STONE COLD FRIDAY: Sugar Coating The Alternative Facts

Say it for long enough and you might start believing it. Former Spurs owner and Chairman Alan Sugar most definitely believes it. Put a microphone in front of him a couple of days before the North London derby, and you know he can’t help himself. “The Arsenal players are useless and they know it”, he pronounces. You’re waiting for him to fire Wenger and the entire team before you remember he’s not on The Apprentice.

A savvy businessman for sure, his sale of the Alan Michael Sugar Trading Company (AMSTRAD) to Sky to allow them to flood the set-top box market a stroke of genius. Does that allow him the right to throw punches at Arsenal? The judgement is probably “Who cares”; everyone else does anyway.

As far as I can recall, St. Totteringham’s Day eluded us only last season. They’re loving it though at the swamp. They don’t care, they believe they’ve got our number. Ask their gardener or tea lady, and you can bet your bottom dollar they have a copy of the same hymn sheet in their pocket.

Coffee Anyone? It Smells Like It Can Wake You Up

Arsène doesn’t need to do a team talk for tomorrow. All he has to do is hang Alan Sugar’s words in the dressing room and point at it. If that isn’t motivation enough, I don’t know what is. If you believe Mauricio Pochettino, we’re playing the best team in the world tomorrow. Personally, I think Mauricio drank quite a bit of his own Kool-aid after Spurs ‘aggregate win’ over Real Madrid. It would be missing the point though if we batted away the mind games and pretended they didn’t get to our players. Our players are on Twitter, they read the papers and blogs, they watch sports news and listen to radio.

When 11 football writers from a newspaper give their view of how many Arsenal players would get into the Spurs side, its hard to ignore. Only Sanchez gets into 10 out of the 11 fantasy combined XI, Bellerin into 7 of them, and Koscielny into 2. There’s no sugar-coating how useless the media believe Arsenal is. I would suggest that the match report and the “Arsenal are in crisis narrative” have already been written. Chefs prepare their bits and pieces well in advance of the meal hitting the stove, journalists pre-empt what to write.

Arsenal fans of course have their own view of the quality of the team, albeit laced with a romanticized loyalty to the club they love. As for Ivan Gazidis and the board, I’m reminded of Comical Ali, Iraq’s Minister of Information during the 2nd Gulf War. Comical Ali stood in front of the world’s cameras promising everyone that Baghdad was safe and the coalition forces would never get to it. Only in the background, a tomahawk cruise missile was unleashing fire and brimstone and it was impossible for the cameras to miss.

Crisis? What Crisis?

It’s said that the worst thing you can do is let a good crisis go to waste. For Arsenal to stop sleep walking into the long grass of mid-table mediocrity, the board first has to accept that we have reached the point of diminishing returns with Wenger and possibly with Stan Kroenke.

Like many fans, I will bleed Arsenal on match day and unequivocally support the team on the pitch to do what they have to do to get a win. But in the cold light of day, it doesn’t help anyone to pretend that we’re not heading for the long grass. The light at the end of the tunnel is more likely an on-coming train.

There’s a lot of management speak about discussing issues and agreeing things in the summer. You don’t have to be a genius though, to figure out that before and after the World Cup, the circus of Arsenal’s transfer window will be in town. That’s before we even deal with the question of whether Wenger’s contract will be renewed or whether succession planning will start.

When you’re incapable of seeing the wood from the trees as the board has shown us they are, then something has to give. Arsenal is walking into a cluster foxtrot, if I can borrow from American military parlance. The dilemma for most fans is what to do about it. Is Alisher Usmanov the saving grace? Is Aliko Dangote, a life-long Arsenal fan who has expressed interest in buying the club the answer? Can fan ownership provide a different direction? Either way, something has to give.

Did Someone Mention Mike Dean?

For the rest of the season at least, the players have a job to do to try and arrest the rot. There’s the small matter of the North London derby tomorrow, too early for my liking. I get nervous when we have early kick-offs, not least because in recent years, some of our players have shown that they’re still asleep that early in the day. It doesn’t help that it’s the first game after an international break following a painful defeat at City.

Like YW, I’m not terribly excited about the thought of Mike Dean officiating, but that’s besides the point. We still must turn up for the game. I still shake my head at the thought of Dean celebrating a Tottenham goal against us a few years ago. He would argue that he was jumping up to stretch, but what a time for a referee to pick for a stretch and jump. The reality is, Dean won’t win, lose or draw us the game. The players must stand up and be counted.

I want them totally pissed about being called useless. I want them angry. The players need to get on that pitch and at the minimum, get us back our bragging rights. We have a wild card in Alexandre Lacazette. Hugo Lloris may know him well, but Tottenham defenders haven’t played against him. The thing is though, you know Wenger will dumbfound all of us with his team selection, right?

Have a great day good people. Meanwhile, check out the new playlist on Dad’s Jukebox and the return of the compilation album.

33 thoughts on “STONE COLD FRIDAY: Sugar Coating The Alternative Facts

  1. I’m a keen advocate of blind loyalty to the team on a matchday – particularly against one of our traditional rivals, even if I know they are an unstoppable force and that we are a club in crisis – BUT we are only the width of a fag paper behind that lot in the league….

  2. Totally agree IOK. The media have us as underdogs going into a home game against Spurs. That tells us all we need to know. The two teams are headed in opposite directions. There is a plan at Spurs, and while Wenger is in charge there is none at Arsenal. We just muddle along.

    We can and should be able to beat Spurs at home. We are hard to beat at home. We can turn in performances when needed (FA Cup Final), but there is no consistency, a total lack of tactics and feigned commitment.

    Would a good hiding from Spurs make any difference? I hope it would, but I doubt it. Wenger is untouchable like Castro in Cuba.

  3. Good stuff Darius!

    Fuck Spuds, Fuck Pochettino, I would take Lacazette over Kane and so would alot more people if Arsene would just unleash him and stop trying to hold his hand.

    Here’s what I’ll say about those picking all the Spuds players, I’m taking Sead over ANY of their LB’s or LWB’s, I’m taking Bellerin over ANY of their RB’s or RWB’s. People can bang on about Ericksen but Ozil has the most assists and most chances created of ANY PL player since he arrived, think about that, Ericksen has been playing with Kane and Ozil has had to deal with Giroud yet its Ozil who has the most assists and chances created which is generally what you judge your #10 by correct?

    I admit, Spuds are playing some rather good futbol but lets all pump the breaks and consider a couple of things:

    1. They have won fuck all, for as brilliant as the media have said they have done and been playing the past 3 seasons and how fucking horrid things have been at Arsenal, we still have the trophy edge during that time
    2. Sure they beat Madrid twice but Madrid was also missing Bale, Varane (they started a RB at CB when they played at the Bernabéu) and Ronaldo and Benzema both missed a couple chances they generally put away.
    3. Last I checked, there still the fucking Spuds

  4. Great post Darius. Very smooth and as always very well written.

    No one who has actually watched football for the last couple of season could deny that spurs have passed us at least temporarily. Statistically they were the best team in the league last year. They scored the most goals and conceded fewer then any ther team in the league. They are destroying the opposition in this years champions league group of death. Imagine what would have happened if we had played home and away games against Real Madrid. If you ignore reputation and go by who has been a more effective player over the last couple of seasons their players would hold a vast majority of the positions in a combined best team. You could make a very strong argument that Sanchez is the only arsenal player that belongs in the combined best team and even he would be left out if you heavily weight this seasons form. However, despite all of that unpleasant realism, we can still beat them tomorrow if we play well.

  5. While you’d hope that all the negative press would inspire the team to shove it right back down their throats we’ve seen to often that they cannot or will not respond when they need to. Remember, Arsene tries to protect his babies from all that nasty criticism and consequently they cannot handle it when it gets through. Sides tend to reflect the personality of their manager, while others rage and fight our guys are doing the football equivalent of sitting on the sidelines playing with their zippers.

  6. What Bill said. I agree.
    To be honest I’m actually looking forward to tomorrow’s game. It’s been a while.
    I really don’t give a shit who wins.
    But there should be some good football on display.

  7. Orson Kaert,

    Yup, they have won fuck all. Actually they are resembling Arsenal during the years when we weren’t winning anything: playing good futbol, with some good players (yuck!), but winning absolutely nothing.

  8. Orson

    Good point. Spurs probably won’t win anything this season unless they focus on the FA Cup. The reason I made that statement is to point out that on paper we are now clear cut underdogs when we play them and we have been for a couple years. That does not mean we can’t win but it is certainly a reversal of the situation that we have seen for the rest of the Wenger era and it’s symptomatic of the stagnation that has occurred on our side of north London.

    For what it’s worth, I am reasonably confident that Arsène would trade away the FA cup to have their place in the champions league.

  9. We have spent far more money in transfer fees and wages then Spurs. The last time I saw the numbers, Spurs were actually 19th out of 20 in net spend over a 5 year period while we were 3rd. We have the 7th highest wage bill in the world and our wages are about double Spurs. Despite that huge spending gap they clearly have better players right now. At one point, Arsene was widely considered the best in the world at finding value in the transfer market and improving players. All of that has really changed in the last decade.

  10. With Welbeck back in training, it really will be interesting to see the line-up that Arsene puts out tomorrow for the NLD especially upfront.

  11. We talked about this briefly the other day but Atletico Madrid’s wage bill is 23rd in the world and they only spend about 1/3 as much on wages as we do. May be I am wrong but I think its very unlikely that Atletico would be willing to pay the wages needed to get Mesut Ozil even if he comes without a transfer fee.

  12. Even if Ozil was willing to take a small increase to 200,000/week which I think is unlikely then it would still add about 12% to Atletico’s wage bill just for the privledge of watching a former top player fade into the sunset.

  13. Bill,

    Up until last season Spurs underspend helped to keep them firmly behind Arsenal. A combination of a more savvy manager and the emergence of a couple of very good players has, temporarily, moved them above Arsenal.

    There are two ways in which this situation can be remedied, one is to go out and spend the money necessary to put right the deficiencies in the squad, the other is to sack Wenger and replace him with a younger, hungrier and more dynamic manager.

    Unfortunately, neither option seems likely while the rudder is under the dead hand of Stan Kroenke.

  14. C,

    Surely Wenger couldn’t be dumb enough to bench one of the three best players in his squad to accommodate a barely fit, non-scoring striker……could he?

  15. The other factor to be taken into consideration is just how long Levy will hold out against the flood of dosh being offered, by Real Madrid, for his two prized possessions Kane and Alli.

    The new stadium construction costs plus the rental of Wembley will be seriously depleting his cash reserves. He had no qualms about flogging Modric and Bale so I see no reason why he won’t cash in on the current pair.

  16. Orson Kaert,

    Agree with you on that, it will be interesting to see how Kane and Alli do once they leave Spuds and their current system and club frame work. I think both are good players but I do wonder how they will do should they leave for a club like Madrid in La Liga were its not always about power, pace and athleticism and its equally about tactics and less physical play.

    We have seen some others like Owen struggle to deal with not only the expectations but also the tactics and the IQ of the game. I think its the part of game that most PL supporters tend to ignore because of how the PL and English game is. I wish people watched more than just the PL and English futbol and I think itss why Chelsea under Di Matteo was able to win not only the Europa League but also the CL because he was a tactician who understood that aspect of the game.

    Arsene understood that when he first arrived but now he doesn’t seem to understand that part and Pep has not only understood it but adapted it to the PL. Personally I enjoy the tactics sides because you can mark a player out of the game especially one of their key players. We see it when teams do it to Ozil, ensuring that the two pivots are constantly focusing or man marking Ozil and him trying to adapt or when teams will back off until Ramsey or Xhaka get the ball and then they press like crazy because they know that both of them like to take touches and linger on the ball.

  17. Orson Kaert,

    Sure Welbeck is no TH14 but he is our second highest scorer this season and only Lacazette has a better goals/minutes ratio. For Spurs only Kane has a better record.

    I don’t think that he’ll start but he’s not as ineffective as some would suggest.

  18. For all the praise being thrown at Spurs, it is surprising that both clubs have each scored twenty goals in the Premiership to date. The difference comes in goals conceded, Spurs seven, Arsenal sixteen.

    We need to tighten our defence, that much is obvious.

  19. “The light at the end of the tunnel is more likely an on-coming train.”

    Honestly, I don’t know which Arsenal team will show up tomorrow. The Light at the end of the tunnel Arsenal or the Arsenal that keeps stalling on the rails of the On Coming Freight Train.

    I no longer have any confidence in this team, manager, or club.

    Even if we win, it will be a win over the Spuds……But we already lost the battle.

    We shall see….

  20. Orson @ 7:18

    I think you’re comment is 100% accurate. I think the spurs emergence as the top team in North London may be short lived. No way they can hold on to their top players without a significant bump in their wages. The problem we face is that I suspect we are looking at another 5-7 years of Arsene running the club and he is not getting any younger or any smarter and that may keep the Spurs closer then they should be.

  21. Andy

    I know you are a fan of Welbeck but his goals/min ratio for this year is a very small sample size and that can be very misleading. If you only look at Arsenal for the last 8 league games and the FA cup run last season you would conclude that they are one of the worlds best teams. In Danny Welbeck’s case we have a huge sample size with 2 of Englands biggest teams that gives us a much more accurate indication of what sort of player he really is.

  22. Expect Sunderland to make a bid for Ramsey in January. Coleman has quit the Wales job and moved to the Stadium of Light.

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