There are Dixon the British Press.

Arsenal are down, no doubt, but to listen to the press portray it we are damn near suicidal, or in some cases outright suicidal. I’ve listened to the actual interviews from which most of these doom and gloom reports emanate and I’m not buying it. Take a phrase out of context, plaster it across the top with huge font and sit back and wait for the predictably irate reactions.

Muckrakers at best.

That said, I’ve figured out what this year’s “Copy and Paste Quotes of the Season” are going to be, feel free to use ad nauseum:

Arsenal have not won a trophy for four years

Arsenal lack a holding midfielder

Arsenal need to strengthen their spine

Arsenal need to loosen their purse strings

Also, feel free to add more in the comments, I always need fresh copy. Sorry but I’m not buying any of those “analysis” of this season.

Andrei “baffled” by Arsene

I’m baffled about this myself. Not where Andrei is playing but by how a self respecting journalist could take this quote

My personal plan for my initial three months with Arsenal wasn’t about scoring a certain number of goals or making a set number of assists, I wanted to get the feeling whether I can play in England or not. Sometimes I feel that I can but other times that I don’t. It’s probably because that I play as a left midfielder. I still can’t get used to the idea that I’m capable of playing on the left of midfield – and frankly having to do it keeps me baffled. I don’t understand if it’s only because God is taking care of me, or I really can play so well as a left-winger.

and make this headline: ‘Baffled’ Arshavin hits out at Wenger as troubles mount for the Gunners.

Is he really taking the piss out of Wenger there or is he being misquoted because of his strange choice of vocabulary? Baffled or surprised? I read that as he’s “surprised” that he can not only play in England, but that he is also capable of shouldering some of the defensive responsibilities requisite a midfielder in one of the most physical leagues in the world. Clearly Richard Bright and “SPORTSMAIL REPORTER” above see that quote as proof that Arshavin is upset at playing in midfield and ready to leave Arsenal or whatever else they want to make up.

Don’t act so Petit

“WENGER NEEDS TO CHANGE, says Petit” screams the headline by Setanta’s Captain shiat-stirrer Laurent Picard, but the actual Petit quote is more nuanced, more intelligent than Captain Picard would have us believe.

Arsenal have not won anything in four years [eye roll, ed.]. Everything was done to bring together a young team and make it progress step by step, after Henry’s departure. But, at the end of the day, the transition did not work out.

Arsene is extremely intelligent, he is a visionary. I am not saying that he should change his ways, [emph. added] but if he made slight changes and managed to find a compromise between youth and experience, like Manchester and every dominant team in Europe do, he would find the right mix.

But it means spending more money [eye roll, ed].

Arsenal have their own touch: moving football towards goal. But they reach their limit when they are playing against a team that plays like them and with the physical impact that Arsenal do not have.

Petit is actually saying that Arsenal tried something, it’s fallen a bit flat, and now they need to make some slight changes. Is that really the same as the absolutist headline “Wenger needs to change?” And do we really need Mister Petit to say two of the four Copy and Paste analysis of this season?

Don’t Dixon me, man

Dixon’s assessment of the Chelsea game is a bit strange to say the least. The graphic in the middle of the page clearly shows Nasri at fault for the Anelka goal, and Dixon even singles Nasri out for an over-the-top ball against Everton as well. Moreover, this blog has mentioned severally that Nasri is often culpable for not tracking back and getting involved in the defense the way he should. Add in the known problems that Theo has shouldering his defensive responsibilities and I think there is a well established problem of defensive rotation with certain players

So, how does that translate to “Arsenal lack a holding midfielder?” Bring back a 25 year old Patrick Vieira and he still wouldn’t have broken up that Anelka run, because he cannot be everywhere at once.  And as Dixon points out (in his annoying staccato style) “He [Vieira] made runs forward but when he did you could guarantee Emmanuel Petit would stay there and cover him.”

Right… in the past, Arsenal rotated more effectively.

Which is a coaching problem, as frequent commenter caribkid points out. I have no doubt that Nasri could learn to defend better, but he needs someone there to teach him that and to take the utter piss out of him when he doesn’t.

Buying another holding midfielder does not solve that problem, in fact, it could exacerbate the problems. With Essien behind him players like Nasri might feel like they never have to track back.

Moreover, and this is really, really crucial in my mind, Dixon does say something that I whole-heartedly agree with:

You need someone to break things up; someone with a bit of intelligence who knows where to be in that area, when to push forward, when to support and when to drag someone back.

Vieira was brilliant at that. If he felt exposed he would get hold of someone and get them to help him. [emph. added]

Arsenal need leadership! YES! I’ve been saying this all year, but that’s not what gets copy “Arsenal need to buy” gets copy. The crucial difference between my interpretation and Dixon’s is that he thinks that leadership must come from that defensive midfield spot and given Song’s lack of experience, Arsenal then must buy in order to fill the leadership void.  Fair enough, but I disagree.

I feel like it should come from the more experienced players on the team, players who have over 200 matches under their belts, players like Cesc.

Criticizing Cesc is somehow off the table, and that’s a real shame, because the captain of the team should take responsibility when his team is not playing well. If the team is lacking defensive rotation and understanding of when to attack and when not, is that the responsibility of Alex Song, or is that the responsibility of El Capitan?

Even crazier, Cesc played that position for years and yet still there’s a distinct lack of understanding on this team of how to play that position. How we can take anything away from a player like Song who has literally DOZENS of games under his belt and who has come along so brilliantly this season, while simultaneously leapfrogging over the obvious fact that the captain and one of the most experienced players on the team basically took this season off, is baffling to me.

And I mean baffling in the sense of “baffling” as in “are they so stuck on their Copy and Paste analysis of the team that the only solution is Arsenal must buy?”

Yes, buying another holding midfielder is important. Buying at least one center back is important as well. These players will challenge each other for places on the team and improve our overall quality while increasing the bench depth.

BUT

More crucially, the coaching staff and team leaders need to look at themselves. I said it before and I’ll say it again: Fabregas should not have been allowed to go on vacation after his injury. The fact that he was allowed to go, that he wanted to go, and that he publicly said that he didn’t care about football anymore undermined everything that this team was supposedly building with his appointment to the captaincy.

And all those players that the Dixon’s this world want to replace floundered under the lack of guidance and insight from the team’s most experienced midfielder and captain… and, ultimately, the manager.

Never fear, McFunk is here

I’m not worried, though. I’ve watched the interviews and I think Wenger knows what went wrong. I think Wenger is pissed about the fact that he put so much faith in some of these players and that they let him down. And I think we may see a bit of the old, ruthless, Wenger reappear. We’ll have to wait until after Arsenal’s second vacation, some time around July, to see which Wenger we are going to get: the one hungry to win a trophy or the one willing to grease the squeaky wheels.

I have faith it will be the former.

13 Comments on There are Dixon the British Press.

  1. It’s very dissapointing that those that you would think will be on your side (and you had some respect and love for), eventually turn out to look for self-glory, Lee Dixon and Ian Wright in particular, especially Ian Wright have been very critical of Wenger and the young Arsenal team recently, nothing wrong with a bit of appropriate criticism, but like you say, they use these cut-and-paste headlines always, if they really know the answer to Arsenal’s problems, and Arsene doesn’t (yeah right), then how come they haven’t ever tried managing a team? it really does piss me off how someone who has never done something can sit there and criticise someone who is an expert in their job. If “pundits” were made up of people like a retired Alex Ferguson or Guus Hiddink, maybe we’d actually take them seriously and they would even have a right to make assessments, but Dixon and Wright (who are still probably in their thirties, so hardly full of years of managerial wisdom)?

    There are two ways of looking at Arsenal, you could say that 4th place and 4 years without a trophy is not good enough therefore this team is crap, or you could say that, a young, maturing, emerging and inexpensively assembled team has again proved too good for the chasing pack for fourth place which includes a very good Everton side, an over acheiving Aston Villa side and one of the most expensively assembled teams in the league, Tottenham (who ended up fighting relegation!). So Wenger has again proved he is a genius, beating very good managers like David Moyes and Martin O Neil. Now his young guns have matured by another year, experienced more highs and lows, with a bit of summer additions and Wenger will soon be ready to do battle with his contemporary – Sir Alex Ferguson.

    Funny how perspective changes everything.

  2. Well I think it’s a bit unfair to totally discredit former players turn pundits. For the most part they have at least some credibility in what they’re talking about. Surely most of them have insight but perhaps lack the vocabulary to properly express it – such as let’s say Graeme Souness.

    On the other hand journalists are a bit sketchy and really you have to take the Sunday papers with a grain of salt because let’s face it, if journalists always attempted to report absolute facts then the news might just be alot more boring and as much as newspapers should be “factual” they also need to be interesting and drama always pulls crowds. So for the sake of argument let’s just say reports are always half-truths.

    When we reminisce about the old days we always refer to Vieira first and mostly neglect a player like Gilberto. Sure Gilberto and Vieira worked well but I think Arsenal players and fans would like another Invisible Wall because when Gilberto was on the field, you could pretty much leave him on his own to protect the back four. He rarely ventured forward, much less past the half-line and mostly popped up in attack on set pieces. Essentially I think that’s what we expect of a holding midfielder a la Claude Makalele. I think this would be a good thing for the team because it would give Cesc the Lampard/Gerrard role – total free reign to move as he pleases. I think this is what really allowed him to flourish last season with Flamini basically covering every blade of grass to allow Fab very little defensive duties and to dictate the play as he sees fit. I think it worked this way for Vieira as well but he was just a fighter by nature so defensive duties were more innate for him even if he didn’t have to.

    As I’ve said before Cesc isn’t as great a captain as we all thought he’d be – to be honest there’s not many leaders in this team who are willing to demand results on the field. Vieira and Tony Adams all grabbed their teammates by the scruff of their necks and demanded a performance. Whereas Cesc sits quietly and tries to leader with the football he plays – this type of leadership doesn’t always work as we’ve seen Henry try to do. Sometimes you just have to give the team a piece of your mind and be direct with loud angry words.

  3. I really like ur analysis of the holding midfield problem.
    It kind of struck me as odd that song can play so well and really do a great job of breaking things up, playing in a similar style to flamini (ie bombing forward on occasion) and yet he was also so ineffective against the bigger teams
    How can a def. mid. play so well and yet the side can look so soft.
    I wouldnt even put our defensive problems down to the defence so much, the opposition just seem to position themselves between defence and midfield and our defenders becomes totally exposed.

    I think ur comments cleared that up for me. Cheers

  4. and i completely agree about cesc, ppl are only now waking up to walcott’s faults, but they still will not say cesc should take responsibility for his performances, in their minds, if cesc plays bad its cos he needs someone big and powerful running around next to him or something, so it’s the other players’ faults 😎

  5. You know what’s really odd about that Davi, last year the same people ripped me when I said that Flamini covered for Fabregas. They said stuff like “Fabregas doesn’t need cover.” Well, it’s pretty clear that everyone needs cover, at least according to the Dixon this world, the only way Arsenal will ever be good again is to buy a dominating midfielder, to cover for everyone else.

  6. @Aes,

    “it really does piss me off how someone who has never done something can sit there and criticise someone who is an expert in their job.”

    The American public did not criticize President Bush (expert in his job, father was also President)and his administration, in fact, they re-elected him for a second term. As we can all see now, that was a grave mistake. In a lot of cases, it’s the totally impartial and inexperienced observers who frequently arrive at the best solutions because they are not constrained by the box. Kinda like the Neurosurgeon who habitually does 15 hour invasive brain surgery to repair an Anuerism, with a 70% failure rate, instead of having it done by non-invasive 3 hour Micro-catheter techniques with a 75% success rate. Why does the Neurosrgeon do that? Because that’s what he spent 10 years learning to do, so it must be the right way. He knows no other way.

    Firstly, everyone is entitled to their opinions. Secondly, both Petit and Wright made a number of valid points. It is the Press, who takes things out of context in order to generate headlines and sell their shiat.

    As Tim stated, a lot of our problems are coaching related. Our defensive rotation is awful, our marking and positioning on set pieces are horrendous, our crossing from the wings stink and Almunia consistently punting the ball down field is amateurish to say the least. Outside of Arshavin and RVP, we have all one footed players (defenses love that) and when last did you see any of our players playing a chip over the top when defenses have 10 men behind the ball. How many times do you see us switching the play from one side to another with a single pass to put pressure on the defense and draw them out of position.

    Some of the above items are easily addressed in the short term whilst some may take a little longer to be ingrained. The major problem is we are not addressing them in the Youth program so while we produce players with excellent ball control and technique, they are severely lacking in so many other ways. It seems at times to me that we started coaching 301 but left out 101.

    Just my rant.

  7. remember the only thing you can believe printed in a newspaper is the price!

    viva!

  8. Tim, you criticise the media for “arsenal needs to buy” headlines, and then you go ahead and say we DO need players? C;mon mate. We need players to augment the squad, we all know that. Even the most optimistic gooner knows that. Look what happened when we got Arshavin in. Turns out you CAN buy the kind of experience and leadership we need.

    And yes, we need defensive coaching as well.

  9. Very well outlined CARIBKID. I have mentioned this several times… The team is lacking tactically which is derived from the type coaching received. Positioning; especially during defensive play is quite poor to be honest. I agree with the lack of switching play, and horrible crosses which all give rise to one dimensonal play. I mean how many times have you seen an attack petering out in the left and right hand sides of the park. There doesn’t seem to be much understanding between the players on the said sides.

    I 100% agree with the coaching staff revising certain stale strategies. A little variation would go a long way even with he current squad nevermind additions.

  10. Conolla, my point is that we need to look internally for leadership and internally at the coaching rather than looking externally for an injection of leadership. Also, my point is that the simplistic analysis of people who are saying “Arsenal must buy” are missing the bigger problems at the club.

    If Arsenal buy Hangelaand, for example, and he plays in a system which exposes our defenders so consistently, then just buying isn’t the answer. If Arsenal went and bought Essien or Obi Wan Mikel and Nasri, Walcott, and Cesc still refuse to play defense and we are exposed to another midfield cracker like Anelka unleashed, then what exactly has all that buying gotten us?

    Nothing.

    So, and I think I made this clear, buying is important and something I support because I believe that this team needs an injection of competition. But buying is not the panacea that the press and everyone seems to think it is, nor is it a simple solution. The solution here is more complicated and starts with the captain and the manager kicking themselves in the ass, kicking their squad in the ass, changing things, and then bringing in new people to compete for certain spots.

    Ironically, my analysis is pretty much what Gallas said in the press; some of these Arsenal players aren’t playing hard enough.

  11. Again Tim, you are 100% correct. If the infrastructure of a building is flawed, no matter how much new paint and furniture is added, the building will eventually crumble.

    Currently, our coaching system is highly flawed.

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