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Turncoats and Enemies

The bond between player and fan is an intriguing one.

We all have our favourites for varying reasons.

They scored a history-making goal. A titanic man of the match performance in a crucial game. An attitude that meant everything was left on the pitch after every game.

Fan favourites come in all shapes and sizes, but when it comes to those we despise? The turncoats, those that have desecrated the badge?

All of us share the hate.

There have been a few that we look at with venom, especially in recent years. Emanuel Adebayor cemented his villain status with his pitch-long run to gloat in front of Arsenal fans when he scored against us in a City shirt, the pain made even worse by the recent wound caused by the Togo striker abandoning us in our hour of need to cash in at the City revolution.

Samir Nasri isn’t looked at with quite so much vitriol, his move to City viewed by some as a player who wanted Arsenal to progress but refused to, so the French player moved to a club that could give him the glory he craved.

Robin Van Persie was shown untold patience and faith during his time at Arsenal, through consistent injuries, shows of petulance on the pitch, and growing pains. we enjoyed the Dutchman in his prime, but not for long. He maintains that the Arsenal board were not showing the same ambition that he had, and United came calling.

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The rest is history.

Ashley Cole was on the back of the greatest ever season that the club had ever had. The world was his oyster, and we recognised that Cole had a gleaming future, so we opened negotiations on a new contract.

We didn’t figure on Cashley being greedy and having his head turned by nouveau-rich Chelsea. The difference of #5k a week saw Cole enjoy his best years at Stamford Bridge, and win all there is to win with the Blues.

Cole hurt badly. This was an Academy graduate, he was one of our own. To see him go to a close rival smarted. To make matters worse, we got William Gallas as part of the deal. The French defender was a great player, but his mentality was sorely lacking and one of the few opportunities at a title tilt in 07/08 was partially ruined by the deconstruction of Gallas’ state of mind on the pitch.

Do these enemies of The Arsenal stand a chance of forgiveness? Will we ever look at these players with fondness? Or are they destined to be part of a rogues gallery of sorts, but far more nefarious:?

At the time of writing, the sands of time haven’t done much to dampen the way we view these players are looked at. How long will it take, or what would it take, for us to forget their past misdemeanours?

If Ashley Cole were to come out and declare he is still a Gooner, and give another reason other than his bare-faced greed for his departure? This will never happen of course, but would we erase his errors?

Like it or not, we have ex-players that crossed a certain line, and it certainly appears that once that line is crossed, the way back is then blocked from view. Outcast, all bridges burned – they are forever a nemesis.

Part and parcel of being a supporter is having a target for our spleens to vent at. Normally it’s a referee, a spurs player, Chelsea, but a former player who has wronged us?

They are forever reserved a spot in our mind, specifically for those that have cardinally sinned in the face of the Cannon. They form part of our history, after all, there can’t be the force without the dark side.

Ramsey Stay Or Go?

We’ve had a great recruitment drive to welcome in the Unai Emery era, with Bernd Leno, Stephane Lichtsteiner, Matteo Guendouzi, Sokratis and Lucas Torreira whizzing through the checkout to bolster our lines.

They add depth and in some cases a vast improvement over what we had previously, but there is one signing that some see as the lynchpin to a successful side.

Aaron Ramsey is yet to sign an extension on his current deal, which is entering the final year. From December, the midfielder can enter into talks with interested parties – of which there will be a smorgasbord.

Ramsey has come on leaps and bounds, and even in a malfunctioning midfield, has offered attacking excellence and a huge desire in the side – something we have been bereft of recently. The Welshman is truly growing into an excellent box-to-box role, and now entering his peak years, the next few seasons could see Ramsey make a huge impact on the league.

Emery’s fresh tactics and training methods are apt to get a few extra percent from the existing players, pushing them harder than previously. It means we will have a tighter unit, and with more competition for places, our eleven will be hungry to impress on the pitch.

Ramsey and new coach Emery

Ramsey is understandably patient when it comes to signing a new deal. This next one will be his biggest, but it will be downhill after this deal, as he enters his thirties and the nadir of his career. His style of play relies on his engine, and no matter how superhuman you are, players can’t maintain those levels for as long.

So, he wants assurances that if he gives his best years, then he will get something back. That he will be able to leave as big an indelible mark on football as his talent allows. Can Arsenal match his ambition? Or will his peak years go to waste?

Plus, finances come into play too. Ramsey and his negotiating party will know that the demands they put in can be high, as Arsenal will know that if they don’t meet them, another club won’t hesitate.

Ramsey could benefit hugely from the sentinel-like presence of Lucas Torreira behind him. Another feather in the cap of a proposed extended deal would be a possible switch to a 3-man midfield, giving him the long-range passing of Xhaka to feed from.

The midfielder’s late runs in the box are a nightmare to mark for opposing teams, and it is no coincidence that he scores late goals – his stamina levels combined with tired legs of defenders mean Rambo normally hits when it matters – but could he be doing it in another shirt?

2018/19 is his tenth year at Arsenal – and three FA Cups is a good haul for most clubs – but Ramsey wants more – and deservedly so. For us to call ourselves a big club means we must view this trophy haul as underachievement.

Ramsey has a big call to make – the biggest of his career. If he stays with us he could go on to become one of our biggest names amongst a litany of shining stars.

If he decides that he’s better off elsewhere, then he’ll become another name that belongs to the ‘what if’ brigade – when we look at former players and wish that they had stayed, knowing they could have given us much more.

Arsene Wenger – Life In The Old Dog Yet

Your family dog is more than a mere pet. 

Through the experiences and time you share, this furry bundle burrows its way into your heart. They become family.

Which makes the inevitable ending all the more difficult to endure.

That last trip to the veterinary surgeon in your car is steeped in pain and tears. The severing of the bond between you and your dog is painful and will leave scars.

Anything that has been in your life for a prolonged amount of time and has given you joy – the conclusion to such a heartwarming tale is always going to be scripted by what seems like a nefarious sort.

The above shares many similarities with Arsene Wenger and the season we have just played.

Facing many doubters before a ball had even been kicked, Wenger stuck to his tried and tested formula. For some, this tired approach had been unravelled by his rivals on countless occasions and it was a blatant sign that the Frenchman’s obstinacy would again be a hindrance to our ambitions.

Come December, and we were top of the Premiership. 

The naysayers may have been silent at that point, but the aspersions they were casting were not without merit. 

Wenger had indeed let the team down with some questionable decisions in the past, and his beligerence in the transfer market in years gone by had allowed our competitors to steal a march on us. This fine pedigree was showing signs of strain, and from January through until April, Wenger – aided ably by his players might I add – conspired to see the Gunners slide into mediocrity, and we were dipping more than a toe into the dark pools of awful and unexcusable. His hangdog expression and the team he created being sent packing with their metaphorical tails between their legs, only added to the analogy – this dog needed a show of mercy.

The team failed to function even on the most basic of plains. Five yard passes went astray.  Players appeared to be unable to lift themselves out of this funk – or maybe even were unwilling to. Teams began to systematically target us, and the losses to Bayern Munich, West Brom, Watford, Liverpool and Crystal Palace, glared an obtrusive light into the inadequacies of the team.

Wenger then changed tack. For the first time since 1997, Arsene opted for three at the back, which gave our wing-backs free rein to bomb forward. A subtle shift in position for Oxlade-Chamberlain saw the flowering of a player we always knew we had but had rarely seen. Ozil relished the space out wide and the space to float. The system worked – but why had it not been used before now?

Again, it was used as a stick to beat Wenger with. This once fine canine was now consigned to the cupboard under the stairs, as we perceived it to be past its best. 

Even the most staunch of Wenger fans could not deny that he was beginning to look like he was in the car boot, on the way to that ill-fated meeting with the vet. The long goodbye.

It wasn’t the formation change that really emboldened the critics though. It was Wenger’s reluctance to outline his future. 

Ex-Arsenal pro’s who had always backed the manager, questioned this approach. Uncertainty has never been the best bedfellow for consistency and a clear mental approach. If players who had signed for our club thanks to Wenger could not predict if he would be there next season, then surely a departure en masse would be the future for our summer?

Wenger should have came out and let everyone know his intentions, and as weeks went by, even the upturn of our fortunes in the League was not enough to stave off the journalists. Every Press conference became a witch-hunt, with barbs aimed at the manager, of which he swatted away but not without becoming a little rattled.

This was all of his making though. If the experts, writers and Gooners were exasperated by this refusal to confirm or deny his future – just imagine what the players would be thinking?

Then, our iron grip on the Champions League places each year was pried away from us, by our own hands. Our poor showing was chief conspirator as Liverpool sneaked in ahead of us. Now, all of a sudden, the Top4 apparently meant everything to top clubs, as papers, radio shows et al feasted upon this latest Wenger failing. 

It was akin to coming home and finding your old, faithful companion, solid to the end, had left a mess on your rug in the living room. His age had left him no choice, but it was fast becoming untenable. Soon would come the time when you would be forced to drive to the vets.

This FA Cup win however, has shown that there is life in the old dog yet. 

Before I get lynched, may I add, that I still think that Wenger would be best suited for a glorious farewell. He has served the club in the right way and kept our traditions intact. He has also given us expectations of glory and a stepping stone into the next generation of football. Without him, Arsenal would not be where we are now, which is a top club who have the ability to compete for the biggest trophies.

His switch to 3-5-2 though, and his adapting of certain players into other roles, has reminded us that he still possesses traits and assets that mean he can still steer the Good Ship Arsenal to sunnier climes. 

His masterminding of our 2-1 FA Cup win over Champions Chelsea was a big slap on the shoulder to all of us. Wenger had to make do without the majority of his defence, a 32yr old who had not started a game in 13 months, and his opponent which had blew everyone away in the Premiership.

Yet we absolutely blew them away, from the first to the last minute. He is still capable of producing a team that can duke it out at the top, but the question of whether he can maintain such excellence still resides over his head.

If, as we all expect, Wenger is given another contract – then there will be the inevitable sighs of derision. Another season of underwhelming repetition, and Wenger taking us further and further away from the big prizes. 

Can he throw away his stance, his blinding faith in those who have let him down, and get the players we need to complete the Arsenal jigsaw? 

Can he show the adaptability he has shown in the last third of our season? 

Can he begin to break free from the shackles of beligerence as he sees the opportunity for a glorious farewell? 

These quandaries still haunt him and they are there because of his own mistakes. 

We can doubt him, and our season just passed warrants this. What we cannot do though, is question how much he adores the club and what he is still capable of. 

A short term contract is probably on the cards, and we need to support the man whilst he is still at the helm. With backing and maybe a change in approach which he has begun to show, then we could surprise everyone.

This dog has shown that dreaded trip to the vet is not quite on the cards yet.  There is life in the old dog yet.

A Spoonful of Winning Helps the Medicine Go Down.

Posted originally on Arsenal Mania

Screwed up faces. Clenched fists. Shirts ripped off in pure ecstacy and frustration. The many visages of Phil Jones.

There are many manifestations of footballer’s mentality on show. It happens in every game that rolls out in front of hordes of cameras, and millions can pore over each and every second, which means that the minutiae of players movements can be open to every single interpretation conceivable.

With such huge rewards on offer, and the spotlight only growing larger, it means that winning will become more fundamental that ever before. Efforts to obtain success and a lasting legacy will also grow with it.

Cause and effect. Motivation should not be an issue, but players ignite the fire in their bellies in different ways. Some have trophies on a pedestal, but some simply have an allergic reaction to losing. It is not in their nature to take a loss in any other way than with disgust and a grimace.

Like the medicine you were forced to take as a youngster, some things are difficult to swallow without a tangible showing of abhorrence. 

Alexis Sanchez is one of these players. 

There has been a shift in the apparent mood of the Chilean this season, and it has coincided with his team suffering a run of form which has rendered any hope of League success moot. As the results have turned sour, so has Alexis and his actions on the pitch.

His angry gesticulations, his frustrations at poor passes and the regular breaking down of attacks. He has been unable to quell the feelings of dismay he has, and it has burned to the fore. 

The fact that there are no other players in the team who exhibit the same symptoms of sore losing only serves to exacerbate what some interpret as an unhappy player.

They would be correct of course. Sanchez is certainly not on cloud nine at the moment. It isn’t because he wants to leave the club though. It is only because he cannot abide losing.

In a recent match for Chile versus Argentina, Alexis displayed the same signs of exasperation that have been on show when wearing an Arsenal jersey. This time though, it was the red shirt of Chile he was chomping down on rather than in Arsenal colours. It was a prime example of his indignance at how the game was being played out. 

You won’t like him when he’s losing….
His hunger for the ball and drive when in possession are admirable traits, but in their purest forms they are just another symptom of his fierce desire to win. Just like when he stretches out his shorts and screams to the heavens when another chance goes begging. 

Have we all become so sensitive that we must hold these examples up and declare them examples of a player who is either spoiled and wants things his own way, or as a man who is actively looking to jump a sinking ship?

If another player were to act in the manner that Alexis does, would this also be used as an example of an unhappy player looking at greener grass?

In teams of the past, we have had men who shared the same ferocious mentality. When things were not going well, their go-to reactions were anger and vexation. Vieira, Keown, even Thierry Henry – they all looked like miserable gits on the pitch. Were they chastised or pilloried for their long faces and wild showings of emotion?

Alexis and his desire should be rubbing off on his teammates, rather than segregating them. We could do with a few more who would run themselves into the ground in order to stave of disappointment. 

Alexis and Ozil – What Happens Next?

Published in Arsenal Mania. 

In any walk of life, retaining your prized assets ranks pretty high in terms of importance. Those things that are treasured above all else and clasped to our chests tightly in order to stave off leering suitors.

They are ours, they are our precious……

Apologies for the lame ‘Lord of the Rings’ reference, but the image of Smeagol and his ugly visage contorted with vicious desire does lend itself handily to this subject matter.  The more we want something, the more things get very ugly.

We may have plenty of treasures and things of value in our possession, but there are always a select few that take pride of place. This can be down to monetary value or even just sentimental value, but these choice items lord it above all else.

The players in our football team have all performed numerous times and in crunch fixtures. Some have gone above and beyond the normal levels and are synonymous with certain golden-hued moments in our memory. The majority all have our respect (at varying times anyway) but there are some men that stand on a different plain.

Step forward Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.

These two marked the watershed moment, transitioning from ugly duckling football club with a cash deficiency, into powerhouse club who sign established world class superstars. Money was no object, we just made it rain.

Mesut Ozil is still our record purchase. The fact that REAL MADRID and CRISTIANO RONALDO lamented his departure only made the fact we had him at Arsenal oh so sweeter. His record amount of assists last season, his touch like an Estate Agent’s promise. Ozil is refined like the escorts who don’t need to place cards in a phone box.

Alexis Sanchez is pure fire. Goals, explosive trickery, unadulterated danger. The Chilean is victory embodied in a tanned, diminutive South American. He is also directly responsible for nearly half of all the goals we have scored this season, either via scoring it himself or setting it up. His dismay when situations on the pitch go awry is tantamount to a toddler tantrum, but dependant on your standpoint, it is also evidence we actually have a winner in our team.

Now, we stand on the precipice of failure. Not only do our perennial shadow-dwelling neighbours tottenham look to have built a team that will finally break the hold we have had over them for over two decades – we also appear to have slipped sufficiently that our normally reserved place at the top table in Europe is in danger of being taken.

Of course, many snort derisively when a place in the Top4 is mentioned. We may have had this on lockdown for a while, but it should not be made a target. This is completely correct, but it is at least worthy of our radar. It needs to be our basic requirement from every season. Such is the importance the top players place on the Champions League, if we abstain involuntarily from the competition, our chances of continuing to recruit the cream of the crop will be hampered significantly.

As well as keeping hold of what we have.

We are fully aware of the ticking down of Alexis’s and Mesut’s contracts. Next season will be the last year which they are contractually obliged to play for us, but this summer is when both will be looking at potential new clubs and weighing up their options.

Alexis looks increasingly likely to depart. He will have no shortage of takers as well, and tying him up to another contract looks like an impossible task.

Mesut could well stay or go. In truth, we have no idea what will happen as we are not lucky enough to be able to peer behind the veil, but there is a large chance we could be without both when we line up for the 2017/18 season.

We would increase our odds if we could promise them Champions League football, but even if we miraculously won that golden ticket for another year, would our top talent agree to stay?

If both decide to opt for pastures new, then we would be bereft of some incredible talent. Skills that would be at home in the best sides in the world. We would of course be stronger with them in our side.

We will still carry on though. We will still have a football club that we will still adore.

We have been a selling club before. The difference between this and now is that we needed to sell our shiniest baubles to stay afloat. Now we are selling merely because the players in question want to leave. We do not need to sell, but what is worse;

Needing to sell or being unable to keep top players?

Ozil and Alexis are not bigger than the club. We have had players who produce far more than they do on their best day, and we will again.

What we need are players willing to work hard for the club. We want players who want to be at the club.

If they want to leave – especially when we need them the most – then we shouldn’t shed a tear over them. It just means they were never true Gunners, they were mere mercenaries.   

Taxi For Alexis

Originally published on Goonersphere.

The recent news of Alexis Sanchez lambasting his teammates has only intensified the hyperbole surrounding his future at the club. 

He and Mesut Ozil – as well as Arsene Wenger – are all precariously placed as the last knockings of their contracts near. Every press conference then becomes a witch-hunt for details about departures or contract extensions, as news about the team take a firm back seat.

It has irked Arsene Wenger, as repeatdd questions about his star players and his own future are peppered at him as he sits in front of the assembled media, but with the latest news, one of the questions appears to have been answered inadvertently. 

Apparently, Alexis had ‘an angry exchange’ with teammates before the Liverpool loss, which then led to a team member having to be held back as tempers rose to the fore.

The surpirse decision by Wenger to drop Alexis to the bench for the match at Anfield was met with surprise, and the Arsenal boss maintained his reason for the Chilean on the bench, stating it was a tactical call.

The decision went awry, as the first half saw little attacking impetus which meant Liverpool were free to wreak merry hell, and Arsenal were on the backfoot for the majority of the 45 minutes. 

Step forward Alexis in the second half, whose introduction to proceedings saw a vastly different Arsenal to the Chilean-bereft Gunners side of the first half. We came together, we actually posed a threat. 

The trouble is, our side are now built to optimise Alexis, so to construct a side without him would require a period of adaptation. We would need time to play properly without Alexis.

The Chilean is a winner, and every lung-bursting run is two-fold. He firstly wants possession, and badly. Secondly, the reason he wants the ball is so he can do all he can to win the game. 

He is a winner. 

Is this excuse for the manner in which he verbally accosted his teammates? No.

Petr Cech is a winner, as is Ozil. They are both accustomed to glory rather than failure, but if they have an issue with the manner in which we are playing? They would not handle it in the way that Alexis has.

This Alexis issue has the capacity for fracturing the team-spirit which all top clubs require. The team must be one, and it must be prized above all else and certainly above sole concerns. 

Alexis has put his own trauma above the team, which any self-respecting manager cannot allow to be tolerated. If Alexis is not happy to construct his feelings of ire into his performances – or even to tell his comrades in a more eloquent manner – then he is a disruptive influence.

Either way, his future looks to be decided. It spells out an unhappy player who will have no shortage of suitors if he instructs his agent to put his feelers out. 

We want our players to be unhappy with current results and displays. It shows they know this level is far from good enough. 

We just want them to do it in the right way. 

Bellerin To Leave In Summer?

When a player makes the grade and comes through the youth ranks at the club, the ties which bind them to the club are stronger.

The fanbase especially, share an affinity with this talented youngster. They see them as one of them. This starlet has fought through all the barriers and long odds which face any fresh-faced hopeful, and every time they pull on the shirt, it is a victory and something to cherish for the adoring support in the stands.

Hector Bellerin is one of those who the fans adore. From his baptism of fire in a Champions League match against Borussia Dortmund in 2014 through to the present day, the floppy-haired defender has risen to every challenge he has faced.

His beginnings in the first team were borne from necessity. Our squad had been ravaged thanks to an annual injury crisis which Arsenal Football Club seem to have inflicted upon them without remorse. Hector had been pulling up trees for the reserves, and his sporadic appearances on the Arsenal bench were a signal that the Spaniard was on the cusp of a breakthrough.

The match that marked his debut was one to forget, as Dortmund’s intricate teamplay and movement were a living nightmare for every Gunner on the pitch. It ended in a well-deserved defeat for Arsenal, and Bellerin was mercilessly handed a reminder of the significant step up from what he had been doing, to what he actually required.

The transformation from this bamboozled youngster into the player we have on our hands now is startling. His rise has seen off established international rivals for his spot. His rapier runs forward have allowed his team a lifesaving pressure valve. His pace has been the inflatable ring that has been chucked into choppy waters when all around him are floundering.

In short, Bellerin has shown his impressive talents in all aspects of his role. He is a modern day full-back that is improving with every season. His full-bodied flavour has not risen to the palatte yet, but thanks to his age, we have many years to wait before his full potential is realised. 

Or do we? 

Revista De La Liga and their newspaper column at the end of the show report that Bellerin is interesting his home club, and that the Catalans refuse to rule out a move for our man. Guillame Balague, the Spanish presenter and self-proclaimed expert of Spanish football, went as far as to confirm that talks had taken place between the two clubs, although these were only tentative enquiries.

Tentative they may be, but as Arsenal fans, we are painfully aware of how this goes when Barca come sniffing around our key personnel. We have seen this horror movie countless times and the ending is depressingly familiar. Could Bellerin ignore the best advice and actually depart from Arsenal?

Hector has only recently signed a long-term contract extension, but all this means in today’s money-tarnished footballing world is that the transfer fee would be further inflated. We as Gooners can at least find comfort in the fact that, in his own brand of Spanglish twangs, Bellerin has reaffirmed his intention to stay at the club.

It isn’t just Barcelona who wish to lure Bellerin away from Arsenal. Man City are also rumoured to be in the hunt, with former Gunner Mikel Arteta pivotal in their supposed plans to snatch our Spaniard from under our noses.

He did confirm his wishes to stay before the uncertainty and fall down the table enveloped the club however. Has his position changed? If Bellerin left, it would smart nearly as much as when Cesc left – also for Barcelona.

It is all conjecture of course, but any rumours surrounding our best players are bound to make us all nervous. We have all seen the countless bilge circulating around Alexis and Ozil, and it certainly appears that the Chilean at least is set for pastures new. 

But Bellerin  has Arsenal DNA. Never mind that his roots are firmly entrenched in La Masia ground. He has come through the ranks at Arsenal, and we have made him the player which is so coveted by those at the Camp Nou. 

So much depends on our where we finish this season. Champions League qualification may be scoffed at by some – especially when we are not close to winning the competition – but it means that our best players are dining a the top table where they belong. It means so much for us to stay competitive. 

We have made him who he is. We have given him everything. Let us hope that Bellerin repays that faith. 

Arsene Wenger – Repeat Offender

The recent 3-1 defeat at the hands of title chasers Chelsea represented a watershed moment of sorts.

After some tepid performances leading up to the defeat at Stamford Bridge, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger made the call to drop Olivier Giroud to the bench and reinstate Theo Walcott to the starting lineup.

The eleven was correct, and so to was the approach. Arsenal set about the home side and harried the normally composed Blues into making errors that could have been capitalised on. The Gunners pushed up and did not allow Chelsea any space.

It was working. Arsene Wenger had made the right calls, and Arsenal were looking dangerous. 

It was no surprise though, when Chelsea took the lead. It was almost expected. 

Arsenal’s midfield by the end of the game looked disinterested, jaded and second best to Chelsea’s men in the centre. The Gunners had created chances, but a mixture of Thibaut Courtois and profligate finishing saw these opportunities cast aside. 

It was classic Arsenal in a way. How bad had this team been though, when fans can say this was an improvement on recent showings?

The match before this – the 2-1 defeat to Watford at home – saw the same lack of energy in the centre of the park, but without the spark up front. It was painful to watch and such is the standard of all teams in the top flight, the Hornets took advantage of this.

Arsenal were 12 points adrift after these two defeats. The title chase was over before it had begun.

Sound familiar? 

That is because it is akin to watching re-runs on Dave all day. We have seen this tired programme before.

At least, prior to these last two seasons, we could plead our case a little. 

We never had the squad to compete. Injuries have ravaged our team etc etc ad nauseum.

Last season though – and especially this one – Arsene Wenger cannot run and take cover behind these reasons, because they are not there. 

Arsenal have possibly the best equipped pool of talent in the Premier League. Established internationals in every position. Back-ups of total pedigree. Every position is adequately prepped for catastrophe should the injury fairies choose to curse us once again.

We have had players missing, but not more than the league average this campaign. Even if we suddenly lost three or four, we could look to many different alternatives to patch over the wounds.

We are ready. This is the season where Arsene Wenger was due to show that with everything at his disposal, he could prove once again that he could bring home the title.

Yet, with fourteen games remaining, we are in the same, sad little pocket of chasers that we have been for over a decade. Progress has not been achieved. Optimisation of the resources at his disposal has not been achieved.

Arsene Wenger is a man with exacting standards, and the mental stick he will beat himself with after these two painful losses will be larger than ever. He is not accustomed to failure. The manner in which his men lost to Chelsea in particular though, is pure evidence that it may be time to step aside.

He set up the team correctly and Chelsea still swatted us aside with ease. Wenger simply cannot do any more. 

What is missing is a cynical edge, a dash of gamesmanship. An ability to drop the aesthetically pleasing football and mix it when necessary. 

Chelsea play some beautiful football, but if you go toe to toe with them, then they can mix it with anyone. They know how to win ugly. 

When Eden Hazard scored his sides second goal – he shrugged off a weak Coquelin challenge and saw Koscielny back off in the box. He duly took the gift and scored.
Alexis went on a similar run in the same game. The difference was that Nemanja Matic picked up a booking for stopping the Chilean in his tracks. That is the contrast in mentality.

Arsenal have shown in the past that they can do this, but not with any regularity. How many times does it have to happen though, before we are able to adapt? When will he learn?

What is most alarming though, is the effort shown by our men. During some of our most insipid results – the losses aforementioned, the Bournemouth draw, the Everton and City defeats – when we should have been haring about the pitch attempting to grab maximum points, we have shown a lack of urgency. 

If a Premier League match is not important enough to run yourself ragged, what will make these boys exert themselves?

All of these errors have been seen before, this tired script has been thumbed and read mercilessly over the years. Every summer we dare to hope that this season is the one where we break through that glass ceiling – but our wings are broken annually around February or March.

Arsene Wenger deserves our utmost respect. He has done more for our club than almost anyone. The way things stand right now though, it shows that he is not the man to take us back to the next level.

If we want to progress, then change is needed. I can’t stand to watch this again. 

Ozil Waits On Wenger 

When Mesut Ozil signed for Arsenal in the summer of 2013, the German made it abundantly clear that his decision to leave the glitz of Real Madrid and sign for the Gunners was down to one man – Arsene Wenger.

The cynical among us will also point toward his princely wages as another thing that would have swayed his decision-making process and they would have a point. What undermines this particular topic is that although the weekly amount he earns for his services is amongst the highest in the league, it is an amount he could have recieved if he had moved to any other large scale club.

Mesut Ozil has previously focused on the confidence Wenger has in him and the professional candour he shares with his playmaker. The relationship between each of them is of respect and the fact his Boss rates him and expects so much of him is bound to make Ozil feel far taller than he actually is. 

Imagine if you went into work and your boss pulled you aside for a ‘chat.’ After immediately questioning what rules you might have broken over the course of the last month, you would sit down and wonder why they have decided to focus on you. What have you done to deserve this? Then fast forward to ten minutes later after they have told you in no uncertain terms how brilliant you really are – you would float out of that office and your work would benefit as a result. 

Man management is a whole different type of role that a modern day gaffer must incorporate into their day-to-day job. It is not enough anymore to pick an optimum system for the team and scout the next few opponents effectively. Each precocious talent requires a different tact to lure the best out of them. 

Mesut Ozil needs to feel trusted. He requires that bond between he and his manager. Wenger believes in Ozil, and the majority of the fans do to. His relationship with Gooners helps massively, but it is that invisible tie between the boss and player that will hold firm when other clubs and contract negotiations come calling. 

Mesut Ozil’s deal runs until the summer of 2018. It is the general concensus that the German is fishing for more money. At 28, the contract he manages to obtain next will be his biggest and most important. It will see him past his prime age where he can choose his destination from any team in the world. When this next contract duration is up, he can of course go to the majority of clubs and nations,  but he will be well into his thirties and the demand will be far less than the clamour would be if Ozil’s name was dipped into the shark tank.

Make no mistake – if we fail to come to an agreement with Ozil, he will have no trouble whatsoever in finding a team that is willing to pay him his market worth. Ozil’s latest comments seem to highlight a different requirement that the German’s camp want settled before any ink is splashed on Arsenal headed paper.

Ozil said of his contract negotiations “The club knows that I am here most of all because of Arsène Wenger. 
“He is the one who signed me and he is the one whose trust I have. The club also knows that I want to be clear what the manager is going to [in the future].”  – courtesy of the Daily Express

That is pretty transparent in regards to what the stumbling block appears to be. As Arsene Wenger ticks down the last year of his contract, the club and apparently Mesut Ozil are waiting on tenterhooks to see whether Wenger will sign yet another extension or he will bid adieu to the club with which he is now intrinsically part of.

The next announcement is key. After a statement of this nature from Mesut, it means that the club will not announce an extension or otherwise until they are ready to also declare what Arsene’s future will be. As soon as we are all made aware of what our playmaker is going to do, we will automatically know what our manager’s future will be.

If Ozil decides to stay, then we can assume Wenger will too. If Ozil goes, then we will probably be in the market for a new manager. The two are now one and the same. The announcement has all fans – both pro and anti Wenger – waiting for any slice of news as to the immediate future of our club. A new manager will radically change the the scenery we are to see over the next few years, and it will have huge ramifications on the future of not only Ozil’s destination, but other players too.

Ozil made the life-changing decision to come to London, and he has openly declared his love for the city. You need only scroll through his Instagram feed to see that he loves the freedom this bustling city brings. His career hinges on more than his setting when not at work. He decided to switch Madrid for London because of the trust Wenger placed in him – something that was missing from the tail-end of his time at the Bernabeu.

You cannot fault the fact he places so much importance in what his boss will do. If Ozil signs a contract and then Wenger decides that he will call it a day, it leaves Ozil in a potentially sticky situation.Who knows what kind of manager will replace his current gaffer?

Ozil wants the setup he enjoys right now. That is testament to how happy he is at Arsenal. 

It all hinges on Wenger, whether we like that or not. Keep your ears pressed close to the ground – the next announcement will be positively earth-shattering. 

The Return of the Loanees – Part Two

Continuing on from the previous instalment, this article places all of Arsenal’s players who were farmed out on loan last season under the microscope.

How did these players do, did they fully grasp the opportunity they were given whilst on loan? Did they enhance their chances at Arsenal with their performances? Or did they show that a career with the Cannon on their chest is just beyond them?

Read on, and hopefully you can decide –

Continue reading The Return of the Loanees – Part Two