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How to knock the Arsenal: a journalists’ guide

By Walter Broeckx and Tony Attwood

Knocking the Arsenal is an important part of the job of every reporter.   To be fair some do back off when we are playing brilliant football and winning stuff (only the Guardian and Observer did snarling cynical pieces about the club in the days after we finished the unbeaten season).

But moments like that aside a week in football journalism isn’t a week in football journalism unless there is some way of knocking the Arsenal.

And sadly some bloggers pick up copies of newspapers and instead of seeing them as a dire warning of what can happen when you let the ill-informed write stuff they instead see them as a blueprint for how it should be done.

Every now and then a new approach for knocking Arsenal is devised and everyone jumps on the bandwagon.  This week it is a two pronged attack:

Arsenal in crisis: three defeats in four matches

and

How many of these kids ever make the first team?

The reason that these new ideas have had to develop is because the old one (he doesn’t like English players) is fading away after something like five of the starters in the Champs game this week were English and one Welsh.  Although that didn’t stop ITV saying that in Wenger’s first game at the club 10 of the 11 were English.  (They failed to admit that this was the team he inherited from Rioch who had stumbled and struggled into the UEFA Cup on the last day of the season.  Also it must mean that Bergkamp wasn’t playing – I must check up on that).

So let’s consider the last Euro game.  We fielded a team with an average age of around 21. If you take out Silvestre it would be even one year younger. This was a team that apart from Song had no players on the pitch that are regulars in the first team during this season so far. In fact most of the players never got a start in the EPL this season and they probably will not have a start for the remaining of the season. Only if the injury crisis we are dealing with gets worse then it is today some of them could have a start.

The first impression of the whole game was that we played well but couldn’t finish. We had 54% of possession during the game and don’t forget, we played away from home gainst a team that still was fighting for a place in the next round.   It is rather amazing to recall that we were never outplayed during the game. In fact we were in control for most part of the game and the statistics confirm this.

If you take the shots statistics Olympiacos had a total of 15 attempts in total during the game and we had 13 attempts. This also confirms the fact that we didn’t get played off the pitch.

We saw an Arsenal team on the pitch which had great composure, good technique and vision. And this for a team built on teenagers.

But the journalists and the doom and gloom brigade will point at the one statistic that stays in the history books: we lost 1-0. Off course in the good old fashioned style they have to get some players to be singled out as the sinners.

They paraded Theo Walcott as their first victim. Yes, Theo wasn’t at his best.  But how would you be if you had only played 90 minutes of football all season?  In fact Theo is now where the most players were on July 21.  So how can you expect Theo to just walk on the pitch and destroy teams in the Champions League ? He needs games without being kicked off the field in the first 20 minutes.

Another player they picked was Vela. Yes, Vela missed a lot of chances yesterday. It is clear to see that Vela is looking for his best form. But then again look at his injuries since the beginning of the season. He also had to play a lot of games for Mexico during the summer,  plus WC qualifiers during the year and he got injured by playing those games.

Vela’s problem was his finishing and to finish you must have confidence. During the past season in the Carling Cup he showed great promise but then he was playing as a second striker next to Bendtner – probably a better position for him than the one he took on, on Wednesday.

His running off the ball was rather good. In fact to miss those chances he had to make good runs in the first place.  So with a little bit of luck and a bit of the confidence that will come with a goal, he will be back to his best.

Wilshere also got some criticism, and yes Wilshere didn’t dribble past all 10 players from Olympiacos and then make brilliant pass to another player to finish it off.  But he is 17 years old and a great talent. Yes he is not finished yet but what do people expect?  Do the commentators really think Messi at 17 was as good as he is now? Actually he wasn’t.

In his early days he lost more balls then he won. He dribbled himself against the wall more then he got trough. This is a normal learning process and this will be the same with Jack. He needs time to know when to dribble and when not. This is a thing that comes with age and experience. So please give the kid some room to develop.

The major gain could be seen on Sunday as we will have no first team players out for our next game in the EPL.  What would be the benefit to go to Greece with our first team, win the game and then get 3 players out with new injuries ?

Let us consider the benefits we got.  It was a great opportunity and encouragement for our youngsters, who can see that they are getting closer to being in the first team.  How long will we keep Merida if we don’t give him games?

Second, think of those teenagers who are yet to come to Arsenal.  They, and their parents and agents will have noted that Arsenal resolutely put the lads out for certain games.   There has been a load of criticism of Wenger for not putting experienced players on the bench, having them ready to come on if it all goes wrong.   But that insurance policy shows a lack of faith.  Arsenal blood even younger youngsters on the bench, and that means the kids on the pitch are not looking over their shoulders all the time and the kids in other teams are thinking “that could be me”.

Finally the issue of bringing youngsters into the first team.   We’ve had this argument before about who constitutes a youngster coming through the ranks.   Cesc?  Theo?  Bendtner?  Ramsey?   No, say the critics because these players were transferred.   But one can say, yes, but at such a young age there was still a lot to do in their development.

  • Clichy, Traore, Djourou, Gibbs at the back?
  • Song, Merida, Wilshire, Cesc, Denilson in the middle?
  • Vela, Walcott, Bendtner up front.

No, no, shout the critics, none of those because you didn’t sign them age 10.

Well, OK, but what about the perseverance factor?   Think of all the bile thrown the way of Song, Denilson and Bendtner as Wenger has brought them through the ranks.  And anyway if that is the argument, just wait another three years, and watch what has happened to the Youth Cup winners, who were mostly playing together in the Arsenal under 11s.

Finally, you’ll know if you have read this column before that it has been  ending with an advert for the book MAKING THE ARSENAL.  A new review of the book has just gone up on the Online Gooner site.   It’s at http://www.onlinegooner.com/exclusive/index.php?id=1429

You can buy the book via amazon.co.uk or direct from the publishers (with a request for the author to sign if you like) at www.woolwicharsenal.co.uk

16 comments to How to knock the Arsenal: a journalists’ guide

  • Marc

    I’ve given up reading the papers. I’m told that I’m being paranoid thinking there is an anti Arsenal bias in the press and all clubs get it, I just notice more when it’s Arsenal but in that case answer these for me.

    i) ManU desperately need players at the moment, the press claim Fergie has £60 million to spend but he cant see any value in the market. Why no hysterical stories about ManU being broke and about to go bust as Arsenal have had for years.

    ii) Liverpool are broke and the press acknowledge that but it’s the owners fault with Benitez getting none of the blame. They are now out of the CL and face a serious threat to qualifying at all next season because of the limitations of their squad. They have 1 striker who while being a very good striker is injury prone. Benitez has spent over £200 million over the last 5 or so years. Where are all the players? How would you feel if when he retires Arsenal replaced Wenger with Benitez?

  • christianjimmy

    Great article. Spot on. To be honest I dont completely buy into the anti-arsenal bias as being a giant conspiracy, but theres definitely not enough credit where its due. As I think Tony pointed out a few months ago, once Wenger arrived at the club he always said it would take 10 years for the first crop of genuinely Arsenal-raised players to come through the ranks. And thats exactly what Cruise, Gibbs, Wilshire, Bartley et al are doing. I’m willing to bet that there are more graduates of Arsenals youth system plying their trade in the top flight than any other club over the last 10 years.
    Its a great system, and one that also includes bringing in other key talent when and where it is available. And subsequently improving and developing them. Fabregas wouldnt be the same player if he hadnt spent those years developing under wenger. likewise bendtner, song, denilson etc
    Lets face it, this is some mud being slung by lazy journalist who dont know the full facts (and nothing annoys me more than a so-called expert on radio 5 saying that arsenal were physically brushed aside by such and such team, or their experience left them helpless, or that their discipline let them down, or any of the other hoary cliches that are continually used about arsenal with absolutely no basis at all… grrr… (and breath)… sigh). Its pure and simple journalism by numbers. And thats why this blog is so important. In Arsene we trust!

  • walter

    Christianjimmy, if it is not a conspiracy the it is just that the most reporters just follow the leading pundits opinion. Just like lemmings throwing themselves from the cliffs

  • Pete The First

    What about not shaking hands with an opposing manager? Last week that was akin to high treason.

    This week two manager on player headbutts are alleged, but it’s all just a part of the game! Any other members of the public would be up before the local magistrate.

    The comparison is telling. Remember Pulis was one of those who criticised Wenger. I haven’t seen any criticism of Pulis from other managers as yet….

  • walter

    Marc, you giving me nightmares with that question…. 😉

  • LRV

    Arsenal bashing has been developed to a fine art by the media in this country anyway. It doesn’t matter if anybody agrees or disagrees.

    No one is going to make a big song and dance about Pulis and his players headbutting each other. It is not likely to attract as much public xenophobia as an Arsenal Manager taking a stand against a RUDE and FOUL-MOUTHED baby-manager.

    God piece Walter.

  • LRV

    OOPs!!! I mean ‘Good piece’.

  • mark

    I wonder sometimes if I am being paranoid, and then I read an article like the one by Jim White appearing to say, in tone if not in exact word, all froggy b++++++s are cheats, and I think , well, maybe I’m not being paranoid.
    Of course if anyone said: ‘All Senegalese are cheats’ the world and his wife would be up in arms. So in this sense Le Arsenal and Le Boss are soft targets. Token foreigners who can be targetted without any whiplash.

    The other side of the coin is that it might also be a kind of backhanded compliment. Martin Keown said that they took it as a compliment when Man U reverted to playing rugby against them. It was anadmission that they were a far inferior football team. Likewise the press’s dismissive attitude to Arsenal might be a reflection of just how high Arsene set the bar. Anything less than a Premier League title every three years seems a bit of a failure now. That said, did Ferguson get such flak during Man U’s three year barren run?

  • rohde

    totally agree with Marc…only idiot cannot seen it…i hate to say this..but some of our supporters been fool by media and keep pushing AW to make mistake as other teams do…we are leading in modern football and wise decision must be applied to the field and financial..if not maybe not only arsenal but EPL as well will collapse

  • walter

    Well more than one year after that Tony started warning us about the financial problems even Benitez has seen the ligth it seems.

    What a good results for us today, I say. 😉

  • jet

    Arsenal bashing is the norm for the media folk, watching the utd/villa game today Rooney blatantly dived I recall a certain arsenal player lynched by the media earlier this season.

  • Marc

    So will Rooney get the same treatment in the press as Eduardo? I bet it hardly even gets a mention and if it does it will be down to the corrupting influence of foreign players, after all English players never dived till Wenger showed up.

  • tim

    It’s all a big joke, especially how Chelsea are so often portrayed as England’s team. What kind of lesson does that teach kids, if a corrupt team full of mercenary thugs owned, are the pride and joy of the nation right now?

    Oh, and I’m so happy about Saturday’s results. Go Gunners!

  • Abhishek

    Any one who wants more proof can have it by comparing Rooney’s clear dive by Eduardo’s alleged dive by reading the match report today. Well this is all that was written by BBC for Rooney’s dive.

    “Rooney, who moments before was booked for a clear dive in the area, went close to an equaliser when his excellent first touch gave him a shooting chance and he cracked his shot against the bar from six yards.”

    Looks like a praise instead of some bad reaction. Now compare it with Eduardo’s where Arsenal was already winning 2-0 and you know how they said it. We already have miles to write about it.

  • Zack

    Once again, a very well-written article on this site.

    The media’s double-standards (and Arsenal-bashing) are really painfully obvious, with the Eduardo incident being the number one example of that…

    As the article which Abhishek brought up shows, Wayne “I-don’t-cheat” Rooney will never be lynched by the same English media in the manner they did to Eduardo. My theory is that the English media are simply xenophobic… It’s just because Wenger is French…

  • Sean

    So what’s the answer to this question……..

    ‘How many Arsenal youth team players, not brought in from other youth teams, in the last decade (January 2000 – December 2009) have made 100, or even 50, first team appearances?’

    Surely someone on this site could give a definitive answer.
    If not, I suspect that it is a very small number.