Naughty Boy Step & What Might Have Beens


Morning all, Friday and the weekend is arriving with a great big nothingness as far as Arsenal are concerned. Monday night football, the Premier League’s cunning plan to get clubs used to the idea of appearing in Channel 5’s Thursday night schedules, means Newcastle will not be hitting town until everyone else has played. Even then, such is the general gloom surrounding Alan Pardew’s tenure, how many will venture down from the North East is another matter. That and a proposed tube strike.

As it is, Arsenal find themselves occupying the moral high ground this morning with Michel Platini confirming what everyone else knew all along; FFP is a waste of time and effort. No clubs, according to the UEFA president, will be banned from Europe next season. They are just very naughty boys and are going to sit on the naughty step for fifteen minutes. It’s no surprise, UEFAs own website lists the potential sanctions in their “Everything You Need To Know About FFP” and sitting 8th in a list of 9, is exclusion from UEFA tournaments. The structure of the punishments is telling; as telling as the limit of €100k which is set for the first stage of punishment. Anything over that has to be referred ‘upstairs’.

The tariff once there is primarily designed to be financial once the tellings off have been administered. Clubs will be warned, reprimanded, sent letters in the strongest possible terms. It gets interesting four years down the line – you can’t envisage a scenario where a warning and reprimand will be issued in the same punishment cycle – when deducting points will occur. That’s an interesting concept, deducting points. In what competition exactly? They might as well end the report on the judgement with the sentence, “Yes, we know you are going to take this all the way to the CAS and probably win because your lawyers are better than ours but hey, we’ve got to try, haven’t we”. There are so many flaws in the process of cajoling clubs into line that render the regulations toothless. I wonder how clubs banned for previous indiscretions such as non-payment of taxes will feel reading Platini’s words? Financial Fair Play is not just about losses but it was never a realistic proposition that a big European club – be that in terms of reputation or wealth – were going to find themselves ever faced with the ultimate sanction.

As it is, Arsenal will continue doing things the Arsenal Way. Perhaps a burning sense of injustice or searing disappointment in the administration of FFP will be the foundation for a brighter future?

The echoes of the past abound this morning, not necessarily pleasant ones either with the Daily Star  reporting that Bacary Sagna’s patience has snapped with the club and sources close to the player report he is joining Manchester City in the summer, following the path trodden by Clichy, Nasri, Tour and Adebayor albeit without a nice fee coming the other way. This is obviously not the same Bacary Sagna who earlier this week was on the verge of signing a new deal. It must be confusing for Arsène to have two right backs with the same name.

So much of the summer’s activity is dependent upon who stays. The clear cut departure of Lukasz Fabianski is a little murkier after the player suggested he might stay if he had more playing time. You can’t blame him for wanting that as he approaches the peak of his career but I don’t see him usurping Szczesny from the starting line-up on a regular basis. I guess the offers from elsewhere may not yet be so appealing that leaving Arsenal is a certainty. That situation highlights the problem the manager has in acting. Being closer to the players, his sense of their futures is keener than ours but a change in one can alter his plans significantly. Not having to replace a goalkeeper might free up £7m in his transfer and wage budget, for example. That may be a decisive gap in valuations between two strikers closed, such are the relatively fine margins dealt with in the summer. We know he needs a striker, some say two if the over-the-top reaction to Lukas Podolski not ruling out any eventuality in life is anything to go by. Everyone has their own opinion on who and how many need to arrive, and in what positions. Stories emerging now rarely bear any resemblance to summer activity with cynicism pointing to season ticket renewals or paving the way for the news of Arsène’s contract renewal.

For me, it will be interesting to see what Wenger does about the midfield. His two defensively minded players are the wrong side of thirty and that may have more bearing on his thoughts than anything else. Of course he will point to the return of Abou Diaby’s fitness as a potential cure but Arsène has to be pragmatic, no matter how romanticised the judgement of the player emerging from his injury hell is. Can he afford to rely on his compatriot, even though he may share the view of Sagna on Diaby’s abilities? It is a genuinely tough decision for him to take having seen first-hand the daily struggles undertaken to get back to playing.

Patrick Vieira’s induction into the National Football Museum’s Hall of a Fame offers a stark contrast of what might have been. A leggy French midfielder to break up play and storm forward in Vieira’s mould, Diaby’s performance at Anfield hinted at that career. Injuries destroyed it. Drifting into the Brazilian sunset this summer seems an unfeasible end to the season for Diaby but it would give an indication of his fitness levels were he to go, the demanding rigours of tournament football would only be of benefit to the club if he were to remain fit for the duration of the French involvement. It is a huge risk of course for Deschamps and no matter how much he admires the player, surely not one he will take. It should, for the player, be one step at a time. See if your body takes a Premier League season then worry about the national team. A premature retirement from that level might be the best course of action anyway. But let’s not run before he can walk.

’til Tomorrow.

[showads ad=”Betting_Expert”]

154 thoughts on “Naughty Boy Step & What Might Have Beens

  1. @BIll

    I know I forgot to mention a striker but I do and have and will continue to openly acknowledge that we need a striker just as bad as we need a ball playing CDM. I hear what you are saying about a group of players and dominating but there have been and we have seen it whether it has been all of Europe or just domestically, I do completlely agree though it starts with winning something as naive as it may be, I have no doubts that that something will start on May 17 when we lift the FA Cup at Wembley.

    Again, all this is based on us getting the players that we need otherwise I will have been proven wrong and while still supporting, I will not be afraid to voice my displeasure.

  2. Bill, that was an excellent post about the process of sales degrading our quality and the need for real game changers. I agree with you. Go for genuinely top quality. We have the basics of the squad and several players who can do a job. What we have been lacking is the required 3-4 players who can turn a game available at any given time in the lineup or on the bench.

  3. One thing that gives me hope is that for most of the season our defensive performances were much better than in year’s past. Of course, we had a few “accidents” that are a bit disturbing of the idea that we have sorted out that side of the game. But, on balance, and overall for the season, I found that a heartening bit of progress. Much of it was a function of the good understanding and complementary attributes of the Merts-Kos partnership–and will we be lucky enough to have them fit for 85% or so of our matches again? But some of it has to be down to coaching and training work. I don’t care whether it is Bould implementing his vision with AW’s permission, or some partnership of working together on it, or if it is all AW. He gets credit as the man in charge for allowing it or implementing it because he assumes responsibility for the team and clearly has achieved better results.

    I really hope we will see other issues, like our muscle injuries and slow rehabbing, similarly addressed–however that happens. These are things the club and management can control and improve without big transfers and so on. If AW has achieved it defensively, I hope that same spirit of inquiry and problem solving by trying new methods, tactics, or whatever will continue.

    The other point of optimism comes in the purchase of Ozil. Ok, it happened at the end in a rather strange way and wasn’t what was planned for at the outset. But for whatever reasons–real enthusiasm for a special “AW type” player, Villa defeat and fan pressure, who cares?–the fact is that AW pulled the trigger on a hugely expensive deal because the player was quality and quality was going to cost big money. If he did that, I can live with carrying over that willingness and trying again, having learned from the process last summer to get a top target even if it means that not every position is addressed at the same level. Flamini was helpful to have, Viviano was never used but his presence seemed to have encouraged Fabianski and WS to work hard and perform. Step by step. If we follow up on the good things we achieved and address directly and learn from the problems, we should improve next season. That’s my positivity spiel ahead of what needs to be a good conclusion to the season (FA cup and top 3/4) and a very successful and busy summer.

    As Bill would say, GO ARSENE!!!

  4. Fans have always over rated players and found creative. rationalizations to explain recurring tepid performances in squeaky bum time or recurring poor defense etc etc etc. It’s part of human nature. Fans have done that for as long as there have been professional sports clubs. The problem is that I really believe that our management wanted to believe in all of the things they were doing and justify in their own minds why they should stay the course and they let that desire cloud their judgement. In some ways they started to think like fans rather then admit to some of the realities.

  5. Bill,
    Not sure I agree that it’s human nature for fans to over rate players.
    Supporters of underachieving clubs probably have a pretty good idea of their playing list. They may have hope and anticipation of better things, but eventually reality wins out.
    They have their favourites, as do we.
    And there are always players that get a hard time from supporters, regardless of football code, or club.

  6. Spot on there at 4.27 Limestone – though it seems counter-intuitive to say so (given that we have had more players out injured than any other this season) we did get lucky. The large question marks at the start of the season never actually had to be answered – though if Giroud had been injured, perhaps AW would have had his hand forced and played Podolski more – who knows? It could have been a blessing in disguise!

  7. RIP Tito Vilanova.

    It is a shame to be honest as he was one of the few Barca managers that I actually thought was a good person.

  8. That’d be a proper signing right there – lay down a marker for the summer.

    Believe it when I see it but it’s a lovely idea.

  9. Completely agree. Would be a very good marker for the summer and really bring great hope and some confidence to not only the squad but also the fans. They would be able to rally behind that and an FA Cup triumph.

    Plus it might entice others to join.

  10. It starts to become a bit embarrassing when Nasri is supporting AW more than our fans. He also confirms Arsenal never bought due to money problems.

    “The problem was the (new) stadium. They didn’t have the money to buy the players. Arsene is a straight guy. He can see into the future. He didn’t want to be penalised by Financial Fair Play so he wanted to stay by the rules and not living by debt. This year everything has been paid. He’s just paid €50m for Mesut Ozil. In the future, he will do it.’’

    “I am a big fan of Jose Mourinho. I like him when he goes into the press conference, the way he talks, but what he said about Arsene is really disrespectful. Arsenal is Arsene. He changed the club. You cannot call him ‘a specialist in failure’. Everyone needs to calm down, even the Arsenal fans because they are really mean with him. ‘In Arsene We Trust’. That’s what they said. They should do it.’’

  11. @poodle

    That is sad. I also read as part of that he was really hoping that we won the FA Cup because our club and Arsene deserved it. I get what he is saying with the whole “In Arsene We Trust”. He must have forgotten the part about NOBODY is bigger than the club.

  12. Jonny, interesting thought! Poldi has had a couple undistinguished chances up top, but a proper run there would have been interesting. What could have been done in the second half v. West Hams and Sunderlands would have been to rest Giroud for Poldi.

  13. I still don’t understand why Poldi can’t play there – it’s not as though he is unfamiliar with playing centrally – you;re right he didn’t do much when it was tried but I honestly don’t think we have seen a big enough sample-set to make any qualitative judgement or draw anything conclusive.

    That hapless berk Gerv was given waaay more rope and he patently lacked the most important skill but rare skill of a striker – finishing!

  14. Poodle, the regulars on here hardly ever abuse AW. Opinions range over whether a managerial change is needed and under what conditions. But if he gets the business done or the club does, we’ll be very supportive. It is only natural that discontent has built over the last 3 years when we lost Cesc, Nasri, RvP and Song without proper replacements while resources were growing. The club has just been too cautious and some great opportunities to progress when other teams were weaker were perhaps squandered due to that caution. I love AW and respect him thoroughly but I and everyone else want to see the resources of the club used aggressively and wisely to achieve greater success on the pitch and convincingly demonstrate that that is our priority. Behaviour over the last 3-4 years in particular has opened the possibility to question that as has the lack of clear committment to that from the top leadership and ownership.

    Wouldn’t we all be delighted to see AW win the league? Win the CL or at least do better than getti g knocked out each and every year at the first opportunity? Nothing would be more joyous to me as a supporter. I will be happy for Arsenal but still feel sad if a new manager comes in and uses these resources to win–the resources AW and the club sacrificed for several years between 2005-2011 in particular to create. But there have been several transfer windows where we have “kept our powder dry” or bungled some big decisions. Where is the urgency? It is urgent now–I hope this is felt at the club and we act successfully with a sense of urgency.

  15. @Jonny

    I tend to agree with you. Also I think that a proper run with this particular group of players would yield different results. Last season when he was given those 4 matches at the end of the season when Giroud went and got suspended, we were more focused on defending and the whole side was shit going forward to be honest. I think in a truer 433 with Theo on one flank and a proper winger on the other with all 3 players given freedom of movement he could score 20+ goals centrally. If we played the type of formation and style we played when RvCunt was here, he would have given us more.

  16. Wenger confirms to @beINSPORTS_EN he’s staying at #afc. The interviewer asked Wenger: Will you stay or will you go at the end of the season?

    Wenger replied: “Look, I’ve said that many times already, I’ve given my word to this club and I want to continue where I am.”

    Then after a long pause, Wenger added: “That means to stay”.

  17. @Jonny

    I will support the man but he as I have said, will be judged on results and this summer. I will take a “wait and see attitude” as I generally always do and hope and think that Arsene and Arsenal will look to strength with top top quality players that are better than the ones they are replacing in the side. Also, getting the best out of players like Ozil and Santi.

  18. Jonny, that sounds pretty clear. I’m happy with a couple more years but I am desperate to see urgency from the club. AW makes it sound like he is fulfilling an obligation but not necessarily excited by the opportunity. I really hope he goes out stron and celebrated for how his time with the club ended as he is for how it began. Time to really go for it AW. And Arsenal, give real support–get the deals done, give AW the go ahead to spend big and be clear that we are planning to win the league and improve the team to do so.

  19. By our nature football fans are always either more supportive or more damning of their players than the general public and the pundits. That is also true of their support of their manager. When the ground swell swings against the manager to the degree it has against Arsene they should be concerned at Board level. If the Arsenal website is happy to quote websites like ACLF and Arseblog they should also be reading what is said on these sites. The very obvious change of view on a site such as ACLF from largely Wenger supportive to largely anti-Wenger should surely send a message. If they don’t get it now they never will.

  20. Priorities.

    Central midfield is not one. Arteta and Flamini are good for one more season at very least. Kallstrom can also be considered on a permanent deal should one be unavailable from pre-season.

    Priorities :

    1) Ensure we have sufficient money to bid for a top striker. This may come down to end of window as it will be reliant on other clubs dealings. Therefore assuming a 70m budget, at least 35-40m may have to sit and wait.

    2) RB. Sagna is likely gone. Would prefer a solid choice who has premiership experience so we do not have an adjustment period and the possibility of reliance on Jenkinson or Bellerin. Thereby someone like Seamus Coleman preferable but Debucchy is also a possibility. Anywhere up to 15m IMO.

    3) GK. Great if Fabianski decides to stay but if he goes then maybe consider Viviano since he will have gone up in pecking order. Or someone like Julio Cesar. Should not go beyond 5m.

    4) CB. Emerging player preferably past 23 with suitable experience and coming into his best years. a bit of height too in lieu of per being absent. Possibly about 10m but complications in market with United and Chelsea likely in the hunt too (not to mention non premiership clubs)

    That’s 70m tied in. If we come in under (plus sales of Fabianski), maybe a bit extra to add somewhere-else. Possibly a couple of youth signings. Do not see Bender.

    Also if Podolski moves, likely we will have to prioritize left wing. Cabella, Grenier possibilities from slaes proceeds plus some. or Konoplyanka if his price cools off further (he isn’t in the world cup so it should not inflate)

    Possibly 4 players. Not sure how anyone can think of CDM replacement now. This can wait till next summer or January at very least. One possibility is the CBack coming in can take on a role as a CDM. Kayoute at Anderlecht does this (6’4). Should cost about 10m.


  21. My question now is “Is he the right man to build the next winning team?”
    I see a man who remains stubborn enough to think his way is the right way. I don’t think that is true any more because teams now have the ability to counter the tactics of a man who is not willing to adapt his game. We have been completely found out by the big boys, but what is more worrying is that mid table teams are able to stifle us as well. So can Wenger adapt? I do not believe so. In that case someone else should have the rebuild job.

  22. IF 4th and the FA consolation cup, not a shabby finish.

    Most supporters are spoilt with 16 seasons consecutive CL and take it for granted. Ask Everton and spurs if they’d trade? For the matter United.

    Liverpool are having a stellar season but they are uncomplicated by CL (for 3 seasons now)

    As a minimum finish, 4th is a very high standard.

    A lot of fans will bemoan the fact that we should have more ambition than that. Finishing minimum fourth does not mean we do not aim higher. Whether we have taken the right steps to ensure that is another issue and one not as clear cut as we are subject to market variables (and human error). but it has nothing to do with ambition of the club.

    Wenger’s success in his early tenure ensured a larger fan base and along with his frugality/acumen in the market, it ensured us the ability to build the stadium. The fans built the stadium yes but Wenger created the environment to make it happen.

    Unless he falls short of minimum standard, he will continue on helm

    Easy to say change the gaffer but who should come in? God forbid Martinez. that would be like Laudrup last season. there are candidates but are they available. not just anyone will do as well illustrated by recent events at United or Spurs efforts to achieve parity for a number of seasons now.

    …be careful for what you wish for.

  23. Sorry, hate the you were spoilt argument. It’s bollox. We made a decision, to move to a new ground and keep finances tight for a few seasons. Unfortunately the uber rich turned up soon afterwards. But we have resources now and we should be using them. With have players who can make a difference, but we insist on trying to play to a regimented tactical plan. It’s not working.

  24. Just noted the news about Tito. Very sad. He did seem like a very decent fellow. Very classy and acted with dignity despite being clawed by that thug Mourinho. Football will miss him.

  25. Do not discount the possibility to learn and improve even at Wenger’s age.

    Most fans make this mistaken assumption in favour of the latest toy from market when assessing players like Walcott and Ramsey (now applied to Jack and Sanogo)

    Ditto the gaffer.

    He is slow to change but he has made a shift.

    The incarnation of the current team is a concious effort away from his erroneous dependency on youth.

    What many in the press heralded as panic buys in Koscielny, Arteta, Metersecker was an effort o introduce experience throughout the ranks of the team.

    He is now in a position to add quality with Ozil albeit we should not get carried away and believe we are in Chelsea and City’s purchasing power bracket.

    His weakness is tactics. he isn’t a mug or in any way not innovative but he gets found out against the peer rivals.

    Part of the problem is because he adopts a hands off approach, setting the team up but believing it should be left to them to interperate and respond within a game.

    Unfortunately it does not work that way and the margins are now slim bc teams like City and Chelsea have eaten into our once monopoly on foreign players plus the league itself has shifted away from anti foreigners to having foreign managers with better tactics and players to boot even at Championship level.

    Against the better teams this season, he has gotten it wrong.

    I believe he went for defending higher up (as oppose to in depth against other teams) because he was (partially correct) fearful that these teams (Chelsea, City, Liverpool in particular) had the ability to hurt us if we invited them deep into our half.

    but the set up was wrong.

    first game I believe against City when we got pummeled, we had Flamini covering ahead of the defense where two would have covered the space better. We were porous because of this.

    Against chelsea recently, he put Chamberlain in the middle where a more positionally discipline player would have been better.

    Against Everton he did not put Chamberlain on to negate their threat (at very least) on the Right from Baines.

    His non interventionist ethos then meant the team were clueless as they struggled to make sense of the gaps and damage was long done before his customary intervention in the 70+minute mark.

    So can he adapt?

    It is a repeated offense and one wonders.

    But considering he has taken concrete steps (after painful lessons) to build a more stable defense (in concert with the more pragmatic Bould approach), it may not suggest he is totally intransingent.

    Where he can help himself of course is if he buys well this summer to reinforce and add value up top. Give us teeth to threaten which will make the opposition think twice about quick breaks or at very least make them pay. If he can do this (his strength is in market acumen), it may paper over his faults and afford him the extra edge.

    We have plenty of depth when the team is fully fit. Numbers are equal to City. The main short fall is up top where we are extremely light (see our GD this season). That is the litmus test. if he repeats last summer, we will be in for a repeat. If he doesn’t get distracted by the reinforcements we need at RB, GK and CB, gets the quality striker to add capability, he may put himself and us in good stead for another challenge for the big prize.

    Remember, Stoke, Swansea and Everton were all winnable games. That’s 8 points we dropped that could have brought us to striking distance with the current leaders. That’s probably the source of most frustration this season in that we were very close.

  26. Santori, your argument about Liverpool is contradictory: what is so good about mere participation in the CL if it prevents you winning the league? How about the obverse, what is so great about CL participation if the club doesn’t use the resources and prestige to recruit players of a caliber to win the league and challenge in the CL?

  27. CL

    We need to be in it cos it affords us ability to attract the best players if need be.

    Imagine if we were not in the league. You won’t see a queue to United unless they pay over (be it price or salary)

    Plus we were in the races this season even with Cl commitment. But the squad dropped 8 crucial points because of low confidence which could have counted. Stoke, Swansea and Everton were all winnable with right tactics and a bit more belief, even IMO with the depleted squad.

  28. And note, I am mildly in favor of AW continuing on a two year deal to build on the mild improvement of this season if we win a cup and make it to 4th on higher points than last season. That’s decent. Now go for more. The emphasis on the 4th place minimum has lowered our horizons. Where is the urgency to win these big competitions? Let’s see that this summer.

    I agree we can struggle on with current midfield for the first part of the season. But striker and replacements for departures have to be better than the departures in quality. Otherwise the club has to do what is necessary to retain those players. No departure for Vermaeken unless there is already a deal for someone better; same for Podolski.

  29. One player Santori. Poldi, Merts, Vermaelen, Giroud, Gervinho, and on and on would likely have come if Arsenal had finished 5th one season or two. The money would have to be a bit more but these players were good players any clubs quite less wealthy and inferior in sporting terms to Arsenal. I acknowledged Ozil as the ONE big player who has come recently for which CK was a clear requirement a few days ago in the comments. CL football alone also did not allow us to keep 4 of our best players: Cesc, Nasri, Song and RvP. Wages and failure to do more than 3rd 4th and round of 16 in CL proved more significant. Will mere CL football allow us to keep Ozil if next season is similar? I doubt it very seriously. Kos? He has already been grumbling last summer about winning and buying big players. Sagna is leaving likely for that reason as well. Santi just made similar comments. 4th perpetually and no impact on the CL simply will not forever be enough for top players once they have established themselves,

  30. I have also argued in favor of the importance here of finishing 4th to help us progress. But we cannot turn it into its own goal–it is merely an instrument for true success not an end itself.

  31. In the case of RVP & Cesc a lack of success (and the feeling it was not going to change) was said to have been a very significant factor. I’m one of the few who bears little malice towards RVP. He did not handle things well at the end but he wanted to win and wanted an idea it would have been possible.

    i wonder if he ever regrets it. On balance maybe only a little.

  32. I still have the problem that I don’t think he can adapt. He has shown on a number of occasions that he is bull-headed. If that meant he could stifle quality teams and put mid table teams to the sword I would be relaxed, but we demonstrate neither. So can AW change the way he sets the team out to play competitively against these teams? I have seen no evidence so far that he can adapt. Do we continue to take the risk or not? I feel the risk of taking on a new manager is now lower than the risk of keeping the current one.

  33. I don’t know if he can but, one way or the other, we are about to find out.

    It will prove to be an incredible achievement if he does – more than anything else I want him to try. Better by far to break the pattern, spend the money and see what follows – if it doesn’t work at least he will have given it his best shot.

    The alternative is to keep doing the same – but I think we have already tried that.

  34. Actually I am more than mildly happy. It is actually a bit of a relief because I don’t think the club is prepared for the succession and I’d be delighted for AW to have this chance to succeed with the maximum resources we now have. Ok, more needed to be done last summer but it was unfamiliar territory. We did a big deal for Ozil; maybe we can build in it. Let’s hang fire and hold it together for a little while longer.

  35. Yup I’m on the same page LSG – I have no idea if this optimism will last beyond the summer but I am powerless to but observe so might as well enjoy the ride.

    In other news – is it just me or did this season fucking fly by? I swear it only started yesterday.

  36. So Arsene stays.

    He gets my full support. But if we do the same thing we always do in the transfer window, i reserve the right to have a little moan 😉

    Other than, i have no hope he will change. I think he will do as he pleases because he always has and always will.

    Arsene has a rock solid belief in what he is trying to do at this football club, whether it is healthy for the club in moving forwards is up for debate, but i’m pretty sure he will see out his vision.

    It is a trait to be admired, let’s just hope the belief is not misguided.

    Alright then, let’s see how this all pans out.

  37. It really has flown by! And I agree completely Jonny. I want to see AW really try to win by using whatever is available now. It’s time to take the risk.

  38. Having a bit of a moan has to be a natural prerogative, the right, of any fan, Moe! That is more than fair!

Comments are closed.