23 reasons why I love Arsenal

Recently I posted 23 reasons why Arsenal upset me. I thought I would balance out the scales a little bit and give you 23 reasons why I love Arsenal. I said this would happen after something more positive had happened in the season; what better way to light the fuse than knocking Man a united out of the FA Cup at Old Trafford with Danny Welbeck scoring the winner and winning in Monaco? Albeit in vein.

Here’s my 23 reasons!

1) History

It is a matter of fact that Arsenal are the third most successful team in English footballing history, behind Manchester United and Liverpool who have a richer history than John D. Rockefeller. Arsenal boast a wealth of excellent achievements in their past; three league and cup doubles, the Invincibles, the players who Arsenal have had play for them, Herbert Chapman, Highbury. Arsenal are a team who have a lot to be proud of in both their history and their traditions.

Arsenal have a trophy-haul which boasts 13 league titles, a joint-record 11 FA Cups, two League Cups, 13 Community Shields, one European Cup Winners’ Cup and one Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (European competition, abolished in 1971 but we still won it, okay?). The Emirates Stadium has a trophy room which isn’t exactly heaving but overall, Arsenal’s trophy room is the third largest in England so overall, we make a good name for ourselves.

2) Arsene Wenger

The Frenchman is all I’ve ever known at Arsenal. Taking over in 1996 when I was four to the cries of “Arsene Who?” He quickly made a name for himself as he won the league and cup double in just his second season. Wenger has had so much longevity that Arsenal have changed stadiums in my lifetime but not managers, this shows not just the longevity of Wenger but the loyalty, which you will read about round about…

.. Now. 

Wenger had offers to go to pastures new with Real Madrid, PSG, France and Barcelona among others. Clubs who had the money and the players that Wenger could use as he pleased and dominate European football along the way, but Wenger had a plan and project at Arsenal which he is determined to finish. Whoever takes over after Wenger has left (or retired) will be envied as he inherits what will be a good squad, no debt and a big stadium. All put into his hands by Mr Wenger.

Another reason why you have to love Wenger is because of his impact not just on Arsenal but English football. Not only did he develop his own style of play and philosophy which became synonymous with his team, but he also changed diets of players and stressed the importance of nutrition by bringing in dieticians managing to get the very best of his players and their bodies. He is given credit for helping to revolutionise training and diets in the highest level in English football.

3) The Invincibles

What a brilliant time this was to be alive. Arsenal went the whole league campaign unbeaten, the first time since Preston had gone the whole league season unbeaten in 1889. The thing which made Arsenal’s achievement even better was the fact that Preston only had to play 22 games, whereas Arsenal had to go 38. Won 26, drew 12, lost 0.

The following season, Arsenal stretched their unbeaten record to 49 games when they ultimately succumbed to a controversial loss against Manchester United at Old Trafford, but history had been made already. Arsenal went unbeaten in the league from May 2003 to October 2004, an amazing achievement in anyones eyes.

Arsene Wenger predicted that Arsenal could go a season unbeaten but was a season too early in his predictions, making himself look foolish at the time. But Le Professeur had the last laugh when his team led by the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires went on to become arguably the greatest team ever assembled to play in the top flight. 

4) Firsts

Arsenal are a team of firsts; first team to go a whole 38-game season unbeaten, first English team to beat Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalonstadion, first English team to beat Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, first English team to beat Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena, first English team to beats AC & Inter Milan at the San Siro. Arsenal’s pedigree in not just the league but also the Champions League is of an enviable stature to most clubs in the country.

5) Thierry Henry

This man gets his own spot. My favourite player ever to grace a football pitch, let alone the Premier League or an Arsenal shirt. The Frenchman was a player that opposition fans couldn’t hate because he was simply that good. Pundits, fans, managers and other professionals will also argue that Henry was the greatest player ever to play in the Premier League, and he was ours!

228 goals in 376 games for the club meant he went down in history as not only the clubs top scorer but he was voted the clubs greatest ever player. The fact I got to watch him in my lifetime is something I am immensely happy that I have seen.

He went from promising striker to failed winger to deadliest striker in the world in the matter of five years and under Wenger’s tutelage he became a legend both for Arsenal and English football. Two Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two Community Shields in his spell at the club. Ladies and gentlemen, Thierry Henry.

6) Alexis Sanchez

From the best player of the clubs past, to the best player in the clubs current squad. I haven’t been so excited or happy that we have a player in Arsenal’s team since the aforementioned Henry and Sanchez is a player who demands the best from himself week in, week out.

His attitude is second-to-none, if he loses the ball he will chase back and try to win it back which is the attitude our entire squad needs to take up, which some have in recent weeks/months. 

His endearing mix of power, skill and heart has made the Chilean winger an instant hit with Arsenal fans and with 19 goals in 40 games so far in his first season he is up for the signing of the season award as well as breaking records held by Henry if he carries on in the same vein of form.

7) Faith

I mentioned in my previous 23 reasons why Arsenal upset me post that Wenger put his faith in deadwood and an all too familiar story was brewing that players weren’t quite what was expected of them, but Wenger has produced world class players time and time again through just having faith in them when signing them, or alternatively, when they have come through being a youngster.

Cesc Fabregas, Jack Wilshere and Ashley Cole, to name a few, were players that came through the ranks as youngsters and Wenger backed them. Pires, Henry, Vieira and Robin Van Persie (again, to name a few) were all players who came to Arsenal with wavering reputations that Wenger backed and he bore the fruit of their talents through all of them becoming world-class players.

As a player if everyone is against you, you need to have the backing of someone and Wenger put faith in them even at their worst, which is why he was able to get the best out of the majority of players he has worked with. It can take one person to turn your confidence, and who better than the boss who delegates when you play? 

8) Star Players

A couple of which I have previously mentioned, but Arsenal’s past (and present, sort of) has a plethora of established international players and world class footballers. From players in the past like Liam Brady and Kenny Sansom, to Henry and Bergkamp to the current squad in Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, Arsenal have always boasted world class players in their prime who have made a difference at the club.

9) Emirates Stadium

The Emirates Stadium is the second biggest club stadium in England with a capacity of just over 60,000. The seats are designed to give maximum comfort to everyone inside and there is not a bad seat in the house in terms of view. The design of the stadium and everything behind the scenes has been built with the specific purpose of giving Arsenal the edge over opposition both pre and post-match.

The truth is that The Emirates is just starting to feel like home, after the move in summer of 2006 Arsenal had a good home record and things were starting to fall into place but there was always something missing. Now that Arsenal have settled the debt to the stadium, claimed their first piece of silverware since the move and completed the “Arsenalisation” of the stadium things can really begin to take off. 

We should be proud of the stadium and start to make more effort to make teams fear going there – make noise, don’t leave before 90 minutes and please, please, please.. NO empty seats.

10) The 10 Year Plan

 A sturdy economic plan which would be stuck to and seen out until the clubs debt had been wiped out. In today’s game usually that would mean a Sheikh or Russian billionaire taking over, but not for Arsenal. With his masters degree in economics and the backing of the board, Wenger would draw up the blueprints for our clubs future which would consist of the 10 year plan, not spending over the odds on wages or transfers, consistently bringing in money and maintaining their stature challenging for trophies and being in the Champions League while being a self-sustained modern club, a truly rare spectacle among the top teams.

The trophyless period was unfortunate , but it was also a time of transition. Arsenal had just lost the greatest team in their history due to moving on, old age etc, but under Wenger it has been as predicted, a success. Deals with Puma, Fly Emirates and other smaller commercial benefactors as well as increased ticket and merchandising sales since the move have meant in falling back behind other competitors in terms of on the field success and trophies, they have propelled themselves ahead of their rivals in terms of revenue and self-sustainability. Which was exactly the point.

11) New Finance

Touched upon in the last point, they go hand-in-hand. Arsenal’s new found finance in the last couple of seasons has seen them be able to spend big on Ozil (£42million) and Sanchez (£35million), which Arsenal fans were crying out for, we wanted marquee signings and we got them. 

We had to see the pain of selling big players; Robin Van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song, Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure all left for a minimum of £15million each and that was to see the 10 year plan through. Now Arsenal are reaping the rewards as they are able to spend more freely due to having no debt, and no debt means no worries. 

Arsenal were able to record £301.9million turnover from 2014 alone. Driven by improved broadcasting income, commercial deals and FA Cup success this can be only a foundation for things to come. In 2014 Forbes estimated the club as the fifth most valuable association football club in the world, with the value at over £1.3billion.

12) Champions League

Yes, Arsenal have never won the Champions League. Yes, I still cry about that night in Paris in 2006. But Arsenal have consistently been in the competition, delighting us with epic European nights (and upsetting us) for 17 consecutive seasons, a feat only surpassed by Real Madrid and Manchester United.

We have had the revenue which Champions League football brings, as well as the type of player it attracts when it comes to signings for that entire period – sometimes it’s like we’re spoilt when we complain that we’ve only got in the Champions League. Yes, we’re used to challenging but we consistently are seen as one of the top teams in Europe, a major footballing power and it’s something we take for granted.

We also hold the record for most consecutive clean sheets in the competition with ten, so it’s not as if we’ve only been there making up the numbers this whole time.

13) Never had debt problems

Arsenal have never been a team with major debt problems. So it’s a good basis to becoming a self-sustainable club right? Before the signing of Ozil, Arsenal’s biggest spend on a single player was Andrey Arshavin at £15million, which is a relatively small fee compared to other clubs at the time. The wages were never astronomical so Arsenal were always spending within their limits.

The move to The Emirates did produce a debt of £370million but Arsenal adjusted accordingly, balanced the books and now with the debt wiped off things continue to look up for the Arsenal accounting team.

14) Pre-season hope

Because what is better than false hope, right? It is hope nonetheless after all and without hope you can’t create a dream. Arsenal will always do well in pre-season with fringe players and younger players having a promising campaign, signings made and Wenger’s usual words of optimism. It always gives you a nice little warm fuzzy feeling doesn’t it? Which is usually eradicated by February, but we have the hope nonetheless.

15) “Arsenal goal”

This term was used whenever a team would score a goal with multiple team members getting involved in a team move, or a fast-paced counter-attack. This term was used because of Arsenal’s fast flowing attacking play which is a philosophy brought in by Wenger which has brought the manager and his teams a lot of plaudits.

Goals in recent seasons from Jack Wilshere (vs Norwich) and Olivier Giroud (vs West Ham) have rekindled the type of play which Arsenal were renowned for, I just hope it can continue and lead to more silverware on a regular basis!

16) Good Squad

The fact is this probably the best squad we’ve had since 2007/2008, and it certainly has a lot more depth than that squad did! The fact is that every single member of the Arsenal first team is an established international and all back-up and rotational members are still of good enough calibre to be good replacements. Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin have come into the squad as replacements and staked claims to make their spots their own.

For the first time in years Arsenal have multiple good options in every position and that is going to be an excellent advantage going into this summers transfer market with only a couple of players needing to come in.

17) Club Stature

Eluded to earlier. Arsenal are the third most successful club in English footballing history. The only team ever to go 49 league games unbeaten, joint record FA Cup winners with 13 league titles too and a fan base of over 100 million supporters – making them the third lost supported team in the world. Yes, we have faltered since our dominant period but we are still regarded as one of the biggest clubs in the world, something we should be extremely proud of.

We have one of the best records in the top flight, having accumulated the second most wins and the second most points and We would be placed first in an aggregated league of the entire 20th century. 

18) No-one can say we’re glory hunters

After a nine-year trophy drought no-one in their right mind can say we’re glory hunters.

19) Three League and Cup doubles

Arsenal have the joint-most league and cup doubles with Manchester United with three each. We are one of two to achieve it in the 20th century and one of two to achieve it in the 21st century. We are the only team to achieve it in two different centuries. Arsene Wenger is responsible for two of the doubles which Arsenal have won and he won his first in just his second season in charge of the team.

20) Highbury

It was unfortunate that Arsenal had to move away from Highbury but for the clubs future it was the best thing to do, but the history ingrained at the old stadium is one we can be proud to carry over to The Emirates. Parts of Highbury have been reinstalled at The Emirates Stadium as part of the “Arsenalisation” of the stadium – the clock which has been at Arsenal since 1930 was repositioned on the south stand. The marble halls were reinstalled along with the bust of Herbert Chapman.

Arsenal were at the old stadium for 93 years and it would have been lovely in the final season to bring the Champions League as a curtain call but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way, but the history that Highbury holds is no doubt a huge part of Arsenal Football Club.

Highbury has now been developed as a residential development known as Highbury Square with parts of the East and West stands being incorporated due to their listed status.

21) At least we’re not Tottenham

Imagine a club moving from South London onto your doorstep in North London and building a richer history and greater stature than you. Congratulations, you are now Tottenham.

No matter how bad a season goes for Arsenal, you can almost guarantee that a season has gone worse for Tottenham. Tottenham haven’t finished above Arsenal since 1995 and it’s starting to annoy them somewhat, even coming to within a matter of goal difference a couple of times since. Arsenal also hold the cards in terms of results with Arsenal winning 77 ties and Tottenham winning 55. So there you go, we could have it worse.

22) English core

Now I don’t feel that an English core is key, but I do feel that having a core of a particular nationality is vital for communication and harmony in a dressing room. The English core is able to give the media what they want and keep the critics quiet but with Aesenal’s core of English players there really is an excitement that follows the talent on show. 

Gibbs, Chambers, Wilshere, Welbeck, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain are all extremely talented players and with the oldest being Theo Walcott at just 26 years old, you can’t help but feel that as this squad gets older they will get closer and ultimately Arsenal will profit when their talent and maturity bears fruit.

23) Nurturing young talent

Arsenal, and more specifically now Wenger, have become renowned for finding young, talented players and nurturing them into something world class.

Henry, Fabregas, Van Persie, Vieira, Nicolas Anelka and Marc Overmars, to name a few, have all come to Arsenal and left after getting success at the club and leaving for fees astronomically bigger than those which they were signed for – a trend which has carried on unfortunately but Wenger’s penchant for finding talent in youngsters is second-to-none.

23 reasons why Arsenal upset me

The reason why I started this blog initially was because I had a lot of football opinions and Twitter doesn’t provide me with enough characters to put across my opinions in the depth I want, that and a University module. Now I simply post a link where you lovely people can see my opinions and I don’t need to write 1,000 tweets about the subject in question.

As you know I am an Arsenal fan (if you don’t, you do now) and this season has proved to pan out upsettingly similar to the rest – it starts off with much promise and slowly (or in the case of this season IMMEDIATELY) starts to go downhill.

I have listed 23 reasons why Arsenal upset me. Now I could probably list you 23 reasons why Arsenal make me happy, but after a 3-1 home loss to Monaco that one isn’t likely, so keep an eye out and that one could come out soon when I’m feeling more optimistic. 

1) Unfulfilled Potential

Arsenal are a team a lot like the players they have at their disposal, one that has/had buckets of potential yet has failed to live up to that potential through one way or another, whether it be through injury or lack of form etc. The one which is currently sticking out in my mind is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Ox has had many injury setbacks in his time at Arsenal and we are still saying he could be one hell of a player, which there is no doubt he can, but it’s something that we’ve been saying for the last two or three years. 

Arsenal are of a similar mould. Injuries and lack of form have meant that they have failed on multiple fronts. In the league since they last won it in 2003/2004, they have held a leading position many times yet always seem to lose grip and bottle it with many of the key players ending up injured for a long period or out of form at crucial times. 

Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are all players in the current squad who have been hindered by injuries, cutting short their progress. Obviously there is still time but fans patience is running thin as we have seen it all before. The point can be summed up by Arsenal’s trophy drought – one trophy in nine years when in fact it could and should have been so much more.

2) Injuries

I saw a stat the other week which shocked me. Arsenal players missed a combined 1716 days through injury last season alone. This stat was published the same time that it was announced Aaron Ramsey would miss more time out with his third hamstring strain of the season – I’ve seen the Arsenal physios and medical team so I do know they exist, but due to the amount of injuries suffered by players in the club it’s hard to see whether they do anything. 

I believe a lot of it does come to Wenger and how the players are pushed further than their bodies can take.  Last season, Walcott missed six weeks with a muscle injury, he was pushed back into competition and last January picked up a knee injury which saw him miss 10 months – a renowned German expert claimed that this injury was one which could have been avoided had Theo not been rushed back.

This season it’s the same old injury story. Koscielny, Debuchy, Wilshere, Ramsey, Ozil and Giroud (to name a few) have missed chunks of the season through injury. Also, don’t get me started on Diaby, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve forgotten he’s an Arsenal player.

3) Selling big players

Arsenal have sold one of their best players in each of the last ten years. Last summer they did stick to another trend too, the trend where we sell the club captain. I’m starting to think that the captaincy means nothing at Arsenal anymore (more on that later). 

Joining the “captains” who were sold despite being key players in the team were Alexander Hleb (remember him?), Bacary Sagna, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy and Alex Song among others. Arsenal were never going to build a successful team when there are so many incomings and outgoings of key players in the squad.

4) The Wenger Hokey-Cokey

Now you may think I’m drunk due to the way I’ve worded this, but trust me, it’ll make sense when I say this – #WengerIn #WengerOut – are you with me now?

The social media age (particularly Twitter) has spawned the introduction of hashtags and the amount of people who switch allegiances between Wenger In and Wenger Out is astounding. He is a manager who has not just changed Arsenal, but has also changed English football, so can we please show the man who is behind the Emirates Stadium, an Economics Masters Degree, six languages and the Arsenal Football Club as you currently know it a little more respect please? His tactics and selections are a little off at times but it would be better to just stick by him until he leaves because what he has done for Arsenal deserves the utmost respect.

5) Inconsistency

Arsenal are perhaps the most inconsistent team out of the top teams. This can be summed up as such – Arsenal go to the Etihad Stadium, a stadium where they lost 6-3 the season prior, a stadium where nothing was expected due to their inability to beat top teams away from home (let alone at home) and beat the reigning champions of England 2-0 in a brilliant display, just over a month later and they are outplayed and beaten 3-1 at home by Monaco. 

This is just a flash into the inconsistency of Arsenal as a team, an inconsistency which means over the last ten years they haven’t been able to effectively and consistently challenge for the big trophies in a serious manner, always falling short (FA Cup 2014 aside). You can’t be inconsistent in a 38 game league campaign or in a competition with the quality of opposition as in the Champions League and expect to win it. 

6) Poor Discipline

It has taken until Francis Coquelin for Arsenal to find a defensive midfielder that will keep his discipline and sit in front of the back four – I’m not asking for Claude Makelele (OK maybe I am) but it would have been nice to have a good and mobile out-and-out defensive shield for multiple seasons prior. 

Arsenal defenders sometimes seem to forget that their main job is defending, there was a graphic of player heat maps I saw from a couple of seasons back and our full backs were predominantly further forward than our midfielders – a problem which has become frighteningly familiar meaning we’re susceptible to counters. We have Steve Bould as an assistant manager, a no nonsense defender in his day, surely he’s been giving support and advice? Had it been heeded? Another story.

Now onto the defensive midfield problem. Arsenal’s attacking full-backs (which has been a symbol of Arsenal since the dawn of Wenger) means that the defensive midfielders should do just that, defend the midfield. But all too often they have been caught too high up, their lack of pace and legs exploited and goals conceded, games lost. 

7) Poor tactics

This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point; Wenger’s tactics can be a little questionable at times. I thought that we’d started a new chapter in Arsenal against Man City, Wenger got the tactics spot on in a big game, however a few weeks later against Tottenham in the North London derby he got them horribly wrong again.

Wenger has to take tips from big game managers and know when to stick with what we have and when to really go for it, also if we are 1-0 down in a big game, don’t go gung-ho in the 53rd minute and be caught on the break to go 2-0 down. But we’ll come onto that later… All I’m saying is a little bit more tactics and patience would go a long way over 90 minutes.

8) Poor performances in big games

This is a point which has plagued Arsenal for years. The big teams in the Premier League always seem to relish encounters against Arsenal. In recent years Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea have all beaten Arsenal comprehensively. Arsenal used to be a fixture which was feared by the fellow big teams but it’s now a fixture that they seem to look forward to because it usually means easy points. 

I point at last season as the main culprit; 6-3 loss away to Man City, 6-0 away to Chelsea and 5-1 away to Liverpool which had carried on a poor run of form against big teams years prior. Let’s have a look at stats from a team who were considered Arsenal’s main rivals for much of their most successful period, Manchester United. Arsenal have only beaten United once in their last 12 meetings which was way back in 2011. Even recently when Man United visited the Emirates in November with their worst team in recent memory they performed well and ran out 2-1 winners.

Until Arsenal beat Manchester City they had gone a remarkable 14 games in a row against fellow Premier League members of the Champions League that season without a win. Hopefully the win against City was a turnaround in mentality otherwise Arsenal’s no longer surprising deficiency against top teams will become an even more worrying habit.

9) Susceptibility to counter attacks

Arsenal used to be the Kings of the counter attack, with Henry, Pires, Ljungberg or whoever it may be turning defence into attack in a matter of seconds resulting in a goal. Now it has become all too familiar of a story when Arsenal have a set piece or possession in the attacking third and the opposition break to score, making The Gunners look a little bit foolish.

Firstly, it always seems to be our slowest midfielder or defender (that isn’t Mertesacker) who is on the halfway line guarding. How many times have I seen Arteta, Flamini or Monreal looking horribly exposed and their lack of pace taken advantage of. Back to the Arsenal vs Manchester United game in November, where the point is proven. Wayne Rooney’s goal where Arsenal lose possession on the edge of the United box and a matter of seconds later are 2-0 down, a sight which has now become too familiar to fans for too many years.

10) Poor set pieces

Zonal marking, ZONAL MARKING!! Zonal marking is a format which is only best utilised when a team of physically robust headers of a football attack the zone which they have been assigned. A leader barks orders and the orders are heeded and carried out. When Arsenal concede from a set-piece, every single player in the box looks around in confusion as if to say “Whose man was that?” then fingers are pointed and blame passed.

Recently Harry Kane (who is currently on form one of the best strikers in the country) was left unmarked at the back post to slot in a relatively easy finish to level the North London derby – if you want to be winning the Derby then do not, I repeat DO NOT, leave their best striker unmarked from a set piece. All too often I have seen players not jump with a player or not clear a cross because they believe it to be someone else’s duty or not in their zone. Take responsibility! 

It must just be Arsenal marking from crosses in general because they have conceded 10 headed goals, 2nd most in the Premier League. 

The weirdest part is that Arsenal have scored the second most goals from set plays in the league (16) yet can never seem to defend a set piece!

11) Poor defending 

Pretty much everything I’ve said about Arsenal’s defending summed up in one point. When Gael Clichy left for Manchester City back in 2011, he came out and claimed to the press that Arsenal simply did not practice defending in training. As the years have gone by I’m slowly starting to think that he was right and it should have been some kind of premonition and warning to us Arsenal fans.

Steve Bould became Arsenal assistant manager in 2012 when Pat Rice retired. Bould, in his playing days, was seen as a no-nonsense defender and was a member of one of Arsenal’s most formidable back lines in their history. So how can a man whose history is so good, who has so much contact with the team in training, make little to no difference in regards to how they perform? The answer: Steve Bould is not utilised to his maximum potential as a defensive co-ordinator.

All Arsenal defenders seem to have a weakness whereas most teams will play defenders to their strengths Arsenal seem not to. Too many times I have seen Mertesacker, who has the turning circle of a cruise liner, up against the fastest member of the opposing teams attack – could we please leave the foot races up to Bellerin, Koscielny or Gibbs and not leave Mertesacker isolated?

12) Poor boardroom 

Stan Kroenke is the largest shareholder in Arsenal Football Club and I have not seen the man speak about the club once; forget that, I’ve never seen the man speak at all. So his nickname “Silent Stan” starts to seem very appropriate. 

A man who is sorely missed at Arsenal since his departure in 2007 is David Dein. Dein is former vice-chairman and his role saw him take part in football matters such as player contracts, transfer negotiations as well as the hiring of staff – which saw him appoint Mr Wenger who at the time of his arrival was relatively unknown. Dein’s extensive range of footballing contacts and influence made Wenger’s job a hell of a lot easier, not to mention the backing that Dein gave Wenger in the transfer market.

Arsenal miss someone like Dein, someone who is known to really get involved with the day-to-day running of the club because Ivan Gazidis (who overtook Dein’s roles) doesn’t seem to have quite the same impact.

13) Faith and backing of deadwood players

Arsene Wenger is a manager who is known for his (sometimes blind) backing of his own players (“I didn’t see it”). But his relentless faith in players who had rarely ever shown themselves to be good enough became tiresome. 

Everyone remembers Nicklas Bendtner. A player whose insufferable arrogance became the butt of ironic jokes everywhere, he became the scourge of Arsenal fans. To his credit, Bendtner did score some important goals for Arsenal, but his terrible attitude and maxed out potential soon meant it was too late. The man who claimed he was off to Barcelona or Real Madrid when his Arsenal contract was up is now playing for Wolfsburg. Bendtner’s story is one of many, one that started with great potential boom but ended with a comical ability fart. Denilson, Djourou and Senderos are all other names who stick out in my mind – at one stage made some great performances and could have made a name for themselves, but now are just whinces in an Arsenal fan’s memory.

As for Abou Diaby, I’m not sure why he still has a shirt number. 16 league appearances in four seasons is awful reading for anyone and unfortunately his injury problems mean he will soon be released but it is a couple of seasons too late.

14) Fatigue of players

In recent years, Arsenal’s thin squads have meant that come February time (a.k.a the business end of the season) all of their star players are either knackered or so burnt out they have picked up a two or three month injury lay-off. The first eleven has rarely been the problem, it has just been the sheer fact that there was never any strength in depth. It was sort of the same story this season. Due to Arsene’s reluctance to buy any more defenders, Arsenal were forced to play makeshift back fours week after week early on, which fortunately has now subsided despite yet another injury to Mathieu Debuchy but we now have the cover after the emergence of Hector Bellerin, Calum Chambers and now, more centrally, Gabriel.

Last season, Mesut Ozil became an enigma in the Premier League. Signed for £42million and renowned as one of the best playmakers in the world, Ozil made a good start to his Arsenal career. But after a few months, not used to the physicality and relentlessness of the Premier League schedule, poor old Mesut burnt out. He was running the highest rate of any Arsenal player but when he got the ball he could barely ever do anything with it. Why? Mesut was fatigued and burnt out. He needed a break, he had never played without a winter break before. He then went to the World Cup with Germany and failed to set the league alight again upon his return. Since coming back from a three month injury layoff and putting on double his body weight in beef, Ozil has recorded three goals and three assists since his return from injury and looks to be picking up both form and confidence.

15) 11 years ago, we were Invincible

Remember those days? The glory days. We had the best striker in the world in Thierry Henry, a supporting cast including Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires and we were the best team that England had ever seen. Arsenal went 49 league games unbeaten between May 2003 – October 2004. An achievement higher than any other in English league football.

Now we celebrate finishing above Tottenham. 

16) Failing to build on star signings

If you had told me in July 2013 that within two years we would have had Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in our team then I would probably had asked you who else, with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning. But the fact is that if you look at true world-class talent, Arsenal don’t have anyone else.

I’ll admit that we do have good players in our squad, players who given the opportunity could be world class. But as an Arsenal fan I’ve grown impatient of would and could, I’m looking for world class now. So the marquee signings of Ozil and Sanchez are obviously most welcome, but we still need the major signings in key areas before we can mention anything on the Champions League or Premier League. 

17) Mismanagement and playing players out of position

Do you remember poor old Emmanuel Eboue? Here was a right-back who showed a lot of early promise in his career, also one of the most popular characters you will ever see in a football dressing room. But Wenger, for some reason only he would know, would go on to deploy Eboue in both left wing and centre midfield. Go figure. Andrey Arshavin lit up the world as a creative midfielder, given a free role to wreak havoc. His future? Shunted out on the wing and made to look out of place and extremely poor. 

The buck doesn’t stop there as it has recently happened to Podolski, Wilshere, Ozil, Cazorla and many more who have been pushed out of position and made to look half of the player they are. Arsene needs to stop trying to plug gaps and must put players where they are most effective consistently, otherwise more talent will go to waste.

18) Mockery of the captaincy

The sale of Vermaelen to Barcelona (Which I admit was good business due to his injury problems) was the latest in a line of captaincy sales which means the idea of a captain and the role itself has diminished. Prior to Vermaelen’s departure; Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas, Patrick Vieira and Robin Van Persie have all been sold while under captaincy, meaning Arsenal have sold five of their captains in the last nine years.  This doesn’t bode well for current club captain Mikel Arteta whose contract runs out in the summer.

Arsenal’s mockery of the role of captain can be summed up as such – club captain Vermaelen was an unused substitute in last years FA Cup final. Could you imagine Chelsea playing a cup final without a fit John Terry? Or Man City without Vincent Kompany? Absolutely not.

19) No leadership

My main problem here is Arsenal haven’t had a proper leader or general since Patrick Vieira. Someone who really has the ability to change a game and drag Arsenal through hard games with true grit and determination – the captains since Vieira have all been star players/the most senior player in the squad, but none with the same leadership qualities as the Frenchman.

In Arteta’s absence, Per Mertesacker has covered as his deputy but Mertesacker has nowhere near the qualities to even be a vice-captain. In December, when Arsenal drew 2-2 against Liverpool at Anfield, Arsenal were 2-1 up in the closing stages of the game. Martin Skrtel jumped up and beat a cowering Mertesacker who seemed to be afraid of the aerial challenge to equalise and claim a point. Mertesacker was rightly berated for his part in the goal as for someone who has made over 100 international appearances and played in three World Cups, winning one in the process, he looked very faint-hearted to go for a ball which could have been the difference between one point and three.

20) No desire or passion

In every big game I have seen (bar Man City), Arsenal always seem to lack desire and passion when it comes to the rougher side of the game. 50-50’s, second balls and loose possession always fall in favour of the opposition and the reason why is simple: Arsenal just don’t want it as much. It even happens in games against the smaller sides a majority of the time too.

It was all too apparent in the recent game against Monaco which summed up the lack of passion. Whenever a ball was given away, hands went on hips, heads looked to the sky and crowds groaned in anguish. There was no desire to win the ball back, no desire to undo the mistake and keep us on the front foot. In defence there was no desire to make tackles or blocks, it’s like we didn’t even want to take our best chance of getting to the quarter finals in five years.

21) Repeated mistakes

Imagine seeing points 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, as well as others, once or twice. Then you don’t learn from them because of stubbornness, so you get punished by them TIME and TIME and TIME again. So much so that the fans start to lose patience in you, let alone start to question your entire reign and legacy. Come on Arsene, you’re much, much better than that.

22) Pre-season buzz

For Arsenal fan’s pre-season buzz is  the likes of which you will see at no other club, but it quickly turns to mid-season despair and this season is no different. Arsenal mostly signed the players they needed (apart from defensively), there was a marquee signing in Sanchez, striker in Danny Welbeck, Debuchy and Ospina to replace the outgoing Sagna and Fabianski and a bonus of Chambers. But early season form quickly meant that Arsenal slipped down the table and were out of the Capital One Cup, now they look to be going out of the Champions League too and the FA Cup looks bleak with a tough trip to Old Trafford. 

Arsenal fans would have wanted to build on the FA Cup of last year (which should have been so much more after 120+ consecutive days at the top of the table last season) but at the moment, it is looking very unlikely and they will no doubt get the same pre-season buzz this summer.

23) Some other Arsenal fans

Mainly here I’m talking about the people who booed Wenger at the Stoke-on-Trent train station, I’m also talking about the idiots who appear on Arsenal Fan TV who have made other clubs fans enjoy our dismal displays even more, so much so that people who aren’t even Arsenal fans have subscribed to Arsenal Fan TV. 

Arsenal’s stadium is a 60,000 seater stadium, the second largest club stadium in the country, yet our stadium has garnered the reputation of being a library. This needs to change, opposition players should be nervous to come to the Emirates but they’re not because opposition fans usually cheer louder.

Arsenal fans also seem to be serial offenders in leaving matches early, even in situations where the game is incredibly tight – you’ve paid to watch 90 minutes, so watch them.

How did the signings fare…

I haven’t posted in 40 days, so first thing’s first.. I’m so, so sorry! I’ve had to finish my degree and then had to get on with exams and then move back home which all took a lot of time but I’m back now and posts will be a lot more frequent, I promise.

As a punishment for missing so much I am going to do a rundown of how the Premiership signings fared last season. It’ll be in five instalments of four teams each, let’s go.

Arsenal

Lukas PodolskiA lot was expected of the German striker who finished the season with 16 goals in 42 games. Form dropped mid-season as fatigue kicked in which manager Arsene Wenger blamed on a lack of winter breaks in England. All in all, good first season.

Olivier Giroud – Signed as a replacement for Robin Van Persie, after a dry spell at the beginning of the season and doubts over his ability he finished the season with 17 goals and 11 assists in 47 games. Promising first season, must improve on finishing.

Santi Cazorla – Excellent first season as he racked up goals and assists in abundance and quickly became one of Arsenal’s key players. 16 assists and 12 goals in 49 appearances shows how important he became to Arsenal’s play in what was a great first season from the ambidextrous playmaker.

Nacho Monreal – Signed as an extra option at left-back after more injuries to regular Kieran Gibbs, showed reliability in his 11 appearances as well as good ability in going forward, scored in Arsenal’s 2 – 0 win over Swansea at the Liberty Stadium.

Aston Villa

Christian Benteke – One of the signings of the season by Paul Lambert as Benteke went on to establish himself as one of the most feared strikers in the league and maybe a move to a bigger club beckoning for the Belgian beast. He finished the season with 23 goals in 39 appearances and he was one of the major reasons Villa survived the drop.

Matthew Lowton – Good season from the young full-back who is a promising prospect for Villa. Got onto the score-sheet twice in his first season and one of these goals was a contender for goal of the season in a 3 – 1 win over Stoke City from all of 35 yards.

Ron Vlaar – Was named captain in the absence of club captain Stiliyan Petrov and was one of very few senior players to play regularly for the club. Presence at the back should be built on if Villa want to use their survival as a foundation for better things.

Brett Holman – Not the best footballer technically but quickly became a favourite with the Villa fans due to his hard-working nature and determination.

Joe Bennett – Another young full-back who was signed and thrown into a lot of first-team football early on, similar to Lowton, also similarly had a solid first season in which he impressed despite no top-flight experience.

Yacouba Sylla – Not utilised much in his first season in English football in which he only made 10 appearances but a hard-working midfielder who is solid on the ball. Good squad player.

Jordan Bowery – Only made 10 appearances and seemed to be a bit of a waste of a signing, only really used as a sub sparingly, needs to be loaned out.

Karim El-Ahmadi – Made 24 appearances for Villa last season and looked to be a good squad player, not the quality which Villa need to re-establish themselves as a top-half club but reliable nonetheless. Scored on his home debut in a 3 – 1 loss to Everton.

Ashley Westwood – Another promising prospect for Villa, a player who seemed to go about his business with little fuss whenever he played. Made 30 league appearances and his versatility proved useful.

 

Chelsea

Eden Hazard – Signed after a massive transfer saga which was settled when Hazard announced he was signing for Chelsea. Scored and assisted in quantity, including 13 goals in his 62 appearances. Candidate for PFA Player and Young Player of the Year in his first season in English football. Great first season despite massive price tag.

Oscar – Another youngster who arrived with a huge price tag at Chelsea but quickly formed an excellent partnership with midfield duo Juan Mata and fellow newbie Hazard. Scored 12 and assisted 12 in 62 appearances in his first season. Also scored Chelsea’s goal of the season with his strike against Juventus in the Champions League.

Victor Moses – Scored 10 goals in 43 appearances in which he was mainly used as a sub. Handy player in both cup runs as well as Chelsea’s successful Europa League run. Still a player with a lot of promise, hopefully will be given more of a chance this season.

Marko Marin – Player signed with huge promise and a big reputation in Germany but not played nearly enough for me. Only made 15 appearances all season and if Chelsea continue to spend must look to move on.

Cesar Azpilicueta – Reliable right-back who Chelsea initially used as back-up to Branislav Ivanovic who moved into the centre mid-way through the season. Azpilicueta made 48 appearances in all competitions and showed consistency throughout both in his defensive duties as well as going forward.

Thorgan Hazard – I can only help but feel he was signed purely because he is Eden’s younger brother…

Demba Ba – Signed to provide Chelsea with some goals from their striking department as Torres continued to struggle for form in the Premiership. But at the end of the season it looked as if Ba wasn’t the answer to Chelsea’s misfiring frontline as he finished the season with six goals in 22 appearances.

 

Everton

Steven Pienaar – Returned to Everton after a brief spell away at Tottenham and built a strong partnership with left-back Leighton Baines, seen at one stage as the best left sided partnership in the league. Scored 7 goals in 40 appearances, becoming one of Everton’s most creative influences.

Steven Naismith – Enjoying the Steven’s weren’t they? Made 35 appearances in which he grabbed five goals but his work-rate is his best asset which was utilised by David Moyes as he played him mostly in a midfield role.

Kevin Mirallas – Another brilliant prospect in the seemingly never-ending conveyor belt of Belgian talent. Scored nine goals in 33 appearances and added pace and trickery to the Everton frontline and looks to be an exciting player for the Toffees after a promising first season where he impressed.

Bryan Oviedo – Only made 15 appearances for Everton after signing from Copenhagen. Mostly coming on as a late substitute.

Thomas Hitzlsperger – Only made nine appearances after only initially signing on a short term contract, an extension was signed so Hitzlsperger could stay as an option in Everton’s midfield.

John Stones – Erm.. didn’t make an appearances after signing in January… *Tumbleweed*

Next four teams coming up tomorrow! Also a top five centre-backs in the World coming up later!

 

PFA Winner, Team of the Year and recent games!

So over the weekend the PFA Player and Young Player of the Year was announced with Gareth Bale winning both. Am I the only one who thinks this is some kind of joke? Fair enough on Young Player of the Year, the only person really in touch with Bale was Benteke and I couldn’t see him winning it due to the club he’s playing for being in a kind of relegation scrap. Did you know only two players in the top European leagues have scored more goals than Benteke in 2013? Those two players are Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

For Player of the Year I thought it would easily be between Robin Van Persie and Luis Suarez, and with Van Persie recently winning the league title and leaping to top of the goalscoring charts I expected him to win his second gong in successive seasons. But no, the PFA had other ideas.

I also heard whispers that Luis Suarez was booed at the PFA awards, now I know he bit Ivanovic but come on people, a bit of class and dignity please?

Moving swiftly on to PFA Team of the Year:

Goalkeeper: David De Gea – purely there on his form since Christmas of 10 clean sheets in 16 games. Before that, a bit shakey and definitely not the best keeper in the league.

Right back: Pablo Zabaleta – Consistent and reliable at the back for City, probably the only player in their team to perform consistently well all season. Special mention to Ivanovic who has also played well at right back this year, until shuffling into the centre.

Centre backs: Jan Vertonghen – If Swansea hadn’t signed Michu, Vertonghen would have been my signing of the season, adding stability and steel to the Spurs backline and forming an excellent partnership with Michael Dawson.

Rio Ferdinand – Not so sure on this one, maybe because of his late season form too and a title-winning year for the veteran centre back.

Left back: Leighton Baines – Another brilliant season from the Toffees’ left back.

Right midfield: Eden Hazard – Slotted into the Premiership well, high number of goals and assists coming with his high price tag. Excellent partnership with Juan Mata and Oscar in Chelsea midfield.

Centre midfield: Juan Mata – The most effective player in the Premiership

Michael Carrick – The fulcrum through which Manchester United based their attacks

Left midfield: Gareth Bale – PFA Player and Young Player of the Year, scintillating season for Tottenham

Strikers: Robin Van Persie – Top scorer in the league and Premiership trophy winner, giving Man United another dimension up front.

Luis Suarez – Carrying an average Liverpool team all season, having his best scoring season for Liverpool so far.

Now onto the weekends action.

I’m pretty sure that Reading and QPR both assumed each other would survive the drop this season. Oh, they didn’t? Well neither team played like they were battling relegation on Sunday and it showed as they both played out one of the most boring 0 – 0 draws I’ve ever witnessed and were subsequently relegated. Rumour has it that Arsenal’s chief scout was in town to watch Loic Remy play as well.. Good audition ay Loic?

And onto the big one of many Arsenal fan’s season, the game against Manchester United. Although many Man United fans don’t see Arsenal as a threat anymore you can guarantee they still look forward to games against the Gunners due to the long standing rilvary from years gone by.

And here’s a question for my fellow Gooners: what would you rather have happened, Van Persie win the league at the Emirates, or have to do a guard of honour for him? I would rather what actually happened so we wouldn’t have had an even bigger blow to our team’s spirit. Now that the guard of honour happened maybe it will signal big change at Arsenal and spur on the club, or I might be getting ahead of myself.

Anyways, we are no closer to finding out who will join the Manchester clubs in next seasons Champions League as both North London clubs drew and Chelsea beat Swansea, but with Tottenham and Chelsea’s run of games, Arsenal could have a sniff, with the Blues and Spurs coming head-to-head next week it could come down to that as to who finishes where in terms of the Champions League race.

Here’s a nice picture for you all, my personal guard of honour to Manchester United and Van Persie:

Guard of Honour

Well done Robin

 

What did we learn from this weekend’s football?

This weekend’s football basically showed us that Man United’s strike force is potentially the best Man United has ever seen, even eclipsing the great 1999 treble winning side. Although their defending hasn’t quite been up to title winning standards this year, neither has the rest of their contenders. Speaking of contenders, Man City’s title defence looks to be going out with a whimper – after their 3 – 1 defeat to Southampton at St. Mary’s they are now 12 points off top after Man United’s 2 – 0 victory over Everton earlier on today. But City can’t just blame Man United firing from all cylinders on them seemingly having to relinquish their short-lived crown, City’s team has lacked spirit and the quality which it boasted last year. A summer of lavish spending was expected and they only brought in a right-back at the twilight of his career in Maicon, a promising English youngster in Jack Rodwell who has shown he isn’t up to title-winning standards, a winger in Scott Sinclair who was a pivotal part in Swansea’s excellent showing last season – but it almost reeked of panic buying on Roberto Mancini’s part. The only decent purchase from City’s summer was Javi Garcia who has filled in well when needed in defensive midfield and could prove to be a key player in seasons to come.

Another problem at the Etihad is the under-performing of last terms key players – where Man United’s have stepped up, David Silva, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero have not. It also begs the question, if Mancini had pulled out all the stops in the summer to sign Robin Van Persie like Sir Alex Ferguson did, would City be at the pinnacle and reaping the benefits of the Dutchman’s prowess?

Speaking of Van Persie, his former club Arsenal aren’t bearing too well without his services. Yes the scoring burden isn’t on one player with all of their regular front three reaching double figures this season but none of them quite reaching the heights which Van Persie has this season for United – it shows the gulf in class which has developed between Arsenal and Man United in recent years that with Van Persie, Arsenal managed to scrape a third place spot, but with Man United it seems that the Dutchman will be firing United to a record 20th league title.

Onto another topic of spending, QPR’s acquisitions this season could have seen them field another team but it seems that their players haven’t gelled like fans, staff and members had hoped. The spending continued in January with Chris Samba replacing the departing Ryan Nelsen and Loic Remy bolstering the front-line along with Peter Odemwing-…. oh no wait sorry that didn’t happen. But QPR’s season seems destined to rely on beating others around them and ‘Arry needing to work his much publicized magic that they signed him up for.

The Champions League returns this week with Cristiano Ronaldo welcoming Man United to his Bernabeu domain with open arms in a mouthwatering tie being the major talking point and Jose Mourinho calling it ‘the game the world has been waiting for’, we sure hope you’re right Jose!

Also a massive congratulations to any Nigerians out there after your team just won the African Cup of Nations, well done!

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