Arsenal and Liverpool similarities, as well as Alexis and Suarez narratives, are wide of the mark

Yesterday Alexis Sanchez turned 26 years of age. Aside from making me feel even older, the anniversary of his arrival on this planet all those many moons ago, his birthday also gave Arsène, as well as me now, the opportunity to wax lyrical about our Chilean ace. Not that we need an excuse mind, because let’s face it, he’s been awesome all season.

Unsurprisingly Arsène was full of praise, but also gave us a bit of insight as to how the transfer happened, with a few meetings of players agent and Le Boss whilst in Brazil, followed by a confirmation of interest from the player, transfer agreement from Barca and then a signature.

It all sounds rather easy, doesn’t it? Of course there will have been plenty of complexities around the arrival of Alexis, but perhaps it is a mark of the man, that the transfer didn’t seem to be anything other than simple as pie. For as little as one can gather from the way a player handles himself in public, he seems like a very amiable chap, a trait which can’t be labelled at too many in the game of football that’s for sure.

Perhaps his attitude on the pitch is reflective of the perception of him off it. He is a hard worker, very talented, but humble and appreciative of his origins. It is fitting, then, that we should come up against a Liverpool team that it was fairly obvious would have loved to secure his services in the summer. Indeed, it was the arrogance of people like Phil Thompson declaring “it’s done” when referring to Alexis to Liverpool, that mean that this particular fixture has an air of hopeful symbolism for me as an apprehensive Gooner.

I said on the blog yesterday that I’d been worried about this game since Monday and, whilst the worry still remains, the prospect of seeing Alexis Sanchez score the winner against a team that coveted him as we did will feel particularly juicy. Those from the North West might argue the bright lights of London were the only lure for the player, but when you look at the two respective clubs and how the seasons have unfolded, perhaps there is reasoning in itself for Alexis to choose Arsenal over Liverpool.

I read yesterday that were it not for Alexis, we would probably be in a similar position to Liverpool in mid table and out of the Champions League. Whilst I am not going to try and pull the wool over your peepers and suggest all is fine and we’d be as good if he were not at The Arsenal, gentle reader, I think that such comments do a disservice to the rest of our squad. A squad which, despite our protestations of lack of depth, have been completely decimated by injuries this season.

Liverpool too, have had injuries, but not to any extent that has been experienced by The Arsenal. Only Manchester United and Newcastle can claim to be masters of misfortune in that regard. Nope, Liverpool have had injuries, but their lack of squad depth has just been more plainly demonstrated than ours. Look at their ‘keeper troubles, or their defensive woes, which we’ve both had. But they’ve had the added problem of problems in attack too, which is something you can’t really throw in our direction. So to say that our two squads are relatively similar is a red herring if you ask me.

I think Alexis has been brilliant for us. I love everything about him. But equally I think it is wrong to believe that we are morphing in to ‘Alexis FC’ in the same way that Liverpool were often described as ‘Suarez FC’. We have other options and there have been times this season – like West Brom away – that we have had to rely on other players to get us out of trouble. On that day it was Santi rediscovering his form and Welbeck drifting in from out wide to head home from a central location that saved our bacon.

Sometimes though, I guess it’s just easier to build a narrative if the themes seem to loosely fit. Arsenal wanted Suarez. Arsenal wanted a player with pace, ability to travel with the ball, phenomenal work-rate, etc, etc. Suarez and Sanchez have similar styles. Similar sounding names too – isn’t this all seeming rather convenient? Liverpool wanted to replace Suarez with Sanchez. Sanchez has scored plenty of goals for Arsenal. It all seems to fit together so neatly like one of those wooden Early Learning Centre trains. But you and I know different. We know that our team has been poor, but our reliance on Alexis has not been as obvious as the Suarez factor was for the Scousers last season. That’s why I’m hopeful that we’ll see a better performance than Liverpool’s team tomorrow, because I want the other players to step up. The Cazorla’s, the Welbeck’s, the Giroud’s, all of them need to perform infinitely better than the horror show of last season. We know they can do it. They just have to show the belief. Hopefully the freshness will make a difference too.

There are still concerns over some players, like the Ox, Walcott and Monreal and if we’re completely honest, we can ill-afford any more injuries. But I’m hoping for some good news on The Ox front, because I think him being fit will give us an edge over Liverpool. More on why that is tomorrow in an actual match preview. For now, I’m going to start prepping for my trial run Christmas dinner – got some friends over tonight you see, so Christmas Turkey overload begins now for me.

Have a good’un.

No pressure, unless you’re a squad player

Gary Neville gave United a bit of a lasting last night, didn’t he? Boy, I wish my football team had stocked up on ‘get out of jail free’ cards at the beginning of the season like United have, because there’s no way they should be sitting pretty third in the league. Not with that average squad. It’s like I said on Twitter yesterday; a damning indictment on the quality of this year’s Premier League, that’s for sure.

Anyway, enough about talking about that lot, let’s talk about our lot, who learnt yesterday that it’s a repeat of the FA Cup final from last year. I’ll be quite honest with you; a home tie against Hull is not quite the ‘glamour of the FA Cup’ narrative that I would have hoped for. An away tie to Blyth Spartans would have been more intriguing, so to get a mid-table Premier League team is just about up there as one of the least exciting matches one could hope for. Naturally, Chelski got their obligatory opportunity to rest players by playing a team from divisions below them, whilst United manager to score themselves Accrington or somebody random like that.

Do you know, the more I think about it, the more I suspect that van Gaal has traded his own neck for a bag full of four leaf clovers. How else can you explain how United are putting together victories with an even worse team than last year?

Anyway, I’m veering off course in my bitterness this morning, so I need to steer myself back towards the holy island of Arsenal on which I usually reside. On which Arsène Wenger is king, queen, prince, emperor, president, prime minister and God.

Le Boss took to the stage to talk about tonight’s game and by all accounts it sounds like it’s a pick’n’mix of first teamers, squad and young players that have been sent out to Turkey, which is good but to my mind not enough. We should not have a single player on the field tonight who could make an impact playing on Saturday in my opinion. So to hear the probably team leaked being one with Mertesacker, Szczesny and Debuchy in, is quite a surprise to me. After all, surely we want these players rested for an all-important game against Newcastle, right? We’re about to go into a heavy Christmas period and we need to be shuffling things around, so why are we wasting players on games that Wenger himself has admitted are practically meanigless?

The only thing I can think of is that Arsène will think that someone like Debuchy will do well to get minutes under his belt in a game where he knows he can pull out of tackles if they look like they could be dangerous ones. Additionally, perhaps he’s thinking that Per and Chambers need to play their way back in to form?

Whatever he’s thinking, I hope he isn’t struck by the same luck we’ve had all season with injuries. We can ill afford another Klendathu (Starship Troopers reference, if you’re interested).

Up top however, is where we currently have plenty of options, so I’m hoping we see something good from our three squad players who aren’t currently getting a look in. A front three of Podolski, Sanogo and Campbell all have a chance of giving Arsène something to think about and I hope they do; with our injury record this season there’s no way that we shouldn’t be trying our hardest to keep these players fresh and match fit by giving them more minutes. But with Arsène’s clear disdain for the rotation game, you can see all three players wanting out (some potentially on loan) come January. So if they can perform tonight then perhaps it will give the manager more cause to throw them in.

I have no idea what team Galatasaray will put out tonight but, if we’re all completely honest with ourselves, do we really care? This game is an opportunity to just watch. We know we aren’t winning the group. We know we aren’t seeing the first team. We know that we don’t normally travel well to these places. As far as I’m concerned, this is a freebie tonight. It’s a chance to watch the Arsenal with the most amount of emotional detachment that a gooner is going to get this season. So in some perverse way, I’m just going to try and enjoy it.

Who knows? We might even get a pleasant surprise with some good performances from players we’re not expecting?

We shall see.

My bubble, Per’s form, a sober middle ground

Having managed to avoid watching and football at all this weekend, I feel like I have been deflected away from some serious emotional trauma this Monday morning, I have to tell you. Given the abomination of a performance against another bang average mid table team, I took the opportunity to – please excuse the festive analogy – go ‘cold turkey’ and despite still feeling a bit bitter and twisted about Arsenal 2014/15, I do feel like I’ve created a little bubble for myself which has helped to numb the noises that I have seen when I’ve switched on my Twitter timeline at varying intervals.

There have been some that have been pronouncing (with what seems like a knowing nod as they type I’d imagine) that Giroud is not world class and Martinez should never have been given a chance. It’s almost as if they knew this all along and yet have kept quiet in the last two victories before resurfacing on Saturday afternoon onwards.

Suddenly Giroud has gone from the missing piece of the Arsenal jigsaw, to the old bit of belly button fluff that the vacuum cleaner won’t pick up. Martinez has gone from the ‘keeper that can knock Szczesny from his perch, to the perch out of water in a league for which he doesn’t have the quality to succeed.

Of course, having not seen the travesty of a display against the Orcs, I feel like I occupy a sober middle ground today. Giroud is neither the final piece of any puzzle, nor is he the worst player this side of Kaba Diawara. He’s a useful link man who has his good days as much as his bad. Martinez too, is exactly what he is, which is a young number three goalkeeper who will make mistakes.

That he is even this close to The Arsenal team to make mistakes is another question entirely, one that has to be aimed in the direction of Arsène Wenger, although in the goalkeeping department you have to say he’s been unlucky. I mean, this run in the team should have been David Ospina’s, but his injury probably means he’ll probably come back from injury having not played any football, with the guy further from the throne having racked up half a dozen matches. I guess it happens. It’s just it seems to ‘happen’ more often to us than usual. Mannone a few years ago? No full backs, causing us to Cygan it up, a few years before? It’s a recurring theme for this Arsenal side and you wonder if we should request a special dispensation for a squad of 35 instead of 25.

Anyway, here we are, nearly at the midway point in the season and playing football like the ‘good old days’ of Bruce Rioch. Remember those? Turgid football in which we tried a Bolton manager on for size who isolated our star striker Ian Wright and tried to go more direct than my nan at Christmas. Big Per called our defending ‘shocking’, but you wonder how much of that was an admission of his own guilt as much as anybody else’s, because our vice captain has been one of the chief protagonists this season when it comes to a worrying lack of form. Along with Flamini and Ramsey (worryingly, the spine of the team), Per has seemed off the pace in so many ways this season. His positional sense, which has previously counter-balanced the lack of pace he has, seems to be all over the place. It seems somewhat convenient to say that it’s down to the lack of Koscienly, but as a senior player in the team and an intelligent enough man, you’d expect him to be able to cope with a change in playing partner. So for me, the comments I see about him being a bit lost without Koscienly give him a bit of an undeserved free pass from any major criticism.

One thing is for sure, Arsène needs to have somebody lined up now, so that when that transfer window opens in less than a month, we are all over it like a rash and picking up some decent squad players, or preferably players who can feel right for a first team place.

That’s yer lot from me for today. More tomorrow.

fearing a fixture, but three things secure victory for The Arsenal

So bring on the unpleasentness. It’s Stoke away today and despite Arsène’s best efforts to diffuse the so-called rivalry between the two teams, messieurs Shawcross and Nzonzi have don’t their level best to try and eek out as much rhetoric to fire up the orcs as they can possibly muster, saying about how the game will be ‘tasty’, or that they will make the afternoon as uncomfortable as possible for our players.

Hey, if they operate within the confines of the law then what can you do, other than to accept it, maybe even trying to dose up with a little bit of your own medicine? But therein lies the real issue; I think we’ve had every right to feel aggrieved with the way some matches have gone against that ‘orrible lot. For example, didn’t last season’s game see a Charlie Adam ‘tackle’ that could have resulted in serious injury? I forget who, but that is one Stoke player that is quite frankly a dirty little piece of faecal matter, if you’re asking me. Those are the types of situations that seemed to have happened more often than not when we’ve played the Staffordshire team from the Potteries. Those situations – i.e. ‘Industrious’ challenges that could injure players – are what you don’t want to see when you watch Shawcross intentionally clatter into somebody because he thinks he’s got more than a 50-50 chance of a ball. But hey, “he’s not that type of player”, you know…

Anyway, as I said, Arsene has tried to diffuse the game by talking about how there is no ‘hatred’ from the Arsenal side, just a difference in style. I don’t have a hatred for Stoke, but ‘severe disliking’ probably covers the bases well enough, which is probably why I’m really not looking forward to today’s game. If it was at home I’d probably feel a little better, but our record against that lot is terrible at the Britannia, given their usual league position and ours. It’s weird, because often my trepidation for a league game is usually affected a lot by the possibility of having to face idiot rival ‘fans’ at work talking about how terrible we are because we’ve been beaten to them (Chelski, Spuds, United, Liverpool), but I can honestly say – probably with some relief actually – that I don’t know any Stoke fans at all with whom I can take a pasting after. So I’ve often wondered why I get so annoyed when we suffer yet another setback up at their ground. Then after last seasons defeat and Nzonzi once again telling the world that they were more up for these games and that we were the preening team that epitomised the problem with the modern English game because old ‘Johnny Foreigners’ don’t ‘like it up ‘em’. It’s that kind of irksome narrative that cheeses me off more than anything else, mainly because it perpetuates a media narrative that the red tops can’t wait to sink their teeth into come Sunday morning’s first releases.

I don’t like seeing what I perceive as ‘good vs evil’ ending up with evil winning. And this fixture has seen that too many times as far as I’m concerned.

So Wenger needs to get his team to do three things today:

  1. Keep a clean sheet and make it four on the bounce for us
  2. Select a front three that works enough to notch up at least one goal in 90 minutes
  3. Ensure the home crowd have nothing to whoop and holler about through the whole game.

Point three might be difficult, because if the zookeepers (stewards) don’t feed the animals then they might get restless, so i’ll happily accept two out of three of the above if it means we pick up all three points. Stoke aren’t in the best form going in to the game and I read some snippets from the Stoke Sentinel with some of the home fans talking about draws, about not playing well, about everything needing to go through Bojan. So if Arsene is going to achieve objective one listed above, then I think he’ll need to keep the little Serbian quiet. That probably means Flamini has a big role to play, so I hope he has realised he’s best performances are built on discipline and sitting in front of that back four. If he remains resolute in his task, he will naturally shackle Bojan I believe, as Stoke will probably try to play him off the striker in a number 10 role to either Crouch or Diouf.

The back four – providing Koscienly is fit – should be more confident after three clean sheets and I hope we can see the same side that was strong enough against Southampton at home on Wednesday night. I know Arsene spoke yesterday of seeing if Koscienly can make a third game in a week given his achilles, but if he’s even remotely fit enough to last he has to play. We have a relatively meaningless game in midweek against Galatasaray in the Champions League, so he can rest then and be ready for Newcastle the following week if needs be, but we need our best available back four this afternoon.

To achieve objective three, I think Arsene will once again go for Welbeck Giroud and Alexis. If they are going to improve then they are going to need more games together and with a Stoke back four that aren’t the most mobile in the world, a rotating forward line as those three did against West Brom could be just the ticket. There is no Huth alongside Shawcross, so perhaps they are a little bit weaker defensively, but I still think we’re in for a tough afternoon. However, unlike when Stoke play away, the impetus for them from their home team will be to come out and have a go at Arsenal, so hopefully more space will help to draw them out and give our players more opportunities to get in behind their defences.

I don’t particularly want to have a go at calling this game. We’re still not playing amazing, but have managed to get a run together, but our away form to Stoke has always been patchy and the Stoke players will know that and be up for it. I just hope our players are up for it more.

“The board is set, the pieces are moving. We come to it at last, the great battle of our time.”
Gandalf The White

Dortmund: a chance for redemption of sorts

Hello there. I’m back after a short sabbatical from both Arsenal and football. No Twitter, few blogs and certainly no TV related to Arsenal since Saturday’s debacle. I literally went into media lockdown until the next game which, thankfully (or not depending on the way we’re playing at the moment), is this evening as we entertain Borussia Dortmund at home.

I’ve got to be honest with you kids; the United game hit me hard. Hit me harder than I thought it would actually. The predictability. The inevitability. The feeling of painful DeJa Vu. All the errors, all the worst of this modern day Arsenal side (which I class as the post Invincible’s period), it was all there to see. I could probably go on and on about our failings, but the most redeeming thing about football when you play the number of games we play this season, is that you are never far away from righting the wrongs. From atoning from the sins. So between now and Christmas Arsenal have an opportunity to atone their pants off. Starting by beating Dortmund tonight.

And it has to be a win tonight. Because I haven’t been reading many football sites, I’m not sure if a point is enough to progress, but even if it is, I don’t care. I want this Arsenal team to sweep aside the ills of its current season plight and begin afresh with a big scalp. If that starts in the Champions League, then so be it, because we need something and soon.

Arsène Wenger is a well paid man and this is what he is well paid for. Results. He has been negligent this season in his acquisition of enough results in all competitions, but he has the chance to bring people like myself back into ‘Happy Street’ by going on a run. Come on Arsène, it’s what you have done before, so is there life in the old dog?

As for the team news, well, we’re a bit like The Rocket pub on Holloway Road with about an hour to go before kick off on a Saturday lunchtime. One-in, one-out. The return of Koscienly is great to hear – especially as he comes into the squad – but his return is tempered by the fact that we have to rely on 19-year-old Martinez in the sticks against Dortmund again, as Szczesny is out. Hopefully it is just a short-term injury that will see him return at the weekend.

Actually, we’re nothing like the Rocket, because we’re more like ‘one-in, three-out’, with Wilshere and Walcott all sitting on the sidelines again. Who knows, maybe we’ll get to see Theo for more than ten minutes before the end of the season, eh? Wouldn’t that be nice?

Still, at least we’ve got Welbeck to offer the pace up front, which…what? He’s a doubt too you say? Well isn’t that just a delight? Still, at least we’ve got Sanogo to not score any goals up front tonight, because we can’t rely on Giroud due to his ineligibility. Seriously, only Arsenal could be gripped in the midst of an injury crisis, and a player who could slot in back to the team can’t make it because he isn’t registered. I don’t blame the club at all in this instance; how on earth were they to know he’d heal extra quick from a broken leg? I’m more exacerbated by the fact that we finally – after what seems like a decade of ‘three-weeks away’ players suffering ‘little bit setback’s, we get one returning from injury early and he can’t even play!?!?

Do you think Arsène Wenger smashed a black cat crossing his path, with a mirror whilst walking across three drains, after the 2005 cup final? Because it feels like it after the perpetual bad luck we constantly seem to face.

Dortmund have their own problems too mind, with Reus out until January and league form which belies their actual quality, shown by the fact they’ve absolutely walked this Champions League group. Klopp is still adored by the yellow army, who are sure to be in fine voice this evening, so I do wonder what the Dortmund mentality will be tonight. They are almost tailor-made to sucker-punch us this evening. A counter-attacking side, who don’t have to come out, because they’ve already qualified? Against a side who were toothless at the weekend and done over by two counter-attacking goals from three chances in a whole match at the weekend just gone? It’s a horror story whose predictability will strike fear into every Gooner watching from anywhere in the world tonight.

I fear how low this Arsenal team can go if we lose tonight. I fear that our season could be one for which even the perennial fight for fourth is over before Christmas. We’re not winning games, we have a seemingly endless list of injuries and, I’m sorry, but we have a manager that has dented my confidence in him so much I’m not sure if he can recover.

I hope he does. I want to say I was wrong in May as we lift a trophy and have turned around our season to finish third. But right now, I just don’t believe it’s possible, so I’m not hopeful for tonight.

Like I said at the beginning of the blog, United hit me harder than I thought. Football can always have a quick turn around and I could be loving Arsène again within months, but I don’t see it right now. Sorry.

C

Injuries abating, history fears not

So, Le Boss hath spoken, decreeing that we have no new injury concerns ahead of this weekend’s massive game against United. In fact, the injury situation doesn’t seem as terrifying as it has been over the past month, as players are beginning to return. As usual with The Arsenal, players are returning in all of the positions that we are currently well stocked in but hey, beggars, choosers, etc.

It might have only been a brief update to the official site, but it was still welcome to get Arsène’s ‘all clear’ on some players. Arteta, for example, will be needed in the base of that midfield if Flamini’s recent performances are anything to go by. The tenacity and cardiness of our Gallic enforcer still seems to be there in his system, but Flamini seems to have lost positional sense and his ability to find another red (or yellow) shirt of late, so the metronomic movements of Tricky Micky will be welcome for our back four.

We may still see a duet of the Flamster and Arteta just in front of the back four, to provide extra cover against the obvious attacking threat United possess, but at least if a scenario like the one that led to the first Swansea goal two weeks ago happens, we know that Mikel is taking down an oncoming player closer to the centre spot.

The other good news is that Giroud will be back, which will certainly please Aaron Ramsey of all people, who thrived from his hold up play last season. It would be remiss of me to suggest that Rambo is not versatile enough to perform without the big Frenchman, but there’s no doubt he profits from Olivier’s place at the top of the field. It will probably be a few weeks before he’s ready to effectively challenge Welbeck for a starting spot, but just seeing him in the squad will be a welcome boost, not least because it will push poor old Sanogo further down the pecking list. I feel for the fella, but he’s not at Arsenal level yet and without games he never will be, so Arsène needs to January loan his ass to another club. Preferably in the Premier League. After all, he only needs to watch Match of the Day to do his scouting. Plus, we’ll save a few pounds on travel expenses if he stays in this country. No need for booking flights for any of Steve Rowley’s crew then, you see.

Anyway, back to the team and thankfully both Kos and Debuchy are out and about running. Arsène still thinks it’s three weeks but the fact that Kos is actually alive is pleasing to hear. We’ve had both Vermaelen and Rosicky in recent past disappear for injuries expected to be a couple of weeks, only to see them gone for an entire season, so I’m sure you’ll join me in breathing a huge sigh of relief there. The sooner we can get the first choice back four together, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

What was interesting about yesterday’s update, I thought, was that there was no mention of Welbeck. Perhaps that’s because there was no need to. After all, Woy said he was fine and if Arsène doesn’t even feel the need to mention it, surely it’s a non-story, right? RIGHT?? I hope so. But the trouble with supporting this club is that usually ‘surprises’ don’t fall into the ‘nice’ category. They usually fall into the ‘dropped your car keys into a poo-encrusted toilet so now you have to since when you dip your hand in there’ category. I’m trying to stay positive. Welbeck will be fit. If I have to avoid three-drained manhole covers all day between now and the game tomorrow evening I will. I’ll do it I tells ya!

So, finally, before I wrap up for the day I thought I’d give you a little ‘heads up’. I am terrified about tomorrow. I’m terrified because at home, against the poorest United side in my living memory, with the injuries they have, we’ve never had a better chance of picking up three points. Yet I’m terrified because we never seem to get the run of the green against that lot. I think back to 99, when we’ve dicked on United and gone down to a wonder goal after Bergkamp missed a penalty, or two when Owen Hargreaves (of all people! He could barely walk for most of his United career) scored that free kick after we’d outplayed them in their own back garden. Or when Almunia and Diaby’s 50p head caused a 2-1 defeat that I witnessed live in the flesh. Or when Sagna went for a meaningless challenge two seasons ago that cost us three points. Or even last season’s 0-0 bore draw. Every time we come up against United we rarely have the beating of them. We’ve had one win in 14 since 2009. I’ve been a season ticket holder for six years and I’ve never seen us beat United (I was away for the Ramsey goal that got us our only win in that time). That’s why I’m terrified. I’m terrified because of history. Because history is rarely kind to The Arsenal. History against United is the person that unscrews the salt pot so you spill all of your salt on your dinner and can’t enjoy it. That history is one in which I am haunted.

I fear another haunting. I fear us totally dominating and losing. Or drawing. Another draw. Don’t let it happen Arsenal. Please.

Anyway, more of my terror tomorrow. Adios for now.

The teenage dreamer still burns bright.

Chris asked me to write 50 words on ‘What’s wrong with Arsenal’, it’s surprisingly hard. I was torn between a few avenues to go down. So I closed my eyes and pointed. Have a go and send them to me, I’d like to hear your take – Here’s my attempt. As you can see, I cheated. and I’m not sorry.

I’m not.

The key problem with all of Arsène’s squads, post-Highbury, is a lack of standout character(s), to compensate for Arsène’s ‘Wengerball’ philosophy. Recently reading Amy Lawrence’s Invincible (A must buy); that side simply lived and breathed on the will to win and push one another to that required level. I appreciate it isn’t the best example because it’s probably the greatest Arsenal team you or I will ever see – but you get the idea – losing simply wasn’t an option.

Re-reading that ‘The greatest team’ debate, it is obviously down to preference. Many would throw the 1990-91 side into the hat, but it all depends on what generation you’re from and I suppose the key component is nostalgia and your resounding memories. Tim Stillman recently wrote a marvellous piece on nostalgia, take a look if you haven’t seen it. You’ll enjoy it.

I feel this is a very important subject that won’t go away, and to be honest, I’m not willing to face, because it’s close to my heart. Like pulling a plaster, do it quickly, or it’ll happen in the shower when you least expect it. I suppose it’s become a more acceptable subject to discuss. Previously if you mentioned it you’d be lynched for such blasphemy. It’s, as you’ve probably guessed it, the manager and his future.

I was at the Hull game and as I was funnelling out amongst the disappointed home fans, two gentlemen starting singing “Arsssseeeeennnnneeee out, we want Arsène out”. Then they went onto slagging off Puma (which seemed bizarre, but who am I to judge?). Everybody near me looked very uncomfortable with the situation and hung their heads. Another man nearby replied “You’re on your oooowwwwnnn, you’re on your ooowwwwnn!” Which made a few people smirk. So I suspect I’m not the only one who feels uncomfortable about discussing it or making their opinions known. But I quietly got to a point last year where I was in the ‘Win the FA Cup, take a bow, be lauded for everything you’ve done…have a glass of red on the beach. You’ve deserved it’ camp. That sentiment has changed this season and we have experienced somewhat of a watershed moment. Tim Clarke (Arse2Mouse) described it as – When you realise your father, your hero, the great untouchable man you thought he was, see cry for the first time and it hits you, he’s just a normal bloke trying to find his way. I’d like to add that I think at that moment you love him more because you realise what he has actually achieved along the way.

I felt that way because the general consensus amongst the majority of the fan base (being at the ground, chatting with friends, social media, etc) seemed to want him to go. Initially, at that point for me it was unthinkable, because the young impressionable dreamer in me wouldn’t allow that Arsène poster to be taken down.

Our fan base had been spilt for a while now and I don’t think a new manager, success or not, will change that instantly. But back to Arsène – unless he wins something major and we break that glass ceiling, instead of rubbing our faces on it, opinions won’t change.

So, this season, where do we begin? We are a mess. Like leaving your toddler with a crayon & he creates a masterpiece in your hall. (I haven’t done this…or maybe I have done this…). There are lots of conversations about conceding the title in November, but the reality is that we were never in the title this season. I don’t want to be that guy that brings up the lack of transfers, etc, etc, but that (the lack of activity in key areas) killed any hope we had. I think it’s bizarre that that people thought we’d have any chance? If the activity wasn’t enough evidence then surely Martinez pulling down our pants at Goodison (again) was a clearer message, no?

As I mentioned above, unless Arsène has a certain quality of player, his management will struggle, when it really matters. His dream and vision is an ideology, not a coaching style, and that will only take you so far. Patrick Vieira has said it’s his biggest strength and his biggest weakness. I admire him for it but his dream is (has) slowly strangling him.

I’m not really enjoying writing this as Arsène has taken Arsenal to some unbelievable heights, but it has been fading for a number of years now. He’s making simply perplexing decisions, some that I’m starting to hate him for. Going into a season with one real centre forward option, not signing a centre half, passing up on Cesc Fabregas (I’ve taken that very badly, as you can probably tell). I understand all the variables for the decision(s) on Cesc but I was in the ‘buy what we need, and begrudgingly leave Cesc’ camp. I understand ALL the dynamics, but he did neither.

We currently live on this completely different level of frustration, like spraining your wrist and trying to cut a steak (I haven’t done this… or have I have done this…). If you take everything into account, success is a real possibility for us but we seem to squander it in ludicrous fashion every year. To be honest, this could all be down to the unbeaten season curse. I’d be ok with that, Ha!

The skill of a great manager is to build a team which plays in a way that it becomes more than the sum of its parts. Unfortunately we have more this season yet we are well below his par. I feel for him because injuries have haunted us for years. If I had one wish for Arsène it would be a season free of major injuries. Then it would be a great gauge on how he handles his squad.

The injuries have killed us for years but not compensating is probably the biggest deficiency. Something very obvious, if a team play often with one another in training and matches then they get to know each other better, sequences become more automatic. They become everything Arsène’s play is based on. If our players played together for longer periods, we would be better as a side, which I know is a really ‘no sh*t Sherlock way of thinking, but sometimes you need to say things things out loud to realise.

Our form this year has been poor. For a few reasons: Injuries, which prevent rotation; change in direction, to try to build cohesion. We’ve seen that in our low intensity (bizarre) pressing, it’s all a sign of a lack of harmony. If we could keep players fit it would give Arsène the ability to switch things up, rotate when needed instead of playing out of form players.

I guess I’m just trying to come to the terms with is accepting the inevitability of it – him leaving, whether that’s the end of this year or the end of his contract. Without going into it, it’s going to really hurt. Crying into a pillow kind of hurt. Staring out the window watching the rain pissing down screaming “WHY?!” As you eat ice cream, kinda hurt.

One thing for sure is, it’s not working now, and it doesn’t look like it will in the near future. This whole ‘success’ thingy we all want? I have to be honest, I don’t think the league is a real possibility for us with, or without Arsène. I think what’s wanted, and possibly what is actually needed, is fresh eyes.

Hearing Arsène being interviewed on beIN sport recently. Everything he says is spell bounding. I get caught up in his genius. I could listen to him forever and a day. He still makes me dream for that happy ending. My young impressionable dreamer side always barges in and says ‘give him time to build that side, win the Champions League before you go, complete your journey’. I hope he’s working towards a smooth transition. That’s the direction I believe the Arsenal wheels are turning. But deep down, I hope Arsène is still doing what he does best, which is to dream.

Cheers for reading,

Be happy,

Ben.