Sunday, 28 February 2016

ARSENAL - THE LACK OF MENTAL STRENGTH MYTH

I believe in Karma and I know it’s catching up on Arsenal FC because of all the innocent insects I and other Arsenal fans killed when we were kids. Or maybe it is because of the Hill - Woods, Bracewell – Smiths, Kroenkes & Usmanovs of this world, for something secret they must have done in a previous life. Or maybe it’s Wenger. Prof definitely looks guilty. So he must be the one who is getting his just desserts from Karma. 

Jokes aside. Any Arsenal loss hurts. Hurts terribly.  Personally some of the hurt feelings is down to friendly fire. If I wasn’t hurting so much, I will laugh and be amazed at the Arsenal fans of the Wenger Out religion. Do you think the loss hurts you less because you don’t like Wenger or because you predicted that Arsenal will lose? Please get over yourself and realize you are not in the majority amongst the fan base.

My people in Lagos Nigeria will tell you to “carry yourself and go”. My English neighbours will say “have a word with yourself”. These people should please :

“DO ONE”

Unfortunately our loss to Manchester United today will be trumpeted by all and sundry as another evidence of lack of mental strength and a reason why Wenger should resign. I’m sorry I beg to differ. Where was this lack of mental strength when we beat Leicester a few weeks ago? Where was it when we beat Bayern Munich and Olympiakos in the Champions League? The latter a match in which everybody had written Arsenal off. Where was this lack of mental strength when we played badly against Swansea & Watford and still won handily?

For me, what is absent is a lack of consistent mental strength. That ability to do it every time and every occasion. The type of strength that would have turned today’s shitty performance into a draw at the very worst. The type that will ensure you don’t give away cheap goals. It’s the consistency of the mental strength that’s the problem not the absence of it.

Arsenal have a ‘few’ weaknesses that I have noticed in recent times. l have attempted to list them out:

  • Arsenal always have a shitty performance around the corner
  • Arsenal cant unlock 2 banks of 4 
  • ANY opponent of Arsenal are one innocuous pass away from one on one situations with the Arsenal goal keeper
  • Laurent Koscielny is behind the best & the worst things in the Arsenal team
  • Arsenal absolutely hate the favourite tag
  • Arsenal don’t do cynical & the players are too nice 

Some and all of the above combined to cost Arsenal today. From

my amateur reading of the game, LvG sent his players to go hard
and be ultra defensive and prey on these identified weaknesses & they succeeded.


Man to man (based on pedigree), Arsenal were the better set of players and I expected a solid performance from the Arsenal team and a comfortable win. Unfortunately wishes are not horses. Manchester United players exhibited more desire and stuck to their game plan and won deservedly. 

Some are clear in their mind that Wenger is the problem and will say his tactics and team selection failed today. Maybe. Its difficult to understand what is it about Old Trafford that turns the players boot into lead. From what I saw today, Manchester United played Arsenal the greatest compliment tactically. I'm not sure but I feel the Arsenal team went to Old Trafford today with the wrong mentality - arrogance because on United's recent travails or defeated mentality because they gave too much for the Barcelona game and had very little left in the tank. Yes the manager takes the responsibility but I don't today's match and any other transgression you think Wenger is guilty of is enough for change of managers. 

The time to assess managerial options  in the position we are in at Arsenal is the close season when club and manager seat down to review the campaign and decide if they still want to carry on together.  Its my deeply held view that if the club decides a  manager (whoever he is ) is their man, the fans should line up behind that man. The Wenger Out brigade accuse their fellow fans who support Arsene of suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Is it fair to counter accuse the Wenger Out brigade of disloyalty to the club? Of dividing the fan base? As far as I am concerned, there is no manager 100% of fans will support so please support the club or perhaps take a back step. 

Personally I admire Wenger. There is so much to admire about the man but one indisputable one is his past record with the Arsenal. But inevitably, he will leave The Emirates one day. Recently he appears receptive to a role upstairs something he has previously ruled out. We will see when this will happen and if it will happen.

However when he leaves, don’t forget that his successor will need at least 3 transfer windows to build a new team ala J├╝rgen Klopp. The patience that Liverpool supporters didn’t want to learn with Brendan Rodgers they are embracing it now with Klopp. Similarly with Manchester United fans that couldn’t wait to spit Moyes out of their great DNA club, they are apoplectic about LvG now. I look forward to when they are unable to utter a word  of dissent against  LvG’s successor even when that one is plumbing novelty depths. So Arsenal fans, be aware you will seek patience with Wenger’s successor.  I can assure you.

Today’s loss was a huge setback but it is not terminal. I am hoping we can turn it around somewhere somehow. We have Swansea midweek. Hopefully we can turn around the poor result from the equivalent fixture last season and banish the woes of today’s loss.


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Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Responses To Understanding the Buhari approach to the exchange rate @ https://www.thecable.ng/understanding-buhari-approach-exchange-rate

So I privately shared the article published on The Cable Website (Understanding the Buhari approach to the exchange rate @ here ) with a few select individuals. 

Below are their unedited (except for private / personal information) comments

1) A PhD holder in Petroleum Economics. Also happens to be a diplomat (as you do) &  published author said
 

"I see what you mean in terms of fearing it rambled. I thought it did a bit. That said, there is a strong argument being made albeit a bit emotive I thought. I also made a few observations which I think tend to get overlooked from both sides of the argument. 

- I like the historical reference to the economic situations that presented just before Buhari Marks I and II. I don't think it tells a full picture of what led to these economic situations. I also don't think it's enough to say corruption caused it. It doesn't do the diagnostics justice to say so, because it gives little to the investigators to work with. Understandably, there is only so much that can go in a paper. But in my view, or rather in hard data, the elephant in the room of root causes was the decline in oil prices and therefore government revenue. Now a case can be made for corruption-driven unpreparedness for such downturns in fortune, but loss of income is loss of income. We somehow don't like to acknowledge this bit, I find. 

- You rightly point out that the percentage share of oil in government revenues hasn't changed. I think this is only part of the picture and, in times like these when things are really bad, maybe not the right picture to paint or at least put in the front of pictures to paint. The economy has been doing something. I tried to quickly look online for the share of crude oil to Nigeria's economic output (GDP) in the 1980s but I dey under pressure for office. It would have shown - I think, no I'm sure - that there has been a stepped change in the share of oil in our GDP. Oil today does not account for more than a tenth of everything we actually produce in the real economy. This is something we tend to not notice and, in my view, one of the reasons the importance of favouring economic growth over currency valuation does not get a loud enough mention. 

- On Sanusi, the man did a John Maynard Keynes - the facts changed for him, so he changed his mind. I'm not a big fan of a lot of his actions leading up to his exit from CBN, but in his written and spoken work at least he is able to demonstrate a change of position if the hard data tells him something has changed. He may well have an ulterior motive, but I like to assess the guy on the merits of his arguments. 

- I didn't also get the chance to look for data on our export revenues by sector over a long period of time. The aim of this exercise would have been to show that 1) the share of non-oil exports had increased probably consistently over the years compared to oil exports and 2) there were structural changes to the kind of exports (I mean a growth in exports outside of raw commodities). The reason for all this is there's an argument that there isn't much to export therefore nothing to lose if such export revenues were to reduce or disappear. I think this argument is erroneous. 

- I also liked the reference to the list of banned imports and the reference to toothpicks is a catchy narrative that, in my view, cheapens the point I think people try to make with regard to the import-restrictive impact of this whole thing. This one too is where I think we don't do enough discussion. The problem is not the banned products like toothpicks. It's the equipment for manufacturing the domestic alternative. I particularly like the reference to ball point pens on the list. I like it because I watched a random documentary on how they are made a while ago. The level of mechanised effort 'na die'. The kind of equipment needed to make that banned item will need to be imported. The moving parts that will need to be replaced, from its daily use, will need to be imported. This is where I have a problem. It's not the protectionist intent of banning the items; every country does it. It's making sure the alternative is actually available and competitive that is the challenge. 

- I'm not sure that your assertion of the black market being small is accurate. I don't have the data though, but just looking at simple remittances from the West back home suggests to me that there is demand, and potentially huge. The incentive for Nigerians abroad (who are involved in regular remittance of cash home like me) to take advantage of this gap between reality and CBN is palpable. I know I'm not the only one doing it. This doesn't help matters at all, because the real value of the Naira right now, for those who are actually involved in the business of buying things from us, would be somewhere in the middle. 

In general though, we are in the recession end of a business cycle and the effort should be more at making sure the real sectors of the economy that have actually made some non-oil progress are encouraged to stay on. GDP from manufacturing grew 106% between 2010 and 2015. Services did 33% in the same time frame. Transport I think did about 20%. Going through the GDP reports from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics will show even more progress in other non-government-dependent parts of our economy. Now, I know it is always very easy to dismiss these things as just academic, on the grounds of "the guy for street never chop anything from inside all this GDP business." Economists don't do themselves any favours by not being able to colour their analysis with the language of grassroots politicians. I used to feel awkward about this but not anymore, because their job I feel is to dig deep into all this data they collect and pass it on with explanation to decision makers. The Bureau of Statistics painfully explains how they gather their data, what the data captures etc. Ultimately, what it shows is that you can trace the GDP down to the pure water seller on the street because the maker of the bags that hold this pure water has a record somewhere of the rubber (or is it plastic) that made them, or the machine that seals them, or the loans that were provided to buy the machines, and so on and so forth. So while it looks academic and removed from the reality of Mr Lagbaja in report, the rigour of the work behind getting the numbers is anything but. 

 
2) Senior Manager with a Global Financial Services Firm gave this response

Here are some simple things I expected to see - re firing up employment opportunities for Unemployed and under employed Nigerians. Simple changes to trade and fiscal policy should be on the table as long as they shine a path towards opening up new opportunities for govt revenue and jobs for the masses .
 
checked the customs website yesterday and discovered that whiskey and lace are still on the banned item list. I can't fathom the reason this boneheaded trade and tariff policy. Are we trying to promote domestic production of lace? 

Fifty years after independence there isn't a single factory producing lace and demand remains strong and supply is ubiquitous.

Who are we fooling? Our import tariffs are one the highest in Africa driving input cost and inflation for ordinary folks. And most importantly, it deters investors in consumer packaged goods from setting up plants in Nigeria in spite of the fact we are the natural hub for all of Africa- millions of Nigerians deprived job opportunities.

With their backs against the wall I had expected to see Buhari take a pen and scratch all these anachronistic trade policies by removing all items from the banned list.

Apply competitive tariffs to luxury whiskey and lace and allow wealthy folks who can afford it get it but stop the bribe going to customs and instead new revenues for govt.

By broadening the taxable items you increase custom revenue that you can afford lowering tariffs on crucial input materials and encourage the CPG firms to set up plants here

3) A 3rd friend who is an entrepreneur and a retired Banker 
gave the following response 

Pro devaluation proponents haven’t proven their case. Devaluation theoretically will stimulate local production, encourage exports and import substitution. The problem with this is that there is yet no enabling environment to support increased local production. Infrastructure is still quite poor and inadequate. Any gains of devaluation will soon be quickly lost in my opinion. I also suspect (in absence of formal statistics) that the gains of any devaluation are already in play since a large quantum of the economy is serviced by the black market! In effect, I’d advocate status quo with the addendum that CBN and the banks be watched very closely to forestall any rent seekers taking advantage of arbitrage opportunity between official and parallel market rates.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Are Manchester United fans asking enough questions of Ed Woodward & the Board

I am amazed at the amount of bile directed at Louis Van Gaal by Manchester United fans and its legends especially those paragon of virtue – Gary Neville in his previous role as resident football expert at Sky Sports, Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes.

I can bet Mr. Neville is now deservedly regretting some of the opinions he held about LvG. How is that humble pie Gary? Goes down well with some Talk is cheap beer you know.

I’m sure Paul Scholes will now never make the same mistake as Gary despite repeated attempts by Oldham to get him to manage them. As for Rio, he can talk cant he. He was so good as a player and his career finished on a wonderful high at QPR.

Isn’t it amazing that it is now accepted wisdom that fans and players turn pundits are considered suitable judges when it comes to evaluating coaches and managers?  Great. That 10 year career you spent in the top flight taking instructions, been told what to do, understanding your patch on the field, having a reputation as ‘thicko’ all of a sudden means you know it all. Great.  

But I am sorry I disagree. Fans and e players are not and have no qualification to do so whatsoever. Often their cheap opinions are targeted at the wrong person. In Manchester United’s case, the wrong person is LvG and all the opprobrium should be directed at Ed Woodward.

Louis Van Gaal is no Zinedine Zidane or Teddy Sheringham. Distinguished players in their time who are making their way in the game as managers. LvG comes with a coaching pedigree that started with his first full managerial appointment in 1991. For those with dodgy maths, that’s 25 years ago. He has since coached topsides of comparative pedigree to Manchester United – Barcelona, Bayern Munich & Ajax Amsterdam.

He is no novice and comes with a fully formed football philosophy that is possession based and builds its team to ensure they are difficult to break down.  In his last managerial post before Man U, the Dutch purists embodied by Johan Cruyff were bitterly against LvG. He didn’t give a monkey’s and it is fair to say LvG & his Dutch side over performed at the last World Cup.

In addition, LvG comes with a fully developed headmaster type personality. It didn’t start today. That’s him and he is not changing it for anybody. Not even United.  

Realizing all of these and wanting to manage a club side again, LvG. was in well-advanced discussions with Tottenham Hotspurs of Middlesex only for Manchester United to hijack those talks and appoint LvG. What exactly do you expect when you appoint the Coach of Spurs? Now you are coveting the guy that was appointed instead.

I hope discerning, genuine and right thinking Man U fans can see that the real issues are as follows:

Someone / some people at Board level decided / agreed that Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill should retire at the same time. Where was the succession planning at Board and football management level?  

Some people at Board level decided that David Moyes should be the new long-term manager of Manchester United

Some people at Board level could not sign the players that David Moyes wanted at the start of his first season

Some people at Board level ended up paying £4m more for Marouane Fellaini than Everton initially wanted for him

Some people at Board level were horrible with the handling of the David Moyes sacking and didn’t have the decency to inform the man before briefing the media

Some people at Board level noticed all of LvG’s pedigree and still appointed him as manager and don’t have the guts to come out and say that they are comfortable with LvG’s handling of the team as long as results are delivered

Going by the recent comments by Ed Woodward on the last investors call, Some people at Board level were obviously comfortable with the way LvG uprooted many fan favorites and local boys from Old Trafford as the club’s focus is now on World Class or near world class players.

Instead of fans to direct their ire and bile at the board and specifically at Ed Woodward, the focus has very much been on Louis Van Gaal.  Once you get your wish with LvG’s sacking, just watch out after the new manager has been appointed because I consider United’s issues are institutional i.e. with the current board / Ed Woodward and not necessarily with the manager.

Yes football results are LvG’s responsibility but results are inevitable outcomes of many behind the scene issues, club management is one of these. Is it a coincidence that the newspapers carried a story about player unhappiness at the looming appointment of Jose Mourinho and United all of a sudden revert back to a type that we have not seen for a few weeks.

Yes LvG has been perhaps deservedly beaten with the ‘he spent £250m stick’. What does £250m even get you nowadays? Another football philosopher by name Brendan Rodgers spent nearly £300m in his time at Liverpool and won the square root of bugger all. That’s £50m than Louie Van Gaal Army. Yes Liverpool got top 4 one season and are now comfortably ensconced in mid table obscurity. Despite nearly winning the bloody thing.  LVG has outperformed Liverpool despite the extra money spent by Brendan Rodgers. I wonder if those shouting obscene abuse at LvG will like to swap places with Liverpool FC right now.

Or take a look at Manchester City squad, £130m+ for De Bruyne, Sterling, Otamendi and Mangala. In my opinion, young Tony Martial has outperformed that lot. None of the United’s defensive signings are as awful as anything Otamendi and Mangala conspire to serve up.

Stop beating LvG on the head with the spending as players are somewhat overpriced and in this spending plenty to get rubbish race, United are not exceptional or unique.

Finally I think the problem of the current squad is in attack and not in the overall squad. Interestingly LvG has said the same thing in one of his press conferences recently. For a bit of background, you can read a quick comparison of the last title winning United squad and the current crop here . The writer is of the opinion that the forward options were better in Sir Alex’ last squad.

In that last title win for United, that squad conceded 43 goals in 38 matches, an average of 1.13 per match and was the joint 5th best defence that season. The current lot have conceded 24 goals in 26 matches, a better average at 0.923 and they are currently joint 3rd alongside Southampton but behind Tottenham and Arsenal who have played one game less than United.

In my opinion the problems are upfront and the solution is not obvious. United signed two of the best up and coming striking talents last season. None of the beastly recognized / world class forwards moved in the last 2 transfer seasons. I can just imagine the uproar at the start of the season if LvG had presented Jamie Vardy as his top striking acquisition. H would have been absolutely slaughtered.

Really I implore United fans to be a bit more grown up and matured by turning the narrative away from LvG. He has delivered what it says on the tin. Any other issues are perhaps due to your expectations mismatch with the product.



Sunday, 7 February 2016

Weary of moaning & groaning Arsenal fans

As we prepare to play Bournemouth in the next 90 minutes, just thought I will use this opportunity to publish my thoughts and say that "I AM TIRED OF MOANING & GROANING ARSENAL FANS". 

You believe that Arsenal will never win the league with Wenger. Yet you are disappointed that they are doing exactly as you believe. Are you a mug or something. That's exactly what you expected no. 

You never tire of complaining about Wenger buying cheap and you are convinced that cheap will never work but yet you turn around and trumpet Leicester FC for buying cheap. Is this logical? 

You claim that Wenger is wrong for not spending any money during the last two transfer windows but you wont allow anybody point out the fact that those who spent big money have achieved nothing this season. 

You give Klopp benefit of the doubt at Liverpool because the squad is not his own but give him all the praise when the team wins. Yet Arsenal wins are in spite of Wenger. 

You are over the moon about Klopp's passion on the touchline and want him to manage Arsenal because of this passion. However you forget that this passion hasn't stopped Liverpool from been pants this season. 

You believed everything Gary Neville said about Wenger & Arsenal but now that Gary Neville cannot implement all of the things he said on TV,  you are quiet.

You believed everything Piers Morgan says because he has 5 million twitter followers. Do you also believe the thrash  he has tweeted in the past, like saying Harry Redneck, Gary Monk etc should manage Arsenal and Christopher Samba should be a priority signing for Arsenal. 

You claim Arsenal will never win a trophy under Wenger again but now that the term has won 2 FA cups, you claim the FA cup is nothing. 

Do we understand what it means to be a football fan?  The Free Dictionary defines a fan as an Ardent Devotee, an Enthusiast. Dig a deep deeper and you find the following:

ARDENT - Very enthusiastic, passionate, burning, glowing. 

DEVOTEE - A strong believer, very interested and enthusiastic about something

Please let me know what you are as an Arsenal fan. Can we use any of the descriptions above for you? 

Let me ask a question for the moaners & groaners 

IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE YOUR TEAM WILL WIN THE LEAGUE OR A TROPHY. SHOULD YOU CELEBRATE / REJOICE WHEN THEY WIN THAT TROPHY OR THE LEAGUE. 

Please make up your mind. Are you a fan or an admirer. Are you committed or are you a fence sitter doing just enough to be identified with the team while casting every aspersion going in the direction of your club and the manager. 

I hope you have a conscience. I hope this is not some sick banter on your part. 

My advice, put up or shut up. Support your team whole heartedly. If you don't understand my grammar, look up definition of fan in a dictionary.