On Beating Bayern: Are We Headed To The Promised Land?

With transfer business slower than sluggish, Arsenal faced a long hot summer. Step forward the first-team squad; there’s nothing like a win to fill the void where hope has seemingly all gone away.

Some will argue last night is irrelevant and there is some truth to that. If we lose at Newcastle, it didn’t matter that we beat Bayern Munich a month earlier (maybe Fiorentina and Real Madrid as well). We’re still waiting for evidence that a corner is turned. That may only come with new arrivals; a changing of the guard embracing youth and clear thinking.

That’s a gospel for another day. Last night, the same defensive weaknesses were routinely exposed by the Germans, particularly Gnabry and Coman in the second half. The former is no longer a man of great promise; he’s delivering with the chorus of ‘here’s one that got away’ surfacing on anti-social media.

Given his development in the German game, it’s hard to argue that he wasn’t right to go off in pursuit of first-team football.

The luck ran out when Lewandowski headed home with twenty minutes to go; Mustafi took himself out of position with a step forward as Gnabry crossed and the Pole took full advantage of the space in which he found himself. A hand flailed in the air from the Arsenal defender, desperately hoping for his guardian angel to wave an offside flag.

None of the youngsters had a poor game. Eddie Nketiah stole the headlines with his poacher’s goal. We’re close to a third new decade since we began our search, so is he the fox in the box? Certainly, he looked physically stronger, more ready for first-team football than last year.

Headstart for Happiness

He capitalised on the outstanding interplay between Calum Chambers and Tyreece John-Jules. It was the stuff of fairy tales to some extent as the pair carved open the right side of the Bayern defence before John-Jules delivered the kind of cross we need to see more of during the coming season.

Overall, it was an enjoyable match. Fair play to those global fans who do this week after week during the spring, summer and autumn, winter as well making it an all-year-round endeavour. I was fortunate enough to be able to go back to sleep after the final whistle. 4am for a friendly? I need to get a life.

So too do those who believe every transfer story. It’s up to you but call on every ounce of spirit to rise above them. Malcom ain’t coming to the Emirates with Barcelona demanding €55m for his services. Not unless we shout to the top and ‘Mr Short Arms, Deep Pockets’ breaks with the habits of a lifetime and gives us extra transfer funds to visit our favourite shop!

Talking of ill-conceived ideas, Mesut Özil struck a pose with his new hairdo. Initially, it reminded me of Peter Sellers in Dr Strangelove…

But the more I thought about, the more I kept coming back to Pat Butcher…

Anyway, the fallout continues from that letter and Junior’s response. It was a poor response but given the swiftness of the reply, the PR flimflam we got was only to be expected. 

Judging where we are on the pitch happens from August onwards. The other issues raised – safe standing and a European Super League – are ongoing. The same is true of negotiations for Dani Ceballos and Kieran Tierney. Or are they dragging on? I forget which it is…

My Everchanging Moods

Elsewhere, Unai continued the policy of ‘making supporters feel chipper’. We’re close to signing players who will “make a difference” to what he considers “a very good [Arsenal] team”. How much of a difference? Well, Bernd Leno hopes we’ll stop conceding stupid goals. It would be a start…

Others took the view the best way to improve the side is to refine the defence. At present, we’re going into the season with our ‘specialist’ central defenders being Sokratis, Chambers, Mustafi and Laurent ‘Sulky Knickers’ Koscielny. His mate Olivier Giroud spoke candidly about his compatriot’s future, urging everyone to dial it down a notch or two as far as the criticism of Koscielny is concerned. We don’t know the facts, he argued.

A year after Le Depart, Arsene chimed in with a ‘diplomatic’ questioning of the situation. Laurent was a good boy while he was boss but Wenger didn’t know what happened during the interim. Crucially, he didn’t back up the claim Sulky Knickers received a verbal agreement that he could leave on a ‘free’ this summer.

Here’s the only salient fact: he refused to tour to try and force a move. Why we are still waiting to strip him of the captaincy is beyond me. We’ve got five to choose from after all. Still, we’re “thinking” of fining him but are meeting him and his agent this week. Both parties will be lawyered up, which is a sure sign that this is going to be an acrimonious parting of the ways. 

Rob Holding, it is being suggested in some quarters, is back after the September international break. Some suggest on this tour but it’s hard to see him being ready for the domestic game comes the big kick-off. 

You’re The Best Thing

Four Premier Leagues matches, including the annual shellacking at Anfield, will be played by the September break. Our title dreams will be over, which proves Junior right in one sense: we don’t have the squad to win the title. Yes, it’s a quick win for him but at least he can say “See, I didn’t lie…”

Everton Soares is another heavily touted to join with his value anywhere between €40m and €80m. Er, hello… to be honest, the valuations are so diverse that they may as well be created by economists arguing over the impact of Brexit. Woah! Bit of politics; proper nawty.

That didn’t stop talk emerging of our medical team flying to Brazil to oversee the formality of him being declared fit enough to sign for Arsenal.

*** Breaking news on that one. Gremio are now wanting £32m which given the way sterling is tanking might be a very good deal for us ***

You’ve reached this far, a testament to the strength of your nature!

‘til Tomorrow.

KSE Answer Critics But Say Nothing Of Substance

Pravda, as it was once known, noticed three things during the kids 3 – 0 win in the Kroenke Derby. That’s three things in a three-goal win…

Junior took the PR reins following that letter. He and daddy aren’t owners of Arsenal, he said; they view themselves as “custodians”. It’s a little late in the day to play that card; Enos’ previous (in)actions make it clear he and KSE are anything but custodians. Certainly, their engagement with fans only ever comes when some PR firefighting is needed. His interview on dot com certainly falls into that category.

The younger Kroenke emphasised that contrary to daddy’s infamous comment, he and Pops were committed to winning trophies:

Our ambitions are silverware. Silverware and trophies.

Josh Kroenke’s ambitions for Arsenal

He opened himself up to immediate criticism as well. “I think anything short of [not winning silverware and trophies] is not a success.” You’ve succeeded in being a failure so far then, Junior.

Nothing during KSE’s reign supports the notion that they are ambitious to win silverware, that they are gearing Arsenal up for success. Speaking to Gooners in USA podcast, Junior underlined how far behind the curve KSE is and has been:

It’s no secret we have a champions league wage bill with a Europa League budget right now.  I think that’s a fact. It’s one we’re trying to figure out how to face internally at the moment.  

KSE is not rushing into changing things

The reality is that this is the third season of having “a champions league wage bill with a Europa League budget” and they are “still trying to figure out how to face [it]”. Raul and Vinai bear their share of the blame, particularly the latter, previously a senior executive at the club for a number of years.

My Name Is Dick Law Not Dick Head If You Don’t Mind

However, KSE’s ownership of Arsenal during this time has been nothing short of disastrous knowing the economics. Why, for example, was Ozil given a salary-driven contract at this level? With seemingly no likelihood of league position improving, the club surely had to make it performance-related? In other words, weighted toward bonuses which ‘inspired’ the player to consistently deliver the performances his salary demands. Whether you like it or not, being the club’s highest-paid player ever brings that responsibility.

KSE didn’t stop Gazidis and Law negotiating that deal. The Kroenke’s lack of intervention left the current management – about whom there are a lot of questions anyway – with a millstone.

“The real question is can he be motivated internally and externally to produce that on a regular basis?”, stated Law recently. “Now, it absolutely has to start with a player, the player has to want to. No manager can make a player play if he doesn’t want to. But I know Ozil wants to.”

The question is surely whether Ozil wants to play for Emery? It doesn’t seem that way; neither party is strong enough at the club to force the other out. After losing his battle with Neymar Jr, that may be a blessed relief to the head coach.

Back to Junior. There are no “shortcuts” to success, he said. Nobody thinks there are nor has there been any claim that there are either. Bringing the club back into the Champions League fold is vital but requires “a daily approach to the little things from the top down.”

Ambitions Limited By Fear or Small Minds

A fairly big thing is the squad strengthening. Celtic rejected the latest Tierney bid, not because it was low but too weighted toward add-ons. This isn’t a new complaint; we’ve been ridiculed for an unrealistic approach to the structure of deals this summer with the Saliba deal still not completed reportedly for this very reason.

Celtic, by our approach, are able to make us look like a small club. Worse, parsimonious and run ineptly. Those caps fit too comfortably in the PR battle. However, Junior’s words are also undermined by these sagas. We can’t sell players nor buy them; hardly the actions determined to improve the club’s immediate and long-term future.

Junior thinks we should “be excited” on the basis of future deals. In other words, we’re being promised jam tomorrow by owners who give us no reason to believe they are paying anything more than lip service to supporter frustrations.

He underlined that with his perception of what is and isn’t supporters “jobs”.

In a shock to some, we’re not required to be patient. No, seriously, read the podcast transcript; he actually said that. They want us to be patient; hope for it. However, to claim we aren’t after the last decade requires some serious cojones. Maybe Junior and Pops need to speak with Messrs Sullivan and Gold to find out what fan protests can be like. I’m pretty sure you won’t see hide nor hair of either Kroenke if they were subjected to the mood which swept the White Elephant as the ‘Appy ‘Ammers crumbled 3 – 0 to Burnley.

We’ve Done A Really Good Job

I think the greatest concern – or maybe the root concern – surfaced when he couldn’t name one English football club whom Arsenal can emulate in returning to the top four. He responded by pointing out that KSE, in his opinion, has “done a really good job, especially over the last 5-6 years.”

Let that sink in for a moment. We’re following the KSE path to glory, where “if you point to the Los Angeles Rams, if you point to the Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Avalanche, Arsenal supporters should see a model there that says you have elite young talent, led by wonderful coaching, and an environment where every resource is available to them, and that’s what we can provide to Arsenal.”

Every resource except additional funds. It’s telling the KSE approach isn’t bringing success to the Rapids, probably the most comparable of all their investments. Hey ho. Or Hi-ho, since KSE are proving footballing dwarves.

Nothing Junior said is anything other than hastily constructed lip service to supporter concerns. The adverse publicity, particularly the outright criticism of KSE and Enos, may yet force action. But for all the fine words from Junior today, we’re still a club which is not tackling the problems dynamically. No signings this summer yet so we’re left with a squad constructed of straw.

We’re less than a month from the new season. 26 – twenty-six – days until we kick-off at Newcastle. Instead of talking a good game and making the right noises, Junior, how about you and daddy getting off your Arsenal’s? Shove a stick of dynamite up the backsides of the club hierarchy and get deals done. At least give us the illusion of giving a rats arse about the club.

’til Tomorrow.

Great Expectations Take Time To Materialise

Back in the 50s and 60s, the puritanical among the population sought to prove rock ‘n’ roll was the devil’s work and then when that failed, that the Beatles and others put backward messages which were really satanic prayers on their records. Their children formed the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) and these Washington housewives forced and industry to heed their 1950s moral values.

The PMRC needs to up its’ game; Satan is back, twice as cunning and twice as p*ssed off. Not as p*ssed off as the New Zealand cricket team but getting there. Hell’s guardian returned in the form of a sports mogul if we apply PMRC logic here. Enos Stanley Kroenke took his initials ESK and reversed them to form his KSE empire.

It was there all along, folks; we were just too blind to see. It makes perfect sense. Kroenke wears a wig on every public outing; it’s the perfect way to hide his horns. Sunglasses hide the fires in his eyes and nobody wants to share a toilet with him after some mistook his tail for God blessing him.

We have been so slow to recognise this situation.

Fortunately, a public letter circulated today, capturing the mood of the vast majority of fans. Frustration is the order of the day with Enos left in no doubt that the European arm of his collection of franchises isn’t a franchise. It’s a football club with a heart and soul that are being rotted by the greed of modern football and the owners looking to make a quick buck.

Except Enos made it quite clear he is neither looking to win trophies nor involved for just the short-term. They succeeded in the former and are hell-bent on the latter. We are, ladies and gentlemen, royally f*cked.

Stan, Buy Your Man

There is a fundamental miscalculation on KSE’s part. The evil empire is content that the club’s value is rising. Except it isn’t rising as quickly as it should and is in very real danger of falling behind Tottenham on and off the pitch.

In Daniel Levy, Tottenham have a chairman who is commercially astute. Embracing the NFL in London makes a global statement; what do we have? Fraudulent commercial deals, occasional concerts which knacker up the pitch and rare international football matches. Still, we do a nice buffet for meetings and exhibitions.

After occupying the upper echelons of the Premier League, Rich League, and every other financial list going, Arsenal’s self-sustaining model is providing a blinkered view. Yes, we must obey FFP – more the domestic one than its’ European cousin – but other club owners are not shy of investing in their hobbies.

Kroenke’s problem is that he neither likes or understands football. It’s all left to Junior who isn’t proving proactive in returning the club to the position of title challengers. If he did, our commercial deals would surely garner more cash for the club and consequently improve the financials. No? We’ll agree to disagree on that.

The disconnect by the owners is mad, madness, and maddening. Frustrating is another good word to throw into the mix. Fundamentally, however, we are hamstrung by Enos’ craving for money rather than sporting glory. That the two are inextricably linked in sporting enterprises rather passed our owner by.

Money, Money, Money

That’s the theory, anyway, but the reality is very different. Football rewards mediocrity almost as much as success. OK, there is about a £1.5bn prize money differential when it comes to the Champions and Europa Leagues but we still make more money than clubs who qualify for neither. However, in coming years that gap will only widen. UEFA isn’t going to make a more even distribution of money; it has no incentive to.

Arsenal, under the Premier League umbrella, rejected Juventus’ idea of a Super League but only because it was ill thought out. Nothing protected domestic football which the English clubs recognised is their lifeblood. Creating a Super League meant a couple of dozen Harlem Globetrotter style teams without any connection to the cities in which they were born. Think Rollerball but without the excitement.

I’m straying into much deeper territory here, so time to get back on track.

Recent months saw us – the fans – begging for a Liverpool-style transformation. We even acknowledge this won’t be instantaneous but when you’ve endured a decade of mediocrity, what’s another year or two. The trouble is, we are exactly like Liverpool but during the Gillet and Hicks era. A clown-club, leveraged in a holding company for its’ purchase and an asset shoring up values in other group businesses.

The difference is that there aren’t two owners bickering with each other. Unless Stan suffers from split personalities but that’s a whole different ballgame.

Beggin’ Bowl

Gillet and Hicks took Liverpool to the verge of bankruptcy before being forced out by financial institutions. Fans can influence thinking of lenders but it needs something coordinated in the same way everything happened under the Spirit of Shankly umbrella at Liverpool.

If today’s letter is the start of that, then change may happen at Arsenal. However, the pool of buyers is very shallow and no guarantees exist that the next one will be any better. As Enos proved, words in bid documents carry as much weight as pollen in the breeze.

The one thing to bear in mind is that Enos is an old-stager when it comes to fan protests. He’s ignored them in Colorado and his home state. His sense of belonging is measured only by his bank balance. Let’s face it, if you can p*ss off a whole city and not give two hoots, London, N5 isn’t going to hold any fears, particularly for a man rarely seen in the capital and certainly capable of staying away for the rest of his life.

This isn’t going to be quick.

’til Tomorrow.

Pepe Le Pew: Bid Stories Stink As Do Most Things About Arsenal Right Now

You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. Your next stop, the Twilight Zone!

A monologue familiar to millions seems utterly apposite this morning. Has your beating heart stopped fluttering after last night?

For this who missed the supposed drama, RMC alleged – encouraged, it’s claimed by his “entourage” – that a bid of €80m flew in Lille’s direction for Nicholas Pepe. That this was almost double our much-reported transfer budget didn’t matter; some bright spark suggested Lacazette was the fall-guy and the story grew legs.

Separately, suggestions emerged that Enos dipped into his pocket to fund the purchase. This, despite everyone knowing he preferred mediocrity from his sporting empire so long as the investment grew. Which it will.

Sanity prevailed when Ornstein poo-pooed the idea. Quite why he felt the need to is beyond me? Perhaps the club felt it necessary as it was all getting out of hand, that the summer – already suffering from a bad start and a hopeless middle – didn’t need any external help in getting worse? Who knows?

Who cares?

Nihilism is this summer’s byword. Two seasons out of the Champions League, coupled with the January 2018 transfer splurge, turned our world upside down.

I don’t hold Sven entirely and solely responsible for the latter but his part in signing Aubameyang (success) is more than offset by pushing for Mkhitaryan (millstone) as the makeweight in Alexis’ sale.

Ivan and Arsène were at the heart, desperate to secure a top four place. There are parallels with Ferguson’s last season. The pair wanted to secure their legacy and embarked on a spending spree, irrespective of the squad imbalances it caused.

Inadequate

The result of it all is growing discontent among fans, ranging from anger to long-term fans disconnecting from the club.

Surely nobody is surprised by the latter? football changed with the money flowing through the game, which coincided with the Arsenal hierarchy sinking further into a mire of ineptitude irrespective of personnel.

It’s reached a point where we stroke our chins and declare “chinny-reck-on” at claims Arsenal submitted a £25m bid for Kieran Tierney. Those reports carry as much credibility as the claims Scotland Yard already identified the mole behind the Darroch cables leaks.

Ornstein has yet to confirm the bid but upping your initial £15m offer by £10m offers hope that realism is the order of the day in Highbury House. Raul, stop pratting around and get the deals done. Restore some optimism to this grey Arsenal world.

This is the preseason, for chrissakes, where optimism is at its peak before the dreary reality that we’re still crap sets in. Give us one slither of light before the darkness engulfs us.

Meanwhile, the squad is in Californ-i-a training. Emery found himself ridiculed for his attire while the forward line took the p*ss out of the defence during the session, reinforcing the feelings of inadequacy in every defender bar Shkodran Mustafi. “Now, you are all at my level…”

Thank god we have the Cricket World Cup as a distraction. Nobody can argue it hasn’t been an enthralling tournament. England stand on the cusp of glory but this is a nation which thrives on heroic failure. Can we really buck the trend today, particularly in a sport noted for its heroic failures?

Probably not.

‘til Tomorrow.

Arsenal in Need of Transfer Miracles

Whatever happens, this transfer window is proving more entertaining than those which went before. Entertaining if you enjoy a good tasering, dousing in pepper spray followed by hot sticks poked in your eyes. Or, to the denizens of Croydon, a normal Friday night.

Spurs, according to media reports in France, are looking to hijack the Willy Saliba deal as we look to tie up the arrangements over bonuses and fee payments to Saint-Etienne. The Swamp dwellers offered more than Les Verts are asking which immediately raises questions over the credibility of the reports given Daniel Levy’s track record. 

But the reaction from some quarters defied belief…

But if we’re going down the path of oneupmanship, this is some way short of Emmanuel Petit leeching cash from Alan Sugar so he could get a cab to Highbury to sign for Arsenal.

Golden days, eh? Photos of Edu, Raul and Vinai watching training yesterday launched a thousand memes. No transfer business but social media was happy. We are still no better off than we were at the start of the transfer window which opened 58 days ago, with 26 days remaining. 

This is, at the moment, on course to be a worse window than 2015. Which it won’t be, I’m fairly confident in saying. Not totally confident, just fairly. We’ll get deals over the line but will, I think, be left with a squad bloated by players we don’t want.

The flip side is that we’ve promoted youth. Some of our brightest academy talents will sit on the bench most weeks while Unai Emery is berated for not making the most of them. 

This highlights the dangers of not having a pot to p*ss in. We overestimate the ability of young players to slot into the Premier League when they have little comparable experience. Smith Rowe’s injury limited his opportunities in Leipzig. A better organised club would surely be sending him out on loan again this season so that he can properly develop?

Promised Youth A Miracle

Nelson suffers by comparisons to Jason Sancho. Everyone saw what the Dortmund and England winger can do, so Nelson is expected to achieve the same. Immediately. A brief flurry of goals last season in Hoffenheim raises those expectations but are they realistic?

The same for Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah. They dallied with first-team football last year and I’d expect more of the same this time around.

I’m all for giving youth a chance so long as you realise that the price youpay is patience. If their performance levels prove patchy, that must be tolerated. Resist rash judgements over their Arsenal careers on the basis of one match; that serves nobody’s purpose. Hope must govern our emotions not our expectations.

Maybe they will make the grade at the Emirates; I hope they do but I don’t expect it. We’ve seen others before them who were equally promising shipped off on loan, never to darken the first-team doorstep again. 

A prime example of how we overburden youth (indirectly) is Krystian Bielik. On the basis of having a good season with Charlton Athletic in League One, people are genuinely losing their sh*t over Unai Emery not having a “role” for him next season. 

His comment came pprior to Laurent Koscielny’s treachery. It seems unlikely given we reportedly like the cut of Benfica’s Ruben Dias’ jib. Fundamentally, Bielik doesn’t have the experience we require at the centre of the defence. Calum Chambers meets our needs better and he is ill-suited to the Premier League as a central defender.

Shattered Dreams

However, that didn’t stop toys being thrown out of the pram at a rapid rate of knots. You would think the young Pole was a Krol or Beckenbauer the way people spoke about him. He was a victim of his showreel’s success. And in fairness, he played exactly like a young Krol or Beckenbauer in that six-minute video. I wonder how he fared in the remaining 3,000 or so minutes he played in last season? 

Ultimately, the over expectations cast on youth are a direct result of failures in leadership off the pitch. The club endured a seismic change last summer. The all-powerful Arsène departing. Ivan followed suit before his mess came crashing down around our ears.

Poor leadership, however, is the doormat of Enos’ Texas ranch. Kroenke bears full responsibility for that poison seeping through the club’s veins and he won’t care unless it impacts on his investment. 

As we know, football club finances bear little resemblance to results on the pitch. We’ve failed to build a title challenging squad for more than a decade yet during this time, Arsenal’s value increased. 

Looking for leadership from Enos or Junior is futile. Raul is the man for the footballing side while Vinai wonders if the commercial deals are yet more trolling. Edu walked into a sh*tstorm and I can’t believe he did so blindfolded. More power to his elbow if he thinks he can save us.

Me? I think it will be a minor miracle if two of this three survive this season, either walking citing broken promises or shattered dreams, or following a poison pen letter from L.A.

Not as much of a minor miracle as us finishing in the top four, mind you…

‘til Tomorrow.