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Friday, 17 February 2012

Let's be Realistic

So for a change, someone actually sent me an article over Twitter about the Arsenal, something usually not done. The article is from Talksport's Magazine section of its website and is about why us “spoilt” Gooner fans should support Wenger.

Firstly, I myself am an advocate of letting Wenger stay and do his job but not so blind as to see he's struggling to do it as well as seven years ago, which is why this article really has to be dissected and looked at properly, some of the points in the argument are absolutely valid, many of them really aren't.

To read beforehand:


Perhaps Top Four is acceptable for the Arsenal board in their attempts to keep living off their nice corporate champagne, but for those in the stadium it isn't. When we moved to the Emirates Stadium in 2006, the fans were told it would take several years to bed in and pay off, meaning departures would be frequent and youth relied on heavily. Fair enough, no-one expected the success we had at Highbury to return overnight. It's now been six years, instead of improving, the team seems to have got worse, our best players like Fabregas and Nasri are leaving despite this so-called financial stability. In 2008 we lost the league by losing one of our better players that season in Eduardo, everyone agreed we would have won that title had the Birmingham incident never happened, we were unlucky. Yet how come four years on instead of cruising to titles we're somehow completely out of the race by November? Perhaps Wenger isn't entirely to blame for Arsenal's lack of competition in the league, the board should have invested money from transfers better in players rather than making up for lost time with the 'Arsenalisation' of the Emirates. However, I don't care if we don't make top four if we win a trophy instead. So why only when the pressure is mounting are the two domestic competitions being taken seriously?


This is arguably the most moronic statement to make, Wenger has “earned” the right to lose. Wenger is the manager, well done, he's made the Champions League, it's his job to be successful with this club. That's like Wenger telling an interviewer “Well I arrived at Old Trafford before four o'clock, so I have earned the right for the club to be embarrassed and lose 8-2.” It's moronic. Wenger is employed by the club to make sure the club is successful, if anything, he's employed by the fans who pay his wages, as they pay everyone affiliated with that club's wages. I don't think my boss would enjoy me turning up to work and saying “I arrived on time, I did all my work yesterday, so today I'm going to sit here on your money for eight hours and do nothing, because I did so well yesterday, I've earned it.” I do agree that the media over-rate Harry Redknapp and that Wenger is a far superior manager, but what do you expect there, Wenger's not English.


A point I somewhat agree on, the rich do get successful and the poor don't. However, we are owned by our own billionaire owner and maybe even another one. Why aren't they pumping money in so we can be successful?


We all realise we play better than we did in the 70s, 80s and the early parts of the 90s. However, just because our players play well doesn't mean we have no right to complain that we don't win anything and are far more concerned in finishing fourth and out of the medals than winning a Cup. If anything, we should be more irritated that this group of highly talented individuals aren't playing well and winning things.


So if Fabregas was going to leave, Nasri was being tempted by Manchester City and Wilshere got injured in pre-season, why didn't we take their money then and go out and spend money on replacements?! Instead of waiting until two days before the window closed after we were humiliated at Old Trafford? Where instead of us going out and getting Juan Mata, Mario Gotze or Eden Hazard, we instead got Park-Chu-Young and Yossi Benayoun! Wilshere has been a massive loss to this side, Frimpong MAY come good, at the moment his temper may let him down along with massive injury problems early on and Oxlade-Chamberlain will be ruthless, but Arsenal used to be a team full of world class talents in every position, not only in about four.


I agree, there isn't much alternative out there for us, I doubt Mourinho would come to us, we wont get Guardiola either. Which is why I agree we should stick with Wenger, but I am realistic. I don't hold Wenger bigger than the club and neither should you or anyone, he should be criticised the same as anyone.


Yes, I am glad Wenger is willing to start having a moan at players in public. However, there has been too many occasions where he should be criticised players in public before and he only chooses now after we could be effectively out of the Champions League again.


It's no secret Milan are good, however, we have got as far as them in the competition and arguably have been better than them this season as we finished first in our group whilst they finished second (in fairness, their group did contain Barcelona), if we have both got as far as each-other we should be able to match each-other up not be humiliated. We have got further than Tottenham, Liverpool, United and City this season but if we are just going to be humiliated by AC Milan in the second season and probably have our morale ruined, we may as well have gone out in the first round like the others.


The final point (because ten is basically asking for people to support the Arsenal Ladies), one we can agree on, we need realistic fans at the club, one's who will criticise the great man together and praise him together. No fans who hold Wenger higher than Arsenal, none that want him to lose so they can be proven correct. Wenger is a victim of his successes, there's no escape from that.

Anyway, hopefully, I wont have to read too much from Talksport again, I understand there's a lot of overreaction towards our recent performances. Wenger deserves as much criticism as much as he deserves praise.

To listen to this week's edition of Will Sparks' podcast Stand Up For The Arsenal, featuring Dave Fitzpatrick, Ben Cole, Tom Acres' and myself click here:

Monday, 13 February 2012

The Football Merry-Go-Round begins again

As Wolves fans wake up this morning they'll hear the news that some people will translate as Music to their ears, manager Mick McCarthy has been sacked. After the club's embarrassing 5-1 defeat to bitter rivals West Bromwich Albion yesterday lunchtime there was surely no way back into Molineux for Mick. Had he have kept the job after all I doubt he'd ever be seen as a fan favourite again and as the players and management were booed off yesterday you could sense either the board would dismiss Mick or Mick would leave himself.

Wolves fans should however thank Mick for his incredible service to the club. His promise of Premiership football in three seasons when he took over in 2006 was stuck to, as in 2009 Wolves were promoted back to the big table six years after their first promotion to the Premiership in 2003. Wolves also did it in style, winning the Championship crown and leading the table for forty-two of the forty-six games.

McCarthy also did it on a shoe-string budget, brilliant signings from the lower-leagues, some even non-league in the likes of Matt Jarvis, Michael Kightly and signing Sylvan Ebanks-Blake from Plymouth being the catalyst for Wolves' promotion chase in 2008/09 helped Wolves keep financially above water and paved the way for Steve Morgan's plans to upgrade Molineux into the new 40,000 seater stadium he and the fans desire.

McCarthy's first season in the top-flight went well too, the double over Champions League chasers Tottenham and finishing 15th McCarthy and the club's highest finish in the Premier League kept them well afloat for another season and the dreams of a new stadium became a reality. However, the season did have some poor moments for McCarthy, after losing at Old Trafford the club was fined £25k for naming an 'under-strength' line-up by the FA.

The second season didn't hold the great expectations most supporters held from the first. Despite the great start, Wolves were bottom for most of the season and despite ending the twenty-nine game unbeaten run of Manchester United in a thrilling 2-1 victory at Molineux matched with a victory at Anfield, and wins over Champions Chelsea and Manchester City also at Molineux the club looked to be going down. To ensure the start of redevelopment of the Stan Cullis stand in the Summer, Wolves had to survive and did so by the skin of their teeth. After going 3-0 down to fellow strugglers Blackburn Rovers on the final game of the season it looked like Wolves were departing, however, two goals in the second half along with victories for Tottenham against other strugglers Birmingham and a loss for Blackpool at Old Trafford meant Wolves stayed up miraculously, a change in on the pitch fortune was desperately required though.

Another brilliant start from Wolves looked promising but after a terrible run of form which has been on the cards since September, Wolves are once more in the bottom three, arguably a tighter relegation struggle than the one the previous season. After yesterday's humiliation to West Brom who are in danger of going down themselves, it was the final straw. Uncertainty that Wolves will stay up and be able to afford development on the stadium means the board will have to look for a new man till the end of the season.

Before you crucify Mick and have a toast to the new man in charge, remember the good times Mick gave you in the last six years, the promotion, victories over Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham and Premiership football for three years and toast him all the same.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Everyone will Let it Go When Your Team Does Kenny.

The eleventh of February two-thousand and twelve was always going to hold some great significance to Football fans. The North West Derby between Manchester United and Liverpool is always a big game with a major atmosphere and major consequences.

However, it is only in recent history that the game has taken on even more significance, it's now no longer a team feud but a personal one, between two of the team's top players. Back in October in the previous League meeting between the two at Anfield, both Liverpool striker Luis Suarez and Manchester United full-back Patrice Evra were caught up in a spot of arguing which turned out to be racial abuse. After hours of writing pieces on what was said and why it is incredibly wrong of Suarez I'm not going to do that here, instead I'm going to focus on today's events.

The clubs met a few weeks ago in the FA Cup Fourth Round but due to Suarez' ban for racially abusing Evra, Suarez did not play against Manchester United at Anfield. The main controversy of that game was the comments from both sides regarding the incident. There was no main controversy on the pitch, mostly off it, in both the stands and the management mouths.

So for anyone to believe that today's game would go off without any issues or controversy whatsoever would be completely farcical. For everyone else, what was to come would be unsurprisingly predictable.

Almost ironically, Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea would also meet again the Fourth Round of the FA Cup, due to it being the first meeting of the two clubs and players (John Terry and Anton Ferdinand) since the infamous League game again in October, the FA allowed the clubs to bypass the pre-match handshakes to avoid any further controversy. The FA nor Premier League did not take such a stance in today's episode however.

Patrice Evra, like the sportsman he arguably mostly isn't, extended his hand towards Luis Suarez in an attempt to rectify their differences, to 'let it go' as both Liverpool Football Club and Manchester United so desperately say they want. It was a strange turn of events, instead of Suarez apologising to his victim, the victim was trying to make amends with the Footballing Pantomime Villain. Instead of shaking the hand of Evra, Suarez chose to ignore it, sending the game that would follow straight into disrepute. Evra was not pleased, referee Phil Dowd had to get involved and Social Media went berserk.

As the game started, Evra seemed to have one intention, to end Luis Suarez' career, he tried his best to go straight through Suarez early on, instead colliding with team-mate Rio Ferdinand. Evra's reaction is slightly understandable, he wanted to make amends (something Suarez should be doing) and is irritated by his lack of remorse for his actions. Although, I'm not too sure whether I would like to see Suarez leg splattered across the Old Trafford turf as much as Patrice Evra would.

There was further controversy before the end of the half, a questionable foul on Suarez from Ferdinand (who ignored Suarez in the pre-match warm-up probably due to the abuse his little brother has allegedly received) could have resulted in Ferdinand's dismissal, instead nothing was given.

It again sparked off at Half-Time where an incident in the tunnel caused police and stewards to get involved and took five minutes to resolve, it seemed to fire up the home-side as United took an early second-half 2-0 lead when defensive errors from Liverpool helped Wayne Rooney get two goals. It was a relatively quiet affair from there, Suarez did get one back for Liverpool after a mishit from Ferdinand. However, United went top of the league with a pretty comfortable second half performance.

The real controversy was the post-match comments of both Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish and Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Dalglish blasted Shreeves saying it's "bang out of order to blame Luis Suarez for anything that happened here today" it really is a low-point for Kenny. His blind faith in Suarez is not doing himself any favours. Liverpool's miscommunication of the whole matter really has dug themselves a huge hole and for Dalglish to claim that his player is still blameless when his foolish, immature and selfish action arguably cost them concentration and the game is just as farcical as Suarez snubbing Evra.

Ferguson went claimed Suarez was a "disgrace" and that "he should not be allowed to play for Liverpool again. He could have caused a riot." holds more meaning that perhaps Ferguson wants us to recognise. Whilst I agree with Ferguson's sentiments that Suarez was a disgrace, I feel his request that Liverpool remove Suarez from their team seem more tactics related than trying to prevent rioting. I feel Ferguson is more wishing Suarez to leave because he believes he could be a goal-threat not a threat to society. To credit Ferguson, after Evra's ridiculous post-match milking, to where he over-celebrated the victory like it was the end of a war, despite it being just the start of another battle it seems, Ferguson did actually criticise his player claiming "He shouldn't have done that." regarding Evra's deliberate celebration trying to spark more tensions between the clubs, arguably doing as worse as Suarez by it having the potential to cause violence.

It's fair to say, today could have been the end of a very unsavoury chapter in this illustrious derby, it looks like it's going to be another horrible episode to add to some already disgusting ones. Perhaps it's for the best these two don't have to face each-other again, even if it does bring out the best in both sides on the pitch where the foot does the talking and not the vocal chord.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Fabio Capello - The Unlucky Man

When it comes to England managers, Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson will always be viewed as our best. Ramsey for winning our only major tournament, the big one, the World Cup in 1966 and Robson for coming so close to achieving Ramsey's glory in 1990. When it comes to England Management failures, Kevin Keegan, Graham Taylor and Steve McClaren will probably go down as some as our worst. Fabio Capello however, shall not.

People easily forget the position England were actually in before Fabio Capello took charge, after Luiz Felipe Scolari rejected England and the FA were forced to bring in the inexperienced Steve McClaren who did not much but win Middlesborough their first trophy in 2004 and almost win them the UEFA Cup in 2006 but really was still very inexperienced compared to many available, England went into dire straights. Failing to qualify for 2008 European Championships was the end for McClaren, who was known as one our worst managers and for there Fabio arrived.

A very successful club manager in continental Europe, winning the Champions League with AC Milan and several Serie A's as well. He won two La Liga's with Real Madrid in his two terms, Capello has a very, very good CV in club football, far superior to England's best Manager Harry Redknapp, whose CV includes ONE FA Cup and ONE Quarter Final in the UEFA Champions League (Capello also in his four years holds the best win percentage of 66.7, better than Ramsey's).

Capello even had a near faultless qualifying campaign, thrashing our once unbeatable foe Croatia twice, 3-0 and 5-1. Capello only lost one game after we had comfortably qualified to Ukraine who finished second in our game. However, it was the Summer of 2010 which ruined his England career.

John Terry. One name which will forever be linked with Capello. Leading into the World Cup in South Africa, Terry's name was once again soiled by media allegations of him having an affair with former team-mate Wayne Bridge's girlfriend. Terry was rightfully sacked as England captaincy but due to Terry's own selfishness he would not accept his dismissal and as England's players failed to step-up, Terry took his own agenda against Fabio and a mutiny was near. The media had a field day.

England crashed out in the last sixteen embarrassingly to rivals Germany 4-1 and although some decisions of Capello's were questionable, I still felt he deserved to keep his job and due to signing a new contract before the tournament Capello was able to keep his job for one more term, admitting he'd leave after the end of the 2012 European Championships.

He guided England through to the European Championships unbeaten and with real ease, everything looked set for Fabio's last term in charge until John Terry got himself into hot water. Again.

John Terry's alleged racial abuse of fellow England player Anton Ferdinand has been a massive subject this season, the FA made the right call to strip Terry as captain, he shouldn't be in the team with his current form being so poor and I don't believe due to his past with incidents like taunting stranded Americans in London the day after 9/11 he should ever have been made captain in the first place, let alone a second time. The FA didn't however do the right thing, they forgot to ask the manager his opinion, or at least try and persuade the manager to see things their way. A stupid mistake.

I don't think Fabio Capello would have been so offended if the FA stripped Terry of captaincy if they actually had the courage to tell Capello of their decision. The fact Capello heard through a body not the FA about the changes made to the team he still managed was a joke and has cost the FA actually a very good manager. I don't believe however, that Capello showed any great courage to stand up to the FA and tell them of his disagreements. He did so with the protection of Italian Media and also he was leaving anyway, he could tell the FA he hated the guts of all of them and they would have to pay him off to get rid of him early. Capello was offended on the notion the team he still managed was altered by a body who didn't care what he had to say. It wasn't right and I have no issue with Capello that he's left. One tournament failure was burdened on him and despite beating the World Champions, nothing re-paid that failure, a failure you could argue was not even his fault. The responsibility should lie with the whole squad and management, not one man because he's not English. The Media never wanted Capello after 2010 and he was in a job the FA were stupid enough to keep him in before the results even manifested in the important games.

Before you look at Capello and consider him an England failure like Keegan and McClaren, consider this: He's got a better track record than everyone's favourite Harry Redknapp, he's England's best manager in terms of winning percentage and he's manager at a time, almost like Andy Murray is with Tennis, where we may be within the Top Four in Europe, but there are three better teams than us (Germany, Spain and Holland). Capello is not a failure, he's a man who just never had the luck to be a success, arguably because he held the wrong passport to be ever considered one.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Arsène Wenger; a Victim

Whatever way you look about it, Mr. Arsène Wenger is an Arsenal legend. With that legendary status comes it's own issues. When Arsène Wenger joined in 1996, he finished third, one of Arsenal's more respectable finishes of the early to mid-1990s. By the end of the 90s, Arsenal were one of the elite in English football, something not seen since the very early 90s and even then, not in the domestic league since the early Graham years.
It's fair to say that first full year shaped Wenger's Arsenal career, suddenly, we were a challenger in the league again. We were winning Cups again, after a few years of poor players and terrible performances, scandals with our manager and players that took the club's image into disrepute, we were now kings of England. The double showed that Wenger was a top manager, as good, maybe even better than Ferguson. Arsenal were competition and didn't everyone know it.
After the 1999 season, where Arsenal came so close but yet so far as the cliche goes, three more straight second place finishes came, Wenger still got Arsenal close to silverware, their first European cup final since 1995 ended in penalties, Arsenal lost. The 2001 FA Cup final was dropped in the final minutes after goals from the best striker in the world at that point (yes, Michael Owen). We were losing out in the league by a large margin (coupled with a 6-1 away defeat to Manchester United in 2001 which really did embarrass us, perhaps more than the 8-2) but we were still contenders.
When the Summer of 2001 rolled around, Arsenal got in Sol Campbell, the greatest move for a defender ever made in Premiership history and when the 2001/02 season ended Arsenal welcomed back the Premiership and FA Cup to their trophy cabinet, it was Arsenal's third double, Arsène Wenger's second.
Undoubtedly Arsène Wenger's greatest achievement is the season of 2003/04, the season unbeaten, but that was the last time Arsenal won the title, and the last time in a while they have ever looked convincing enough to do it (without the unlucky 'break' in 2007/08).
What I'm trying to say is, Arsène Wenger is a victim of his own successes. He has set such a high standard at our club and when he can't achieve it due to ridiculous finances at other clubs we all get on his back. Let's support the man who gave you those glory nights in 1998, 2002 and 2004 rather than ridicule him for a game that's gone further than any of us could have imagined.