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How to judge Arsenal: a touch of context, analysis and knowledge can help

By Tony Attwood

How fast can you know that a player or manager is no good?

Today the Telegraph has the headline “Has Guardiola finally been found out?”  That implies that he has been tricking everyone all this time in some ill-defined way.  He’s got three Spanish titles and two Champions League trophies, and he’s been “found out” over two matches.

The argument is that “at Barcelona he was carrying on the good work of his predecessors from Louis van Gaal right back to the vision of Johan Cruyff, that he was not having to fix something because it was not broken.”

A look at the league table in Germany however shows us that things are not that simple…

 
Team P W D L F A G.D Pts
Bayern Munich 32 24 4 4 77 16 61 76
VfL Wolfsburg 32 19 8 5 68 35 33 65
Borussia Mönchengladbach 32 18 9 5 50 23 27 63
Bayer Levkn 32 16 10 6 59 35 24 58
FC Augsburg 32 14 4 14 39 40 -1 46

In effect all the Telegraph is doing is what everyone in the media, and their lap dogs, does now – judge everything on the last match.

But I see a new tendency.  To judge by half a match – after all why bother with a whole game if you can reach a conclusion based on 45 minutes.  However even that is, I suspect, too long for some.  Let’s say 15 minutes.  Or maybe five.

So clearly Wenger is useless because we lost to Swansea in the last five minutes.  After all if we can’t beat Swansea then what hope is there for us?  Rather like the fact that if Chelsea can’t beat Bradford in the FA Cup what hope is there for them?

Ah.

Yes, it doesn’t always work out like that.

There are two things that seem to me to be missing from most analyses these days: context, analysis and knowledge.

OK, I’ll try that again, there are three things that…

Context is just ignored.  All that “Arsenal haven’t won the league in 11 years” stuff ignores key facts like the diverting of money into the stadium project.  That might be a right or wrong thing to have done – and that is a point to debate, but the “11 years” thing on its own is pointless.

For by bringing the stadium into it we can note that Liverpool have not won the league in 25 years, but have not built a stadium.  They tried, but never actually got the spade into the ground, although a lot of money went AWOL.  The moral is, I guess, be careful who you sell your club to.

Analysis also seems to have gone out the window.  Ospina is rubbish, we need someone better.  We must buy a central defender…  Everything is reduced to utter simplicity.   (A bit like that new commentary about how Britain came to elect a government that promises even more austerity and cuts than before.  The answer is “It’s the electorate, stupid.”  A whimsical answer but it doesn’t really tell us much).

Indeed it goes further than this, because if Arsenal gets something right – like Bellerin and Coquelin this season – the approach that brought them in is at first derided as “panic measures” and then “Wenger was lucky he had those two players there to rescue him”.  If it goes wrong, it is Wenger’s fault.  It is hardly an analysis more a jerking of the knee.

Now I would never say that my occasional comments about Coquelin since he first signed are detailed analysis, nor that everything I have written was right.  But when on 27 July 2008 I wrote on Untold

Personally I have already seen several amazing sights in the two games this season – Wilshere, Coquelin, Barazite and Ramsey all look good – and we’re only two games in.

OK, Nacer Barazite didn’t make it at the top level, and he is now with FC Utrecht, and ok one paragraph is hardly a detailed analysis, but at least I tried picking out the stars of the future with a little bit of analysis.

And you know what, I feel good about that (as Blacksheep will attest since I remind him of it every 90 seconds as we travel to and from games).  It makes me happy – I made a positive prediction and it came good.

So what about these people who endlessly say, “this is the season Arsenal are going to finish up mid-table” and they are proven wrong year after year.  Are they miserable because Arsenal finished in the top four?  I guess so.  A world of being endlessly unhappy, while I go around smiling.   Who has the better life?

And on to my third element of decent commentary and debate: knowledge.  I don’t mean a detailed knowledge of stats and everything to do with football, but some sort of background awareness would help.

It is because newspaper columnists reveal such a lack of knowledge that I end up hammering away about the same things over and over again – such as the CAS ruling on contracts, Barcelona’s transfer ban (which most journalists now seem to have got, but I am still seeing the odd note about Barce buying x or y this season), Chelsea’s loan activities, John Henry’s admission of lying, the FA’s financial and administrative incompetence, QPR’s FFP situation (now back on the agenda, but hasn’t been for months, except here).  And perhaps most importantly, why Untold endlessly comments on referees.

This doesn’t mean I think everything should be a detailed academic analysis, and I’m as prone to shout lunatic comments at the ref and opposition as anyone, but when stepping back from the game, and tapping away on the phone or keyboard, surely there is a need for a little bit of context, analysis or knowledge somewhere.  Otherwise what have you got?  The suggestion that the most successful manager in the history of the club is useless, it seems.

What I want from Arsenal is improvement now the privation and austerity of the early stadium building years is over.  And that is what I have got this season.  A re-working of the team to take into account the massive range of injuries and blend the accumulated talents went on longer than I was happy with, but we got there, and the second half of the season has been very enjoyable.

On December 13 last year, the Untold match preview for the game compared our plight at that point with our plight on 6 December 1997.  Then we were sixth in the league after a modest start to the season and we went on to win the Double.   No Double this season, but even so the parallel has been quite remarkable, and that was an interesting bit of foresight based on…  context, analysis and knowledge.  (Rather amusingly the Independent picked up the idea and ran it as their own a few days later – but that’s how it goes these days).

Compare ourselves now, even after the Swansea defeat, with the early season team destroyed by injury and we have a balance between defence and attack that looks so much better than I have seen for quite awhile.

And we’ve got a second consecutive cup final to look forward too, which again is something to take into account.   Would I like us to have moved forwards more quickly?  Yes.  Would I have liked the stadium to have cost us £200m less?  Yes.  Would I have liked a rich American to have come in and built it for us?   Ah, suddenly my thoughts come back to Liverpool and what their rich Americans did, which ultimately ended up with the British state owning the club and bailing it out, no.  And suddenly context, analysis and knowledge says, well, probably not.

Of course second place is not enough in terms of wanting it all now, rather like a six year old who can’t go out and play because it’s chucking it down with rain just at the moment.

Yes personally I would like us to continue the transfer policy that has brought in Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil.

However even here I manage to know what seems to escape the aaa and their media buddies.  Just because a player is out there it doesn’t mean he wants to come to Arsenal and risk being pilloried by the aaa and the media, while being hacked to bits by wild maniacs and having no protection from refs.

And the timing has to be right.  I have enjoyed watching Bellerin this season, and I know that had the club rushed out to buy all the defenders that the press were screaming for, and which some of the media still hark on about, then Bellerin would never have had his chance.  Nor Coquelin.

It seems I am that rare breed of football fan – one who doesn’t mind doing a bit of background research, considering the detail, and even being prepared to wait.

Maybe it is because I have watched so much lower league and non-league football in my life, sitting and standing alongside fans of small town teams who know that the chances of them ever seeing their side win anything are somewhat less than zero.  Talking to these fans gives one a totally different perspective on life, football and the level of moaning one sees on blogs.

And so, all things considered, when I hear Mr Wenger say, “We are not in need of absolute change,” I can live with that.  Which is probably why I am fairly happy in my life.  Or maybe its the other way around.

————————

13 May 1991: Birth of Francis Coquelin.  He played for AS du Bourny, and Stade Lavallois before moving to Arsenal in July 2008.  After loan spells with Lorient and Freiburg he returned to Arsenal and after a five match loan to Charlton became the first choice defensive midfielder and was hailed by Thierry Henry as “the police officer”.

 

 

28 comments to How to judge Arsenal: a touch of context, analysis and knowledge can help

  • WalterBroeckx

    In a few years time managers and players will be judged on their last 5 seconds in the game… every game… Pep has been found out? It seems more that the media has been found out….

  • bob mac

    Brilliant article.

    I wonder how many people share my view that Coquelin is a far far better DM than Matic.

    Just count the number of positive passes (those that take out opposition players) by both players once they have done the main job of breaking up attacks, at which Coquelin is an absolute master.

  • para

    “I’m as prone to shout lunatic comments at the ref and opposition as anyone”….
    So true, we all are, we shout in frustration at something that could have been avoided, after all we still love our children after we’ve shouted at them, in fact i dare say we love them because we take the time to shout at them.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin.

    MR Tony Attwood, good morning Sir and how do you do? You known something Sir? It hurts to see the Gunners surrendering their 10 unbeaten run to the Swans at Emirates Stadium last Monday night. I know the Gunners must have underestimated the Swans ability to win that game. Moreso as the Gunners are on a 10 unbeaten run. That is confidence, but the Gunners paid the price for been overconfident. Sir, naturally, we are angry and have reacted. Reacted in a manner some Gunners we pounced upon could be hurt. Yes, let them be hurt so that they will adjust from their failings to know how very important it is not dash the hopes of the Gooners to see their darling Arsenal team extend their current unbeaten run to the end of the season. That brings to mind. Can this current Gunners the Boss has appeared to be banking his hopes upon win the BPL and the UCL next season? I doubt. See how they have fallen to the lowly Swansea team on Monday night. Supposing it was a UCL game at the Emirates, is that how they would lost? We know Swansea did the double over Man Utd but that was Man Utd. We are Arsenals! Even if the Gunners happened to have won their 3 remaining BPL games, they will still finish on 79 points as the same points they got last season. Can we then say they have improved? The Boss must be realistic and decide realistically by making sure he got another Sanchez on the right wing that can guarantee 25 minimum goals for Arsenal. My Idea is, the old and the new Sanchez playing on the wide area and Giroud as the center-forwad will guarantee Arsenal a minimum total of 75 goals in between themselves. I think the boss want to use Walcott and Welbeck to cover Giroud and the new Sanchez. But who will cover the old Sanchez? The Gunners midfielders have scored close to 35 goals this season? My Kudos to them. 35 goals will be the minimum required from our midfielders next season. Has the defense line scored up to 15 goals this season? Not yet. 15 goals are the minimum numbers of goal the defenders: wing backs and CBs should score per season. That sumup to 125 minimum goals the Gunners should score in a season to stand the chance to win the BPL title and the UCL. I think Chelsea won the title by reaching 105 goals in all competitions. However, the Gunners must have and maintain a great defensive discipline throughout the season. They mustn’t concede more than 15 goals or less in all competitions and score 125 or more goals. This should be the benchmark for the Boss and The Gunners to base their implementation on, next season. If there is a good like (Bellerin) but a LB in the Gunners youth team, the Boss should pull him over to the Senior team for cover, hoping he will be another revelation. If there is none to be pulled in, the Boss must enter market to buy a top quality LB. That position is fragile to injuries to Gibbs and Monreal has shown how inadequate he can be to deal with Batafimbi Gomis header.

  • Horsham Gooner

    Watching “Football Mavericks” on ITV4 last night.
    Glenn Hoddle on moving to AS Monaco.
    In England he was clearly one of the most talented, skilful and technically accomplished players by far. (My opinion). However, England managers hardly picked him because they didn’t trust him. His club managers wanted him to get back and defend when their team lost the ball.
    At Monaco in one of his first training sessions his team lost the ball, he got back to defend. His new manager stopped the game and told him not to; to defend from the front because there are two players behind you to get it back and give it to you. Hoddle said that after thirteen years it was music to his ears.
    You know that the manager was Arsene Wenger and all these years later I still love that philosophy. Given the choice of football philosophy between George Graham’s pragmatism of winning ugly, or losing ugly, I’d rather keep the dream that Glenn Hoddle discovered all those years ago.

  • para

    Francis Coquelin needs a little rest, he has been used a lot this season and he looked a little tired/not concentrated to me in the Swansea match. We do not want to burn him out.

    I do not think we need to have a 1st team as defined, players should now get the chance, at least in midfield. Our midfield allows us to be so flexible depending on who is playing where in that midfield.

    Our back 4(8) are pretty constant, and they come in or out depending on injuries and performance. Never seen us play 3 at the back yet?
    Whether we now play 1, Santi or Coq, or 2, Santi and Coq we now have a choice of 4(8), Alexis, Ozil, Ramsey, Wellbeck, Theo, Rosicky, Flamini, Wiltshire for midfield, or 3, from same list with 1 up front, usually Giroud or Wellbeck.
    Then we have the youth who are about to cement their places by performing in the pre-season matches, and probably in the last two matches WHEN we win at Utd. (I thought we were not having a pre season).

    We have enough to vary the game in any way depending on who we’re playing.
    All looks good.

    I really do not want to wish AW any headaches, but this one i will gladly wish on him, if he buys a player or 2 and then have to decide how to fit them all in. What a nice headache, for us. 🙂

  • Horsham Gooner

    Sorry. Missed out the conclusion.
    I abhor Society’s instant judgements on politicians; sportsmen and women; artists and artistes.
    Pep Guardiola has only been a manager for six years. He has had success and yes, the cynics may say, in a two team or one team League. He may not be able to cut it in the Premier League but there’s no shortage of offers to try.
    Surely, the way to judge anybody is to look at their body of work at the end of their career?
    Jose Mourinho will probably be judged favourably as a successful manager, and his haul of trophies will bear testament to that. But the Great Football Managers are those who laid down football philosophies that millions remember and many try to emulate.
    Matt Busby; Bill Nicholson, Jock Stein; Johann Cruyff. All remembered fondly not just for trophies won but for how their teams played.
    I think when Arsene Wenger retires he will enter that pamtheon.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin.

    MR Tony Attwood, good morning Sir and how do you do? You known something Sir? It hurts to see the Gunners surrendering their unbeaten run in 10 games to the Swans at Emirates Stadium last Monday night. I know the Gunners must have underestimated the Swans ability to win that game. Moreso as the Gunners are on a 10 game unbeaten run. That is surely confidence, but the Gunners paid the price for been overconfident. Sir, naturally, we are angry and have reacted. We reacted in the manner we ruthlessly pounced on some Gunners on the internet access. Are they hurt? Yes, let them be hurt. So that they will adjust from their failings to know how very important it is not dash the hopes of the Gooners to see their darling Arsenal team extend their current unbeaten run in 10 games to the end of the season. That brings to mind. Can these current Gunners the Boss has appeared to be banking his hopes upon win the BPL and the UCL next season? I doubt. See how they have fallen to the lowly Swansea team on Monday night. Supposing it was a UCL game at the Emirates, is that how they would lost? We know giant killers Swansea did the double over Man Utd, but that were Man Utd. We are Arsenals! Even if the Gunners do win their last 3 remaining BPL games, they will still finish on 79 points as they have finished last season. Can we then say they have improved on their last season’s performance? The Boss must please be realistic and decide realistically by making sure he got another Sanchez like attacker on the right wing that can guarantee a minimum of 25 goals for Arsenal next season. It is a gamble. But let the boss try. My Idea is, the old and the new Sanchez playing on the 2 wide area and Giroud playing as the center-forwad will guarantee Arsenal a minimum total of 75 goals in between themselves. I think the boss wants to use Walcott and Welbeck to cover for Giroud and the new Sanchez. That’s alright. But who will cover the old Sanchez? The Gunners midfielders have scored close to 35 goals this season? I think they are almost there. My Kudos to them. 35 goals will be the minimum required from our midfielders next season. Have the defense line scored up to 15 goals this season? Not yet, I should think. 15 goals are the minimum numbers of goal the defenders of the wing backs and the CBs should score per season. That will add up to 125 minimum goals the Gunners should score in a better campaign season to stand the chance to win the BPL title and the UCL. I think Chelsea won the title by reaching 105 goals in all competitions. I am sure the boss knows more. However, the Gunners must have a great defensive discipline throughout the season. They mustn’t concede more than 15 goals or less in all competitions and score 125 or more goals. This should be the benchmark for the Boss and the Gunners to base their next season success implementation on. If there is a good (Bellerin like) but a LB in the Gunners youth team, let the Boss pull him over to the senior team for cover to the LB position, hoping he will be another revelation. If there is none to be pulled in, the Boss must enter market to buy a top quality LB. Because that LB position is suspect to injuries to Gibbs and Monreal’s defending inadequacy to deal with Batafimbi Gomis header which cost us 3 valuable points and our pride. And lastly, let me advice Rhinosacker to softpedal on his boastful antics ahead of their away big game at Old Trafford. All Gunners must focus totally on their training for this epic encounter.

  • nicky

    Those who criticise our great Club should remember that 90+% of clubs in the UL and mainland Europe, envy our success and position.
    Almost certain to qualify for the CL next season, defending the FA Cup again, probably the best football stadium in Britain nearly paid for and a Coach with a world-wide reputation for man management.
    We should be counting our blessings. 😉

  • bob

    “Monreal’s defending inadequacy to deal with Batafimbi Gomis header which cost us 3 valuable points and our pride.”
    SamuelA.A.,
    Your bashing Monreal for that play is woefully narrow-minded. There were several culprits in that cock up. Your blaming Monreal and overlooking of his steady improvements this year and his often superb crosses is shocking (well not quite shocking, but I use the term so you can experience the flavor of your own overheated verbiage). Calm down and stop finding a scapegoat for that match in Monreal. That lapse had several authors and needs correction, not wholesale dismantling.

  • bob

    “Maybe it is because I have watched so much lower league and non-league football in my life, sitting and standing alongside fans of small town teams who know that the chances of them ever seeing their side win anything are somewhat less than zero. Talking to these fans gives one a totally different perspective on life, football and the level of moaning one sees on blogs.”
    Sheer poetry, Mr. Attwood! So well put.

  • Gord

    Always nice to here about money coming in.

    http://www.sport-english.com/en/news/barca/barcelona-have-pay-arsenal-38m-they-win-the-champions-league-4182733

    > … took Vermaelen to the Camp Nou from The Gunners, there was a clause that said if Barcelona won the Champions League, they would have to pay Arsenal €3.8 million.

    That might be enough to pick up another youth gem this summer.

  • Goonermikey

    “There are two things that seem to me to be missing from most analyses these days: context, analysis and knowledge.”

    Sorry Tony, I can’t resist…..what about the ability to count? 🙂

    In any event, I also believe the desire to seek out and/or tell the truth is blatantly missing too IMHO.

  • apo Armani

    So true Tony and yes Walter its the media that has been ‘found out’ as have the politicians on a global scale…propaganda that used to fool the ordinary guy, just doesn’t cut it any longer!!

  • Stan The Man

    Good post my man. It is noteworthy that UA is known for being firmly rooted on the grounds of “context, analysis and knowledge.” Talk about ‘walking the talk’. No wonder you are able to keep in touch with reality.

  • Stan The Man

    @ Horsham. I totally concur. Even if he retires today, Wenger has earned a place for himself in history. For him though,the beat goes on…

  • colario

    My mobile was the latest model in 2012. To day it is an antique. By the time a newspaper is in a reader’s hands the news is old news. So what to do? Create news. So we get “Pep is finished”.

  • Menace

    SamAkinAde – please learn the use of ????? & double space after .(period or full stop). Split your comment into paragraphs. Your comment is almost unreadable & taxing on the eye. Please refrain from advising ‘the Boss’ & assuming numbers of goals that are absolute bollocks.

    Great post Tony – a true football fan.

  • Gord

    Gooner Mikey

    > There are two things that seem to me to be missing from most analyses these days: context, analysis and knowledge.

    > OK, I’ll try that again, there are three things that…

    Tony is trying to emphasize text, by adding mistakes.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    …..context, analysis and knowledge.

    Aboriginal wisdom

    A ninety year old aboriginal elder sat in his hut eyeing two government ‘Welfare’ officials sent to interview him.

    “You have observed the white man for 90 years. You have seen his wars and his technological advances. You have seen his progress and the damage he has done.”

    The elder nodded in agreement. The official continued “considering all these events, in your opinion, where did the white fella go wrong?”

    The elder stared at the two government officials for over a minute and then he calmly replied: “When whitefella found the land, blackfellas were running it.

    No taxes
    No debt
    Plenty kangaroo
    Plenty fish
    Women did all the work
    Medicine man free
    Aboriginal man spent all day hunting and fishing
    All night having sex”

    Then the elder leaned back and smiled; “Only whitefella bloody stupid enough to think he could improve a system like that.”

  • Brickfields Gunners

    The death of the printed newspapers is very good news for the health our tree and forest ,and ourselves .
    Now to find a way to get rid of the pesky yellow bellied sap suckers that Gord dislikes very much !
    http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Yellow-bellied_Sapsucker/id
    Any luck so far , Gord ?

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Lessons in life –

    A son took his old father to a restaurant for an evening dinner.

    Father being very old and weak, while eating, dropped food on his shirt and trousers.

    Others diners watched him in disgust while his son was calm.

    After he finished eating, his son who was not at all embarrassed, quietly took him to the wash room, wiped the food particles, removed the stains, combed his hair and fitted his spectacles firmly.

    When they came out, the entire restaurant was watching them in dead silence, not able to grasp how someone could embarrass themselves publicly like that.

    The son settled the bill and started walking out with his father.

    At that time, an old man amongst the diners
    called out to the son and asked him, “Don’t you think you have left something behind?”.

    The son replied, “No sir, I haven’t”.

    The old man retorted, “Yes, you have! You left a lesson for every son and hope for every father”.

    The restaurant went silent.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Why are some always happy ,while others are always miserable ? Simple ! Our life choices !

    What Is Life?
    They say it’s from B to D- From Birth to Death .
    But what’s between B and D? It’s a “C” .
    So what is a “C”? It is a Choice.
    Our Life is a matter of choices.
    Live well and it will never GO WRONG.
    ~ Anonymous

    If we make a steady effort, I think we can overcome any form of negative conditioning and make positive changes in our lives.
    ~ Dalai Lama

    It’s easy to quit, it takes faith to go through.
    ~ Anonymous

    With supreme confidence, determination and disregard for obstacles and other people’s criticisms, go after your dreams.
    ] ~ Anonymous

    A coward gets scared and quits. A hero gets scared, but still goes on.
    ~ Anonymous .

    You don’t need to know what tomorrow holds; all you need to know is the One who holds tomorrow.
    ~ Anonymous

    Being honest may not get you a lot of friends but it’ll always get you the right ones. ~ Anonymous

    The answer lies within ourselves. If we can’t find peace and happiness there, it’s not going to come from the outside.
    ~ Tenzin Palmo

    ( All quotes from Dailyinspirationalquotes.)

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Walnuts to coconuts –

    A traveling salesman drove into a small town where a circus was in process.

    A sign read: “Don’t Miss The Amazing Scotsman”.

    The salesman bought a ticket and sat down. There, on center stage, was a table with three walnuts on it. Standing next to it was an old Scotsman.

    Suddenly the old man lifted his kilt, whipped out his huge member and smashed all three walnuts with three mighty swings! The crowd erupted in applause as the elderly Scot was carried off on the shoulders of the crowd.

    Ten years later the salesman visited the same little town and saw the faded sign for the same circus and the same sign: “Don’t Miss The Amazing Scotsman.

    He couldn’t believe the old guy was still alive much less still doing his act! He bought a ticket. Again, the center ring was illuminated. This time, however, instead of walnuts, three coconuts were placed on the table. The Scotsman stood before them, then suddenly lifted his kilt and smashed the coconuts with three swings of his amazing member.

    The crowd went wild!

    Flabbergasted, the salesman requested a meeting with him after the show. “You’re incredible!” he told the Scotsman. “But I have to know something. You’re older now, why switch from walnuts to coconuts?”

    “Well,” said the Scot, “Me eyes are nae whit they used to be!!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Apparently someone else had a lot of time on their hands , mirth in their hearts , and probably mischief in their mind .
    To those who would like to improve their English – do try this .

    http://www.tickld.com/x/90-of-people-cant-pronounce-this-whole-poem

  • BrummieGooner

    Excellent article which sums up my view entirely. Keep up the good work.

  • ob1977

    When reflecting on a loss I remind myself that football has to be about more than winning, of the 7 domestic trophies on other across the divisions only about 15 of the 92 league clubs have a chance of winning any of them, what do the others exist for if it is solely about winning….

  • ob1977

    Forgot to add that none of my friends buy into my theory but whatever makes them miserable they are happy with.