Jonathan Blaustein’s column: Arsenal are like flying United, anything is possible

By Jonathan Blaustein

Hello again.

Apologies, as I stayed away an extra week this time. There was an Interlull to outlast, and I wanted to wait until a few games had gone by to get the proper pulse of the moment.

In the last 24 hours, United Airlines has seen its stock plummet, after social media murdered them for physically assaulting an Asian-American doctor, and ejecting him from a plane, for which they had issued him a ticket, that he had purchased, with money.

As bad as that story might be, today, President Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer somehow made an ever bigger PR gaffe, when he claimed that Adolph Hitler had not used chemical weapons. Spicer conveniently forgot, or glossed over, the poison gassing of millions of people, including the continent’s Jewish population.

Then, while somehow not wholesale apologizing for denying poison gas was a chemical weapon, he made things worse by calling concentration camps “Holocaust centers.”

That really happened.

It’s almost as if people still haven’t acclimated to a world in which information reaches all of us, instantaneously, everywhere. Outside of the deep mountains and the bush, anything that happens anywhere can be accessible to everyone, everywhere, as it happens.

Think about that for a second.

As recently as 1865, it took six months to get from New York to California.

Now, we are all up in each others business, in ways that would have seemed unseemly and impossible only 25 years ago.

This, beyond anything else, is the problem with Arsenal these days. I promised in the comment section of my last column that I wouldn’t just write about Arsene this time, so I won’t.

Arsenal Twitter, and Arsenal social media in general, spread information, and foment opinion, in ways that are drastically new. Sitting here in New Mexico, in the last week, I’ve seen posts about “Wenger Out” signs popping up in New Zealand, Vancouver, Orlando, and elsewhere in the non-UK world.

We are such a global group, at this point, that just yesterday, while shopping in the local organic market, I was approached by my son’s former soccer coach, who asked me what the hell was going on with Arsenal?

There is so much content out there that we don’t have to dissect every part of every match, because someone else has done it for us, and all we have to do is click a link to get that information, for free.

As such, the rage has grown exponentially. It’s not a linear platform, the internet. It’s more of an amplifier, to the point that it eventually gets back to the players.

Because they’re on social media too.

The stuff we say, or at least the aggregate, finds it way into players’ feeds. Into their minds. Don’t think it doesn’t happen.

They know we consider them a bunch of soft, lazy wankers, and given the quality of play on the field this year, secretly they must agree.

It’s almost like the toxicity goes viral. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that Chelsea, then Leicester, and now Arsenal have capitulated on managers in two consecutive seasons? Once the players start jumping ship mentally, the fans get angry, and bounce it back like a beer with a shot inside, chased by a fat joint and then a Cuban cigar.

You’re going to feel woozy.

I assure you.

It’s no excuse for Wenger, but I’ve made my thoughts clear on that. I even beat David Hirshey to the “Dear Arsene” column by several weeks. (Which made me obnoxiously proud.)

It’s true I think Arsene’s done. But I’m not sure he’s gone yet. No one knows that. Maybe not even Arsene.

If he literally would not have signed a new contract if the Gunners had lost the 2014 FA Cup, it’s rational to think he has a target set in his mind, and if he doesn’t reach it, he’ll walk away.

It’s plausible.

But regardless of what happens, the last three matches summed up the season in general. Nothing better than average. A win, a draw, and a loss.

I remember watching the first few minutes of the Manchester City game, and saying out loud, “If you stay this open, and easy to cut through, they’re going to score any minute.”

Then they scored, when Leroy Sane beat Bellerin, and my wife walked by and said, “I heard you. You said it.”

Despite the “possible” show of mental toughness by coming back for the draw, giving up the 2nd goal to City right after equalizing was typical of a hapless team.

Bad sign.

Danny Welbeck has been starting up front lately, and he didn’t score in any of those matches. Not good for a striker. Arsene is clearly giving him a chance to get his sea-legs back, but after those FA Cup wonder-strikes, he’s definitely come back to Earth.

The West Ham score was good, as it was a win, and Ozil certainly played better. As did Xhaka. But West Ham’s form was awful coming in, the game was at home, and still, Arsenal made tough work of it. They didn’t look miles better than West Ham, that’s for sure.

Gabriel impressed when he came on for Koscielny in the City game, and I was pretty surprised. He helped keep a clean sheet against West Ham, and I thought, well, he’s either gotten significantly better, or he’s about to revert to the mean.

Occam’s Razor would predict the latter.

So yesterday’s rancid custard pie of a football match was almost predictable, though I’d allowed myself to hope. Arsenal went into the match in easy striking distance of Liverpool, with two games in hand, so it was the right time for a strong performance.

Instead, I don’t know what to say, really. If you’re not willing to track runners, you can’t win football matches. Period. This team consistently lets guys go wherever they want, to receive the ball in dangerous positions.

Teams have scored against Arsenal off goal kicks and throw ins and long balls, lately. Too many of the outfield players consistently abdicate their defensive duties.

Aaron Ramsey is the worst offender, and if he never played for Arsenal again, I’d be OK with it. Even if they sold him, and he became a star elsewhere, I still wouldn’t care.

Get him out of here.

As soon as Arsene put him on against Crystal Palace, they scored. He was at fault in that awful West Brom defeat as well. I remember noticing, as he looked into the camera yesterday, ready to enter as a substitute, that he thrust his chest out, stood up straight, and cocked his head just so.

He is clearly a young man pleased with himself. We’ve all teased him for being a pretty boy, who is ever-so-aw-fucking-shucks nice, but he teased us all that glorious year, and that guy is never coming back.

The worst part of the Palace loss, for me, was realizing their squad was not-so-inferior to ours. They had players who’d recently come from Liverpool, like Sakho and Benteke. Cabaye is from PSG. Schlupp was a champion at Leicester. Townsend played at Tottenham.

Their castoffs were much better than our castoffs on the day, and no one would dispute that.

So where does that leave us?

Do we get even angrier? Tweet more, scream louder, and make sure the noise gets so bad that the team loses most of the rest of the way?

Does that help anyone?

Stan Kroenke, for sure, doesn’t give a shit what we think. Nor are we really likely to stop giving him our money.

Talk is cheap, they say.

Instead, I’d recommend we all turn our frowns into wry smiles, or half grins of Gallic bemusement. No matter what happens, the storyline is dramatic. Literally nobody knows what’s going to happen next. Who needs reality television?

Maybe Yaya Sonogo will come back and save us all.

Or Hector Bellerin’s man bun might become sentient, and spark an AI revolution.

Maybe Theo Walcott’s wife takes his coffee maker back, and promises to only return it if Arsenal make the top 4.

At this point, anything is possible.


  1. I want to go on record to say that I (Tim) write the headlines for Jonathan’s columns. So, if you have a problem with the headline, it’s on me.

    1. yeah controversial maybe, i don’t know. Topical just. That guys going to become a multi millionaire off the lawsuit anyway. Certainly the image of a bloodied Wenger being dragged against his will from Emirates is conjured by the headline. Kicking and screaming.

      1. not that I wish that one Arsene i’d like to add. Just that you’d think that’s the only way he’s going to leave right now. As a piece of viral internet history. Gazidis in a PR disaster after the event an all. It could map piece by piece exactly like the United event. People in the stadium appearing to disagree, but actually doing nothing to help. Just like the people on the flight ‘leave him alone’ as they sit there with there phones out passively letting it happen. glad it isn’t them. As if the airport security actually have any real authority. like they have the right to physically attack a man undisturbed. Its ok to treat another human that way and you can’t interfere because of some pice of metal on their chests and a uniform and the illusion of authority given to them.

        On a dutch flight earlier they tried to take a Nigerian man on to be deported – but the passengers physically blocked the aisles, all stood up, and demanded he be taken off the flight and given a chance. They refused to back down – en masse – and in the end the airport security had to take him off. (probably put him on the next flight with no hassles but lets not ruin the story).

        I don;t thin anyone would block the aisles for wenger. i don;t think they would interfere with his forced removal from arsenal. a few would make disproving noises, but no one would interfere. no – wengers forced removal from the emirates would be 100% United Airlines.

  2. Ramsay’s exit would be just a start, I would also be happy to see a whole new first eleven. Any of the current squad who are retained would have to fight for their places, whoever they are.

    Shame we would not have the money for that sort of overhaul. Genuinely hacked off with all the current squad at the moment.

    Lack of effort and boring football, where is the enjoyment in that.

    I will renew my season ticket as I waited 10 years to get it, but if they were readily available I would seriously consider cancelling and just going to the odd game next year on Red membership.

    1. It’s not the squad. I still argue with friends that we have the best squad in the Premier League comparing complete first team rosters. We have quality depth. I would bet you Conte, Simeone, Klopp or any other intense manager would get a title out of this squad.

      1. Jack and Doc, I’ve covered in depth my belief that Wenger should go. Wrote two consecutive columns about it, in fact. But this time, I promised to focus on things beyond Arsene. So I did.

        1. JB, it’s pretty hard to talk about one without the other. But the idea that the players aren’t playing for the manager is, fundamentally, still about the players.

          1. Right now, I think we can safely say that neither Wenger nor the squad are performing up to the requisite level. It would be an easy call to change the manager, were we talking about ANY other football club in the world. Only Arsenal are currently set up this way. But it gets boring just bitching about Arsene, so I thought I’d approach things differently this time. Yaya Sanogo!

        2. Arsenal Football Club is a living, breathing meme. Know what more annoying? That we give people a ton of material to work with. We have progressed beyond parody.

  3. Adding to JB’s post:

    If a player quits on a team half way through a season, no matter who the manager is, do you keep the player? Also, does it matter how talented the player is and if the manager is, as we would like to say “a cunt”?

    For example: last season Hazard, Costa, and Fabregas stabbed Jose Mourinho in the back and quit on that team. These players are considered top talents in their positions and Mourinho is considered an horrible cunt. So, is it ok for them to have quit on him? There are other mitigating circumstances here, I think Hazard (rightly) felt like Jose was calling him a pussy in front of millions of people and also risking Hazard’s health by being a jerk to the doctor.

    So, I’m inclined to say that Hazard (at least) was in the right.

    Fabregas and Costa are snakes and mercenaries. I don’t give them any leeway. They should have shut the fuck up and done their very best in every game just like good little mercenaries should always do. Doesn’t matter if they didn’t like Mourinho. They signed with Mourinho. They knew what he was like.

    Now, let’s turn to Arsenal.

    I think Özil and Alexis have downed tools. I also think Ramsey did the same two years ago. This is all based on the same “feeling” I had about Hazard, Cesc, and Costs (which was right). So, let’s not play the game where you argue that they haven’t downed tools or the even dumber one where you say “you can’t possibly know 100% blah blah so we can’t have this discussion.” If you don’t want to have this discussion, don’t make a comment.

    I think they have. And they have done this to Arsene Wenger. Now, I’m a Gooner and I love Wenger. So, I have a lot of respect for Arsene. He’s maybe lost a bit of his edge coaching and managing but he doesn’t deserve to have players do this to him in the middle of the season. You want to quit? Fine! Demand trade in May like all the other quitters before you. But these lackluster performances of late are absolutely shocking and the players should be ashamed of themselves and deserve the fans opprobrium.

    Now the question is, of the six players I’ve mentioned, which do you sell and why? Let’s assume that Arsenal change managers (as Chelsea did). How do you look at a guy like Alexis or Özil and say that you’d want him back in the squad? Are they that talented that they force the manager’s hand? In other words, is Alexis at the Hazard level? How about Özil? And Ramsey? Ramsey is nowhere near the level of an Özil or Alexis.

    And what if, like Leicester, the players start performing? This is at one level an indictment on the manager, it’s ultimately his job to motivate and prepare, but do you personally ever like any of those players ever again? Were they justified in doing what they did? What was the justification?

    1. I agree with your theories on Chelsea, though there’s no proof that it was those three in particular. For a team that ran away with the title to capitulate like that game after game was unprecedented. It wasn’t just a few guys, that was everyone together. And it’s the same with Leicester and Ranieri. You won’t feed us potato wedges and crispy chicken? WE QUIT! And they did. And they got their way. Player power, baby! Right or wrong, it’s real and it’s here to stay. And it happens in every sport. It took two years for the Boston Bruins to get Claude Julien sacked, but they finally did it. Similar to Wenger, they actually liked him. They just didn’t like playing for him. After Julien was sacked (on the same day the Patriots had their parade), they went on an 8 game win streak and made the playoffs for the first time in 3 years. It was clearly not a case of the players not being good enough, it was a case of the players not wanting or not being able to get themselves up to play hard for Julien.

      That’s what I think is happening at Arsenal. The players like, even revere the manager, but they don’t believe in him or his football anymore. So, taking a leaf out of the player power book, they are insidiously and slowly undermining his credibility with their lack of performance. I don’t even think it’s a conscious effort. The players are not meeting in dark corners of Ashburton grove to talk about their next move. I think it’s just a general sense of malaise and a growing apathy, an air of boring inevitability and a warm blanket of security all rolled into one. I think they can convince themselves for a few minutes of each match to believe, to fight, to struggle, but they are finding it hard to be arsed to put their bodies on the line for the cause. Why would they? They aren’t about to win the league, missing one year of the CL is hardly a disaster, and they aren’t about to lose their jobs or their wages for rolling belly up at Crystal Palace. It’ similar to Chelsea, but it’s not a conspiracy. It’s boredom and indifference. That’s my diagnosis.

      1. Not quite “boredom and indifference,” more malaise, lack of confidence, victim mentality (I’m imagining there’s a lot of finger pointing going on, not so much at AW but at each other, if not out loud, then in their heads), and just plain old lack of understanding of how to start winning again.

        But, with that caveat out of the way, I have to say, Doc: NAIL ON HEAD. It’s not on purpose (at least not fully), and it’s not “we hate your guts” or even “we don’t want you as our boss any longer.” It’s a lack of belief that Arsene, and therefore by extension, the team he trains and puts out on the field, is good enough. They just don’t believe he can turn them around any more.

        That said, I should just point out that Doc’s post is a thoughtful, well-articulated instance of doing what Tim asked us not to do, i.e. respond to his question by denying the premise.

        1. Also, Tim,
          I’m curious: do you mean you think Ramsey downed tools two years ago and has left them down, so to speak, for the last two years (i.e. roughly since after his “big year”), or do you have a specific period of time in mind where he downed tools two seasons ago, but has since picked them up again, and if the latter, what specific incident do you have in mind? It’s an interesting theory.

          1. The tools have been downed and not picked back up. He clearly objected to being shunted off to the right and has never seemed to recover from that.

  4. “Danny Welbeck has been starting up front lately, and he didn’t score in any of those matches. Not good for a striker.”

    Ding. Ding. Ding. Jackpot.

    We are not going to win anything by massaging the ego of a player who’s not nearly as good as he thinks he is. He thought he should have been given more opportunities as striker at United. All his coaches disagreed. We picked him u — which no one saw coming — on the last day of the transfer window a few seasons ago. He’s a good guy, but is a 12 goal a season striker and always will be.

    Alexis was Wenger’s Suarez earlier in the season. Theo led the line last season. Giroud sometimes leads the line. The big summer purchase cant get a game. Who’s Wenger’s preferred centre forward? F*** knows.

    Downing tools, yeah probably. A better explanation is that blowout losses against top sides are demoralising. Ramsey? Scapegoatism. Welbeck is far less effective, but nothing survives like a meme that’s taken hold. He’s…. athletic. That’s it.

    If you’ve had 4 different centre forwards in 2 seasons, I’m guessing that the real problem is no tactical rhyme or reason.

  5. In regards to Ramsey, i’m of the opinion that his breakthrough season was a blessing and a curse for him.In short he gained a ‘superstar’ status and lost his focus and his head as a result.

    At that seasons end he was full of bluster about joining Bale at Mad-rid and his undying love for Spanish football etc. This coupled with his new found desire to start playing as some form of deep lying striker whilst declaring himself as a no10 all while Wales boss Chris Colman declaring him a God in the flesh resulted in Ramsey thinking that the was somehow better than Arsenal imo.

    I think Ramsey is a selfish deluded footballer who’s more concerned with his personal stats and looking good on the ball weather that is detrimental to the shape/fluidity of the team or not.

    He’s just not as good as he thinks he is and perhaps a move this summer will help him and us to progress and grow.

    1. Yes,well put. I’ll also add that people mistake 1998-2005 as our baseline as a club and it’s just not. Before Wenger this was no annual powerhouse. And people won’t remember him for the last 10 years, they’ll remember his first 10. That’s the new benchmark at the club, clearly. He will go down as the Chapman of this century.

      1. 1998-2005 made this club into what it is today. Have you read Arsenal: the making of a modern superclub? Before 1998 things were very different. We didn’t have this massive stadium and this fanbase. What Wenger did was pull Arsenal into the modern era and turned us into the 5th richest club in world football. Of course that’s not going to be forgotten and it’s also always going to be used as the baseline because he changed the entire paradigm for Arsenal.

        Wenger shifted the baseline. That is what he’s going to be remembered for and what he and others will be judged against in the future.

  6. “Holocaust centers”?
    Yea, don’t you know this?
    Victims, I mean guests , arrived by trains ( mostly first class probably) and upon arival they were treated to a refreshing hair cut and a ” shower”.
    Some are just being too picky when they complain about the gas coming out of the shower heads instead of water. Overly sensitive sticklers, I say.

    Has there ever been a more full of shit being than a Republican?
    These people will justify anything that might become advantages to the cause.

    In 2013 when Obama was contemplating the air strike in Syria, 38% Democrats were in favor of it, while only 22% Republicans thought it was a good idea.
    Fast forward to 2017, and while the number of Democrats stayed virtually unchanged at 37% , the number of Republicans in favor of bombings in Syria jumped to 88%.

    You just couldn’t make this shit up.

  7. I once pondered that if and when Wenger departs (and that doesn’t now appear to be anytime soon), were the players in this team good to keep for a future manager. The games to come will show us who are keepers and who are not. Player numero uno to depart is Ramsey. If Ramsey is playing, you are guaranteed to score from the top of the box because his defensive coverage is shite. Offensive wise, he give us squat.
    Another question which comes to mind are we still capable of developing players to be all that they can be? The Ox I think is still a work in progress at 23 and then when you compare himto someone like Dele Alli who at 21 is so much more accomplish.
    Walcott for all his goals is an abyss on the right side without service. He is a winger who doesn’t put pressure on the defense when he does get the ball. Bellerin is a decent enough defender with speed but what will happen when his legs go in terms of his positioning at the back. His delivery into the box is woeful and for a winger, his finishing shows why he was switched to FB.
    I like Coquelin who had a good comeback story and his grit but he has been exposed this season as just not having the quality we need in the MF.
    Özil is a good player but not great player who needs great players around him to be at his best. We only have one great player and the combination of Özil and Sanchez cannot make up for the lack of good to great players in our team.
    I guess now Giroud is our de facto plan B but that doesn’t work if you don’t have FBs driving to base line and capable of putting ‘dangerous’ balls into the box. Seriously, when is the last time Monreal put a cross into the box as opposed to playing the ball back to a trailer.
    For the period that I watched our last fiasco, what struck me about that game was that our attack was predicated on what the defense was willing to give us and not dictating the play the way a CL team should. This was not Allardyce and a Bolton team who we could beat if we wearing our big boy pants. CP knew what they wanted to do and did it to perfection. Arsenal would do their Arsenal ‘thing’ and then the intelligent players would figure it out after they went 1,2,3 nil down and save the day. This Arsenal is not that team and have become in a word, mundane.

  8. great bunch of comments, boys. i, for one, don’t think that arsenal weren’t trying to win the other day. they just don’t seem to know how. we saw xhaka closing down strikers and ozil tracking and tackling zaha. it wasn’t for a lack of desire. it’s a lack of direction. talent can only take you so far. when you’re not organized or not prepared and your opponent is, hard work will almost always beat talent.

    lately, arsenal have looked like the smart kid that didn’t study for the exam; they sort of know the material but they didn’t study well enough to ensure they do well. not only are they not prepared, but they know they’re not prepared, which is expressed in their demeanor on the soccer field. sure, they’ll go out and give it the old college try but crystal palace knew how they wanted to play. west brom had their stuff together. arsenal don’t appear organized. that’s the duty of the manager with the captain often making tweaks. arsenal don’t seem to have a plan nor a captain to make on-field adjustments. we”ll see what happens.

    1. Im sure they prepared. Prepped hard. They want desperately to get out of the funk, so they did.

      Problem is, as with some of my students when I taught briefly, they engaged and continue to engage in rote recitation. Cram the syllabus, instead of looking at exam question trends and working old papers.

      Everything won’t make an appearance in the exam. A specific set of questions will. You wont be tested on your ability to remember stuff, you’ll be tested on the application to a specific problem. You dont play West Brom like you play West Ham.

      Preparation is sweat and effort, yes, but to pass, it has to be tactical.

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