years for him to be a consistent player. The last 18 months he was made the center of the offensive attack, and whilst finally staying healthy he delivered. Does he repay this patience? Nope. He buggers off at the first opportunity. To me this was a good sale. Better to get 24m now than nothing later.

Song: Good player, never played his position as needed, helped a great deal going forward, hurt a great deal defending, a double-edged sword. Can’t say I am sorry to see him go as I have called for it or a defensive replacement to allow him to go forward for quite some time. He’s already keeping the bench warm at FCB already, amazing.

Sahin: The truth? Sahin wanted to stay at RMFC this year. Mou wanted him to get playing time. Sahin chose Arsenal after a Wenger call. AFC then decided to try to make the loan into a permanent deal based on the fees that were to be paid. What was an already agreed upon loan deal was turned sideways. Sahin and Real Madrid decided that going to LFC made more sense as both club and player wanted a reunion at the end of the year.  Nothing complicated or sinister, just bad timing and bad information passed on by many parties.

Lansbury: Bad deal for me. He never got a chance to show what he had at AFC. He gets no chance and Ramsey gets a million. Not what many of us expected.

Theo: One has to make a true evaluation; Theo is a work in progress that no one knows will pay off. Does AFC bail now after 5 years or continue the work? We shall see.

Departures: We are all waiting on NB52, Chamakh, Arshavin, Park, Squillaci to be sent packing, looking unlikely with each passing day.

Arrivals: Unless some of these departures happen, arrivals will be tough. But a DM and a DEF player are likely. A ST will come in IF Arsenal can move theirs.

So, AFC rid themselves of players that were unhappy, ungrateful or unwilling to look at the big picture and replaced them with players that WANT to be at AFC…not a bad deal in my view. The fact is the club replaced a squad full of champions and competitors with spoiled kids. The young replacements were not ready and given too much pay and responsibility for it to never end any other way other than how it has. That is Wenger’s fault, and it was a direct result of having to pay for the Emirates and changing the spending philosophy to maximize profit, the board’s new priority. Enough blame to go around. BUT…

As long as Arsenal continue to bring in a mix of youth and experience and the correct type of characters that want to accomplish something AT the club instead of using the club to transition, the Gunners will be just fine.

Season Results

Given the two results thus far this year and hearing how fans have reacted you would think Arsenal are set for relegation, again. I say again because this sounds so familiar. Remember last year after 7 matches when at 7 points most said AFC were destined for the bottom half of the table and possibly relegation. Oops, that didn’t work out for them did it?

Listen, last year at this time the club had departures, a horrible chemistry with attitude issues and a horrific back line. This year AFC dominated the two first matches, the defense has been great and only the lack of play time together has kept AFC from 6 points instead of the current 2. Things are looking bright for the club, a couple more additions and some consistency in the line-ups as we had only once last year (the run of matches where we beat Milan, 5PUR2, Citeh, etc) and our trophy drought is well on its way to being a thing of the past.

I blame the board, Wenger but most of all the players for where AFC are right now. There are no innocent parties in this. It is a team effort when AFC wins and it is a team effort to lose as well. We as fans can’t have it both ways. Arsene can’t be a genius at spotting talent, then be blameless when that talent goes rogue. We can’t love the players then blame Wenger when those players grow to prefer money over the club, no way for him to know that beforehand…as I said before plenty of blame to go around.

We have to go back to basics Gooners. Support and love the CLUB, cheer the players and realize that it is never as bad or as good as the media, AKB, WOB, etc. want you to think it is. The reality is we support an elite club with small club values, embrace it. If you can’t, there will be more disappointment coming. If you can embrace it and have done, you know Arsenal are leading a charge to go back top and most certainly not lagging behind.

Good days ahead, you have to believe that, or what’s the point of support?
COYG!