FA Cup > 4th Place

Yesterday I was certain that Arsenal were going to lose to Chelsea. One secret that I’ll reveal is that I have my moments where I doubt the team and I often slip into an irrationally defeatist attitude. If we aren’t playing perfectly after the first 30 seconds of a game I’ll often say to my girlfriend, “that’s it, Arsenal are going to lose this match.” To which she will always reply “I take it we haven’t gotten to the two minute mark?” See, after about two minutes that’s when I can relax and settle into the rhythm of the game.

But yesterday was different. I knew we were going to lose this match because Arsenal had lost Koscielny to a red card, Gabriel to knee injury, and Mustafi to concussion. That meant a makeshift back three or back four defense facing off against Chelsea, the League champs.

And Chelsea are more than just League champs. They have the Player of the Year on their team, N’Golo Kante, a defensive midfielder in the mold of Francis Coquelin only a step or two up. They have the Player of the Year from two seasons ago in Eden Hazard. They have a nightmare center forward in Diego Costa, a guy who gets under our defender’s skins and crawls around like some kind of worm eating them from the inside out. And I can’t forget that Chelsea have Arsenal’s former boy captain Cesc Fabregas in their squad: a player who is not just a mere snake but also one of the most talented footballers I’ve ever seen play at Arsenal, and a player who has won trophies with Chelsea and Barcelona, but never with Arsenal. His link-up play with Costa is almost preternatural. I felt for sure that he would be the one to pass the ball to Costa, who would do something god-awful to us. As if all that weren’t enough, Chelsea has a deep bench with Willian, Batshuayi, Fabregas, and Captain Leader Legend, John Terry, who was all suited up and prepared to do something truly vile to Arsenal’s corpse after we died in a heap at Chelsea’s feet.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wasn’t even nervous at the start of this FA Cup final. I was simply resigned. We were losing the cup. Arseblog asked me to write the match report, which meant that I had to write and watch at the same time. And so just before kickoff I pulled on my Eduardo shirt from 2007, calmly opened up my laptop, and sat down to write the saddest match report of my life.

As you know now, it didn’t turn out that way. Within seconds of the opening kick Arsenal looked like the sharper team. They passed the ball with a confidence I haven’t seen this season, they had more energy than Chelsea which is another rarity this season, and they pressed and harassed Chelsea into turnovers in dangerous areas.

Player of the Year N’Golo Kante turned the ball over exactly where a defensive midfielder cannot turn the ball over, in his own area. His teammates failed to clear. Alexis hunted the ball down. Alexis scored. But Ramsey was there, offside, right next to the ball, moving, blocking the keeper, and certainly interfering with play.

I thought for certain the goal would be chalked off. From what I understand of the rules, an offside player between the keeper and the onside player is exactly what the offside rule is supposed to prevent. It’s not just whether the player actively goes for the ball, but whether the player blocks the line of vision for the keeper. But then I’ve seen this not called so many times against Arsenal. There was a controversial Fulham goal a few years ago where a player actually lifted his leg (or maybe ducked?) to let the ball go past him. I remember screaming into the internet about how that was offside. I had slides from the laws of the game and I feel fairly certain that I understand this rule but clearly, the interpretation in England is that a player can stand offside between the keeper and the attacker and as long as he doesn’t look like he’s going for the ball, it’s ok.

So, 1-0. But I still thought we were going to lose.

Then the extraordinary happened. Arsenal created chance after chance. Ramsey was at the far post when Welbeck struck the upright but could only put the ball int the side netting. That could have been a goal. Cahill cleared an Ozil shot off the line. That could have been a goal. Ozil hit the upright after juking Azpilicueta. That could have been a goal.

All of this and solid defense at the back. Costa tried getting under Rob Holding’s skin: he put him in a headlock, threw him to the ground and then “accidentally” tumbled into Holding, kicking him in the head. Holding just got up, walked away, laughed, tapped his temple and said “I’m not falling for your mind games”. Minutes later Costa kicked Ospina in the head. Again with one of his now patented “accidental” tumbles where his legs go flying all over the place like a giant spider on roller skates.

That kick to the head led to a few shaky minutes from Arsenal. Ospina dropped a cross. Arsenal turned the ball over. But Chelsea couldn’t get a sniff and Arsenal created great shot after great shot. Arsenal weren’t just playing well, they were KILLING CHELSEA.

Still, Arsenal hadn’t been able to capitalize on the chances they made and I felt like Chelsea were going to get their second wind. And of course that meant that Arsenal were going to lose.

The second half did start better for Chelsea and eventually they got their luck. It took them subbing on all their attacking players but Costa got a cross from Willian and then Holding overran the cross, Mertesacker tried to block but merely deflected, and then Ospina reacted poorly, but they got a goal.

I barely even had time for the doom to set in before Aaron Ramsey restored the lead. That sequence epitomized this match in many ways. Arsenal and Chelsea played an open, attacking cup final. Both teams set up in a 343 and both teams looked to hit each other on the counter. Both teams created plenty of chances and it made the game an example of what the Premier League looks like at its very best. This wasn’t Mourinho’s negative football or Sam Allardyce’s anti-football, this was two teams going at each other, end to end.

And Arsenal won.

After the match, Arsene Wenger did two unusual things. The first is that he held onto his winner’s medal. He hasn’t kept any of the previous 6 FA Cup winner’s medals. He usually gives them away to a member of the club who are underappreciated. But he kept the medal and he said he kept it because it was a record breaking 7th FA Cup win.

But he also mentioned one other weird thing in his post-match interview. He held on to the medal because it felt special. This win felt special because of what the team had to overcome this season, specifically the situation with his contract and with the squabbling between manager and the board.

He pointed out that Arsenal won 7 of their last 8 games. That after their blip they collectively decided to put their heads down and try to get the job done. They finished 5th which was a let down but while Tottenham, City, and Liverpool might have a better record, Arsenal notched wins over Man City and Chelsea to lift the FA Cup.

 

I’ll take an FA Cup win over Chelsea over 4th place any day.

Qq

59 Comments on FA Cup > 4th Place

  1. Just wanted to point out that Fabregas actually won the FA Cup in 2005 with Arsenal. But in fairness to you, it was so early in his Arsenal career that it’s easy to forget.

    I deeply regret my lack of faith. Not only did I expect us to lose, for the reasons you were also fearful, but I expected a thorough acid rinse. As such I didn’t even bother going to the pub (I don’t pay for cable, and I don’t trust streams). I followed a couple of live blogs and reached the pit of my despair (at my own lack of faith) when the players responded to the equalizer in a couple of minutes.

    For the moment, I don’t want to care too much about what it means, and just be happy that we won a trophy, against the pre-match odds.

  2. FA Cup > 4th Place. Every day of the week.

    As I’ve said before, let’s embrace our Europe fate and try to win the thing. Trust me, United fans are very, very happy with the Europa cup. Trophies = feelgood, and Europa may be second tier but it’s not inconsequetial.

    Yes, any honest reading of the rules had Ramsey interfering with play. He had the presence of mind not to touch the ball, but Courtois’ positioning was certainly influenced by Ramsey being in his face. But call me hypocritical, I’ll take it. We’ve had some pretty big calls go against us. In truth, we’d have been screaming blue murder if the shoe had been on the other foot.

    That said, we were killing them on the park, and looked likelier to win, whether the goal stood or not. I hesitate to say we should have won by 5. Football’s not like that. 2- 0, we stand off, pass it around cockily, they score a goal, and it’s a different game. Actually scoring the first of a series of missed goals brings about a different sequence.

    But we were the better team yesterday by a distance.

  3. Helluva day!
    I felt the exact same way as you going into the match Tim. No despair, no hope, no anxiety – Just pure resignation to our ‘unavoidable fate’. And then the match started and it was just the most glorious thing to watch.

    I have to say though that seeing Mesut crunch into Hazard when the latter got away from him was my highlight of the match. It just goes to epitomize how scary we can be when we’re up to it. It was almost like watching the 3-0 win over Chelsea from earlier this season or the 3-0 win against Man Utd in 2015. Same aggressive attitude and focus. God knows what we’d do if we stayed turned on like that all season long.

    Per Metersacker and Aaron Ramsey were standouts for me… You know what, scratch that – All of the players gave it their all and it was amazing to see. I didn’t think I’d see an FA Cup final I’s enjoy more than our penalty triumph over Utd in 2005 just for the sheer gutsiness of it.

    Thank you Arsenal. Thank you Arsene.
    Thank you!

  4. Magnificent writing on Arsenal all season long 7am.

    Felt a similar resignation pre-match but I was quietly confident for one simple reason – we have Alexis Sanchez. With him, we’re never out of a contest. In extra-time against City he kept moving when defenders were slowing down and scored. Yesterday he kept moving and chased his chip and the rebound off him and he scored.

    So many sub-plots to this victory: Hector Bellerin playing like he had a personal vendetta after Marcos Alonso knocked him out at Stamford Bridge. Aaron Ramsey scoring the winning goal because N’golo Kante couldn’t cope with his relentless running. Granit Xhaka playing like a true regista. David Ospina doing David Ospina things (thought he positioned himself well on Costa’s goal, but it’s hard to read a double deflection). Giroud doing his super-sub thing but this time serving up a caviar instead of scoring himself.

    The major refereeing decisions went our way because the football gods wanted to give Arsene Wenger what he deserves – the opportunity to bow out with a glorious victory. Just a magical day all around.

  5. Last game of the regular season: we beat Everton and it was still disappointing because we missed out on 4th.
    Yesterday: winning actually made me happy. For the record 13th, for the record 7th, for the 3rd cup in 4 years.
    I’m glad this was the way we played our last game or the season. Let’s see what the next few weeks bring.
    The boys in Red and White were Fucking Dynamite yesterday and it was awesome

  6. Am i right in saying you were leaning towards ‘arsenens tine is up’ Tim? Does the run in and performance yesterday change any of that?

    I have to say i am a bit fickle. But maybe it is just because i have so much despect for Arsene and still belive he can achieve something bigger at arsenal. The bad run was so depressing, so familiar and so long that i did finally arrive at ‘wengers time at arsenal is finally up, and was maybe up at least a season ago’.

    But as i said, the admiration and respect i have for him means it was not difficult for me to move away from that conclusion. What are your thoughts on his future? What do you want to see happen?

  7. I wasn’t sure we’d win, but I was quietly confident we’d turn up with a good performance. In the buildup to gameday, I watched some videos of various players and the manager and I couldn’t help but think they were ready to take on the challenge. I didn’t think we’d go 4 at the back. We were sticking to our guns. Especially watching Mertesacker in that video with Rob Holding, I knew he would be willing to leave it all on the pitch to win. And boy was he great. Hazard had that one run initially which caused a panic until Mert took it off his toe and then scrambled to block Costa. Hazard seemed less of a threat after that somehow.

    Holding made a couple of errors but he was otherwise great. The way he dealt with Costa’s antics was fantastic.* Monreal was very very good too. Ably supported by Bellerin and Ox, and even Ozil and Sanchez helping out when needed.

    Xhaka bossed the midfield. Always knew where to pass it (except once)and Ramsey kept providing him an outlet. Some better finishing and we could have run away with this game.

    Conversely, if the ref had given that as a penalty instead of a dive, we could have still lost. We got the decisions yesterday (One correct, one probably incorrect) and it contributed to a great victory. This was a great game of football and despite our problems, we came out fighting and took home the trophy. FA Cup, ie silverware, is better than 4th place right now. We need to win more than we need the CL money. Hopefully we’ll just take a one year sabbatical and go back to join the big boys refreshed and reinvigorated by a successful 2017/18 campaign.

    *Costa really should see red for putting someone in a headlock and falling over. That can be dangerous. He also then kicked out and held him in a leglock. Full marks to young Rob Holding for how he reacted.
    Also, it was Alonso who had knocked out Bellerin, right? In the FA tunnelcam video, at the 1min mark, Alonso is entering the locker room with some lackey and he makes a movement as if he’s elbowing him in the head, for the camera. What an idiot!

    • Yes about Alonso and yes about him being an idiot.

      So, do we all agree with Tim that Josh Kroenke is the man who (with Ivan’s help) might just be trying to force Arsene out?? It sounds a plausible story to me, though I still think Arsene’ll win the day, perhaps after accepting a new “sporting director” (Overmars maybe?). Whatever we all think about Arsene deserving to stay or not–I’ve been thinking for months he should retire, but kinda sorta hoping he’d prove me wrong, and yesterday went some way to restoring my faith–I think we should all agree that Arsene doesn’t deserve to get forced out by a clueless, undeserving nitwit like that. I mean, can you imagine it: Arsene F*ckin Wenger, Arsenal and English Football Legend, being told to his face that he is no longer competent to do his job by Josh Kroenke, a man who knows nothing about football and whose only notable attribute is having the dumb luck to be the child of a billionaire? And if they then appoint someone unqualified like Henry, Lord help me…

      • Arsene’s comments about it being about competence and not popularity suggests that it might even be more a PR issue than a sporting one as far as some people on board are concerned. As would the appointment of Henry.

        Which is just silly. I can understand wanting a GM because we need to plan for life without Wenger and future managers are unlikely to care about the long term. But you don’t take away Wenger’s final word on transfer decisions. That is disrespectful and unnecessary. Wenger is right to demand that the board either back him or sack him. No half measures make sense here.
        Pires might be in the running for the DoF role? He’s expressed his ambition to become one, regularly trains with the squad, and he seems to share a level of mutual trust with Wenger.

    • My feeling on Wenger’s continued stewardship of Arsenal FC are well known, but it feels wrong to me today to be talking about his possible departure. I just want to tip my hat to his tactical mastery yesterday, his making Arsenal the winningest team in FA Cup history, making the best of difficult hand with injuries, and to the probably under-appreciated feat of 3 cups in 4 years.

      He has shown real toughness and character these past few months, and for that he has my respect. He said it best — one result doesn’t change the big picture — but today he stands tall.

      Let’s see what happens on Tuesday.

    • That disgraceful action by Alonso when he knocked out Hector to score has stayed with me and I find myself bringing it up in conversation more than I should as I couldn’t stomach the fact that the goal was allowed to stand. All the pundits at the time were defending his physicality and deriding Hector’s lack of strength. So our first goal was doubly satisfying in that it should not have stood due to the handball and to possible offside. Karma. Yes, karma.

  8. in a one-off game between two talented teams, anything can happen. i didn’t know who was going to win but was eagerly anticipating a decent performance from arsenal. after all, they’ve only lost one game since moving to a back 3. this isn’t the same team that lost to crystal palace or west brom. why couldn’t arsenal win their 13th fa cup on saturday?

    is it me or does this change in formation seem to suit absolutely everyone? ramsey, xhaka, holding, hector, mesut, per, everyone. in the back, it’s as if they play with two marking backs and a sweeper with the sweeper role assumed by the player the game situations dictates. the beauty is all of the defenders seem comfortable in all spots in the back three. the extra layer of protection makes the team appear very solid.

    arsenal finishing the season so strong make for an interesting predicament for the board. do they stick with him or do they sack him? have they already decided? wenger seems to be using the media to make his argument. he seems uncertain. we’ll see.

    wenger has an untypical approach to managing a football club but no one can argue with it’s effectiveness over a long career. the major problem seems to be his slow reaction to difficult situations. his senior players on the field recognize bad situations developing earlier and can help carry out his intent more than he knows. doc said it’s impossible to prove leadership and that’s true as leadership isn’t a science but an artistic process. having a science background, i always thought the philosophical art guys were kinda weird but my time in the army helped me appreciate the significance of good leadership on the battle field. i’ve learned that everything doesn’t need to be quantified to be significant.

  9. And now my dream is that we get a true top flight striker, one with speed and touch and finishing chops and then come back and win the league. Then the boo-boys will move the goal posts and talk about how Arsene has never and can never succeed in the top level in Europe. And we tweak again and suddenly Arsene is lifting the CL cup and riding off into the sunset.

    The hard core boo-boys will of course complain that he should have won it last year. But this time the fans will rise up and tell them to get well and truly stuffed. Arteta will come back from his apprenticeship with Guardiola and the tradition will continue.

    • Lovely dream.

      I’d say it’s crazy, but then, I was convinced that my favorite sportsman of all time, Roger Federer, had zero chance of ever lifting another grand slam, and then this year’s Australian Open happened. Sometimes dreams do come true (yesterday’s match has me talking like a Hallmark commercial or a 12-year old girl).

  10. Do we have at least a couple of theories of what happened in the second half of the season? More than once, Arsene talked about how he “May one day tell the story”. Yesterday we witnessed that this team is more than capable of good results in high pressure environments (at least if the refs don’t cook us with shit calls). We even don’t know (for sure) the reasons for lack of proper reinforcements on the squad in seasons past. Was it really Arsene who didn’t want to spend? Or is it because the lack of Agents “sympathy” for the club that was talked about in previous days?

    Here’s to another 2-year contract for Arsene, and a terrific 2017/2018 season.

  11. Do we have at least a couple of theories of what happened in the second half of the season? More than once, Arsene talked about how he “May one day tell the story”. Yesterday we witnessed that this team is more than capable of good results in high pressure environments (at least if the refs don’t cook us with shit calls). We even don’t know (for sure) the reasons for lack of proper reinforcements on the squad in seasons past. Was it really Arsene who didn’t want to spend? Or is it because the lack of Agents “sympathy” for the club that was talked about in previous days?

    Here’s to another 2-year contract for Arsene, and a terrific 2017/2018 season.

  12. FA Cup > 4th Place, every day of the week.

    As I said before, let’s embrace Europa and try to win the thing. It’s a winnable European trophy, even if someone big falls out of the Champions league group stages. I can assure you that Manchester United fans are very, very happy to have won the trophy. Happy, in fact, to the point of smugness.

    Good, honest call on Ramsey interfering with play. He was, but you know what? I’ll take it. Too many of those have gone against us. It makes me a tad hypocritical, but I’ll take that too. Courtois’ positioning and his reactions were determined by Ramsey’s presence. Ramsey had the positional, big picture awareness to not touch the ball, though in truth he was easily offside, and it wasn’t hard to be aware of it. But still, he also blindsided Courtois somewhat. It was like a well-executed basketball screen. 😀 Yeah, I’m laughing, but I wouldn’t be if that had gone against us.

    We were clearly the better side on the day though, and on the run of play we’d likely have won even if the goal hadn’t stood.

    Don’t agree with some regulars here that we might have scored a hatful. The game is reset and flows different at 2 – 0 than 1 – 0. Perhaps we decide to sit back and pass it around, and they make it 2- 1 with half to play. It’s a different game. Even so, our superiority on the day was significant, so it’s a fair point.

    It’s great to be a gooner today. It’s a better feeling than if we’d squeaked into fourth.

    (p.s. Second time in 2 days that a post didn’t get published. No cussin’ this time either. Site issue?. Copied just in case).

    • Not hypocritical. The league and pundits are always spouting the bulls*** about how we don’t need more accurate officiating because the bad calls even out. The handball on Alexis and Ramsey’s rather blatant offsides is our past due karma. I’ll take it and Chel$ki fans can kiss my behind.

      • Agree. Couldn’t understand gooners wanting to show him the door. He was more than worth one more year even before Saturday’s superb shift. Squad depth and experience. Plus, off the field, he’s a superb captain of Arsenal Football Club. Class act.

  13. Silverware is always best. Mert MOTM for me. After missing the whole season he comes in and puts in a defensive masterclass. I really hope he stays for at least another season. One could do worse than him as a reserve central defender. For his veteran locker room presence alone he’s worth his salary and three at the back could extend his career, mitigating his lack of speed by flanking him with more athletic defenders.

  14. Like Tim I was also resigned to losing.
    Before our centre backs became less available I thought if Alexis was on his game and the Chavs may subconsciously relax having won the big domestic trophy we stood a chance.
    When I saw we had an early goal I thought “Hello, we maybe onto something here” and watching our confident passing and vigorous defending I saw echoes of the Man City semi final performance.
    That was the best of the 3 recent FA Cup wins as we were expected to win the other two, but yesterday we were massive underdogs.
    The fact our opening goal was slightly more than controversial made the eventual win that much more satisfying.
    Seeing John Terry’s dejected face as our players went up the steps to collect their winners medals was merely the cherry on the icing on the cake.
    A great day to be a Gooner.

  15. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive, but I’m annoyed by the continued suggestion of analysts, on TV and in print, that Chelsea didn’t show up. Martin Tyler, on the TV feed where I watched the game in the Caribbean, said they were “leggy.”

    You don’t “not show up” for the FA Cup final, and a chance to do the double. It minimises how well Arsenal actually played on the day. We surprised them with a solid game plan and ferocious intensity. That’s it.

  16. Dear Tim and knowledgeable posters, I would really appreciate your specific thoughts on the strategy/tactics that were behind this dominant performance in attack and defence. Thank you and thanks to Arsene and the Players for a brilliant performance and great victory.

  17. And as we wait on the future of our club legend, I’d just like to take the time to appreciate another club and football legend. Francesco Totti. A one club man, now retiring at the age of 40 after making his debut at 16. Second highest goalscorer all time in Serie A. Club record appearances and goals. Wonderful player to watch.

  18. First off, I am in love with Arsenal again. Games like these prove how good Arsenal can be when the players put their heart and soul into the 90 minutes. Well done to all the lads & the staff, they deserve it after a plagued season.

    As you said Tim, I’d also take the FA cup over 4th place any day. It’s a trophy and quite an important one as well.

    We outplayed Chelsea, defeated them at their own game. The final scoreline flatters Chelsea more than anything else. It could easily have been 4-1 or, 5-1. The best football our team has played all season long.

    Now, it’s time to regroup, do the right things in terms of contracts, releases and transfers. Hard decisions need to be taken with respect to long serving players who have not made the cut. We always had slumps in a season in the recent past, just that this season the slump cost us dearly. But, perhaps like many of you have pointed out, staying out of CL may be a blessing.

    p.s.: Would really like to see some young guns fire on namely Bielik, Jeff & Iwobi.

  19. What does this win over Chelsea in the FA cup final say about the Arsenal talent level?
    Was it just a case of an underdog beating the odds on their day with some help from officials?
    I don’t think so.
    Arsenal bested the best PL team in two out of three and both games they won, they had dominated on chances, possession, and goals.
    Furthermore, the destruction of Chelsea at the Ems in their first meeting of the season, Arsenal fielded a squad with 7 different players than the one from two days ago.

    Think about it, Arsenal dominated Chelsea twice this season with practically two different squads, and yet some people say we can’t compete against top PL teams on talent.

    I have to call bs on that, as I have for a few seasons now.
    Arsenal’s problem isn’t talent pool but rather application and motivation, with a hint of tactics sprinkled on top.

    Congratulations to Arsene on the record breaker and to the players on a fantastic performance.

    • But application, motivation and whatever else it is that leads to consistency is really what separates the great from the good players.

      • Johny Evans, Chris Smalling,,Phil Johnes, Rafael, Anderson, Hernandez, Michael Carrick,
        Ashley Young,Tom Cleverley , and Darren Flatcher were all regular starters for Man U under Ferguson’s title winning teams.
        How many of them would you call ” great ” and more importantly would you even want any of them on Arsenal?

        Michael Carrick would make that grade for me personally and only him.

        • I wasn’t disagreeing with you that we might have the talent to win the league already. In fact, I think only up front do we lack that talent.

          I was simply bringing up the point that just because players can perform at a high level occasionally, doesn’t mean they will all be able to do it consistently. It doesn’t work like that.(In fact, Wenger is often criticised for just this belief in his players coming and staying good)

          But I don’t know whether the problem is motivation (it certainly was for a while in the season, but that seems more like a symptom than the disease to me). I do know that fitness was and has been a huge problem. If for no other reason than to cover for the simultaneous loss of Cazorla and Ramsey, we need more ‘talent’ (high level and consistent both – unlike those ManU players, who didn’t win the title on their own)

          Basically, I think we do need more talent to have a (greater) chance of winning the league.

          • Good points, both of you.

            There’s no doubt in my mind that this squad had the talent to make top 4 relatively comfortably, and at least be “there or thereabouts” in the title race. Heck, we did it for half a season, then collapsed.

            But if we’re going to win the league, or at least give ourselves a seriously good chance of doing so, we need more talent. That a Fergie or Pochettino has rung a title challenge out of weaker resources does not prove that motivation (or organization, or leadership, or whatever) is the only significant ingredient we need. We need improvement in a few key areas of our squad, first and foremost. And since Wenger’s philosophy is more hands off, and therefore quite dependent on high quality players putting his philosophy to work and adapting to circumstances on the pitch (not saying this is good or bad in itself), we’re only going to challenge for the title with him in charge if we dip into our pockets and spend (relatively) big.

            This is compatible with thinking this squad has seriously underachieved this year (and last year too, at least).

    • i agree with you 100% pertaining to arsenal having the requisite talent to win a championship. personally, i have never argued that arsenal’s talent pool is an impediment to their success. it’s a lazy argument. leicester city won the league last year with a modest squad, which proves it’s not always about talent. i’m glad you mentioned that.

      however, i disagree that it’s an application/motivation issue. these players have come to arsenal because they want to win championships. they’re very talented and are doing everything they can to win. however, talent and desire isn’t enough to win championships. sometimes, players need help. this is where the coaching staff earns their pay. coaches aren’t trying to teach these talented players how to play but teach them how to win when their talent isn’t enough to see them through. captains often provide direction to team mates but when they struggle, the team needs help from the bench. yeah, it requires a lot of tactics, not just a sprinkle.

  20. i think wenger should get one more contract for two years and should announce that he’ll retire at the end of those two years.

    • At this point, that’s probably the best case scenario. I would add that they should start actively and visibly preparing for the transition, beginning with placing a more modern management structure in place with a sporting director, director of football, or whatever you want to call it this summer. The club needs to be weaned off Wenger’s iron fisted control of all the important managerial tasks and proper footballing knowledge and experience needs to be added in multiple positions.

      • yeah, I agree, and Wenger, if he’s sensible, need not see this as them stripping his powers away (and the board, if they’re sensible, will do their utmost to avoid presenting it this way). He should still have control of training, tactics, and picking the team, of course, and also final say on transfers. The point is about preparing for the succession.

      • I’m not sure what this modern structure will bring to the table exactly. I mean I watched the presentation Richard Law made in Brazil and the basic differences we had at Arsenal were that the coaching, logistics, analytics, scouting and medical teams all report to Wenger.

        The way I see it, this is information the manager needs. The only reason to add a layer like a DoF between the manager and this info would be saving the coach’s time as far as I can see. Is time really the problem for workaholic Wenger? Of course the other reason can be that the manager’s vision isn’t trusted. Whether it is for the immediate term, or more likely the reason it exists, to care about the club beyond his current contract. I can completely understand why Wenger would take this as an affront.

        As for transfers. At most other clubs there is a decision by committee, where the CEO, DoF (the guy who oversees all the stuff that Wenger does, except scouting and first team coaching), Scouting dept, Finance Dept and the manager will discuss and decide on transfers together. Whose word will prevail if there is disagreement?

        Law described his role in the ‘Football Operations’ dept as assisting the CEO and the manager with squad planning, contract and transfer negotiations – both in and out, and coordination with the academy. He works in conjunction with the contract team (CFO and Lawyers)

        ManCity and Southampton were listed as having slightly different structures than the rest, with the latter following the German model.

        It’s all well and good to talk about changing structures, but what weaknesses are we trying to address through it exactly?

        • So you’re arguing that they should re-appoint Wenger with exactly the same structure and methodologies in place?

          Or put another way, the board, the governing body, should simply — despite other management ideas — step out of the way and leave it all up to the manager to continue as he sees fit?

          • I wasn’t arguing anything. I was wondering what the aim is behind any restructuring other than the mantra of modernisation.

          • “The mantra of modernisation?” Isn’t it clear that there are some aspects of Arsenal’s management that aren’t working as well as they should?

          • Yes, Claude, but WHAT?

            What do you think currently happens at Arsenal that should not?

            And what do you think is important to prepare for as a succession plan?

            I’m sorry that simply taking responsibilities away from Wenger because it’s the modern way isn’t something I automatically agree with.

          • It’s not what I think needs changing. That’s what a Board of Directors is there for. What I’m saying is that it’s not merely some change mantra as you suggest, but properly thought out suggestions for ironing out the problems at the club. Come on, man. people may not like the board or certain members of it, but they’re not trying force through some vacuous, ill thought out change based on whimsy or “the modern way.”

            Two things appear clear (1) there were serious problems at the start of the year that manifested themselves in our on-field performances (2) there have been serious problems for years, and so (3) the board appears from all reports to have less appetite for giving Arsene carte blanche to run it as solely HE sees fit. That’s a good thing. Checks and balances.

            Arsene did his case for a new contract the world of good by winning the FA Cup. What he hasn’t earned is the right to do things solely HIS way.

          • I’m sure both the Board and Wenger have Arsenal’s best interests at heart. They simply disagree over some things. This has nothing to do with loving Wenger or whatever, but unlike you, I am not inclined to automatically believe that Wenger is wrong and the board is right.

            What these problems are, we don’t know. What these serious problems for years are that a restructure addresses, we don’t know, and we don’t know whether the board wants to restrict him (and how much) or whether they want to prioritise a succession plan (restrictions on Wenger are a consequence of which)

            But Wenger’s made it clear he will not accept anyone else having the final word over technical matters as long as he’s manager of Arsenal FC. If the board think they can’t work with him and can do better, they can let Wenger walk. We’ll see what he’s earned later this week.

          • “…unlike you, I am not inclined to automatically believe that Wenger is wrong and the board is right.”

            I thought for once we were having a civil debate, but that aside, you oversimplify the issue. It’s not as black and white as that.

            True, the both have the club’s best interests at heart and they disagree. It is simply that no one side has all the answers. The rot at the beginning of the year changed the dynamics. The authoritative reporting was that the attitude shifted from “back him unconditionally”, to “some things need to change.” I’m with that.

            He did strengthen his negotiating position on Saturday, but overall I’m going to guess that he hasn’t done enough to get unconditional backing to continue as we were. He clearly doesn’t have all the answers to the challenges, and both sides would be wise to compromise.

            A large section of the fan base (the people who pay their wages) was in open revolt earlier this year. They are showing that they heard it loud and clear.

          • Sorry. I didn’t realise that sounded rude. I didn’t mean it to.

            Arsenal fans do not pay Arsene Wenger’s wages. Arsenal FC do. That’s self important c*** that fans come up with. And the Arsenal fanbase is much larger than even the ones that go to the ground let alone the ones in ‘open revolt’.

            I am fully with Wenger when he says it is about competence not popularity. If the logic is to change things because we want to appease the protesting masses then especially I am against it because it is not change for the right reasons or focus. (Just to be clear I am not saying that is the case)

            Anyway, we’ll know soon enough.

          • It’s not about appeasing* fans. It’s that a board of directors is mandated to provide strategic direction, and the manager answers to the board. You don’t have to like that. That’s the way any properly run corporate entity operates.

            Maybe that got eroded the longer Wenger’s tenure lasted. The board needs to reassert some control, in effect help the manager to help himself.

            Look, we’re kind of arguing in the dark, because we don’t know for sure the specifics of what’s being proposed. You seem to be arguing in essence that nothing needs to change, which, by any measure is an astonishing argument to be making.

            BTW, yes, the fans pay their wages. How do you think AFC makes money, earns income? Selling cars? You’d have to be blind not to have noticed the tidal shift against Wenger. Thankfully, the board can see and hear.

            *The words “appease” and “appeasement” should be retired from rational debate. Not everyone who takes not of a popular sentiment is acting like Neville Chamberlain. Besides, gooners who have taken against Wenger are neither irrational nor unreasonable.

          • That’s a weird line to take. I’m specifically making the point that if..IF.. a decision is being made with appeasement in mind it is wrong.

            If a decision is being made which is going to help the club’s performance and has the side effect of quelling protests that is fine.

            The difference may seem subtle but it isn’t the same thing.

            The fans are not paymasters. They are customers.Fans can choose whether to consume the product or not. They cannot choose how to run the business. We pay your wages is an unnecessarily self aggrandizing thing to say.

          • “If a decision is being made which is going to help the club’s performance (and has the side effect of quelling protests) that is fine.”

            (a) All parties want that, and believe that their way is best to achieve that
            (b) No one makes/takes a decision on something that they know ahead of time won’t work.

            As for…
            “The fans are not paymasters. They are customers.Fans can choose whether to consume the product or not. They cannot choose how to run the business.”

            Leaving aside the subtle shift in your previous position, the first thing to say is that football followership is not the same as Mars bars consumption (or shopping at Walmart as someone else noted here recently). If a critical mass of gooners no longer come through the turnstiles or shop at the Armoury, what are they going to do? Make up the shortfall in Chelsea or Tottenham?

            The club has other sources of income, but none as important as what the fans provide. And yes, they do have a say. Fans are important stakeholders. That’s why we have a Supporters’ Trust, which meets the management and manager from time to time. It’s not the same as having a vote, but by jove, having a voice matters. They’re business people, and they understand consumer power, as well as the uniqueness of football support to business. They’re not stupid.

            You are also simultaneously arguing that the fans shouldn’t tell the board what to do, AND you don’t want the board to provide the fixes that its executive (independently of fans) feel are needed. So essentially, you’re also arguing that the board shouldn’t be telling the board what to do either!

        • Breadth and depth of knowledge. Is it really possible for Wenger or any single person to have the necessary expertise in all aspects of running a club like Arsenal? Can anyone do that singlehandedly? At some point, the job simply becomes to big for one person to handle. Both from a knowledge standpoint and the effort required. Wenger may be a workaholic but if the task at hand is too much for one person, it’s too much.

          And what about checks and balances? There are certainly stories of David Dein forcing Wenger’s hand on transfers when he was reluctant to pull the trigger. Dein had the necessary football knowledge and power to do that. I’m not suggesting bringing Dein back but having a management structure which allows a more efficient division of tasks and the ability to offer differing points of view and areas of expertise would benefit the club.

          • Assuming Wenger’s reappointment is done deal, not only should he not be allowed to have all the answers, he clearly doesn’t have all the answers to all the challenges. I agree with PFo. He should not see board-mandated changes (short of reporting to a DOF, which I think he’s right about) as taking powers away.

            He’s been in the game for a generation, and the demands of management have changed out of all recognition — especially at a club of Arsenal’s size, commercial presence and global presence. I also don’t see why for example, as TeeSöng says, he needs to be responsible for the last nine yards of transfers.

          • I agree with you here. I didn’t argue that Wenger has all the knowledge. I simply said the information that is gathered from the various departments is info he needs. I also highlighted why a DoF may be appointed. If time is an issue, it is only right that he is appointed. If succession is the issue, then again, I agree with the logic of having someone to fulfil these duties.

            But I disagree that this can work as a ‘challenge’ to Wenger if you want to keep him on. Trust will be key here. Which is why I suggested Pires in a comment above. Of course I’m guessing but they seem to have respect and a good ‘working’ relationship.

            Like with Dein, and when asked about him, Wenger was much more open to the idea of someone helping out with the other things like transfers and contracts etc. I think we could do with another voice at the top who can sometimes push Arsene in a certain direction in case of hesitation/difference of opinion.

            The way I see it, that is more replacing/adding to the role that Gazidis and Law are currently performing.(And their football knowledge is..probably not lacking..but comes from a different mindset) In addition, I suppose this new appointment can act sort of like an apprentice to Wenger in dealing with the various technical departments (scouting, Medical, logistics, analytics) But to replace him, take those functions away from Wenger, I don’t think makes sense.

          • “this new appointment can act sort of like an apprentice to Wenger in dealing with the various technical departments (scouting, Medical, logistics, analytics)”

            Yes, exactly, though I think that someone with a different perspective, who Wenger actually respects, but who can push back on him a little bit, is valuable in and of itself.

            There might be a sufficient reason to bring someone else in even if Wenger weren’t going to have to retire in the next couple of years–for the reasons about the job changing, and getting much bigger over the years, that claude and others have already raised. But my main thing is that, given it’s also true that they’re going to have to replace him in the nearish future, and that giving as much power/responsibility to the new manager would not be wise and may not even be possible, it makes sense to have someone come in who can both begin to put the new structure in place (without taking away Wenger’s final say on football matters) and assure a smooth transition by staying on when Arsene leaves so as to continue the Arsene-instilled Arsenal values well into the future.

            It would also make it look like the club as a whole have a clear plan, which would, presumably, get the media and fanbase to focus on other things for the majority of two years. Just think, even the most ardent Wenger-out fan (once they got over the initial disappointment of two more years of him) would undoubtedly pipe down knowing that the club were planning for a future without Wenger soon (and thus, also, that there was even less chance than in the past of them firing him before those two years were up). This in turn would, I think, put less negative pressure on the team. And even if certain members of the squad might get restless knowing that Arsene was definitely leaving, they could be reassured by the Director of Football (who, let’s hope, would be very good at his job) explaining to them how continuity (with, hopefully, some positive changes) would be maintained.

            It’s also perfectly possible that they could appoint a DoF, give Arsene a two year contract, and not, initially anyway, have to announce that Wenger was definitely leaving after those years, even if they had decided it with AW behind closed doors. Of course the media would speculate, but the DoF and the contract being only two years would pretty clearly signal that it would likely be his last two, and that the club were preparing well for that fact.

  21. My post from yesterday wasn’t posted, so I’ll just post another post quickly 😀

    1. WTF Arsenal!? Can’t you do this more often? What is holding the team back? (Apart from shitty refs now and then).
    2. Do we have any ideas about the reasons behind the second half of the season huge blip? More than once Arsene told about how he would “tell the story maybe one day”.
    3. Per, o Per, you BFG. What a great player.
    4. What a great Monday!

    Hugs and kisses everyone!

  22. My post from yesterday wasn’t posted, so I’ll just post another post quickly 😀

    1. WTF Arsenal!? Can’t you do this more often? What is holding the team back? (Apart from shitty refs now and then).
    2. Do we have any ideas about the reasons behind the second half of the season huge blip? More than once Arsene told about how he would “tell the story maybe one day”.
    3. Per, o Per, you BFG. What a great player.
    4. What a great Monday!

    Hugs and kisses everyone!

  23. My post from yesterday wasn’t posted, so I’ll just post another post quickly 😀

    1. WTF Arsenal!? Can’t you do this more often? What is holding the team back? (Apart from shitty refs now and then).
    2. Do we have any ideas about the reasons behind the second half of the season huge blip? More than once Arsene told about how he would “tell the story maybe one day”.
    3. Per, o Per, you BFG. What a great player.
    4. What a great Monday!

    Hugs and kisses everyone!

  24. Great post and comments today reflecting one of the best cup games this club has ever played.

    Love Holding’s chant. He may one day actually be better than Cannavaro.

    Still giddy today. That match will stay on my PVR for a long, long time.

    Perfect time for the Gaffer to call time though we all know he won’t. No one can begrudge him his last contract at Arsenal if that’s what he really wants.

    We still need change but for yesterday, change can wait.

    • As much as I think Holding’s been great and will get better, what I loved more about his performance was that tapping-his-temple look and words he gave back to Costa. He was not the least bit intimidated by his opponent, but he also was still in complete control of his emotions (ahem, Gabriel). From such a young and inexperienced player, it was awesome to see.

      • Exactly. Costa wasn’t going to get into his head or intimidate him. Read a piece from BFG in which he said that he (Per) was being pally with Costa, and Holding was giving him verbals.

        Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, Holding is the best buy of the last summer transfer window. Kid oozes confidence. He can play too. And the fun adore him. Credit to Wenger.

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