Category Archives: Arsenal

Auba Signing Is Sign of things to come

The wait for star striker to sign a contract extension at our club was, well, excruciating.

We waited weeks and weeks for the official announcement. It felt far longer and indeed it was if you veer toward worrying incessantly. The fact that Auba’s contract term was winding down toward its final year and that milestone when negotiations with other clubs appeared closer than ever? That weighed heavy on a lot of our minds.

As Gooners, we are no strangers to players leaving us in the lurch. When we needed them most, they shunned the opportunity to forge their legacy at the club and instead went where the money and instant success was prevalent. So waiting each day for our Number14 to sign with us was pretty painful.

The official announcement saw club legend Wrighty, speak with Auba on The Emirates pitch and as ever, the former club record goalscorer was eloquent and raised some salient points. None more so than when he mentioned the fact that players have come and gone but when we needed him the most, Aubameyang has chosen to stay and continue his career at Arsenal, rather than take the bait and go elsewhere.

Put yourself in Aubameyang’s shoes. You are negotiating what will be the biggest contract of your life before your career inevitably winds down. You are aware that big clubs are circling around you and they could well offer you much more than you will get at Arsenal.

But you could forever etch your name into the annals of the club’s history.

It’s a tantalising prospect- at least for a fan it is anyway.

The Gabon frontman already has 55 goals from 87 appearances in the Premier League. Injury permitting, Auba should get another 20 goals this season, taking his PL tally to 75 goals, with two seasons left in his contract. That means he could make the 100 club in his time at the club, which would make him one of the fastest – if not THE fastest – to get there.

There are a lot of ‘ifs’ in the above sentence, but that concerns just his goalscoring exploits.

What about the chance to actually make history with the club?

Auba himself says he wants to go down with the Bergkamps, Wrighty’s and Henry’s of the club. It’s a pretty bold statement and to do so – he knows he needs to help the club win the title.

Without the Championship, Auba will never quite make the top step, unlike the above names – but cup wins could help enormously.

His double’s in our FA Cup semi-final and final will live long in the memory – we will be savouring his second goal against Chelsea for decades to come – and it is these moments that help daub names forever into the marble halls of our history.

Auba’s goalscoring was chief among the reasons we didn’t fall into midtable in the last two seasons. He is also the pinnacle of what Mikel Arteta is trying to build at the club. An outift that contends for the biggest trophies – the Spaniard is trying to get us back where we were.

Standing in the way are clubs with limitless spending power and teams that have had years of preparation to concoct the winning formula. Jurgen Klopp was given time at Liverpool to get where he is now – and it will be his team that stand in the way of any challengers to the crown.

With Aubameyang up front though, we will always stand a chance – and that is why him signing his contract is such a pivotal moment.

It is a surefire sign we are progressing and creating something that could very well be special.

Our Number14 is fired to make us great again and create history.

Dial Square FC – Keeping the fan connection alive

Arsenal are synonymous with tradition, class and upheld values that go back to the original days of the club.

We are a club that does things the right way and the way we operate is one of the reasons why many of us began to support Arsenal.

What happens when football itself threatens the fabric of your club though?

Many articles have been written about how the sport has transformed from a fan-centric endeavour into a multi-billion business. It has seen multiple owners buy into Premier League outfits and plunge into bottomless pockets to drag clubs toward glory.

It has also seen new owners purchase clubs simply as part of their portfolio.

Like a hunting trophy of sorts perched on their wall, the new owner buys the club for the lustre of owning the club.

Step forward Stan Kroenke and KSE Holdings.

Arsenal have gone from a fan-represented club to an enterprise that is singly owned, leaving fans with no voice in regards to how things are run. It is a sad state of affairs and is far removed from what has been the process since 1886.

And with the cash flowing around the game for all clubs to snatch at shamelessly, it leaves fans as a second thought. No longer is packing the stands a priority. What matters is results and keeping the brand alive. Pre-season tours abroad to enlarge the fanbase, merchandise, promote, rinse and repeat.

Clubs have realised they don’t need fans in the ground, they know enough people will pay to watch on tv. Not only are we seeing the death of clubs throughout the English football league, we are now seeing the slow demise of the football supporter as we know it. Football it seems, is about to change forever.

Arsenal now no longer resemble the club that the majority of us began to support – but that doesn’t mean we stop supporting.

We are all Gooners until we die, but being a fan is intrinsically linked with watching the game, feeling connected to the club, meeting friends and experiencing the matchday atmosphere. Whether that be the pub or the stands, you associate supporting your club with the connection you have.

Which is why Dial Square Football Club was born.

https://www.dialsquarefc.com/

Taken direct from the club’s mission statement, Dial Square FC declare;

We set up Dial Square as an alternative to The Arsenal, not a replacement. We want a club run by fans for the fans. We are committed to it being affordable and accessible to everyone. We are a grassroots football club with huge ambitions and with a passion to be the best we can. But, at the heart of our dream is to ensure the ownership of our club stays with the real investors, the supporters.
If any good is to come from this difficult time, it’s that greed in football will be exposed for what it is and non-league and lower league English football will come into its own. “

This year, the above club declared that it would burst into existence. It is formed by Gooners who have become disenchanted with how Arsenal Football Club is now run and how fans no longer have a voice in the running of the club.

The people who run Dial Square are all still Gooners and always will be, but DSFC exists for all Gooners who want to watch a game and watch a club that is run by supporters – for supporters.

The motto of the club is ‘Renascitur.’ In Latin, this means reborn. Dial Square is very much hewn from the fabric of Arsenal – and it is where the values of the club are being upheld.

The plan is for the club to rise through the leagues but do so in a way that keeps the fans – us – in the loop.

Isn’t that what we are used to?

Giving your support to Dial Square isn’t you shunning Arsenal – it is an opportunity to realign with what matters to you most.

Run by fans – for fans.

If you have had enough of modern football in its current form and want to be part of what we are doing and help us shape the future, please contact us via our website, or contact us at info@dialsquare.com

The Ozil saga – The final chapter

The amount of negativity that revolves around the Arsenal fanbase is probably more than most others.

It’s a diverse, objectional and mine-filled group that can be filled with fantastic titbits of history about the club, great, educated opinions – regularly interspersed with hate-filled posts and stuff to generally avoid.

The ‘Great Ozil Saga’ has been the petrol that has not only lit the touchpaper in recent years – but incinerated it.

Who would have thought that it would have ended in this ignominious way when it was revealed in 2014 that we had signed him.

It was joyous.

The scenes unfolding on Sky Sports News during their famed Transfer deadline Day footage are now part of meme culture. The presenter was buffeted by raucous Gooners, screaming Ozil’s name as it was confirmed we had broken our transfer record to sign one of the best playmakers in the world.

Ozil, a genius with the ball. Able to see round corners, through walls. The German could thread a ball through a gap smaller than a gnat’s kneecap. And he was coming to Arsenal.

What made it even more incredible, more overwhelming, is that it was breaking a cycle of underwhelming years that meant we were without a trophy for nine long years.

Not that the media let us forget that of course. Our trophy drought was far longer than tottenham’s 862 year wait for a significant trophy. Or the fact that media darlings, Liverpool, hadn’t won the title since moustache’s and shellsuits the killer combo (they still are in parts of Merseyside and always will be).

Yep, the slide of Wenger, the restricting budgets and payback of loans combined to see Arsenal fight to keep their head above water in terms of the precious Champions League income. Instead of looking up as were promised when The Emirates was built, we were treading water at best.

And the ring of placards that showcased our trophy haul that circled the interior of our stadium? That hadn’t been added to since it had been built.

But Ozil signing was the reminder that we all needed about the stature of our club and the respect Wenger still commanded in Europe.

Make no mistake, it was Big Weng that ensured Ozil shunned all other offers and came to North London. Our brand of football and his own brand of management sat well with the oft-fragile Ozil. The flexibility too, that was key.

Ozil would be given the key to The Carpet, in a bid to recreate the wonders he performed at the Santiago Bernabeu.

And at times, he did.

We won our FA Cup in 2014, we had ended the hoodoo and we had already seen in flashes what Ozil could do. His first-time finish on his debut against Napoli is still so soothing to watch. How he caresses the ball with the side of his foot and the unerring way the ball veers home.

From there, his standing was only enforced when we signed Alexis.

Two geniuses in the team, they bounced off each other. True, we had to adapt the team to fit Alexis in. And often, the Chilean was a tad too selfish. But they brought the best out of each other and the one season where Ozil nearly reached his ceiling – when he equalled the record for most assists in a single season – was when he and Alexis were keeping us afloat. It is still a tragedy that Ozil didn’t break the record. With so many games to go, he only had to get one more – but a profligate Giroud was at least part to blame.

From there though, it has gone downhill fast.

Alexis leaves. Wenger leaves. In comes Emery and a system that cries out for invention, but places other demands on Ozil.

It doesn’t work.

Then Arteta comes in and opens the floor to all players. Adopt my system and you will earn success. All players will play their part.

But Ozil didn’t do enough in his time under the Arteta spotlight. A run of 13 games last season saw that the German simply doesn’t fit the narrative. Team pressing, team orders and unity – whereas Ozil needs the ability to buck tactics and float, sensing the danger and exacerbating it with a killer pass. He is a one-man show.

But we cannot sacrifice our progress for one player. Like him or loath him, he is still supremely talented. But his boots just don’t fit at Arsenal any more.

That makes no excuse for how it has ended – and there will be more to come from this saga after he does leave.

At least we can all agree that when we signed him – we were all happy?

30 Year Anniversary – Class of 91

Almost Invincible.

Thirty years ago, Arsenal, George Graham and his multi-talented but miniscule squad began a campaign that should be ranked amongst our finest achievements.

The end result was the First Division Championship – but the sheer scale and number of obstacles put in the path of this ‘Class of 91’ adds a deeper lustre to this particular achievement.

As it’s the 30th anniversary of this amazing side, my publisher and I thought it would be good to re-release the book – with some extra content and some new content and info from members of the team themselves – to commemorate it.

You can order this Special Anniversary Edition here.

True, football was vastly different to the sport as we know it today. From the contrasting levels of physicality within matches to fitness regimens, diets and everything in between, football back in 1990 presented different challenges to nowadays.

It doesn’t lessen what the Class of 91 managed though.

There were still 38 opportunities for failure – and for Arsenal to avoid this 37 times out of that 38 is on a level with The Invincibles team.

Does that sole loss really create a gulf between the two incarnations of Arsenal? Is the fact that the Class of 91 succumbed to a ridiculously unlucky loss a telltale sign that Wenger’s team of 2004 was markedly better? Because the rest of the numbers points to Graham’s men as the superior team.

More goals scored, less conceded. A far smaller squad to navigate the season with. These are big indicators regarding the merits of that side that came so close to achieving the immortality that The Invincibles now enjoy.

Thirty years is a long time, but it isn’t the length of time that has dimmed the spotlight that should always be focused on this side. It is that one little ‘l’ that stops the Class of 91 being talked about in the same vein as The Invincibles.

That loss was inflicted on a mire of a pitch, with our skipper incarcerated at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. It was given to us with a shockingly brutal tackle on Steve Bould, which then forced George Graham to call upon a fresh-faced David Hillier (a midfielder) to act as a band-aid in the centre of defence in the absence of the injured Bould. This loss was thrust upon Arsenal by an offside goal and a flood of fixtures beforehand that left this threadbare squad exhausted.

This side overcame a points deduction too, after the infamous Battle of Old Trafford.

It is tough to find another championship-winning side that has had to overcome more – and was victorious in such a comprehensive manner. You could even argue that the competition in 1990-91 was far more competitive than in 2003-04, when there were only two other contenders. Thirty years ago, Liverpool were the all-conquering champions and had dominated the last twenty years or so. The First Division also had an exciting Crystal Palace side with a forward line to send fear into any defence. Manchester United were assembling something that resembled a challenge and even Tottenham had true class in their side thanks to Gazza and Gary Lineker.

There were more thrills and spills on the way of course, but I don’t want to spoil the book for you.

So, Almost Invincible – the 30th Anniversary of the Class of 91 – is out now. New cover, new content – but the story will still tell you all about this amazing journey Arsenal had that year and how they overcame insurmountable odds to earn the title – and what should be a permanent place in footballing history.

http://bit.ly/ArsenalClassOf91

Welcome to the After-partey

We finally got him.

After what has seemed an age, Arsenal finally confirmed the signing of Thomas Partey from Atletico Madrid, for the princely sum of £45m. That amount constitutes his release clause from the La Liga club and had to be paid upfront – no installments or special arrangements that we seem so good at arranging. Nope, Partey is ours wholly and what makes it better is that it seems Atletico had no idea that Partey was leaving until the last minute.

With a release clause in Spain, no discussions have to take place involving the clubs – any interested party can simply contact the organising committee and lodge the correct amount – and hey presto – the release clause is activated, nulling the current contract between player and club.

Lucas Torreira went the other way and will be a fine addition to the Atletico midfield but Partey was very much part of Diego ‘El Cholo’ Simeone’s plans, having selected the Ghanaian midfielder for two of the three games that Atleti have played.

Now we have our man and Arsenal have announced it – in a very stylish way on social media of course, with an RSVP invite to a ‘party’ at 1115pm on transfer deadline day – what do we know about Thomas Partey?

BARCELONA, SPAIN – March 01: Thomas Partey #5 of Atletico Madrid in action during the Espanyol V Atletico Madrid, La Liga regular season match at RCDE Stadium on March 1st 2020 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Aside from being the name most fans will have on the backs of their shirts – who can blame them – Partey is 27 years old (until he is 28) and predominantly plays in the heart of midfield. He has a tag of being a DM and while his skillset lends itself to the defensive, dirty work, Partey is far more than a sentry in front of the back four or three.

Partey is known for his driving runs through midfield, carrying the ball and  initiating attacks from deep. He has an Exocet of a shot and is probably one of the best candidates Arteta could have selected to link our team together. With Ceballos and Xhaka, we have certain roles already fulfilled but we never had that player to inject tempo into our game, someone who takes the ball, regardless of who has it – and says to the team ‘let’s go do some damage.’

Looking at his stats, he was played in a deep role by Simeone and last season, that helped Atleti keep 17 clean sheets from 29 games when Partey started (excuse the pun). That highlights how effective Partey can be in cleaning things up, but for Ghana, he is used in a far more attacking way. He has earned 11 goal involvements in 26 games for his country and this shows the capacity that Thomas Partey has. He can be utilised in a myriad of ways, or he can be the DM we need, but with a spin. He can carry us forward , giving counter attacks more power and options instead of relying on a quick release from either David Luiz or Xhaka.

It also gives Xhaka and Ceballos more license. With Partey helping at both ends of the pitch, both of our current midfielders can do what they do best, Ceballos could even take the play maker role should we switch formations.

Partey is versatile  – he can also play at right back – and all Spanish pundits purred about how good this player is. He is also very physically adept, meaning acclimatising to the rigours of the PL will not be a huge jump. We may see the Partey started sooner rather than later.

Arsenal may well have that player that makes everything else click into place. It’s exciting times – let’s get that party underway.

Arteta and the New Defence

You’re only as strong as your weakest link, so the saying goes.

For a number of seasons, Arsenal have been top-heavy. Ridiculously powerful up top, capable of out-gunning any opponent, but porous at the back, like putting cowboy saloon doors on a bank vault.

Or a bodybuilder skipping leg day so much that his top half looks like it’s mid-way through swallowing his bottom half.

When was the last time we had a solid defence behind us that filled us with confidence? The last time we came close to that was the peak years of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker. Before and since, we’ve been fed on a diet of mediocre or average, which has been off-kilter to what we’ve had in attack.

Unai Emery recruited the likes of Sokratis to beef up our weak backline, offer some physical security. But if you’re also asking that same defence to play out from the back, Emery was ultimately trying to fit square pegs in round holes.

Then there is the capacity for mistakes in our defenders. Shkodran Mustafi can withstand pressure from teams for 80-85 minutes and be a prime candidate for Man of the Match, but he carries with him a warning sticker, that lets everyone know that there are mistakes within that can capitulate the efforts of the team, and override any decent aspects that Mustafi has contributed previously.

David Luiz is a huge character on and off the pitch, helping youngsters grow and also being a conduit for the positivity and work that Mikel Arteta’s new regime extolls. But every once in a while, Luiz will put his studded foot in his figurative mouth and inexplicably gift the opposition a goal.

It is a characteristic that has beset us for more than a decade, unfortunately.

But Mikel Arteta is instilling something at Arsenal. Something special. Something that is getting all of the players excited and looking to the next game. This tantalising project is luring players in. Both summer recruits thus far – Willian and Gabriel Magalhaes – have both spoken of other offers for their services coming in before joining Arsenal. Why did they shun these other, more lucrative deals?

Mikel Arteta.

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Magalhaes even spoke of a phone call from Arteta to convince him of his growth at Arsenal and the end goal of the club and how Magalhaes can be intrinsic to that.

We now have a solid looking nucleus of defenders at Arsenal.

Magalhaes was wanted by top clubs and chose Arsenal.

William Saliba is another top young talent that lit up Ligue Un last season. The Frenchman is younger than Magalhaes, but both could form part of a new-look backline – especially if Arteta continues to get his players adapting to a 3-5-2 / 5-3-2 formation. It involves a bank of three central defenders, with two wing-backs shutting down the flanks and then offering an avenue in attack. Put the experienced Luiz in the centre, with the youthful exuberance and skills of Magalhaes and Saliba, and we are looking at a brand new backline that is capable of following Arteta’s wishes.

We also have depth too. With the cultured Pablo Mari to come back into the fold, and Calum Chambers – who impressed last season before injury cut his campaign short – we now have the resources available to withstand the annual Arsenal injury crises at the back.

With the impressive Kieran Tierney able to play centrally too, Arteta may well have what he needs at the back to push this club forward and toward where he wants – and we want – us to be.

 

Xhaka – Learning From Errors

It’s tough to admit when you’re wrong.

There aren’t many people out there that enjoy being shown the error of their ways or opinions. It happens to us all as none of us are flawless. You would think that we would get used to it, perhaps even take the high road and use it as a learning exercise.

But no. The majority of us either use it as a stick to beat ourselves with – a constant reminder of our flaws.

Or we brush it off and continue to be opinionated.

Well, most of us got it wrong with Granit Xhaka.

The evidence is right in front of us. We just clung onto a few observations and tried to deflect the actual truth.

Which is, that Xhaka may not be the second coming of Johann Cruyff, but in terms of making the team tick? He’s more than good enough for us.

Let’s consider the facts.

Firstly, Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery, Freddie Ljungberg and Mikel Arteta continued to select the maligned midfielder where possible. Asa a collective in terms of footballing intelligence, they far surpass the combined knowledge that we possess. They continued to select him. It may not have always been in a role that suited his skillset, but Xhaka was predominantly in the team.

Secondly, our win rate when he is in the side far outweighs when he isn’t in the eleven.

This was a stat taken from April last year.

Arsenal’s PL record when Xhaka has completed 90 minutes in midfield this season vs without.

With: 15-4-1. 75% win rate. 2.25 scored per game. 1.0 conceded per game.

Without: 4-2-6. 33% win rate. 1.67 scored per game. 1.67 conceded per game.

This season, he has a 75% win rate when on the pitch again.

He consistently appears in amongst our top runners in terms of distance covered. Xhaka is also one of the best at intercepting plays and starting us on the front foot – especially with his range of long passing.

granit-xhaka

This season, after the captain’s armband was taken from him, his normal penchant for rash tackling has seemed to simmer down a little. Which has resulted in less setplays given against us and less opportunity.

The real kicker though for Xhaka and his career at the club – is Arteta has found the ideal role for him.

Before the Spaniard arrived, Xhaka was pigeonholed as a defensive midfielder. True, his base of operations lies in between our third of the pitch and the central third, but Xhaka is far from a one-trick pony. Part of his style is to break up play, but one of the main reasons why he copped so much heat from a large swathe of our fanbase is his inefficient tracking back. Xhaka too often would let runners bypass him and make penetrating dashes into the box.

But when we give Xhaka that responsibility, it takes away from what he specialises in, which is quick turnovers and transitions. This in turn allows our pacy players like Saka and Aubameyang to run into space and know they’ll be picked out.

Arteta has come in and shared the responsibility of the defensive side of midfield across the board. We defend as a team and attack as one unit. That frees up the Swiss midfielder to do what he does best.

And it explains why we now see the Xhaka that was playing for Borussia Moenchengladbach and for his national side.

Xhaka isn’t a box to box, but true midfielders don’t really need a label.

Granit Xhaka now adds real value to the team – and the respect his teammates have for his leadership and him as a teammate makes it appear that a return to the armband after his return to the side is very much on the cards.

We were wrong – Xhaka makes us a better team and it’s time he got the credit for giving it his all.

Choosing Arsenal and our Scottish ties

People support their team for a myriad of reasons, but if polled, the most popular reason fans choose their team is because of family tradition.

Which doesn’t make it a choice for most.

I’m jealous of those who have their support passed down to them like an intangible family heirloom. It runs through the family and is simply expected that the new generation will follow the same course. It means that the values and beliefs of the club from bygone eras will continue to live on in a way.

I found my club calling while I was in Scotland. It was the tail-end of the George Graham tenure, our football wasn’t exactly vibrant and a title challenge didn’t look remotely close – but as a cup team? That incarnation of Arsenal could rise above the ignominy of their league position and give any team in the land a game.

I didn’t enjoy football prior to the last two seasons of Graham’s reign. I regularly had Rangers games spoonfed to me on terrestrial TV and they were my Scottish team – but I didn’t have that fire in my belly to watch them, to lend my support, to spend inordinate amounts of money on merchandise and to go to Ibrox to watch them in the flesh.

When I began to follow Arsenal though, I would hoover up anything about them. Football magazines with posters. Collectibles (remember Pogs?) newspaper cutouts, Match of the Day – anything I would consume with voracity. On the rare occasion that an Arsenal game was televised? I was there on the edge of my seat.

Supporting Arsenal when they weren’t a fashionable team – while in Scotland – presented a few objections from pals at school. They would regularly scrawl on my Arsenal pencilcase, colouring it blue or green – or questioning why I didn’t follow Man United if I wanted to support an English team.

It wasn’t that simple. You know as well as I do that when you become a fan, it’s not as if you can sever ties. The bond (should) be unbreakable. So I weathered the abuse and jokes.

I’m quite proud now to say I’m a Scottish Gooner. And looking at the club’s history, my nation is intrinsically linked to the club.

First and foremost, Arsenal wouldn’t exist without a certain Scotsman.

David Danskin, the man behind the original idea to form the club.

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George Graham, Frank McLintock, Alex James, David Herd, Bob Wilson, Jimmy Logie, Eddie Kelly, Willie Young, Charlie Nicholas. These men were fine representatives for the club and upheld the Arsenal Way. It further strengthens my love for the club and my pride as a Scotsman.

There has been a dearth of Scotsmen wearing our red and white in recent years however. Young Charlie Gilmour was our last and before that it was a big gap. This is easy to explain – the quality of Scottish players didn’t exactly enamour top clubs to chase after their services…

But now, we have Kieran Tierney. The left-back started his Gunners career with injury, but now we are starting to see what the fuss was about. His darting runs down the flank are far from simply fast. They are pre-meditated and perfectly timed to coincide with the attack. His delivery is probably among the best at the club from out wide – and he has certainly destroyed any notion of struggling to jump the gap between the uncompetitive SPL and the Premier League.

Tierney is another link, another thread interwoven in the story between Arsenal and Scotland.

Arsenal Unveil New Signing

It may also help to strengthen our fanbase north of the border too.

Fans nowadays have an array of different mediums to consume football and it is easier than ever to forge the bond between fan and club. But the allure of glory is still very strong for kids, which is why there is a healthy contingent of City, Liverpool and Chelsea fans across the UK and beyond.

Hopefully though, Arsenal will be chosen by just as many by those kids who don’t have heritage to fall back on when choosing their club. Hopefully they will turn on the TV and the first match they devour greedily will be our boys on the pitch, scoring goals for fun and giving us all heart problems when they defend.

If these kids like excitement and unpredictability – there really is only one club in the running.

 

The Arsenal Revolution Will Not Be Televised…

The overhaul of Arsenal behind the scenes was far more than replacing Arsene Wenger at the helm.

Our French manager had been at the tiller of our vessel for 23 years. In that time, a person gets plenty of opportunity to build their ideal environment. It was clear that Arsenal needed a fresh impetus, a new direction though. We were slowly drifting off course and an intervention was required.

It started with parts of the medical team. Shad Forsythe came in, the esteemed medical guru who worked with the World Cup winning German team. New ideas, innovative thinking – aimed at remedying a key weakness within. Forsythe was tasked with not only reducing our walking wounded, but also increasing the resistance our players had for quickfire muscle injuries. His expertise looked to be invaluable. In fact, his recruitment was a coup at the time.

By the time Wenger had left and Unai Emery had been sworn in, there had been a raft of changes – at all levels of the club.

Huss Fahmy, contracts whizz who had earned his stripes at Team Sky, was drafted in.

Our very own Per Mertesacker was tasked with overseeing the future of Arsenal on the pitch as Academy Director.

Vinai Venkatesham became our Managing Director.

There was Sven Mislintat too – the German recruitment specialist with the nickname ‘Diamond Eye’ thanks to his propensity for spotting a figurative diamond in the rough.

Perhaps seen as the key appointment though, was Raul Sanllehi as Head of Football Relations. It heralded a change of approach – and with his departure, the transformation continues as we seek to harness player data and integrate it within our recruitment process.

This roster of changes meant that behind the playing team – the Gunners were unrecognisable.

It was meant to herald a change.

Josh Kroenke told us to “Be excited.”

Arsenal new regime

 

But recently, there seem to be warning signs that the changes haven’t entirely worked out – or we expected far more than we were ever going to get.

The first alert came when Sven Mislintat left the club a year after joining.

It has since come out that Mislintat claims that the club reneged on an offer to appoint him as Technical Director. The former Head of Recruitment – now Sporting Director at VFB Stuttgart, also spoke of the way targets would be identified.

In a quote featured in The Independent, Mislintat stated “Previously we had a strong, systematic approach to transfers, a mixture of watching things live as well as quality data and video analysis – Arsenal actually own their own data company.”

He continued “That meant that we acted independently, we knew about all markets and players in all positions that came into question. However, the new leadership work more strongly with what they are offered from clubs or agents through their own networks.”

This brings us neatly to super agent Kia Joorabchian.

The man who first hit the headlines with a perplexing deal that took Argentine superstars Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez – to West Ham. Joorabchian owned the player rights – which already sounds just plain wrong – and by hawking them both around, Joorabchian allowed West Ham to get two world class players.

The agent has his fingers in many pies and it is known that our very own Raul Sanllehi prior to him leaving the Head of Football post – and our Technical Director, Edu, are close associates of his.

In regards to Mislintat’s quote, he stated that we now prefer to use agent networks to acquire our talent.

David Luiz, the still injured Cedric Soares – both are clients of the agent.

Two of the names linked heaviest with us – Chelsea’s Willian and Barca’s Philippe Coutinho? Yep, them too.

David Luiz may well have seen his best years already, but his influence on the younger players is telling. When the kids are asked who helps their development from the current squad, invariably Luiz is named. Still, we can’t reward contracts for dressing room influence, otherwise we would sign influence – otherwise we’d sign the likes of Tony Adams up to gee up the boys before games.

And while the targeting of Coutinho is unconfirmed, it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that we will go in for him. Willian has signed a three year deal and Chelsea have taken the approach we used to have – over 30? Have a one year deal.

Like Mislintat said, we are now not using data and sound analysis – we are leaning heavily on agents and our links behind the scenes.

It points to our club not using their heads, and a worrisome lack of transfer identity.

We aren’t the type of club to rely on outsiders. We have the resources and the experts to identify who can strengthen us, but by using our ‘pal’ Kia, we could be left out to dry.

It isn’t just transfers either that we are floundering.

Arsenal striking prodigy Folarin Balogun is reported to be leaving the club this summer, after being disconcerted with his lack of first team opportunities. Anyone who is aware of this kid knows he has a shining future ahead of him, but Huss Fahmy has failed to tie him down to a long-term deal, with negotiations only starting this year.

And the decision to hire Unai Emery – which was made by those who are supposed to be returning Arsenal to the top of the game once again – is looking increasingly like a large error that has set us back longer than the 18 months he was at the club for.

Mikel Arteta appears to have the values of the club front and centre of his motives.

But with backroom staff seemingly out of sync and the departure of Sanllehi only the beginning of some hard graft behind the scenes, can Arteta hold out hope of seriously bringing Arsenal out of the funk any time soon?

Guendouzi – Stick or Twist?

Arsenal’s squad in terms of youthful talent pushing through is in rude health.

Some of the starlets in our ranks are among the brightest we have seen at the club for some time. The likes of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith-Rowe represent a hopeful future for Arsenal that we can thrive when these kids really start to bloom.

Matteo Guendouzi could be mentioned among these names. The young Frenchman is very highly rated at the club and beyond, but it seems that he is missing one vital ingredient in order to rise above the average and really strike it at the top.

That is humility.

Guendouzi, as I write, is currently training alone after his spat with Neil Maupay of Brighton. His comments toward the Gulls striker revolved around money and how Brighton’s number nine would never be able to earn what Matteo is currently on at Arsenal.

It indicates two things. One, that Guendouzi is prioritising the wrong thing and two? He really needs to put the effort he uses to annoy opponents into his football.

Since then, we have seen stories, or ‘leaks’ circulating around Guendouzi’s attitude at former clubs and of an apparent bust-up with Sokratis at our Dubai training camp earlier this year.

Now we may or may not ever know the truth about his run-in with our Greek defender, but his behaviour at his former club Lorient is a very good gauge of who the boy is behind the player as it is verified information.

His former manager at Lorient, Bernard Casoni, spoke to the media this week and had this to say:

Guendouzi’s problem is not physical and is not technical. It’s his attitude, it’s not good for the team or the coach. My relationship with him was not very good.”

“I chose him for a cup match against Nice but he was booked very early. The referee told me at half-time to warn Guendouzi: one more fault and off we go, but in the second half nothing changed. I had no choice but to master it. When I did, he refused to shake my hand.”

Most tellingly, Casoni finished with this, “He took his job seriously, his training was no problem and his character is to always want to win.

“Sometimes when he talks it’s good. But sometimes he speaks badly. He talks too much.

“His talent is not in question, this is not the problem. He can be a top player and I think he can still be successful abroad. It is up to him to change his attitude.”

Guendouzi featured heavily under Unai Emery, playing 33 times in our PL campaign alone. This season though, has been a stop-start campaign for Matteo, and early under Arteta, Guendouzi found squeezing his way into the team a tough ask.

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The balance of Xhaka and Ceballos has no doubt not helped Guendouzi’s quest for minutes, but it seems that Arteta is not keen on the Frenchman staying at the club. Perhaps one bad apple does spoil the bunch? Just imagine being in that situation – training with a bunch of teammates daily, but one of them is difficult? It would sour the ambience at the training ground to a degree.

But it is undeniable that Guendouzi is talented. He would have no shortage of interested parties should he decide that the going is better on other shores.

How do we avoid another Gnabry situation?

Now there are many facets that aren’t similar – Gnabry’s attitude wasn’t abrasive and he couldn’t get enough gametime from the start. But we have let plenty of young players go, only for them to immediately show us what we are missing.

There is a definite chance of this happening with Guendouzi.

The problem is that if he does stay at Arsenal, how does Arteta get him to tow the line like his other players? Currently, putting him out to train alone is not exactly fertilising positivity. So if Matteo flouts the rules again, how should Arteta react?

Alternatively, if he did it again, would that indicate that Guendouzi is simply a renegade who isn’t interested in harmony and mutual respect?

It’s clear that Guendouzi isn’t the finished article – his positioning smacks of inexperience and he far too often fails to track his man, but we have all seen that he could be a huge player for us.

Or for another club. At this moment in time, it looks likely that our crop of promising youth players will shoulder the responsibility of Arsenal’s immediate future without the help of the crazy-haired Guendouzi.