May 21st – Arsenal Alliteration

Published / by bradybergkampandbeyond / Leave a Comment

It’s been a week without Arsene. And the passing of time will only make it harder. In the interim it is full on speculation as to who’s the next manager. What criteria should be applied?

It would seem it’s an alphabetic search. Arteta or Allegri. Not very imaginative. No wonder Viera feels like his conversation was perfunctory. He should have changed his name to Aviera. Then he’d be a shoe-in.

After all these months (if not years) of planning, the great and powerful at AFC management have come to the conclusion that Arteta is the best available manager on the planet earth. Aside, that is, from the fact he’s not actually a manager (or coach).

I don’t want Allegri or Enrique. I’d like Nagelsmann or Jardim. But both seem to suffer from having real managerial experience and having names too far down the alphabet.

Not that Arteta can’t be successful. But it’s a very high risk strategy. I hope Arsene is staying close by. I just don’t understand AFCs thinking. They are placing an untried and untested assistant coach in one of the prime seats in Europe. There will be tremendous pressure from the first pre-season game. Arteta could exceed all expectations but is this the right risk to take?

There is no comparable I can think of. Zidane (not to compare us to RM) ran their B- Team (in league 2) for a year. Guardiola ran the Barca B team for a year. Pochatinho ran Espanyol and Southampton. Wenger had 12 years in management from AFC. If you’re going to select Arteta why not start with Ancelotti? He has right at the start of the alphabet and has the experience of the premier league. Have Arteta take a year to get acclimatized – have him run the U23 team. Have him prepare to be a coach.

I fear some of these moves are about the new structure at AFC wanting to control the management of the team. They don’t want to appointment a strong established manager. They don’t want someone who will expect to have control over transfers and player identification. They – Gazidis, Sven and the other one – want to be able to control the coach. Have the coach report in to them. Gazidis has had 10 years of being the puppy dog to Wenger. Now he wants to be the CEO – finally. He looks up the road at Daniel Levy and wants that type of power. He forgets though that until they found Pochettino they had been through 9 managers this century.

It’s not clear this pending appointment is in the best interests of Arsenal. It’s going to be in the best interests of Gazidis. And maybe Sven. And maybe it could work out. But if and when it does not we are fucked. We could become a cross between ManU post Fergie and Sp*rs pre Pochettino.

This decision is obviously critical. We have the basis of a competitive team. But we can’t afford to roll the dice with a new manager who’s completely untested. There has to be a more risk-averse choice out there.

Another thing about poor Arteta. If you appoint him you basically formally by-pass the entire Invincible generation. Why would Bould stay to report to someone ½ he’s age and 1/10th of his experience. What happens to Overmars, Bergkamp, Viera, Bould, Dixon and Henry? They never get a look in. Because if and when Arteta fails then the club will go full on Simeone. That is just ½ a step short of being Darth Vader. We would swing from one extreme of the beautiful game to the other end of the functionary, dull but point accumulating approach of these dreary masters of the game.

The legacy AW left us was one to be cherished and improved upon. It was not to be frittered away on the off chance that a young, intelligent but unproven tactician could take the club to the next level. We needed a considered, incremental, experienced manager who could add that missing piece of steel – or, rather, return the steel that the early Wenger years possessed.

Again, it all makes we worry about the brain-trust at Arsenal. They have surely been planning their moves for the longest time. But here we are two weeks in and we still have no manager. The World Cup starts in 3 weeks – no signings will be made then – and not many even before then. This is valuable time that is being wasted. They should have already made the appointment by now so that the new manager has the maximum time to acclimatize. Unless, of course, that appointment is Arteta.

-LB7

 

 

May 13th – Huddersfield 0  Arsenal 1

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

The long goodbye is finally over. Now the real worrying can begin.

I’m grateful we picked up the three points and ended the tedious narrative of having no away points this calendar year. Just like many other irrelevant ones we’ve had to listen to from the media about Arsenal over the last 10 years (you remember, no trophy in 9 years; treating the top four like a trophy etc).

As I watched today’s game the only emotions I felt were sadness and anger. Sadness at the thought that this was the last time we’d be able to listen to such an intelligent and articulate manager of Arsenal Football club. Someone, who over two decades has shaped the way we are seen by the world. Saddened that it came to this – an way game at Huddersfield rather than a final of the NoHopa Cup in Lyon. Saddened that AW has not been able to correct the lack of direction in the club for the last few years. We will never, in anyone’s lifetime, experience the pride and admiration for any other club manager at Arsenal. But, nonetheless, this change needed to happen.

Anger because it was such a frustrating way to have to watch his last game. I swear the camera choices this season have gotten ever worse – if that’s possible. The instance on replaying minor incidents multiple time while the game is going on means that, so often, the action cuts back and we’ve completely lost the flow of the game. I can just about handle the morons commentating on the game because I can follow the game in my own eyes. But not today – between the cut-away to various shots of managers and fans along with relentless replays ruins the continuity of the game. There were so many cameras at these games it’s not the case that they are missing the angles or pictures. Nope, it’s the dork up in the studio who’s directing (or mis-directing) which camera shots to be part of the live feed. It’s been deteriorating for many years. In the last few months this love of showing off how many different ways the same action can be replayed from an array of different camera angles is disrupting the viewing of games. I despair of where this might lead. But today there were at least five occasions that when they reverted to the action the ball had somehow progressed to the other end of the pitch.

I would pay a fine sum indeed to find out the title/role of the person that makes these decisions. Then I could start my campaign to reclaim the game from these morons. For all other programs on TV there are a list of credits at the end of the game but not for the EPL. Obviously, NBC takes a direct feed from the UK along with the commentaries. But I can’t believe there is no broad uproar about the poor quality of the directing of these cameras.

Anyway, back to the game. My sadness of seeing AW as manager for the last time for us is ever so minutely offset by the thought that this is the last time I’ll have to withstand the sight of Iwobi in an Arsenal jersey. It’s inconceivable that any other manager would pick him. Please, sign him to an extended contract and then sell him for a fine penny. And, at the same time, please divest us of Mustafi. Neither will offset the loss of AW but, in truth, time is up for all three.

Unfortunately, today MickeyTarrian decide to emulate Ob1 rather than Ozil. Every pass from him was short of his man. And he barely tracked back to protect our defense. It’s a miracle they did not score on us. It’s kind of ironic that in AW’s last game we kept a clean sheet. Not that we deserved it. We should have won 3-1 if Welbeck and Cigarette had taken their chances.

I don’t get why Wilshire and Cech weren’t playing. I fear for Jack and the world cup. If he can’t play in this game I doubt he’ll be selected. And missing Cech was worrying for this game. Ospina is not at the same level and his distribution is way too slow – you could see his players calling for him to release the ball much quicker – and his directional kicking is poor.

I also don’t get why we did not play Maitland-Niles from the start. And, why, when we made changes would you bring on Welbeck and Monreal? It’s the last game of the season. Bring on the youngsters. I wanted to see Neilson and Eddie. Was AW really trying to ensure he got three points and controlled the narrative? Either way, that was a wasted opportunity. Depending on which way the club goes these kids might never get any playing time.

Contrary to what our nearly-departed manager believes, I fear this team needs some significant surgery. Compared to the top four teams, we are a fair distance away form competing with these teams. The center of our defense is a mess, we need a goalkeeper and a defensive midfielder or two. Our attack looks reasonable. But it’s not a case of just adding one or two players.

Let’s monitor the timing for the new appointment as well. My fear has always been about the lack of football intelligence within the management of AFC. They’ve known for a nice long time that AW was going to leave. They have had ample time for succession planning. They can no longer hide behind AW. So, let’s see how long it takes them to hire the replacement. If they had done their jobs they’d be able to make that announcement on Monday – obviously that won’t be happening. But even waiting until before the world cup is far too much time. They should know what they want. And they should make the announcement asap. We can’t afford delays.

As I said when AW’s departure was announced, the benefit was that to timing. All the players could watch and see who we appointed before they signed for other teams. If we take too long then we’ll miss that opportunity. Players won’t sign the day before the world cup starts. We need the manager in now in order to plan our future signings. But, I’m not feeling all warm and fuzzy over this.

I hear Allergi name among other boring names. I don’t want to support an Italian team. I don’t want a version of Chelski. I want a version of Arsenal. As much as I love Viera and Arteta, appointing either of them would make us more Sp*rs like than Sp*rs. We can’t afford to take that chance. Rather I’d like us to grab the Monaco manager or Nagelsmann from Hoffenheim. In fact, I can see this team going German. A slight move really given that AW came from the Alsace region which has switched from France to Germany and back a few times. We have the BFG as the Academy director, Ozil on the pitch, Mustafi being traded away (wishful thinking) and Sven pulling the strings, that might not be a bad thing. Maybe we should consider Wagner from Huddersfield – that team certainly has a defense.

Funny how the two “young” coaches are both tied up at Manchester City? Why is that? Why do we not have anyone in training at AFC? Why do we have to take a chance on someone who happened to play for us but has no coaching experience within our club? To ManCitys credit they have been building for a future whereas we’ve been coasting on the coattails of AW. With the addition of Sven and the Spanish-bloke my guess is that we won’t bring in a big name manager. Those types – like AW – like to run the whole show. That is not how Arsenal are now set up. Rather they are looking, I think, for a coach. Someone else will do the recruiting. Someone else will do the contract negotiations. The coach will be left to coach the players he’s given (or have taken away – Ob1 I’m thinking of you here). Whether this will work is the question of the day. In all probability we are likely to go through a tough time. Imagine, whoever the manager is, but especially if it’s a Arteta/Viera or Nagelsmann, the pressure that will develop if we lose our first few games. The media focus and drama will be immense. Whoever the manager will be they have to be brought in now. Given them time to settle in before the pressure builds.

My money is on Nagelsmann. But I’ve been wring many times on this front.

Anyway, clearly, no real comments on todays game. As correct as it is that Wenger has had to leave it’s still a sad day when you see it happen. I love this man. He’s is a total class act. We will never see his like again. This man is an intellectual, an academic and also, a world class football coach who truly loves the game an, in particular, Arsenal Football Club. Whether he’s leaving it in safe hands remains to be seen. Lets hope those running the club are sensible enough to at least erect the statue AW deserves and then to rename one of the stands in his honour. My preference though would be to just name the entire stadium after him. The Wenger Stadium at Ashburton Grove. That has the right ring to it.

– LB7

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 22nd – Arsenal 4 West Ham 1

Published / by bradybergkampandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Hard to follow on from Friday for many reasons. Not the least is that the emotion of that announcement can’t actually change the ability – or lack of – on this team. The tributes have started – as they should. This is a momentous time in the history of Arsenal. And it helps amplify how influential AW has been. It’s easy to forget that given the onslaught he’s had to withstand lately. This game was a window in the dilemma that AFC have been facing for the past few years. The inconsistency that was shown in the first half versus the domination in the second. The ineptitude of Ob1 versus the ability of Cigarette.

As the era ends for AW so will the time we have to endure Ob1. He will be gone quicker than one of his many misplaced passes. Once he left the field today, to be replaced by Aubameyang the tempo and cohesion of the team picked up. I can’t honestly think of a more frustrating player that I’ve had to watch over the last ten years. Not that I would trade the loss of AW for Ob1 but it does highlight the weaknesses of AW. No other manager would play this guy. No other manager would persevere. And it’s that faith and inflexibility that AW invested in sub-standard players that has ultimately been his downfall.

We have seen this so often this season – that we, in each half, as two different teams. I can’t think of a game this season where we’ve played at our best for the entire game. Though I can think of ones where we’ve been awful through the entire game. Ramsey was strong today – it’s good to have him back. But I worry that when he walks round the pitch after the game it looks like he’s waving goodbye. They need to tie him down to a contract quickly.

In that first half Cigarette hardly touched the ball. It was all too sideways and aimless. But then we increased the tempo in the second half, we looked like a real time and destroyed a weak West Ham team. But come Thursday we’ll have to play a consistently good game. And, most importantly, we’ll have to have a defense and protection for the defense that can insulate us from our vulnerabilities at the back. Regardless of what AW has said, it’s hard to imagine that Mustafi is with us next year. Today we saw his split personality – some timely interceptions, his aggression in winning the talks and then those mistimed passes, the over-commitment that exposes the belly of our defense.

And we saw a classic Wellbeck performance. He works hard and gets into good positions and then will shank the ball or mis headers that should be on target. While he’s clearly superior to OB1 (though I think I am as well) he’s not quite at the level we require – but a reasonable squad player. He had a couple of good attempts on goal from outside the box but he has to take his chances – but, at this stage of his career, I don’t expect any further development in his game.

Bellerin seems to be developing though. Of course, he’s had to suffer Ob1 in front of him. And Xhaka was reasonably solid – as was Elneny. It’s a shame we’ll loose him for a couple of games. He was more creative than Xhaka. But it was clear how much we missed Ozil and MikeyTarrian today. Let’s hope at least one is back for Thursday.

While the second half was enjoyable, and the crowd were very supportive, all the focus was on AW. I really can’t stomach the media focus on what caused him to step down. You have to be retarded to not have figured it out. I suppose that’s the soulless job of the media though to ask painful questions to a man who’s been stripped of his life love as to why he’s resigned when anyone with half a brain cell would know he was pushed. As he should have been. But leave the guy alone. And the pundits seem to feel they have a right to know what happened? No, they don’t and nor do we (well, not yet anyway). But what’s to know? He was pushed out. Can we move beyond that into the celebration of his tenure and the growing focus on who should replace him? It feels like a Parliamentary investigation is going to transpire into who knew what when and who said what when. I suppose they feel the need to fill the airtime with something. But the journalists are also trying to develop some expose on what really happened. Spoiler alert – the man has just been essentially fired from a job he held for 22 years. You can see it on his face, in his body language and in his responses. And it’s also the right thing to have happened.

It’s been a perfect few days and thankfully the team did not ruin it today. Now we have to prepare for both Atlético and also figure out how we can complete the appropriate send off for the best Arsenal manager of all time. And one of the most honest, genuine, intelligent people to have ever held such a high stress, high profile role in any walk of life. He has always been a beacon of intelligence and vision for Arsenal Football Club. Once that statue is unveiled they should also consider naming one of the stands in his honour. And then once he’s had a few years at PSG or Madrid, they should bring him back in some advisory or ambassadorial role. His place is at Arsenal. And Arsenal owe it to him as well.

So, onto Thursday where the conversation will remain dominated by AW. It’s unrealistic to think anything else can occur. But at least today we saw some cohesion in the second half and some hope that we won’t be embarrassed on Thursday. I suspect that might happen when we play the reserve team up at Old Trafford on Sunday. But before then let’s hope Elneny recovers along with Ozil. And that Ob1 does not make the bench.

-LB7

 

 

April 20th – I love Arsene Wenger

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

What a great day. A momentous day. What a great victory for everyone today. For Arsene Wenger, for Arsenal Football Club, for the fans and for our future.

This had to happen. Maybe not today but it was coming. It could have been next year. But the longer it went on the worse this was going to get. It was clear it was ending but the fear was about how it would end. Change was a coming. And this was the perfect way to instigate it.

Given the ineptitude the club has shown in the last 5 years it’s a miracle that they pulled this off.

I am so relieved. So excited. And, of course, fearful for what the future holds. But that last part was always going to be the case. Whatever happens after such a profound period of leadership was always going to be fraught with dangers. But, for the moment, today was not about the future. Oh, OK, of course it is – it’s how about to navigate towards it.

So today, I’m happy. I’m relieved. I’m proud and I still and always will love Arsene Wenger. Long live Arsene Wenger. No-one can possible emulate what he’s achieved nor the style, intellect and honesty with which he’s conducted himself.

So today was perfect. Perfect for everyone concerned.

Perfect for Arsene Wenger. He gets to leave with his head held high. He got to announce his own departure. No firing. No embarrassment. He controlled his own destiny. No mess. And a complete surprise. The club allowed AW the grace of an exit that will just heap more praise on this great man. Well done AFC. And well done Arsene.

What perfect timing. He now has two home game in the EPL to receive the praise and love that he deserves. He’ll gets his laps of honour. He will surely he serenaded throughout the next two home games by the emotion and love from our fans.

The stands will be full again. These games will now be events. It will be all about AW. As it should be. Gone (for the moment) will the critics and doomsayers. Gone will be those petulant, temperamental, self-indulgent so-called fans that tried to diminish AW. We can enjoy the end to the season and focus on King Arsene. We can celebrate the end of a wonderful reign.

And then there’s the small matter of the NoHopa Cup. If this does not motivate and focus the players nothing will. Not that I believe in this team. But just maybe they will find a way past Atletico. Now they surely know they are playing for their futures. Here is their chance to allow AW to leave with a European trophy. It’s in their hands now.

What perfect timing. Now all the best managers in Europe who were thinking of moving on now know that the perfect job is out there. To manage Arsenal. This will stop the best candidates in their tracks. No-one will now sign for PSG or anyone else before knowing whether they might be offered this throne. Sure, it’s too late for Kovac as he’s off to BM. But all the others will now want to wait and see.

Perfect for all those players off to the corrupt WC in corrupt Russia. Players who might have thought twice about coming to a club who’s manager was operating under a cloud will now bide their time, not sign for other teams and wait to see who’s going to be the manager. Whoever our manager is they will be given a budget. We have a Director of Recruiting ready and waiting. And now the best players will now know they also might get the call.

And perfect for our players. They now know they have to play for their careers at Arsenal. Aside from Ozil and Aubameyang no-one is really safe. This is a wake-up call for them all. And after the last 3 months, a welcome wake up call.

And the timing is perfect for us, the fans. We get to emote all about AW for weeks with certainty while knowing what the outcome is. We can relieve the (many) great moments and share our love and appreciation for the best manager in our history. Rather than have him sulk off in the close season just before or after the corrupt WC in corrupt Russia, we can instead focus on the praising and thanking AW.

The future was always going to be uncertain. Just look at what happened at Man United. In fact, 5 years on, look at what’s still happening.

Except, just maybe, this perfectly timed move also demonstrates that just maybe there is a viable, sustainable strategy at Arsenal FC. This move today was clearly orchestrated by the club. Have no doubt. They forced Wenger out. But they did it with style, class and dignity. They upheld the fine traditions of Arsenal FC.  Unlike the trash in West London, we are not a human garbage disposing club. Nor, like that lot up the road, a revolving door of no-body managers. Here the club teed up the background support players for the last year and then ever so gently shepherded the best manager this club has ever seen, to the exit doors, opened the door and then allowed him to leave of his own volition. Perfectly done Arsenal FC. That’s the best I could have hoped for. I bet they will unveil his statue before the new season starts.

I love this timing. It could not have happened a week or so because we had to get past CSKA first. And it had to be announced before a home game and then leave enough home games to celebrate Wengers’ reign. He was never going to resign. He was way too vested in AFC. And, I’m sure, he still believes he can manage.

And so, for AW, it’s perfect timing. It gives other clubs plenty of time to consider him as a manger. Good for AW he deserves that. Football is his life. And perfect timing if he wants the French job after the corrupt WC is over. I believe the PSG job has gone already but there will be plenty of clubs who’d want him for a few years. And why not? A change in venue might do him good. Maybe he could take from us Mustafi?

But today is not a day for negative thoughts. Today we handled a difficult situation perfectly. We have removed the vitriol surrounding the club. We have finally embraced out future. Sure, it’s filled with uncertainty. That’s because we’ve taken for granted what we’ve had for the last 22 years. So, welcome to the real world. The one where every other team operates. But what we have though is the platform that our King has bequeathed to us. We have the reputation and style of play that now defines our expectations.

Of course, we will desperately miss him. But, again, this was inevitable. The beginning of the end started a few years back. This was on the cards. But I’d always feared a monstrous melt-down with those moronic co-called fans being disruptive and our board being indecisive.

Instead we have our club actually getting out in front and managing change. They are controlling the change rather than have the change manage them. And, that, quite frankly, is a surprise. Though this had to happen I did not see this coming today or any time soon. But it’s perfect.

I know, for example, my idiot children, if they are still reading this (not that I’m sure they can all actually read) will be in tears. This is the only Arsenal manager they have ever known. Their security blanket has been removed. It’s emotionally scary. This has been their one invariant. The one thing that never changed. The one certainty. The one consistent in a mad, ever changing world.

But, as a supporter for more than 50 years. As someone who had to watch Terry Neil as manager, let me tell you, there will be many amazing stories and experiences ahead for Arsenal. They will just be different without Wenger. But the club will persist and, hopefully, step up to the level this club should be at. But whatever happens this will always remain our team.

I’m also aware and surprised at my own reaction. I would have expected to have been more emotional. More depressed. More sad. Maybe I’m in denial. I do denial better than anyone I know. Maybe tomorrow I’ll wake up and realize I’m despondent and gutted. Maybe I’ll realize this is one the saddest day of my life. Maybe I’ll realize this is an end of an era that marked a period in my life that spanned the birth of the majority of my children and spanned most of the important events in my life. Maybe introspection will kick in.

But for the moment, I’m just relived that I can see a path forward that is positive for all concerned parties. There is something today for all of us. The manager, the club, the players (both present and future) and, us the fans. It’s a perfect day.

Now let’s get to both venerate Arsene and start the process of embracing our future.

Did I mention that I love Arsene Wenger?

-LB7

April 14th – Newcastle 2 Arsenal 1

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Luckily this was a meaningless game. It meant nothing really. So it’s hard to get upset about the result. But, boy, am I going to try my best. Unlike Arsenal.

What a joke. Honestly, I think I care more than most of these players. I’ll give a pass on this one to Willock. It must be tough to start your first Premier League game surrounded by such an abundance of averageness. He was not involved enough, required too much time on the ball but had so few options available when he did have the ball. There was so little movement of players in good positions it would have been difficult for anyone let alone an 18 year old.

It also would have been good to see Maitland-Niles start. When he came on he was both fast and technical. There was one race back towards his own goal that if the prior right back and still been on the pitch would have had a different outcome. Slimani was both physical and fast yet MN held him off, won the ball and passed it off. This kid is good. He just needs more time. Playing time that is.

The other youngsters are not so young anymore. I look at Chambers and can often see hope. Likewise with Holding. But they are so English. Both lacking pace and destined to make costly mistakes. Not that they were at fault for either goals. No, for that we have the pleasure of our more experienced players. It’s hard to see how these two Englishmen will ever improve when the first team players can be so abject.

Their first goal was well taken but there were so many gaps in our midfield and defense – and in goal. Neither defensive midfield player tracked back – Elneny let Perez slide by and Mustafi was too slow to the ball whereas Cech should have done better. But, as ever, we’d already defused their attack with Holding see the ball out to our left. The danger had been minimized but we failed to close them down.

That though looks like world class defending compare to that second goal. All day long this defense looked suspect. It lacked organization and discipline. And that is the responsibility of Mustafi and Monreal. And both were 100% at fault for that second goal. Newcastle had not had any real shots on goal. This was a throw-in and yet no-one picked up their man. Monreal drifted infield. Mustafi was essentially unchallenged on his header but, because he’s a brainless buffoon, rather than head the ball upfield or out to the sidelines instead headed it infield. But then Monreal, out of position, doubled down on that mistake by heading it off to their players. Again, two ever so simple mistakes that make Newcastle look like world-beaters. By this point the entire defense was out of position. Our two senior defenders judgement had just thrown away 1 if not three points. We’ve seen this happen so often this season that it can’t be considered an accident or random. This defense is inept. And, hm, let me think, where does the blame lie? Oh, I have a novel idea. It’s Mustafi. That constant disaster that is always just one pass away from exposing our defense. Today, aside from these two mistakes, he could be seen charging upfield – inside their half – for challenges that left the entire defense exposed as he was invariably late to the ball. A better team than Newcastle would have crucified us. Mustafi’s general leadership though is what sinks everyone around him. And it’s not like that takes too much. This season is a joke – a complete right-off – but over the summer we have to bring in two center-halfs. Mustafi is toast – he’s done. But I fear Chambers and Holding won’t make the cut either. They can operate as back-ups – our Smalling and Jones if you like – but they can’t be the starting center-halfs.

Ok, standard rant now out of the way, lets go further on this team. There was no creativity. The one goal we did get came from a lottery ticket of a pass to BigA who’s brilliant first touch and pass allowed Cigarette the opportunity to demonstrate what a great finisher he is. But, aside from that move, there was very little creativity in this team today. Elneny was not even half the player he was in Moscow. Xhaka was quiet today. It’s not clear that either bring out the best in each other. In the past month both have improved their performances but today they seemed to cover the same ground and duplicate each other. Our build up play was too slow and too predictable. With the £100m+ talent ahead of them they needed to move the ball quicker.

And then of course there’s that waster of space Ob1. It was inevitable that he had to start today because in meaningless games like this we don’t mind carrying a player. He’s basically cannon fodder to protect better players from having to play. And, as ever, he will have some good moments and show ball skills. But he’s basically useless as a contributor to our team. He’s pass selection is awful and he takes too many touches. The good news is that once AW leaves so will he – no other manager would keep him on this squad.

I don’t care where we finish in the league. Pride will be dented if Burnley finish above us sure. But in previous years we’ve seen Chelsea finish even lower. Our focus has to be the NoHopa Cup. What’s more amazing than that is that it’s even possible that we could be finishing this low in the table. But then that’s what happens when you lose your last 5 away games in a row. I don’t care if and when AW says it’s a confidence issue. We lost to shit teams like Newcastle, Brighton, Stoke etc. And we’d often score first and then still lose. And I don’t care that we were missing half our team today. No team we put out should be losing todays’ game. And not the way we did. How many chances did we create today? How many saves did their goalie make? Even when we’d gone behind, and with 4 forwards on the pitch, how often did we create any chances? Exactly. We are entirely dependent on Ozil. And Ramsey (I can’t believe I just said that part). On Thursday Elneny helped but today Xhaka nullified him. So we were just so boring and average today.

What is up with Kolinsac? Why was he on the bench today? What has happened to this guy? Why won’t they play him. Today was a day to rest Monreal. And boy did he show why. He’d been injured and missed a bunch of games. This was one he should have been rested for. If Kolinsac is not good enough today would have been a day to find out.

Even when Man U prioritized the NoHopa Cup last year they did not choke in games like this. It’s just poor organization from a poor organization. Sure, no-one really cares about this game. But it’s endemic of the problems at this club. Look how Liverpool reacted after their ManC victory. They played the same players and demolished Bournemouth. What do we do? We regress. That is the story of this season. We are regressing. The NoHopa Cup – even if we, by some miracle, win that does not explain the directionless of this team. It requires an entire defensive reconfiguration. This defense is in intensive care and requires major live saving surgery. And, we know where this will start. Mr. AW holds the key to our future even though it should really be the Board of the club. But no other club would accept todays display along with the prior away losses. It used to be that we moaned about how many point we were away from the league leaders. No the bar has been lowered so much that we are now looking at the same points difference between us and 4th place. That is pathetic. And it’s so boring. The club is in danger of anesthetizing it’s fan base. It’s sucking all hope from it’s fans with it’s predictable demise. There is so little fun to be had by watching this team. How can you possibly go up to St. James Park, go 1-0 up and still lose? But then, as previously noted, we’ve managed to do that as so many other grounds.

Today is not about the fact that our defenders can’t defend. Nor that Ob1 is utterly useless and contributes nothing. It’s about, as it always is, the future of this club. We do have some world class players. And I know most were not playing today. But you can’t compete in the PL if you have at least ½ the team populated by Championship League type players. Apart from our two big singings, who might get into the team of any of the top 5 teams? Exactly.

I don’t know when our next game is. And I think that’s healthy for my sanity.

-LB7

April 8th – Arsenal 3 Southampton 2

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

It’s been a while. I’ve been in a month long recovery program. I needed to cure my addition to supporting a previously exciting, entertaining and competitive football team. Thankfully the stupid international break intervened to help me ween myself off the perpetual disappointment and frustration of watching Arsenal. I can’t remember when I last could be arsed to write a review given that the observations were entirely predictable from game to game and nothing is really changing. Or is it?

So why now? Maybe there’s a glimmer of hope. Maybe the light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming express train. Sure we won. As we did against Stoke and CSKA. But I think there are some themes that continue to shine through the dark clouds of Arsenal.

Mark me down as a skeptic for Aubameyang. I’ve not really gotten my head round this signing. All he’s DM goals were poachers goal. And we know how unsuccessful fox-in-the-boxes has been at Arsenal – just google Francis Jeffers. But, even with the moronic haircut, he does score goals.  And though our dearly missed French hulk could have started that first goal scoring move, Giroud would still be rotating to run into the box by the time the ball had already hit the back of the net. So, maybe, just maybe I’ll be convinced that the BigA can help us.

Did I mention that I love MickeyTarren? I liked him before he signed for DarthVader. And I love him now. Though I’m worried that this knee injury could wipe out his season. But, combined with BigA we are far better moving forward. And I’ve always appreciated a good Cigarette. Especially ones that scores. And as Bould noted, he is a surprisingly good football player. One that can now score goals – even if he did not today.

I don’t really know what to do with Welbeck. From week to week he is more BadBeck that GoodBeck. Today we saw the two extremes. He’s first goal was a classic deflection and he’s last was an opportunistic, aggressive game winning goal. But just before that we saw that most classic of Badbeck misses from inches out. Only Danny could miss that. But, he worked hard the entire game and provided cover for our fullbacks. And boy, did we need that help.

This defense is beyond porous. We should set up a tax deductible charity for the amount we give away. If there is one (and trust there is more than one) clear end of season action it’s to get as much money as we can for Mustafi. He’s beyond unreliable. He is a contagious disaster waiting to happen. Sure, he’ll score the odd vital goal. He can be aggressive and determine in challenging for the ball. But he’s a liability. Too many times this year we’ve seen him make just bone-head decisions. Today was truly pathetic. No other premier league center-half would even dream of not taking responsibility for clearing that ball. It’s your job. And nearly every time he would do that. He put himself in the right position and he would normally do the right thing. But that’s the problem with him. He has brain-farts. Consider the Man City game. Consider some of his distribution. And, I fear, his unpredictability is spreading like a virus through the team. Consider the goal against CSKA when he panic hoofed the ball across the penalty box. I don’t understand how a German International can make these bone-head decisions. But nor should we expect him to change. He might be quite young, at 25, but I fear for Arsenal (even more than I already do) if we preserve with him beyond this season. He is contaminating Kosclieny who’s form has noticeably deteriorated. It could be the accumulation of injuries or it could be the disease that is he’s partner. But rather than thinking we need another center half it’s now looking like we might need two.

Also, it’s getting harder to distinguish between Mustafi and Chambers. Except, just maybe, Chambers might be better. His problem, aside from looking like Mustafi, is that he’s too slow. And he’s distribution is dodgy as well. It says something when the best defender is Bellerin – except today he wasn’t. We did not have one. However, mid-week he was.

The team selection made sense today. I was excited to see Nelson in the team but, of course, that was offset by the presence of Ob1. He’s even worse than Mustafi except that he plays less frequently now we have MickeyTarren. And thank god for that. Today was classic Ob1. Basically useless interspersed with the odd moment of football skill that makes one think that maybe, just maybe there is potential in this boy and that we should persist. But, I remember that we’ve been saying the same thing now for two years since he scored on his debut against Everton. He’s stood still – literally. He should not be on this squad let alone on the team. He is the poster boy for why this team is unbalanced and broken. On no other top 6 premier league team would he be in the starting eleven. I don’t even think Burnley would take him. He runs around with those flailing arms making poor decisions and incapable of scoring. For example, he’s “attempt” against CSKA mid-week. He is just not good enough. And never will be. It makes me angry that he gets playing time. At least Welbeck works hard and chases back. Ob1, in the Ozil position today, showed the odd moment – he’s through ball to Welbeck for that second goal. At this level though that’s not sufficient. We can’t wait on these one-off moments and then carry him for the rest of the game. It’s mind blowing to think of the grief that Ozil used to attract for he’s perceived lack of effort and contribution. From the beginning he showed he’s world class talent. It’s inconceivable that Ob1 could be in the same team as Ozil. The gulf in ability is far too wide to be explainable by age alone.

So, onto our last enigma. As skeptical as I’ve been on BigA I’ve been a believer in Jack. Something is going on though with Jack. And it’s not good. Today he was outright awful. He was off the pace from the first moment. Not a single pass worked for him. He lost possession. He walked around the pitch. He gave the ball away. We were noticeably weakened when he came on. That’s when we started to backtrack and give into the pressure from Southampton. What has happened to Jack? It can’t be related to his contract situation because once he’s on the pitch that is surely forgotten. And it’s not just today. He was clearly our weakest link midweek. It was only the utter brilliance of Ozil and Ramsey – with help from MickeyTarren and Cigarette – that enabled us to function. Jack was slow, passive and predictable. He was never the quickest player on our team but now he seems to run backwards. In a foot race between him and Giroud I think both of them might lose. My suspicion is that he’s not entirely fit but is fighting through is. He had additional rest over the international break because of his knee injury but he’s come back even worse. But, currently, he’s a massive risk for us. And destined to leave for another team. It would be such a shame after all these years but it’s not looking like he can find his game. He was lucky not to get a red card along with Stephens. He lost the ball on the edge of their penalty area with another pass that was mistimed – he was just off the pace of the game from his first touch. Then as he backtracked he fouled Stephens multiple times and ripping his shirt. All he had to do was push him over if he was being out-paced by a six foot center half. Instead he basically got Elneny sent off as Mariner decided he needed to even up the red card count. Elneny barely touch the Southampton player. And know we’ll miss him for three irrelevant league games. But that also means that the chances of Jack and Ob1 both playing have increased. That kills me. Now I have two players (at least) that I pray are not on our starting team sheet. Which is also why we need MickyTarrien. Here’s a player who Bellerin can actually link up with. Obviously, he could never do that with Walcott nor Ob1. Bellerin’s improvement has correlated directly with the existence of the Armenian.

We got three useless points today. We saw a goal scorer ply his trade and another hard-working Englishman scrap two goals. It’s lucky we had Stoke and Southampton though. Because our defense is shameful. Even against CSKA. If they had someone other than a failed Leicester center-forward, we could have been sunk. And I for one do not believe this game is over. We saw against Osterland from Norway how porous we can be. After the travel out there and with Koz and Mustafi in defense I could still see us throwing this one away. Beyond that it’s hard to see how we could win this. Any half decent team (Athletico, Lazio etc.) will cut us apart.

It’s lucky we can score goals. It’s lucky that we have the best creative midfield player in England. And we lucky that Ramsey is not (yet) injured. We can score goals. And very pretty ones. Borderline poetry. This should be sufficient enjoyment to make watching Arsenal a pleasure. But as a long-term addict, being consistently disappointed drains the fervor and passion. The expectation of unnecessary, careless failure is too painful to experience week after week. Sure we’re now in a winning streak but all the themes are still there. We need to real defensive mid-field player. Xhaka has improved but that is not his natural position.

We are now an amplified version of Arsene’s teams – sublime in attack and suicidal in defense. We were unnecessarily close to throwing away the points today. We have been the beneficiaries of penalties in recent weeks. Like London busses, you wait for ever and then two come along at the same time. But Stoke were much poorer than Southampton. They had chances today to win. Austin should have scored at the end. But by then we’d fallen back in the tepid, tame Arsenal that we were in the first half against Stoke. It’s a form of schizophrenia. We had this all season. In the league, I can’t remember when we performed for both half’s of a game.

The enjoyment in supporting this team has been on the wane for a few years now. The continual disappointment combined with the clearly sub-par player selection. This addiction has provided so much happiness that maybe it’s payback time. This is what it could be like supporting Everton, West Ham or Sp*rs. We deserve better than that. And we have some genuine world-class players who also deserve better. Come the end of this painful season the Club will have to finally make the move to protect our future. Ultimately this lands at the feet of AW. He is the one supporting Ob1, Mustafi and Jack. Its’ by no means certain that another manager will improve our cub – look at the disaster than is Man United. But it’s no longer acceptable to ignore the future. We have to finally step into it. But before then we have a journey backward in time – back into the time of the Czar and peasants. Let’s hope the don’t decide to deploy the nerve gas. It’s entirely possible our season could end in Russia just as quickly as England’s surely will.

-LB7

 

 

 

March 11th – Arsenal 3 Watford 0

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Clean sheet and Cech saves a penalty. I must buy a lotto ticket today. This is he’s third season with us. 98 games and he finally saves a penalty. And at a crucial time in the game. And he finally gets he’s 200th clean sheet. Pretty impressive. And a number of key saves in the first half. Sure he’s had dodgy games – who hasn’t in this fucked-up team – but he’s still the best GK we have. And I think he’ll remain our for a couple more years yet.

So we finally put a run together. Two wins in a row. Wow. Hard to remember when we last managed that. So let’s enjoy it while not forgetting the underlying issues still to be addressed. Today was a day to enjoy and appreciate some of the smooth, elegant play of Arsenal FC.

Ozil purred, MikeyTarrian was dangerous, MaintlandNiles was dynamic at right back and Elneny moved the ball quickly. I liked Holding today – he plays well against classic English center forwards. When it gets physical and tough he’s always up for a good fight. And today he out fought their Division 2 center forward. Playing two defensive midfield players liberated Ozil and our full backs which meant we caught them on the counter attack. The first one from which OBangThemIn missed a golden chance. It’s taking him time to adjust. I remain unconvinced by this guy but I’ll give him till the end of the season. There is an adjustment period but I do worry about the chances he misses and the lack of link up play he contributes – though he was better today again. He did take his goal well even if that utter wanker Ob1 tried to get in his way. Let’s leave that tit until later on.

Mustafi, just as he did against Sp*rs, gave us the lead care of another Ozil assist. Dreadful, Arsenal-like defending by Watford. But we dominated the first half. When I’d seen the team sheet with Ob1 and Elneny, no Wilshire, Ramsey, Kosclieny or Bellerin I was worried. However, MN linked up well with MickeyT and our interchanges had speed and simplicity such that we moved the ball around quickly and played balls in behind for OBangThemIn. Defensively Holding was tough and the midfield defensive cover worked well. I could have sworn I’d seen Xhaka running back with pace to try and help out the defense.

We were careless with the ball sometimes. MN is a little lax at times. As was MikeyT. But in the first half we looked like a team that we used to support. The second half was a different story. It felt like we handed the initiative to them. They were more aggresive and we had long periods of defending even if they had few chances. There were those annoying spells where we could not keep hold of the ball – giving it away too cheaply. If they were a better team we would have likely conceded but instead Mikey set up OBangThemIn for a neat goal. And, in classic Arsenal style within a minute or two we concede a penalty. Remarkably Cech saved that and changed the course of the game.

We also had a penalty claim waived away – in fact, Atkinson and the linesman were so far behind play they were in no position to see MikeyT hacked down in the box. But as soon as we got that third it was game over. Time to relax and save a few players for Thursdays game.

As enjoyable as today was though I remain utterly baffled and confused by Ob1. He is a walking fucking disaster. I pray for the day when he’s sold or has he’s legs removed. Or even his arms. There are random moments where he can make a great pass but for 99% of his time on the field he’s a liability. He must have the lowest football IQ I’ve seen in a long time. Sure he’s young but he’s been in this team for nearly two years and has yet to demonstrate he’s capable of developing and evolving. Today he was so infuriating. He’s final pass is awful and he’s shooting is pathetic. He looks like he just does not know what to do with the ball once he’s near goal. He is so bad than I was relieved to see him replaced by Badbeck. And as soon as he came on he contributed one touch passes – something Ob1 can’t conceive of – and improved the speed of our play. It should be noted that when we dominated in the first half it was primarily from the right side – away from Ob1. And the degree to which good things happened on the left it was because of Ozil and Kolasinac.

Consider the progress of MN and Ob1. One can play in three different positions. Once can’t play in even one. One is technical and composed on the ball. One isn’t. One has progressed in every game he’s played in while one regresses. I’m racking my brain to think of a player that upsets me as much as Ob1. I despair when I see him in the starting 11. Vermalen, at the end of his time with us, Cygan most of the time, Gervinho, Silverstre and even Santos from the last 5+ years frustrated me but none like this boy. I hate his “game”. He destroys our rhythm; he can’t score and he’s clearly not of the quality required to work alongside Ozil. I’m desperately hoping that because he started this game he won’t be playing against Milan. Hopefully Jack and/or Ramsey will be back for that one. Mind you, Jack looked shit today. He was slow in possession and got caught a few times. Hopefully it was an aberration. On Thursday in the San Siro, he looked active and helped the team move through the gears quickly.

We now have to dispense with Milan. Given our overall lack of self-belief it will only take one goal from the them to shake us into a bag of nerves. We saw what the mighty Swedes did to us in the last round. So this tie is not even close to being over. The only good news is that we are clearly (a la Man U from last year) prioritizing this competition. Resting important players for this upcoming game was sensible. Playing against the Mighty Milan means we won’t have the same sense that it’s a dead rubber. Hopefully all this will help us. But these sneaky Italians know how to play these European away fixtures.

I’m convinced (or I’ve convinced myself anyway) that AW will leave at the end of season. It would be fitting for him to depart on the high of finally lifting a European trophy. But there are many (better) teams to face – if we’re able to get past Milan. But he has more than earned the right to leave with his head held high with our undying appreciation of the way he’s molded and shaped some of (of not the) best football we’ve ever witnessed. So these remaining 8 EPL games and the NoHopaCup should be his swansong. Let’s hope he gets that. After Thursday, our remaining run of games is manageable with Stoke up after the stupid international break.

Pretty soon we’ll have to turn our attention to the identify of our next manager. My money is on either Jardim from Monaco or Low from Germany. The issue with the latter is that he won’t be available until after the Corrupt Cup in Russia. By the time he escapes Putins slimey grip it will be only weeks before the start of our season. Whereas at least with Jardim he can come on board the day to season completes. And that would leave AW to either slide over to the money pit in Paris – PSG or, less likely, take over Real Madrid. Given Wengers close ties to BeIn Sports (owned by the Qatars’) I’d expect him to return to his homeland and earn even more money. And after a few years of that to finally take over the French national team. That would be an excellent way for us all to move forward

-LB7

February 26th – Abject Arsenal

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Or is that Arsenal Abject. Or Arsenal Anonymous. We are the AA.

If that’s the end of the world then what was yesterday? The purgatory of watching Arsenal surely qualifies for some discount come the worlds end. But I fear we have not endured enough. Not to balance out those first 10 years.

How shit were we? Shitty then when we played Sp*rs. And this was a final. We were abject. It’s one thing to no longer compete for the league – or any real cups – but we can’t even play the game anymore. Once upon a time everyone criticized Arsenal and AW for not having a plan B. The complaint was that we played the best football in England but could not win leagues nor cups. Well we listened and showed them. Now not only do we not win leagues and real cups, we can’t now even play beautiful football. Others can but not us. Not today and not in any meaningful game. We line up as 3-4-2-1 which quickly reverts to 5-4-1. We defend – or try to – and park the bus. It’s awful to watch. And it’s not even a successful strategy. We now not only can’t defend we can’t attack either.

It’s hard to know where to begin. There was not a single issue or problem that we saw today that we’ve not seen multiple times this year or last. We can and won’t learn lessons. Imagine, Mustafi making a schoolboy error? Surely no? We’ve not seen that before. Whether it’s him or Xhaka or Iwobi, it’s the same players making the same mistakes. It’s also so painful to watch. If you think you’ve seen this movie before – you have.

I’ve mentioned this to others, but I don’t see the big deal with Aubamenyang. He does nothing during the game. And the one pivotal chance he got he fluffed. I’m not sure where he or Cigarette fit into this team. But then I’m it sure when anyone does. Ozil barely saw the ball. Both he and Jack were marginalized on the wings. And could neither could pass to each other. And we have no cover for our defense. There is no defensive midfield. But, this is not news. The entire world minus one person seems to know this.

We were completely overrun Sunday. This is not Arsenal. It’s hard to even get upset. This was so predictable. There is no vision or strategy on this team. There is no philosophy. When have we ever been able to say that? It was dreadful to watch. Losing a game is something that can be accepted but not even turning up to play in a final is not. This team is lost. It not only does not have leadership. It has no sense of who it is. It does not have a balanced team. It is a team that does it know who it is supposed to be. We were sent out today to play like Bolton it ended up playing like Barnet. No disrespect meant to either of those two teams.

Losing with some passion and effort is one thing but we saw neither. How can that be? What goes on in a squad when a team puts in such a lost performance. These individual players are better than the sum of the parts (well a few are anyway). This is a team with some strong individuals but within this team they perennially underperform. This team is toast. Luckily, I can still, before dementia finally sets in, wallow in the past glories of the early AW years.

Truthfully though, I’m so resigned to the outcome that it’s tough to even get upset. I’ve emotionally disengaged as I’m sure others have. It’s self-preservation really. And I think most Arsenal fans are now in this mode. After being beaten down (literally) over the last few years it’s the only sane approach. I can remember, 5 years ago, going ballistic when we dropped points at Bolton. I still have nightmares from our prior lose to Birmingham in the final. But Sunday? Nope, not even shouting at the TV. No screaming, No anger. Just despondency and a recognition that we are simply not a viable team.

How poor are we? We are so poor that we’re looking to out Sp*rs Sp*rs. We are now entering that phase where we want to bring back talisman, iconic players as manager irrespective of how unqualified they are. We are clutching at the straws they used whereby they tried to clasp onto their past “glories”. Naturally TH14 will always remain immortal but he should not even be in the conversation for a new manager. We need a manager fitting our stature and ambition (hey, I’m available for a nominal fee).

But here’s the other thing that’s abundantly clear. Don’t blame Wenger. It’s not his fault he’s the manager of Arsenal. What do people expect him to do? Resign? That’s not his job. People now despise him. They channel all their anger on him. But why? What do they expect? Why blame him? Show me one manager that has voluntarily resigned his position based on shitty performances. Over the history of English football, it’s never happened. And why should it. That’s not the managers responsibility.

Wenger absorbs and takes all the vitriol. But the people accountable for this fiasco get off scot free (not that I’ve ever known a scot do anything for free). The vitriol should be focused on the Arsenal Board and our CEO. They are responsible for hiring and firing the manager. That’s where decision should be being made. Instead, they hide behind the shadow cast by Wenger. They let him be the magnet for all the pressure. They evade their responsibilities and fail the club.

People say Arsenal can’t progress until Wenger leaves. The more accurate and fair statement is that Arsenal can’t progress until the CEO and the Board setup to their responsibilities and fire Wenger. That is their job to do. You can’t expect someone who has invested the majority of their working life to a club to walk away. No, instead, the right thing to do is to fire him and then extol his unique contributions to our once great club.

And if the final on Sunday did not demonstrate what needs to happen then we’re more fucked than I thought. Don’t worry about the NoHopa Cup. Milan? We can’t even beat Stoke. As soon we fail in this final cup competition they have to put the man out of his and our misery. But do they have the balls? I fear not. I was happy to give him another year – he had at least earned that right. But now we need to intervene and help this club. Whether the management have the football acumen to assess this and find our next manager is unknown. But you’d have to me an imbecile not to know what’s needed now. And,  unluckily for us, we have a bunch of imbeciles running the club.

-LB7

 

February 9th – Sp*rs 1 Arsenal 0

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Shit. Well that sucks. Not just the losing but the way we lost. This should have been an undeserved draw instead of three points lost. How often, in the distant past, when we had a winning team, would we give up a late goal to drop two points against a clearly inferior team.

We are now that inferior team. We know we’re not a top 4 team. But you have to take those chances. They did not take theirs and we could not take ours. Of course, if they had taken theirs, we’d have lost 4 – 0. We barely had any shots on goal – none on the first half. And then just Jacks shot before Cigarette extinguished our chances of a point.

I do wonder though about why, when he came on we moved our largest signing ever out of his natural position onto the wing. That was the position you wanted Aubameyang in. What has happened to this guy. He started the season with such style – he looked like the real deal. Now it looks like we should have sold him and kept Giroud. His confidence is shot. He looks lost. I fear he won’t be with us for much longer and he won’t get too many game time minutes. If you need an attacking substitute then Giroud is your man. But that ship has sailed.

We lost today because our team is a sixth place team. There were too many breadowns across the pitch. It’s just surprising we only lost by one goal. They were much better than us. Coming out of defense – including Cech – we gave the ball away too easily. From Bellend to Mustafa to Xhaka we were loose in possession. Too often we’d give the ball to them in our defensive area.

Our game-plan was to play like Bolton and catch them on the break. Jack and Ozil had chances to hit them on the counterattack in the first half but either the final pass was missing or the linesman made a ball call. And Henrik was off his game today. It’s a shame but, under pressure, he made a number of poor decisions and passes.

Elneny was, as ever, solid and provided some defensive cover for us. But we were exposed, for their goal by Xhaka not closing down the crosser of the ball and Koscielny failing to jump with Kane. Thereafter Cech saved our skin a few times. There was no consistency or fluency to our game. They pressured us much more than we pressured them. In the first half we ceded 2/3rds of the field and bunkered down in the final third. It somewhat worked even if it’s not how we expect Arsenal to play.

The second half start though was awful. Right from the whistle we looked unfocused and lackadaisical. All the concentration of the first half was noticeable absent at the start of the second. We backed off even further and gave them even more room. And we were sloppy with the ball. There seemed none of the drive we had in the first half. It was inevitable they would score. It’s just amazing we were still in the game right at the end when we missed our two chances.

Before that though we had a single shot. What does that say about this team? What is our philosophy and shape. What is our formation? Where is the balance? At home it’s reasonably apparent. But away from home it looks wrong.

There are too many players that aren’t of the right level. And for once we have to include Koscielny in that list. Today he was poor. And we can’t afford that. Not when we have Xhaka and Bellerin on the pitch. Our distribution down the right hand side is nonexistent. Between and Mustafa and Bellerin we create too many counterattacking opportunities for the opposition.

It was a pleasure to see Jack on the pitch. He was strong in the first half. He threaded through a number of amazing passes. I’d like to see him stay in the starting eleven even when Ramsey is back. And naturally, I’d like us to remove Xhaka.

Overall though, we are a sixth place team that looked overwhelmed and undermatched. Nothing of meaning will happen between now and the end of the year. We will excel in the odd game at home against poor opposition and fail miserably against any top 5 team in addition to losing more away games.

When will this stop? Not for another year would be my guess. This club has run out of ideas. We are now into the middle of the end. This team is no longer Wengers. He’s no longer making all the transfer decisions – there’s no way he would have bought Aubameyang let alone Cigarette. At least we have Ozil for 2+ more years. But the transition has started. And the sooner we can speed it up the better. The focus now turns to the two shittiest cups – League and NoHopa. The latter gives us our only way into the Champions League. Except that we aren’t deserving of being in that competition. We would sink without trace with this team.  We have to clean-house with the team and manager.

I’m really not that angry. It was clear, before the game, who the better team were. We played pretty well in terms of organization in the first half and were then exposed in the second. But we weren’t embarrassed. What a sad statement that is. The bar is so low now that we look not to be embarrassed. That’s where Arsenal FC is now. Outside the top 4 and looking to win the NoHopa cup.

-LB7

January 28th – Mid Season Review

Published / by bradybergkampandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Ok, it’s not technically mid-season. But then this is not technically a review either. But it’s been a while since the last post here. This team is a changing. So, before the transfer window slams it’s door shut there are a number of observations to make.

We are shit. We are a sixth place team. The table does not lie. We play like a sixth place team. We are inconsistent. Our squad is too thin of world-class talent. And it’s now even thinner. The club has the attitude of a sixth place team. It aims low and hits that objective. We carry too many average players. How many players would even make the bench for the teams above us in the league. Do you seriously think Ob1 would make the bench? How about Danny Welbeck? Exactly. Mentally we remain fragile. How else do you explain the away-day results at Stoke, Bournemouth and the draws at West Brom and West Ham?

How did we let go of Sanchez before we lined up a proper replacement? Why have we not sign Aubameyang? We all knew at the end of the last transfer window that we had to off load Alexis before he left for free. We tried to unload him at the last minute at the end of that window and failed miserably. Where was the plan? Look how Liverpool traded Coutihno away within a few days and brought in Van Dyke? We lost Alexis for a couple of games (Bournemouth and CP) before off-loading him – why could that not have been done right at the start of the window. Sure, I know there were other teams involved. But that does not explain the lack of movement with Aubameyang.

This one is not on AW. He has been the lightning rod for our lack of movement in prior windows. When we’ve failed to land people others have projected on AW their frustrations. Through their psychic powers people were able to look into the mid of AW and blame him for being miserly with the clubs money – refusing to either pay the fee or the wages. But, just maybe, we’re seeing the real AFC here. Just maybe, it was not AW that, in the past, screwed up transfer negotiations. Remember Suarez and the £40 + 1 penny bid and that fiasco?

This one is not on AW. This one is on Gazidis. He is the one that, visibly, got on the plan to fly to Nazi-land. He’s the one who has not been able to close the deal. If we fail to land him the blame lays there. It’s not on AW nor on Dortmund. Dortmund have been quite clear what they require to close the deal. Money. We are left with three days to the end of the window and little space in which to navigate. I naively assume that this deal will get completed. Boomerang is getting booed by his own fans and we have the money and they need it. But if we fail to bring him in and supporters see other moves – heavens above if Liverpool swoop in for Lemar or Mahrez – the mood till the end of the season will be nasty.

So where is our planning, our strategy and why does everything feel like Groundhog day. We have money from Gabriel, Theo and our Cock. But we won’t get the player we seem to want. I’m not sure he’s the solution to our problems. But if the club feel he is then they should sign him.

This, of course, is one of the primary reason why Alexis wanted to leave. He did not see the ambition of the club. He did not see the desire to surround him with world-class players. Now he’s gone to Manu to play alongside such talented players as Fellaini and Herrera. Good luck mate. But, how would you feel looking around the dressing room at Arsenal and seeing some of our muppets. I understand why he only passed to Ozil. Consider how Alexis stagnated and became more selfish in his play. He had no faith in the other players. I’m not saying this was right on his part but it’s understandable. He wants to play with the best and win titles. Why would Arsenal sign him and then fail to continue to build around him.

Ironically, because of the way Alexis play degenerated into less scoring and more ball hogging, since he’s not been playing for us, our play has improved. Aside from Xhaka and Ramsey, players spend less time on the ball. There is more one touch, quick movement and speed to our play now. We are more threatening on the break and more dynamic going forward. That’s not to say I won’t be pained to see Alexis succeed at ManU; he will make them a better team. He will run his socks off and he will score goals for them. It’s going to be tough to watch. But we brought this on ourselves. We should, in fact, consider ourselves lucky to have gotten anything out of Alexis. Ironically, if we had been just a little better this year he might have stuck around till the end of the season when we would have gotten zilch. However we end up MickeyTaReAnd. Not a bad player at all. Someone who can relegate Ob1 to the bench (and beyond). But we should have managed this such that he ended up at ManCity.

We have two other players coming to the end of their contracts. So, first off – how do we let this happen? How negligent can one club be? It’s hard to imagine an analogous situation. I get reminders from my phone company to pay bills otherwise I lose service. I get threats from the bank to pay the mortgage otherwise I lose our house. I know this because it happens with regularity. So how do Arsenal allow these situations to develop? God only knows.

At least though we have one remaining world class player. Ozil has been majestic this season. The shining light in a cave of doom and gloom. He has been the one player that has been able to elevate the team to a level of play worthy of the history of this club. Forget all the bleating from fans about how lightweight and inconsistent Ozil is. All that moaning about he does not turn up for the big games. Finally, this season, even the doubters realize that this is the remaining jewel from our crown that has been stolen.

So what are the odds that Ozil is an Arsenal player next season. How do we let his contract run out? How much will it cost to replace him? Unless the plan is to play Ob1 in that position. Or maybe MikeyTaReAnd. But when Ozil looks around the changing room what must he also think? At least there are a few fellow Nazi’s to keep him company. At least he can practice his Nazi salutes and goose-stepping routines with his fellow comrades. But aside from that he must despair. And If we don’t bring in Boomerang it will certainly play into his thinking.

Whereas with Alexis the case could be made that his style was antithetical to our pattern of player with Ozil he is pivotal to it. He is the central figure in our team. In many ways he’s more important to us than Fabregas was or even Dennis. Because they at least had other world-class players around them. If we can’t keep Ozil why would any other world-class players consider Arsenal? Who, by then, would be an 8th place team. We would morph into the Everton of the Premier League.

Aside from all this, when are we going to hear any noises about signing a proper, grown-up, adult defensive midfield player? We sold our own Coq and have not considered replacing him? How is that? How do you cut off your Coq and not consider a replacement part? We have been neutered.

We can’t seriously think Elneny is that player. Clearly Xhaka is not. And it’s unfair to even think of Matiland-Niles. So, what are our options here? Rather than just focus on another forward this is the area that requires immediate attention.

interestingly, even though I’m now of the view that AW’s time is drawing to a close – and he could be gone in the summer – little has been made of his tactics. In prior years the claim was that there was no plan B and that our tactics were too rigid. Yet, even in our despair of Bournemouth, we are demonstrating flexible formations and systems. Against Chelski, after suffering for the first 20 minutes, we made formational changes that altered the outcome of the game. While the players might be abject, the tactics and the manager  – in this respect – have not.

The problem is that as the face of Arsenal AW is the lightening rod for all our problems. He is responsible for many of them but not all of them. We need a structure in place for when he does depart. Signing the head of recruiting, a contract person and other football literate people is key – though if the negotiations with Dortmund are anything to go by it’s not clear this is an improvement. We need football leadership at this club and we don’t have it. We have Wenger and when he’s gone we will pine for the days when he controlled everything. Better him than Gazidis.

Finally, broadening out to the other teams you have to laugh at Liverpool and Sp*rs . both seem to be morphing into the Arsenal of 2007+. Watching Liverpool demolish ManCity and then being felled by mighty Swansea reminded me of our inconsistency. Being so dominant going forward and so vulnerable in defense reminded me our the last 10 years of Arsenal. Maybe it all started when we bequeathed them Kolo. Just maybe he introduced a virus into their defense from which they’ve yet to recover.

As for Sp*rs, they also seem to have master the art of throwing away points. With the talent they have on the pitch aligned with their manager, they really should be way more than 3 points above us. In fact, both of these teams have flattered to deceive. With all our mishaps and cock-ups it’s remarkable that we’re only a few points behind. Of course, it will only take a few injuries and/or usually inept performances to rectify that. Both these teams are way better than us. How damming is that statement.

Remember we are a sixth place team for a reason (actually many reasons) – the table does not lie.

OK, for the moment, therapy over.

-LB7