Arsene on Hull, fans, the season & just about everything

Meeting the press this morning, Arsene wasn’t asked about the sad news of Alan Simpson dying. God knows why; he’d be an expert on the state of British sitcoms because Arsenal’s season is scripted in the finest traditions of Hancock’s Half-Hour.

He was, however, clear that the public pronouncements on his future were premature; he hadn’t changed his view since last week on whether he renews.

As ever, the obedient news hounds tried to play down the extent of the dissatisfaction at the moment. There is, I agree, an element of anger at the back-to-back defeats which ended the title change. Not so, said Arsène, because if it’s over for us, everyone else is in the same cart.

Not quite, say I. We’re twelve points behind Chelsea while others are three points better off. In a way, I admire his ability not to give in, publicly at least. But it comes with a fine line between belief and self-delusion. He knows that there is little chance of us winning the title and that others are holding on by a thread as well.

Tottenham revel in glorious failure, much to our mirth and amusement, but they are closer to the title than we are. Three points closer before you ask. I don’t think they are any better equipped to catch Chelsea than us, with the mental fragility of the past never far away from the surface.

As if Arsenal supporters should be talking about another squad’s mental fragility; we’re hardly shining lights in that department.

One-man band

Or we weren’t but now there’s been a team meeting, the players are rocking, ready to tear through the remaining domestic and European fixtures. That’s what they’d like us to believe anyway. If we win in Munich, I’ll believe it’s had a positive effect on the season. Beating Hull and Sutton? Do me a favour; we must win those matches anyway; victory is no sign of improved fortunes.

With nary a moment’s hesitation, the questions flew in and the answers focussed on publicly diminishing the dissent on display. Now, as with social media, there’s a danger that the club is becoming an echo chamber of the same thinking. This morning’s PR piece suggests that the club believes that a good run will change views. As I said earlier, I’d agree, but lectures from pundits give the dissent a firmer back. For god’s sake, even Diego Forlan offered a view on Arsenal.

Arseblog this morning takes the thinking of the pundit’s sofa to task over Hector Bellerin’s injury, and for once, I’m in agreement with the many who question the likes of Burley & Co who decide where and when we can air a view. In the absence of silverware, along with making out that the protests are a media construct – “don’t focus on the actions of one fan” – the club’s only card is fear of change. And that’s worn very thin now.

“What matters is not the opinion of people but how we respond,” Wenger observed. “This is a period where we have to stick together and focus,” and that’s exactly how the squad should react. Turning in the performances is the only way to show that they are over a damaging phase of the season and the next ten days is vital to that.

Hull Team News

Will there be a reaction or more complacency? We’ve got a big game next week, ready to distract in the same way that Chelsea apparently did against Watford. God knows how the world will react if we don’t win tomorrow.

Having a blank week in many respects, was the best thing for the squad. Clear the heads and let us tie ourselves in knots. Forlornly, I hope they’ve taken the time to work on ‘Plan B’ of using three centre-backs. They won’t but with Hector Bellerin facing a late fitness test, it ought to be high on the agenda.

Mohammed Elneny’s return is welcome, and his inclusion is almost inevitable, I think. Getting back into the groove and I suspect that he will be in the XI to face Bayern, as well as Granit Xhaka. I can see us going with a solid midfield trio, having learned in the past that going toe-to-toe with the Germans ends badly for us. Very badly.

I’m looking ahead so lambasting the players for doing the same is a tad hypocritical although I don’t get £100k per week for the privilege of being distracted…

’til Tomorrow.

49 thoughts on “Arsene on Hull, fans, the season & just about everything

  1. Victory against Hull is all that matters to be honest, worry about Bayern after that. Losing to Hull, and well there would be no hiding from the players or the manager. Elneny straight back into the team for me and I don’t care if its for Ox or Le Coq but we need somebody that is capable of handling the high pressing that seems to be the new way to stop Arsenal without Santi in the team.

    The title, well I still think we have a shot but that’s because I think anything is possible; shame the players and the manager…

  2. O yea, and Joe Hart, I would rather have Emiliano Martinez or a novel concept since he is already on the book, Sir Sczcney! But Joe Hart, fuck no

  3. The other talking point as far as I’m concerned is Arsene talking about the supporters and staying united and behind the team and expectations and all. My problem with that is that he compares it to the expectations at Citeh, Manure, Chelsea, Liverpool and Spuds yes I actually don’t think that he should mention them when you consider that Citeh pushed our both Mancini and Pellegrini on the backs of lifting the PL, Chelsea pushed out managers who won the Europa and CL with aging players and won the PL, Liverpool sacked Rogers only the year after a year or two competing for the PL title, and Spuds (as nauseating as it makes me feel to say this) were more of a challenger the last season and even now to the PL title and if not for them self imploding in the last what 4 matches last season would have pushed the PL title to the end.

    The thing is and seems that every supporter and most pundits know it is that the split isn’t about supporting the team, its the support for Arsenal FC and Arsene FC.

  4. Arse log is spot on.

    Pundits just don’t seem to know the rules. Add that their interpretation of them seems to vary with the players concerned and we have a problem for future generations.

  5. Good stuff Yogi

    Not much going on today. I think we have said everything that can be said about the Chelsea game. Now its just a matter of picking ourselves up and finishing top 4 and may be a deep run or even another in the FA cup. The best thing Arsene could do for the club right now is he if really thinks he might retire would be to just announce it as soon as possible so the fans could all get behind Arsene and send him the love he deserves for everything positive that he has done and also hopefully to send out the gaffer with one last FA cup. More importantly it would allow the board to start planning for the future. Right now everything is in limbo and there is no one on the current board that has ever been involved in the search for a new manager. They might also need a director of football which is another big decision that no one at the club has been faced with before. If there is any realistic chance that something like that might happen then the board needs as much time as it can get.

  6. I know its not transfer season yet but I really think that Belotti should be a player that we bring in the summer. I wish Big Al was around (maybe he is lurking in the shadows) because I watches as much if not more Serie A as I do and I would love to know what he thought.

  7. Afternoon,

    Following up on C’s last comment on yesterday’s post, Fat Sam wanted Jenks as well and openly talked about him coming on board. I’m guessing it’s not so much the difference in salary of the two players, more how the offers were compared to their previous salaries. Not convinced that Jenks is one to argue that someone gets more than him, but could see him being hacked off if he was being asked to take a cut when others aren’t.
    AW cleverly makes it all about one fan in his press conference. Easier to dismiss it as a minor issue rather than genuine unrest amongst fans. The home fans keep feeding the flames by forking out the cash every season, no matter what the outcome is. There is no entitlement to win things, but there should be an expectation that the club wants to win.

  8. Good afternoon, one and all, and especially, Yogi, and another classy Post.

    I saw a little bit of an AW presser, and apart from him looking very sad and frustrated he said something that chimed with my own growing suspicions about who is responsible for whether or not we buy or do not buy players — and it flew in the face of the widely held belief that AW controls everything at Arsenal.

    For anyone who has had anything to do with a large company, that view was always entirely suspect, but once aired these things become ‘fact’ rather than fiction.
    What I am referring to was the question posed by a journalist as to why we had not bought Kanté.
    “We did try for him, but we cannot go into details of every transfer” responded the Boss.
    Not to be shaken off, the journo said, “you did not get him – was that because of the money?” and again AW referred to the need not to give all the details, but rather dejectedly added “well, Chelsea became involved” and shrugged.

    Arsenal have a gentleman named Dick Laws, a legal eagle, who has been charged with negotiating and overseeing all the transfer activities. This has been necessary since the days when Gorgeous George allegedly was a bit naughty, and after his services were dispensed with, the Board ensured no manager in the future would ever again control negotiations or the purse strings.

    But still the perceived truth from the fans’ perspective is that Wenger has the key to the big black box with all the transfer cash in it — and refuses to pay the ‘market rate’ for wanted players.
    Wenger never denies or confirms this, so he must be guilty. Ain’t he?
    However, one look at his disappointed vizog showed how wrong that was.
    He clearly, desperately wanted Kanté and no doubt others too in the past, but the bean-counters valuations did not square up to what was being asked by Leics for the player — and worse from Wenger’s viewpoint – he carried the can – and the Chavs had no problem paying up.

    I have not changed my mind that it would be in everyone’s interest if Arsene if Arsene chose to retire, or move on, but I hate to be seen as party to the ridiculous and often vicious witch hunt that has been going on for some time.

    There are issues that AW has been responsible for, and many of these have been explored on here, but being tight with the transfer cash is not one of them, and it is pernicious of the Board to hang him out to dry, but saying nothing about the real facts, while robbing the manager of the players he feels he needs to win the EPL, while allowing the League leaders to go out and reinforce their team in the drive for the title.

    [For the record: I have no inside information on the above, but then 99.9% of the ‘facts’ expounded on all blogsites is unsourced – so I am in good company.] 😀

  9. I know Arsene said everybody is fit but I have seen a couple reports now that say Le Coq may miss due to him nursing a hamstring problem.

  10. Well, you may be right, Henry, but his demeanour could just as easily be put down to something else.

    He has said much the same before about that transfer except that he seemed to imply that any player would choose Chelsea over us.

    None of us know the actual situation of course!

  11. Henry

    As Cbob points out, none of us know what really happens. However, we spent as much or more for Xhaka then Chelsea spent for Kante. There is no one else in our entire organization who knows anything about football and its totally implausible to believe that someone in our organization would tell Arsene one player is better then another and set values for individual players. It makes no sense to think the bean counters would veto Kante if Arsene really wanted him and then OK spending as much or more money for Xhaka.

  12. Bill,

    You amaze me with some of the misinformed stuff you trot out – but your 4:37 takes the biscuit.

    Every single club in MLB uses basic statistics to calculate the ‘value over replacement player’ or VORP. I do not intend to explain anymore than to say that there is a codified method of valuing a player and then comparing him with average data sets and comparing them with possible replacements. Why do you not know this?

    The same type of system, and there are many of them, is used in other sports and not least football (soccer) to use scientific analysis to calculate the value/cost of players.

    Arsenal have used an American company specialising in computerised data collected about every single professional player in the UK and Europe for this purpose. They were so impressed that they have now bought out that company for their own uses — shortly after Kroenke/Dick laws appeared on the scene.

    Every single EPL club uses similar data to evaluate players and to work out what they would be prepared to pay if any of them became available, and of course within their own budget restrictions.

    Go and look it up before you start spouting nonsense.

    My point was nothing to do with anyone ‘forcing’ Wenger to buy or not buy player x ,or player y, that is just you going off at a tangent – again.
    I made it clear that once Wenger names players he would like, the Club personnel go away and check their data on player x, or player y and arrive at a price they are prepared to pay.
    The calculation has nothing to do with Wenger — that is handled by Laws. If he finds the player assessment indicates that Arsenal could bid up to £xx for that player, but the selling club want £xx + another £yy, then Arsene can do nothing about the Club’s processes refusing to spend over that valuation of £xx.
    Arsenal will then look at player y, and go through the same process, and if what the system calculates is the value/cost of that player, which is also the selling price of the other club for player y – then Laws goes ahead and buys him.
    In the case of Kante it is probable that the system calculated his value cost protocol – but Leics accepted the offer from spendthrift Chelsea, who may have said – ‘yeah, we’ll buy him — Mr Abramovich? he don’t care’.

    It is not only EPL clubs that have these systems, but all the major European clubs too.

    Again, how can you nor know that?

    Bored now!

  13. Incidentally, Bill, there was no need to tell me that no one knows what actually goes on in the management of football clubs, and if you ever bothered to read and understand my comments properly – and I suspect you don’t – you will find I had put an addendum to that effect in the final sentence.

    [For the record: I have no inside information on the above, but then 99.9% of the ‘facts’ expounded on all blogsites is unsourced – so I am in good company.]


  14. Henry @ 5:50

    I am the one confused this time. You attached that addendum to the end of your first post but then your post at 5:43 describes in very specific detail how this computer system works and you also describe in specific detail how the final decisions are made and you state that Dick Law would not let Arsene go above the computers valuation. You can’t have it both ways

    In every interview I have ever read or heard about starting with Peter Hill-Wood, Sir Chips, Ivan and even Arsene himself has almost always stated that Arsene is the decision maker and the board would find the money if he wanted to buy a player. Why would Arsene say that if it was not true? I certainly did not know about this computer system and I would not be surprised if the data it provides is part of the decision making process but I am highly skeptical that the computer and Dick Law are making any final decisions. I am not suggesting that Arsene could go out and spend $50M on a player that was rated as $10M value by the computer because the economist in Arsene would never let him do that. However, without knowing for certain I suspect that within reason Arsene would overrule the computer for a player he really wants. Everything that I have ever heard or read says Arsene is one who has been making final decisions.

  15. Based on what we have seen so far this season, if the computer said the Xhaka is worth more then Kante then the I would suggest that the computer needs to be reprogrammed and if we are making decisions like this based completely on computer generated valuation then we are making a mistake.


    You mentioned that Kante is the “link player” at Chelsea but he does not have a single assist this season. I realize that stats can be misleading but if he is really the one who consistently moves the ball to the attacking players then you would expect that at least a couple of his passes would have lead directly to a counter attack that scored a goal and he should have at least a couple of assists this season. No?

  16. It is pointless going on, Bill, seriously.

    Here’s a tip:
    Billy Bean: MLB : Moneyball

    And her’s another (longer) one:

    When the Athletics ownership group agreed to purchase the reincarnation of the San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer, Beane, who has expressed a passion for soccer, began developing a system for objectively analyzing soccer players. He has agreed to help the Earthquakes front office develop a method for building a cost-effective team, as the salary cap in MLS is even more restrictive than the Athletics status as a small-market team in Major League Baseball.

    Beane has claimed that Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger is a personal idol. His friendship with ex-Arsenal scout Damien Comolli and Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke allowed him to delve deep into the world of English football.

    Software industry:

    On January 4, 2007, the software company NetSuite named Beane to its board of directors. NetSuite co-founder Evan Goldberg cited Beane’s ability to combine facts with instinct as an important factor in the decision to involve him in the company

    Check this out:

    [Gazidis] had a seven-figure signing he did want to promote [at the Arsenal AGM in 2014] .
    It is one that strikes a fundamental chord with him and the Arsenal majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke, even if there continues to be a hush-hush quality that underpins the purchase.

    Arsenal bought StatDNA, the US-based football data analytics company with a massive workforce in east Asia, for £2.165m in December 2012 but, for the second successive AGM, Gazidis did not mention them by their name. Instead, he referred to AOH-USA LLC, which is how the limited liability company was registered in the States. AOH stands for Arsenal Overseas Holdings. Arsenal are reluctant to divulge anything about StatDNA’s methods but it is clear that Gazidis believes their means represent the club’s secret weapon.

    “The company is an expert in the field of sports data performance analysis, which is a rapidly developing area and one that I, and others, believe will be critical to Arsenal’s competitive position,” Gazidis said. “The insights produced by the company are widely used across our football operations – in scouting and talent identification, in game preparation, in post-match analysis and in gaining tactical insights.”

    Even you cannot claim to be confused now – surely?

    [I will not comment further on this.]

  17. Henry & Bill, wasn’t it that bloke Rumsfeld who said, and confused everyone, there are things we know and things we don’t know. There are things we know we don’t know and there are things we don’t know we don’t know.

    I think the two of you need to know what you don’t know, but I don’t know how you are going to know what you don’t know until your know it.

    In the meantime, keep up the dialogue, it keeps the rest of us amused. At least I know that I know that it keeps me amused.

    Confused? So am I!

    5.30 am wake up call in the morning, heading for Cape Town.

    So good night children, everywhere!

  18. Bill,

    Not necessarily at all. He is the link between defence and attack, you see how Chelsea play, be gives the attackers the ball and they go and move and create. He isn’t there to set up attacks, he’s there as their link player, being the man that makes sure the CB’s don’t have to try and pick an attacker out and the attackers don’t have to drop deep. He sits and does his job, no need to join in the attack. He dominated our midfield they scored 3 goals and he was brilliant at linking play, does he need an assist, nope.

  19. Ps, whatever happened to the bloke in the raincoat actually watching some kid play football and deciding he was a prospect worth pursuing. I think they were called scouts.

    One other thing, two FA Cups in ten years and not a sniff at the Premiership or Champions League, doesn’t say much for the recruiting practices of the club and it’s accountant driven system.

    Sounds like a right load of old hogwash to me!

  20. C

    Fair enough. If he really is doing the linking then he will have made literally hundreds of critical passes to the forwards this season. Even for the best counter attacking team most of the attacks will fizzle out and most of the time when a goal is scored it will be 1 -2 passes later. However, and it seems logical to believe that at least a couple of those critical passes that he has made would have led directly to the player receiving that pass scoring a goal and I would think he would have at a few assists this season.

  21. Henry

    I fully accept your idea of a computer driven system and I suspect it is 1 data point in the evaluation process. However, to suggest that it is the main decision maker and the final arbiter and over rules the manager with regard to a decision of what is the fair value for a player is a bit of a stretch.

    If the computer is critical in pregame preparation and post game analysis then I guess the computer and not Arsene might be the real problem with regard to substitution patterns and the under utilization of players like Perez and the continued dependence on players like Ramsey that some of us complain about endlessly.

  22. C

    Victor Moses has 3 league assists. Even more surprising is Matic has 6 league assists which is the most of any of Chelsea’s regular starters. Again stats can be misleading but none of those stats really makes much sense if Kante is really the one who is moving the ball forward and linking the play between the defense and the forwards. No?

  23. Interesting stat

    Cesc Fabregas has played 526 league minutes and has 6 league assists
    Mesut Ozil have played 1776 league minutes and has 4 league assists.

    Chelsea and Arsenal have scored basically the same number of league goals this season so the difference is not related to how well the goal scorers have played.

    I am not sure how to interpret the meaning of that stat but the assist seems like its the would be the single best stat to evaluate how effective a #10 has been with regard to helping his team to score goals.

  24. Henry-

    Really, really interesting conjecture there.

    There have long been rumors circulating regarding the Dick Law’s dark influence behind the scenes.

    Not only the withholding of transfer funds, a source has confirmed Dick Law also withholds tactics.

    In fact if one looks carefully along the sideline of the Emirates past the Arsenal dugout there is a slight rise in pitch level, a sort of grassy knoll.. .

  25. Bill,


    You are right after all — I knew it was that bloody computer-bot all along.

    I suppose the give away was that the tactics were always based on 1 and 2.

    1:2 1:2 1 1. ?

  26. Bill,

    Kante isn’t the one playing the through balls or even creating the chances, he is the player that moves the ball quickly from defenders and Chelsea defending to their attacking players sitting on the halfway line to then attack and thats exactly what Santi or a link player does. You talk about Chelsea playing at pace and that only happens if the transition from defense /defenders to attack/attacking players is quick and not stagnate. Watch the Chelsea against us, Kante was either winning the ball and quickly moving it ahead to let Hazard/Pedro/Costa do their thing or quickly picking it up from defense and giving it to said players.

    Moses is a winger who regularly joins in the attack. Matic sits deep and plays those balls over the top that Costa flourishes running on to. Its why I want Xhaka and Elneny because they can perform the same function in the exact same manner. Xhaka’s balls over the top or to the flanks is generally spot on and Elneny links in between of Ozil/Sanchez and the defense/defenders

  27. Henry


    We only have 30 total comments today so it was an interesting theory and gave us something to talk about on an otherwise slow news day.

  28. Bill,

    Cesc tends to come on late and we all know the quality and connection he has with Costa and Hazard so he plays primarily on the counter in the role that Conte let Pirlo play.

  29. Well, Henry, I am disappointed at being so ignored, am I nothing to you?

    After all, Bill was only agreeing with me yet he is the subject of your ire.

    I am distraught.

  30. HenryB:

    However, one look at his disappointed vizog showed how wrong that was.
    He clearly, desperately wanted Kanté and no doubt others too in the past, but the bean-counters valuations did not square up to what was being asked by Leics for the player — and worse from Wenger’s viewpoint – he carried the can – and the Chavs had no problem paying up.
    ……it is pernicious of the Board to hang him out to dry, but saying nothing about the real facts, while robbing the manager of the players he feels he needs to win the EPL, while allowing the League leaders to go out and reinforce their team in the drive for the title.

    So I’m led to wonder why Wenger is so accepting of this? If players he has targeted are being rejected by the club, why is he willing to stick it out? Why does a manager who has shown himself to have specific views as to how his team should play football allow his hands to be tied when it comes to bringing in the players he wants?
    The only reason I can think of is the £8m+ the club pays him.

  31. C

    I have to admit that I am skeptical that Kante could be the player who is the single most important player moving the ball forward and consistently passing the ball to the attacking players but he still has not recorded a single assist this season, but that is just me. My own theory is that Kante is an important part of the midfield whose job it is to win the ball back and then whomever gets the ball moves it forward as quickly as possible. The statistics certainly argue against the idea of one critical link player.

  32. Henry

    Arsene has said many times that he has received offers which included a pay raise and more transfer money to spend to move to a different club. I don’t know for sure but its always been my theory that he would not have stayed with Arsenal if he had not been given the freedom to run the club the way he wants.

  33. “” Wenger observed. “This is a period where we have to stick together and focus,” and that’s exactly how the squad should react. Turning in the performances is the only way to show that they are over a damaging phase of the season and the next ten days is vital to that.”

    The usual yearly BS from Mr. Wenger, I doubt he even believes himself when he says this stuff. Stick together, Be Nice, Don’t criticize us, we need the support…..And Blah, Blah, Blah.

    I heard it somewhere and now I agree, Wenger was done when he stated that finishing 4th is like winning the title. So why would any one bother? We fuck around all season, then have a good run at the end to finish 4th and it’s as good as winning the title……

    This has Mediocre written all over it Wenger.

  34. @Wavey,
    Surely this whole business of not signing Kante resulted from Arsenal simply not being able to compete with Chelsea in a bidding war.
    While the Kroenke pair are in financial control at the Ems, this will never change.
    In the future, some wealthy soul with too much money but interested in the sport of football, might become the Supremo of Arsenal FC and start spending money willy nilly in order to buy success.
    Someone like Abramovitch at Chelsea.
    But do we want this? 😉

  35. C

    You won’t even accept the possibility that your original theory regarding Kante’s role as the critical link player was a bit over zealous and then you saw what you expected to see when you watched them play, or the possibility that may be the huge drop off in the number or assists might indicate that Ozil has not played as well as you think for the last 12 months?

  36. Regarding Kante and the idea we were in for him ( and a hundred others) until Chelsea got involved – why is this treated as if fact?

    How about Kante preferred the idea of joining Chelsea and Conte and wasn’t thrilled about playing for Wenger? Phillipe Auclair ( journalist and Arsenal fan) on the Football Weekely podcast couldn’t help himself from saying Kante would be a lesser player if he had moved to Arsenal.

    If half of the Arsenal fan base question Wenger at this point, wouldn’t some players (particularly as they hear directly about AFC inner workings) question the wisdom of joining Arsenal under Wenger?

    Its absurd to think everyone is enamored of Wenger, let alone Arsenal.

  37. nicky,

    If it’s what the other clubs are doing, yes. The idea that rich owners come in and throw money at a club then walk away when they get bored doesn’t seem to pan out at the top clubs. The rich owners are less concerned about profits and more interested in success. The businessmen who have come in are the ones more interested in profit and we are seeing that profit and success on the pitch don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

    And the idea that we can’t compete with Chelsea on a individual players is a nonsense.

    The point wasn’t really about Kante either, it was questioning why Wenger would stay at the club if he denied players he has targeted. I was following up on Henry’s post.

  38. Social media is going crazy over Wenger’s press briefing. He indicated that Arsenal fans should get behind the team like Spurs fans do.

    Arsenal fans are behind the team, not the manager. They are not the same thing. Implying that Arsenal fans should be like Spurs fans is probably the most ridiculous thing an Arsenal manager can do, especially one who has been in charge of the club for so long. Does he still not know what Arsenal fans think of Spurs?

  39. @Wavey,
    Re your 7.04, the issue of rich owners spending money on success and then walking away was never mentioned.
    And it is well established that Arsenal cannot compete in a bidding war with teams like Chelsea and Man City.
    And your 7.12 is somewhat naïve if you consider that Arsenal fans are behind the team. They ARE if we are doing well but woe betide if we lose a few games. And some of the fickle Ems crowd are noted for taking a dislike for certain players over the years and letting it show.

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