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Tonight’s game, tonight’s moan, Mr Wenger replies, the teams…

By Tony Attwood

There is so much vitriol pouring out against the club that I almost wonder if it is worth writing anything more today.   The attackers are out, attacking the club, with only a few people bothering to do any analysis to back up their assertions.

But maybe we should just establish one or two minor points.

First this site is, and has always been, pro-Wenger.  Unlike most anti-Wenger sites we have declared our position and maintained it.  Maybe that’s why we get such a big audience.  Many writers call us biased.  Yes we are.  That’s it.  We are biased.  It is obvious.  It says so on the masthead.

Second, the site is not in any way linked to the club.  Nice idea, but utterly untrue.  I have gone into this in more detail in a reply to one writer who made the allegations recently.

So, the AAA follows its friends in the media who feed the AAA because they know they get good readership there.  Those of us who follow a different model – that of supporting the club, the team and the manager, take a different view.  Different views, different opinions.  If you find all the articles on this site boring and dull or just utterly stupid, simply stop reading.

It looks like we might see some changes tonight.

Maybe a team that looks like this

 

Mannone

Vermaelen Koscielny Mertersacker Sagna

Wilshere Arteta

Carzola

Walcott   Giroud  Podolski

Ramsey is out, Oxlade-C is out, Gervinho, Rosicky, Diaby… all out.  And so is Gibbs.

Walcott is said to have a stomach complaint – so that’s a difficult one to choose if he is not there.  I am taking it that the Wilshere double yellow means he misses the next league match on Saturday not this one.  So if Walcott doesn’t play we will have Arshavin playing on one side and Podolski on the other.

That would leave a bench of

Martínez, Jenkinson, Yennaris, Djourou,  Coquelin, Gnarby, Chamakh

Mr Wenger’s commentary was reported in the Telegraph as

“I think what is most important right now is that we find our game back. Our game is about creating chances, about going forward, about having an offensive drive.

“That, at the moment, is missing a bit. I believe I have a team of great players and perhaps they have forgotten a little bit how good they are.

“What is most important is that we play again with our enthusiasm, desire to create chances and enjoy our game, more than thinking about if we concede a goal or not.

“In the past we have been criticised for giving chances away but we are not used to being criticised for not creating because we have a team based on that. That’s why I think it’s important we come back to what our game is all about.  We have analysed Saturday, we have watched it, spoken about it. We know that we didn’t play as well as expected. There is only one way to respond to that and it is to come out with a good performance.

“Result is always linked to performance. You cannot go into the game and think ‘no matter about the performance, we just want a result’. We want to think about playing well, that’s what we focus on.

“Schalke are a very good side.  You can see that in their league position.

“They are a very tight team but we have learned from that. We did not have a lot of chances against them at Emirates Stadium and so we have got to switch better from defence to attack.

“They did not have many chances either but they had clear-cut ones and that’s what we of course want to stop.   But, as I said, I believe for us it’s important that we create more than we do at the moment. Our game was always about that and we have to worry about being better at our style of play.”

But isn’t it strange?   At this point last season everyone was screaming that we didn’t have a good enough defence.  Now we have the meanest defence in the league, so people pick on one player, and the attack.

So it goes.

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The books…

The sites…

The articles…

“You don’t know what you’re doing…”

By Phil Gregory

Nope not Arsene Wenger, but Matt Law who is apparently the Chief Football Writer at the Mirror and recently penned a bit of a hatchet job on Wenger.

Thanks to the wonders of the web, I had the dubious pleasure of reading his critique (you wouldn’t catch me dead reading the Mirror) . Thankfully I don’t make a point of taking apart every piece of weakly argued “journalism” in today’s red top press, but this evening Mr Law, I make an exception for you.

I won’t take apart every sentence as I don’t disagree with every sentence he writes (just most) but I’m sure you’ll agree that I rebut the main arguments and don’t misrepresent Law’s position.

Mr Law’s article sub-headline started off with the reasonable point that Wenger is not beyond criticism just because he was brilliant when he first arrived and indeed, seven years without trophies means that questions must be asked and the debate had. The article soon flounders however, when it comes to asking those questions.

Mr Law’s first criticism surrounds Wenger’s supposed £7m salary package. Law is on shaky ground already, as his argument relies on the fact that Wenger indeed earns £7m a year, a fact nobody can verify and we can but guess at. Unless you’re doing Wenger’s tax returns, taken at face value, this argument is not even worth discussing.

If I give Law the benefit of the doubt and take the salary figure as correct however, it is in no way clear that Wenger’s consistent management of the club with regular Champions League performance against big-spending rivals (albeit with no trophies in that time) is worth £7m a year.

I indeed would argue that, but whether you agree with me or not depends on whether you recognise that Arsene has us punching above his weight given the financial means of our rivals. That question is an ideological one, and I’m not going to change many minds without taking this article miles of course so I won’t bother.

For a full time journalist to be making an argument based on a fact pulled out of thin air is disappointing indeed. Needless to say, if Mr Law or anyone else can provide a source that can corroborate this figure then I’ll be more than happy to apologise.

Law follows up with “The Frenchman’s team selection was baffling, his tactics were poor, his decision making was ineffectual and his actions supported some theories he has lost his edge” and criticises Wenger for being friendly with a player he coached for eight years… a marginal issue at best that has no relevance whatsoever to the debate around whether Wenger should continue as manager.

It’s never a good sign when you need to fling mud and invoke emotions to win a debate.

Andre Santos should have been dragged off for a woeful first-half performance” according to Law, yet for whom? Anyone with an understanding of football will realise that the substitution that everyone proposed (Sagna to leftback, Jenkinson on for Santos) is foolhardy.

In that situation, you would have Sagna defending against Valencia, an old-school “round the outside” winger. Sagna would be defending on his weaker, left foot, and would have a hell of a job containing Valencia, who is a great player in his own right. There is a time and a place for “wrong footed” defenders, and indeed sides have used right footed left backs effectively against wingers who cut inside so they can tackle on their stronger foot, but versus a winger seeking to go on the outside such a move is daft.

Unless Mr Law is proposing a wholesale defensive change (Vermaelen leftback, Koscielny on for Santos) which wouldn’t be the brightest of ideas in the middle of a match given Vermaelen would be playing out of position and was already having a bad game… Wenger had little option but to persist with Santos, despite the Brazilian having a bit of a nightmare.

The whole shirt swapping thing at half time was barmy, (although apparently quite common in South America, according to an article in the Guardian today)  but with a lack of subs I struggle to see how taking him off could have shored us up at the back. That’s without saying that we were chasing the game, and would be substantially weaker going forward with a wrong-footed leftback supporting the few attacks we had.

Santos wasn’t great, but there is a reason why Wenger is a football manager and you and I just sit here and argue about football – it’s because he understands these aspects of the game that apparently Chief Football Writers don’t.

Wenger was right to highlight the fact he has done a wonderful job in keeping Arsenal in the Champions League, but his suggestion the club will flounder without him was incredibly arrogant and not necessarily true. Arsenal won trophies before the arrival of Wenger and will win more long after he is gone. They may not qualify for the Champions League for 15 successive years, but they may not go seven without silverware“.

I wont spend too long picking apart the above, as it doesn’t require it. Clearly Wenger elevated Arsenal’s status substantially when he arrived and, despite illustrious periods in our past, nobody can really deny that.

Look at the average league position before and after his arrival, look at the trophy count during his period at the helm (even worth the current drought) compared to before him…

Certainly a new manager could come in and win trophies, but no manager can rival Wenger’s record in the transfer market on a tight budget: what is to say Guardiola would be able to do better with the resources at our disposal? Naturally you can retort we should spend more under Wenger or a new manager, but when we’re up against the bottomless wallets of City and Chelsea getting into a bidding war is hardly a bright idea.

Likewise, leaving our club’s financial stability at the behest of a Russian billionaire does not strike me as a sensible course of action. It seems to me to be a pretty sensible course of action to stick with the geezer who has a knack for finding diamonds in the rough and developing young talents from the academy.

Law criticises Walcott’s omission from the starting line up at Old Trafford, as if he expected Theo to play in one of the most intense games of the season after playing 120 minutes in midweek. The only United player in their line-up who played in midweek was Rafael, for whom they haven’t got a replacement given injuries. This is seriously basic stuff, Mr Law!

Likewise Law criticises the club’s handling of the Walcott contract situation. While I would love it to be wrapped up and Theo secured for the future, there are two parties required to sign the deal.

While we will never know the inside story, a little bit of Arsenal stinginess with the wage packet seems to be balanced out by Theo being foolish in this negotiation with the whole “central striker” thing. Not only does he already pretty much play as a centre forward (a wide forward that cuts inside is hardly different to a centre forward, who drifts out after all) but this is Arsene Wenger we are talking about, the man who started Henry as a wide player and moved him inside.

Personally, if my coach had developed one of the most deadly strikers in football, I’d knuckle down and take his opinions on board! Theo is a class player, but a football club cannot bend over backwards to indulge a player’s whims, lest they all do it.

Mr Law makes a fair point that Wenger is pulling a fast one in pretending that Walcott isn’t being omitted from the starting line-up due to his contract situation. Perhaps that is true, but is he really going to come out and admit it, creating headlines and media furore around a situation that is already complicated? No, that would be foolish. This is standard Wenger, he regularly fakes “injuries” for players who have been dropped for poor form or personal reasons, to deflect the media attention and give the player space. Sounds like good management to me!

The strange point is made that Giroud is “designed to play in a two-man partnership“, as if it is utterly bizarre that Wenger thinks a big, strong centre forward with decent touch and link up play can play up front on his own. You know, the guy who converted Van Persie into a lone forward and one of the best strikers around (that stung) may just know a thing or two about picking centre forwards. Nit picking at its finest.

Criticising Wenger’s failure to substitute Wilshere is another easy one. On paper, it is not a bad move to take off a hot-headed player on a yellow. Yet when chasing a lead, taking off one of your best players who is a creative force for a defensive midfielder is not the best of ideas either.

Leaving Wilshere on represented a gamble and given we were behind, Wenger had to take it. Much more important going forward is the fact that Wilshere keeps his temper in check and doesn’t give the referee the opportunity to dismiss him.

“Wenger started the season hoping Abou Diaby would avoid injury, hoping his goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny would play every game, hoping Gervinho could somehow succeed as a striker and hoping Van Persie’s goals would not be missed. But what did he really expect?”

Leaving aside the apparent act of mind-reading on behalf of the Mirror’s finest, we again see criticism of Wenger’s choice of strikers! Let’s not forget that Gervinho won the French league playing as a striker, nor indeed Wenger’s rather unrivalled record of moulding strikers from Henry to Bergkamp to RvP.
The goalkeeper critique seems to me to be clutching at straws: Mannone has largely done well and few teams ever have to play a third choice goalkeeper, not least for months at a time. Abou Diaby… well. He is made of glass, but so was Robin Van Persie, and he wasn’t half bad for us last year, was he now?
Mr Law broaches an interesting topic, one worthy of debate, but his article is not it. Indeed a reasoned critique of Wenger recently would point to our not-inconsiderable wage bill and the invaluable freedom and flexibility that Wenger has, yet Mr Law sadly misses the  nuances amid a flurry of ill thought-out populism. You know it’s bad when Tim Payton is lauding it on Twitter…

Latest stories:

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The books…

The sites…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rolling grass, beer, roofs and the Würfel. Travelling to tonight’s game

By Walter Broeckx

By the time you read this I will be on my way. On my way to Gelsenkirchen. For the 4th game in our Champions League group.

It is not the first time I will visit the ground there. Some 6 or 7 years ago when I was on holiday in Germany I actually took a tour in the Stadium. Because it is rather a very strange stadium.

Because on any average day it is a football stadium without a pitch in it. When I was there the only thing you could see in the middle was a big concrete pit. And the grass was laying outside the ground. To give the grass a maximum chance of growing they roll the pitch in and out the stadium depending on there being a game or not.

The stadium was build not that long after the Ajax Arena and in this stadium they had (and still have I think) to replace the pitch every 6 weeks or so because the grass just dies. Not enough sun, wind and whatever grass needs to grow. So the Germans took things in hand, learned from the mistakes and decided to put the grass outside the stadium and roll it in on match days. The space that then opens up outside the stadium can be used as a big parking ground. And the grass can grow freely and should be in the best condition. It takes around 6 to 8 hours to move the grass inside the stadium.

The name of the stadium is Veltins Arena. But it will not be named that way today. Probably Uefa will call it the Schalke Arena or something like that. Uefa calls the Emirates Arsenal stadium on CL match days. You know the wrong sponsor.

And now comes the interesting part for some the sponsor “Veltins” is a big brewery in Germany. And as German beer is chemical free it is rather popular with some. Not for me as I don’t drink beer but I can imagine a few Gooners liking the thought of not only visiting a football ground but also visiting a stadium that has almost been build around the beer providing part of it.

The stadium has enormous big tanks filled with beer hidden somewhere (I have seen them in the tour) and every tap in the ground is connected with the big tanks filled with beer. Some 5000 meter of pipeline is hidden in the ground to make sure that all and everyone has a beer in the same condition.

And when I visited the ground they also showed that the toilets were connected with an video channel giving the game. So in case you need to go out urgent and the cameras catch you leaving the ground you can always say that you went to the loo and looked at the game on TV.

And on top and you can take this literally is a roof that can be closed when the weather outside is not good enough to play football. For football games it is usually open but they use it for concerts and other events that take place in this stadium and that are more suited for a closed event.

And another special thing is that in the middle of the pitch there is a big video wall hanging above the centre circle where you can see images appearing if they are allowed. In most stadiums the video walls are somewhere hidden in the stands but in this stadium they are in the middle of things. And for those who are still wondering the word “Würfel” in the title of this article, this is the name it has in this stadium: Der Videowürfel.

So after having visited Dortmund and the gigantic “Sud-Tribune” I now will visit another special stadium and they are not that far away from each other. The rivalry between Schalke and Dortmund is something like Arsenal and Tottenham one could say. And as Dortmund has the Sudtribune as their main support part of the stadium, in Schalke it is the Nordkurve where the most fanatics are situated.

Our supporters club will be there and many other Flemish gooners will be travelling to Gelsenkirchen to see Arsenal play. For us it is only a trip of 2 hours with the car. If traffic goes well of course. So in fact closer than London for us and for the Gooners from our part of Europe it is always great when Arsenal has to play in the Low Countries or in that part of Germany. The difference between this trip and our trip next Saturday to see the Fulham game in London is rather big. But to see Arsenal play it is no real problem to make a long journey.

If Tony is interested I will try to write a catering review, a match review, a beer review (or maybe John can do that one as I don’t drink but could ask the others), a ref review or whatever you want from me. I will not be doing a match preview as I am bad in such things.

But my two cents: I think Theo will start in this game. The word is out that Gibbs would be fit again: play him I would say if that is the case.  But that is only rumours on the internet for the moment. But sure wouldn’t mind a bit of pace on both flanks for this game.

Schalke lost 3-2 against Hoffenheim this weekend, a team from the lower regions of the Bundesliga. And Schalke are now in 2nd place in the Bundesliga 7 points behind leaders Bayern Munich.  A win could put us back at the top of the group and would bring qualification very close. Schalke winning and depending the other results would put them through to the next round. So we can expect Schalke to go for it in their home game.

Will this leave some room for a fast player? Can’t wait to see the game.

 

The books…

The sites…