article / Premier League’s dependence on TV money to retain “Best League” claim
As Sky Sport dangles their £170m, golden carrot in front of clubs it is clear the Premier League as a real dependence on TV money to stay afloat, be the "best league" and it drives all the decision making - for better or worse.
column / Money Where Your Mouth Is: On Brands and Value Statements
Mesut Özil and Adidas are parting ways when the playmaker's current sponsorship deal runs out this summer. The reasons for the split given by both parties seem reasonable enough. There is, however, one glaring logical fallacy: the lack of any detectable downside in their mutually beneficial partnership. A discussion of sponsorship, brand management, and value statements.
column / An Assessment of Nicolas Pépé’s Arsenal Career so Far.
Firstly, I would like to apologise for the lack of articles in recent weeks. The unprecedented impact of the Corona Virus required myself and many others to transition to online learning. With important University exams approaching, my studies occupied the vast majority of my time. I hope that you and your loved ones have all remained safe and healthy during these tough times. Thankfully, I managed to get through my exams successfully, and now a provisional return date for the Premier League has been released. For my first article back, I will examine Nicolas Pépé’s Arsenal career so far. Some call him a flop while others can’t wait to see him back in action. To say that he has divided opinions from fanbase to fanbase would be an understatement. In this article, I give my assessment on his displays so far, my view on why he initially struggled and reasons to be optimistic for his future at the club. Our record signing has certainly been a topic of discussion throughout the season. The Ivorian arrived for a hefty fee, and the expectations were very high as a result. While it is important to acknowledge that he has not been as good as we all know that he can be, he has shown numerous signs of promise, particularly since the arrival of Mikel Arteta in late-December. The 24-year old’s slow start to life in England was impacted by a number of factors. Firstly, if was his first time to move away from French football, and there was presumably a cultural and language shock. Secondly, I think it is fair to say that the inconsistent lineups of Unai Emery added to the challenges that he faced, as did the lack of a full pre-season with the squad. Despite his early struggles, there were still signs of what was to come. Games such as Liverpool away and Spurs at home spring to mind. Pépé made headlines following his Europa League brace against Vitória, but Emery did not include him in the starting XI again, before he was dismissed. Unfortunately, this pattern continued during the early stages of Freddie Ljungberg’s brief stint in charge as interim head coach. As time progressed, Nico became more accustomed to English game, and won his place back. A superb display at the London Stadium showcased what he is capable of. On December 20th, Mikel Arteta was appointed as our new head coach, and the Spaniard’s arrival has had a positive impact on the vast majority of the squad - Pépé included. Although Reiss Nelson was initially preferred on the right hand side, Nico was provided with an opportunity to prove himself against Manchester United on New Year’s Day, and he certainly seized it. He opened the scoring early on in the game, and was a constant threat throughout. He came close to doubling his tally, and was denied only by the woodwork. This display summed up exactly why we broke our transfer record to attain his services. In the weeks that followed, Pépé continued to improve. The new demands of Arteta seemed to benefit him, and the squad as a collective. His ever-improving chemistry with his teammates became apparent and he gauged a better understanding of when to challenge the opposition fullback vs when to simply retain possession for the side. At Arsenal, in recent years, we have been deprived of natural wingers. Players such as Özil and Ramsey have often been shoehorned into the side in a wide area, when they are much more suited to a central role. As a result of this, we are not accustomed to wingers who lose possession frequently. When Mesut Özil plays out wide, his pass completion rate will undeniably be higher than that of Nicolas Pépé. However, we will suffer in other areas. In the modern game, the wings are very much high risk-high reward. A prime example was Serge Gnabry’s performance against Spurs earlier this season. The German lost possession 13 times throughout the game. Only four players were dispossessed more frequently, even when you consider the Tottenham players who were on the wrong end of a five goal deficit. Although Gnabry wasn’t always efficient when in possession, he was a constant threat. The ex-Gunner finished the game with four goals and one assist. Despite the fact that he wasn’t always successful with the ball at his feet, he was undoubtedly the best player on the pitch. For Arsenal, when Pépé loses the ball twice in quick succession, fans lose patience very quickly. We have been spoiled by wingers who are tidy in possession, so having to transition to someone who is a more traditional wide-man has required some fans to alter their perception of what to expect from a winger. You can’t ask him to simply keep the ball, as then we lose what he is best at. His biggest assets are his dribbling ability, his speed and his end product. As the season has progressed, each of these has become apparent. To date, Pépé’s best performance in an Arsenal shirt came against Newcastle United at the Emirates Stadium. He set up the opener with a looping inswinging cross to the far post, before doubling the lead himself just three minutes later. Late in the game, he was yet again key in the buildup to Mesut Özil’s goal, and he claimed another assist in injury time courtesy of a nice team move which was eventually finished off by the misfiring Alexandre Lacazette. Not only was Pépé’s output very impressive, his overall performance also matched the standard that a £72m price-tag sets. Nico played four key passes, created three big chances, made one interception, completed two successful tackles, won seven duels, and made more recoveries than anyone else on the pitch. Overall, it was a near perfect display. Although he may not have sustained this level of performance in the weeks that followed, he certainly appeared to be a different player to the one we saw struggling for confidence under Emery in the early stages of the season. His link-up play with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is becoming more apparent each week, and his combination play with other teammates is also improving. Although he has been much better than some fans would like you to believe, there is no denying that Pépé is capable of more than what we have seen. We all saw him for Lille last season. We all saw his performance against Newcastle in February. However, it is important to remain patient, and here is why. Firstly, the circumstances surrounding the club have obviously had a detrimental effect on all of the squad. However, I would argue that it has impacted Pépé more than most. During the 2019/20 campaign, we have had three managers with drastically different styles. These conflicting ideas and positional tweaks have been problematic for the squad as a whole, but Nico was unfortunate enough to miss out on a full pre-season with the team due to the African Cup of Nations. When most of the squad were coming to terms with the expectations of Emery, Pépé was simply getting used to his teammates, the club, etc. Essentially, he was at least a month behind with regards to tactics. As he became aware of his duties, Emery began to chop and change the side. The Ivorian had spells on the sideline and the discussion regarding Emery’s future didn’t help matters either. Similarly, under Ljungberg, when Pépé seemingly found his feet, it was almost immediately time to transition to another manager, philosophy and play-style. Thankfully, Mikel seems to very much be a long-term appointment, so I hope that this problem will be eradicated for the years to come. Secondly, the lack of a fully fit and firing right-back has added to his responsibilities. Early in the season, Maitland-Niles occupied the role, but he struggled at times. Although he could link up with Pépé in an offensive sense, his sub-par defensive qualities required additional support from Nico, limiting his opportunities on the ball in dangerous areas - as his starting position was somewhat deeper than usual. Following Maitland-Niles’ dismissal against Aston Villa in September, Calum Chambers was brought into the side. Although he is a considerably better defender than the man he replaced, many people believe that he is better suited to the centre half position - myself included. This meant that that Pépé had very little support in an offensive sense. There was limited width provided by Calum, and his link-up ability isn’t as prominent as most modern full-backs. After almost a full year on the sideline, Héctor Bellerín eventually returned to the side. This was eagerly anticipated by many fans, and I for one was intrigued to see whether the Spaniard’s presence could help bring out the best in Pépé. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Bellerín struggled for form, regardless of his equaliser at Stamford Bridge, and we have since been informed that he never fully recovered from his initial injury. Strangely, the lockdown period could prove to be beneficial for him, as he has had a chance to physically recover at his own pace, with the help of the fitness coaches. I hope that we will see a rejuvenated Héctor Bellerín when football returns, and this will only benefit Pépé. Finally, many of the best players in the history of Arsenal Football Club have had slow starts to their lives in London. Thierry Henry took eight games to score his first goal for the club, and his second league goal didn’t arrive until November 28th. He is now the club’s all-time leading goalscorer. Similarly, Dennis Bergkamp initially struggled. We are all presumably aware of the ‘Bergy’s a Waste of Money’ headline. Look at how that turned out. In terms of wingers, Robert Pirès is a perfect example. The Frenchman arrived in England as a 27-year old and managed 17 goals and assists in his first season. To date, Pépé has 14, and there are still many games left to play. Nico is also two, almost three, years younger than Pirès. While this is by no means a guarantee that he will prove to be a world beater, it is important to note that success isn’t always instant - even for the best of players. Personally, I can’t wait to see Pépé back in action. I feel like lockdown came at the wrong time for him, as he was building up some momentum beforehand. Nonetheless, let’s hope that he has used the time to his advantage, and that we will see the results of that in the weeks and months to come. Overall, his first season has shown glimpses of brilliance and, with the help of an encouraging coach with a history of improving goalscoring wingers, I think we will see the real Nicolas Pépé when the Premier League resumes. Once again, apologies for the delay in publishing this piece. I hope that things will return to normal from here on in, and I can resume weekly articles. As always, if you have any feedback or wish to add to the points made above, feel free to leave a comment below. Regardless, thank you for reading and stay safe.
column / Could Aaron Ramsey Return for Arsenal's Game Against Man City?
The world as we know it is no more. Well, for the time being at least.Lockdown measures may be easing somewhat but, let’s face it, life is going to be different for a while yet.Covid-19 and the lockdown that it brought with it means that we don’t know when, if ever, our lives will go back to what we know as normal.Some things have changed for the worse, some things have changed for the better. Whichever way you look at it; things have changed.You’ve seen evidence of this everywhere you look.Shops, pubs, restaurants and businesses closed on every street, queueing and social distancing measures for those that were still operating.The number of joggers on our streets has increased by millions overnight, with hideously overgrown barnets and beards flying about all over the shop.Drinking in the park instead of the pub is now the norm, rather than being reserved for teenagers, pissheads and hipsters with their shitty little barbecues on a summer afternoon. Not one person on the planet is the same weight now as they were before lockdown. You’ve either lost a couple of stone or you’re one more furlough extension away from an appearance on My 600-lb Life.Every day we learn of ways that people have changed their living habits during lockdown. Some have learned to cook, some have begun to exercise more, Alan Sugar has become thicker than thicker by the day, Ray Parlour has learnt get pissed without Alan Brazil, Harry Kane’s grown a pair of tits, and politicians have found even more elaborate ways to lie to us all.Oh, and I’ve learned to press the button at a pedestrian crossing with my feet.And Piers Morgan is still a complete c**t. Some things will never change.The thing is, I don’t know about you, but I’ve pretty much got used to this new way of life. I’m not sure I can even remember what I did before this all happened.I can’t remember going to the supermarket without wearing gloves and queuing outside first, then doing my best to avoid that one inevitable idiot that thinks just because they’re wearing a mask and disposable gloves, it makes it okay to more or less mount you in order to reach for a bag of Maris Pipers.I can’t remember what it feels like to get dressed and go to work.I can’t remember what the inside of a pub looks like (okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but you get my drift.)I certainly can’t remember what the inside of a barbers looks like.I can’t even remember what it feels like to walk down the street without being “alert.”Most worryingly of all, I’m starting to forget what it’s like to watch a game of football. Well, not one that hasn’t already happened, that I already know the result of, and that ended with us lifting a trophy. Come to think of it, that would be a great way to watch football wouldn’t it?“Coming to the boozer to watch us get well and truly dicked by Chelsea in the Europa League final tonight?”“Nah, you’re alright, lads, think I’ll stay in and watch the box set of Peep Show again….”While we’re all going about our locked down, socially distanced lives, I think it’s only fair that if football wants to re-enter our lives then the time has come where, to an extent anyway, that I think football should have to live by the same rules as the rest of us.If I’m not allowed to go out and drink with twenty one other people that I don’t live with, then every player from every club in the country should have to move in together for a month before they can start playing with and against each other again.Try being locked indoors for weeks with people that don’t really like you that much and maybe you’ll see how those of us with teenagers have felt since March, lads!I don’t want to seem too harsh on footballers, nobody accepts the fact that they are people too more than I do, but I know people who haven’t seen their family for the last couple of months without having to partake in a f*****g quiz in the process.As I write, it’s just been announced by the BBC that the Premier League will resume on June 17th, with The Arsenal going to Man City. (Shit, I really had forgotten that was due to be our next game before lockdown as well.)This week, the Arsenal players resumed training. Safe, socially distanced training. We even saw a pic of the gaffer somehow managing to make a face-mask look cool. What a lad.Looking at the size of Martinelli’s arms now, he’s obviously taken advantage of the Nike Training app being available for free, and gone straight to the “intermediate, full equipment required” category.I was hoping that the players would return with hair as bad as the rest of us. Aubameyang duly obliged, emerging from lockdown looking like…. well …. looking like this.For a moment, I thought we had signed Bubbles from The Wire during lockdown without announcing it.This, along with what I said earlier about not remembering “pre-lockdown” times, gave me an idea. You should understand that my thought process leads me to some strange ideas as it is, but with no actual football to write about, even my thought process can reach new levels.So, here’s how I got to thinking…..You know when you go back to work, and you’ve not had your hair cut for months, you’re bound to at least get that one dickhead (probably a bald one) remarking something like “I see you’ve not had a trim during lockdown!!!” or something unoriginal and unfunny along those lines. Now, the way my brain works, I’m likely to reply instantly with “nah mate, it was always like this, don’t you remember?” Then walk away whispering “bald c**t” to myself.My aforementioned thought process then took me to imagining how we could utilise this for the benefit of Arsenal Football Club.Then, it struck me….It’s time to bring back Aaron Ramsey.Imagine the look on Guardiola’s mush when he sees the team sheet.“Hang on, this can’t be right….”*Enters Arsenal changing room*“Aaron?”“Alright, Pep how’s it going, aright?”“What are you doing here?”“I’ve been here since I was sixteen. Don’t you remember??”(Walks away whispering…. “Bald c**t….”)I feel I should apologise here for the Clickbait-worthy title of this piece (someone really ought to write a book about that kind of thing….) Everyone's at it these days, so I thought "if you can't beat them...."Call it a social experiment.The thing is people will want to believe anything they can if it’s good news these days.On the flip side, some people will argue that black is white until the cows come home.Quite often, that smallest glimmer of hope can be the most important thing in the world to one person, and the most irritating thing in the world to another.Take that Professor Karol fella on Twitter, for example.At the beginning of all of this, his positive outlook on what the world is going through, even when thousands upon thousands were sadly losing their lives, was a source of comfort for so many people, myself included. Now, he’s becoming a bit of a pain in the arse, ain’t he?That may also be slightly harsh. If he’s helping people by bringing them that glimmer of hope, then it can only be good for their mental state. On the other hand, many are of the opinion that he’s been spreading false hope and that he’s maybe “a bit dodgy.”Ah, a dividing figure. We Arsenal fans love one of those don’t we?If we can’t bring Ramsey back, perhaps we could get the Prof involved at The Arsenal somehow?“So, Professor, 8-0 down and down to nine men, at home to Tottenham Hotspur, who will secure the Premier League title with three points today. How do you raise your team at half-time?”“Well, at least he sent Mustafi off, Geoff….”Until next time.Stay safe.Up The Arsenal.
column / The Good, The Bad and The Gus Caesar - The Agony and the Ecstasy of an Arsenal Fan
Last week was fun. We relived some of the most glorious moments in the history of The Arsenal. Winning the league at Anfield, Old Trafford and White Hart Lane (TWICE.) The merry month of May sure does stir up some unforgettable memories.This week, however, stirs a memory that is somehow both forgettable and unforgettable at the same time. We know it happened. We know what happened. We speak of it without actually talking too much about it.May 17th, 2006. A date that every Arsenal fan remembers, a date that every Arsenal fan wants to forget.Christ, it actually hurts just referring to the date. Hurts so much, in fact, that I’m going to have to give it a cute name or something, just to ease that pain. Right, from now on I shall refer to that game as “The Fluffy Bunny Final.” Yeah, that’s better.We do have a far fonder memory of May 17th, however, which goes at least some way to easing that pain.The FA Cup Final - May 17th, 2014 – Arsenal 3 Hull City 2. The end to the ten-year trophy drought that every f***er outside of The Arsenal was so obsessed with. The full gamut of emotions that only an Arsenal supporter knows, were experienced that day. The fear, the stress, the drama, the elation, the release, the relief….to mention but a few.That’s some contrast isn’t it? A game that we will always remember, and a game that we would love to forget.The agony and the ecstasy that only a football fan could understand, encapsulated in that date.Not one Arsenal supporter I know, including myself, has ever watched the Fluffy Bunny Final since the night itself. Not one. Have a look at Twitter on May 17th every year and you will see tons of Arsenal supporters echoing that sentiment.Every year we lament the chances we missed, Henry in particular.Every year we argue that Eto’o was offside for their equaliser.Every year we wonder “what might have been” if Lehmann hadn’t been sent off.Every year we relive it, without having even contemplated re-watching it. That terrible, painful night is etched into our memories, deeply buried all year round, until May 17th brings them flooding back in a tsunami of sheer agony.I mean, this wasn’t just agonising, it was deeply traumatic. I remember saying to a mate at the time, just as I was embarking on a three-day bender, that I would never get over it. I haven’t and, in all honesty, I’m not sure the club has ever fully recovered either. That’s how monumental this was.I’m not really helping, am I?Alright, f**k it, let’s never speak of it again. (Until next year, anyway.)Soooo…. That FA Cup Final then! What a day that turned out to be in the end. Just as every Arsenal supporter I know has never watched that game again (sorry, it was in context!); every Arsenal supporter I know felt the same after that game. Elated, of course. Relieved? You bet your sweet arse. Overall, though, utterly, utterly physically and mentally drained. We managed to drag our arses back from Wembley to the pubs more local to The Arsenal though, obviously. Some of us even made it back out for the parade the next day as well. Being completely shattered wasn’t going to stop the celebrations. Mate, an earthquake wouldn’t have stopped the celebrations. After an extremely satisfying run to the semi-final, which saw us dispose of That Lot, Liverpool and Everton along the way, the semi against Wigan itself was a toxic affair. Our league form prior to the game had been, well, shit for want of a better word, and going behind in the way that we did sent the toxicity levels in the Arsenal end through the Wembley roof. “WOB vs AKB” was in its prime among the Arsenal fanbase at the time as it was, and today you could feel it so strongly that you could almost reach out and touch it.The fella behind me was in such a rage, virtually frothing at the mouth, that I don’t think he even celebrated when Santi Cazorla eventually sent us into the final with the winning penalty.The day of the final itself had us filled with excitement and expectation. The beers and singing from Islington all the way to Wembley only served to cover up the feeling of complete and utter dread we were feeling at the same time.No way we were gonna f**k this one up…. was there?2-0 down early doors, and it looked like that’s exactly what we were going to do. Two goals down and a total defensive shambles. Pretty much carrying on where our league form in general had left off. The semi-final-like toxicity was bubbling beneath the surface until Santi’s stunning free-kick put us back in the game. I remember feeling then, in the ground, that we were going to win this read on to discover just why this wasn't necessarily a good thing.) A feeling that grew even stronger when Koscielny put us level.Despite missing a few chances to seal it in normal time, Ramsey’s goal in extra-time sealed our first trophy in what seemed like a lifetime, and the release at the final whistle was something I’m not sure I remember feeling before in my years following The Arsenal. My mates and I shared a moment that day, as well as taking a few moments for ourselves alone, despite the thousands of celebrating Gooners around us, to let it sink in. I don’t think any of us are ashamed to admit there were tears in that moment.Since that day, there has been something to look back on, on May 17th other than…. you know. That’s a highlights package I certainly won’t pretend doesn’t exist.The Agony and the Ecstasy – The Early YearsThis all got me thinking about what my earliest experience of the agony and the ecstasy that was being an Arsenal supporter.April 5th, 1987Littlewoods Cup FinalArsenal 2 Liverpool 1 My first cup final. My two mates had got tickets from queuing up after a dire home game against Everton a week (I think) before the game. I couldn’t hang about, so it looked like I was missing out. During the week before the game, however (again, I think it was, I’ve had a few drinks since those days), the tickets were on general sale. I went to school just up the road from Highbury, so went and got one during lunchtime (cup final tickets were a lot less hassle back then), that ended up being in a different block to my mates. So, after getting a lift to Wembley from my mates Dad, we went our separate ways.Walking out onto those terraces is something I will never forget. A sea of red and white, with flags everywhere. Something that I had only seen on TV before.We went into this game as underdogs, against a superb Liverpool side, after knocking out that lot in an epic semi-final, and when Ian Rush had put them ahead, things weren’t looking too promising at all. Liverpool had never lost when Ian Rush had scored. That record was smashed, however, as my favourite player at the time, Charlie Nicholas, equalised and late in the second half scored what turned out to be the winning goal, with a little help from a deflection off of Ronnie Whelan. One-Nil down, Two-One up, we f****d Rushie's record up.The celebrations were immense. The first trophy I had seen us win live, watching Kenny Sansom lift that cup was an unforgettable personal experience, and the beginning of a successful period under George Graham.What happened the following season was unforgettable too, but for vastly different reasons….April 24th, 1988Littlewoods Cup Final Luton Town 3 Arsenal 2So, there I was, at 13 years of age a seasoned cup final veteran, with a grand total of one cup final under my belt, a proper f*****g know-it-all. Been there, done that. Against Liverpool, the best team in the land. No way Luton are beating us. This is what I do now; I go to cup finals at Wembley and watch Arsenal winning cups. If you go there as underdogs and win, you’re obviously going to go there and beat the underdogs the following season. Yeah, great thinking, Einstein.I was with the same mates I had gone with the previous season, in the same block this time. Maybe that was a jinx. My memory of the first half of this game is of us being rather shit and going 1-0 down quite early on.Second half, Martin Hayes came on and changed the game, and we were 2-1 up in the blink of an eye through Hayes and Alan Smith. The fact that Hayes managed to hit the post when about 3 millimetres out didn’t really matter.We were awarded a penalty and up stepped Nigel Winterburn to secure the Littlewoods Cup for The Arsenal for the second successive season.He missed it.Later in the second half, Gus Caesar fell on his arse and Danny Wilson equalised for Luton. More atrocious defending in the 90th minute saw Brian Stein win it for the underdogs and sealed my first real experience of being an Arsenal fan.Gus f*****g Caesar.For the younger among you, ask any Arsenal fan of my generation about Gus Caesar and the first thing they will say is “Luton.” Or possibly an expletive. Or “Luton” followed by an expletive. Whatever it is, it's unlikely to be polite. Good Times, Bad Times you know I've had my share....So, that was when I really found out what it was like being an Arsenal fan. Success brings elation and expectation. Expectation brings disappointment, and so it continued. Good times and bad. I've experienced a last minute Andy Linighan FA Cup Final Replay winner at Wembley, I've suffered a last minute extra-time Nayim Cup Winners Cup Final winner in Paris (followed by tear gas!)As cliched as it sounds, I guess you need to go through your share of the bad times to appreciate the good. We sure have had plenty of both.Would Tony Adams' winning goal that semi-final against that lot have tasted quite as sweet if it hadn't been for the one they beat us in when Gazza scored that free-kick?Would winning the title in '89 have been as huge a part of our history if we had just beaten Derby County and Wimbledon at home instead of having to go to Anfield and win it in the last seconds of the season?We've had plenty of ups and downs over the years, I suppose it's down to the individual as to what you remember the most.Stay safe (and alert.)Up The Arsenal
column / Half a Year On: Why Unai Emery Is Still Wrong
Just another week and once again Unai Emery has appeared in the news talking about his turbulent 18 months at Arsenal, where, long story short, he blames everyone but himself for his failures. I won't bore you with the details but you can read the interesting piece by Sid Lowe here. I recommend it, but as there's several fallacies from Emery's story, I thought I'd pick it apart.Emery's Inaugural Season“The first season we did a lot well,” Emery says. “I thought: ‘This is my team.’ People said: ‘Unai, we can see your personality in this side.Actually, on the "personality" bit, he isn't technically wrong. The side completely reflected him, which was one of their biggest problems and that started from the moment he stepped in at the helm.Their attacking prowess dropped from the Arsene Wenger years. Throughout the 2018/2019 season, despite going on a 22-game unbeaten run, their statistics in front of goal was worsening. Expected Goals had dropped, the amount of shots had dropped but because we were still winning and scoring this was not picked up on. As fans or writers, this could be forgiven but from Emery, it was naive. Our defence wasn't massively better, the one thing he really needed to tighten, so the fact that our potency in front of goal had worsened had set up a shaky foundation that would get taken advantage of.We had remained unbeaten during that period because we were lucky that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a fantastic, clinical striker who was made something out of the decreased amount of chances we had, thus winning him a Golden Boot.By the end of the year, Arsenal's xG had dropped from 1.8 per game under that last season of Wenger's to 1.6. By the end of Emery's tenure, that bombed down to 1.3. That's not the only place where he failed. The team also reflected his philosophy, or lack of. Which I'm sure we'll touch on shortly.The Ozil Saga“In pre-season I told him I wanted to help recover the best Özil. I wanted a high level of participation and commitment in the dressing room. I respected him and thought he could help."There was no real signs of respect, Arsenal were struggling to create attacking opportunities but he left out two of the most creative players on the team out in Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil. That, and his shift on a more defensive and negative type playing style meant that the games Ozil did play in (particularly away matches) were sloppy and ineffective. This was not free-flowing football. A sign of how damaging this type of football was is in the post-match interview of Arsenal 2-0 Manchester United under Mikel Arteta when David Luiz and Sokratis Papastathopoulos said they weren't 100% fit to go at the intensity of which that game demanded. That the fun had gone and now returned. It didn't just damage Ozil, but every other player too.But what was really odd, was the ways that both the club and Emery tried to oust him, especially saying he was fit and his attitude was a problem when he actually had a knee injury, to playing him less and less. It's really no surprise how it ended the way it did.The "Language" Barrier“I had a decent level, although I needed to improve. When results are bad it’s not the same. You lack the linguistic depth to explain."This will only take me a minute to debunk. If your language isn't good enough, you get in a translator to convey your message. The problem here was "communication".Emery couldn't communicate, which had nothing to do with language. He didn't have a message to convey. He doesn't have a particular "football philosophy", he changed formations, line ups, constantly tinkering to match the other team. It's why he did so well in the Europa League and in cup competitions and less so in domestic leagues. I mean, the man didn't win a single away game in his last season at Sevilla. Bringing Up Wenger">">“At every club, I’ve been protected: Lorca, Almería, Valencia, PSG. At Sevilla I had Monchi. At PSG Nasser al-Khelaifi protected me in the dressing room and publicly. At Arsenal they weren’t able to, maybe because they came from Wenger, who did everything."Anyone who believes that Arsene Wenger did everything for his players, which meant that Arsenal football club didn't "protect" Emery, is possibly the worst thing I've ever heard. Even if the club did come out to back him, would that have stopped anything? Results were dire, performances were almost as bad. Would that have changed if Stan Kroenke or Edu stepped in? I mean the Arsenal board were going to extend his contract.But this also is contradictory to his "Neymar is the most powerful man at PSG" comments and also the run ins he had with Hatem Ben Arfa at the same club. It also proves if a club board says anything, they can't do much else. Emery almost needs to realise he's an adult in a difficult industry and if you're proven to have this defence mechanism of the blame game you'll get found out. I understand that he's trying to rebuild his reputation, but he's starting to sound desperate especially with the number of these types of interviews he's putting out. If he can pinpoint where exactly he failed, speak openly about that and where to improve he'd be more favourable for a new management role. However, does he even realise where he went wrong? Or does he honestly believe everything he says? If it's the latter, well then he won't be anything more than a Europa League boss.
column / Happy Invincibles Day!
Last time out, I spoke about missing football, and just how glorious the feeling would be when we get our Arsenal back.I think, deep down, many of us had this romantic notion that the end of lockdown would be this one magical moment, when the whole world emerge from their homes as one, rejoicing at the defeat of the evil virus. Street parties and hugging strangers. Pubs across the land opening their doors in unison, cheers going up as we poured in for our first pint in what seemed an eternity (despite most of us having been drinking every day from 9am for months.) Scores of people queuing to lick the toilet seats. Alas, this isn’t going to happen. I think, deep down, we all knew that too.I was originally going to pretend for a minute that - despite there being a deadly virus out there, that has killed tens of thousands, and ripped families apart across the planet – the return of the Premier League is actually important in the grand scheme of things, and take a look at “Project Restart” and what the future might hold for football.Then, I came across an article that suggested players turning their faces away when making tackles (or something…. I didn’t give it the time of day. No clicks for clickbait here!) and I decided I really couldn’t be arsed.I have some of my own ideas on the future of football, but they can wait for another day. (Watch this space, folks!)So, what do you write about if not the future or, indeed, the present? Well, you don’t have to be Charles Dickens to work that one out do you?With no football presently (I’m not hipster enough to go all Bundesliga on you), and the future of football up in the air, there has quite a retrospective vibe going around lately. “On this day” tweets abound, Sky Sports showing almost a full day of Arsenal glory, ITV showing past FA Cup Finals, Match of the Day somehow managing to be better to watch when there’s no football going on…We’ve had quite a few memorable “on this day’s” over the last couple of weeks or so. It’s what happens in May when you support a club that have won things (not just in black and white, I mean trophies that people without a free bus pass can remember....)May 26th, 1989 – The Arsenal Win the League at AnfieldEvery Arsenal fan knows about this game. Even if you wasn’t born, you know all about this game. Every Arsenal fan in the country was at this one. Even if you wasn’t born, you were at this game. (I was actually in Italy, but that’s another story.)The Arsenal went to Anfield on the final night of the season needing to win by two clear goals, having seemingly completely Arsenalled the title up in the run-in. Yes, kids, Arsenalling things up was a thing even back then.I was at the two home games prior to this, watching us Arsenalling – losing at home to Derby County, then drawing with Wimbledon. When the final whistle went at the end of the latter, it really felt like that was it.The rest, as they say, is history.Aguerrrrooooooo!!? That don’t even come near it, mate. Going to the best team in the country, the reigning champions, on the last night of the season, needing to win by two clear goals, getting that second goal in the dying seconds of the game….or scraping a last minute win at home to QPR? Not even a contest, lads.May 8th, 2002 – The Arsenal win the league at Old TraffordWhat a night. What a season. What a team.A few days after beating Chelsea in the It’s Only Ray Parlour FA Cup Final, The Arsenal secured our third double, the second under Arsene Wenger, at the home of our greatest rivals and, again, the reigning champions at the time, Manchester United.It’s testament to our superiority that season that we went into this game without Henry, Bergkamp and Adams.I have fond memories of watching this in T Bird on Blackstock Road. As much as I would have loved to have been at Old Trafford, being around the corner from Highbury was next best. There were some celebrations that week….my liver quivers at the thought of it.May 3rd, 1971 – The Arsenal win the league at White Hart LaneThis actually did happen before I was born, but is a huge part of the history of the club. The Arsenal’s first double was completed this season too, with that Charlie George winner at Wembley, but winning the league title at the home of our bitter local rivals was the icing on the cake. Imagine how that lot must have felt? Their back yard being taken over by Arsenal fans, having to watch The Arsenal clinch the title there? Now… imagine having to watch that happen AGAIN…..April 26th, 2004 – The Arsenal Win the League at White Hart Lane…. AGAIN. The Invincibles. The greatest team in Premier League History (despite what anyone else might tell you.) The Arsenal, 2003-04.If winning the league in their backyard once was beautiful, doing it a second time was f*****g hilarious.I must admit that it does still slightly bug me that we didn’t win this game. Such was our dominance in North London then. Having said that, however, it almost felt as if going 2-0 up in the first half was the end of the game as a real contest and the rest of it didn’t matter. Jens’ moment of madness leading to the penalty being awarded almost felt as if it didn’t count!On the other hand, their bizarre celebrations, Robbie Keane’s “trademark” noncey little celebration, with some of them seemingly not knowing we only needed a draw to win the league at their ground AGAIN, actually made it a little funnier.Imagine that, though. Your neighbours and fiercest rivals winning the league on your pitch. Twice.TWICE.I know we were all shitting ourselves last year when they somehow ended up in the Champions League Final, but I’m not sure that whatever that lot do, in whatever future football has, they’ll ever have one over us until they’ve done this. I honestly can’t think of anything they can do that could beat that. Oh actually…. hang on a minute….With that in mind, as if by magic, today is Invincibles Day! A day that should be celebrated by every single fan of The Arsenal around the world, every year for the rest of our lives.As a special treat for you (well, I think it's a treat anyway), here is a full-chapter extract from my book; Clickbait – Life as a Modern Football Fan…..Happy Invincibles Day!“May 15th, 2004. The day that history was made, as Arsenal beat Leicester 2-1 at Highbury, meaning we had gone a whole league season unbeaten.I was at the game, and I said to myself, admittedly with a lump in my throat, that this would never be done again. Maybe it will, but I’ve been right so far.As far as I’m concerned, this was the best squad the Premier League has seen. Yes, I am biased, but they were a genuine phenomenon. A squad of players hitting their collective peak, a team that would win games before a ball had even been kicked.A general theme throughout this book has been the way that the media loves to bait Arsenal fans, and there is no greater bait than belittling the Invincibles.Let them belittle us. The more they do it, the better it feels.Whatever they say, the invincible season is something that every Arsenal supporter should be proud of until the end of time. Legendary.As I mentioned earlier, every season, whenever a team have gone a few games unbeaten, they are touted as "the next Invincibles."Cue the Arsenal online fanbase jumping in, in their thousands, to defend what was, in my opinion, the greatest team the Premier League has ever seen.The thing with this is, that as much as the media do this to wind Arsenal fans up, the truth of the matter (in my opinion anyway), is the fact that The Arsenal went a whole season without being beaten in the league winds people up more than they could possibly wind us up.“They drew too many games…”“They lost cup games and Champions League games; how can they be Invincible…?”We shrug our shoulders and grin the smuggest of grins. The type of grin that you can only bear when you know you have gotten under somebody’s skin.City win the league with 100 points - "is this a greater achievement than Arsenal's Invincibles?" they ask."Ours is gold", we answer. And there it is.There are no ifs and buts as far as that goes; The Arsenal went a League season without losing a single game, and that is fact. Anything else is nothing but opinion.Some people have the opinion that the Earth is flat.There are people that watch Big Brother, The Only Way is Essex, Love Island and all that other “reality” nonsense, and believe it’s real and not 100% fake, staged horseshit, Clickbait TV! Enough said.I’ve already covered what was, for me, probably the worst example of Clickbait ever, in Adrian Durham’s “The Invincibles Were a Myth!” tripe.Adrian Durham. A man that appears to spend most of his life spouting nonsense, with the sole purpose of winding people up and getting a reaction. That may be his job, but I couldn’t care less. Get a proper job, you pillock.Imagine that being your job. Imagine that being your life.Imagine having to look your family in the eye when you sit round the dinner table of an evening, and they ask you how your day was.“It was great! I argued with angry men on the phone and blocked over 500 people on Twitter for calling me a nonce!”Apologies for the slight digression there……Anyway… Happy Invincibles Day!”There's more along those lines in my book, should you fancy taking a look. https://www.legendspublishing.net/product/clickbait/ Also available on Amazon here - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Clickbait-Life-Modern-Football-Fan/dp/1906796661 So, there you have it. Title wins at Anfield, Old Trafford and White Hart Lane – TWICE! – and an undefeated, invincible season. Not bad isn’t it?If we can’t enjoy football as we know it for a while yet, perhaps ever, we can always enjoy our history.Stay safe, everyone.Up The Arsenal.