Arsenal are back right where they belong…

Anything to say for the afternoon Mailbox? Email…

Everything changes but Arsenal stays the same
Arsenal are airing more dirty linen in public and appear to have taken another turn in both direction (going Spanish, having gone German, after having been British again, and before that French) and momentum (we are losing more credibility than we do away games if that’s possible). Cue the predictable reaction on social media from the fans that have the time to “contribute” on the state of affairs and deem it an outrage that must be rectified and calling for heads to roll.

Much has been written on how badly the club has been run – Ivan, Wenger et al. And how we should spend more money, or alternatively how we have spent plenty of money –just badly. Take your pick. I will not add to that. As an aging fan, I will try to provide some context to all this. Hopefully by citing history and facts.

The frustration at how far we have fallen out of being competitive in the league is everywhere to see and hear. But it speaks to fans with either no memories or sense of history. Any older fan (or anyone with a curious mind and Wikipedia) could tell you that Arsenal are right where they have always been. Sixth (well after this weekend anyway).

Since the war, our average league finishing position is 5.92. Arsenal’s average league position before Wenger was 7.22. Wenger’s was 2.95 (So he dragged the average up a whole place).

Take a look again at that average finish over 72 years. Sixth.

Wenger’ s first ten years were especially extraordinary (average 2.00). They looked to represent a new dawn. But the second ten have a somewhat familiar look. The position we were in was frittered away as the club made bad decision after bad decision, removing Dein and then taking Kroenke anyway, tightening the belt in response to Chelsea and Citeh, keeping Wenger too long and giving hm too much power and then settling for 4th as a trophy – as winning was never really the agenda. We should have seen it coming. It’s not like it hadn’t happened before;

1969-1973 – Fairs Cup, the Double. Then broke the team up instead of investing to kick on. Kennedy, George – both sold.

1978 -1981 – 3 FA cup finals, CWC Final – Then broke the team up instead of investing to kick on. Brady, Stapleton – both sold.

1988-1993 – 2 League titles, 2 league cups and an FA cup – then broke the team up instead of investing and kicking on. Rocastle, Thomas, Marwood, Limpar –all sold.

We’ve not spent much time at the very top table. We’ve challenged Leeds, then Liverpool, then Liverpool again and finally Man Utd as the top dog – but always crumbled partly through a lack of execution – but also ambition. In fact, who has been the best club of the era has varied over the last 50 years – but the one constant has actually been that every ten years or so Arsenal pop their head around the door of the office of the Champions, have a look inside and then decide the temperature is too hot in there. The culture of the club is not grand when it comes to the on-field matters. A SMALL CLUB IN BIG CLUBS CLOTHING.

Those fans that still adore Wenger do so for many reasons. The only one that I truly appreciate him for was the fact that he kept it going for a decade. Mee and Graham could only elevate the club above its attitude for half that time. And Wenger won 3 titles, Graham only 2, and Mee a single one.

The only time in post war history that Arsenal have shown real ambition as a club was under Dein and the first half of Arsene. The move to The Emirates. They spoke of being elite in Europe. But they couldn’t follow through. In hindsight we can see why. When the board agreed to move from Highbury and spend hard cash on a new shiny ground, we assumed there were football ambitions behind it. Sure, it helped the cash flow, but only so we could stay on top. But then Roman and the Oligarchs showed up and changed the picture. Being as big as Arsenal were at that point only got you top 4 – not top 2 any more. To stay top 2- we would have to go further. Never gonna happen. And so we camped out in 4th. And now of course, it only gets you top 6. And so we will be sixth ad infinitum. The usual Bare Ass Minimum as they say over here in North America.

It is hard to do such analysis on other clubs. We have never been relegated nor been in a lower division since the war, so the y-o-y comparisons are constant and relevant. But that is kind of the point of Arsenal. Constantly above average with occasional brilliance that the Keystone Cops that run the club will ensure is short lived, all the while also ensuring there is never a total disaster.

Fans bemoan Kroenke as the root of the issue. But they miss 2 important points. Firstly, how is he that different from the Glazers and J Henry? He stays out of the way, pays people good money to run the club and reinvests revenues. He isn’t really about winning – but he has an asset that he wants to appreciate. Winning usually achieves that. So everybody gets what they want if it is done well and it works (we just don’t and it doesn’t.)

Secondly – Kroenke is an overseas owner in the Arsenal tradition. He appears disinterested in what the fans think. He tolerates the bare minimum. He knows nothing about football and has nothing in common with the average fan. In fact he clearly has utter disdain for the common fan. So tell me – how is he any different from the Old Etonian Hill-Wood and Bracewell-Smith families that effectively controlled the club from WWII until 2007? I still recall Hill Wood the youngest (recently departed) sarcastically thanking the shareholder fans for “your interest in our affairs.” At least Stan had the sense to buy all the shares and do away with the AGM as presumably he knows what an odious and condescending nob he is and assumes we would rather not see it. Clearly Hill Wood didn’t possess such introspection.

No- the owner is not the issue. The Board is the issue. Always has been. Never had a clue. Never been ambitious. Year after year of awful decisions while lying or staying silent with the fans. Those that bemoan that Emery is not good enough and was an uninspiring choice as manager might reflect on the fact that since the mid 60s we have hired Mee (a physio), Terry Neill (managed Spurs badly), Don Howe (managed WBA badly), George Graham (managed Millwall), Bruce Rioch (managed Bolton) and Arsene Wenger (managed Monaco and Nagoya Grampus 8.) Some of those clearly worked out, but Hell, I’d say Emery is the most qualified and ambitious hire the board has made in 50 years. That’s how low the bar is.

And then the board let Gazidis appoint his successors before he left. Like he could care less at that point. And we should be surprised when one of them eats the other and seizes control? What an absolute shambles and a bad joke. Our defending has only ever been the second funniest clown car at Arsenal.

So. Which type of Arsenal fan are you?

If you became a fan around 2000ish because we played good football and entertained, bless you. But you have to know that it has rarely been that way and with our budget and Emery’s style it may be a while before we get there again. But hang in there. There will be sunny spells amongst the grey skies.

If, like me, you are from Islington and/or grew up in an Arsenal family, then you know the score. It is what it is. We are back where we belong. We can’t break away and we just have to enjoy the good years when they come along – in the knowledge that we will find some way to balls it all up.

But if you are a fan that came to us on the back of the later part of Wenger’s success period, then my old mucker you have unrealistic expectations and false perspective. You need to recognize this for all our sakes. And you need to stay the f..k off social media. And you tube TV stations. You give us all a bad name and annoy the hell out of us while you do it. If you think supporting Arsenal means that you should be camped at the top of the table with a ruthlessly ambitious attitude, signing big names in bunches, creating great teams, having top level managers and playing in the Champions League every year– then history would suggest you’ve signed up for the wrong team. So either gain some perspective or please go support Citeh. Until they collapse.

We are the sixth best team in England. We have a slightly better than average manager. He may even be decent. We have a couple of great players. We play in Europe’s second tier competition. We are terribly run. We have a pathetic board and an absent owner.

We are right where we have always been.


…Is Sven Mislintat’s imminent departure really going to cause Arsenal to fall into mid table mediocrity? Well I would say Arsenal have already fallen into that bracket but I call for optimism. Surely Sven isn’t the only man in the world that can spot talent right? I mean I could have watched a Lille game many years ago and watched Gervinho and Hazard play in the same team and tell you who the amazing talent was. Wait a minute who did we sign again?

The point is that Arsenal just need to change their strategy and forget spending big money because firstly we are not attractive to the megastars, secondly we don’t have the money to afford them anyway and lastly they would be commanding big salaries and we already have too much money tied up into lucrative contracts for mediocre players such as Elneny and Mikki let alone Ozil’s undeserved bumper deal.

So what I call for is project youth mark 2. (Mark 1 being the Wilshere, Walcott, Ramsey project). Yes Sven would have been integral to this but he’s not the only man to spot a good player. He didn’t discover Dele Alli, Paul Pogba, or many other star players that are currently at the top of their game. It’s about the clubs strategy to stop these short term deals for 30 year olds and Matteo Guendozi aside, invest in potential.
Frankie AFC (Emery to bag the Europa and all is okay again)


…This was in the Mailbox yesterday. I am not being deliberately annoying, but I am really interested to hear who he thinks will be in 6th place then?
I assume Man U, but that doesn’t seem very likely at this moment. Does he think they can catch Spurs or Chelsea?

Same old Arsenal
Good attack, terrible defence, weak centre, capable of a good run, poor against the best teams (apart from Spurs), 5th place.

Where’s this brilliant transformation I keep hearing about?
Oliver Thompson
Andreas Hasle, nothing but rain here, so no funny extras


A song for Sven
I am not Arsenal fan, and have very little interest in them and their internal machinations. However, i’m very glad to have heard of Sven Mislintat, purely on the basis that his name reminds me of, and now I can’t get out of my head, the wonderful Yorkshire folk song, ‘On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at’.

All together now!

‘No more Sven Mislintat,

No more Sven Mislintat,

You’re welcome Gunners fans, you can ‘ave that.

Thanks then, bye.


Murphy’s law
Danny Murphy’s co-commentary reminds me of the baseless opinion and “say what you see” analysis that you hear spouted from the average person down the pub.

He commented during the penalties, as Jannik Vestergaard walked up to take a kick, that defenders should not be taking penalties, as this job should be taken on by the more technically proficient midfielders and forwards. This really made no sense to me.

Poetically, the only player to miss their penalty, was (unbelievably for Danny, no doubt), a forward. Two of the three of Southampton’s successful penalties came from defenders The big-pressure game-winning penalty was scored by Derby’s Centre Back.

But yeah Danny, defenders shouldn’t be taking penalties.

I even went one further and compiled some stats. In the 2018 World Cup, in shootouts, forwards had a 67% success rate, midfielders 68%, and defenders 78%.

But yeah Danny, defenders shouldn’t be taking penalties.
James (LFC – I liked him as a player though), Warrington


Can Keita bring the flair?
As a Liverpool fan, it was a backhanded compliment to watch the desire and effort City put in to beat us narrowly. It was a side of theirs I had never seen before when they faced us as I always felt we usually made them retreat into their shells a bit through our aggression. However, a crunching tackle from Fernandinho in the opening couple of minutes on Milner(I think) set the tone for their passionate display, and I commend them for a deserved win.

I also watched their game this past weekend against Wolves, eagerly anticipating a strong performance by Wolves and causing an upset. However, I was to be disappointed in that regard with Jesus scoring a quick goal after an absolutely slick and classy move through Laporte and Sane, ending in the tap in for Jesus. I pretty much abandoned any hope of a Wolves upset from this point on(the red card ending the match as a contest), and found myself admiring City’s play for the remainder of the game.

It is striking how every player in that team receives the ball, and the first instinct is immediately to pass forwards and move up the pitch. A massive advantage they have in this regard is that they have players of the ilk of David Silva, Bernardo Silva and De Bruyne, who are masters at holding on to the ball in tight spaces, and have the confidence to look up and move/pass forward even in congested midfields. This in turn gives the defenders behind them more confidence to pass the ball forward into midfield versus a back pass or sideways pass, since they know that David Silva or Bernardo Silva will be able to hold on to the ball, and make space for themselves through intelligent movement and high class ball control.

I am hoping that Naby Keita will turn out to be that midfielder for us who can bring a more progressive mindset to our midfield. He has a defter touch then his performances thus far give him credit for, and it is just a matter of him settling into the rhythm of the team and getting consistency. However, he is more of a box-to-box mold. It would be nice for us to add a “midfield artist” to our locker. I love how our team has progressed this season from a wild card, all guns blazing, volatile approach to a calm, collected and methodical one. The addition of a subtle touch in midfield would be a great compliment to the industry we possess. James Rodriguez would be my ideal template for the type of midfielder I have in mind (just an example, not saying we are going for him). Christian Eriksen is another I must give special mention to. Especially considering that we now play possession heavy football, having a playmaker of that type in midfield would be critical to unlocking deep defenses and would suit our style of play. Shaquiri has that flair and creativity one would want from that role, and may be an answer we already have. Firmino also has the technical qualities to play that role (He is a technically superb player, with a wicked eye for a pass), and may also be an answer we already possess. But I am talking about a player who is carved out specifically for that playmaking role, not a hybrid or a converted forward. A proper no.10, who lives to move between those pockets of space and thrives on receiving the ball with 2 men around him and evading them through a deft drop of the shoulder, and then with the presence of mind and ability to immediately look forward through the space now created by his movement and release a quality through ball.

I was always a massive fan of the No.10, and recall one of my earliest football ‘crushes’ as being Riquelme, the ultimate definition of a football artist. I can say that the only player in the premier league that I have envied another team for having is David Silva, just for his elegant style and sheer class in everything he does. I would love to have this type of player at Liverpool.
Wickyleaks, Liverpool fan, Toronto


Reality Cech
The news that Petr Cech has announced his upcoming retirement at the age of 37 has really hit me hard. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a member of the Petr Cech fan club. I’m definitely not a Chelsea or Arsenal fan and although I’m prone to a tiara or two, I’ve never been one for headwear. The thing is that no matter how old I got, I always thought that I had a chance of becoming a footballer. A small chance sure but I always held hope that a premier league scout may be walking his/her (in honour of PC) dog and come across me during the occasional 2 minute spell when I dazzled during my office 5 a side before crawling back in between the sticks after a lung busting run to grab a bottle of water from my bag. I used to love seeing players in their 30s still hold their own. As the years went by I even thought about retraining as a GK given their longevity. But now even the GKs are retiring at my age. As a man of 34 years and 18 months, I’m not kidding myself about my age and the limitations which that brings to my ambitions. Although I’m on a career break from a well paid job to spend time travelling with 20 somethings around central and SE Asia, Ive never been one to escape reality. However, as a wise man never said, It may now be time to give up on my leaf and turn over a new dream. Actually scrap that, just saw a the story of the Japanese striker who is still playing into his 50s. The leaf is back on.
Fergal, Dublin (on loan to Laos)


God bless Bielsa
Just finished following Bielsa’s press conference and my admiration has only increased! The entire affair has been blown out of proportion by media and pundits suggesting that Bielsa would be unable to beat Derby without the benefit of “spying”. Bielsa just schooled the media and Lampard by demonstrating how he probably could coach Derby better than Lampard can ever dream to with the sheer depth of information and analysis he conducted over the last few weeks.

Any country would be lucky to have him and the Championship should thank their starts they’ve got this mad genius trying to rouse this sleeping giant of a club. Much like Benitez’ reputation on Tyneside, Bielsa has earned himself the keys to the city with this press conference.


Right, left, right, left
In response to your query in regards to left footed players not playing at right back, I think in the first instance, as is true of society as a whole Lefties are a premium commodity. (10% of the world are left handed according to a quick google search) and so first and foremost there aren’t that many left sided defensive players to fill in t right back! Why take 1 of the 2 left sided defensive players we have and move them to right back when the other 22 members of the squad are right sided?

Some other points that I cant be bothered to put into nice flowing paragraphs so ill just use numbers:

Through my own experiences and observations, Lefties (they even have their own term; anyone ever hear of a rightie/righty?) are less encouraged to use their weaker foot because it is unlikely they’ll be played in a position that predominately requires them to do this.

Notice how rarely top level Lefties use their right root instead preferring to contort their bodies to get a strike on their preferred side. See Rivaldo, Messi, Robben etc…. Whereas from the age of about 5 its been drummed into me and many of the players I’ve played with to practice on my weaker left foot and would be berated if I tried to shift the ball onto my right.

Some of the truest two footed players to have played the game in my lifetime (Nedved, Cazorla, Lallana, Pedro) are all right sided players who have perfected their left foot. (you can tell by the foot they dribble with). Ousmane Dembele is the only exception that I can think of. Adding further weight to the argument that lefties generally are not so great with their weaker foot

Further still Scientists and the like have been studying and researching for years that lefties tend to have a higher functioning right side of the brain (giving benefits such as special awareness increase creativity and so on). Therefore if I have a player that has a natural gift why would I limit him/her by playing him/her on a side that minimises his or her abilities

We have inverted left footed right wingers because when they received the ball in that position the pitch is “open” to them. Meaning they have the best view with which to attack (Cut in and shoot or cross field pass or a 1-2) and its harder to stop a dribbler coming inside as there is more pitch for them to keep running into and more options to pass to than a right footer naturally going on the outside with only 1 option; cross.

On the other hand you would want your full back to receive the ball on his/her back foot in order to open up the pitch (ball over the top of the other defenders, ball to wingers feet. Ball inside to midfielder) If a lefty played at right back his or her natural 1st touch would be back towards his or her own goal meaning the only passes that are on are the GK/CB or inside to the midfielder. Again limiting options and slowing down play.

Of all the right backs you listed playing at left back I wouldn’t say any of them excelled there, rather they did a job. Id say the only full backs to ever really excel going forwards playing on a weaker side were Lahm, Zambrotta and Maldini.

So Airit, Warsaw, If you were to play your 2 Lefties at full back. I’d probably keep Robertson at left back so that you wouldn’t stifle his overlaps and first time crossing and play Moreno at right back and just tell him to keep it simple (actually id rather bring Djimi Traore out of retirement than play Moreno)
TheNoble1 (Pretending to be left footed so I can get in the team since 1996) MUFC


Hey Airit; First of all you didn’t mention Denis Irwin in your right footed left backs examples. I don’t know how old you are or when you started watching premier League football, but that is the number one example.

You’ve asked a question and there is a simple answer. In general about 1 in 10 people are left footed. Therefore it’s easier to find someone who is right footed and play full back to cover the injured right than it is to find someone who can play full back and it left footed to cover an injured left back.

My question is why don’t you see many left footed “target men” or “proper number nines”. Can only think of Andy Carroll.
Bernard (don’t forget as well, left handed people are possessed by the devil or something like that) MUFC


Airit, Warsaw needs to be pointed at possibly the most gifted English player of his generation, the silky Chris Waddle. Wor Chris made the switch to right back nearer the end of his career and was frankly the boss for a few seasons, cutting in and shooting like a vision of Arjen Robben to come.

However the simple reason that they are rare is because left footers are so rare. As a result you use them in the position that they are likely to have the most impact, which is (massive generalisation) going forward.
Matt L, London


…My explanation for Airit, and myabe I’m completely wrong, but in my opinion it has to be down to sheer numbers.

If 20% of all players are left footed (as an example), of 10 full backs in any clubs system (youth team, U23, First Team) 2 will be left footed left backs. 3 will be right footed full backs playing as left backs and 5 will be right footed right backs. Hence surely its more through pure availability that right footed players ‘fill in’ at left back, as it would take longer to have an injury crisis long enough on the right side to need one of your few left footed players filling in there?
Naz, Staines


Ajax looted
How’s about this for the ultimate irreplaceable XI (plus a sub)?

Van der Sar; Reiziger, Blind, Rijkaard, F De Boer; Seedorf, Davids; R De Boer, Litmanen, Overmars; Finidi. Sub: Kluivert.

It took Ajax at least 3 seasons to recover after their mass departures, and some might say they never truly did.
Jonny (my preferred team on FIFA 96 and still my favourite ever) Dance

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