Sunday, 31 July 2011

The booing shambles

It is not often that I have been ashamed to be an Arsenal fan, but sadly today was one of those days. It wasn't to do with the team, the manager, the result, it was the quite pathetic behaviour and attitude of a group of so called 'Arsenal fans' who booed their players in a pre season friendly match.

The behaviour of these fans is already being exploited by various arsenal-hating sections of the media, it is simply completely unproductive, it is deeply harmful to the football club that these morons claim to support.

Pre season matches are generally boring affairs, they have been for as long as I can remember, so people expecting a fully committed high tempo encounter are deluded, players are simply getting some fitness and are going to try to avoid injuries in these meaningless games. Pre season results just don't matter either, and anyway today the first team won their match.

I despair at people getting such ridiculously disproportionate rage and booing their own players for getting a draw in a meaningless friendly, it really is hard to find the words. It doesn't help the players, it doesn't help the club, it only helps our competitors.

I know we have some issues at the moment, after all I have been pointing them out for months. We need a centre back, we need another centre forward with chamakh struggling, the black clouds of nasri and cesc still hang overhead. Still it is bloody obvious that the club is trying to sort all these issues out before the season gets underway.

Some people need to go back to basics and learn what being a proper 'supporter' is all about. Some people have become so self destructive that they are being eaten up by the negativity from within, they appear dour joyless sorts who do little to actually get behind the team that they claim to support. Being a supporter is not like buying a ticket for the cinema, sitting back and watching exactly what you want, making no positive contribution and then whining if everything is not just as you had wished. It is about supporting your team through thick and thin, helping them recover from setbacks and not digging holes deeper.

Maybe this will all pass, but at the moment my enthusiasm for going to games is severely dwindling, I want to sit alongside people who will support the team, through the good times and the bad. The booers are a disgrace to Arsenal football club and if you were on of them, would you kindly rethink your attitude or keep well away from the Emirates in the future.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Cesc cannot be our captain

It pains me to title such an article but it is now clear to me that Cesc cannot go on any longer as our club captain. It was a strange choice anyway, almost a gift to encourage someone to stay a bit longer when you knew they may not wish to. This was a managerial error in itself in my eyes.

Cesc is a good man, a highly talented player but not a leader on the field, as much has been alluded to by several off his team mates in the past. Most importantly he has not been 100% committed to Arsenal FC for some time now.

Although he has generally performed pretty well for us in recent months, there have been some signs that this lack of devotion has been slowly creeping into his performances, especially in some lesser games. Having said that he has still put in some fantastic showings, intermittently showing the creativity that makes him so special by cutting up defences with his slide rule passing time and time again.

I like Cesc as a player and a man, and I do not resent his desire to return home, but pragmatically it is simply bad for Arsenal football club to be captained by a player who will no longer die fighting for the cause. It is time we had a new captain, a certain Belgian centre back and a certain young English midfielder strike me as the best candidates for the job.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Football: the new Dr Faustus?

For anyone who hasn't encountered Christopher Marlowe's play, Dr Faustus, here is a brief synopsis; Dr Faustus sells his soul to the devil in order to gain power and knowledge, he then becomes consumed by his soul's damnation and all does not end well for him. Well, how on earth is this play relevant to football today? That is something I am going to try to demonstrate to you.

Football resemble a corrupt tin-pot dictatorship on virtually every level. Football has been transformed from an amateur game into a multi-billion pound industry over the last century, the problem is that many of the game's structures have not been proportionately reformed and are in massive need of being hammered into the 21st century. Although professionalisation has brought many advances, a lot of the soul of sport has been lost as the amateur game has been replaced by the professional one.

If one looks at the Premier League objectively then it has had many successes of which one can be proud. However when one remarks upon the fact that it has become a money laundering vehicle for many multi-billionaire criminals then one has to ask serious questions about the regulation and governance of the game we love.

Last week's Dispatches program on Channel 4 gave us a brief behind the scenes glimpse into this overtly murky and corrupt world. Companies like 'London Nominees' are effectively offering money laundering routes for some rather dubious individuals. The saddest thing is that local peoples' football clubs are merely seen as cash cows for these dodgy dealers, the way Bryan Robson coldly talks of selling training grounds to build supermarkets is like to kick in the balls of your average football supporter. The offshore ownership of big clubs such as Spurs was another startling fact that many are unaware of, it means that that the true owner of a club can be completely hidden from the fans.

The problem in football is that there is no fit and proper regulation of anything at all. FIFA is a failed organisation that is in the process of falling apart, UEFA is simply a European version of FIFA. Our own English Football Association is not fit for purpose, anyone trying to lead reform gets booted out or so frustrated that they end up quitting. As a consequence football's financial dealings are hidden from the public and fans, club ownership is virtually unregulated and open to rank corruption, clubs can be driven into the ground in a reckless manner while fans can do nothing about it, debt levels are at an all time irresponsible high, and on and on.

The worst thing in all this is that the fairness in the game appears to be at an all time low. Certain big clubs have far too much power, while the rules on and off the pitch are not enforced and regulated in a fit and proper manner. The influx of money into the game means that football's processes are not capable of steering wide of corrupt practices, this was proven by the level of corruption in the Italian refereeing scandal of a few years back. The way in which referees are selected for Premier League games is done behind closed doors and is wide open to being exploited by clubs, just as it was in Italy; strangely the media are silent on this.

Alex Ferguson runs a cabal of sorts in the Premier League. He narrowly escaped having his dodgy dealings aired in public by the Irishmen Magnier and McManus about ten years ago, no doubt he would have lost his job, if not gone to prison if those secret files had seen the light of day. After that close shave, Ferguson continues to influence officials and control a huge network of managers, coaches, ex-players who all know that upsetting this bullying dictator would not be in their interests.

The recent tapping up of Samir Nasri is just a symptom of this wider disease that is the rank corruption present in modern football. It is demonstrative of a failing regulatory system that sees the rules left unenforced as the biggest and most powerful continue to dominate at the expense of a fairness and competition. One hope left is the involvement of politics in the form of the Commons Select Committee's inquiry into football governance, as fans we must pressure out politicians to sort this mess out.

There is no utopia but there are certainly examples of where better regulation has led to a healthier domestic league. Certainly reforms that bring about more openness and transparency are an absolute necessity, otherwise football is going to become increasingly boring with a big few oligarchs dominating proceedings. We need rules that are actually enforced, we need technology brought in to make the game fairer, we need more transparent processes for appointing referees for matches, we need to have transparent club ownership and more fan involvement, we need some form of salary cap introduced as has been done successfully in many other sports. In short we need to attack this corruption head on or the game we love will continue to sell its soul to the devil in a manner similar to Dr Faustus.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Cesc and Nasri must go

Some fairly encouraging signs were noted in our away victory against Cologne yesterday, Gervinho's excellent goals and performance in particular. The biggest down was the injury to Conor Henderson, fingers crossed it is not a really serious one and good luck to the lad. The absence of Armand Traore was interesting, it may signal something big or he may have picked up a minor injury, I'm sure we'll find out in due course.

The big stories that we need to sort out are those concerning our 'club captain' Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. For me both need to go and soon. Why I hear you ask? Well the reason we dropped a lot of silly points last season was down to a lack of commitment in games when we should have know better. Cesc appears less than 100% committed, as does Nasri, the latter's behaviour leaves a lot to be desired and he has shown his lack of commitment to the cause by failing to sign a new contract. It is foolish to keep players who no longer want to play for the club, it would also be madness to loose over 20 million by letting Nasri walk away for free next summer.

The club could easily cope with losing these two, we have lost far bigger and better players in the past. It would be a big loss, Cesc far more so than Nasri in my opinion, but if we then used the millions gained to replace them both with some top drawer talent then I am sure we would have forgotten about them in no time at all. There are some top players around who would surely be keen to come to the mighty Arsenal FC, Juan Mata for example. My hope is that the club's pretence of wanting to keep Nasri is simply a way of getting the biggest possible fee for the wantaway Frenchman.

Overall I think the priorities must be shipping out these two and replacing them, shipping out more dead wood (Eboue/Bendtner/Almunia et al), bringing in a young pacey powerful striker and a strong physically powerful centre half. If we can bring in that little bit of needed experience then it will complement some of our top drawer young talent very nicely indeed. I am particularly hopeful over Gibbs, Frimpong, Lansbury and Miyaichi.

I am not naive, the club has to be very cunning in the way that it spins reality in order to get the best deals in can in the market, both in terms of selling and buying players. This means that the club will very rarely be honest and open in revealing its motives to us, it would be foolish so to do. The club are running out of time and they need to act fast to resolve these rather significant outstanding issues. I just hope we can get it all done and dusted in time for the season's opener in August. Come on you Gunners.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Edging closer but still short

There are some signs of promise, Gervinho and Jenkinson have signed, a young pacey striker in the form of Joel Campbell looks to be following close behind. Denilson has been shipped out to Sao Paolo on loan, Nic Bendtner looks to be on the way out too, unfortunately there does not appear to a great deal of other movement in the direction of the exit door.

The close season is certainly not a completed chapter, the big tales of Nasri and Cesc may well have a lot more left to run and I cannot believe that either would leave without a replacement being lined up. I find it very hard to believe that it makes sense to keep Nasri when he will walk away for free next summer, the only reason I can think for keeping him in this situation would be if Cesc goes and is not replaced, meaning that Nasri would have his central role in the side, still this would be storing up big problems for next summer.

Overall the squad is not looking too bad but there are still two big problems from my viewpoint. Firstly we have too many central midfielders and not enough wide midfielders, it would be nice to see this balance improved. Secondly I am not happy with the way the centre back situation is being managed. Squillaci is not up to it in my book and should be jettisoned. Bartley should definitely be given games ahead of the hapless Frenchman, while another strong aerially dominant centre back would be very useful for the long campaign ahead. It does not make sense to see Bartley left at home while Squillaci puts in yet another dismal shift in our first team.

I am happy with Gibbs getting his chance at left back, Szczesny is capable of being out no1 keeper, Jenkinson adds depth in the right back slot, Ramsey and Vermaelen being fit is some bonus, Lansbury can hopefully be given a chance to prove himself, Frimpong should not be forgotten. The young Japanese Miyaichi excites, Vela may perform now he is in the last chance saloon, while Gervinho can add a bit of pace and guile that we have lacked at times in forward areas. The squad is definitely taking shape but I really hope that there will be some more significant changes before the season gets underway in August. Come on you Gunners!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Woefully short: do or die

Now is effectively make or break for Arsene Wenger, there is simply no getting around this fact. As things stand we have a squad that is simply not capable of challenging for the title, and he has to change this around before August.

Looking through the squad for the Asian tour shows this fact. There is no doubt we have a great first eleven and a hell of a lot of talented kids providing some depth. The problem with our squad is that we do not have enough experienced players to provide competition for those first XI places. I think you need approximately 16/17 high quality players with experience and we do not have this at the moment. Players like Vela/Denilson/Squillaci/Almunia are neither experienced quality or talented youth, they are a waste of space.

The Nasri situation is a joke and personally I do not want to see him put an Arsenal shirt on again given what has gone on, sell him for the 20mill and bring in a big named replacement. The left back situation is of concern given Gibbs' erratic fitness record, if he can stay fit then I see no problem, that is quite a big if though. The other major area of concern for me is the centre back situation, we need a commanding aerial player and don't have one yet. We are also short of strikers, personally I would keep hold of Bendtner but if he is sold then we are looking a bit short up front too.

Now is the time Arsene, we need to properly address the flaws in our squad or we are looking at yet another season of nearly but not quite and that is not good enough for Arsenal Football Club. I am not saying we must win trophies this year or else, it is just essential that we give ourselves a chance by strengthening the squad and bringing in a bit more depth and experience. Come on you Gunners.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Martin Samuel: shut it you ill-informed fat slag!

I don't often highlight particularly low quality pieces of journalism but today's Dail Mail has some of Martin Samuel's excrement within, and it deserves a closer inspection and ridicule. It starts off badly by falsely assuming that Arsenal have made a habit of buying in ready made superstars, in fact nothing could be further from the truth and by starting off from this false premise, Samuel's foundations of sand soon disintegrate to reveal no logical or coherent argument.

The truth is that Arsenal have never purchased superstars, as a club we have brought in top players who have been struggling for various reasons (Bergkamp/Overmars/Henry), young talent to develop (Anelka/Cesc/Clichy) and some slightly lesser known established players (Lauren/Pires). Arsene has always sought value and consequently we have never gone out to buy a big name superstar who would have commanded anything like a top whack fee.

In fact very few English clubs have purchased the very cream of top world talent in its prime. Most of the so called 'galacticos' of the modern game have tended to go to Italy and more recently Spain, as opposed to England. The history of the world transfer fee record makes interesting reading and demonstrates this point perfectly, the last eight record fees were paid by Italian or Spanish clubs.

Samuel ignores the fact that Arsenal are one of the few top clubs that isn't actually being bankrolled by a sugar daddy(City/Chelsea) or racking up massive amounts of unsustainable debt (Barca/Manu). It is no surprise that we cannot compete in the transfer market with some of these reckless charlatans, it would be suicidal to do so. Samuel than attempts to dismantle the signing of Gervinho, stating that he's not even a regular for Lille, yet another poor error from the bearded one, Gervinho was about as much of regular as it was possible to be, 32 starts for Lille in the league alone last season.

Samuel distorts reality in order to paint the negative picture of Arsenal then he wants to paint, this is just bad dishonest journalism. The truth is that Arsenal now are probably a relatively bigger club than we have been at any point previously in our history, and as a result we are capable of bringing in some pretty substantial players if we chose to do so. Certainly we can't compete financially with those who have an infinite supply of blank cheques, but frankly it would be madness to even try. Samuel would do far better to concentrate his anger and aggression towards clubs that are driving this reckless wage inflation with their unsustainable and reckless financial practices than pick this weak fight with Arsenal.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

The good, the bad and the ugly

It may be an immensely well worn cliche, but one discovers very little about oneself during the good times, it is during the harder times that one discovers one's true make up and metal. This is well worth bearing in mind given the current goings on, or apparent lack of them, at Arsenal Football Club.

One of my key thoughts from last season was that I do not want to see us fail to win games when it is abundantly clear that the players are not giving their all to the cause, this happened far too often last year, it revealed a deeply worrying rot in our squad that has yet to be properly cleared.

Winning is not the be all and end all for me, what I cannot and hope I never will come to accept is players not being fully committed and motivated when playing competitive games for the club. I can accept a lack of ability, I can accept being outplayed, I can even accept errors of judgement, but what I will not accept as a fan is a lack of effort and desire. I want to see eleven fully committed players giving their all every week, I want to see us fight for every single second that the ball is in play and if we are to lose games or drop points, we must never ever lie down.

If they are really Samir Nasri's words in the newspaper today then they really upset and anger me. They are demonstrative of a deluded and arrogant player who seems unable to see just how critical his own failings were in his teams inability to finish off the season with a trophy or two. Nasri's disappearance in the cup final sum up his poor second half of the season, he had the chances to be a hero, instead he choked and was no winner.

Nasri's alleged comments have a lot in common with Denilson's words from a couple of months back, they both clearly want to win things but it is simply not good enough to talk about wanting to win trophies, one has to back this up with consistent performances and the right attitude. Although both players are different in many ways, they share one thing in common, they have had important roles in our lack of success in the last couple of seasons. Both of their sets of deluded comments show a complete lack of insight into their own failings as players, as if they have not had anything at all to do with our recent failure to win trophies.

I do not feel it appropriate to divert my anger towards the club, the majority of our frustration and anger should be angled towards some of our highly paid players who are not fit to wear the Arsenal shirt. Indeed a new particularly unpleasant, greedy and avaricious breed of player has been created by the current footballing environment in which certain clubs are immune to any semblance of financial sustainability. Football is losing its soul and the players are becoming more mercenary and soulless by the year.