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The nine things we have learned this pre-season

1: We are in danger of becoming mainstream.

In today’s Telegraph there is an article, “The Premier League’s 3pm blackout is misguided, it is time to show all Saturday games live on TV”.

That was one of the key reforms to the game Blacksheep, Walter and I drew up one day before a match – I think it must have been about three years ago – and we published it across two articles later in the week.  

And now here it is again.  Our notion from about eight years ago that England’s inability to win international tournaments is down to a lack of native coaches has also been mentioned in passing by newspapers who have just discovered it.   Refereeing is becoming a topic for debate.

This is worrying!  We’ll have to stop being called Untold.

2.  There is a value in free or very low cost transfers.

Our new man with the unpronounceable name (Sead Kolašinac to be exact) was derided in some quarters when arriving in June on a free, because if he was coming in on a free he couldn’t be any good, could he?   One might perhaps think of Bellerin in the same way.

3.  There is a value in letting transfers run down.

If Alexis moves to a new club in a year’s time he will then hit 30 years of age in the first season of the new contract, and assuming a four year deal will be 33 as the contract comes to an end.  He might, like Bergkamp defy the years, but the chances are some thug defenders will find it easier to take him out, and at the very least reduce his playing time.  

But in the current market Alexis is going to retail for around £16m in wages per year, meaning if Arsenal gave him a new contract he’d cost the cost about £64m for the next four years.  Is he worth that as he gets older?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  But either way getting him at his old salary for a year – about £7m – with no transfer fee – for the best year of his remaining years, still looks like a good deal.

See also point 9.

4.  “We need a” is still a way of passing the time of day

4.1  We need a centre back. 

Here’s one such.  “Despite the Gunners having Shkodran Mustafi, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Rob Holding in their squad, Arsenal are still lacking a leader in defence, something Gunners fans have been crying out for for years. Arsene Wenger’s side require another centre-back as, if they are to continue playing three at the back, they’re going to need more than four centre backs, as the Gunners are more often than not forced to deploy Monreal…  Every club that is successful, more often than not, has a commanding leader at the back, which is something the Gunners have lacked ever since Sol Campbell departed the club in 2006.”

The old tale continues, although I am not sure the evidence fully backs this up.  But even if it does, there are not many clubs as silly as Tottenham in terms of letting such a prize player go to a neighbour at the height of his form.  Alexis will be in decline by next year.

4.2.   We need a defensive midfielder

Here the theory is that Granit Xhaka, Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny have all been tried and found wanting.  What we need is a “big, strong defensive midfielder, it’ll cause opponents to go into Gunners games with more caution, and with the extra defensive cover.”

In both these scenarios the idea is that such a player is out there and can be found and brought in.  Vieira, we should remember was put on the market by his club for £3.5m and instantly snapped up by Wenger who was still in Japan.  The notion that any club could make such a mistake again is rather fanciful.  

4.3.  Right wing is a problem.

“Ever since Freddie Ljungberg left the club in 2006…”   Well you can imagine the rest.

What this whole analysis does is pick a player from the past and say we’ll have another like him without noticing that there might not be another one around on the market, or that the teams are built around players available not vice versa.

We play a different formation now and so the game works in a different way.   What we actually need are wing backs… and suddenly it turns out we have a couple.

5.  Granit Xhaka was a waste of money.

We can learn that players will continue to be judged by their opening form, unless of course they improve.  Neither Thierry Henry nor Dennis Bergkamp were particularly good at first for Arsenal, but not even a total aaa idiot would deny their value to Arsenal ultimately.

But actually although many bloggetta scribblers proclaim otherwise Granit Xhaka didn’t have a horrible first season.  He had the second highest number of completed passes of anyone in the Premier League with a total of 2298.

“Ah but they were not important passes,” goes the reply, and that is exactly what people were saying after the first year of Gilberto Silva. 

Yet despite this there is a report to be found on the internet that claims that Granit “struggled for the majority of his first season in North London and did, in truth, look like a waste of money at the best of times.”

In the Community Shield Granit played 90 minutes with a passing accuracy of 90%, while also managing to create four chances – one of which was the assist for Kolasinac’s equaliser.   “A waste of money at the best of times” indeed. 

According to WhoScored he got 106 touches in that game – more than any other player on the pitch.

6.  Referees are now a talking point.

Being a talking point does not suggest anything is going to happen, but it is a step along the ladder which runs like this

  1. Refereeing is not an issue ever to be discussed
  2. Referees do make occasional mistakes but it all evens out in the end
  3. Some referees are not quite as good as they might be
  4. There is a noticeable imbalance between clubs in terms of the number of wrong decisions each gets
  5. There is no evidence that the PGMO is bent, but it has behaved very strangely by uniquely among western European referee bodies refusing to appoint enough referees so that no ref ever takes a match for any team more than twice (the utter fundamental first step in preventing corruption).  We should ask why.
  6. PGMO is fanatically secretive.  This is a matter for discussion.
  7. Refereeing is bent.

Over the last three years we have gone from I to III verging on IV.  This is very encouraging.

7.  There is a value in having a youth system.

It will be interesting to see how many players who have come up through clubs’ youth structures are in the squad for match days across the Premier League.   I suspect we will have four as absolute regulars in the squad (Nelson, Maitland Niles, Bellerin and Iwobi) and maybe more.  I’ve probably forgotten someone.  We could count the Ox in this.

There really ought to be a point 8 and 9.  Time has passed and I need a bite to eat.  You can make these up yourselves and post them in.

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8 comments to The nine things we have learned this pre-season

  • Chris

    We you can reserve the domain : ToldYouSoArsenal.com…. :=))

  • nicky

    Not too sure about televising all Saturday games live.
    The current estimate at the Ems is that home games bring in £3m per fixture. I know that TV receipts would compensate but….
    It would be great for the old and infirm but….
    Can’t dismiss the idea out of hand, though. My great, great granddad didn’t think electricity would ever catch on. 😉

  • Alistair

    Agree about Alexis. More worried about The Ox who seems intent on leaving because he does not feel Wenger sees him as a first eleven pick. Unless he can oust Bellerin the formation is not going to help. He will grow as a player and become highly valuable when developed further by Klopp or Conte. The evidence is that 3 at the back is good for us is also pretty weak. It means that we have three central defenders who are regularly under-deployed, our full backs continue to bomb on just as they did before and we are short of an attacking birth to accommodate the range of incisive attacking midfielders that are our main strength.

  • Nitram

    -We have bad starts to seasons.

    -We have disastrous Novembers.

    -We struggle on those cold dark winter nights.

    -We collapse at the end of the season.

    Good job we play well for one game in May then.

    -We are always short of a decent centre half.

    -We are always in need of a dominant midfield general.

    -We are always in need of a decent striker.

    Good job we’ve got a couple of decent ball boys then, that’s all I can say.

    Heaven knows how we’ve amassed 6 trophies in the last 4 years.

    I mean, Liverpool and Spurs have really shown us the way to go.

    Honestly this never ending media bollocks would be laughable if it wasn’t for the fact that a far too large a section of Arsenal fans actually believe it.

  • Gord

    8. The medja are full of dorks.

    9. Former Arsenal players acting as pundits are usually dorks.

  • Andy Mack

    The Bloggetas Xhaka comments are unfortunately a sad reflection on how little some ‘supporters’ actually understand the game.
    This is true for every club, not just us, but ours do seem to be proud to shout their ignorance across the internet.
    Very few new players in the PL have a good first season.
    Just look at the $iteh squad and you can see that most (NOT ALL) their best players had really average 1st seasons, as do most of the Chavski new players etc etc.

    IMO AW was forced to use Xhaka much more than he had planned to because of Injuries.
    Coquelin got a knock on the knee and a hamstring in the first half of the season, Ramsey also had a hamstring, while Santi got his injury in October and I think Ox had a knock around that time as well.
    It was clear that the initial non-stop speed of the PL took him by surprise, as it does with most players new to the PL. But it takes a while to learn you’ve lost that extra second that a players get in most games in all the other leagues in Europe. Especially so when you’re playing a deep role like he does. Strikers get used to it quicker as they tend to work in the high pressure areas of the field but MFs tend not to get that pressure until they get well into the opposition half, except in the PL an opposing player is closing them down just that little bit quicker here.
    He didn’t get accustomed to it completely last season but definately improved.
    A few slip-up when he’d forgotten how little time he had for a pass, so he misplaced the pass and had to make a yellow card tackle (which refs sometimes converted to red rad tackles, because they can…).
    Hopefully this season he’ll be upto speed and show these idiots that even if he isn’t a god, he’s a very very good player (and it did look like it from the CS game)

    PS Coquelin came up through the club.

  • Andy Mack

    Should say “converted to red card tackles”…

  • para

    You should know by now that “truth speakers” in this society get no “fame”, that is reserved solely for the “liars”.
    We have to deal with it. :mrgreen:

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