Mesut Told To Do One & Other Stuff

That’s the long and short of it. Unai Emery dressed it up more pleasantly than that, I’m sure, but that was the essence of their conversation according to Ornstein, the man from the BBC in Salford. Moreover, it is one backed in this instance, by the club. At £350k per week or whatever it is, they don’t feel like they are getting value for money.

It’s hard to argue with the club view. Whichever way we look at it, Ozil is inconsistent. And we’ve all had our say about the subject previously, And we’ll continue to do so all the while he is at the Arsenal.

I say it’s hard to argue with the club’s stance but we will…

It’s a long-term problem and we’re focused on the short-term. Which is Chelsea and whether he is fit for the match. Last weekend’s performance was so abject that a fit Ozil is a no-brainer to play. I don’t think he’d have made any difference at West Ham but you have to try anything to improve. Such as playing Lucas Torreira from the start. Or finding an effective way of combining Aubameyang and Lacazette up front.

But the media like to deal with the big topics of the day, such as “Is Mesut Ozil getting married?” Who let Hello! into the press conferences? What next? The Lady asking if ‎Joe Montemurro prefers weft or warp knitting.

The key issue is whether Ozil is fit?

Now? He’s training consistently with his work over the past two weeks and I think he can be.

Unai Emery on whether Mesut Ozil is fit for Chelsea

As it is a home game, I presume he’s in the reckoning for the XI. Plus we need to end a run of what is best described as mediocre performances.

He Won’t Be The First German Out Of The Club

For Unai Emery, the Ozil situation will only be favourably resolved with winning matches. Tomorrow is a match which will shape our aspirations for the remainder of the Premier League season. Win and the gap to Chelsea closes to three points. Defeat is nine points and ends top four aspirations while a draw leaves us with the status quo. Roll out the denim.

Ornstein was at pains to point out that Ozil isn’t a malevolent brooding presence at London Colney. He is apparently working hard on his fitness, smiling and popular with his team-mates. No wonder he’s smiling; while the others are slogging their way through the footballing equivalent of quicksand, he’s picking up £350k each week for not doing that.

While Emery all but ruled out a January move, a loan deal can’t be ruled out. It won’t bring the bounty hoped for, however. We’ll probably end up subsidising his wages all the while Ozil is loaned out which limits our ability to invest in new players.

While all this is going on, Emery didn’t deny Sven Mislintat is leaving the club either. “I don’t know”, he said when asked. As if. They are working together normally but there are no deals currently completed. No Suarez, which is no surprise given our track record of signing Suarez’s, no Hamez and no Carrasco.

We’re finding completing deals quickly challenging under the new regime. Is making deals quickly tough or because of the financial constraints Ivan & Co left us with? Is it just the January window being its usual troublesome self? Whichever way you look at it, the real surprise is that we haven’t yet seen an outbreak of broken cannons across the back pages.

Who thought the first season beyond Arsene would be turbulent, eh?

Nor The Second Either…

Meanwhile, we plough on wondering where Chelsea spied on us this week. Maurizio Sarri surely used the same techniques as Marcelo Bielsa? The Argentine’s modus operandi is surely common around the footballing world?

Not many, however, would have the brass balls to carry out a snap press conference in the way Bielsa did. Above all else, he proved there is room for lunacy, some colour in the monochrome football world we inhabit now.

Certainly, Arsenal are intent on contributing to that in our small way. Per Mertesacker is finding that attending an NBA match rather than watching the Youth Cup win over Tottenham is a sackable offence.

However, he might just be setting a superstitious precedent. We’ve all had the lucky underpants or socks that instigated a win or successful run. Maybe Per’s thought was “if I stay away…” and it worked. Far from calling for his head, we should be lauding his foresight and new age managerial thinking.

Not that Per is the manager; he’s effectively the director and our board set the precedent by not turning up at Brighton last year. Get over yourselves and enjoy the fact that another victory over 5pur2 was recorded…

’til Tomorrow.

The Loan System: A Per-fect Moment

In tonight’s programme, Per Mertesacker declares the loan system is ready to serve Arsenal well in the future. According to the Evening Standard, the BFG says:

The loan system should work brilliantly for us.

It’s difficult to manage and I’m really pleased and glad that it’s worked right now for him. We have other prospects we really need to think about. What’s their best path towards making an impact for our first team? There are different ways, different challenges.

Naturally, this all comes off the back of the outstanding spell at Hoffenheim Reiss Nelson is enjoying. Beyond that, you wouldn’t say the loan system has been a resounding success for the club in terms of producing first team players.

Typically, several youngsters each season go to other clubs but it’s worth noting that of the current first XI in the Premier League, only Hector Bellerin went on loan as part of his development. Aaron Ramsey’s spell at Forest was rehab and anything else was just a no, no, no.

Previously, we’ve seen players go on loan with the likes of Wilshere, Bendtner and Szczesny being the most successful in terms of developmental loans.

We have other loans as well. The infamous signings of players who can’t get work permits so we shove them to benevolent clubs on the continent but has any of those players proved worth the effort? I don’t think so; at best, the pursuit of Campbell and signings of Myachi, Wellington and most recently Asano, were foolhardy at best.

As a dumping ground for those we want shot of, the loan system sort of works. Jenkinson is a boomerang but Szczesny and Ospina finished their Arsenal careers with the door swinging extra hard to catch them on the arse to make sure they left.

Youngsters Set for Greta Moments

So when we talk of success with the loan system, it’s a pretty low bar. No wonder Mertesacker is clinging on to the hope Reiss Nelson continues his extraordinary form:

Some Bundesliga clubs are very interesting for us and the way [Reiss Nelson] could make an impact at Hoffenheim was by starting on the bench but then scoring immediately. 

Through scoring those goals, he gained trust from the coach, from the fans, by learning some German and earning the right to start and make an impact.

I think he has done a brilliant job but that all fell into place because he wanted to go. He had a great opportunity but you need to take these opportunities and make sure you learn from those moments. Instead of being a first-team player between the under-23s and the first team, this is something different.

There are some, quite rightly, that the club doesn’t want to loan. Smith Rowe, Nketiah; the immediate future of the first team, sitting on the bench and trusted to perform in the XI when minor cup competitions come a-calling. Preparations for a bigger part, if needed, later in the season and definitely in the future.

But Arsenal aren’t alone in the sense that loan spells are notoriously difficult to manage successfully. Chelsea and Manchester City between them have something like 75 players on loan at mainly European clubs. New loan rules will screw them over but that’s their problem.

However, how many of those loan spells are successful in producing first XI players. Few and far between. It’s more important for the big clubs to sell starlets on; make the academies self-financing to a large extent. The philosophical and moral questions regarding the ethics are for another day.

One Louder

Qarabag will no doubt face the three I’ve mentioned and if speculation from the Telegraph is correct – they took their eye off reorganising the Premiership and Brexit – Laurent Koscielny.

Based on a spurious logic, the Torygraph thinks Emery is concerned about Koscielny adapting to his tactics. As if his fitness isn’t enough of a worry, now the coach doesn’t think he can play in a back three with a pressing game at its’ heart. So, Stephan and Nacho will form a central defensive pairing in a back four.

And we thought the banter era was over. Unai, in those circumstances, would be turning it to eleven.

’til Tomorrow.

Burnley Review: The Per-fect Ending

Arsenal 5 – 0 Burnley

It was only fitting that more people remained for the celebration than did so at Leicester’s post-season pitchside amble.

The sun shone and everything went to plan. A nice guard of honour, a well-deserved show of appreciation as Arsène strode around the pitch before heading to the touchline. By the time Per Mertesacker hugged everyone, the game was already won. And handsomely.

Cheers for the BFG with commentators squirming as the words to the song came through loud and clear. “Gee, honey, those Brits are normally so reserved…”

Touchingly, Vic Akers was getting hugs off the subs and I’m sure the fourth official got in on the act as well, off-camera.

For once in this otherwise miserable season, it all went to plan. 5 – 0, Arsenal relaxed and played arguably better football than in most games this season. I guess Arsène sees this all the time in training and thinks “we don’t need anyone”, which is where the disconnect comes.

Mavropanos continues to show promise, which is good not only for him but also hinting the new recruitment team might know what they are doing. There will be duds along the way and we’ll pass on someone good; that’s football and every club has a name or three in their history who went on to star elsewhere.

It was a day where the unheralded ventured into the spotlight briefly; Kolasinac enjoyed the freedom of the left and rifled in a cracking goal. Iwobi, with his mix of infuriating good and bad passing, netted another, leaving the £100m attackers to take the other three between them.

Jack Wilshere flicked, shimmied and dribbled; life was all good with nothing to dampen the mood beyond reports of t-shirts being nicked off seats. And one other thing, which I’ll come to later.

Searching for Something Good

With the normally energetic Burnley so supine, judging performances is tough. However, Mavropanos and Chambers both played well in terms of the basics. Yes, there were a couple of moments where mistakes were made. The Chuckle Brothers are a ‘World Cup winner’ and experienced international footballer and they’ve made horrendous errors, so a couple of youngsters can be forgiven for theirs.

Where Arsenal’s performance levels are picking up is in discipline. Or rather, Granit Xhaka’s discipline. He still looks a better player with a defensive midfielder alongside him, but this season his consistency has improved. The Swiss since Christmas is showing the best form at the club to date. Will the new boss be able to get anything more from him?

Arsène repeated his feeling that the squad is two or three players away from challenging for the title; it’s a generous interpretation when we need two new goalkeepers and two experienced centre-backs before we even look at other positions.

However, there are signs the younger players in the squad can solve problems. Maitland-Niles needs to nail down a position in the team and drop the curse of versatility. Others – Nelson, Willock and Mavropanos – need to continue their development and as long as they continue on their path, there is a promising future ahead.

Which is leave the question of where some senior players fit in. Mesut Özil, suffering a back problem yesterday, is currently ‘Sickly ickle’ Mesut Özil. For £300k per week, he needs to ‘man-up’; his ‘illness’ levels are on a par with Cesc, Flamini and Almunia when they left the club.

And if we really only have £50m to spend, he is one of the saleable assets to boost funds. We’re at a point where we can’t carry passengers and certainly not for that money.

Excuses Had Their Uses

And when the final whistle went, the tears flowed.

Had the club thought about it, a little specimen jar was the perfect gift for each ticket-holder. As the waterworks flowed, they could be caught and then, as ABC declared, tears really are souvenirs.

Arsène was the focal point of attention and his few words, simple and well-chosen, fitted the occasion. He, like Vic Akers, Per, and Alex Scott, received a warm round of applause. Sir Chips received a healthy round of boos; the board deserve it for not one of them comes out of this situation with any credit.

Despite knowing of the discontent and seeing the declining performances, they failed to put a plan in place for his succession until now. Enos and Junior must surely have requested it before last summer? Wenger was in his sixties when Kroenke became majority shareholder and its rank-bad governance to not have a structure or succession plan in place.

The one criticism of the day I would have is the gift chosen by the club for Arsène. I see why they did it and understand the sentiment. It is a fine memento of the achievement he oversaw, but is it right for the club to give it away? It was awarded, after all, on the back of the efforts of not just the manager, but the coaching staff and players as well.

It’s a bit like recycling Christmas gifts. To some it’s perfectly acceptable. To others it’s a complete no-no. The only damnation is that the board felt it entirely appropriate for the occasion. It just feels like something custodians of a club wouldn’t do. Each to his own.

’til Tomorrow.

Burnley Preview: The End is Near

Before I get going on today’s post, words of sympathy and best wishes to Sir Alex Ferguson and his family following yesterday’s surgery. I hope he enjoys a full recovery; years of sporting enmity never alters the begrudging admiration for a man who was able to build and rebuild without missing a beat when it came to remaining at the top.

How different it might have been had the Arsenal board been patient back in 1986. Would I swap him taking over for George? Nah.

Every time I think of Burnley, it pops into my head in a broad Lancashire accent. A geographical earworm. Or just bloody weird, if I’m honest. In time, Sean Dyche may voice the town’s name; which sounds like sandpaper rubbing against a rusty drainpipe.

Dyche deserves plaudits for Burnley’s season, they’ve certainly caused upsets across football predictions for the weekend. They deserve a place in next season’s Europa League, particularly with their results at the top five so far this season.

Their only defeat came at Manchester City (0 – 3) while they won on an opening day at Chelsea (3 – 2) and drew at Tottenham and Liverpool (both 1 – 1), as well as Manchester United (2 – 2). Three points cannot be taken for granted.
Before that, it’s #MerciArsène. A chance for those who feel inclined to leave early to do so while others who wish to stay afterwards can do so. No-one has a right or wrong answer to that one. Nor does your view of it carry any more weight than those who don’t agree with it.

Or you just could look at it another way. While everyone is saying goodbye and showing respect for a long-serving employee, you can make sure that he’s actually going and that Enos isn’t having a big laugh at the punters expense. “Here’s the new manager of Arsenal Football Club: Arsènio Wengar…”

I’ll be looking at Le Boss’ time at the club when the season’s over and his reign is over. Doing so now feels a bit like writing an obituary when the patient is in hospital for an appendectomy.

And Now, The End is Near

Not forgetting either, that it is a time when others are leaving. It isn’t all about him, even if for most it will be.

Vic Akers, a stalwart of 33 years service at the club. He is the most successful Arsenal manager in the club’s history, solving many arguments in one trophy haul. 11 titles, a European Cup, 9 FA Cups, 10 League Cups and since everyone counts it as a trophy these days, 5 Community Shields.

After a decade with the Arsenal in the Community team, he became the first-team kit man in ’97. He’s been flashing his knobbly knees on the bench ever since. If memory serves, he was there at close to when it all started.

Alex Scott, the Ladies captain, is also retiring, along with Per Mertesacker as well.

Not forgetting that the knuckle-dragging, slavering Orcs are gone. Masters of their own destruction, the dreariest people on the planet are consigned to the Football League, who are already trying to find a way to lock them in the basement and never let them out again.

Their relegation is the ‘I love the smell of napalm in the morning’ moment, and poor ickle Ryan’s Grade A, monumental cock-up made it all the more enjoyable. It takes some balls to say afterwards that “some people need to take a long, hard look at themselves” when you’re the drongo who confirmed the club’s relegation.

It’s an iconic Premier League moment. Is it worse than costing your team the title with a (un)timely slip as the last defender? I think so; your mistake condemned your team. And you were captain…

And So I Face the Final Curtain

What of the team today? After Thursday night, they ‘owe’ it to the manager to end his home career in style. How often have we said that down the years? And usually, they fail to deliver on such occasions.

No Koscielny in defence; two games for Chambers to gain more experience; I wonder will Per make an appearance at some point? Sentimentality can’t over-rule the fact we need to win to be sure of sixth. Let that sink in for the moment if you’re struggling to make sense of where we are today.

At home, we have few concerns about form overall, even if we’ve made hard work of the some of the results recently. The 4 – 1 win over West Ham was flattering but in this, the business end of the season, points mean more. Even though we’re not fighting for anything special, finishing higher than mid-table is a bit of a result given our away record.

The line-up I’d expect to see is:

Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Chambers, Monreal; Xhaka, Ramsey; Mkhitaryan, Özil, Aubameyang; Lacazette

Let’s hope the new manager has a better system to fit the two strikers into than sticking one out on the flanks. That is a question for another day, however. Today is about three points and saying ‘bon voyage’ to Arsène, wherever his footballing journey takes him next.

And even he’s not so much of a curmudgeon to enjoy the moment, but I’m sure Arsène would swap all the t-shirts, programmes, etc., for three points.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

Per-fect World or Stereotypes of Identity and Loyalty

“What Fergie did next: Five years on from his ‘retirement’, United legend still puts on his shoes every morning so he’s ready to work”, screams the Heil headline. They ran out of space before they could scare the living bejesus out of you with the rest: “…out, he says lustily as he stands stark b*llock naked in front of the mirror admiring himself.”

No wonder Arsène can’t retire.

You can’t help it, even though you know that your head is going to fry like an unused extra from Scanners. It sucks you in, drags you into the darkest corners, and before you know it, WHAM! Tentacles envelop your limbs and the clickbait headline’s work is done.

I was caught thus yesterday. “Arsenal star Per Mertesacker accused of ‘disrespecting’ the club after saying he’d rather sit in the stands than play“; you can’t help but look, can you? Has someone broken ranks? Is Wrighty putting the cat among the pigeons once more? Did Thierry do something which makes him even more hated on the sunshine bus?

No, it was Dietmar Hamann, which in itself was a disappointment.

“He is still under contract with Arsenal and says that he has no more buck and likes to sit in the stands. He is still paid by the club and has a responsibility.

“I find that disrespectful to the fans, his team-mates and the coach.

“The club is up to its neck at the moment and then you have one of the captains who sits down and says that he no longer wants to play for the club.

“Whether he is the right person to give young players values such as identity and loyalty next year, I have my doubts.”

It’s at moments like these, you find out how much football pundits actually watch.

HEADING

While Hamann would have a point ordinarily, had he seen Mertesacker’s performances this season, he’d understand where his compatriot was coming from. That he hasn’t retired is down to two things: one, we a bit thin on the ground with central defenders, and, two, there might be another Wembley in him. He might be able to dredge a performance of the level of last season’s FA Cup final.

More likely, Wenger needs his influence to calm the febrile atmosphere which passes for a harmonious dressing room these days.

Hamann misses the point of Mertesacker’s words. It was recognition that his race is run, knowing he can’t physically match the pace of the modern game nor does he have the will to do it anymore. A player admitting that, showing that searing self-awareness in public is as rare as hen’s teeth.

There’s a typically huge leap without any semblance of logic from Hamann over Mertesacker’s suitability for an academy role. “Identity and loyalty”; I doubt anyone knows what Arsenal’s identity is anymore. We’re a global business with a fading force in command, overseen by a toothless board, backed by a hands-off, money-driven, success-shy owner.

That’s an identity but not one to be proud of.

Gone is the Arsenal of yore, a pivotal part of Islington’s daily life. Businesses live off the back of the matchday trade, but like all top-flight clubs, it is no longer the hub of the community.

Tell me about identity. Some only recognise ‘Arsène FC’ where football didn’t exist before October 1996. Another generation can’t conceive of nights like 26th May 1989 because of an “Agueroooooooooooo!” moment; broadcasters and football itself, don’t want to have a history pre-1992.

Finding an identity among a fractured fanbase is beyond the needle in haystack territory.

HEADING

Years ago, winning medals drove a player. Now, it’s how quickly they can acquire a fleet of ‘supercars’ and a sixteen-bedroom mansion. It’s a mentality where “look at my wad!” rules the roost. No different from any other walk of life in that sense; football is, after all, big business.

As for loyalty, it’s a distant memory for football. Arsène tells us he’s been loyal to the club every time his future comes up. He turned down every big club in the world through loyalty to Arsenal. Or fear of not having as secure a future or total control over every aspect of the club.

Is it loyal to meet with another club while deciding what to do with your future? Hearing what they say, knowing you’ll be sacked in two years; is that loyal? Or is it maybe a little bit looking after number one rather than the selfless endeavour as it’s usually portrayed?

Loyalty in football belongs to a bygone age.

So forgive me if I find something honest in Mertesacker’s words. Forgive me if I found it honest in the most treacherous of industries. Forgive it I find it brave that he admitted he wasn’t up to the role anymore.

We could do with a bit more of that around the club.

’til Tomorrow.