Friday 30 September 2011

Life as derby underdogs

Words: 485. Estimated reading time: 1 minute 45 seconds.
It is timely that our chances of re-signing ‘star’ players in the final two years of their contract come into the spotlight with the North London derby looming. Our opponents on Sunday had a wage bill £43m smaller than ours in 2009/10 – but arguably now have a stronger squad.

Wenger said last week, in relation to Vermaelen, Song, Walcott, Arshavin and Van Persie, that he ‘can’t say today that if we go to the maximum we are sure to sign the player’ and that making maximum offers to Fabregas and Nasri did not work.

In essence he was admitting two things – firstly, the days of him convincing players they should stay at the club for job satisfaction reasons rather than money is no longer working and, secondly, that our hope that moving to Ashburton Grove would give us the money to keep up with the finances of other major clubs is dead.

The second point is not too surprising if we compare ourselves to the ‘petro-fuelled’ clubs out there but we have the fifth highest wage bill in the Premiership at £111m.

Our final league standing over the past few seasons has been higher than that 5th position so we have been ‘over-achieving’ in one sense.

But that brings me to Spurs. Their wage bill in the same period was £68m. No doubt it will have risen considerably since then given they took part in the Champions League and signed players like Van Der Vaart and Gallas but it won’t be £43m higher. And yet they now go into Sunday’s game as favourites and have their best chance of finishing above us for years – assessing the quality of the squads, Tottenham are probably stronger on an individual basis but we have more depth.

This summer Spurs managed to keep their two best players – Modric and Bale – while we lost two of ours. Admittedly Modric wanted to go to Chelsea and they will need to give him a massive pay rise to keep hold of him. But what’s to say they won’t be able to do it if they do qualify for the Champions League this season?

Total wages spent compared to results achieved is a fairly basic criteria for assessing success but the sad conclusion to draw is that in the past few years Harry Redknapp has shown better judgement in using his resources than Wenger.

And as a result, I go into Sunday’s game fearful. The wins over Bolton and Olympiakos after the Blackburn farce are hopefully the beginning of a run of performances. But Spurs must still be scenting blood after our recent away displays and they will take delight in killing off our hopes of resurgence.

What we must hope is that the experienced players brought in at the close of the transfer window are up for a fight. Lingering at the back of my mind is one thought: when was the last time we went into a game as underdogs and won?

Saturday 17 September 2011

Now I'm angry - the name of Arsenal has been sullied once too often

Blackburn 4 Arsenal 3
Forget Old Trafford, THIS was a truly disgraceful performance. Arsene Wenger’s first match as Arsenal manager was at Ewood Park – after today, so should his last.

I normally write these entries at least a day after a match to reflect on what I’ve seen, consider opinions of players, media and supporters and then give my own.

Not this time – this time I can’t bottle it up.

I like to think I’m a forgiving soul. I appreciate when we have injuries and suspensions to cope with, or when we’ve been victims of a freak goal or performance, or of refereeing injustices or when we have nothing to play for and can’t motivate ourselves to match another team’s desire, or when it has just been one of those days.

Today there can be no forgiveness. What we saw on that pitch in the second half was shameful.

It was the culmination of years of arrogance, of sanctimonious bollocks from our manager who pompously refuses to listen to anyone else’s views and maintains that our ‘superior’ style of football inherently deserves to win football matches. Deserves to win more than teams who are less attractive on the eye but refuse to give in. It is the culmination of years of ignoring fundamentals about hard work and actually earning victories. Years of embarrassingly pathetic defending.

Today has exposed the truth once too often. I won’t list the number of times we’ve given up leads and thrown games away against teams we should beat but the name of Arsenal has been sullied for too long and it cannot be allowed to continue.

We are one of the richest clubs in the world. We are one of the best-known clubs in the world. We cannot match some clubs fuelled by billionaire benefactors but we are wealthy enough to remain one of the biggest spenders in Europe. The performances over the past few years have not matched that position and in the past six months they have fallen far, far below it. To a disgraceful level, in fact.

There is one man to blame – Wenger. Anyone who points the finger at the board, or Kroenke or anyone else for this mess is deluded.

Wenger runs this club. He decides the transfer policy. He decides how much people should be paid. He decides to keep the same coaching staff for 15 years. He decides how the team should play. He decides to ignore our flaws. He decides to highlight how grateful we should be that he has turned down offers to manage other clubs. He decides to criticise supporters for daring to question his approach. He decides to let players show so little discipline that getting sent off is just seen as an occupational hazard. He decides to give team-talks that continually fail to inspire his players to do their jobs properly.

Nothing is going to change while Wenger is in charge. Even if we’d somehow managed to come back from 4-2 down to win today, the same pitiful defending was going to crop up again.

Fuck it – I’m so fed up with it I can’t be bothered to type anymore. Except two more words: Wenger out.

Friday 16 September 2011

Can Wenger re-write the Arsenal DNA?

Words: 459. Estimated reading time: 1 minute 40 seconds
The performances against Swansea and Dortmund have shown how difficult it will be to rebuild the self-confidence of this team. The new signings will help but they were never going to be a magic cure. At least Wenger has hit the nub of the issue – winning is the only option.

Thursday 8 September 2011

Reflections on an uninspiring end to the transfer window... and that result (again)

Words: 835. Estimated reading time: 3 minutes.

A week on from the end of the transfer window and my view on it has shifted from deflation to annoyance. It has provided more questions than answers both about the team and the direction of the club and has left us weaker overall.