Sunday, 9 July 2017

Recommended Rules of Engagement on Social Media / Twitter For Sensible Arsenal Fans

Twitter, Blackberry Messenger and Whatsapp are the 3 social media platforms I use. I assume it is right to classify BBM & Whatsapp as social media J

I don’t know what happens on Facebook. I hear it’s a wild wild world. I enjoy the Twitter interactions despite the presence of many loonies. I hope no one classifies me as one of the loonies J

One very annoying thing on twitter though is the attention individuals with batty ideas get. I wonder why this is the case when there is a near consensus that we should stop making stupid people famous.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying the world will be free of loonies or batty people if we all ignored them. I am realistic enough to realize that loonies will always be with us whether they are Arsenal fans or just plain old nutters.

There are big loonies and small ones. I have a suggestion though on this issue of loonies. I have written articles in the past about high profile ex - celebrities, so called legends, pundits, journalists etc. I have tried to challenge their stance on many matters relating to The Arsenal and I think people who genuinely care about Arsenal need to continue in this path of letting the high profile & big loonies and nutters know that some of us don’t buy into their BS.

We should be challenging these big loonies because they help form the opinion of others. They usually have an agenda or an axe to grind. And people listen to them. Our focus should be on these ones.  Debunk their assertions. Challenge their rubbish agenda so people with 2 brain cells can see them for what they really are.

My one exception to challenging the big loonies is Piers Morgan. His only career now is to insert himself into any controversy going. He is not interested in the truth or facts. His only currency is getting a reaction. Winding up the Arsenal fan base is a sure fire way for him to maintain his relevance and the fan base indulge him time and time again. Rather than engage with him. Just ignore. Perhaps like me, you want to block him peremptorily.  

The other big beasts however sometimes have something to protect. Journalistic integrity perhaps, desire to be seen as having football knowledge & insight, which ensures that many observers, look up to them. Some of these like most ex Footballers who are now pundits are washed up wannabe football managers. They were probably brilliant footballers in their day but can’t successfully coach schoolboy teams.  These ones sit in front of millions on the TV and pontificate to Arsenal fans about a legendary and well-decorated manager and Arsenal fans lap up their drivel. These ones deserve our full attention. Engage with them and debunk their lies and negative narratives. 

Others like Ex Arsenal footballers / legends who are looking for relevance, or looking for some limelight. They think nothing of slagging of the manager for their own selfish reasons. People who never knew what was happening in the Board Room during their time at Arsenal all of a sudden embellish something the chef at the Emirates Stadium’s Diamond Club told them and they want fans to believe they have a copy of the Board meeting minutes in their hands. All gloves are off with these ones. We should never let their innuendos and negative narratives stand.

Not to forget the Super Fans on social media. The ones who have succeeded in monetizing their love for Arsenal. The ones who are perpetually after their regular dose of the 5 minute fame thingy.  The blogging hack whose negative articles are bitterly stuck on repeat. The ‘You Tube’rs who believe that 300,000 people watching their videos all of a sudden turns them into authoritative football people and the club has to listen to them before taking decisions or ELSE. (Or else they are going to throw their toys out of the tram). These ones are particularly deserving of opprobrium. There should be no live and let’s live with these ones. There is no fellowship between the Lion & the Sheep. These foxes in sheep’s clothing should not be allowed to profit further by trying to poison the atmosphere for others.

At the bottom of the pyramid of nutters are many random people who have seen the faux rise of these Super Fans and believe they can ape the Super Fans by writing outlandish opinions on social media.

I think Arsenal fans who are genuinely embarrassed by the ‘woe is us’ and the ‘world is falling down’ lot should start ignoring the minions at the bottom of this pyramid of nutters. These minions with their stupid & wide off the rational scale opinions about Arsenal football club should be blanked. Ignore them and hopefully they and their 13 followers will get the message and disappear into a well-deserved oblivion. I will now be doing this going forward. 

In addition to ignoring the minions, I will recommend that both barrels be trained at the Super Fans. Challenging the insinuations and fake news these faux Super fans peddle will yield more positive results in the long run. These Super Fans thrive on the adulation of the fawning public who think they are a reliable and good source of information. Correcting their lies, clarifying their innuendos and providing the correct background to misleading posts will go a long way in helping the genuine Arsenal fans out there who are only interested in open and honest dialogue. The ones who are only interested in information that is unvarnished with an anti Arsenal agenda.

We can do it.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

A Review Of Arsenal’s 2016 / 2017 Season

It has taken me a while to calm down from that totally unexpected FA Cup win at Wembley. That win ticked all the football boxes you will ever find.

Football Bloody Hell box              tick
Shut the Pundits Up box                tick
Desire & application box               tick 
Holding bullying Costa box            tick

It was wonderful and beautiful that none of these so-called football experts saw it coming. It was a glorious end to the season. One capped with the renewal of Arsene’s contract.

The season didn’t start well with the loss to Liverpool. We had to contend with an injury crisis in Central Defence. Sadly it was the same way the season ended. There was only one goal between both teams. It wasn’t the best start to the season but given the injury issues it wasn’t an unexpected result. But it set the tone for a febrile season amongst fans. The reaction was over the top and I had to write this article a few days after the match.

The season improved from there. We were marginally better off at Leicester. We could have won but we were lucky not to lose too. The ship steadied after the Watford game where we won comfortably. We were somewhat fortunate with the Southampton game and were definitely lucky with our draw at the Parc Des Princes. I was at that game and if PSG had put 4 past us as they later did to Barcelona, it won’t have been an unfair result. In PSG, I saw a team enthralled with their own ball playing skills, content to play sideways rather than forward. We rode our luck and with some inspirational goal keeping by Ospina, we got a very good result against a team of such talent.

The weaknesses in the team were obvious even in the PSG match. Lack of concentration and misjudging the flight of the ball to concede very early in a game; Alex Iwobi and later Alexis Sanchez not offering cover to Nacho Monreal; and the ease with which Arsenal’s midfield is cut out when the other team is attacking.

Hull, Forest, Chelsea & Basel matches took me to cloud 9 and back. What a time that was to be alive. Proper Champagne football. Playing football the Arsenal way as we love to sing. I was certain this was our year and that a Domestic League and Champions League double was do - able.   

Our Burnley and Swansea wins were very tense affairs. We were lucky to win both despite the fact that we were the better side in both matches. Although we comprehensively defeated Ludogrets, they were not the pushovers that the score line suggested. They came close to scoring 3 times after we had our breakthrough. It was sweet to watch but appears to signal the start to the disruption to our season.

Santi Cazorla was kicked in this match and he has been out since.  We struggled against Middleborough and were lucky to get a draw. We were not fluid enough likely due to the Santi effect and were overran in midfield time and time again.   The match against Reading was anything but routine. I remember a ‘make me shine’ save by Emi Martinez, notable solid performance by Ainsley Maitland Niles (our latest World Cup Winner) but Reading was no pushovers.

It was a bit tough at the Stadium of Light and it appeared it was going to be one of those days when our French Commando stepped up and rescued us. In the 2nd of the head to head with Ludogrets, some of our nervousness returned and we required a magical performance from Mesut Ozil in scoring the Champions League Goal of The Season to take all 3 points in Bulgaria.

The first leg of the North London Derby was remarkable for the rotational fouling by the Spuds and the referee’s reluctance to book them. They got a point of a well dodgy decision, which affirmed my belief that the wankers otherwise known as T*ttenham under Pochettino are never going to win anything.

I still can’t understand what happened at Old Trafford. I suspect they put something in the water or sprayed it into the air anytime we visit. We were largely anonymous and alarm bells started to ring for me. We struggled against a shambolic United side and were fortunate to get a draw although United themselves had only one attempt on goal for the entire match.

We were lucky to draw against PSG at The Emirates and at the same time careless not to win. Although nobody could say for a certainty but it appears Alex Iwobi’s mind was on his substitution and didn’t track his man for PSG’s equalizer.

Our win against Bournemouth in the League contrasted sharply against the loss to Southampton in the League Cup. I am one for not caring about the result as long as my team puts in a decent performance. The performance was just not there in the League Cup loss. I expected a lot from our side and I didn’t see it. I am always on the lookout for what the substitutes and squad players are contributing when given a chance as this gives me an insight into the intensity of the competition for places within the squad.

Normal service resumed at the London Stadium against a poor West Ham side. Basel & Stoke were well beaten despite some skullduggery and dodgy refereeing in the Stoke game. We were top of the League and it was all looking good.

Then the wheels came off. I had started to get nervous watching our matches and didn’t watch the Everton one. I knew it was going to be a tough match but I expected us to win. They played the ‘lets kick Arsenal’ game very well and the referee allowed them. He also dashed them a complementary offside goal as a bonus. It brought an end to our 17-league match unbeaten run and denied us the chance to go top of the table. I was positive we will make amends at The Etihad and grab at least a draw. Again we were undone by dodgy refereeing and some below par performance.

As expected the West Brom match was a tough one but narrowly navigated successfully. Surprisingly Palace offered little resistance and then we went 3 behind at Bournemouth. That was disastrous and unexpected and was again symptomatic of our soft underbelly. I interpreted the point earned at The Vitality as a sign of mental strength but it appears in retrospect to be the sign of a struggling team.

Our game against Preston North End was tricky but we came through. I listened to the Preston Manager on radio the day before our match and I was filled with dread. While I understand that philosophy plays a big role in how you play and you must take the smooth with the rough, I worried that we have become too predictable and easy to neutralize especially if we have off days and the opponents were willing to kick our boys with the connivance of the referee.     

2 of our next 3 games were a doodle. The best football I watched us play this season was the 5 nil against Southampton. Performance against Swansea was ace and accentuated by the results of Swansea’ matches after the defeat to Arsenal.

The Burnley game was a tough one and a game on balance we deserved to win. We followed that with an inexplicable loss to Watford. This is one result that continues to baffle me. We were complacent and gave voice to the faux fans that had been waiting for things to go bad. We followed this up with a loss to Chelsea and 4 other losses in 7 matches. The less said about the embarrassing losses to Bayern Munich the better.  I actually thought they were very beatable this season but the manner of the losses was awful. I was positive we could turn it around after the first leg and quite bullish in one of my articles. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Both losses unleashed the gates of hell on the terrace and in the Arsenal Fan TV studio that is the Ken Friar Bridge side of The Emirates.

We somewhat scrapped through Hull before the first Bayern game, safely navigated the loss / loss game versus Sutton United, lost to Liverpool at Anfield where it became apparent there was something wrong in the dressing room. I try to observe body language and it was obvious the French boys had some sort of beef with Alexis. The British boys didn’t appear to think too much of him either. And Ozil appeared to be in some sort of camp on his own. This was about the time he seemed to row back on ‘his future depending on Arsene staying’ comments. I have also noticed the ‘heads down’ thing after our exit from the UCL.

Lincoln City was a good distraction but the capitulation against West Brom was awful. The pretend fans were now in full batshit mode. Flying banners on aircraft & increasingly toxic atmosphere. We managed to string 2 decent results together after this match – drawing against Man City and hammering West Ham, only to be Spread Eagled by Crystal Palace. This in my opinion was our worst result of the season. Lack of fight, easy to bully. This was the bottom of the barrel and we scrapped it.

We changed our formation after that and went on a run that saw us only lose one match till the end of season. We won 9 out of 10 games and only dropped points in the North London Derby.  

A different albeit positive result in any of our matches against Liverpool, Man City, the NLDs; Watford or Middleborough at the Emirates; Everton, Palace, West Brom, Man United, Bournemouth & Chelsea away; could have seen us finish within the Top 4 for the 21st consecutive season since Wenger’s arrival. Ultimately it was down to one point.  Arsenal was so awful that we missed out on Top 4 by WAN FAKIN point.  There needs to be some grey matter transplant by the pushers of the ‘Arsenal is Awful & Wenger is past it’ narratives.  

I used to be so upset when people moaned about same old same old Top 4 and Champions League participation. But I am no longer upset. Many Arsenal fans don’t unfortunately deserve their team finishing in the Top 4 since they are so disdainful of it.

Manchester United prosecuted an entire Europa League campaign to basically finish in the equivalent of the Top 4. Yes you get a ‘plasticky’ type trophy at the end, but it is very much the equivalent of finishing in the Top 4.

In the 13/14 season when we finally broke our 9-year trophy duck, there were lots of debate on whether finishing Top 4 was better than winning the FA Cup. I was firmly in the ‘finish in Top 4 camp at the expense of the FA Cup’. Ideally doing both as we did that year is best but having witnessed our 13th FA cup victory live at Wembley, I wouldn’t sacrifice that for a Top 4 finish. Although I was in the stadium in 2014, this year’s FA Cup victory was sweeter. I was tempted to take my tiny knob out and piss on the pundits and fake fans who wrote the boys off but I didn’t think they were worthy. Mustn’t piss on a WOB if he is on fire.  

I was disappointed that a season that promised so much ended with us missing out on the Top 4, as I wanted Arsene to preserve his record, however missing out provides us an opportunity we should grasp. Use the League Cup side to prosecute the Europa League so the first team squads’ legs can be fresher for the Premier League long haul.

I am hopeful that the formation change represents Arsene’s desire to vary his approach & philosophy a bit. I hope the boys can put in 38 of that type of FA Cup final performance. I hope we can unleash Rob Holding on any bullying opponents. He has got guts. That one. He is definitely a future England and Arsenal captain. Costa & Arnautovic are still having nightmares from their encounter with him. I hope we can sign a player that can unlock massed ranks when teams decide to play 10 men behind the ball against us. I hope there is a Kylian Mbappe type in our development squad that will come of age next season.

Hopefully we give it a right go and see if we can win THE LOT this forthcoming season

Sunday, 19 March 2017

4th Place Is Not A Trophy

I was given an extraordinarily personal kick in the stomach early Saturday morning. Six hours later a follow up kick in the teeth was delivered by Tony Pulis & his West Brom Team. Arsenal lost and for the first time this season, I believe my team’s chance of a Top 4 place is in the balance.

This season promised so much at some stage. We went out into the transfer market and spent good money for good players. Although the season started poorly with the loss to Liverpool and the draw with Leicester, we were able to quickly redress this set back and climb up the table. Our overall group stage Champions League performances were different this season and further pointed to good things ahead.

There were worrying signs, the draws with Middleborough, Spuds, the away matches at the Parc Des Prince in Paris & the one with Ludogrets in Bulgaria but we were still in a good place.

Things started taking a turn for the worse with the back-to-back defeats to Everton & Man City. They followed a sort of pattern with our historical performance in the winter months.

As we accumulated one poor performance after another, my expectation of a title challenge ebbed. I was expecting a tough but achievable Top 4 position. It appears this is drifting away too.

Guess what. QUE SERA SERA.

I haven’t given up hope of a Top 3 finish or celebrating St Totteringham’s Day this season. Both can still happen and I hope they do. Anything can also happen. What will be, will be.

Was yesterday’s loss spectacular. Not really. Arsenal lost there last season even with our maestro Santi Carzola. So if you take it as a one off, the West Brom loss is not a big issue.

The big issue is in the context of our overall season. We have lost too many matches this season – Everton, Man City, Watford, Chelsea, Liverpool & now West Brom. I believe conventional wisdom suggests that no team can lose 5 matches and still win the Premier League. So our 6th lost is indeed a kick in the teeth.

I watched the West Brom match on a dodgy stream and at 1 – 1 and 2 – 1 we were very much in the match. My stream went down and I then noticed when it was about to come on that we were now 3 – 1 down.

I dressed up and went for a 4-hour walk. I did not resolve to curse the squad or the manager because I have a life. It’s a football match. Yes the result is painful but there is another chance to make things right next week or next season. Nobody died and the trial for the latest drug that will solve the problem of humanity did not just fail.

It appears while some have been complaining about Arsenal remaining in one place and not progressing, it turns out they were moaning about the wrong thing.

While writing this, I came across this article -  about appreciation. Worth reading I dare say.

On the issue of appreciation, some of my fellow Arsenal fans are the definition of unappreciative. 4th place is not a trophy. 4th place is nothing. We are stagnating in 4th place. Yet we see Liverpool bursting a gut to get this nothing 4th place. We see Man U spending billions of pounds to achieve 4th place, Totteringham are forever grateful to be Top 4, this same Top 4 that some Arsenal fans disdain. I am happy for those unappreciative ones as they are about to lose it.

Guess what the new refrain will be if Arsenal and Arsene don’t make Top 4? You guess right, he should go because he can’t make Top 4. The same Top 4 that is not a trophy. The same Top 4 that is nothing.

Personally, I hope Kroenke and the Arsenal Board are men of steel and are bold enough to renew Wenger’s contract on a 2 years or yearly rolling basis. Tell the unappreciative fans to take a back seat and come back in 3 or 4 years when Wenger retires. 

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Lessons From The Umpteenth Ranieri Sacking

As an Arsenal fan and a Wenger admirer, I wasn’t sold on the Leicester Premier League win last season. Yes it was a fairy tale as we have been told for the one millionth time but the fact that Arsenal defeated Ranieri’s team home and away despite some skulduggery from the referee especially in the match at the Emirates meant Leicester winning the Championship wasn’t really a big deal for me.

13 years ago, I disliked Ranieri intensely. He was the man who prevented Arsenal & Arsene from wining the Champions League that year and sparing the whole world the egotistic narcissism of Jose Mourinho.  If you think egotism and narcissism cannot be combined in one person, you clearly do not know Jose Mourinho.

When Ranieri was sacked by the arriviste Chelsea owner, although I found the decision weird, I didn’t shed a tear for Claudio. His subsequent sojourn in club and international management prior to his appointment at Leicester turned him into something of a laughing stock.  When he was appointed at Leicester, every single person (pundit, commentator, friends etc) I have read or heard from thought it was a disastrous appointment. One well known journalist even said Leicester will be relegated last season for appointing Ranieri. I think the owners only appointed Claudio because they thought he had less of a baggage than Nigel Pearson.

Did Leicester & Ranieri win last season’s league fair and square? My emphatic answer is NO. Their win was very much one that was signed off in the EPL Executive Management suite and by the PGMOL Leadership. The EPL needed something exciting, something new and shiny, a fairy tale to sell their wares to a wider audience for more money. They needed to sell this ‘anybody can win the league’ Disneyesque story and Leicester fitted in perfectly.

You might have noticed that referees didn’t take a stand against Jamie Vardy’s diving until the West Ham match on April 17 at the King Power when Referee Jon Moss (the PGMOL ‘go to man’ for special jobs) sent off Vardy for simulation. This is something the ever so ‘nice’ Jamie had been doing for 2 seasons. By this time, Leicester were already 8 points clear at the top of the table with other competitors a distant second.

Spare some time to again watch the Manchester City v Leicester City match at the Etihad (a year ago this month) and see the blatant fouling by the Leicester pair of Huth & Morgan. They got away with murder in that game and got away with the same murder the whole season until the PGMOL changed their guidance this season and Huth & Morgan the 'best' central defence pair from last season became a pair of spectators.  

To be a somewhat open minded, misfiring Man City, lethargic Arsenal, addicted to the past Liverpool & a forever unreliable Totteringham played their part in helping Leicester win the Championship. At least Arsenal played their part by defeating Leicester home and away but what did the others do. Zilch.

So yes. Ranieri was crowned a champion for the first time in his almost 40 years coaching career. Arsene Wenger haters used this to beat up on Wenger not realising that Wenger achieved the same thing Claudio just achieved 4 years into Arsene’s Managerial career. Wenger haters also didn’t realise that the fact Ranieri could ever win a Premier League title signposted the possibility that Wenger could bring back the league winning glory days.

Less than 10 months after achieving the unbelievable, Ranieri has been fired, he was let go ignominiously. The football punditocracy have been apoplectic in their hysterical condemnation of the firing of Ranieri. The same people who criticised his appointment, who were dismissive of the appointment of Pochettino at Southampton, Marco Silva at Hull etc. are now criticising the firing of Ranieri. Why anybody pay our so called pundits serious attention fails me.

Personally, I think the day Ranieri won the league with Leicester and collected all his bonuses, he should have walked away.  There was ever only one way to go from that point and it was DOWN. Similarly with the players as well. You have to imagine Kante’s decision was inspirational and Vardy and Mahrez were too sentimental to remain. The same with the club who did not buy new players of the same calibre with some of their key performers in the title winning season.

It would appear the Leicester owners did not expect their team to win the League again this season but they didn’t quite expect a relegation scrape and fearing the dreaded drop, they pressed the sack button and let Ranieri go. The sad thing is that Ranieri’s sack does not guarantee survival.

I wonder if the losses to fellow relegation scraper Swansea and to a League 1 Millwall made up of only 9 outfield players were the final straw that meant Ranieri had to go. Some newspaper reports indicated the decision was made before the Seville game while more recent reports suggests that the sack decision was made after. The latter appears unbelievable as all match reports suggested that the players played the  game of their life in the 2nd half of that Champions League match in Seville. Maybe that 2nd half performance in Seville was inspired by knowledge that the owners had already sacked Claudio. Who knows. I don’t know but it is instructive that many had speculated about Ranieri’s firing before the owners pulled the plug. So much so that he was given the dreaded vote of confidence.  

What I however find strange is the wailing when Ranieri was then fired. Results were piss poor. The title defence was the worst of its kind in modern times. All of the 'superstars' of last season had disappeared. One season wonders the lot of them.

Ideally you will imagine that a manger who wins an unprecedented title should be allowed to manage the whole of the next season irrespective of the threat of relegation as long as he hasn’t deliberately lost the dressing room through his egotistic narcissistic ways like Jose Motormouth and that the results are understandable although not welcome. That wasn't the case for Ranieri. Did Claudio lose the dressing room? Did he fall out with his backroom staff? Did the players shop him? 

In case the pundits and their sheep are willing to eat some humble pie and be balanced in their opinions, they should realise that no manager goes from hero to zero in one season or vice versa. Claudio was a good manager before he came to Leicester despite what the pundits said when he was appointed, he remains a good manger despite the sacking irrespective of this season's results. 

I have been advocating in my writing and in conversation with friends that a number of factors must come together to help you win the league and some of these factors are totally outside your control.  

For long, pundits and sheep - like football fans have pushed the ‘only winning matters’ narrative. Now a manger that has stopped winning is fired and there is an outpouring of outrage. Pundits need  to chill and take several seats. They have created the environment where owners & fans buy into the ‘sack the manager’ philosophy. All you need to do is have a bad run of results and their is some shyster pundit even in the national media advocating for a change of manager.  

Pundits claim Ranieri’s sacking is a sign of what is wrong with football but lead a baying mob to force Arsene Wenger out of Arsenal because he has made consistency look effortless. SHAME ON YOU PUNDITS.