10 things that we’ve now got right, and 3 that are still problematic

By Tony Attwood

And so, another step forwards, with the league table making rather interesting reading…

Man City
Man United

Is this, I wonder, the time to say “enough is enough”, after five consecutive wins in the league and a second consecutive season in the cup semi-final, and just having become the most successful team in the entire history of the FA Cup (a competition that began in 1872 remember)?

So why did it all go so wrong earlier on and what have we done to sort it all out?  (And come to that what is left to do?)

1.  Injuries of course played a big part (and indeed we are still fourth in the injury league according to PhysioRoom, with seven.  Chelsea have one.  The Tiny Totts and Manchester City are on zero.

Our problem was not so much just numbers, but that we were hit in the same department – defence.   Quite clearly Bellerin is a great, great talent, but needed to be introduced slowly, and Coquelin came good as we always said he would, so bringing in those extra defenders (who weren’t for sale or didn’t want to come to Arsenal) and displacing the youngsters before the season began would have lost us huge talents.  But it meant we suffered at the back when all the injuries hit.

Yet we came through it, turned the season around and are motoring along rather nicely.

The solution is a bigger squad, with more youngsters pushed through for when needed with a big established player brought in each year.  A bigger squad costs more, but we have space on the “25” list each year, so it can be done.

2:  I think we have done our bit too, for we’ve found ways to see off the toxic atmosphere created by those who proclaim themselves to be Arsenal supporters but wear anti-Arsenal t-shirts, and have childish little demonstrations, and write tweets which seem to have more to do with getting nappy rash than a proper analysis.

It’s called laughing at them, and their allies in the media.

3: But children have to go somewhere, and the media in the manner of the Pied Piper of Hamelin the media has kindly suggested to the supporters of other clubs that they should follow the toxic-fan model of judging players by their last 30 minutes on the pitch, and the club by its last result.

Plus by Arsenal staying calm and collected at all times, the media has instead decided to have a bash at Chelsea, Man C, and Man U.  OK they still live Tottenham and Liverpool, but their time will come.

4: Refs are on the agenda.  It’s also a fact that after years of relentless effort by Walter and his team to bring the issue of dubious refereeing to the fore, we’ve got the issue on the agenda.

Of course this doesn’t mean we are flying so high we are obviously going to win against Monaco.  We might do what we did against Milan (when you may recall we put up a good show after going 4-0 down in the first leg), but I’d be quite happy to see us have another serious stab at the FA Cup and come second in the league.

Refereeing is now such a hot topic that the Guardian is running articles saying we should stop debating it, PGMO is sending out press releases to the Telegraph, and everyone is trying to recruit refs to give their opinion.   It is not a journey completed, but it is now on the road.

5.  We’ve brought in superstars – Ozil and Alexis.  With even further strengthening of the squad – another player of the calibre of Ozil and Alexis, and I think we’ll be ready for a lovely time season.

And my point about more transfers in is not that we have desperate need to replace players but rather we need the big squad to cope with the injuries.  Injuries of the “the only way to stop Arsenal is to kick them” approach which various Manchester United ex-thugs have revealed was  the way the club was run under Sir Alex F Word.

Sadly the media bought his gibberish about having analysed Arsenal’s approach and decided that there was never any need to tackle us – you could always intercept.   Watching any film of Man U v Arsenal from the past 10 years it is clear that this was never the plan.

So more players mean injuries don’t matter so much, and the focus on refs might mean horrific Shawcross type incidents might become less common.

6: Players from outside the UK suffer a drop out of form in their first season because of the lack of a winter break.  Now it doesn’t matter; the occasional rest is available.  Indeed it could even mean that a player who has come from a country with a tradition of the winter break, could actually have his own min-break during his first year with the club, and thus adjust.

7: The youth system is being redeveloped.  It might look bad with us struggling in the academy leagues, but the stars of the future are coming through.  There is at least one lined up for next season.  Maybe two.

8: Time to grow is available.  The bigger squad system means that players who need longer to develop, like Monreal, get time to do it without having to play match after match.

9.  The nonsense from the children is ignored.   The stuff about Ozil not being up to much, Giroud needing to be shipped out and the like, is just that, nonsense.  Thankfully Arsenal have their own statistical department to prove what most of us can see and the fans who get to the matches can see it too.  Giroud scores in 61% of the games he plays this season – not the best in the league, but certainly quite good for an injury hit campaign.

10.  Selling players to Barcelona (when they are not banned from buying them) is always good for a laugh and has continued.  They rumbled Song very early and poor Vermaelen still can’t play.

Of course there will be people who will respond to this and say “coming third, or even second is not a trophy” and “no one cares about the FA cup”.  And of course they can continue to hold their beliefs, and call on Dr Billy “the Dog” McGraw to pop in and talk about their depressive nature from time to time.

But I have to say, I see this as progress.   We have had the years and years of comparative privation – which has seen the rise of the oil rich clubs.

Now Arsenal is very much on the up.  Even if we have a cock up in the cup I still this as a significant step forward, and I think this summer will take us on further.

So what might stand in our way?

1: The Premier League’s own Financial Fair Play scheme (at least in its original form, or possibly in every form) has been abandoned – with not even a single little whimper of protests from the media.  But then they wouldn’t protest would they – since their view was that the newspaper reading public couldn’t cope with such complexities.

2:  Chelsea have clearly developed a new model for getting around FFP.   One might call it “buy to let”.  The club brings in every young player who might just make it, often on deals that involve the originating club getting a small percentage of any sell on fee.

Then they loan out all the players across Europe, and so the money spent on the transfers is mostly “youth development” which doesn’t count for European FFP.   Most are then cast aside, but a few come through and end up being transferred for large amounts to very rich clubs that are not yet in European competition, but want to break through.  We’ve seen the punishment for doing this is trivial, so they don’t mind.

The approach brings down Chelsea’s FFP.  It’s legal with the rules, and very clever.

3: Manchester City’s owners are buying.  The International Petroleum Investment Company), having built clubs in Australia, England, USA and UAE (with the Al Jazira club), and owning huge media rights (again with Al Jazira) will open up more clubs outside the reach of Uefa – South Africa and Brazil look likely where they can get stadia which stand empty after the world cups.  This will allow them to trade players easily without the everyday scrutiny that befalls transfers within Europe.

This is not to say that Chelsea or Man City are breaking any rules – if anyone is to blame for leaving these loopholes it is Uefa and Fifa – and of course we are not going to get any help from them.

But Arsenal can now progress, and I think will progress. I am not sure about another Unbeaten Season, but quite possibly something just as good.

It’s looking good

A personal PS.  After going to a football match without glasses for the first time in such a large number of years that I can’t count how many it has been, this is the first ever blog article that I have written without glasses, so please excuse the typos.  The final operation on my eyes was only on Friday afternoon, and I’m hoping to pick up a pair of reading glasses today to help me along – and it takes several weeks for the eyes to settle down again..   But apart from apologising for mistakes herein, I wanted to say to anyone suffering from cataracts, or astigmatism (I had both), I know the notion of the op seems excruciating, but believe me, it is the closest to a miracle I’ve ever come across.  When the optician says you are ready,  if you possibly can, just get it done.

Untold Arsenal

28 Replies to “10 things that we’ve now got right, and 3 that are still problematic”

  1. Good write up of the pros and cons, Tony. It’s a stinker how the rich clubs can get round FFP, but we predicted it. The great thing is, now Arsenal has the money again to buy a few top players, and with Arsene Wenger being a manager renowned for his care for players and his ability to improve them, we are getting great recruits even in competition with Man City and Chelsea.

    Great to see our game at its best again yesterday.

    Good to hear your eye operations have been a success.

  2. Thank you for your great articles Mr.Attwood.Your work is much appreciated.And all the best with your health.
    Warm Regards
    Aneeq.South Africa.

  3. Logical insight to our current & upcoming status. Great to hear that u re getting on well with your recovery

  4. Well said Tony great performance yesterday really enjoyed the game . Bloody annoying looks like Chelsea are going to win by a country mile .

  5. With your new eyes you might see some of the problems we have had for years now! Just joking.

    I think we need a couple of high profile purchases next season, probably one for that contentious dm position and probably another defender. We’d be up there with Chelsea if it wasn’t for injuries but I’m afraid some of our players just seem to be injury prone. If we could get a full season from Ramsey and Wilshire we could be formidable.

    I rue the disappointing draws at home with Hull and Spurs, four points lost which would have put us up there with Chelsea.

  6. Chief Tony, good morning Sir. How is the Sunday over there where you are? It is peaceful here at my locality in Zaria. And I am still feeling great for the Gunners victory yesterday over the West Hammers. But I want to say Sanchez has got to re-discover his goal scoring touch which is gone dip. Just look at the sitter he missed in the 1st half yesterday when he received a pass at the left side of the 18 yard box and angle shot the ball to the WH goalee’s hands. He should have done better by picking a difficult angle to the far right side of goal with his shot, which I believe the goalee would not have saved it. Walcott was obviously match rusty yesterday. But I believe he will be match prolific at Monaco if the boss start him for that game. The boss should please keep faith in him and starts him in that game. I believe he will prolifically jell for Arsenal in that game. Szczesny has the size advantage over Ospina. For this reason, I want the boss to start him for our Monaco UCL game which I have tagged Prolific Gunners Starts, to overrun the Monaco defense and scores many goals to qualify for the Q/Final as the boss will start his most prolific Gunners for the match. Who said the Gunners cannot become the 2014/2015 Barclays Premier League Champions? I am believing and still believing until it is all over that the Gunners will be BPL Champions this season. And the boss and the Gunners should have the belief and believe they are Champions and it will come to pass they are. My Prolific Gunners Starts to overrun and overscore Monaco FC: Szczesny. BellerinRhino’KoscielnyMonreal. CoquelinRosicky. WalcottGiroudCazorlaOzil. OspinaWelbeckRamseyGibbsChambersFlaminiAkpom to start from my bench.

  7. A great summary.

    So many fans seem unable to recognise that however bad nine years without a trophy is, qualifying for the champions league in this new era of free money to Chelsea and Man City and the brand juggernaut that is Man U, most certainly is a trophy in its own right. If you don’t believe me, ask Man U, Liverpool or Spurs fans, which one would they choose: 4th place or the FA Cup? I rest my case on that point.

    At that same time, we have built, and now pretty much paid for, the world’s best stadium. The stadium is forever and now generating sufficient cash to now be able to compete with the big three, and crucially, will continue to do so for generations to come. As we resume our winning ways that George Graham then Arsène Wenger programmed into our DNA, all fans will soon understand that the short-term sacrifice was well worth it.

    Meanwhile, I’m just relieved that out wonderful club not only has a sporting genius as a manager, but also a business genius rolled into one. He understood and didn’t panic, even when there was a small but noisy section of brainless – give me my fix now – fans doing their best to damage the club.

    Next year, I’m expecting Arsenal will resume challenging consistently for the title. We will have done that with no debt acting as a drag on the future of the club. We will have done that with no Russian gifts just in time for FFP; no oil £ billion which will one day have to be paid back and no sales of the clubs crown jewels to a buyer who financed his purchase by making the club borrow the money at crippling interest rates. Arsenal will owe no one anything. No institution will be able to dictate policy to our club by threatening to call in the debt. How many clubs today can boast that?

    So, how bad has it really been? 10 years on, we have the best stadium in the world; the best all-round manager in the world, if, as you should, relate endeavour to budget, we now have a team rapidly becoming the new Barcelona.

  8. I so do hope that with your new eyes u’ll develop a greater insight Mr AW. So the game was great and hopefully we can get some more high scoring games to beef up our goal difference. Monaco up next! COYG!

  9. Wow. Tony I think you’ve covered Arsenal’s state of affairs from every angle. This overview and perspective is why we all enjoy Untold Arsenal so much. Also, very glad to hear of the success of your eye surgery. I had both eyes done as well and it’s like a miracle. Continued good health and success to you and Walter and all the contributors to a very enjoyable read.

  10. Watching the Chavs v Saints & was beginning to think the ref was sloping the pitch but then he awarded the pen & the card to Matic. Soon after that he let a clear handball by a Chav defender go despite it stopping a goal bound shot. The officiating is good in fits & starts but not consistent thus far.

  11. Blimey – I’ve never had so much praise in my life. My head is swimming.

    This new eyesight actually means I see good things written, as well as being able to see without glasses.
    Wow. I’ll start marketing.

    SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin – it is a dull day where I live in the East Midlands of England, cold, not much sunshine, and not very nice.

    But today I was able to drive again for the first time since the whole process started. Yipeeee.

    Thanks times 1 million to Blacksheep for not only driving me to the game, but also driving me the extra journey back to my house, rather than dropping me at our normal rendezvous.

  12. No matter what happens from here onwards, this season has been a success. Dare I say, I really don’t mind going out of UCL as it may help our quest to retain the FA Cup and get to second.

    Tony, congratulations on the eye operation. My wife did it about 12 years ago, and the moment she opened her eyes for the first time, she started screaming. She had never seen the dots on our house ceiling!!! She thought the ceiling is caving in or something… It’s never been the same for her.

  13. Brilliant article, Tony. And good to hear your eye op went well and you’re starting to enjoy things many of us take for granted.

  14. Great article Tony.
    Has anyone looked at vanGaal? He does not seem right to me. There is something off when i see him at games or in interviews.
    Sadly tots are losing 2.0 already and only 24 mins gone. Hope they recover enough to at least take a point from manu.

  15. Believe people believe… If the team gives their all against Monaco and still did not qualify, that will be enough for me. Still I believe we can do it, if Monaco can score 3 at the Emirates, why cant we do it at their place, knowing we can afford to concede one. COYG lets do it… Away support will sing their hearts own I know that!!!

  16. Yassin,

    Cannot agree with you more. While our mission in France is a difficult one, it is also pretty straight forward one too:

    1. Score 3 or more goals and

    2. Have at least a 2 goal difference.

    What this means is that any scoreline from 3-1 up is what we need. My recommendation is an all out attack. No holds barred. I am looking forward to a game like Read Madrid v Schalke. Yes, the Germans lost but I don’t think there is anyone who did not respect the way they left the competition.

    In my head, I see us as already dumped out of the competition but in my heart, I see our guys thumping Monaco with 3 or more goals. With our groaning home fans left behind and our phenomenally vociferous away support in full force, I am optimistic about our chances on Tuesday. Ollie in particular has a demon to exorcise and I am looking forward to him blowing Monaco away.

  17. All good stuff. On injuries, the club are apparently seriously incvesting in new fitness and medical facilities, and looking for experts. This will of course not stop the kicking or some of the refs who revel in allowing it, but it all helps.

  18. Mr Attwood, I’m glad that your recovery is going well. 🙂

    @Bootoomee – I disagree. I’m more for a similar approach from Bayern game – a goal and than retreat to a well-balanced formation. And to repeat it at least twice. Less attempts to dribble our way to the goal and more triangles that left otherwise very tight Monaco defence without answer.

    And, given that Subašić is not a world-class goalkeeper, I’d go with a few shots (Santi is the master of those) from the distance like Ox did.

  19. Josif,

    I make no claims about the infallibility of my idea. I just think that we have nothing to lose in this game based on our current circumstances. Monaco is NOT Bayern. They will NOT come out to us so we must go to them. We played the way we did in the 2-0 win in Munich because we were playing against a strong attacking team. The same approach will not work against Monaco.

    I think we should throw everything we have against them and take our chances when they come. We are in this mess because we didn’t take our chances and not because Monaco’s attack was so great. We conceded a flukey 1st and then let in 2 to counter attacks. I agree that the latter could happen again but we’ll get nothing unless we have a real go. And take our chances.

    I agree with you about making “less attempts to dribble our way to the goal”. We need to take more shots and put more crosses in. I think that Giroud is going to have a good game on Tuesday.

    Whatever the case may be though, I want us to either go through or exit with a bang and not a whimper.

  20. I tnink we are on the same page here, it’s just a question of method. 😉 I just think that a goal scored in 89th minute is as good as the one in 29th. Their counter-attacks are really dangerous and gung-ho approach would go in their favour.

    Whatever approach Wenger uses – COYG!

  21. Not a concern for Monaco, but apparently Reading fielded a reduced strength squad (which lost) in preparation for the Reading-Bradford replay in the FA Cup.

    Reading wants to be the winner as near as I can tell.

    But, it seems entirely possible that given enough water, Bradford could be a pig wallow.

    At some point, Arsenal is going to have a breakout game and score many goals. It would be nice if this is against Monaco in Monaco. Bayern scored many a few days ago.


  22. If not Arsenal, then who?

    The PGMO have made games at the Wenger/Emirates stadium be NOT home games for a long time with their endless display of biased officiating. If that isn’t training to get the big win away, what is?


  23. Looking forward to a good victory at Monaco. 3 bends to negotiate & then the straight to the next round.

    Wenger knows.

    We know he knows.

    There is momentum & then there is Arsenal momentum.

  24. Again, we are Arsenal, and we dont do it the easy way.

    IF we played just like we did against Monaco, but maintaining:

    1- Taking our chances (which were a lot, had Giroud scored half what he got, we would have been winner).

    2- Stop the stupid mistakes (1st goal not covering the shot, and 2nd goal what Mert did).

    3- Get some luck (I have no idea from where, but in the end we were the better team, but missed up and lost 3-1).

    I think we should start like hell, this will scare Monaco and give us more believe and get us into the game, but still defending good, in the second half if we are still more than one goal short, then attack like nothing is left (which is the case), specially any one goal from Monaco will take us to extra time and not out if we scored our 3 goals. But you know what, better than me, Bootoomee, and Josif, there is one Arsene Wenger who best knows how to set his team. We supporters have to keep faith and not lose hope.

  25. There are many aspects of our game that didn’t gel when playing Monaco. They were fortunate to get us on a bad day.

    However, we have the talent to pass better & slice through their defence though they do a good job of driving their bus. The finishing will be better as will our defending. Looking for a score of 6 or 7 with perhaps one blemish. We are capable of winning 6 – 0.

    Wenger will motivate the team to play focused & the fans will motivate them to score.

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