Category Archives: Goonersphere

Gridiron Vs Football

Originally posted on Goonersphere.

Football is constantly in battle with itself.

Fans of differing generations put forth their strongest hands, claiming it was better in their day.

What is overlooked often though, is that all generations of the sport have their part to play in creating the behemoth we see today.

So, in essence, we are all correct and wrong simultaneously. The ills that blight the game are simply symptoms of the path the game has walked, set on its way by the elders we all look upon with the highest regard.

There are current factors in the game that are pored over thanks to their nefarious nature. Diving, playacting, pleading for set-plays and the booking of the opposition, the obscene amounts of money. All eating away at the soul of the beautiful game.

Well I’m here to tell you that we could have it far worse.

America embrace sports just as passionately as us. The big games across the pond are treated with such gravitas that they are akin to a public holiday – and none are bigger than the Superbowl.

The buildup to this auspicious day is so gargantuan it has now started to bleed into our day over here. Not only this, but American Football is now big business over here. Fan clubs and games played in the UK means gridiron is now standing alongside our very own sports for attention.

I have recently attempted to dip my proverbial toe into the waters of American Football. I follow pretty much all sports, some more avidly than others, but if it is competitive and has points, I’ll watch it. I have watched some games on the TV and recently, I went to Wembley with my brother and dad to catch a game.

It was an absolutely awful experience, and even though our very own football has its wrongs, they pale into comparison alongside gridiron.

We moan about stoppages in football.

We have NOTHING to moan about.

American Football, in the majority of matches I have seen, have three seconds of play, followed by at least three to five minutes of stoppages. It is so staccato, so regularly peppered with nothing, that the entertainment that takes place in these hiatuses in play is fundamental.

Without it, spectators would just be sitting and watching the players stand in a field. The blow is softened somewhat when watching on TV as pundits and replays fill the voids, but four quarters of fifteen minutes drips by thanks to this awful system.

And we thought we had it bad with players moaning at referees and holding the play up.

My experience with American Football has left me thirstier for actual football. If these two sports were movies, then football would be Die Hard and American Football would be Die Hard 4. With less action. And the guns replaced with balloons.

Gridiron fans wax lyrical about the hard hits these hard men take. Granted, occasionally these men covered in padding receive a really vicious tackle, but compare this to Rugby where players are constantly in the thick of it, not allowed to have a breather after three and a half seconds of action.

Stop, stop, stop, start. There is no rhythm to that American sport. It is frustrating to watch, it isn’t fun like sports are meant to be.

Anyone who disagrees with me, watch a game of football alongside a match of gridiron. Watch how time ticks by in a natural manner on the clock during ‘soccer.’

Then look at the gameclock during a game of American ‘Football.’ Gadzooks! Time stands still as if frozen? What is this sorcery?

Physical sport is meant to be frantic, it is meant to tick by. Even goalless draws have those minutes at the end of the game where chances are made and spurned. In Gridiron, there are exceptions, but it is hard to stay pumped for the duration.

The last two Superbowls are great exhibitions that this sport can thrill, but they are the exceptions.

American Football has the capacity for huge excitement. Of course it does, the audience numbers it generates are testament to this. Look at last season’s Superbowl comeback from the Patriots when they defeated the Falcons. That was a true spectacle.

It is also the exception though.

I think I’ll stick to football.

Will Santi Cazorla come back?

Posted on Goonersphere.

On the eve of his team’s game against Chelsea, Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho lauded himself for not repeatedly moaning about Paul Pogba’s absence.

The Portuguese manager told the attending press that it would be easy to continuously mention being unable to call on the French midfielder.

Pogba has missed two months of the season so far. Santi Cazorla has missed a little over a year.

The tiny Spaniard has attracted a fair amount of interest in the last few weeks, even though he hasn’t kicked a ball in anger for quite some time. Cazorla’s blighted ankle has been big news, aided by the image of the suspect joint that leaves viewers in no uncertain terms what the midfielder has had to endure.

Pogba may have the ridiculous transfer fee and his whole career ahead of him, but Cazorla is no less important to Arsenal. This may be a sad indictment of our team, how over-reliant we are on a 33 year old, but it’s still the truth.

Santi Cazorla’s transformation from playmaker to midfield all-rounder was aided by his versatility. The man with a right foot as good as his left showed he can run a midfield as well as cut open defences with his wits. It is his intelligence that is so important to our team though. The reason he works so well in the engine room is because he knows exactly when to make his move. He rarely leaves us wide open as he can read the game so well.

Since his departure, we have looked so brittle at times. Trying to forge the chemistry between two players takes time, so we won’t see the best of Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey for a while. The ebb and flow of a pivot is still jarring at points in a game and it is costing us.

Santi Cazorla is a complete player, and we can only lament the fact he is on the cusp of the end of his career. A fit and firing Santi, five years younger, would dominate games and win awards.

It took a couple of seasons to see this version of our Spaniard. His first season saw him in his preferred spot of creator, but the arrival of Mesut Ozil meant a switch to a wide berth and he was starved of the thing that makes him come alive – the ball.

It was only when he took a central midfield spot that we saw he can not only supply a striker, he can also win the ball.

Santi is a complete player. His injury has meant Mesut Ozil has to drop deeper to claim possession in an attempt to galvanise our attack. He is missing the bridge that Santi provided.

The gruesome image of Cazorla’s tattooed arm skin grafted onto his ankle highlights how far he is away from returning – if he does so at all. We talk all the time about irreplaceable players, and Santi Cazorla fits into that category.

If the Spaniard was in our team now, then we would have a team that was fully firing in all sectors, instead of a midfield that is hindered by a lack of chemistry.

Yet, Arsene Wenger rarely mentions his injury other than when directly questioned. Perhaps it is because he has had ample time to find a replacement, or maybe it is because he prefers to concentrate on the players in the team. Either way, Santi is attempting to make a comeback with the full support of the club.

There aren’t many players that can hold a candle to Cazorla’s talent. If we are lucky enough to see him in our midfield again, we should thank our lucky stars and enjoy our inevitable upsurge in results and form.

Santi makes us tick like no one else. 

Alexis and the possession problem

Published originally on Goonersphere.

This blog is born from a startling stat.

Stay with me. I know some are less than fixated with numbers, but this is quite the eyebrow-raiser.

Our 3-1 loss to Manchester United had many moments of interest. The joint-record high of 14 shots saved by the mercurial David De Gea. The two ironclad penalties denied us by referee Andre Marriner. The red card rightly given to Paul Pogba that was argued by many so-called experts.

The fact that Alexis lost possession of the ball 34 times however, got lost amidst the drama.

34 occasions, our Chilean gave the ball away. More than once every three minutes, the ball was gifted to our opponent.

We all know the talismanic effects that Alexis can have with the ball, he is capable of the unthinkable at times.

At what point though, does the negative outweigh the positive?

At the time of writing, Sanchez has 4 Premier League goals from 12 games. We can all see though, that he is far removed from the impactful player we have had in the past.

We can all surmise the reasons for this, but it is clear that Alexis is not the ‘get out of jail free’ card we had in the past.

Perhaps this was an anomaly though? Maybe this game was just an off day for Alexis? Surely he can’t lose the ball that often all the time?

I’ve delved deep to find out if this is just a one-off, or if it’s endemic of the player. We are a team that is built on possession, so to have a part of the system that frequently breaks plans down, that requires a fix, no?

So I set up a comparison matrix on Squawka. It offers in depth stats on a myriad of things. I used Eden Hazard, David Silva and Dele Alli as comparisons, and I looked at possession score, successful take-ons, tackles lost and pass completion.

This season, Alexis has a negative score for possession. To offer contrast, Alexis registers -11.69, and Eden Hazard and David Silva have a possession score of 75.56 and 272.20 respectively.

Hazard and Silva also have a higher take on percentage. Alexis is taking on players with a success rate of around 70 percent – not that bad really.

It is his passing that seems to lose him possession so frequently though. The Chilean has a 73 percent success rate, the lowest of the quartet of players.

It isn’t just this season either.

Last season, Alexis registered a possession score of minus 243. To offer perspective, Silva had a score of plus 443, and Hazard plus 333. Even Dele Alli had a higher score than our man. 

In fact, Alexis was the worst player in the entire league last season for losing the ball, according to this stat article. 

So, Alexis has a problem with losing the ball. We have to offset this with the fact that Alexis is so often the man to unlock tight defences because he tries something audacious. He crafts the key that opens defences. In order to do this, he is going to lose the ball.

This offers some clarity to proceedings. Alexis needs to have a bit of slack offered to him, as we need players who try different things in order to break down stubborn backline’s. Alexis is exactly this type of player.

Still, the stats and the Manchester United game particularly show him to be – in brutal terms – a liability with the ball.

So often he is our saviour, grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck and changing it in our favour. When he isn’t doing that though, we are left with a player who is trying, but regularly breaking down our attacks and gifting possession back to our opponents.

At what point does a player’s negatives outweigh his positives?

I think in the case of Alexis, this season is the tipping point.

We can get a player who can grab us 15-20 goals and 10 assists without giving the ball away so often. We know this is a byproduct of being a creative player, but the stats show he is losing the ball far more than his artisan brethren.

Alexis is no longer making the difference. 

Calling out the bias and clickbait with a cup of tea.

Published originally on Goonersphere

Mertesacker leaned his shoulder into his marker and shifted his weight. The corner was ready to be whizzed in, and a goal here in the 93rd minute would surely mean the winner.

The away crowd bubbled in anticipation. The whole game had been nip and tuck but they had been buoyed by the effort their team had put in. Snapping into tackles, running at their opponents. It had only been a combination of the goalkeeper and the woodwork that had stopped them breaking the deadlock.

The fans and the players knew they had deserved all three points. Still, this was Arsenal – when had that ever been a factor in a result?

This match could be different though. A win here would be huge, a real game-changer.

Mesut Ozil looked into the box, and delivered the ball. It arced toward the back post, and Per started to move.

The German’s weight pushed into his marker and it gave him the half yard he needed to jump cleanly. His marker would now be milliseconds behind him.

The ball sailed over the goalkeeper’s grasping hands and Mertesacker knew he was in the right place. His leap was above his attempted captor, and his forehead met the ball in the sweet spot. The ball smacked against his head and careered toward the goal. The goalkeeper trying to get the ball at the first attempt meant he couldn’t stop the ball hitting the back of the net.

It was the winner.

This win proved many people wrong. So many writers, pundits, former players – no-one gave them a hope in hell of winning this game. The build-up to the game was filled with talk of how many the opponent would get, the atrocious away record of Arsenal going to top teams.

This was one of those sweet moments that fans dream of.

Social media fizzed with activity. Memes from social media teams and joyous fans flashed up furiously as they all revelled in upsetting the odds.

One of the journalists was particularly biased in his pre-match assessment. He had picked a combined XI from the two teams, and included precisely zero from the Gunners. It would have attracted a lot of attention if it wasn’t typical fare that Arsenal fans had to deal with.

It attracted a fair amount of attention after the result though.

Arsenal’s social media team were quite prolific in the use of their twitter and facebook accounts. They posted regular, interesting content and they obviously saw a chance – and they took it.

They posted a reply to this journalist’s pessimistic view of Arsenal’s chances with an image designed to simply capture Arsenal’s joy and give an emphatic reply to the doubters.

It was a dog with a grumpy face, in an Arsenal scarf.

Everyone loves a dog image on social media, So it proved, as the retweets and comments went through the roof.

The journalist, quite obviously suffering from an upset stomach after eating too much humble pie, took to Twitter to rally support from his fellow writers. They began a campaign to lambast Arsenal’s social media arm for what was a blatant and uncalled for attack.

The writer complained of death threats and horrible comments after Arsenal’s dog-themed reply. Obviously, a sarcastic reply from the club would prompt such bile. How could the club even think to reply, knowing this would be the result?

The response the next day, was quite something.

The FA got involved on the request of the journalists, who claimed this response was uncalled for and they should be able to write anything without being subjected to a reply. The FA agreed that this needed to be stamped out, and quickly put into place a set of guidelines that each club had to adhere to.

This meant that writers could cobble together articles that had freedom to say literally anything, and clubs needed to follow rules when replying to the writer’s products.

The next match saw a newspaper run with a story that Arsenal have been in the shadow of tottenham since 1961. Arsenal, following the strict procedural rules, replied with a massive thumbs up and a smiling unicorn.

This rule stayed in place, but no other club were subject to the level of attention that Arsenal were. Fans were apoplectic, and directed their furore toward the authors of such defamatory pieces. This led to the FA working alongside social media to stop any direct replies to the writers.

The end game was that writers were given free reign, and got exactly what they wanted, without fear of reprisal.

The end.  

The above is obviously fiction thankfully, but is written in response to the utterly ridiculous set of actions and words that followed Arsenal’s social media team tweeting a picture of Mesut Ozil drinking a cup of tea to a writer. This writer had hashed together such a biased piece on a North London combined XI, that Arsenal saw a perfect riposte when we had won 2-0.

The level of ire from supposedly respected journalists was nothing short of babies crying with nappy rash. These writers have a duty to put together stories and factual content that carries the weight of impartiality. It needs to produce facts and leave the reader free to decide what they think.

Can we honestly say that the majority do this? It all depends on what newspaper you read of course, but the article in question was designed to gather clicks, it was a mass of words connected to a giant fishing rod.

We Gooners produce more response than most – look at any nationwide poll on Sky Sports for evidence of this. This is why there are so many stories, phone-ins and debates on Arsenal – the producers know that it will get high response levels. You always fish where there are biters.

They then react like spoiled kids when they get a response that doesn’t fit their desired demographic. No one is condoning hatred-filled answers, but a well-informed riposte is not hatred, nor is it what the writers want. They want red-faced Gooners, choking on their own froth.

So, it is important that we continue to highlight these biased writers, as they are not fulfilling their duty of impartiality.

They aren’t doing their job, and we need to show that.

Conduct In The Stands – An Arsenal RuleBook

Published on Goonersphere

Dear Gooners across the globe, thank you for taking the time to read this instruction manual.It has been circulated to every fan that is registered with us, and in light of recent events over the last few seasons we think it is time we acted.

Football fandom has changed inexorably with the explosion of social media. Before, if any of you wanted to share your opinion with the world, then the post-match phone-in was king.

Now, everyone has the power to broadcast their own views upon anyone who is willing to listen. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat, any impulse to air your voice can be acted upon.

It is both a blessing and a curse.

Surfing the web is now packed with interesting articles and compelling videos, as well as some material that is well worth swerving.

This is where we would like to step in.

We have kept our fingers on the pulse and noticed the rise in mobile broadcasting from within The Emirates during matchdays. 

Our home becomes a hive of sharing, and we would like Arsenal to become the face of such activity.

We already have the most popular internet show, and we feel that every one of our fans can only add to our power on the web.

We not only want to become the biggest club on the pitch – we want to become the biggest club on the world wide web.

So it is with this in the forefront of our minds that we issue you all with some helpful tips and instructions to aid you all in becoming a modern fan and embracing the power you all have at your fingertips.

Become an Arsenal Web Icon

1 – Before Kickoff, locate your nearest Arsenal Fan TV outlet, which will be conveniently located at handy places throughout the stadium. This will help when your opinions before the game starts need to be aired.

2 – All cameras must be turned inward to face yourself. Video’s and pictures during the game of you singing and shouting are welcomed. Remember – if you don’t record it, it didn’t happen.

3 – Success is found in retweets and number of shares. The more vocal your response, the better you will be received. Show your passion not with singing like in days of yore, but with videos!

4 – No matter what the result, you must focus on something that is completely irrelevant. If possible, you also must conveniently forget your basic vocabulary and make up words. This sends the internet into a frothing frenzy and aid our climb toward the top of the internet rankings!

5 – Finally, you may face adversity from some. Pay them no heed, your rise will be parallel to the club. Your passion for The Arsenal shines too brightly for some.

Thank you all and together, we can make Arsenal the biggest thing on the web since ‘Covfefe.’


The Arsenal 

Giroud – Winning Awards and Winning Hearts

Published on Goonersphere. ​

Olivier Giroud has been at the club for nearly six years. In that time, the striker has bagged 101 goals (at the time of writing) in 163 starts.

This type of return from a striker is enough to usually warrant a permanent place in the hearts of all fans and a gold-etched place in the annals of the club’s history.

For Olivier Giroud though, earning the adoration of Gooners has been a laborious process at times. In the first few seasons of his Arsenal career, his frustrated gesticulations, penchant for writhing on the floor and his failure to notch 20 goals in a Premier League campaign were stains upon his name.

There were many, including experts from every media source, that believed Giroud was a notch below what Arsenal needed. He was effective at times, but he could never scale the heights necessary to sit amongst the best in the business.

It is said that you find the essence of someone in times of adversity, and this rings true of the bearded Gaul.

As his assured first team spot started to be put in the shadow of doubt, Giroud had two choices.

Would he go to a club that truly appreciated him? One that would guarantee him the two things he wanted – games and the love from the fans?

Or would he stick to his guns and show everyone what he was capable of? Would he show how much he loved the club?

Many attempt to display their affections in faux showings of badge-kissing and costumed words. Giroud took the Rosicky route – staying and fighting for the badge.

The opinion on Olivier – and for other players too – started to sway when his actions made a difference. His cameos from the bench would often bring a goal, sometimes it was the winner. If it wasn’t a goal, his minutes on the pitch almost always changed the path of a match. The sight of Giroud coming on started to resemble hope in the face of difficult odds.

Giroud’s tendency to score goals that could be put on canvas and sold as art has helped a lot in the barometer of opinion. His side-scissor volley in 2015, his long range netbuster against City and of course his Puskas-winning scorpion kick. If a player like Neymar or even someone looked upon more favourably like Alvaro Morata had scored any of these, then they would be lauded.

Finally though, Giroud got the credit he deserved, and on the biggest of stages. His Puskas award was utterly deserved, as is the respect from fans he now enjoys.

His link-up play in and around the box. His defensive efforts on set-pieces. These strengths are common knowledge but further evidence of his standing.

His hat-trick against Olympiacos, a goal and assist in a draw against Manchester City, a late equaliser against United. Don’t dare try to say he isn’t a big game player. Giroud has also had the minerals to cut out the weaknesses that critics used to beat him with. 

His strength came to the fore, his histrionics on the deck are now history. He now takes his frustrations out on opponents.

What has perhaps sealed his name in Arsenal folklore though, is that he declared he was staying even though it was clear he wasn’t first choice. The majority of spoiled players these days simply up sticks and go elsewhere, but Giroud didn’t. He came out and reaffirmed his loyalties. He said he wanted to stay.

His contract ends in 2019. If he decides to leave then, he can rest assured his legacy is set in stone. He may not be a Wright, an Henry or a Smudge, but Giroud will be remembered fondly, and the majority of us Gooners can see his worth quite clearly now.

We are lucky to have him. 

​A Day In The Life Of Stan Kroenke

Originally posted on Goonersphere.

Hands steepled together on fingertips, he leaned forward. The groan from the plush leather chair was the only noise in the room.

“So, does anyone have any ideas?”

The faces the question was aimed at, returned nothing but blank slates. Whether it was genuine unknowing or fear of suggesting something the Boss might not appreciate – was not known. Either way, there was no answer.

He stayed leaned forward, a signal that he was taking the lead on this issue.

“Just as I suspected. I’ve no idea why I still employ you. As usual, it will be my expert business acumen that will come to the rescue.”

Still, nothing from the ring of faces.

“You there. Go get me a muffin.”

The nondescript suited person that the Boss pointed at, hurriedly got to his feet and flew out of the door.

“Right. We are here because of my mind. It was I who dragged my teams to where they are today, and it will be I who keeps them there, at the top. Now, I have some ideas in regards to plans, and I want to know your thoughts.”

The horde of faces all nodded in unison.

The face that had been sent to grab a muffin burst through the door, red faced. He shuffled quickly to the Boss, and placed the plump muffin in front of him.

The Boss looked down at the bakery product, and said nothing. He simply gave one curt shake of his head, and the faces that ringed the enormous boardroom desk all massed together on the muffin-bringer. There were muffled noises, the window was opened, and then a swift movement saw the unlucky man hurled out of the window.

“I don’t like blueberry. Now, are we all ready?”

The mass all returned to their seats quickly.

The Boss stood up and began to walk around the desk ponderously, simultaneously speaking to them all and no one.

“KSE Group is at the pinnacle of sports entertainment. Colorado Rapids, the Avalanche in the NHL, the Nuggets in the NBA and the LA Rams in the NFL – they are all the biggest teams in their respective competitions. Thanks to KSE and our expert management of assets.”

No response from the men and women again, bar one woman at the back, who arced one eyebrow at this ludicrous statement. 

She continued her silence though.

“Now, with our hunting channel showing all the glory of the kill, we stand on the precipice of the next level of evolution for our teams. How can we combine the two?”

He continued his slow lap around the furniture and faces.

“Look around you on the walls. Do these animals who have been bested by my rifle not instill in you the thrill of destroying a life? Do they not give you the first seeds of an idea?”

The faces matched the rhino, lion, tiger, bald eagle and giraffe heads that adorned the room. Blank.

“I propose to install half-time shows in all games for my clubs. These shows will capture the glamour of hunting animals or the team mascot in front of spectators. One lucky fan who will be drawn at random, will be handed a gun and an animal will be set loose on the pitch. If they kill the animal in one shot, then they get to take home the carcass as a trophy!”

He wheeled around and awaited a response.

The faces all clapped furiously, desperately trying to curry favour. The woman with the raised eyebrow refrained from clapping. 

She instead raised her hand.

“Mr Kroenke, Sir.”

He turned to face her.


She stood up slowly.

“Sir, You have a fantastic record in business, and it has nothing at all to do with the fact you were given limitless funds from your wife’s family. You have not dragged your purchased teams lower than they have ever been and making the Rams switch states was a stroke of genius rather than a brainless idea which ignored fans wishes. You have fantastic business sense.”

Stan waited for her to continue.

“I think though, Sir, that bloodsport combining with ACTUAL sport, might just be a little…..barbaric?”

Gasps rang around the room. How dare she question this man? He is beyond reproach!!!!

Stan lowered his head. He then spoke.

“Mary. May I call you Mary?”

Her name was Stephanie.

“Mary, I respect your cojones. You are the only one in years that has spoken in open defiance to my genius ideas. You deserve my respect.”

Stephanie visibly relaxed, shoulders lowering and she let out a deep sigh.

“However, you are wrong.”

Instantly, her chair erupted, driving her straight up toward the ceiling, where she met the concrete with a wet noise. For a second, she stayed up there, until she crumpled to the floor.

“Now, any more objections?”

Not even the slightest movement from the rest of the room.

“Ok, so it is settled. KSE will move sports forward with this excellent idea. We will usher in a new dawn of sport! Hunting in a wonderful duet with sport! The crazed support will want nothing more than a show of blood and death! It is the next step for fans! It is the next step for us!!”

Applause, and whoops of joy. KSE, after starting their hunting channel and facing an enormous backlash, had decided to go full throttle instead of showing refrain.

After all, there is nothing money cannot do. 

Dick Law’s Transfer Window Deadline Diary

Posted on Goonersphere.

31/08/17 – 0430hrs

I thought this would be a good idea. The Transfer Window has taken on a life of its own in the last few years, and anything from behind the scenes could make a small fortune. Just imagine, there could be a movie – The Diary of a Football Transfer Guru!

Anyways, the reason I’m up so early is it’s the last day of the window before it slams shut and doesn’t open back up until January. That means everyone will be up and at ‘em today. If it’s anything like the last few years, it’ll be frantic and relentless. Perhaps not a patch on the famous window of 2012, but who knows?

I’m at my breakfast table and I’ve got my bowl of Coco Pops and have Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles on the TV. Their spirit and faith towards Master Splinter never fails to inspire me before a big day. My phone is already ringing. It’s Ivan……

31/08/17 – 0515hrs

Ivan has given me the list of targets for me to meet up with and work my charm. There are three, and they could be huge signings for Arsenal! I’ve finished my Coco Pops and I’ve had a shower, now it’s time to dress the part.

No transfer mogul is complete without the obligatory power suit. One that says “I’m all about the details, you won’t get anything past me,” but also “I also own a subscription to National Geographic Magazine.”

I don’t. I buy Wordsearch books.

So, my suit is on and my Peter Griffin tie completes this amazing business ensemble. The tie sprinkles in a bit of the unknown you see, it puts them off-kilter a bit.

Now, just to call my PA, Maurice, to book the flights to Paris, Southampton and Monaco, then I’m ready!

I’ve thought of everything. Let’s go and make some deals!

31/08/17 – 0620hrs

I’ve seen every airport lounge, sampled every Toblerone you can imagine – did you know they do a mint one? – but Heathrow is always the beginning of every journey. It’s special, and the staff there are great to me. They know me now, and they often help me to carry my things. They have a quick turnaround of staff though, they often forget to come back with my stuff!

Queues are the enemy of any passenger at the airport, but not for Dick Law! Thanks to my high position at Arsenal, I get Business Class everywhere I go! The plushest of seats, extra legroom, all the Fanta I can drink! It is the fact I don’t have to queue though, that really makes the difference. This is vital, being the jetset, business-type that I am. Hold that thought, Ivan is on the phone again…..

31/08/17 – 0630hrs

Just ended the call from Ivan, and that is the end of my mammoth Haribo scoffing session. Apparently, if I want to eat sweets, I’ve got to do it on my own bank card, rather than the club’s dosh. Stan has been watching the club accounts you see….

Anyway, there’s been a slight mishap. Maurice didn’t actually book the flights to Monaco. So, now I’ve got to queue up with the rest of the plebs. I’ve told Maurice to contact the Chairman of Monaco to let them know I’ll be delayed a little, but it shouldn’t make too much difference.

Once they meet me and listen to the words I spin, they will be entranced. Then, they’ll be a Gunner!

Arsene will be so pleased, if I get even one of these deals over the line, then I’m sure to get more coupons for the skateboard I’ve had my eye on for ages! Arsene makes sure I get coupons for my good work, and I want that skateboard!

Let’s do this!

31/08/17 – 1200hrs

After queueing, then the delay on the runway, then waiting to get off the plane, then passport control, then stopping to get Toblerone, then the cab to meet the Monaco chairman, I was four hours late.

The Chairman wasn’t there when I got to the meeting point. He had left a message with a member of staff though, telling me that the player has joined elsewhere.

Darn it! I had some great lines stored up to woo these guys! I have to phone Maurice and reinforce how important the next two meetings are. Before I do though, Ivan is on the phone….

31/08/17 – 1300hrs

I’m back at Monaco airport, and I’m just about to go in for my Business Class flight to Paris. Ivan wasn’t pleased about the missed meeting. I told him that it was down to Maurice that I missed everything, but he didn’t let me speak. He just kept shouting at me. It was only when I started to cry that he stopped.

Anyway, this next meeting is maybe more important than the last. We’ve sold a few players recently that means we need new ones – the Szczesny deal was all down to me! – so Paris needs the finest Dick Law that I can be! Mum always says that appearance is just as important as words, so I’ve got toItomake sure I rinse out the jam stain on my Peter Griffin tie when I get into the Executive Bathroom!

Paris here I come, I don’t think you’re ready for the Dick whirlwind!

31/08/17 – 1304hrs

Maurice didn’t book my tickets – again. It means I’ve got to queue up again and get in with the rest of the cattle. I’ve got ten minutes before I do all that, so I’m in the bathroom getting rid of the jam stain and I’m doing my mouth exercises in the big mirrors. Annunciation is a big thing, and I want to impress the big cheese’s at the Parc Des Princes with my big words. 

Annunciation is one of them, I’ll slip it in there somehow!

Now, I’ve got to go, my flight is near and the town that was inspired by Blackpool and their Tower is calling!

31/08/17 – 1605hrs

The flight was bumpy, they didn’t serve up any Babybel, Maurice never booked the transfer from the airport to the stadium offices – and I was mega late again.

The staff at the club tried to find the Chairman, but we eventually found out they had flown back to Qatar and said they won’t be doing business with people who can’t grace them with proper timekeeping! Charming!

Their loss, they didn’t even see my Foghorn Leghorn impression! That was the dealmaker for sure!

Ivan is ringing again, this might take a while…..

31/08/17 – 1700hrs

Ivan threatened me. He said if I don’t get this last deal done, then I can kiss goodbye to that skateboard I want.

I’ve got to get cracking. I’ve got all the talk, all the skills, I just need to get to Southampton. Best call Maurice and make sure the flight is booked, as well as the transfers. I’m not going to miss this one. This deal will go down in history, and it will be all down to Dick Law, transfer expert extraordinaire!

31/08/17 – 2300hrs

I missed the flight. I missed the meeting. According to Maurice, it’s because he’s invisible and can’t touch the keys on the keyboard. It never stopped him when we were kids though…..

Anyway, that means the three players have moved to other clubs, and Arsenal have missed out.

Worse still, the skateboard is gone. Ivan has sent me a Whatsapp with it sawn in half. I cried a little, so I ate one of my toblerone’s to cheer myself up. I suppose I best get to bed, It’s been a long…..

Wait a minute!

I’ve just got a text saying a player has stated his interest in joining The Arsenal! All I have to do is get back to Southampton, and we can talk!

I’m going to get a cab, this could change everything!

01/09/17 – 0002hrs

I got to the meeting, I did my impression, used my big-boy words, my tie sparked a conversation – it went perfectly!

We quickly progressed to negotiations, and this is when my intellect comes into play. They wanted £25million – I hit straight back with £3.


They didn’t like that! After a long argument, they then came back with their second figure.


I smashed it straight back with £1.50 and a slice of Millionaire Shortbread.


That was when I was asked to leave.

I’ve asked Maurice to ring me a cab, but that was a while ago.

It’s getting quite cold and I forgot to bring my mittens that my mum knitted me.

Ivan is calling my phone….

The Premier League and Diving

Published on Goonersphere.

Recent news regarding football in England has seen the Football Association move to tackle what is fast becoming an epidemic in the game. 

From this season, plans have been put in place to issue retrospective bans for players found to be guilty of simulation. 

Is this enough though?

The Scottish Football Association have had this framework in place already since 2011, and yet players have still attempted to con the match official by diving. Most notoriously, when a Ross County player dived and earned a penalty against Celtic, which helped County earn a draw.

There will be a two game ban for any player found guilty of such behaviour, and the panel who will inspect any suspected incidents will comprise of an ex-referee, an ex-player and an ex-manager. Why not a current referee though?

This move smacks of closing the gate after the horse has bolted. The evidence North of the Border says that while it may be a step in the right direction, it is nowhere near enough to eradicate diving from football. 

In all major sport, realtime video technology exists where any incident can be viewed within seconds of it occurring. Rugby League and Union and tennis are just two examples where real-time events are pored over by modern tech – and the game has not suffered. In fact, it has been embraced by the fans – particularly in cricket and tennis where replays are dramatically viewed on a big screen.

Chew on this. When a player has gone down in the box, the furore from the team who claim it was a penalty and the opposing team pleading their innocence goes on for at least a minute. The referee either waves away protests, goes to the linesman or awards a corner or goal kick. Then you have the stricken player who went down in a heap, awaiting the miraculous touch of his team’s physio before continuing play.

All of this combines to leave an ample window for video tech to look at the claimed foul from a myriad of angles and judgment to pass. 

The recent Confederations Cup in Russia trialled Video Assistant Refereeing to varied results, but in truth, it was implemented poorly. The match referee often would go to the sideline to review decisions – but doesn’t that defeat the object? 

This is why it was trialled and not officially used, as there are still bugs in the system – but it is still the way forward if the game is going to thrive. 

The game already suffers from a blight of stopped play as players go down in a heap through supposed nefarious fouls, yet are sprinting 60yards within minutes. All to curry an advantage from the referee. 

The game in its current state needs instant video tech NOW.

It took far too long to introduce goalline technology to the game, and the delay in introducing this measure could eventually cost a team millions.

If a dive in a huge game earns a penalty, the ramifications could be huge. 

The move to introduce retrospective bans mean that players may think twice before engaging in such bad sportsmanship, but if the punishment was instant and in-game, the cost to his team would mean that simulation would be forced out of the game to a minimal level. 

Can you imagine a manager not punishing one of his players if he was either sent to a sin-bin or sent off after diving, leaving the team a man down? 

Managers have had their say on this latest introduction by the FA. Sam Allardyce of Crystal Palace said to The Guardian in no uncertain terms;

Bring technology in, let us look at it on the day, and then bring a sin-bin in so we can put him in that for 10 minutes and then put him back on. Stop paying all these people money to do rubbish situations in the game. That’s utter rubbish.”

The FA could be seen as visonary if they were the first in Europe to introduce instant punishments for simulation. 

Until they do, then diving will still have a place in the game and justice will have to turn a blind eye. 

Gabriel and Decisions

Published on Goonersphere.

For years, us Gooners were crying out for a bit of mettle on the pitch.

Season after season of matches where we folded like a wet pack of cards, in the face of the merest hint of physicality from our opposition.

With concerted pressing and a few choice kicks off the ball, our aesthetically pleasing football was reduced to a plodding display which lacked the dynamism to really optimise our footballing brain.

We needed a hatchet man.

Arsenal have always had that player that rode into view when our enemy were getting ideas above their station. When his teammates needed protecting, players like Peter Storey, the entire famous Back4, Patrick Vieira – that ilk of player that never backed down. Sometimes to the cost of a red card, but their strength inspired their cohorts, and they felt braver as a result.

So when Brazilian Gabriel was signed in 2015, the omens were good that we had a player to crack a few skulls when the time came to it.

The toothy defender joined from Villareal, and the Spanish side had been climbing La Liga thanks to their imperious defence. 

Along with Mateo Musacchio and Victor Ruiz, the ‘Yellow Submarine’ had proved the toughest nut to crack in Spain.

Gabriel had a reputation for no-nonsense defending, but could carry the ball if he was asked to. His transfer fee meant hopes were high amongst us all, and I went to the match which was his debut in an Arsenal shirt – the FA Cup tie versus Middlesbrough.

It was a 2-0 routine game which really should have seen Arsenal score more, but Gabriel stood out with his aerial prominence. He looked strong, and had the potential to form a bedrock should he be given the chance.

He made 21 appearances in the league that season, 19 the season after. There were also plenty of opportunities in the various cups too.

These numbers represent ample chances to prove his worth, to show he can handle the unique demands the Premier League offers.

What has been abundantly clear is that whilst Gabriel’s reactionary defences are strong, his decision-making is not up to par. When given the time, the Brazilian made constant rash decisions which gave away set-pieces.

There were periods when Gabriel looked the part. Last season he was called into the side to play as an emergency right-back, and he did not let us down. He was solid, his positioning was error-free – he did the job effectively.

He couldn’t keep his place though. Gabriel simply gives away too many fouls, goes to ground too often in last-gasp tackles that have a low percentage of success, and couldn’t bond with his defensive partners.

His much-vaunted troubles with the English language didn’t help, but we have had many foreign imports and they have all had to learn the dialect, so why was it so difficult for Gabriel?

Who knows. What is certain is that his departure, for slightly less than he was purchased for, was a dilemma of sorts.

Some cried out after he was sold, saying he was a great backup and we still need defensive numbers. The dilemma though, was that it was either Gabriel or Calum Chambers who would have left the club – and Chambers is a far better long-term option.

Firstly, the England man’s age weighs in his favour. Secondly, his Under-21 displays as Captain show what he is capable of – as well as his record under severe duress in his season on loan with a poor Middlesbrough side.

Chambers could still develop into a fantastic defender. He IS a fantastic defender, but needs a chance.

Gabriel had his chance, and whilst he could have forged a career in the Premiership, Arsenal deserved better than what he could give. It feels sad to say that because, above all else – Gabriel left everything on the pitch when he pulled on the shirt.

If we could have all of our current players have the same burning desire Gabriel showed in every minute he played for us, then we would have a squad that competes far more than it does right now.

Thank you Gabriel, and we all hope you find your way at Valencia.