Defensive Lessons & Money – Another Arsenal Thursday

£25m. That’s roughly the difference between the cost of the Juventus XI last night and Arsenal’s best XI. That includes the £75m spent on Gonzalo Higuain.

£25m is marginal in these days of grotesque football wealth.

But that’s not the point. Barcelona’s starting line-up probably cost more than Juve’s, which just goes to show that money isn’t everything in football.

The Italians blew Barcelona away in Turin, keeping a clean sheet thanks to Buffon’s fine save from Iniesta. Last night, La Vecchia Signora were disciplined and tactically astute. Barcelona enjoyed plenty of possession but were forced wide or to shoot from distance, most of which finished high and wide.

That’s discipline; it’s belief in the manager and his work. It’s everything we are not.

We used to be. Now, we prefer the aesthetic; the perfect goal giving us the perfect win. Above all else, we must win trophies the right way or not at all. Thank god for the FA Cup.

Look at the 2006 Champions League run. The record for consecutive clean sheets and longest run without conceding still stand a decade on. When Arsenal set records, they are built to last. But that was a side which was disciplined defensively, a platform which allowed a flourishing attack.

Not any more. The cut and thrust of Europe is beyond him. The freakish hold over us Bayern Munich isn’t the point; I genuinely cannot see us going to any of the elite clubs and keeping clean sheets. A decade ago, Juventus and Real Madrid couldn’t score against us in four matches. Arsène will never return to those days; it’s the antithesis of the man now.

You Can’t Do Nothing Unless It’s In The Pocket

Oh, and if you thought Stan Kroenke couldn’t get more reprehensible, according to the Independent he donated $1m to Donald Trump’s Inauguration Fund in January.

Movers and shakers, greasing the palms of the powerful in an open display of seeking power and influence. A morally bankrupt and thoroughly vile man. I can’t print what I think of Trump though; it’s a family blog.

Pretty Green

Is there some sort of season ticket deadline approaching?

Agent Cross has been recalled to the PR department, along with covert operatives at The Heil, who claim Arsène is about to (a) change his mind on 3-4-3, with (b) Virgil Van Dijk a summer target, and Arsenal are ready to go toe-to-toe with Chelsea to get him. We’ve found our WAR CHEST people!

It’s a shame we’ve got Dick Van Dyke as a defensive coach.

Hmmmm. The same manager who mocked his CEO about being a “catalyst for change” yet we’re expected to believe that he has changed his footballing beliefs after 90 minutes against the Premier League’s most lacklustre attack, who scored against us?

Elsewhere, there are two new additions to the ‘almost signed’ XI this week, with claims that the French media ‘knew’ Arsène was “offered” N’Golo Kante and Thomas Lamar in a combined €15m deal when they were at Caen together two years ago.

Arsenal’s transfer team didn’t take the interest any further because they had some top notch Spice and were in a catatonic state in Meeting Room 4 at Highbury House.

You may think me cynical but the timing of these two ‘stories’ is awfully convenient.

Look, it’s a slow news day. The FA Cup semi-final is this weekend; the dreary Premier League form is pushed to one side for ninety minutes, where we can dare to believe. Or a penalty shootout that we watch from behind our fingers.

Forget the claims about the season ticket holders revolting by not taking their allocation. Tickets went to red member for Wigan in 2014 as well, and that was our first semi-final in what, six or seven years? Perhaps we’re due a shaft of light in these dark times.

’til Tomorrow.

43 thoughts on “Defensive Lessons & Money – Another Arsenal Thursday

  1. Morning sir. Yep, completely agree that Europe’s elite would all pound us. Looking at the quarter finalists, I’m not sure I’d bank on us beating any over two legs. I include Leicester in that

    Also worth nothing the Barca players looked distraught to go out last night. Compare and contrast with our lot that would swap shirts, applaud the away fans with a cheery face before trotting off down the tunnel

    In that 2006 run my stand out memory is Real absolutely battering the door down looking for a goal and Lehmans finger tip nudge on a long range effort. I think from Carlos? When you see it in real time you don’t see it, but it’s there. The tiniest of touches to keep us alive. Thrilling days!

  2. Arsene shown up by the club where he made his name, they seemed to have moved rather further forward without him, meanwhile we are stuck with him. He isn’t doing a bad job, he’s doing a really really really really bad job. Jokes on the owners if they renew this garbage, nothing will change and the image of Arsenal as well as its ability to make money will be severely damaged next year. Bring it on, feel nothing for any of them anymore far too many lies far too much greed ! I hope he feels like a total loser this morning, Monaco can win with youth, we cost a little less than Juventus and we are in reality as threatening to either team as Aab. Losers all over the club but most of all setting the pace at the top! Please Pep pull yourself together and rip us apart, i’d like a five goal deficit please, leave them all weeping on the canvas. 1.2.3 Club of total losers !

  3. Lehmann, Eboue, Toure, Senderos, Flamini, Hleb (Bergkamp 86), Silva, Fabregas, Reyes (Pires 68), Henry, Ljungberg.

    that was the lineup for that game. i’d rather have most of them even now, says it all. there were some men in that team, now we have a bunch of little girls. in 11 years we have gone backwards significantly, how can they seriously give this munt a new contract ? terrible business.

  4. we dont look distraught as we have no expectation of winning, a mentality wenger has worked hard to instill in the club…..the sword came down the moment he claimed fourth place was a trophy, terrible psychology, chairman should have kicked him out at that moment. we will never recover until he has long gone, that’s the reality. hugely damaging period this has been for the club

  5. What’s that saying that goes something like “if you pray for a buffalo, you better have a big back garden as it comes with a lot of shit” never more true when reading some comments on here yogi.

  6. Bufallo,

    When you look at that back five, okay they had gilberto in front of them, but really…..

    You wouldn’t pick it to set a defensive record in the CL, would you?

  7. no Damon you wouldn’t but dont think i was claiming that, just making the point i’d take a lot of those players over the ones we have now and i cant see where the progression is. flamini was immense at lb as it happened but that was by accident and not design. the real point is that in those days there was an entirely different attitude at the club where winning was the expectation.

    stringer……buffalos, dreams and back gardens….and you talk about reading shit ?! the irony. drop the st it suits you better.

  8. Bufallo,

    Absolutely the attitude was the difference we went into most games believing we would win, now we go into games scared that we are going to get bullied.

  9. You think the Clintons are nice people? But then I suppose anyone who calls it the heil is obviously a Guardian reader and you cannot get more extreme left than that appalling paper.
    Football is football and we do not need one’s own politics, whether left or right to be included within blogs, let’s just stick to the point and stick your political views elsewhere.
    Your usual comments on Arsenal are first rate and a joy to read and we are, without doubt heading for a period that we have not seen since 1954-1967. During that period, 1959-1967 was the only time that Tottenham were a bigger team than Arsenal. I fear history is about to repeat itself.

  10. So, there’s this Italian chap in his 40s called Allegri. He’s taken Antonio Conte’s Juve team and adapted the tactics to make it slightly more possession-based football and less of a defensive mindset. In the process he wins five domestic trophies and reaches the final (2014/15) and semi-final, at least, of this years Champions League. His team even managed to keep arguably the best strike force in European, if not world football, of MS&N from scoring over 180 minutes. Sounds like a breath of fresh air to me.

    And according to reports in the press he has been connected to Arsenal. Just like Pep and Klopp were.

    So he will be at Barcelona next year then….or worse still, at the Spuds if Pocchetino goes to Barcelona/elsewhere.

  11. Stringer,

    To stringer
    I would not have replied to your comments at any other time.
    However AKB’s like you surely have already landed the team in a pile of shit, you can’t even realise it is shit, thinking it is nectar from Arsene’s a**.

  12. Steve,

    “…obviously a Guardian reader and you cannot get more extreme left than that appalling paper…”

    Really. Spectacular grasp of politics there.

  13. Stu,

    Could you imagine if Allegri went to Barca? Honestly he would strengthen them defensively in the back and move forward with Umtiti /Pique partnership and midfield pivots of Busquets and Gomes which would essentially give those front 3 no tracking back responsibilities similar to the way Dybala, Higuain and Cuadrado but allow them to press higher up the pitch.

  14. Good day folks.

    I’ve just been clearing a few items from the loft, I came across a box of old programs, on top was one for the Arsenal v Everton game, 3pm Saturday 1st January 1972.

    The front cover features The legend…Football League Champions…FA Cup Holders. And four photographs. The First Division Champions Trophy and the FA Cup. A photo of Ray Kennedy heading the winner against Tottenham, and Charlie George scoring the winner against Liverpool at Wembley.

    Inside is a panel headed Arsenal Football Club Limited and listing the Board of Directors.

    D.J.C. Hill-Wood, Esq, M.C. Chairman.

    Sir Guy Bracewell-Smith, Bt., M.B.E., M.A.

    Sir Robert Bellinger, G.B.E., D.S.C.

    S.C. McIntyre, Esq., M.B.E., F.C.I.S.

    P.D.Hill-Wood, Esq.

    The Rev. N.F. Bone, T.D.

    Followed by Secretary W.R. Wall. Manager B. Mee. (Note no Esqs. for the employees).

    On that day we were eighth in the league, behind T…….m H…..r. on goal difference and eight points behind leaders M……..r U….d.

    Great nostalgia, and only 5p a copy.

  15. C,

    Absolutely C. I’m sure the hierachy at Barcelona will be looking to address their modest short-comings, especially with a QF exit of the Champions League. If Real win the CL, that will only make their determination greater. But clubs such as Barcelona take decisive action to keep the team at the forefront of domestic and European football. Exactly what you would hope the club management would do.

    Unlike Stan or Ivan.

  16. Steve,

    Ever heard of the Socialist Worker?? Lol.

    The ‘heil’ tag is perfectly justified. This is an organisation that supported Fascism and spoke with admiration of Hitler and Mussolini (owner Lord Rothermere congratulated Hitler on his annexation of Czechoslovakia). As far as I am aware the Guardian has never openly supported a dictator.

    Of course if you welcome tax cuts for the wealthy and cheer on the opening of food banks for the lazy oiks then then Guardian probably isn’t for you.

  17. Stu,

    Exactly and with the already announced departure of Enrique (you paying attention Arsene), they have already taken steps to not only find a managerial replacement but seem to already be putting working on coming and goings when it comes to players. The interesting thing with Barca is that since Cruyff was the manager, they haven’t had anybody without the “Barca” DNA leading them which, while I could see Allegri going there as a “outlier”, I at all wouldn’t be surprised to see Koeman take the reigns as he has previously spoken very fondly of the job and we all know how good of a manager he is.

  18. ‘He has seen a specialist. We think it’s a very simple fracture that doesn’t need surgery. Hopefully he will be back in July for normal training.
    ‘I think it’s a very simple fracture of the fibula.We need patience, but hopefully it all goes well.

    so Jack W will be out until 2020 then. There can only be one reason for extending his contract and that is in the small hope that somebody will pay a mad or indeed any transfer fee for him when he finally returns from yet another injury. I have sympathy for him but his career at Arsenal should be over. Player gets loaned out to Bournemouth at the age of 25…can hardly see much upside in his Arsenal career from here.

  19. C,

    Koeman is a great call for Barcelona and to keep that “homegrown” ethos. Now if only we had ex-players who went on to be involved in successfully running and coaching clubs, cutting their teeth somewhere before returning to the fold…..Oh look, Overmars is Director of Football at Ajax, Bergkamp – Asst Manager at Ajax, Viera – Head coach at New York….if only!

  20. Stu,

    Yup, but the difference is their at Barca they welcome back players and their views, hmmmm can’t be said about the current Arsenal regime.

  21. C,

    Funny that isn’t it? I didn’t think Arsene would be inclined be the way he is, but he really does show them the door and not welcome them back. Other than bringing the prodigal son Thierry and having Bould’s mute doppleganger as a bench-warming coach, he really has closed the door behind others. I still cannot fathom why he didn’t take the option on Cesc; I appreciate some fans are fickle, but we all knew Cesc wanted to go back to Barca and when it didn’t work out he would have been an upgrade on a number of our players.

    The man is pig-headed.

  22. “You think the Clintons are nice people? ”

    Who gives a rat’s a#s how nice or not your world leaders are. What are you, a lonely teenager looking for a friend to have a chat with?

    I’m more interested in their policies, some of which might make it more difficult to breathe air- you now, that thing we humans can’t live without.
    Let’s bring back the coal and lower emission standards on cars , like Trump has just done. Dismantle the EPA and give it a go ahead for use of deadly pesticides by big Agra , among many other ridiculous policy changes.

    But hey, at least we won’t have to deal with the “nasty “Clintons for the next four years.

  23. Stu,

    The strange thing is, he doesn’t bring them back when they are exactly the type of backroom leaders that we need. I mean it would be great to have some of the defensive players back to help with our defenders and getting them organized and working as a unit again. He really does show them the door which is a shame given how many have talked about wanting to come back. Pires works with the team as he is constantly shown in training pictures, but maybe because all too often he shares the views and doesn’t speak out against Arsene like so many others have.

  24. C,

    If we had a competent manager who understood the importance of defending we wouldn’t need ex-players to provide the assistance Wenger so obviously needs.

  25. Ken,

    For our information Ken I would be happier if Wenger left. Try not to be so polarised and make assumptions that anyone not agreeing with shit is akb

  26. C,

    Yep, it’s a funny one isn’t it. Martin Keown alluded to a similar thing on the radio a few weeks ago about the lack of leadership at the back. While he didn’t go as far as say he would like to be involved, his passion and carefully chosen words gave a fair indication that he would probably say yes if he got the call.

    I forgot about Pires’ involvement. Always thought he was hanging around for photo-shoots and to keep fit, but if he is coaching then great. Although he could do with helping our wide players to cross and for Giroud to hit the target more often. Indicative of Arsene though isnt it; willing to have attack minded coaches, while letting the defence go to pot.

  27. Stu,

    It’s all very well to sit in a studio and talk, but to actually pass on ideas and tactics is another thing. Keown was a fine defender, but would he make an effective coach?

  28. Orson Kaert,

    Keown couldn’t do any worse than Bould is doing/allowed to be doing at the moment.

    Anyway guys, it’s been good chewing the fat today but I have an appointment with 20 plus miles of Devon tarmac to keep now.

    Cheers!

  29. YW,

    Arsenal 2006/07.

    Final position 4th.
    League Cup, beaten finalists, by Chelsea.
    FA Cup, knocked out by Blackburn Rovers.
    Champions League, knocked out by P S V Eindhoven.

    Not a great advert for the defensive coach’s skills.

  30. WTF with all this “bring back former players” crusade? How many clubs do it anyway? how many ex players did UTD hire, or Chelsea or Spuds or Liverpool? Can someone please tell me why Puyol is in charge of training Barca’s defenders- or not?. Is Arsenal a retirement home for ex-players? I don’t give a hoot about having them around or not. Get rid of the manager if you will, but this is not some kind of sentimental family reunion. If the club hierarchy feels they want to bring in Henry as the manager post AW, awesome! I’ve got numerous lovely memories of Viera, Pires and co- even Lauren, but I can’t be assed into whining that they and others before them are not currently at the club….grrrr

  31. Orson Kaert,

    I believe that YW is referring to Keown coaching the defence up to the 2016 CL final (the record for consecutive clean sheets and longest run without conceding still stand a decade on). As already discussed this was a defence that featured the likes of Eboue, Senderos and Flamini at stand in FB.

    After that Wenger decided to dispense with Keown’s services.

  32. Arsenal’s unexpected success in this year’s Champions League stemmed from solid rear-guard performances in the Gunners’ defence.

    The back four kept a record-breaking 10 clean sheets en-route to the final despite being without injured regulars Sol Campbell, Ashley Cole and Lauren.

    Philippe Senderos, Emmanuel Eboue and Mathieu Flamini were thrown in to the starting line-up charged with keeping out the attacks of Juventus, Villarreal and Real Madrid’s Galacticos.

    Arsenal’s last European success came in the 1994 Cup Winners’ Cup when they held out Parma’s stars for a characteristic ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ win.

    Today’s new-look rear guard has evolved from offside traps and no-nonsense defending and will be hoping to make their own piece of history in their own style.

    Former Arsenal manager Terry Neill looks at how today’s new guard have filled the breach and formed a formidable unit.

    Neill said: “Behind the scenes Martin Keown has been there on the training ground doing his coaching badges and I don’t think they could have had better mentors than Keown and Pat Rice.

    “George Graham made sure the back four defended and kept clean sheets whereas Wenger likes his players to have the freedom and express it and go forward more.

    “The famous back four had a long time together without the disruption of injuries, that makes this makeshift back four all the more remarkable.”

    BBC Sport May 2006.

  33. Wenger’s comments on Jack indicate both that Wenger himself is staying on (2 years? more?) and that Jack won’t be let go when his contract expires. Diaby mark 2. Must be something in the rarified Islington air – Wenger and Corbyn, both refuse to go even when proven a liability!

    Watching Juve defend so brilliantly last night – a couple of Messi anxiety-shanked chances aside – I couldn’t help wonder if Wenger was watching, and if so, what he made of it.
    I love Buffon, but Chiellini (got his MBA last week too) is about as different in determination and class as it’s possible to be from an Arsenal defender right now. Hope Juve win it for those 2 alone.

    Also YW, I wholeheartedly second your description of the Heil.
    yours,
    A proud Saboteur.

  34. Wenger has actively discouraged ex-players who have the interest or credentials in management to return to Arsenal.

    He has diminished the captaincy to the point of irrelevance – that Wenger does not want to share the limelight is a given. That Wenger does not want to relinquish control on any level is precisely why the club is in the predicament it is in.

    However, if retaining control is something ‘key’ to Wenger it is the fear of a successful transition which troubles Wenger just as deeply. Wenger is petrified a competent manager could take the reins at Arsenal and turn the club around in short order.

    He must look at Pochettino and see a reflection of himself 20 years ago. He likely feels embarassed to watch at Conte take a club in crisis and turn it around in a handful of games.

    My guess would be the thought of an incoming manager sparking a rebirth at Arsenal, the diminishment of his relevance now fills Wenger with as much dread as the end of his reign.

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