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October 2020

Arsene, Another Protocol Please.

By Tai Emeka Obasi


In Frederick Forsyth’s book, The Fourth Protocol, the lead character, John Preston was the operations head of MI5 in London. He was saddled with the huge task of closing in on a topnotch KGB illegal agent deep in Central London and prevent the Russian from setting off a nuke that would detonate a mini nuclear bomb capable of causing huge catastrophic destruction. A destruction that would push voters enough to the left to change leadership in No 10 Downing Street.

They called it Plan Aurora, utterly callous, most complicated, very risky and extremely crafted to witness perfection within hours to British General Election. And which would tear to shreds The Fourth Protocol – a peace treaty preventing countries with nuclear capability from ever using it against another nation.

The KGB illegal agent in name of Major Valeri Petrofsky, was so good that Preston was groping around in the dark. But the stakes were so high that Preston’s boss, Sir Nigel Irvine, the septuagenarian head of the SIS, a veteran spymaster in matters clandestine, had to draw from his wealth of experience to save his country. He improvised a most secret message meant for only men of the ‘A’ League in the business; inside the heart of Kremlin. Someone read and responded.

While booms day loomed dangerously close, the man who had read the message sent another in the form of an ‘amateur’ agent. Sir Nigel interpreted the message thus, “I cannot give you the executive illegal agent because I do not know where he is but follow this man, he will lead you to the transmitter.”

And Preston followed.

For lovers of high level intrigues in the espionage world of intelligence and counterintelligence subterfuge of the Cold War era, The Fourth Protocol is a master class. It comes a close second to the other Forsyth’s bestseller, The Devil’s Alternative, the best novel I’ve read. And make no mistake, I’ve read plenty.

When I first watched a full Arsenal match with a bi-spectacled beanpole watching from the technical area, I had same feeling that this man, whose first name, Arsene rings in accord with club name, Arsenal was the man to take the club to the pinnacle of best in the world. This happened in 1997. Nineteen years gone, Arsenal is not yet the best in the world but the signs are quite ominous the North London club is not far off. This assertion is certainly a matter for another write up.

Arsene Wenger, in a rare public revelation, disclosed what he told Aaron Ramsey that transformed him from an ordinary player, who struggled all over the pitch to impress, overdoing simple things in most cases to a great box-to-box midfielder. In simple summary, the gaffer told the Welshman to play it simple – get confidence first, then do every other thing as much as the natural talent permitted. Knowing Wenger as a man who hardly ever made such personal conversations public, I reckoned that was Le Prof breaking his First Protocol.

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And the protocol might have even been broken further. Patrick Vieira recently said that unlike his opposite, Jose Mourinho, who would bottle a player up to suit his(Mourinho’s) pattern, Wenger’s style is giving players freedom to express themselves.  By forcing Ramsey to change for the better, Le Prof stepped out of routine, or protocol if you like.

Now, he has to go further…

In his ranks is another player, blessed with the same ability as Ramsey, who needs same words in private. This player even has undeniable potentials to be a greater player than his box-to-box team mate.

Jack Wilshere.

Having missed Jack all season, the news that he is nearing return is not only gladdening but also gives hope that our title run-in would be appreciably boosted.

Having gone through all football tutelages in Arsenal right from the kindergarten age of seven, Wilshere is one name well revered by everything Arsenal. His early displays promised a player of the highest quality.  His progress to the main team was heralded. From some perspectives, including mine, the fearless-ball-carrying lad represented a poor man’s version of Lionel Messi. But that’s not taking anything away from dear Jack. Any version of Messi is still world class.

Jack’s mazy runs, close control, swift change in direction, fearless take-ons suggested any coach that attempted to clone the England international into the Argentine demi-god could hit pay dirt. Wilshere works tirelessly on the pitch, always ready to receive the ball, not afraid to burst into oppositions’ penalty area, ever ready to shoot at goal, always willing to withstand and fly into a challenge.

Always willing to withstand and fly into a challenge!

Perhaps, it’s the latter qualities that made Le Prof shift from creating a Messi proto-mould to developing a completely different player – a Jack Wilshere.

What came out of Le Prof’s perfection machine was still excellent. At just 19, Wilshere had made his name recognisable by any football fan anywhere in the world. At that age, he had faced the Barcelona midfield comprising the famed Xavi Hernandez and Andre Iniesta in a two-legged affair and never blinked for once. So dogged were his breathtaking performances in those two games that Pep Guardiola, the man who re-invented Barca’s tiki-taka to near ephemeral domination, singled out Wilshere as the brightest spark in the Arsenal team that surrendered on a narrow 3 -4 aggregate.

While Arsenal fans endured in the agony of those trophyless years, every one of them happily pointed in the direction of Wilshere as a proof dear Gunners would rise again. Of course that barren comatose had been banished to history but sadly, our beloved Jack had fizzled out that his contribution to that landmark transition was largely anonymous. Trying to go into the reasons for this non-envisaged drawback could draw miles of print as it certainly would the ensuing debate. However, like Le Prof talked to Aaron, Le Prof has to talk heart-to-heart to Jack.

Of course, one would conclude he already did…but then we should imagine he should have long talked to Ramsey before he disclosed he did. From Wilshere’s displays in the preseason games before he freaked out in training, he didn’t show any sign of departure from the Wilshere of past seasons. As a matter of utmost necessity, Le Prof, if he hasn’t already done so on numerous occasions, needs to talk to Jack ASAP. If he already has, then Wilshere didn’t understand him … so Le Prof has to invite him over for a repeat before he kicks a ball again – in training or matches. As many times that are required, Le Prof has to, until it gets into Wilshere’s skull for in the English father of two the world of football has a great artist. Nobody with his technical abilities was ever destined for less – Jack is world class. Debate this as much as you can but this is one talent the football world would sorely miss if his career ever ended prematurely.

And what should Le Prof tell Wilshere? PLAY SIMPLE! Yes, Wilshere has been derailed by injuries, but unlike most injuries, he invites his. In just three pre-season games before he got injured in training, Jack got himself into no less than three career-threatening tackles! I’ve never watched a player who never shied away from a challenge, however dangerous. Not even Italy’s Gatuso was as carelessly daring.

I recall one league match with Birmingham City – Wilshere, the smallest man on the pitch, tackled the biggest man on the pitch in name of Jurgen Kholer off both feet. Kohler landed on his back, lay still while Wilshere continued as if he didn’t make contact. That was courage and fearlessness to admirable level but those have been the traits threatening to force Wilshere into the dust bin of has-beens. Believe me, Jack is one of the strongest lads that ever played the game or he would have long ended his career.

I believe Jack still possesses the footballing ability to be among the very best of his generation but he must learn to be pitchwise and he must learn fast. When he is clearly losing a ball he should let go, instead of those careless challenges that make fans’ hearts skip beats. He should know that even Messi doesn’t dribble into impossible situations…release the ball when you perceive a cul-de-sac and not attempt to ride through it, thereby attracting vicious tackles.

Wenger has to force Wilshere to adjust his style because this is a very perilous time for Jack. At 24, he should be approaching his peak not spending all seasons on the treatment table. Another long lay-off and he could become another Abou Diaby. Le Prof has to save this very career. He must. And when the gaffer does, we’ll happily await him to break his Second Protocol, by telling us about it, with that knowing grin of course.

More anniversaries

  • 8 February 1936: First game for Frank Moss v Blackburn.  Frank took over from Charlie Preedy in goal and was nearly ever present for four years playing in the title winning teams of the triple years (1932/3, 1933/4, 1934/5).
  • 8 February 1941: Arsenal 15 Clapton Orient 2 (London War Cup, 10 goals for Leslie Compton).

The Untold Books

The latest Untold book is Arsenal: The Long Sleep 1953-1970 with an introduction by Bob Wilson, available both as a paperback and as a Kindle book from Amazon.   Details of this and our other titles can be found at Arsenal Books on this site.





19 comments to Arsene, Another Protocol Please.

  • Rich


    I’ll raise your Messi to a Maradona. It was once and only once that it jumped into my head that I was watching someone whose dribbling ability was up there in the stratosphere towards that sort of talent.

    Was a pre-season friendly against Cologne (don’t know the year and think we may have played against them a couple of times). Anyway, Wislhere still had a very light frame then and was beating their defenders effortlessly every time with outrageous dribbling ability.

    At that moment I felt I had underestimated him as simply a very very skilful player and that he was capable of playing one level up from that and could be truly great player.

    I think injury struck soon after and he might have been out for a full year after that. He returned bigger and i don’t think I ever saw quite the same dribbling from him again. Still capable of excellent dribbling but not the same and his new body shape ensured that would be the case.

    We’re in the land of unknowns as to how Wenger has tried to guide Wilshere over the years. I find it hard to imagine him not encouraging him away from heavy challenges which would leave a scenario where Wilshere not only doesn’t see it that way himself but is not implementing good advice. Unknowns.

    Think it says a lot about English football, though. Wilshere’s frame was quite similar to David Silva’s, and I don’t think it would cross the mind of Silva, or Iniesta, or Pirlo, or Messi for that matter, to trade off some of their ability to dribble and move for extra muscle.

    Other countries don’t have that vision of football it seems, to them it makes sense that exceptionally gifted individuals hone their greatest gifts and the rest of the team covers for any slight shortfall in strength that might involve.

    I think Wilshere instead looked to players like Gerrard and Bryan Robson before him and wanted to be that archetype of a fearless, tough-tackling English midfielder. I can understand it only to the extent it’s much harder to try emulate Messi-type skills here. I think the world would have been denied Messi at his best if he had joined us at 16. He would surely have had his leg broken within a year or two if he tried to play as he did from the beginning in Spain.

    At this stage I just have everything crossed for his return back to the levels of the end of last year. Wilshere 2.0 can still be a tremendous player.

    I’ll hope one more time he has seen the light and knows his gifts easily justify holding back in dangerous situations (which rarely involve any significant advantage in a game) in order to maximise his chances of staying fit. The maths seem simple : tiny gains vs sky high odds of huge loss; or tiny losses versus greatly improved chance of huge gains. Wilshere 3.0

  • Tai


    Glad you could make those informed comments about Jack. I always wondered at times – could we have needed Mesut Ozil if Jack was always on his feet?

    We may never know…

  • para

    I hope Jack reads this article.

    The article has it spot on about Jack not releasing the ball quick enough, but maybe he is confident of getting through, but he ends up getting fouled more, and injured too, so I do reflect the author’s wish that Jack is told.

    After all, look what a little critism of Ox did 🙂

  • Menace

    Thanks Tai for another great piece of writing. To really understand an individual player we must look at his off field activities as well as his dedication on field. My own opinion is that Jack let himself down by smoking & socialising at the expense of his sport. It is so important to respect Wengers methods of holistic dedication to the sport.

    There is a social flaw in the English player that gets sidetracked by friends. This flaw cost Pennant & Bentley their places at Arsenal. Both had incredible ability but both lost focus. The mind is jsut as important as the physical ability & both need to be focused on football.

  • Usama Zaka

    Martin Atkinson has been appointed for Arsenal vs. Leicester. I would take any ref in a big game like this but not Atkinson. He is a very very very very very very poor ref (did I forget to mention ‘very’? 🙂 )

    He destroy our attacking build up in every game and continuously allows the opposition to foul.

  • Usama Zaka

    Atkinson’s appointment has made the Premier League’s intention clear to stop Arsenal from trying to get the first position.

  • Gord

    Thanks for the reminder Usama.

    The rest of the appointments

    Saturday 13 February 2016
    K.O. _MATCHES _ _ _ _ REFEREE _ _ _ ASST. REF. 1 _ _ASST. REF. 2 _ _4TH OFFICIAL
    15:00 Bournemouth – Stoke _ _ _Graham Scott _ _ G Beswick _ H Lennard _ _C Pawson
    17:30 Chelsea – Newcastle _ _ _Roger East _ _ _ P Kirkup _ _S Ledger _ _ K Friend
    15:00 Crystal Palace – Watford Robert Madley _ _M McDonough M Perry _ _ _K Hill
    15:00 Everton – West Brom _ _ _Michael Oliver _ S Bennett _ A Holmes _ _ N Swarbrick
    15:00 Norwich – West Ham _ _ _ Mike Jones _ _ _ M Scholes _ A Halliday _ G Ward
    12:45 Sunderland – Man Utd _ _ Andre Marriner _ J Collin _ _S Beck _ _ _ L Mason
    15:00 Swansea – Southampton _ _Jonathan Moss _ _S Long _ _ _L Betts _ _ _K A Woolmer
    Sunday 14 February 2016
    K.O. _MATCHES _ _ _ _ REFEREE _ _ _ ASST. REF. 1 _ _ASST. REF. 2 _ _4TH OFFICIAL
    12:00 Arsenal – Leicester _ _ _Martin Atkinson _M Mullarkey S Child _ _ _R East
    14:05 Aston Villa – Liverpool _Neil Swarbrick _ A Garratt _ C Hatzidakis M Jones
    16:15 Man City – Spurs _ _ _ _ Mark Clattenburg S Burt _ _ _J Brooks _ _ M Dean

  • Mick

    Much as I would not like it to happen, I think Jack’s career would be best served by moving to Spain where he would get far better protection from the referees. Whilst Jack’s style of play does sometimes put himself at risk, in my opinion it is obvious that the English game with it’s ‘up and a’tem’ style and complement of very physical players keen to stop Jack by fair means or (usually) foul, aided and abetted by compliant referees, is always going to prevent him from fulfilling his enormous potential.

  • Josif

    I think that all the talk about Jack’s style of play and his inability to release the ball quickly is an example of blaming the rape victim for wearing skirt that was too shirt.

    Wilshere has right to play as he wants as long as he complies with the laws of football. Opponents want to stop him? OK, but do it fair and square, not by mutilating his ankles.

    If there is God, He won’t let England to win absolutely anything as long as thugs like Anthony Taylor fail to punish fouls on talented players like Jack. I remember Taylor being especially rough on Jack when Villa players made eight fouls on him and Sunderland players beating the shit out of him for 90 minutes in our 1:0 victory in 2012-13. Mike Dean’s denial of McNair’s assault deserves no comment.

    That being said, there are a few moments that imply Jack is not the sharpest pencil in the drawer. Menace has already stated one example and I’d add his political statement on how only English players should play for England (during the Januzaj conundrum last season) as another example of putting words out before thinking twice.

  • nicky

    The points you make about Wilshere’s play are fair, although they do little to calm my concern over the lack of protection he receives from a majority of referees in the EPL.
    I sometimes wonder whether his destiny lies more on mainland Europe, where referees are not so lenient over GBH performed on ballplayers.

  • Pat

    Good points, Josif.

    My only problem with this article is, why have a lead in from a Cold War Frederick Forsyth novel where the Russians plan to set off a nuclear weapon? The only country to ever have used nuclear weapons in a war is the United States of America.

  • Tai


    Could you be more elaborate please.

  • ARSENAL 13

    Tai, Mesut Ozil is a player who is not signed for the need of the team. The player of such quality are signed right away if possible and available.

  • Dave (SA)

    Jack needs to have a look at what Ozil did in the last season. When Ozil arrived, he was fouled by all and it was allowed by PIGMOB. This year you can see that he does not get kicked so often, as he releases the ball when he gets in ‘dangerous’ situations. Jack should observe, learn and do the same!!! That will allow him the leeway to use his ability for the benefit of the team for so much longer.
    I sincerely trust and hope that it has been discussed and imprinted on his mind before he gets back into the team. If not, I would advise him to move to Spain or Germany for his own safety….. Sad to say, but with PIGMOB and their mobster mentality, he has no hope to stay active if he tries to do as the pundits pretend soccer in the UK is to be played.

  • proudkev


    Nice article. As you say, Jacks style is to run quickly with the ball close to his feet. He has ahabit of releasing the ball late, often once a player has committed. Players who play like this are always likely to get hit late, especially in the Premier League.

    Paddy McNair broke Jacks ankle at the Emirates with a late lunge from the side.

    What did the referee do to protect Jack and future players? Red Card, yellow card?

    Mike Dean did not even award a foul! While Jack was spending months in recovery and the AAA were blaming Wenger for his injury, Mike Dean of the Wirral carried on officiating in that smug way of his.

    Mike Dean was also the man in the middle when Eduard was assaulted and left with a broken leg against Birmingham.

    This is what I have been saying about the way our referees allow a physcical game against Arsenal and almost poor scorn on skilfull players. Thsi is an English desease where it is an accepted tactic to ‘hit’ players who have more skill. How many times do you hear ex players say this is the way to play against Arsenal?

    Teams know the referees allow these sort of tackles on our players so its no coincidence we have suffered so many shockers.

    Its the FA’s fault and these Northern referees, as I have stated many times before.

  • Pat

    Hi Tai!

    To explain, in the novel you refer to, the Russians are the villains and are threatening to use a nuclear weapon against human beings for political gain.

    Unfortunately this fits in with a current political agenda which paints Russians as a danger to world peace. Actually it is other countries who have launched wars in countries far from their borders – Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, to name but four. Russia has only recently joined the war in Syria and then only at the invitation of the elected government. So according to international law Russia is the only foreign country with a right to be involved in Syria.

    The only country to have used nuclear weapons against human beings for political gain is the USA. It dropped two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945, causing horrendous loss of civilian life, for only one reason – to attempt to intimidate the Soviet Union by showing them what a dreadful weapon they had available. At the time the Soviet Union was actually their ally in defeating Nazi Germany, and had lost twenty million citizens in so doing.

  • Josif


    Whilst I agree that there is a certain level of xenophobia aimed at Russians that is wrapped into a shiny “Western liberal democracy”-paper and that people who analyze World War Two easily walks over the victims Soviet people had taken in order to beat Hitler’s ugly bottom, it is true that Soviet Union between 1945 and 1990 hadn’t had the best intentions. Hungary and Czechoslovakia could say a few words about it, same goes for Poland and, to the certain extent, Yugoslavia after Tito-Stalin break-up as the Soviet soldiers were on the borders so Yugoslavs were preparing measures in case of the Soviet invasion. (Then again, Tito’s Yugoslavia formed their own Guantanamo to fight against Soviet spies and “spies” – it was called Goli Otok).

    If they ever manage to make a movie about the medieval monarch who uses time machine to rule aggressive country with a nuclear arsenal (hah, how clever was this inclusion of the word “arsenal” so that nobody can say it’s off-topic!), it will look like current Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

    I do not imply that USA policy is all good or that whatever Russia do is an act of pure evil but there is some difference between the two due to obvious lack of democratic heritage in the latter.

  • Pat

    Hi Josif.

    Well, this depends whether you consider a country like Britain to be truly democratic. I would more characterise it as the rule of money.

    Also, is the world better or worse since 1990? There hadn’t been any wars in Europe since 1945. Since then, Yugoslavia has been dismembered by force, mainly by NATO. And there is Ukraine.

    Certainly the standard of living for ordinary people in Britain is worse now than it was in 1990.

  • Andy Mack

    Pat, Britain has some semblance of democracy whilst Russia had none. This doesn’t make Britain wonderful but it does put it a step above zero democracy. Since the break up of the soviet block it’s questionable whether Russia have become democratic at all with the underworld and/or Russian billionaires controlling at least as much as (but probably even more than) the class system does in Britain.