STONE COLD FRIDAY: Another Season, Another Roller-Coaster Ride

For Arsenal fans, groundhog day doesn’t come any more real than August. There’s an eerie feeling like we’ve been here before. The circus of the silly season, will we or won’t we sign the Yaan M’vila du jour, will our talisman leave or stay. At least the curse of the club captain leaving has been stopped in its tracks, Per deciding that he’ll even do one better and retire into a training role at the club.

Meanwhile, Qatar seems to have stepped out of their damn minds, spending an eye-watering £198 million on Neymar. That’s before even factoring that he’ll be paid £550,000 per week after tax. A friend on Twitter was venting yesterday that the baby in her belly better start kicking something in there with this kind of money available in football. This summer alone, European clubs have spent more than the GDP of a handful of countries the UN categorizes as ‘least developed’. It only seems the other day when football was thrown into disbelief by Trevor Francis being signed for £1 million.

The new season may be here, but we’ve still got four weeks of the circus as hacks from the dailies and tabloids compete in the gutter for that transfer exclusive. I do feel sorry for them, the summer must be difficult. With columns to fill and advertising to sell, editors have turned out to be real ball breakers. I suppose the journalists have mortgages to pay, car leases to honour, private school fees to sort out. It would be cruel to judge them for providing for their kith and kin. As long as we understand that they do come up with some faecal matter on transfers for most part.

High apple pie, in the sky, hopes

I’ve always wondered who exactly “links” a player with a move? Most likely a lonely hack sitting at the corner of a pub writing under duress because he knows the next call is from the editor. “You know what? Alexis Sanchez didn’t look happy in that photo. He wants a salary of £500,000 per week and a new Gulfstream private jet. If he doesn’t get it, he leaves”. And the story starts and gets a life of its own as a paper here quotes another, a TV channel here quotes a paper, another paper quotes the TV channel – you get the drift. I’ve learnt to zone out the noise and only take note when either our BBC David says something or a transfer is announced on arsenal.com.

It feels good though, having the football back. There’s just something warm and fuzzy as we get into the mix. I’m glad we’re sticking with the “3 at the back” system as my son calls it. Every season, I start with high spirits, I say this time next summer, we’ll be Premier league champions. The missus jokes “Where have I heard that before? Oh wait, Delboy! You and your fools and horses”, comes the smirk. She’s a Chelsea fan you see and in my defence, I submit to you that this fact was only revealed to me long after we were hitched.

No matter, every match day gives me goose bumps. The anticipation, the hope, the pleasure, the adrenaline. That’s when it works of course. Some games, you just want to hide behind the sofa because what’s happening on the pitch is criminal. Some games are just “Meh”. But the ones that remind you football is beautiful, you watch and cherish over and over again. They are the games I call Wengerball in excelsis. When we move the ball with the speed of a thief and the skill of a card sharp; when opposing defenders don’t know whether to defend or admire the move that has just bamboozled his team mates; and you turn around to anyone who will listen and scream “Did you just see that? Dagamit!”.

Dear Arsène…

Granted, it doesn’t happen often enough, but I’ve learnt not to be greedy. If I were to write my “Dear Arséne” letter for the season, I’d ask for three things. More of Wengerball, consistency and for crying out loud, game management. We need to really get into the habit of closing out games, of knowing that 3 points is good enough or one point will do. Like many of you, I don’t like the feeling of losing, especially when we assume the other teams won’t turn up. Last season, two of the most galling games for me were Watford and Crystal Palace. I’m going to pretend that the hiding from Bayern didn’t happen. If I keep affirming and believing it didn’t happen, maybe I can wipe it out of my psyche.

I’m not sure how this Europa league thing will go. I suspect our youngsters will get more game time and that has to be a good thing. The league cup isn’t nearly enough. I’m sure the Thursday Sunday cycle will throw us a bit, but these guys are professionals, right? Personally, I don’t think it’s a bad thing that we’re in the Europa league. We must have a better chance of winning it. It must be better than perennially exiting the round of 16 in the Champions League to Bayern or Barcelona, or Bayern or Barcelona yet again. For the last 7 years we’ve been stuck on that level of stupid and a change is as good as accepting that it wasn’t working.

If you don’t know me by now

I want us to take the Europa league seriously, but more importantly, I want us to challenge for the Premier league. I’m a romantic, I heart Arsenal and have to believe that we can do it. It’s going to be a roller-coaster ride, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything else. In fact, I would argue that Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs should be revised to include football right alongside food, water, shelter, wi-fi and sex.

All the best to the good ship Victoria Concordia Crescit this season.

Before I pen off, I must say, it’s good to be back writing for ACLF. In a previous life, I used to write this column using the nom de plume of Darius.

49 thoughts on “STONE COLD FRIDAY: Another Season, Another Roller-Coaster Ride

  1. Well, well, well, Darius as I live and breath.

    Still dragging your staff into dodgy nightclubs after Arsenal matches, you old bugger?

    You can still write, I see.

  2. Consolsbob. My knees are too old these days to be doing nightclub sorties after matches. How are you my good friend? I doubt I’ll ever stop writing, it keeps me sane. I just hope this season isn’t going to be painful to write about.

  3. Good morning Gents,

    A fine read on a pleasant Friday morning.

    Only a couple of days until we get a clearer indication of Wenger’s preferred first XI, although I’m assuming that Alexis will make the bench at best. Most managers wouldn’t even consider letting Alexis near the squad for Sunday’s game as he has only just returned from the summer break, but I’m assuming Wenger will cave in to Alexis’ demands to be involved in some shape or form. I would have thought he will get a 5 – 10 minute cameo at the end of the match unless we are getting battered. Could it be Alexis’ farewell to the fans?

  4. In his press conference Wenger refused to say if Alexis has asked to leave the club following his return to training. Given that he was fairly open about Alexis not having requested a move previously, I would surmise that Alexis has indicated that his preference is to leave. I wonder what Wenger has said to him about that? Alexis seemed fairly happy in training which suggests they have come to some kind of agreement. I’m probably reading too much into it, but Alexis has never been one to hide his feelings and him kissing the badge in training was interesting.

    Much as I would love to see us have a proper tilt at the Europa League, I don’t think that is going to happen. Wenger has now stated that the PL is ahead of the CL in importance (now we are not in it) and mentioned that not being in the CL would allow the team to focus on the title. Given the Thursday/Sunday schedule the team will be dealing with this season, it seems that the Europa League will be fairly low priority. I’m expecting the kids to be heavily involved in the early games, with a ‘proper’ team only being put out if we progress. If we are still involved when the CL teams drop into Europa we will see whether, or not Wenger intends to take it seriously.

  5. we will not challenge for the title, unfortunately. the team is not well drilled and disciplined enough for that. let’s hope Lehmann can bring a bit of a bite to this lightweight football team. as for neymar, i actually applaud the fact that unlike other walk of life the people making the most money from the business is the workers ( in this case footballer) as opposed to the management and investor. everyday life could learn a lot from sport in this case.

  6. Good morning folks,

    As an antidote to the financial doping of football, as highlighted by the obscene sums swirling around the Neymar deal, it’s worth noting that the first professional contract signed by Stanley Mathews with Stoke City is being put up for auction. His weekly wage…..just £5.

  7. to be fair anyone who can remember Trevor Francis transfer, and was a Chelsea fan at the time, will have had many years of the purgatory of us looking down on them…

    does look like we are going into the new season with much the same squad as last season – the deadwood that needs to move still here, the underachievers not really replaced, some key players not ready for the kick off and two new players – looking good by all accounts – given some time to bed in and the system that looked good at the end of the season apparently still in place

    BUT not all the recruitment that we would have liked and a couple of gaps.

    sod it, i’ll join you in gung ho positivity COYG

  8. No player in the history of football has ever stayed at a club for more than six months after kissing his badge. Established fact!

  9. Mourinho when faced with a mediocre Premier League campaign had the hutzpah to publicly bet everything on winning the EL and thereby gain back entry to the CL.

    I don’t think Wenger has the intention or stomach to do likewise. Which is why he now says the priority is the Premier League – or rather, let’s be frank, regaining a top four position.

    Wenger will be nervous dropping a tier and still facing failure – he’ll avoid it. I imagine we’ll field a ‘junior’ side and if we have a run, all well and good, but if we stumble we’ll simply write it off as a good growth experience for those who participated.

    That said, it be refreshing if Wenger had the balls to say ‘Right, were going to take a leaf out of United’s book and try to win the Europa League”.

    Hard to imagine that will happen.

  10. Darius great stuff. We miss having you around. As CBob pointed out your writing is better then ever. I have to admit I am a bit skeptical that you could have gone thru your entire courtship with your wife and never found out she supported Chelsea. My youngest son is a ManU fan so I certainly can’t cast stones.

    It sounds like your distaste for the football media has mellowed a bit. Do you still think the media pundits and the English FA and the entire ref fraternity are all conspiring together to hold back Arsene?

  11. This is off-topic but I’m reading Ancelotti’s autobiography where he talks about adapting his system to the players instead of vice versa. In his time as a manager of Juventus he changed the 4-4-2 formation to 3-5-2 in order to suit Zidane and build the team around him. Ancelotti says that Zidane was uncomfortable on the left, so defense had to be sacrificed in order to play him in the middle. Now counter that to Wenger justfying his decision to play Ozil on the left a couple seasons back by alluding to Zidane’s latter seasons with Real (when Beckham joined) when he was forced to play on the left – fruitless in both cases.

  12. andy1886,

    They thought such programming would be acceptable in the UK – as I said the other day, a political decision and complete misstep.

    Particular telling was the note in the article of how they vary their distribution according to ‘local tastes’.

    The joke being whilst the US has millions of hunters, relatively there are a higher percentage of hunters in the Canada than the US but they do not offer the same content.

  13. After a few lines reading in my mobile, I had a feeling Darius was back. When I got to the end, I was delighted this feeling was confirmed. Welcome back, man! Wonderful piece; I really enjoyed it

  14. Yes indeed, it is nice to have you around Darius but it has been a while.

    Like Bill, I also must comment about the relationship you have with your wife. With respect to the Chelsea matter, I frankly wonder what else she has been withholding from you. A number of scenarios dance through my mind but there is nothing that could possibly be so hurtful as discovering your sweetheart is a Chelsea supporter!

  15. If, as Wenger continually states, Sanchez is not leaving this summer it seems logical to suppose we will no longer pursue the signing of Lemar. In which case attention needs to be turned towards signing a midfield partner for Xhaka. We surely can’t continue with Ramsey in that position.

  16. Limestone

    A lot of keystrokes were dedicated to the question of an anti Arsenal conspiracy. Seeing Darius again reminds me of the old days of the doomer wars and OleGunner and Limparassist and the beautiful Maria and the always eloquent FunGunner etc etc etc. I think Yogi, CBob, Dukey (when he shows up), you and I are the only leftovers from those days.

  17. Orson Kaert,

    That was always a serious weakness needing redress. I still think we should get Lemar now and let him develop into the position Alexis will likely vacate next season. I think Ramsey benefits from the new formation but it isn’t the way to play every game and he himself has such fitness issues that there are many games we will need another player anyway. Get someone who is top quality and can play with either Ramsey or Xhaka. I think there are some versatile CM’s who could fit this description. For specific names and qualities, I refer you to chief scout of ACLF, Mr. C.

  18. Bill,

    Yes, certainly among regulars then. I can’t count myself especially regular now. My standards have fallen! You could add Jonny, though he came along a bit lately for the Olegunner/LimparAssist/Frank heyday. Those guys seem to have departed the Arsenal Blogosphere. I hear Ole is still active on twitter. But I ignore twitter. To one line put downs, as is obvious, I prefer long boring posts! Anything worth saying is worth taking more than 144 characters or whatever it is to say!

  19. Limestone

    Those were fun days. The few of us who were willing to question the status quo were called some interesting names. I don’t cuss very much myself but if I did I would have learned some unique and previously unknown cuss words that I could have added to my vocabulary.

  20. Hey Bill. Good to be back writing for ACLF. The missus only came out when Mourinho joined Chelsea. I’m smart enough not to ask whether she really even supported them or whether she had a secret crush on Mourinho. Questions like that are never good for world peace. As for the hacks, referees and football establishment, I think times have taken over and there’s a lot more to talk about. Some are clearly still idiots, but holding it against them would be like taking poison and hope your enemies die – hehehe – they’re part of the ecosystem and best left alone.

  21. @Limestone – Glad you enjoyed the piece. I don’t know whether to worry that my writing style and voice is that predictable or whether it’s a good thing. You and Bill have taken me way back with the likes of Frank, Limpar Assist, Maria Ole, etc.

  22. Darius

    Fair enough. Domestic world peace is far more important then any other consideration and your wife’s ability to keep something like that a secret for that long is admirable.

    My youngest son always enjoyed being a contrarian and I think he switched over to being ManU fan early in his teenage years in order to differentiate himself and to be his “own man”. I have always enjoyed discussing differences of opinion when it comes to sports so we have enjoyed many many good debates and we bond over our disagreements about football.

  23. Bill,

    I think I came in towards the end of that period. I started reading as I enjoyed a daily commentary which was honest rather than staking out a position on one side or other of the Wenger argument. I was subjected to some fairly nasty abuse from those who now ride the Fun Bus for having an opinion rather than being a Wengerite. I didn’t really even want Wenger out as such back then, I just wanted there to be a proper approach to how the club was being run. Austerity was fine, as long as there was a plan to handle it. Working within a budget was okay, as long as there was a process. At times it got fairly nasty in the posts section and I thank Yogi for taking a firm hand in cleaning out those who used personal abuse as their argument. I still see a lot of it going on in discussions on FB, but ACLF has become a place where anyone can have an opinion. There is no guarantee posters will agree with it though and a discussion is always likely. Whilst the majority posting on ACLF nowadays feel that Wenger has served his time at Arsenal, there is no abuse hurled at those who still believe he can do the job. There may be a number of posters arguing against you, but they won’t be abusive. Credit for that belongs to YW.

  24. Top post by the way!

    Stick around, the season is set to start and you voice is always welcomed and good for discussion mate.

    Bill taking us back to some very ‘interesting’ times around this place. I wasn’t much of a poster than but would regularly read as at that time I was young and figured my opinion on things was wildly different but I was also very immature and was always up for a good telling off so I figured it was better to stay quite.

  25. Mavididi has officially joined Preston on a season long loan.

    Quick note on Barca, according to reports they are closing in on Dembele from Dortmund.

  26. Yogi warrior. I Odumbe Kute. Darius. Are these your three different forms? Yogi the site owner, Darius the writer and I Odumbe Kute the blogger. New seasons eh? We’re waiting. Nice write up, always.

  27. Thought I’d watch the FA Cup Final highlights again on Arsenal Player. I forgot how one-sided the first half was. I still can’t believe that one of the chances from Ozil, Ramsey and Welbeck didn’t go in. Ospina’s attempted save was very poor, but seeing it again I think he believed he had it. The deflection from Per just took it away from him so that the attempted save looked really weak. His later save from Costa at 2-1 was incredible. How Ozil managed to smack it against the post rather than into that big space between it and the keeper is still hard to fathom. With Hector’s chance and Elneny being a bit slow to make his mind up, we definitely had more of the game. A fantastic result against the Champions.

  28. C

    You might be right about Barca and Dembele. Good call if that is the way it works out. May be Dembele really is different then the hundreds of other U21’s we have talked about over the years but only time will tell.

    Wavey

    I agree. Full credit to YW.

  29. Maybe Alexis looked happy at training because he had a chat with Arsene and Arsene told him that there was another big signing on the way, so he won’t have to do it all alone this season. Lemar?

  30. Bill,

    Dembele is quality and its funny that everybody is talking about Mbappe but Dembele is just as talented the only difference is that he got more people talking about him because not only of his talent but Monaco winning Ligue Un and then making that run in the CL. Put Dembele on the left side of Suarez and Messi and he will flourish and people will be talking about him. He is a MUCH MUCH MUCH better player than Ox (all those that adore Ox look away) and still has so much more room to grow as his main focus at Dortmund was feeding Aubameyang but the lad is extremely talented not just with creating goals but his close control and ability to accelerate and create space is superb.

    There is a reason why when people heard that Dortmund wanted 90m for him nobody thought that it was absurd given Mbappe was wanted for 100+m.

  31. Wavey,

    Don’t also forget that Ozil in the first half almost scored with the ball all but 2 patches of the ball over the line before Cahill cleared it off the line. The other thing is that Ozil also put in quite a shift defensively, especially when he ran down Hazard and made that superb (others will say foul I say clean tackle) tackle to win the ball.

    I think more so than ever that game showed just how dangerous we could be when we play more of a pressing game instead of trying to sit and counter. The other thing is just how effective we are with a mobile striker that is willing to run the channels and press the opposing CB’s. I think its why if we keep Sanchez, a front 3 of Ozil/Sanchez/Lacazette is going to a nightmare for opponents. We just have to hope that after a loss or 2 (because lets be honest, we aren’t going undefeated) Arsene doesn’t scrap it and bring back on Giroud but continues on with it.

  32. Why are so many people still asleep – we will never remotely come close to winning the title under Wenger, he is finished, yesterday’s papers. He is a dinosaur, in every way – except his salary which forges ahead of inflation relentlessly, c £10m now?

    We finished 5th – new contract , un-fecking-believable.

    He would have been gone long ago in a proper ambitious club. After the 8-2 to Man U in 2011 I was sure he would resign but this hypocrite has no shame.

    We beat Chelsea well in the Cup final because for once we played well (why not the previous 38 league games Professeur?) and they looked like they had been on the lash since winning the League , a proper trophy.

  33. C,

    Dembele is obviously a great player (from my you tube scouting) but how much do you really know about a player (and person) until he has to shoulder a 100 million price tag? If I was Barca I would go for Alexis. Been tempered in the fire. Totally known quantity. But I get the argument that some might see his return to Barca as a regression.

  34. I think you can add JJ to your list of old timers. Most of us, apart from Bill, post less often these days. He, at least, doesn’t mind repeating his arguments every few days!

    Limpar is also on Twitter. AIC pops up here every now and again as does G4E. Ponyboy put in an an occasional appearance until the last few months. Miami pops in and Big Al.

  35. In these times of quite obscene transfer fees, it’s worth remembering Arsenal’s record signing of Bryn Jones from Wolves in 1938….for £14,000. 😉

  36. Wavey,

    Yeah, quite interesting, especially the Wojo stat. Wenger likes to hoard, it’s a compulsion- Campbell has been on our books 6 years, he only featured for one season.

    But ….he neglects to mention of the need to comply and shrink the squad.He also fudges on squad sizes. Just because some teams used lesser players does not mean managers want smaller squads. Conte wants more players at this very moment.

    He also notes –

    ….Calum Chambers and Francis Coquelin are among those who have shown themselves to be well short of title-winning quality.

    I presume this is in contrast to all the other Arsenal squad members who have won the trophy (?).

  37. DFS-,

    I’ve never had an issue with the Jose’s two players for every position concept, provided at least the first player is top quality and the back up is good cover. The article is highlighting that our first choice players are largely in the ‘good’ category. Too many adequate cover players and not enough quality. I also don’t subscribe to the idea that all players want to play all of the time and therefore won’t sign up if they aren’t playing every week. If a club is regularly in the hunt to win the big trophies players surely want to play for them provided they get some game time. A well-managed squad can swap players around to some degree whilst keeping a core of regulars. If the cover for that core is ‘good’ cover, you aren’t too worried if a player is out for a spell. When you are relying on good players as your first choice the depth of quality behind them is sorely lacking. If a ‘good’ player is injured for an extended period we must, by definition, be having to rely on a player who isn’t good enough. Chambers and Coquelin are useful as cover, but should never be anywhere near the first 11 for a club aspiring to win titles. Maybe that is harsh on Chambers as he is starting to settle into a role thanks to his loan spell at Boro, but LeCoq is backup at best.

  38. I essentially agree with all your points.

    Obviously (I presume you know) I believe in rotating payers in and out and the idea key players need to play every game is farcical to me.

    I like Coquelin and think his game has gone off due to indiscipline fostered by Wenger (which applies to all and sundry) but…but…but…

    I absolutely agree that what managers should be striving for now is quality first eleven (I do not like the term but lets go with it) with quality back up – the two players cover for each position.

    Even though money has flowed into the game, I still do not think managers (any) have realized that potential as yet.

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