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April 2021

Arsenal’s greatest enemy are the mantras, and with one down, others pop up.

By Tony Attwood

The mantra.  

An oft repeated word or phrase which is trotted out as a truism but which is often anything but.

Such as….

  • Arsenal desperately need a new striker
  • It’s eight years since Arsenal’s won a trophy
  • The Highbury Library.
  • Arsenal have now had 50 red cards under Wenger.

The point about the Mantra is that it may or may not be true in part, but is often an incomplete truth – or sometimes even a total falsehood.  But by being said over and over again, it becomes accepted as truth.

Often, because it is untrue, but is built on a half truth, the Mantra hides other facts and other issues… and I dealt with this a bit in the “How many years since” article.  It’s 8 years since Liverpool last won a major trophy (I’m excluding the League Cup from this) and 23 years since Tottenham won a major trophy.  It may seem odd to exclude the League Cup, although a case can be made for that.  But say it enough and the pressure builds.  The fact that no one says this much about Liverpool and Tottenham shows how much regard the press hold those clubs in.

But I want to move on to another mantra: Arsenal desperately need a new striker – because this mantra needs an understanding of such issues as the system we play and the fact that most strikers coming from another country take a year or two to settle into the Premier League.

That last fact is revealed in the stats – Arsenal as a team in the second year of Giroud scored a very similar numbers of goals to that in the second year of Henry.   And Giroud himself has compared well with Henry in his second year in terms of league goalscoring.

That is not to say that Giroud is Henry II, but rather it is to point out that if the logic of today had been applied in Henry’s second year we would have brought in a new striker and got rid of Henry because Henry clearly wasn’t up to it.

What happened with Henry was that in his second year Pires turned up – but it took Pires a year to become the master that we now remember; Player of the Year and all that.  So Henry blossomed in year 3 of his tenure at Highbury because he himself was a great player now fully settled in England, and because his partnership with Pires became something the likes of which had never seen before.  It was built on a simple notion – Henry likes to turn up on the left wing, and takes two defenders with him.  Pires then goes for a stroll in the middle.  Panic in the defences with the defenders running frantically between Henry and Pires.  One of them scores.

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That was the Henry Pires double act and it teaches us the need to compare scenarios in a much broader way that the old “mantra approach” ever allows.   In one scenario we might bring in a new striker but we are then left with a striker who has to take two years to adapt, so that after two years we have another “Arsenal need a new striker” mantra.

In a second version Arsenal don’t do anything in particular about strikers, because with Ramsey, Ozil and Theo behind the striker then goals just pour in, from Giroud, Theo and Ramsey.

But there are more approaches.  A third scenario, which acknowledges that there are injuries to be considered.  Giroud, like Henry, seems to get very few injuries.  But still he will be injured at times, and we need backup.

At present we have Podolski, Walcott and Yaya Sanogo.  What we could do is think about other strikers to fit in with this mix.  

Clearly Arsène Wenger values Sanogo, as we can tell by the way he has played him – both as a solo striker and as a second striker playing alongside Giroud.  And we have Joel Campbell available if we want him – he is certainly suggesting that he has matured and is wanting to play.

And we could buy back Carlos Vela, who Arsène Wenger did say that he thought could be transformed into an Eduardo type player.  Suddenly we have Giroud and three strikers – and we only need one of them to flourish for us to have the extra striker we need.

But there is one more final point that the mantra, in all the simplistic style that mantras always have, ignores, and it is that we could then shift in and out of one up front with three attacking midfield, to two up front, with two behind, both between games and within games.  Remembering how effective we were in the early stages of last season before the injuries kicked in, playing the rotating midfield, that movable forward line approach could work very well.

And with such flexibility comes cover for injuries.

So as the mantra falls apart, as mantras always do, we find it replaced with a new concept – that what Arsenal need are players that enhance the flexibility of the side.  Now a £30m signing does not do that, because you need to play that player all the time.  £30m signings, or even £42m signings can well work – but they still take time to integrate into the team, so we have to know if the player can be introduced with care.

Henry as we may recall scored his first goal in match 8 of his first season, and admitted that his failure to score before then had been getting to him.  Vieira famously quipped that during those early days Henry was more likely to hit the clock that the goal.

So we can see the problems with mantras – they are simplistic – and as such they fit with the vision that football is an obvious sport that anyone sitting at home can see the solution to.  Who needs a manager when the guy at home can do it just as well? We need a striker it is obvious and if you don’t see that you are an idiot.  No expansion of the issue is needed.

But we have all these different scenarios any one of which Wenger could be taking us towards.

I suspect we will sign a striker, and that slowly we will change the style and approach of the team.   But that striker could well be Vela and/or Campbell, which in the latter case is no signing at all.  Or some other striker who, like Henry in 1999, none of us have really heard much about.

I also expect Yaya Sanogo to continue to progress, and that just as Henry before him, once he starts scoring he won’t be able to stop.

In such a scenario with no £25m+ striker coming to the club, the AAA and their chums in the media will be out in force.  Those of us who go to the games, and who through watching Arsène Wenger have begun to get a feel for how he works will, however hold our nerve.

Because there is one other factor.  Ozil will be in Year II, and while strikers can take three years to fully fit into a team after a transfer, midfielders only take one year to get going.  I think we are going to see some incredible magic from him this coming season.

If two out of Ozil, Theo and Ramsey are fit and playing throughout the season we will see a stunning Arsenal emerge, and whoever is playing in the centre forward role, will have an unending level of passes, not to mention support.

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23 comments to Arsenal’s greatest enemy are the mantras, and with one down, others pop up.

  • Rantetta


  • AL

    Absolutely true about these mantras being reserved for Arsenal. Every man and his dog will tell you the players Arsenal need(and those they’ve missed out on too), but ask him which players united need you’re bound to get a blank stare. That despite united needing at least 5 or 6 players. That’s because the media doesn’t talk about the players those teams need as much as they do for Arsenal. Yet the reality, as described already, is we won’t be needing any of these players while our rivals do. Another side that desperately needs players is Liverpool(great first 11 but hardly anything else after that), but I bet many on here couldn’t say one or two positions Liverpool need covered. It’s all,Arsenal Arsenal in the media.

  • TommieGun

    Mantras are for lazy people. That’s the sad thing: the media is a lazy, lazy creature, and those mantras are its daily bread.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    It’s good, It’s good to be, It’s good to be a Gooner!

    My kind of mantra!

  • Mandy Dodd

    When the great man leaves….and maybe, if some recent reports have suggested, Steve Bould takes over, I wonder if we will get so much stick from the media?

  • Mike T

    @ Mandy

    I take it you refer to AW.(Please no comebacks I knew who she was referring to) If so I think you will get far more.

    I really don’t see how anyone will be able to replace him in terms of the whole role and I suspect just like at Man Utd, no matter how much succession planning takes every mistake, loss, etc will become a tragedy

  • Mandy Dodd

    Yes, Mike T, not an event I look forward to, Wenger will be very hard to replace, and while it is not an immediate concern, I worry for the man who does take over, Bould,or whoever he may be.
    But I just get the feeling that much of the media agenda is personal against Wenger, as it has been from day one, perhaps a bit of xenophobia in there too… know how it is with the English and French. Ultimately, any Arsenal manager will be judged, probably with undue haste… on results, however would an Englishman such as Bould get an easier ride… least to begin with? That said, I wonder how media friendly SB would be should he take over, get the impression he is not one to suffer fools gladly.
    Still, three years into the future all going well!

  • Florian

    Apparently according to an Arseblog article whose topic was actually very different (hint: the recent Chelski recruit), Joel Campbell will join Arsenal’s first team in preseason training. Not sure it’s the first time it happens, but I take it as a good sign.

  • Linz

    Steve Bould has neither the necessary experience or international clout to be Arsenal manager.Players wouldn’t go to United because of Moyes who had been a top flight manager for years.And that’s Man united FFS !Bould may be an Arsenal great but,unlike Henry,he is unknown abroad where tbh Arsenal perform the majority of their transfer business. The next manager needs to be an experienced operator who would not fear the challenge,someone like Benitez or Ancelloti for example. Someone who has managed in the PL and CL and is respected throughout Europe ,apart from Stamford Bridge of course.

  • Gf60

    A Harley biker is riding by the zoo in Taronga Park , Sydney , when he sees a little girl leaning into the lions’ cage.

    Suddenly, the lion grabs her by the cuff of her jacket and tries to pull her inside, under the eyes of her screaming parents.

    The biker jumps off his Harley, runs to the cage and hits the lion square on the nose with a powerful punch.

    Whimpering from the pain, the lion jumps back, letting go of the girl, and the biker brings her to her terrified parents who thank him endlessly.

    A reporter has watched the whole event. The reporter, addressing the Harley rider, says: ‘Sir, this was the most gallant and brave thing I’ve seen a man do in my whole life.’

    The Harley rider replies: ‘Why, it was nothing, really; the lion was behind bars. I just saw this little kid in danger and acted as I felt right..’

    The reporter says, ‘Well, I’ll make sure this won’t go unnoticed. I’m a ABC journalist, and tomorrow’s paper will have this story on the front page. So, what do you do for a living and what political affiliation do you have?’

    The biker replies: ‘I’m an SAS soldier just returned from Afghanistan and a Liberal party supporter.’

    The journalist leaves.

    The following morning the biker buys the paper to see news of his actions, and reads, on the front page:

    That pretty much sums up the media’s approach to the news these days.

  • nicky

    Your post is a timely reminder to all impatient Gooners that new buds take a season or two (or three) before blooming.
    The country, weather, language and colleagues take a bit of getting used to (and I’ve still to mention the wife!)

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ Gf60 – nice one . There are multiple variations to that theme and each reflects on the bias and pet likes/hates of the individuals .

    The following e-mail I received today and is not a joke , nor am I in any way preaching,just forwarding it. Glean from it what you may .

    A Pastor transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000-member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning. He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service, only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food – no one in the church gave him change.

    He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit in the back. He greeted people to be greeted back with stares, dirty looks, and people looking down on him. As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation. “We would like to introduce to you our new Pastor.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation.
    The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle. The clapping stopped with all eyes on him. He walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment then he recited,
    “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

    “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ ‘The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

    After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry, and many heads were bowed in shame. He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples?” He then dismissed service until next week.

    Following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ should be more than just talk. It ought to be a lifestyle that others around you can love about you and share in.” Be a Christian all you want, but at least follow the teachings of Christ if you’re going to claim the title.

    ”If you can dream it, you can do it”. Walt Disney

  • insideright

    It could of course be the case that we have already signed someone but, unlike Chelsea who didn’t win a trophy last season and who need to make headlines at the moment, we won’t make the announcement until after the World Cup. It’s a very unselfish way of operating but, in the long run, sensible. What happens for instance if Fabregas has a bad World Cup and is blamed for Spains demise. Will the media blame Chelsea for making him pose in Chelsea kit in Brazil and thereby csusing him to lose focus on what he is supposed to be doing out there? The same could be said for Costa.
    Publicity mantras and policy dogmas get us into all sorts of trouble in so many areas of life you would think we would learn but laziness and fear of putting forward the counter view usually conquers all.
    Except, of course at Untold!

  • John

    Other mantras from recent years which come to mind:

    We need a world class keeper to replace Szcz and Fab, who are both crap….. changing to:-

    We need an experienced keeper to provide competition to Szcz………….changing to:-

    We need an experienced keeper to provide back-up to Szcz, because Fab is still crap………………………. changing to:-

    We need an experienced keeper to repair the hole in the squad left by the departure of high-quality Fab to Swansea.

    Also, numerous similar examples:
    Our defence is wobbly
    We can’t play on a cold wet night anywhere in the north-west.
    Our team lack steel.
    We have no natural leaders.
    We need a big centre-back.
    Our squad lacks depth

    We have never replaced:-
    Fabregas, TH14, Pires, Vieira, Adams, Brady, George, McLintock, Alex James, Cliff Bastin (to name but a few)

  • jambug

    I watched with a mixture of disgust and rage as I watched Honduras attempt to kick France off the park.

    Not at Honduras, although they where a disgrace, but at they commentators.

    Were where the:

    “France have to get used to this”

    “Honduras aren’t just going to sit back and let France play”

    “France don’t like it when teams get in the faces”

    “Frances players have got to learn to get out of the way”

    “If he’s going to play like that he’s asking to get caught”

    “There taking it turns to foul them, that’s clever, tee hee hee”

    “yes, the managers not happy but what did he expect”

    All the above are the kind of comments freely expressed every time Arsenal are on the receiving end of treatment like that in the PL.

    Mysteriously when it suits them, it’s a disgrace. Funny that.

  • bjtgooner


    Same sort of commentary as with an Arsenal match?

  • TommieGun

    @ Jambug – my thoughts exactly.

    When Pogba retaliated, I was sure he was going to be red carded. But then, justice was served (even though according to the rules he should’ve been sent off).

    This is something more common with S. American refs – they are more liberal in interpretation, and the linesmen are really ASSITANT REFEREES – we saw so many incidents where the linesman called for fouls on the touch line (including a handball).

    Us v. Newcastle 3 years ago comes to mind – when Diaby was sent off after Shitface Barton did his best to entice him to react. A good ref must also take into consideration the provocator, and in my opinion the decision to “just” issue a yellow to Pogba was just.

    As the game progressed, and after Palacios’ dismissal, I became very surprised at the very few yellow cards issued to Honduras players – they really did not try anything BUT 2 legged tackles meant to break someone’s leg.

    This should not be acceptable.

  • jambug


    I’ve always hated the practice of forever punishing the retaliator more than the perpetrator.

    In the PL and throughout Europe in general, it seems no matter how bad the original offence, if the victim has the audacity to jump up and give him just the slightest of pushes, he is guaranteed a Red. Where as the guy that committed the first, often far worse offence, often as not just gets a yellow.

    As you say, by the letter of the law Pogba probably should of seen Red, but in reality a Yellow was perfectly fair.

  • bob

    One more “forgotten” mantra: no need to spend.

  • bob,

    “no need to spend” is not a mantra as I don’t know anyone spreading it. Some of us didn’t think that spending is the all in all for success and were willing to stand by the club and the manager when we had lean resources. No Arsenal fan site celebrated the purchase of Ozil more than Untold and I suspect that they are the perpetrators of the “no need to spend” mantra that you referred to.

    This is no dig at you BTW, I just wanted to set the record straight.

  • Gord


    I am agnostic. I think religion was invented to explain the universe to people who needed a reason but couldn’t find it within themselves.

    I refuse to enter into arguments where an outcome is to convince someone to give up their religion. Religion has done a lot of good in the world. Unfortunately, it has also done a lot of harm.

    That story:
    reminded me of how society treats people with QUALITIES such as autism or dyslexia.

    I’m autistic, it is nominally called a learning disability. I seem to learn lots, learning how to interact with society is a problem. It seems to me, autism is not (so much) a learning disability, but a social learning disability. But what makes more sense to me, is not that it is a disability, but rather it is a different quality of thinking.

    I am not suggesting that autistic thinking is inferior to neurotypical thinking. Is a Chev better than a Ford?

    It is just different.

  • Gord

    Off Topic (hopefully less here than elsewhere)

    Man City transferred Pantilimon to Sunderland. Mannone has more competition. Hopefully Pantilimon gets lots of slivers in his ass being second to Mannone.

    Or is Sunderland dreaming of Europa Cup?

    I wish the best to Mannone.

  • ClockEndRider

    To jam bugs point, it was most amusing to see the fool Savage trot out one of the most unsavoury mantras the other night and get shot down in flames by Henry. For those who didn’t see it, the BBC had a sofa panel consisting of Seedorf, Henry and Savage. Spot the odd one out. At half time, Savage was going down one of the many verbal culs de sac he invariably chooses and brought out the old mantra about how his teams always used to get in our faces and how Henry and co didn’t like it and couldn’t deal with it. The masters retort? “We managed……”!
    Quite brilliant and cue much laughter in the audience, not just at Henry’s mastery of colloquial English, but at the fool savage, an Allardyce acolyte if ever there was one, being shot down….