Wenger’s reunion can wait, our season is defined in the next few weeks

A reunion is on the cards in the New Year for our manager, as he finally, for the first time in his career, re-visits Monaco (in a proper competition) to square off against his old club. Yep, yesterday we got all the luck of the Irish as we were drawn against the easiest possible opponents that we were going to get in the next round, although as with everything in life we know that it won’t be easy when the matches eventually come around.

Just look at what happened to us when we played PSV all those years ago. we were probably the better team in both legs, yet our own profligacy cost us our space in the next round. So as much as we can view this tie as the best possible chance of progression we could have hoped for, the job still needs to be done both in London and the French principality.

Monaco got through their group having scored four goals. That’s pretty impressive in its poorness if we’re all honest. They have been forced to sell their star striker to some team based in the North of this country, and I believe I’m right in saying that they look a little like a spent force in the French league as well. We are hardly ripping up trees, but based on the respective quality of the English and French leagues, you’d expect us to be able to handle what they can throw at us.

There also seems to be some sort of cruel irony that Dortmund, who topped our group, have got one of the hardest group winner ties, as they go to Turin to square off against the current Italian Champions. Juventus won’t be an easy tie for them, but we needn’t concern ourselves with either side at this stage.

What we need to concern ourselves with it the run of games that takes place over the next couple of weeks that I think could define our season. Certainly if we want to be in Europe’s elite competition next year. With so many matches coming thick and fast, stringing together a series of wins can propel you from stuttering giants to steamrolling juggernauts, providing you have the right level of application. Oh, and it helps if you have any players fit to play as well, I suppose. This season we’ve certainly not been able to field our best eleven more often than not, but the Christmas period offers a slither of hope that we will not be the only ones. Think about it this way: our team are used to picking up injuries and we’ve learned that we have to muddle through somehow, unsuccessfully at times, I know. But it will come as no surprise to our players to be playing two games in a week and so one would hope that we’d better equipped to play three games in a week in comparison to those other teams at the top that haven’t had the same level of intensity so quickly. I am, of course, talking about the West Ham’s, Swansea’s and Southampton’s of this season. All have had good runs in the league up until this point, but with points coming so quickly and with inevitable injuries creeping up, the name of the Christmas game is rotation and it will be interesting to see how easily those teams can pick up wins with the level of squad rotation all teams probably need when you play three games in a week.

Perhaps I am clutching at straws a little bit, but I suspect we’ll start to see some teams falling away. That is not to suggest that we won’t drop points by the way; we’ve seen how easy we seem to have done so this season, but I just think that now is the time for us to assert our dominance on the rest of the division. We must start picking up wins and ideally, we need to do it next weekend against Liverpool. I was chatting to a Liverpool fan yesterday who was convinced we would smash them at Anfield, but I found myself needing to remind him that we are The Arsenal, that we give hope to those that have none at times. I hope I am proved wrong next weekend and we do smash them, because it will set us up for a massive Christmas. Think about it, a win away to Anfield, followed up by a win at home to QPR, would then put us in a fantastic frame of mind to take on a high confidence West Ham side that will fancy their chances at home. We need to be ending their hopes of Champions League football, then following that up by doing the same to Southampton. Maximum points over Christmas is probably more than we could realistically expect to get, but there’s no harm in dreaming at this stage of the season, is there?

As for the  rest of the Arsenal related news, it’s lots of interviews with players talking about emphatic responses for the Newcastle game, etc, etc. I understand that players with microphones thrust in front of them at the heat of the moment will be naturally buoyant after such a great performance, but I feel a little immune to their comments these days. We’ve heard it all before so many times, that all that really matters is what they say with their feet. And credit to them, you’re only as good as your last game and in the last game they were excellent. They just need to replicate that high intensity against the scousers next weekend.

I think I’ll call it a\ day for now. more tomorrow as we approach a crucial game/time in our season.

Get out of Birthday Jail Card used

Last night Arsène Wenger must have played his invisible ‘Birthday Get Out Of Jail’ card, because after what we all watched in Belgian last night, there are not many people who have a physical or emotional stake in the club that will argue that we didn’t get quite fortunate, by picking up the 2-1 win.

I suppose the counter-argument is that fortune would be a back pass that the ‘keeper shanks into his own net, where as our goals were entirely of our own making through our play, but if you watched the game in the same way I did I’m sure you’d agree too that we were fortunate.

We never ever really got going. Perhaps the warning signs were there early on, when Santi was fed a delightful ball by the stand-out performer Alexis, only for the Spaniard to shin one right into row z. In the opening exchanges of a game you think to yourself as a fan “that’s ok, it’s good we’re getting into those positions, so we’ll get another chance”, but you don’t expect to see the opponent ‘keeper not worked for the vast duration of the game thereafter.

Some way through the second half, it occurred to me that this felt very much like the Hull game, which was a real worry. We were laboured, lacklustre and lethargic all rolled into one and the quick interchanges of passing between players that has typified Arsène Wenger teams done the years just wasn’t there. I pointed out to The Management how static we were part-way through the second half. As if to help me prove my point, I was able to show her six passes in a row that were to players standing still. Successful football teams move into spaces, create gaps, pull teams apart and work at creating openings to fashion chances. I saw none of that for the duration of yesterday’s match from Arsenal players. Paul Merson had said at half time that it was as if none of the Arsenal players wanted the ball. For a change, I agreed with him.

The goal we conceded felt to me as if lessons had clearly not been learnt from the weekend. Another floated ball into the middle, another defender caught under the flight (this time it was Chambers), another half-decent header from a half-decent attacking player. DeJa Vu and Arsenal another goal down to a side that we really should have been out of sight against.

Let’s be honest, I don’t want to seem like I’m being disingenuous to our opponents of the evening, but that was a distinctly average Champions League side that we came across yesterday. You could tell from their build up play and potency in the final third that they were not a side that would trouble 95% of teams in the competition. But they troubled us. They troubled us quite a lot actually.

Midfield was virtually anonymous I have to say. Yes, the defence was at fault for us going behind, but our midfield had an evening to forget. Jack and Rambo hardly impacted the game at all and, whilst he has come back from injury only recently, I hope that it was his lay-off that caused another average display from Ramsey and not a sign of a dip in form. We want to see the Ramsey from last season, not a regression into the player that tried flicks and long passes to the frustration of everybody. Again, let’s put it down to regaining his fitness for now, but I didn’t see any real penetration from the midfield. There are a lot of people in the media world that wonder what Özil does, but without wanting to put an injured player on a pedestal, that is exactly the sort of game we needed him in. I saw about three or four very good forward runs throughout the game in which it only needed a good pass from a player with vision to see, but instead we chose the simple five yard sideways pass and chose to build up play slowly again. Mesut Özil is a great player because he sees those types of passes, and it was that cutting edge from a player with vision that we missed last night.

But for all of this anguish, for all of my assertions in other blogs recently that we have not ‘clicked’, perhaps I should give a smidgen of credit to the players for ultimately securing a vital victory that one hopes is essential in rebuilding what appears to be a fragile level of confidence amongst the players. The goal from Gibbs was an absolute pearler and Lukas Podolski showed exactly what he is – an absolutely deadly finisher – Benjy and Steve had to be virtually broken apart via Whatsapp last night!

So the job is done and the wounds are minor and repairable. But there needs to be a vastly improved performance against Sunderland on Saturday afternoon.

See you tomorrow.

 

Anderlecht preview: Victory to build momentum

Champions League Matchday 3 sees us make the short trip along the Eurostar to Belgium, where we line up to face Anderlecht tonight. But before I go into some thoughts on the game, a little rant, if I may…

This morning I was up early driving back from the inlaws (Management has broken her wrist and so she is being ferried to and from her work by Senior Management) when I heard full chapter and verse about the “amazing atmosphere at Anfield tonight. The Real Madrid players will have played all over the world, but this will be special” and I wondered ‘is there any other club that enjoys so much hyperbole thrown at it in relation to atmosphere as much as Liverpool?’. I would love to see what Liverpool do differently to us when we’ve entertained Bayern or Barca in the past. I’d wager little. But this media soft-spot for Liverpool is borderline nausea-inducing.

Anyway, moving swiftly on and towards all things Arsenal, who face a tricky – but not insurmountable – away trip to Anderlecht. It’s been made all the more testing by the fact we’re missing both first and second choice ‘keepers, as well as our first choice centre half and right back. It will mean a somewhat unfamiliar and rather raw look about our back five this evening, but even so this is a game that Arsenal really have to be looking at to win tonight.

If it’s true what Arsène says, that 10 points is a minimum target that usually achieves progression into the next stage of the competition, then this is the sort of game that can help to put a foot in the door of the next round. An away win followed by a home victory against the. Belgian champions will leave us with nine points and will probably mean that a draw in our final two games will at least see us progress. Of course we want to win the group, but qualification is the first hurdle to try to overcome. Defeat, or even a draw, will probably mean that we have to beat Dortmund at home and that is by no means a given seeing as we’ve already been beaten by them once this season and defeated last season on home soil.

But let’s not be fooled into thinking that we’ll sweep aside Anderlecht tonight. They will be in the mood for an upset and, having seen Arsenal labour the point on Saturday, I’m sure they will be looking at Hull’s performance and thinking they should be able to get something from the game. We are yet to fully fire on all cylinders in any competition (even against Galatasaray and Villa there were cracks) and that will give enough fuel for their belief.

I’ll confess that I have very little frame of reference when it comes to tonight’s opponents, as the Belgian League is not one that makes my ‘must see’ list. Save for Anthony Van Den Borre (once of Portsmouth) and Stefan Defour (not bad on Football Manager), I know few of their players and am not sure of the style of football the ‘Purple and White’ will produce tonight. But without wanting to be accused of the type of arrogance that is labelled at Wenger when he doesn’t analyse an opponent, I suspect that we’ll see a team that will want to start the game quite tight, keep Arsenal at bay for the first 15 minutes, then up the tempo gradually as they build their confidence.

Of course, because I do little research of note on our opponents, I could be completely wrong and we could see them try to catch us off-guard by coming flying out of the box. Our defeats to Dortmund this season, Chelski and Liverpool last season, we’re built on a foundation of speed and blitzing us in the first 15 minutes, so if Anderlecht do adopt that tactic it could stun us enough to leave us as docile as a sloth. At the weekend after both goals we looked a little shell-shocked for at least ten minutes after each goal, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Anderlecht managed tell his players to adopt the same tactic.

Of course that is not without it’s risks. Last season saw an Arsenal side that could be pressed high from the front to the back without fear our quick counter attacks. This season we have injected notable pace in Welbeck and Alexis and playing a high line to squeeze space between attack and midfield, as well as midfield and defence, would leave a lot of grass for our forward players to play with.

So whilst our back four will have a makeshift feel about it, the attacking side of the team will look a lot more polished, certainly on paper anyway. They may have looked rather lacklustre on Saturday, but the Champions League often brings a more expansive brand of football to it, so you’d hope that we can find more space for midfield and attack in tonight’s game than we did in the Premier League at the weekend.

Although Walcott is back, there’s no way he’d start (I probably should have checked to see if he’s in the squad, but my internet connection on my phone has just gone down as I’ve just entered a tunnel, so I’m out of options there!) tonight after such a lengthy injury, so I think we’ll see Alexis, Welbeck and The Ox as our most forward-lying players, with Santi, Jack and perhaps Arteta playing in the middle of the park. Arsène could go for Ramsey and Wilshere if he thinks that we’ll spend most of the game on the front foot, but with a rather youthful looking defence (Chambers will surely come in for Monreal), I think Arsène will consider giving the captain the nod in the hope that there is more protection for the back four.

Tonight is a game that could prove quite significant. After stuttering at the weekend, victory tonight will ensure we to into this weekend’s game against Sunderland off the back of victory and hopefully some added confidence. We have a run of winnable games (in theory) and we need to start building momentum now.

Come on you reds!

We wait on Debuchy; but not on Jack – why squad rotation is important

Morning friend, I hope you are well, recovering from the horrific prospect that after one game against a frankly awful QPR Man United are ‘back’ and ready to win every single game between now and the end of time? I’m certainly fearful of their awesomeness in every position. I mean, how will they ever concede again with the defensive solidity of Blackheart, Jones and Evans in their team? Football will become a boring repetition of 4-0 wins every week between now and the end of existence. Oh, woe is us, for life will never be the same!

Of course, the truth is a lot more palatable to stomach, which is that as the commentators on Sky Sports said yesterday that QPR were the perfect opponents to play at home after a series of poor results in the league. They were abysmal and I’d love to say that I can’t wait until they rock up at The Emirates, but you and I both know they’ll be disciplined, tough to break down and with a ‘keeper that decides to have the game of his life when we play them. It’s how things seem to happen in this universe.

The Arsenal chatter is understandably all about Mathieu Debuchy today, with the variation upon the theme being dependent on how long he will be out for, although the diagnosis from the journos appear to be that it’s ligament damage. Depending on who you believe there looks to be between two to three months out injured, which kind of figures, but there won’t be a better indication of the exact time for a few days I expect. Debuchy himself stated on his Facebook page that it was not a fracture and he was having further medical tests today, so I suspect it will be a pre or post match response from a prompt from Arsene that will give us an idea of his time on the sidelines.

If it does turn out to be about two months, it puts massive pressure on Chambers until December and with only Bellerin behind him in the pecking order, highlights just how ridiculous it is that Arsene has failed to fully address our overall options at cover in defence. There will be a lot of pressure on the first team defensive players and with our injury record even so far this season looking terrible (I think I saw somebody say that we have picked up an injury in every game this season or something crazy like that), you can almost certainly envisage a time in which we are down to Harry Redknappesque ‘bare bones’ between now and Christmas.

But let’s not get too caught up in the ‘what if’s at the moment, because there is the small matter of our opening Champions League game tomorrow night, a game in which we once again lock horns with Dortmund who themselves appear to have a bit of an injury crisis going on too. More on that tomorrow, but I’m just pleased the game has come ona Tuesday instead of a Wednesday, because I’m still not too sure whether or not I’m happy about a draw against the Champions on our own turf, as I mentioned yesterday. So the quicker I can put that result to the back of my mind the better.

One person who I’m sure will be starting will be Jack Wilshere and, with Arsene singing his praises about answering his critics, his performance on Saturday is exactly why I hope that we get better at using squad rotation this season. My view is that you can’t have the same 11 players playing the best football every game throughout the season. Footballers are human and are prone to off days, as Aaron Ramsey showed at the weekend, so for me it is important that you ensure that players are rotated enough so that they have enough game time under their belts to pick up where others are unable too, which is why seeing jack step up in the absence of a good performance from Ramsey, was so great to see. I love that Jack is one of ours, that he’s an Arsenal youth product and that he’s English, but if I’m honest I just want to see 11 players in an Arsenal shirt playing well and winning matches. That’s what counts and if that means that they all have to come from Venezuela, Bogotá or Singapore, I don’t really care as long as The Arsenal are on top.

So for me, the most important thing about Jack having that game is that we know that he can be relied on to take the game by the scruff of the neck, that he is getting back to somewhere near the player we saw before his numerous injuries set in, that we have a guy who is going to shine. And who can begrudge him a lot of praise after some of the drubbings he’s had from the media about both on and off-field activities. Hopefully we see a another sound game tomorrow night that will require the likes of Paul Scholes to stick it in his pipe and light one up on it.

That’s pretty much it from me for this Monday. You make sure that your world is filled with goodness, which for me, usually means logging on to Arsenal.com every once in a while during the day.

Catch you tomorrow.

The striker issue isn’t black and white

Howdy there you, hope you’re doing hunky doory, if that’s even how you spell that??

Yesterday I had a bit of a ‘life is different to back then’ moment, so I thought I’d bring myself back in to the here and now and reflect on Arsene’s presser yesterday and the Champions League draw, which will once again see us pit our wits against Borussia Dortmund, whilst also taking on Galatasaray and Anderlecht. It’s no surprise that Chelski got a buy into the group stages, but in all fairness we can be pretty happy with our lot given that, the Germans aside, it’s a group that we should be looking to qualify from. It would be nice if we could go through as group winners for a change, so one would expect that the head-to-head against BVB will be a decider on who tops the group. The first game will be at Dortmund in a couple of weeks time, so it’s up to the team to try to replicate the 1-0 victory in Dortmund last season to get us off to a flying start.

In the meantime, there is a game this weekend against Leicester and then the small matter of a home game against the reigning champions, so there’s plenty of time for us to get into our rhythm before the Champions League starts. Not. It’s fair to say that we haven’t exactly hit the ground running as yet, but with the injuries having a part to play in the stuttering beginning to the season (unusual for us as we have tended to always start strongly and fade away towards the end of campaigns), we need to start clicking into gear and doing so quickly. That comes with matches, with new players being able to bed in and with established players finding their form, so this weekend’s game against newly promoted opposition represents a chance to lay down a marker. More on suspected team line ups tomorrow, but Arsene did confirm that both Arteta and Gibbs will continue to be missing until after the International break, which will mean Monreal and the Flamster continue to deputise.

We all know about Giroud and his long-term absence, so it was not really a surprise when Arsene was once again quizzed about finding a replacement up top. He, as would be expected, extolled the virtues of the talent he already has available in Sanchez, Walcott, Podolski, Campbell and Sanogo. Later on, I think in an interview which wasn’t part of the afternoon presser, he stated that there were too many strikers and he would only look to bring another one in if one went out. Whilst there will be those that will wonder whether that means a potential loan move for the raw Sanogo, or a permanent move for the clearly unflavoured Podolski, I suspect that the comment was designed to explain to the masses that Arsene really isn’t looking for another forward at all. Further evidence to this school of thinking can be found in the words of the BBC’s David Ornstein, who has always been seen as somewhat of an unofficial mouthpiece for the club, as he confirmed that Arsenal are after a centre-half or defensive midfielder.

Whilst my initial reaction to Arsene’s assertion that he has enough strikers and that only ‘top,top top quality’ would do (although I must question this definition given that Gervinho managed two seasons at the club) was to be slightly aggrieved, upon some reflection about the possible options out there, I could kind of understand where Arsene is coming from. Giroud’s injury is certainly a big blow and we will no doubt feel his absence, but his absence is something that we all feel needs to be replaced with somebody for the here and now, and therein lies our problem. There are plenty of names being kicked around amongst arsenal fans, but the reality is that any player coming from any league other than an English one, will need time to bed in, which is time we simply don’t have. Just look at Sanchez; he is still finding his feet, still needing to hone his radar so that he latches on to Ozil passes, etc. Any new player brought in from another league is going to go through the exact same process. So we are effectively back to square one because we don’t address the here and now in terms of finding a goalscorer instantly.

“But what about finding one from the Premier League?” I can almost hear you say, but again, I’m not sure what other options are out there that will be suitable for our style of play and the way Arsene is setting up his team. Remy and Bony are names that come to mind, but both are different to Giroud as strikers, so if at the moment we are looking at finding somebody to fit our existing style, then they won’t work. The truth of the matter is that there aren’t really many Giroud-style replacements out there – certainly not in the Premier League – that you and I would see as worthy upgrades. So it does leave the manager in a bit of a quandary as to what to do. Unless his plan is to change the attacking philosophy, to which I think Tim Stillman put the most eloquently in his blog on Thursday this week over at Arseblog Towers. If the plan to adapt the style is therefore needing to be accelerated, I would have to wonder if, actually, Arsene is right, and we do have enough players up top when Walcott arrives. The only caveat I’d place on this however, is that Walcott is an injury prone forward and if he breaks down again, we’re back to square one, with a lack of pace up top and a reliance on Sanchez to bed in a lot quicker in his debut season.

I don’t really ever pertain to have any answers, I’m just an observer, but what I do know is that we need to start hitting top form soon if we want to win that all-elusive Premier League trophy. I know that in some sense Arsene is right – it’s not always clear cut – not always black and white when it comes to football systems and finding players from other clubs that can fit neatly into the right gaps that Arsenal have in their team. There is a balance to be found and players to fit systems, but just because a player like Remy, for example, looks good in a Newcastle or QPR shirt, doesn’t always mean he’ll automatically fit in at Arsenal and bag 15 goals in the first half of the season.

That’s all from me on that today I’m afraid. Things to do and all of this pondering is giving me a headache. Cheerio folks. until tomorrow.

Maintaining momentum before the season definer

And that’s yer lot for another season. 38 games in which we’ve seen highs, as well as experienced some pretty lows, drew to a close yesterday as our league campaign finished with a final three points of 2013/14 against a Norwich team that had clearly had just about all the emotional stuffing knocked out of them when Sunderland were all but mathematically confirmed to have survived the drop by beating West Brom in midweek.

As for us, our season does not quite end just yet as we all know, so the importance of victory and maintaining momentum should probably be recognised, despite my dismissive pre-match blog yesterday. The team showed us that there was no way they were going to be delivering anything else but a professional and controlled game and by all accounts managed to restrict Norwich to a couple of chances throughout the match.

That it was Fabianski who received the nod ahead of Szczesny, who stood in between the sticks to receive the couple of Norwich chances, was just one of a number of debates we had last night with the Goonerholic on the penultimate SG Pod of the season. With much social media whisperings of disappointment that Szczesny didn’t receive the chance to win the Golden Glove (as ‘holic pointed out – most probably hadn’t heard of before yesterday), the same people began murmurings that it would mean the younger of the two Pole’s would get the nod next weekend. Personally I don’t think the appearance of Fabianski will equate to a dead certainty that Szcz will start – life, and certainly Arsene’s thinking, is not that linear – but I do think it was Arsene’s way of giving a Premier League send off to Fabianski. He’s won a lot of people over with his performances this season (when he’s played) and even last season when he came in for Wojciech, but that injury he had which effectively gave Szczesny the chance to regain his place last season, probably spelt the beginning of the end for his time as an Arsenal player.

With the news coming from Camp Sagna (no, he’s not decided to come out of the closet in the most mincing of fashions) that he will most likely not be at the club next season, it was also the Frenchman’s opportunity to call time on his Premier League Arsenal career with a good performance, to which he certainly seemed to do so with an assured display at centre half. There’s no doubt we’ll miss him and his ability to win headers against guys that sometimes seem a foot taller than him. It’s a shame the two parties couldn’t come to agreement but it’s hard not to wish both him and Fabianski all the best in their future careers. Unless they sign for Premier League clubs. Then I want nothing but misery for them.

But the real superlatives of today’s blog have to be reserved for that Welshman Ramsey who scored arguably one of the goals of the season. His right foot rocket hit first time on the volley was a thing of beauty from a player that finishes off his season in exactly the same way that he started it. He has been both the most improved and overall best player of the seasons for me and you can’t help but wonder what might have been if he’d have stayed fit. I mean, think about it: a stonking first half of the season and then missing a third of the season through injury, before returning to the team in the same form as when he left. It’s hard not to think he’d have broken the 20 league goal point if he’d have managed to avoid a spell on the sidelines. If you fancy a cheeky pound on a first goalscorer next weekend, with his form at the moment, you’d be hard pressed to get better value than Rambo right now.

There was even the opportunity for Carl Jenkinson to write a little bit of his own history by popping up with his first ever Arsenal goal and, if you ever want to know what your face would look like if you were to score a goal to Arsenal, just Google or search for a Vine of The Corporal’s yesterday. Great stuff.

Just before I wrap up for the day and start to look towards the FA Cup final, a quick word on Giroud, who also had a good game yesterday by all accounts. He’s a real confidence player if ever there was one and so after another good display against the Canaries, it’s good to know we’ll have a central striker feeling pretty darn good about himself going in to what has essentially become the decider on whether or not our season ticks the ‘met expectations’ or the ‘exceeded expectations’ box on the end of year report. Let’s hope it’s the latter.

That’s it from me today. I’ll see thee in the morrow.

Oh and congrats to City for ‘winning’ the league. Maybe.

Financial Farce Play

Howdy y’all.

Welcome to Saturday, a day in which there’s yet again no Arsenal of which to speak of, but there was a press conference for the manager yesterday. He spoke of a few issues, including who’s fit for tomorrow, the impact of too many managers changing their jobs and of course, Financial Fair Play (FFP). You’ll have to forgive me for today’s blog, because i’m going to go a little bit ranty because it’s that final topic that I want to focus on.

It should be renamed to Financial Farce Play. But I suspect we all knew that anyway. This week UEFA engaged with nine clubs that they have stated have effectively broken FFP and have put the sanctions to these clubs before publicly making announcements next week.

So next week we will essentially find out how effective FFP is to control the excessive overspending of money that football teams do not generate themselves. That this list of nine clubs has been whittled down from the original 76 UEFA had previously announced should raise some eyebrows. I for one would be very interested to find out what the criteria is for the 67 clubs that were originally being investigated to be dropped, but transparency in football governing bodies is like asking for the cats around where I live to stop dropping their fecal matter on my black and white graveled front garden. You can shout all you like, they either don’t understand you, or won’t listen to you anyway.

The likelihood is that we’ll never really know what type of investigation was conducted.

The second issue that must have the football world scratching their head is why UEFA have deciding to negotiate with these clubs as part of this process. Supposedly, UEFA have spent this week talking to the clubs in question asking them to accept their punishment, or appeal. I can understand this. It’s a little like the plea before the trial – guilty or not guilty – will need to be the response of the clubs and UEFA will know whether or not it will need to get together the evidence for a trial or whether the admission of guilt from the clubs will allow UEFA to dish out it’s ‘sanctions’ without fear of a long and drawn out contesting period. I understand the process and it seems logical, but why the secretive nature of the discussions? If UEFA have identified the clubs, engaged with these clubs to find out their ‘plea’ this week, do the clubs deserve anonymity?

Is it UEFA covering their own arses in case they’ve got a Club Financial Control Body that have trouble counting? I know i’m being slightly facetious here, but if a club is about to be charged with breaking the rules in some way, why do UEFA have to negotiate with them first? Surely the most transparent way of conducting this exercise is to announce who the clubs are, give them an opportunity to respond to state if they are innocent and present the evidence. By keeping it so secretive it merely adds fuel to the cynicism of the footballing world in my opinion.

This is where the cynic in me also comes to the fore, winning over any other part of my cerebrum and immediately telling me there’s something fishy going on. I suspect the only ‘negotiation’ is to decide how much money it is going to take to get these Sugar Daddy reliant clubs to Carry On Camping, so to speak. UEFA are as corrupt as FIFA and if their only intention of FFP is to impose fines on clubs where money is no object, they make a mockery of the entire system. You might as well tax a Saharan Desert Nomad by taking some of his sand from him.

Arsene was asked his stance on this yesterday and whilst I can be as brazen as possible in my opinions, he must be more measured in his approach. His response was to say that if FFP is not regulated effectively then the club would feel let down. He also intimated that there were a number of other clubs and a kind of ‘union’ of the big clubs that have come together – naming Bayern Chief Exec Karl Heinz Rummenige as somebody also involved – to support the concept of FFP that would also feel let down. It was an interesting comment from Le Boss and it was a subtle message to the public that, should FFP be seen as a bit of a sham, there will be some powerful clubs that might have something to say about it.

What some of these clubs can do is very difficult to work out. After all, they can hardly break away and form their own tournament can they? What would Arsenal do, for example, play the Emirates Cup during the season? We seemed to have hung our hat on FFP when it was first announced a few years ago, with Ivan Gazidis telling the world that we were supportive on it and that other clubs would need to fall in to line or fall out of European competition (as was being suggested at the time). However, the clubs position appears to have shifted to that of skepticism in recent past, as was pointed out to me in a quick Twitter exchange yesterday with Tim Stillman. So have the club always been of this mind, or did they ever really believe that FFP would be effectively implemented. That’s a question to which none of us will ever really know, but what we do know is that there seems to be very little anyone can really do should FFP be shown up as the farce that many suspect it will be.

What can the clubs do? Protest? Get a few bedsheets and stand outside the UEFA HQ in Nyon saying ‘Platini Out’? Start a new league? Publicly chastise UEFA? That would simply give them another opportunity to syphon money out of the clubs through fines. Non of the above is even remotely feasible. Which is why it gets people like me in such a vexatious mood, because I start to suspect that the net effect of the implementation of FFP will have absolutely no impact whatsoever on the way in which finances in football are regulated. If a billionaire wants to take over a club as his or her plaything, and they know that at worst they will face some fines, all they’ll need to do is give the club a pot of cash labelled ‘for fines, sanctions or any other taxes from UEFA’ and carry on with the spunking of their cash on their new toy.

If all that becomes of FFP when announcements are made next week is that we see clubs with sugar daddies racking up some fines, then it will all become too clear exactly what FFP is: a tax on the rich clubs. It would be like the UK Government’s handy little trick of putting on a speeding camera on a road where there has been no real safety issues, so in effect it becomes a great way to generate a bit of cash from people without having to whack their income tax or any other tax up. FFP could end up nothing more than a stealth tax on clubs that can afford it.

But worse than that, it will be the most obvious indication that UEFA are a club that just fancies a little bit more cash for it’s coffers. They are corrupt already, they might as well profit from it.

Arsenal – and many clubs like ours – operate the correct way to run clubs to ensure their long-term sustainability. But unfortunately that means the square root of naff all when money is involved. Hoping that UEFA would put the kibosh on a worrying trend in football for unrestrained financial excess was always a bit of a long shot for most fans eyes, but it appears that we’re finally having the veil lifted from our peepers to see it for what it is.

That’ll do from me for one day. Back tomorrow with a match preview guys.

Have a good ‘un.