By Tony Attwood
There is a copycat plague circulating among blogs and newspapers, in which the journalist or blogger sits down and writes “5 Things that” and then thinks “what things?” After a detailed consideration lasting all of 3.8 seconds he/she comes up with some banal and mediocre concept and then makes up five items to fit into the concept.
Five players Arsenal need to buy, Five players Arsenal need to lose, Five problems Arsenal need to resolve, and in the most recent one from 90min.com “5 things Wenger needs to figure out before the beginning of the season”.
Note the use of “figure out” – as if he is some dolt sitting in an office wondering why it is that the company uses more envelopes than it actually posts letters.
My own article “5 football journalists the newspaper editors ought to sack before the season begins” was due for publication last week, but our legal advisers objected to the section in which I suggested that three of them ought to be not only sacked but also thrown into the Thames and held under the gently lapping waves with barge poles. We’re still arguing on that one – I on the side of my artistic integrity, they with some lilly-livered liberal civil rights issue and the possibility of the closure of Untold.
So I’m having another bash at answering the point. What do I want to see next season?
The key problem with these childish lists is that they divide things up into little segments, and think that each can be resolved individually, when in football normally they can’t.
For example, one of the five points made by 90min is “Which dynamic midfielder he is going to buy?” Now let’s suppose that Wenger knows exactly who he wants, but he knows he can’t buy him until next year. Does he go for second or third best, or does he say “no, I have Coquelin and Arteta, so I will see how they go this season, and then decide if to take up the option on x next season.” Or does he rush in, and risk losing Coquelin who sees his way blocked?
(Notice again the language – “which” dynamic midfielder, as if players of the highest quality are queuing up waiting to be signed by Arsenal with their current club’s generous blessings. As if).
Here’s another one of the 5 Things that Wenger Needs to Sort: Theo Walcott’s future on and off the pitch. That one to me is a bit dumb because no matter what, Theo’s contract is not going to be left to run – we know that. He’s either going to re-sign or not.
And if he does re-sign, what’s to sort? We know he can play wing and centre forward. We know that with Alexis in the Wembley Final the two of them were alternating position regularly, to the dismay of Aston Villa. The notion that Theo has to be one or the other is irrational, now we know he can be both.
The third point centred around changing tactics….
Arsenal showed last season they are capable of deviating from their natural desire to entertain, and spoil a game if it means they can get three points. Well, that’s a side of Arsenal we need to see more of next season.
That is a bit of a dross observation. Immediately after the Man C game ended the Guardian published this note
Arsenal squeezed the life out of an anaemic City, in particular David Silva, and played with maturity, discipline and authority, defending well and attacking at the right moments. This is the blueprint Arsenal must follow in these games from now on.
Arsenal didn’t spoil that game. They made that game.
“Whether to say goodbye to the old guard” is the next point – in this case Rosicky and Arteta. We know they both have new contracts, but can still both be sold. The point is however that we know we have been crucified by unpunished tackles year after year, and if we need anything it is 25 valid players who can be used in the squad, plus as many under 21s as we can find who can play, so that as and when the injuries start to roll, we can turn to others, just like we turned to Bellerin and Coquelin this past season.
The final point that Wenger has to sort out is “How to beat Chelsea in the community shield.” The argument being that this is important for Wenger because Arsenal haven’t beaten Chelsea for a long time. But so what if we beat Chelsea in the Shield and then lose to them twice in the league. Will anyone remember the Shield?
The fact is that the review of all the pre-seasons since Rioch that is currently being run on the Arsenal History Society site shows that pre-season performances have nothing to do with what happens in the season.
So by and large a load of dross, in my humble view, but there are some other things I think we could do with more or less of.
The latest fad in journalism is to run a poll saying “Which player would you most like to see leave?”
Liverpool fans have a problem with this because a lot of them keep trying to write in “all of them” when the list is put up. But despite their destructiveness sites like quora.com and 90min are running these articles and fans are jumping in.
For the moment no one is looking at running an Arsenal version of this, and I hope they don’t – but if they do I hope you might consider absolutely not voting. What good do you think it would do your club?
So what else would like to see next season? Here we go with a list.
1. A non-violent attack to take place on PGMO HQ, with all the officials politely removed and placed in the street on their bottoms, stamping their feet and crying, as a new, serious, professional and above all open group comes in to take over.
2. Another player to come through the ranks, as Bellerin and Coquelin did. Hayden, Zelalem, Bielik, Sanogo, Gnabry, Akpom, Toral. I’m using “ranks” in a vague way to mean any player who has been in the academy for a bit. Incidentally Toral doesn’t seem to have a squad number yet. Is that significant?
3. One anti-Wengerian supporter actually to deal with the real issues as to why we were not buying top players during the early years at the Ems, and look at what has happened to many other clubs in the first years in a new stadium – a fate which we avoided.
4. One journalist, I don’t mind who, to start poking around in the affairs of the FA and start asking why has this organisation been getting away with such failure and incompetence for so long.
5. An analysis of each club’s success or failure in terms of transfer window dealings last year. Everyone gets very worked up about transfers but just how much good do transfers do in the first season? Since such an analysis would be across all the clubs in the EPL it would take a fair amount of analysis to do. A bit beyond Untold’s current resources but one of the national papers could do it.
6. The end of the mindless repetition of same old story without evidence. So the next time some old dufffer says “England need more players in the Premier League” the interviewer or journalist says, “and what is your evidence for that?” The evidence Untold has presented is that the number of players who play in one’s home league is irrelevant to later success. Just look at the Netherlands. But let’s give them a chance to argue back.
7. The end of the Saturday afternoon TV rule resulting in date changes. I think all Saturday games should be televised, unless the club says no.
8. A vigorous imposition of FFP in Europe, the Championship (where the League is currently fighting QPR in a legal battle) and at long last in the Premier League.
9. Journalists to start considering the broader picture, rather than just the last game.
10. Arsenal to win the Double.
That’s not too much to ask is it?
Latest in the series on Pre-season games in the past
We’ve got articles so far on every pre-season from 1996 to 2006 – with more coming between now and the start of the 2015/16 season to complete the series.