Category Archives: fans

Flair Players and Flawed Genius

Have flair players always been undervalued?

When compared to the grafters, the midfielders who put in a shift at both ends of the pitch.

When in contrast to the strikers, the goal-getters, the ones who change a scoreline.

When in parallel to the defenders, those who resist in the face of opposition.

Have the players who really make a difference in tight games always been under-prioritised by those in charge?

Let’s go back a little.

Peter Marinello – the Scottish George Best, or so tagged by the media. A record move to Arsenal to the tune of £100k. He made an instant splash by scoring on his debut and also contributing to our run to the Fair Cup Final in 1970. However, MArinello was left out of the final matchday squad and a combination of a knee injury and a fondness of the glitz and glamour combined to take the focus away from football. However, when fit, Marinello could change a game with a swish of his boot. He lasted a little over three years at the club – despite the massive fanfare at the start and his own undoubtable talent.

Jon Sammels – Those that saw him could attest to the fact that the midfielder had a passing range that would eclipse many in the modern game. He was a pivotal part in our Fairs Cup triumph and made more than 200 appearances for the club. That number was stretched out over eight years though. Sammels was often derided by not only the fans at times – but he had to win over his managers Billy Wright and Bertie Mee to get into the team at regular intervals. Not known for his physicality, Sammels would sculpt games with his distribution and shooting range.

Charlie Nicholas – The Scot will forever remain in our hearts for his League Cup heroics in 1987. Lifting that cup is attributed by many to have been the birth of George Graham’s golden era, and the precursor to the Miracle at Anfield in 89 – and the Almost Invincibles of 1991. Yet Charlie struggled with being played out of position and couldn’t find the consistency, despite the brightest of flashes intermittently. When George Graham rejoined the club as manager in 1986, it signalled the end for Charlie, despite his league cup heroics the later year. Nicholas was quickly deemed surplus to requirements.

Anders Limpar – The Swede was the difference-maker for Arsenal in 1991. All too often, those tiny feet of his led defenders on a merry dance and he bewitched opponents with his dazzling footwork. Again though, George Graham was at odds with Limpar – and according to teammates at the time, the Swede was called out all too often for a perceived lack of effort in training. This led to the slow crumbling of Limpar’s time at Arsenal, ended with a transfer to Everton in 1994, just three years after joining Arsenal so explosively.

It isn’t just wide players with a penchant for the extravagant that were kicked to the kerb in favour of more industrial alternatives.

Bobbi Pires is a bona fide Arsenal icon. Part of the triumphant teams of 02 and 04, the Frenchman is anything but surplus. Yet in our Champions League Final loss to Barcelona, it was Pires who was sacrificed after Jens Lehmann was sent off, in order to bring Almunia on. It wasn’t a full-back. It wasn’t a striker – it was a wideman, a flair player.

Arsenal v Barcelona Champions Lge Final 17/5/06 Pic Andy Hooper…..Daily Mail Arsenals Pires on Bench

The players above – bar Pires – all had their own afflictions. Drink, glamour, even sheer laziness. Some perhaps thought talent alone would get them where they want to be but this wasn’t the case. However, when it came to changing the outcome of a game, these geniuses with the ball were the best equipped.

What I’m trying to illustrate is that this ability that is all too unique, is all too often cast into the shadows by gaffers, in favour of other roles. It is the one that is deemed the runt of the litter in terms of importance.

The decision to bring off Pires when down to ten men makes sense in plenty of ways. We needed the numbers in defence, we also still needed to maintain some semblance of attack – but retaining the ability to create something from nothing was omitted.

It is this magic-like skill that fans adore, but is not at the top of the list for managers when it comes to attributes. It now needs to come hand in hand with workrate, physicality. Look at Bukayo Saka. The kid has muscles where there shouldn’t be, he covers more ground than the majority and he also defends like his life depends on it. It is the reason why his meteoric rise has been so rapid.

But spare a thought for the flawed geniuses. The ones who carried the magic in their boots, the ones who carried fans hopes with them on their shoulders. The sight of them trudging the touchline was always an uplifting one. We may not have always got the best out of them – but WE prioritised their skills more than anything else.

They were top of the tree for fans.

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?

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 Walcott Consensus

We’ve been blessed with strikers.

The best of the best belong not only in our Hall of Fame, but amongst the finest o have kicked a ball on these shores.

Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Ian Wright. Three household names, each one conjuring up instant images for us all of the heroics they entranced us with on the pitch.

It doesn’t stop there though.

Alan Smith, Robin Van Persie – they both performed above and beyond in our colours. While the Dutchman may have sullied his reputation with his departure and the term surrounding it, his numbers and performances were exactly what we have come to expect from a player pulling on an Arsenal jersey. He pulled average players up a few notches, he was the man that the team revolved around in his last two seasons.

Arsenal have others too, that on paper, certainly warrant respect and gratitude for what they achieved during their stint. Short or extended, they banged in the goals while they were with us. Eduardo, Olivier Giroud, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, they have held the line for us and left us with memories of some spectacular moments.

It is obvious that some will split the fanbase. Some will have the stock of a player higher than others.

And that is very much the case for Theo Walcott.

The speedy wideman will result in some very contrasting opinions from whomever you ask.

This article is here to say though, that he undeniably deserves to be amongst the best in The Emirates era.

Skill-wise, he won’t quite register amongst the heavy hitters.

But let’s look at the facts – and let’s take his name out of the equation and look at the numbers ina  transparent way. Let’s look at the stats with a mindset of a scout, or an unknowing fan.

Or perhaps even better, let’s say this is a pub quiz – and here are the questions:

What Arsenal player has the sixth most goals for the club in the Premier League?

What Arsenal player has the 7th most assists for the club in the Premier League?

What Arsenal player averaged a goal or assist every two games?

What Arsenal player has the eighth most appearances for the club in the Premier League?

Walcott scores

These numbers scream of a player who made an impact. Who made a difference while they played for us.

We all know that Walcott at times infuriated us. We know that there was a time when the player insisted that they should play in a different position, despite his coach knowing that a wide forward position would get the most from him.

Despite all that though, for us he gave his all and was the consummate professional in the eleven years he played in the red and white.

Walcott also had a handy knack of scoring in the big games – a mark of a player who belongs in amongst the best.

His first goal for the club? A cup final (the League Cup final of 2007).

He scored in an FA Cup Final, Semi-Finals, he petrified Barcelona and scored against the Catalan giants. He scored against Liverpool, Man Utd, a hatful against Chelsea – and we can all remember his contributions against the enemy too.

When we needed him, for the majority of his time, he came up with the goods.

Goals, assists, showing up in big games, surely he deserves a little more recognition than he currently gets?

I’m not here to say he was one of the best in recent memory, because he wasn’t.

But was he better than his reputation?

I hope this might go a little way in changing at least one person’s opinion.

Giroud – A Tainted Legacy

105 goals in 253 appearances.

Not a ratio to be sniffed at, but at the base level, this is what Olivier Giroud brought to the table for Arsenal.

Just looking at numbers renders other, valuable facets somewhat invisible however.

We overlook the way he held the line valiantly, alone, for so many seasons.

We miss out on him holding up the ball not only with his physical edge, but his nous in and around the box.

We also miss out on the fact he tarnished his Arsenal legacy with his actions in a Chelsea shirt.

Giroud came so close to cementing his reputation as a Gooner favourite. While we lamented the fact he was never a 20 goal a season man, the majority of us saw him and his talents as precious – he helped the team with his actions.

Giroud badge

 

He wasn’t just about goals, but the above ratio is not poor. Upon joining Arsenal, he had just been the talisman for Montpellier winning their first Ligue Un Championnat. He joined in the same window as Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski – we had signed attacking players that would boost our threat.

This was certainly true for the three above, but Giroud never materialised as we thought he would. He scored valuable goals and always earned a respectable number, but he was never a goal machine. Still, his biggest asset was that his touch and awareness led to him being part of some magnificent goals and moments.

In his career in our red and white, his highlights reel will live on. Some truly breathtaking goals were bagged, and his part in Aaron Ramsey’s late winner in the 2014 FA Cup Final cannot be overstated. Giroud loved the club while he was here and never wanted to leave, but squad competition meant if he wanted regular gametime, he would need to find pastures new.

His move to Chelsea was a stark reminder that professional football is still, at the bottom line, just a job to the majority of players. He made the right choice as his modus operandi in choosing a new destination was that he wanted to stay in London for family reasons.

Chelsea needed a frontman, and Giroud embarked on a trip to West London.

This was more than enough for some fans to cut the ties we had with Giroud, but his over-exuberant celebrations after one of our worst days on a football pitch – the 4-1 hammering at the hands of the Blues in the Europa League final – was the straw that broke the camels back in terms of his Arsenal legacy.

Mocking Arsenal

Olivier Giroud, if he had kept his nose clean and performed in the respectful manner that he did in his time with us, would have always had a home with the Arsenal faithful. We would always remember his efforts kindly. He stayed while we struggled. He gave his all for us and left us with some truly treasured memories.

Instead, he is now just remembered as being part of the Arsenal framework that led to our slide out of the Champions League. Even looking back at his famous, Puskas-winning scorpion goal doesn’t do it anymore. Giroud has burned the nerve endings.

Giroud

It isn’t as bad as the likes of Ashley Cole, Robin Van Persie or Adebayor – those players ended up being panto villains. But where there was real affection for the player – now there is just a vacuous space.

Oivier Giroud could have left something truly special, but in his job search and his antics thereafter – he tainted what he had left us.

 

Waxing Lyrical About Wrighty

Can words do justice?

When a search for fitting superlatives leaves you exhausted, does that mean that a tribute would be a bad idea?

In terms of an Arsenal figurative Hall of Fame, any who deservedly roam this imaginary building – bedecked with marble of course – can transform a blogger into a gibbering wreck. How on earth can you surmise a player’s career when it affected so many people’s lives in a positive way?

Any attempt would be foolish – but isn’t it important to remind ourselves (even if it doesn’t do them justice) how good they really were?

Some names instantly conjure up memories. Such was their impact, a mere mention of their moniker and fans begin to wax lyrical about a specific moment or goal.

Ian Wright  is one of those players.

So good we named him thrice, Wrighty joined Arsenal after forming a destructive partnership with Mark Bright at Crystal Palace. The Eagles were not expected to pull up any trees, but their attacking might – aided by Geoff Thomas in midfield – ripped up the rulebook and made clubs take notice.

Luckily enough, Arsenal was to be Wrighty’s destination – and he started how he finished as a Gunner.

With a goal.

The occasion was pretty low-profile; a 2nd round Rumbelows Cup game against Leicester City. Wrighty wasn’t even expected to start the game, but Alan Smith’s ankle didn’t pass a fitness test. Our new striker had only signed that very week and he was instantly thrust into the eleven.

No pressure then. Well, it never showed on our star striker anyway. He grabbed the goal that gave us the initiative for the second leg and Graham cooed about his latest acquisition in the papers. The Scot mentioned Wrighty’s pace and his ability to make something from nothing. These talents were always on display in our red and white, and they made him a nightmare to defend against.

Wrighty has spoke about his energy levels as a youth and how they never really dipped as he got older. It meant that not only was he a delight to interview – as well as magnificently candid – but it required opposing defenders to maintain their concentration for the whole of the ninety minutes.

One slip, one lackadaisical jog back to hold the line?

Wrighty will get you.

His pace has been mentioned, but the reason that Wrighty was able to ensure his name amongst the pantheon of greats not only at Arsenal, but of the Premier League, was because his talents were the perfect storm.

His energy levels, his pace. They meant that defenders had to keep an eye on him constantly. But his positioning was chief among reasons why he was always in place to capitalise on a sublime pass or a fault by an opposing man.

Once he got these opportunities though, he still had to finish.

Wrighty has spoken about his inherent ability to put one in the onion bag. I distinctly remember a comment about his finishing, where he declared that the secret was to shoot when the keeper isn’t expecting it. He regularly fired a shot towards goal far earlier than convention would dictate. Most would carry nearer to the goal, but Wrighty’s belief in his talents meant he would try his luck quickly.

It’s fair to say it worked.

He was much more than a predator though. His finishing deserves its place among the best, but in his own personal highlight reel we can see that he is no one-trick pony. If variety is the spice of life, then Wrighty’s collection of goals is like Scotch Bonnet chili.

Chips? He had more than a Glaswegian street on a Saturday night. Outside of the box? So many efforts filled with venom ripped into the net from distance. Then there were the little indicators that genius was at work. The improvisations, the flicks that left a defender looking around for the ball and the player.

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Image credit – Arsenal FC

 

Wrighty’s career is impossible to really visualise into words. His relationship with Gooners is infatuation on both sides and if the next statue outside The Emirates was of Wrighty, arms aloft with his trademark grin, would anyone object?

Not a chance. My words might not do him justice, but his legacy will live on through us and the club.

 

Thank you Wrighty.

Season To Finish With Zero Fans In The Stands

This season looks like ending abruptly.

The Covid-19 outbreak has led to all forms of sport grinding to a shuddering halt. Titanic tussles, championship deciders – no matter how important the fixture or race or meet was – they have all been shuffled off to the side and have had a blanket thrown over them – until sport can resume.

The problem with that is – when that will be. No one can really say. Bring mass gatherings back too soon and we face another spell of lockdown misery. Bring sport back too late? Entire seasons and titles will be consigned to the halls of limbo – undecided forevermore.

The biggest cause for concern though, is that with no games being played – that means no money.  With exorbitant sums being passed around and money becoming the lifeblood that keeps the sports ticking over – it means the very existence of some organisations could be under threat.

So plans have to be put into action – and quickly.

How do the FA, the Premier League and clubs – as well as TV companies – get the readies coming back in?

How does football survive?

There are a few methods that could mean survival and at least a few coins being thrown to the needy. None of those involve what the Eredivisie and Ligue Un have decided – to null and void the entire season and start afresh from next season.

That would lead to some very messy situations. Clubs fighting for promotion and to avoid relegation, European places – all lucrative in their own way. And not one club would simply put their hands up and consign this campaign to the history books if they had a chance of achieving anything.

And that is the problem. Everything is still very much up for grabs.

Maybe this is why the Premier League is reportedly writing up plans to finish the season behind closed doors.

The remaining fixtures of the league campaign will be played quickly, with just days between fixtures. No fans in the stands, but everything that is undecided can be decided.

It also results in opportunity to inject some money into the coffers.

With each remaining fixture already carved up by TV companies – if they aren’t to be played then that cash would have to be paid back by cash-strapped clubs

So if these games are played behind closed doors, the cameras can still be on and some form of pay-per-view can be organised. Watch the game? That’ll be a fiver. Every game televised and available through the club, to view.

It would mean we could get our fix – our club back in action. It wouldn’t mean we can watch them in the stands – a return to the matchday routine could be some time off – but at least the Arsenal would be back in our lives.

For a fan, the remaining season being played out behind closed doors is a solution none of us want. For clubs, it gives them a breath of life as opposed to looking at the coffers – which all major companies are facing right now.

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The reality is, money is that important and has overtaken the fan as the most important factor of football. The prospect of doing this about twenty years ago would be far less palatable to the power people than it is now.

The very real prospect of games being played without fans is on our doorstep – and it is a frightening vision of the game in the future – where the fan is simply used as a source of income.

Arshavin – Wasted Genius Who Made Memories

Players define eras.

Trophies make memories of course, but a player normally surmises that memory.

Sunderland in 79.

Champagne Charlie in 87.

Mickey in 89.

Smith in 94.

Bergkamp in 98, Freddie in 02, Thierry in 04. Santi when we lifted the cup in 2014. Alexis in 2015. Rambo in 2017.

It is a player who acts as anchor in your mind, ensuring that special memory doesn’t get cut adrift in amongst the plethora in your banks.

When you think of The Emirates, of course it doesn’t hold as many fond memories as Highbury, but we have had some goosebump-inducing goals and games in the 14 years we have called it home.

We may often bemoan the lack of atmosphere in the ground, but those who go often will also attest to the fact that we also create a cacophony when we want to. It often just needs a spark, something to get us off our seat – and then the wildfire of noise erupts and engulfs the stands.

Remember our 5-2 wins over the enemy? Two consecutive triumphs that served as timely reminders to our neghbours of their rightful place under the heel of our boot?

Then there was Danny Welbeck’s emotional return from injury – a late, late winner over Champions-elect Leicester City. The England striker’s 93rd minute header earned victory over the previously indomitable Foxes, and the dramatic nature of the goal coupled with the fondness for the now fit-again Welbeck created a noise that has rarely been matched since.

But when it comes to halcyon moments, can anything touch Andrei Arshavin Vs that Barcelona team?

The Russian, free from the laziness that would blight his Gunners career. His confidence to nonchalantly sidefoot home a first time finish that would vanquish a Barca team that would go on to win the competition. A Barca team that would only lose once in the entire competition – this very game?

We think of that game, we think of Andrei, we think of the commentator scream his name as he finishes the Catalan’s with aplomb.

He did a fair amount more in his time in our red and white of course. His goal vs Blackburn was pretty special – and then there was his four goal haul against Liverpool in an unhinged match at Anfield.

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Tongue out, just enjoying the moment as he single-handedly tore Liverpool apart. Holding four fingers aloft when he smashed in his fourth goal.

Arshavin joined on the back of a virtuoso Euro’s for his country. We saw him twist defenders apart, lead from the front and give an industrial Russia divine inspiration. It led to us forking our a decent sum and he initially showed what he was capable of.

His was a career of peaks and troughs. He fizzled out nearly as quickly as he soared into our hearts, unable to wrestle his way back into the first team and gaining weight, he left Arsenal and seemingly never recaptured the magic that laced his boots when he was with us and in the first team.

Arshavin definitely didn’t make the most of what he could do. The Russian’s talent had no ceiling, yet we only saw it hit the heights in probably five or six games.

Yet it was so brilliant, so bright, that it seared its impression into our memories.

We remember Arshavin well, even if he didn’t meet the expectations that we had for him.

That shows what a player he was.

We can be thankful he played for us though, as he created some of our best moments in recent years.