Thursday, 16 February 2017

For Years, It Was The Elephant In The Room

I’ve often try to explain what football means. I’ve often tried to explain what Arsenal mean to me, but the majority of the time, I’ve failed. Even to those close to me.

People often put match going fans into a different bracket to non-match going fans in terms of their passion for a club because of the money they spend but I generally reject that idea but think the amount of ‘time’ someone puts in is the key indicator to how much  they can be affected by their club. 

If you invest time into something, in particular, a football club, whether that’s attending matches, being active in a supporters club / trust, running a blog or podcast, producing content around football in form of social media and invest time in Arsenal then you will probably be hurting recently.

Due to personal reasons, I had to miss the Bayern trip, and I watched it in the comfort of my own home which is rare (I really should cancel my sports subscription – but I won’t because of the ‘time’ I put in). If I’m not at a game, I tend to experience different feelings / emotions.  I have more time to think and more time, sadly, to be affected in a negative way after a loss for longer. When you are at a game, you tend to have to travel, you tend to have discussions and often rant to get things out your system (perhaps why phone ins / fan tv channels get so many viewers) but when  you are not at the game, you may lose all that.

The other additional experience you get is to watch the post-match interviews including an interview with the managers involved – this was really the moment, where my feelings came out. I'm told no players stopped in the mix zones and Arsene Wenger limited his media commitments.

There has always been an elephant in the room when it comes to Arsene Wenger, I’ve been in many conversations when people, due to their respect (rightly so respect) they tend to avoid the subject. I was probably one of them for years, certainly up till about a year or two ago. But that interview, seemed like a pivotal moment.

He sounded like a broken man, who knows his time here, is over.

When you see pundits who have been going for him, take a step back and actually feel sorry for him, you know the end is near.

Arsene Wenger has been a fantastic manager, leader, CEO, bank manager and even project manager for this football club. In years to come, people that love Arsenal will look at the Wenger era as ten years of trophies and the other ten years successfully negotiated the stadium move (with a few FA Cups). He should have a statue outside the ground, he should have his name sung every so often (and I’m convinced he will, once the dust settles in a few years) and go out proud of his achievements.

The legacy may only remain, if Arsene Wenger leaves Arsenal this summer. Staying on has a major risk, if the ‘same old’ continues then that legacy may be in serious danger of vanishing. Some will argue it already has and off course they are entitled to their opinion and I respect them; football is about opinions, after all.  But I would HATE for the legacy of our most successful manager in our history to be tarnished especially when he contributed to the transition of the stadium move that puts us in a position to hopefully compete at the top of the game for years to come.

For what it’s worth, I thought there was a game plan in Munich to sit deep, counter with pace and that actually brought us a couple of good chances plus two free kicks and a few corners in the game and at half time, I was quite comfortable. After we rode the storm of the first 30mins and got a goal, we had a bright 10-15mins. We even came out in the second half quite bright for a few minutes but it all just wrong from the 50th minute. I don’t particularly blame Arsene Wenger for last night, I think he influenced the loss at home to Watford much more with his starting line-up then he did yesterday. I would have preferred Danny Welbeck to play but I can’t believe Arsene wouldn’t pick him if he was 100% fit – perhaps returning from injury and getting another injury last season has impacted on the decision to limit his game time so far.

But the problem isn’t about one game, it’s about the mentality, it’s about folding when the going gets tough, it’s about not being able to keep up a sustainable challenge and it’s about the same things repeating itself for several years.

On a personal level, I’ve found the criticism that Arsene Wenger has had to take, very tough to hear. He has been here such a long time, and majority of my ‘Arsenal supporting’ life and therefore some of his principles and philosophies have really grown on me. I’ve met him several times, even got a wedding card from the club which he personally signed and has always acted with class every time I’ve interacted with him. I’ve the upmost respect for the man – but like everything in life, nothing lasts for ever.

I’ve had jobs that I’ve absolutely enjoyed and loved and been very passionate about and continued to be an advocate even when I’ve left – but the key thing there is, I have left when I felt the time was right and many would argue the time was right after winning the FA Cup at Wembley against Hull a few years ago but I think even more would agree the time is right now.

The club in general is in great shape, the level of consistency Arsene Wenger has brought to the club has been tremendous and everything is in place for Arsenal Football Club to continue to grow and be a major player for the next 100 or 200 years and Arsene Wenger has played his part as much as anyone – for that he should walk away with his head held high.

He deserves the big farewell – if he announced it now, I’m not convinced all fans would rally because some may want him gone earlier but I think it would give those, like me, the opportunity to enjoy the rest of the season which hopefully would conclude with an FA Cup and a good run in the league, with a win at White Hart Lane being the highlight.

Arsene has have been absolutely wonderful for this club and for that, I'll always be grateful but nothing lasts for ever, but he will always be a huge part of this club and is a true Arsenal legend.

There is only one Arsene Wenger.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Time To Give Giroud Some Credit?

This has a nice feeling about it – so often I’m writing about ‘my’ players like Mesut, Theo or Lolo and often having to defend them (certainly Theo!). It’s nice to write about a player, who I have no deep weird man love for, despite his charming good looks! But, please, Olivier Giroud, take a bow. You deserve it, son.  

He is a player I’ve always liked and thought he was a valuable member of the squad and has taken some stick in his time.

 I tweeted about the big man in November, after his leveller at Old Trafford:

…And I firmly believe this is still the case.
 For years, Giroud was a scape goat and one of them reasons, in my opinion was because he was seen as the replacement to Robin Van Persie. In reality, Robin Van Persie was replaced by Giroud and Poldolski to share the workload and goals. It was a mighty difficult talk but as we look back, we should be praising him and the club and manager deserve credit in signing a player for 12m who is about to reach 100 goals.

He, up till this season, has been playing up front for as long as I can remember, on his own, with no real support. Poldi came and tried, as did Theo but no one ever was in the same bracket as Giroud in that role.
Alexis has now shown himself to being a striker, or at least been giving the opportunity to shine there which is actually helping Giroud. He now has competition and some real competition, he needs to perform, unlike before, when he was the ‘ONLY’ option, he is now ‘A’ option.

I also don’t think it’s a role Giroud minds – when Arsenal were linked with Luis Suarez, Giroud said this:

"When the name of Suarez was circulating, I honestly thought it was a good thing for the team. We could have complemented each other," Giroud told  L'Equipe .
"Suarez would have been a cannon... and he can also play out wide."
However, Giroud didn't look quite so fondly upon the chase for Real Madrid forward Gonzalo Higuain.
"It would have been difficult for me with a different player. "We (Giroud and Higuain) would have been in direct competition because he is a pure central striker. Of course, at the time, it would have bothered me a bit. But I was not afraid of competition."
It’s clear that Giroud wasn’t keen on being replaced (naturally) but was keen to get a ‘different’ type of player and that player didn’t end up being Suarez (due to Arsenal’s stupidity) but has become Alexis (due to Arsenal shrewd top summer signing)
 Once Walcott and Ozil are back (which they should be on Saturday) it means more depth and options up top. Giroud may, like he has over the Xmas period, be expected to lead the line and perform or at times be expected to come on and make a difference like he did at Sunderland or in Manchester.

When you look at rating signings, you look at the quality of the player, the length of service, the price, the wages and make a judgement and in all those aspects, Giroud has been a fantastic signing.

Let’s give him the credit he deserves.

Up The Arsenal

Monday, 5 December 2016

Alexis Sanchez – The plan….since the summer

Alan Shearer can say and think what he wants – it doesn’t bother me if he thinks Alexis is world class or not and I really doubt it bothers Alexis.

All three goals were just out of this world at the London Stadium against West ham. The third may have had an element of luck with the potential marginal offside decision going our way but what a finish. Faking once in such a tight space and dinking the ball over the keeper was wonderful to watch.

The second goal was a great hit in the only place the keeper couldn’t get too – Alexis was enjoying himself.

The first goal, however, was my favourite goal – the ball was actually with Alexis in the box but ended up going back to Mustafi. The centre back then played the ball forward which Alexis expertly controlled, on the half turn, went past his man, held him at bay and even took an extra touch to get half a yard to get the shot away; which he did and it was a mighty finish.

The Alexis situation has really got me thinking about the summer and what was the plan for him and more about the Jamie Vardy failed bid.

We know that Arsenal went in for Jamie Vardy and we all know that the decision seemed to take about a year to come through but for whatever reason, Jamie Vardy didn’t sign for Arsenal. That gave encouragement to those who enjoy slating Arsenal (rival fans or even our own) to moan and spin the ‘truth’ (I say ‘truth’ because in reality, no one really knew what the trust was) and start the ‘Arsenal can’t even attract Vardy’ stories.

This is my belief what happened – we heard whispers that Vardy wasn’t guaranteed a first team slot like the way he is at Leicester and this was a big reason for him rejecting the move. Looking at it now, it makes total sense.

We also hear whispers that Arsene Wenger had decided at the end of last season that Alexis Sanchez is going to be his striker – he has been searching for ‘that’ striker since losing out on Suarez a few years ago but until now hasn’t managed to find him. What’s even more interesting is that when Brendon Rodgers was on goals on Sunday last season and he admitted that Liverpool had targeted and identified Alexis Sanchez as the closest to Luis Suarez in terms of work rate and the potential to score the goals Suarez did without having to change the style completely.

We also know that Arsene Wenger had a conversation with Theo Walcott which resulted in them agreeing Theo best role is on the right wing and that’s where he will be playing when picked the majority of the time; so conversations were going on!

It seems as if Alexis Sanchez playing centre forward was decided early on and therefore Jamie Vardy was being bought to cover, play wide at times and generally be a player who can complement rather than being ‘the man’.  In the end, Vardy decided he probably wanted to be one of the first names on a team sheet and therefore stayed at Leicester and we got Lucas Perez instead.

The question is why it has taken two seasons for this to happen and in truth, Alexis, prior to this season, was never given a proper chance up front for a run of games but perhaps the search for a striker just wasn’t happening so we looked closer to home.

Regardless of it being a master stroke or had some element of luck, it is working wonders right now and long may it continue – we just need to keep him fit and sign a new contract!

Come on Alexis, make our dreams come true, sign a new deal, win the league and finally shut Alan Shearer up!

Up the Arsenal
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