Débordements, fumigènes et tribunes vides… A 21/22 Tear gassed season by Emmanuel Lainé

(Editor’s note: This is a piece from Emmanuel Lainé, who is a Gooner living in England but originally from France. He follows French football closely and is a guest writer here on 7amkickoff for all things Ligue Un. You can follow him on twitter @triboKing. Enjoy!)

This season of Ligue 1 has been interesting for many reasons and many would not have predicted the race for relegation. A legendary club like Bordeaux being relegated to Ligue 2, something which has not happened to them since being relegated following the debts accumulated under their previous President Claude Bez. Bordeaux is as closely linked to Ligue 1 as it can be, and them coming down was definitely a blow in a championship which is a little fragile. 

Adding to the above, May 29th was the final of the playoff between Auxerre and Saint Etienne. On paper, two clubs with an immense history in the French League. Think about it, Saint Etienne (the “Nottingham Forrest” of L1) and Auxerre (which found its greatest success under the infamous Guy Roux in the 90’s), both clubs battling for a spot in the first division. This game was supposed to be a celebration of football history and it was not. St. Etienne ended the game losing on penalty after a game of football which was as boring as it can be. But what followed is what will remain in people’s mind. Once again, a game of Ligue 1 was marred with violence, smoke bombs thrown towards the director’s stand, players escaping the enraged fans rushing at them and fans scrambling for their safety. This, following the most recent events from the Champion’s League Final, feels all too common in France these days. The season of Ligue 1 was a good one from a football perspective and one to forget from a fan experience perspective.

So why are we where we are right now? Hooliganism and football violence in France is not something new. In the 80’s the football stadiums were often associated with a desire to express violence within the remit of the stadium and/or in the street. Growing up in France in the 80’s, I do recall vividly the fact that we often referred to the violence in the stadium as a product of young English low class fanbase expressing their extreme views through street fights. I have to be honest here, I am not sufficiently informed about the history of violence in England to discuss it with confidence, so I will stop there. But for me the disinformation which I grew up with has clearly tainted my views for years. Even now, when I saw the shambles during the UCL final, my eyes firmly focused on these English fans who surely were the reasons behind the police reacting the way they did. Dig deeper and the truth is often not what the social media is trying to paint for you.

Back in the days of being a student at Uni, I used to be relatively close to an avid fan of Toulouse FC. Outside of the perimeter of the stadium he was someone I would call a decent human being, interested in martial arts and science. Nothing about him would have demonstrated an attitude towards football which was (and still is) so alien to me. Every Thursday night, it was a tradition to meet as a group of friends and engage into highly competitive competition of FIFA on PlayStation (a very typical evening in the life of a French student, glass of wine, cheeses and FIFA). One evening, we spoke about our various experiences as football fan and without asking particularly any details he decided to share some of the photos he took during all the various games that he went to as a fan. What shocked me at first is that none of the photos were actually taken into the stadium… Here is a photo a of a Marseille’s fan on the floor just before he was lynched by my mates, here a photo of the Roma’s fans advancing towards us like the Roman army before engaging into street fight… it kept on going. All his football related memories were linked to fighting, none of them were actually linked to his experience as a fan into the stadium. To me that was so bizarre because I have always associated football to the pleasure of being part of a unit, shouting and singing at your team, encouraging them to break the opponents down and to bring home the victory. For my friend, that was the complete opposite. He used to express that his football buzz would occur just before a brawl between fans, if his group of fighters were victorious or not, it did not really make much a difference. The minutes before the fights and the fight itself was what was most rewarding. I could not see it, but with the advantage and being a little less naïve than I was back in the days, my mate was an actual hooligan at its worst. I mean, I have always been told that hooliganism was a product of the English crowd, so how could I have been that wrong? Hindsight is a great thing and looking back, I could not see the signs of extremism views in French football. I was also shielded from it with a complete lack of social media; indeed, information was far less accessible back then. 

I spent more time recently looking back at the football of the 80’s in France and one thing that jumped at me is that the stadiums were far more politicised back then. Often the birth of the Ultra groups was associated as pure form hooliganism, which is a way too simplistic to explain this Ultra movement. Ultras and hooligans have had a very blurry relationship in the 80’s where violence may end up being a common theme but the reason behind it was quite obviously different. Where the hooligans used the club solely as a medium to enter into a violent relationship with another violent fanbase, the Ultras were the die-hard fans, mainly created as an expression of an extreme passion for the club where your sole purpose is to follow your team everywhere it goes. Violence was mainly seen as form of expressing their emotional response to the game, often taking on the players and or the opposition at a time of disappointment. 

One club I used to follow in the late 80’s and 90’s was PSG. PSG is actually one of the best examples amplifying the divisive relationship between a club and its Ultras. One of the most infamous of them were the Kop de Boulogne (KOB). KOB became the dominant force in Paris (often recruiting its member by means of advertising openly their right-wing views in the stands). To be fair, the clubs allowed them to develop freely mainly because these Ultras would fill-in the empty seats and bring the atmosphere the club was lacking (indeed the lack of fans in the stadium was a massive problem for PSG in the 80’s). The KOB was an all-white right-wing group and extremely vocal. They grew in popularity in the early 90’s but their racists view always bothered the club, the players and the rest of the fanbase. In the early 90’s another Ultra group (Virage Auteuil) was created. Left wing and fiercely anti-racist, these Ultras provided a legitimate counterweight to the KOB and some harmony was then found in Paris in the 90’s. Both stands would provide entertainment via flares, smoke bombs and songs and while Auteuil was favoured by the club and the players, the KOB was the dominant voice by far. These two Ultras groups worked together to create the current Motto “Ici c’est Paris”. Their relationship was far from perfect but it kind worked until the early 2000’s where racial tension existing between the two groups of Ultras, led Auteuil to reject more fiercely the KOB often showing banners during the game describing the KOB as the “has been” and Auteuil as the future of the club. This started a war between the two Ultras group, where unlike the hooligans fighting other clubs factions, the PSG found itself embroiled into a war between its own fans! Many more events led to the dismantlement of these two Ultras group in Paris until the fatal day when one of the most prominent member of the KOB Yann Lorence was killed by suspected Auteuil Ultras (Yann Lorence was killed after a harsh lynching 2 hours before a PSG-OM game – note that the Marseille fans did not make the trip at the time).  While the Hooliganism could not care less about the identity of a team, the Ultras would use this sense of identity to the extreme. 

Evidently, PSG was not alone in this wave of Ultras but it was one probably one of the most extreme. I recall being a kid, following PSG but avoiding the stadium at all costs due to it being deemed too dangerous (never walk around the stadium before or after a game, avoid the area at all costs). PSG in the 2010’s (QSI helping) has changed entirely the face of the club and Ligue 1 became far more accessible to its fans. Actually, a lot of the reform in the membership system did not allow the old members of these Ultra groups to seat with each other. Many left the club and decided to never come back! And we thought this would be the end of it…

Hooliganism in France is not dead but typically right now it is found under the form of small independent groups with more or less linkage to the clubs or its Ultras. On the other hand we have the growth of a new wave of Ultras which purpose is to communicate more deeply with the club and avoid violence at all costs. Often these new Ultras do not allow any independent groups to join them, that allows for the message to be controlled. Strasbourg is a perfect example how a club can successfully communicate with his fans, even the most ardent of Ultras. The club and its Ultras have worked closely ensuring a reasonable definition of what is allowed during the games, providing the fans time and space to be an integral part of the club’s life. And over the last few years, I think it worked fine. 

As usual, I digress… So coming back to the original purpose of this paper.

The 2021/2022 season was one of the seasons I was the most excited about. On paper, the clubs had done their homework, the talent was there, the coaches clearly wanted to play a more expansive type of football and I think it showed on the pitch. This season, the football played in France was good, actual good football. It was also a season post Covid, the return of the fans to the stadium. Everything was there for it to be a success… And the start could not have been worse. Right at the beginning of the season, a resurgence of violence marred the Ligue 1, and what was seen at the time as a blip post Covid, lasted for month and month to finally culminate in what we saw on the 29th of May in Saint Etienne.  Here is a not exhaustive list of the various events which I wish I never got to see.

  • Montpellier-Marseille (8th August 2021). Valentin Rongier was injured by a flying bottle hitting him on the face. The game was subsequently stopped due to projectiles thrown from one stand to another. The game finally resumed and Montpellier was ordered not to allow any fans in any of the stands behind the goals for three home games. 
  • Nice-Marseille (22 August 2021). Whilst winning the game 1-0 following a goal from Dolberg, a fan from the stand next to the corner flag threw a bottle at Payet who was at the time preparing for a corner kick. Payet threw the bottle back at the stand and hell broke loose. Pitch invasion, fight between the players (Guendouzi right in the middle of it of course), fight between both staff and fans. The game was finally abandoned at the request of Marseille. The LFP insisted that the game was to be played again but this time behind closed doors. In addition to the rematch: Nice was also penalised with one point deduction.  
  • Lens-Lille (18th September 2021). Whilst the League thought that the sanctions against both Marseille and Nice would have calmed down the situation, it created an even more volatile situation. The Ultras from both side (Lille and Lens) decided to invade the pitch and engage into fights at half time. Lens was given two games behind closed door while Lille away fans were prevented to travel to any away games until the end of the season. 
  • Angers-Marseille (22nd September 2021). Towards the end of Marseille’s 0-0 draw with Angers, away fans invaded the pitch during a brawl with home supporters. The League sanctioned both club with one suspended point deduction
  • Montpellier-Bordeaux (22nd September 2021). In Montpellier, Bordeaux’s bus was stoned by a group of Montpellier fans. There followed a fight between the fans which led to 16 people suffering minor injuries. 
  • Saint Etienne-Angers (22nd October 2021). The game was delayed following a large numbers of smoke bombs thrown onto the pitch by the ASSE fans. The protest was mainly directed at the coach Claude Puel (who they wanted out) and the directorship of the ASSE club.
  • OM-PSG (24th October 2021). Projectiles thrown towards the PSG players, followed by numerous fights in the streets. The league ordered Marseille to play its next game behind closed doors.
  • OL-OM (21st November 2021). Payet hit by the bottle thrown from the stand. After long discussions, the game is finally abandoned. The League gives Lyon one point deduction and the game ordered to be replayed behind closed doors.
  • Coupe de France Paris FC-OL (17th December 2021). The game is interrupted following smoke bombs and projectiles being sent from one stand to another. The videos were horrendous with families doing their best to escape the fireworks being thrown at them. The sanction from the league was to eliminate both clubs from the French Cup.
  • Players stuck at the stadium. On the 20th March, about 200 Ultras gathered at the Bordeaux Stadium following a yet another defeat. They blocked the exit and ordered the club to meet with them. The stand off lasted for 15 minutes until it naturally calmed down.
  • Brest-Nantes (10th April 2022). The game was interrupted for about 15 minutes following projectiles and smoke bomb thrown on the pitch. A few pitch invasions were kept under control but not without tension.
  • St.Etienne-Monaco (22nd April 2022). The game was interrupted at the 66th minute following the release of smoke bombs and fireworks in the stadium. The Ultra group Green Angels tried to force their way into the stadium 2 hours before the start of the game, engaging with the police. 
  • St.Etienne-Auxerre (29th May 2022). The end of a long series. Saint-Etienne were relegated from Ligue 1 after losing a play-off against Auxerre in a penalty shoot-out. The defeat sparked a pitch invasion by angry Etienne fans, with many hurling flares at the director’s stand and towards the players’ tunnel. Police armed with shields and batons used tear gas to disperse supporters.

Looking back at the above list, I could not believe the number of events which led to the most recent events in France. Both the playoff finals and the UCL issues have in common a complete absence from the government and the French football authorities to deal with the situation in an appropriate manner. They are not even reactive anymore, they are in complete denial which is far more dangerous. As usual, the blame is often the same, with the UCL the issues were the LFC fans and their fake tickets and during the Ligue 1 season the issue were with the fans and more often than none the Ultras. For the last 15 years, France has had one of the most repressive policies surrounding the management of football events. Looking at the number for this season, Ligue 1 is:

  • 11 Games behind closed doors (only one due to Covid)
  • 35 entire stands closed to the public (21 suspended sentence)
  • 24 away ends closed to the public (5 suspended sentence)
  • 129 Decrees from the Prefecture forbidding or limiting the away fans to travel to the games

The number of Prefecture decrees have increased since the 2015 season which was the record high following the terrorist attacks in Paris. At that time, the fear of people gathering in a crowd was so high that the Prefecture learnt to deal with this fear by forbidding social events where the gathering of people was deemed too high. As a fan, you could just not travel across the border of your department and follow your football team. Since then, the situation calmed down in France and from the 233 decrees sanctioned in 2015/2016, the number dropped well below 100 in the following years (this was also associated by a desire from the various stakeholders to engage in sufficient dialogue with views to limit the numbers of sanctions to a minimum). Then in 2022 Covid became a thing for the stadium to close their doors to their fans and to finally reopen properly at the start of the season 21/22. The result was immediate, in less than a year, as of May 2022, the numbers of decrees have cropped up well above 100 (129 to be correct and rising) and according to the ANS (Association Nationale Des Supporters) many of them have probably not being registered against these numbers. So why has it gone so wrong?

According to the government, the fault is of course the supporters’. These herds of Ultras/hooligans going to the stadium for the sole purpose of destroying the enjoyment of everyone else. You just have to look at the response from our French Interior Minister blaming the English fans for the shambles at the Stade de France (for the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool). This claim was destroyed nearly as quickly as it was uttered and made an absolute farce of the way the French government and the football authorities have responded to crowd gathering and football in general. I still have nightmare of a LFC fan, hands in his pocket, waiting calmy to enter the stadium while being gassed by one of our armed policemen. Nathalie Iannetta, Sport Director of Radio France, claimed that deaths were avoided because of how calm the LFC fans responded to the shambles of that UCL night in France. These fans should be applauded and not finger pointed. 

Being a football fan in France in becoming harder and harder. I have often said that France is a weird place in terms of its relationship with football. We love it as much as we hate it. On one side we applaud the champions of 98, on the other side, we easily point the finger at their skin colours and salaries. Football has always had this sense of societal fabric which is quite difficult to dissociate from. Being a fan in France means that you may be prevented to act like one. The fans from Nantes were prevented to show their club colours in Nantes ahead of the French Cup game against Bastia (if you were found in Nantes wearing a short or a scarf, you would have been fined by the police). Indeed, the Prefecture decided that wearing a home shirt would bring far too much risk and should be prevented. I mean how mad this is? Nowadays everything and anything is worth a decree from the Prefecture and if nothing changes quickly, I fear that this is a problem that will keep on growing (The Ligue has a list of games where the risk is deemed too great for the away fans to travel. If you are Clermont, no issue. If you are Marseille you’ll miss 8 games a season). I am not saying that we should not blame the fans, I know for sure that some of them have no place in a football stadium (during Lorient-Reims a Celtic Cross linked to the French Far Right movement was exposed as a banner. The cross was hastily removed but nonetheless this was unseen in France for years). Of course, the fans have a role to play, and most of the fan’s association would be more than happy to work with the clubs and the authorities to prevent these recurrent violent events. But instead of inviting them to the table, they are just ignored and more decrees are being released. According the ANS, the various events from the start of the season have given the authorities a support to the preventive framework they have put in place for years.

The fan’s associations in France and a wide range of the media following the Ligue1 are all pointing towards the same issue. By preventing fans from travelling, you completely lose the ability to deal with sports crowds. I think that was in Marseille where a banner was stating this specific point “If you keep preventing the fans from travelling to games, you will never be able to deal with European games”. The message is always the same, it is becoming impossible in France to gather in a crowd without being gassed. Forget about the burning tyres, France is now a place where pepper spray is the perfume of Spring. The institutions are blaming each other and act like the easiest solution to deal with a crowd is to prevent gathering. Since Covid, it feels that the reasonable attitude towards football games has gone down the drain. The efforts that were put in place since 2017 to ensure that both the fans and the rest of the stakeholders could meet and discuss ahead of games in order to define the most appropriate response to fan safety have been replaced by prevention, no discussion. 

The clubs since Covid are struggling financially and they are incapable of recruiting the correct number of stewards which would not only help to contain the crowd but also assist the fans outside of the stadium. If you associate this to the complete dismantlement of the away ends in the stadium, the stewards find themselves having to deal with away fans scattered all over the stadium rather than focusing on one specific area. Same applies to the police. Would it be not easier to deal with one specific area of the stadium if the worst was to happen? Finally, they are also reluctant to invest in novel CCTV systems allowing the identification and prosecution of the troublemakers.

Covid could not have happened at a worst time for everyone. This associated with the social atmosphere in France where violence and racism appear to be on the up was a recipe for disaster. According to Nicolas Hourcade (Sociologist and specialised in supporterism science) we must draw the lessons from this season in prioritising to re-establish the dialogue between all the stakeholders According to him, the tension has increased for years, following health concerns, the lack of fans at the stadium for more than a year, the losses that the clubs have accumulated, their inability to recruit sufficient staff to deal with the crowd, the increasing pressure on the clubs and fans following the reduction of the number of clubs in Ligue 1 from 20 to 18, the Super League, the arrival of foreign investment funds etc… All of these make the fans feel that they are losing control over their clubs. If the club is now iunable to protect its own interest, it is the role of the fans and its Ultras to act upon it. The fans are more and more feeling like the guarantor the integrity of their clubs (For memory, in 2020, 300 OM fans invaded the training centre as a protest against the ownership and Jacques-Henri Eyraud). Fan pressure can work, the pressure from the PL fans on their clubs to ditch the Super League was successful. Rather than giving a voice to their fans, the French authorities are constantly reacting to these events using collective measures and rarely targets the most violent individuals. It is easier to target everyone than to mobilise the police and the judges to penalise the individuals.

The worst part of this discussion is that a system was put place in 2017 and it started to show some significant improvements. It was not perfect but it worked. At its heart a directive was put in place in order to create an environment where banning a fan from travelling to a football game would be the exception and not the norm. The politics seemed to be aligned with targeted prosecution also. In other words, everyone seemed to be on board. The INS (Instance Nationale du Supporterisme) was created in 2017 and its purpose was to: ”contribute to improving the dialogue and allow the stakeholders to reflect and to make proposals on the participation of supporters in the smooth running of competitions and the improvement of the way they are welcomed at these competitions”.

Starting from the 2017 season and beyond, the INS successfully allowed stakeholders to meet and discuss the most appropriate manner to ensure that the safety of all the fans would not be compromised (home and away, within the stadium walls and outside). Since Covid, the INS disappeared from the face of the Earth (the INS is a governmental body, the same government has called for greater dialogue and individual sanction, yet the most efficient body in place to allow this dialogue has completely been forgotten). Added to this, the DNLH (Division Nationale de la Lutte contre le Hooliganisme) does not operate anymore as a mediator between the Prefecture and the fanbase: DNHL is the body ensuring a fair assessment of the situation and appropriate response to ensure the safety of the fan, therefore relinquishing this responsibility to the Prefecture. 

So, what will the future bring us? This is a really tough question and the response to the gassing of the fans during the Champion’s League final does not provide me with a lot of optimism for the future. It feels clear to me that the politicians have completely given up on accepting their part of the responsibility by their consistent and public fan bashing. Even better when the fans are from another country, right? Nowadays, the League is already talking about more stadium closure (no doubt St. Etienne will be sanctioned after the invasion of the pitch), bringing back barriers between the stadium and the fans depending on the risk factor of the game itself, forbidding the fans to bring bottles of water in the stands… All of these decisions are putting the fan in the centre of the responsibility. The Fan’s Association are calling for more dialogue, they want safe standing, they want the away end to be re-opened, they want to work with the club on safe areas for smoke bombs (if that’ll ever be safe?), but more than anything they are calling for the perpetrators to be banned for life rather than given some sort of suspended sentence. From a club perspective, it is clear that that they’ll need to follow the English system by investing into a greater level of Safety, CCTV allowing the authorities to investigate and prosecute accordingly.

The last two days in France have depressed me. We could be so much closer to finding a solution, but it is clear that the dialogue is broken between all the stakeholders. I am ashamed to hear what I have heard on the radio and the blame that the LFC fans have received. We have the JO coming to Paris and unless we learn our lessons from the UCL final, we will once again embarrass ourselves in front of millions of eyes looking at us. 

I’ll finish by this quote from Nicolas Hourcade which I think summarises my thought well: ”We do not need to clean the stadium with a Kärcher but with a paint brush”.


  1. Wow Emmanuel! This is a dissertation. Is there a ‘no more than 130 characters’ version? (just joking).

    Really interesting read. Some random thoughts of where I think the English situation differs.

    Back in the ‘80s when English teams were banned from Europe followed by the terrible disaster at Hillsborough, English football had it’s reckoning. The safety and anti-social aspects of football came to the fore. Standing was abolished and improvements made for getting fans in and out and segregating rival fans. Particularly an emphasis on improved collaboration and local funding of police and marshal support.

    In the early ‘90s when the Premier League established there was a gradual uptick in the amount of money coming into the game. Simultaneously the owners sought to market the ‘product’ domestically and internationally which required a clean-up operation in order to reach a broader audience.

    Part of the success of the Premier League is the collective endeavour fostered by the (relatively) equal distribution of monies. I think this encouraged clubs to be good custodians (in order to attract sponsors, corporate customers, families and youngsters); but also no one wanted to be seen to be the bad guys that let the league down.

    Simultaneously at societal level there’s been a gentrification process, particularly in cities where the areas around football grounds have changed significantly. Ask any Arsenal fan that used to attend Highbury regularly and they’ll tell you there’s no comparison now.

    Ultras is an interesting concept. We don’t use the term in England. Back in the day there were hooligan gangs such as the Inter City Firm who followed West Ham. But I wouldn’t say there’s are hardcore fans that see themselves as ultras so to speak. I mean just look at Arsenal and the proliferation of fan voices and blogs which co-habit.

    A final difference at more of a societal level is that as a country we’ve been fairly capitalist leaning and football has very much led the way. Overseas players, overseas managers, overseas owners (overseas fans). The traditional definition of what was ‘your local club’ have gradually changed over the past three decades.

    I read an interesting article at the weekend (but can’t find the link) that the drive for the Super League outside England is in fear that the Premier League is so increasingly rich, big European clubs see the PL as the Super League. They fear being on the outside looking in. Even though we currently have a duopoly on domestic titles, most fans are generally happy with the state of play. If the money dried up and the top players and managers left for other leagues that satisfaction would change dramatically.

    1. Hi there, thanks for the feedback. Yes I know this was very long, but hopefully this will summarise how I have felt recently about all thee various events seen everywhere in France. The points you made are interesting to me. I have to be honest, I do not have much knowledge about the history of football in England pre 90’s. I do know of course Hillsborough, but how the hooliganism has evolved over the years is kind of new to me (aside from what used to be reported in France of course).

      I particularly liked your point about the influx of overseas influence into the English football game. I guess in France, the influx of money from oversea is something quite new and seen as an attack to what the club used to represent from the fan point of view. There are more and more discussions about further clubs falling into foreign ownership. I think that was Romain Molina who reported recently that McCourt was actively looking to sell Marseille to a Saudi consortium.

      When you spoke about gentrification and need for the clubs to create a better picture of themselves post Hooliganism and Hillsborough, I think this really can only apply to the UK. When I moved here, I was so surprised that football is so engrained into the life of a family. In France not so much but I think tribalism and extreme fandom is growing right now (helped mainly by the social media). Adding to this the extreme social pressure that everyone is under and you have a recipe for disaster.

      Thanks for your comment, really appreciate.

  2. Thanks for writing about this sad state of affairs with passion and clarity. I had the opportunity to watch Ladj Ly’s Les Miserables recently when it popped up on a streaming service (as a “football” movie, which it isn’t really). But its depiction – possibly dramatized – of the rising tension, moral confusion and difficulty in sorting out the causes from the effects of everyday “neighborhood” violence was eye-opening for someone who is used to thinking about France as Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite.

    The most revealing part of the piece above was that the PSG Ultras were tolerated by the club to fill seats, until Qatar came in to effectively subsidize the club. Catch-22 has nothing on that conundrum.

    There are so many aspects of this developing crisis, including the broader socio-economic and cultural trends that you and Matt identify. Maybe part of the solution should be reversing the obsession with the financial bottom line. The whole ecosystem is optimising for large capacities, monopolistic competition and combustible atmosphere rather than reasonably-sized, competitive and safe. I don’t know whom that’s benefiting but it’s not the fans.

    1. Hi there, thanks for your comment. I can only agree with the need for football to stop with its obsession with cash. However, when I look at the Nation League, the reforms in UCL, the TV rights, etc… it does look like we are going down the rabbit hole of monetising football even more.

  3. Hi Emmanuel,

    Beautiful, passionate, insightful exposé. I had no idea things were so bad on the hooliganism front in France. In the US, French people as stereotyped as soft and cowardly. I know this cannot be further from the truth but the extent of the violence was absolutely shocking. Lynching?? It’s unbelievable that this is happening in 2022, especially in one of the world’s most developed economies.

    Your last quote is insightful and reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell’s broken windows theory. For anyone not familiar, he cited how the process of curbing crime in New York was accomplished not by draconian measures like making more arrests, but by cleaning up the streets, removing graffiti, and fixing broken windows. They also cracked down on petty crimes like jumping the turnstile at the metro. Just these seemingly small measures decreased crime in the neighborhood drastically in ways that other previous interventions did not.

    The theory is that people are much more likely to commit crime and violence if there is an air of neglect and indifference about them. What’s another broken window in a street full of them? If you can break the law in the metro every day, why not pick someone’s pocket, shoplift, and from there maybe even mug someone? Small blemishes engender a sense of decreased social responsibility and enable acts of further vandalism or violence. Getting away with petty crimes engender a sense of lawlessness that enables bigger crimes.

    I wonder if the problem in French football is partly just a lack of investment and too much of a sense of leaving something rotten to the dogs, as it were. It may not take too much more than a show of caring and a little remodeling to right the ship.

    1. I think, actually, Doc, what we are seeing in France is “broken windows” policing to the nth degree.

      First, broken windows theory has been widely discredited as

      -based on a falsified study
      -having no effect on crime
      -criminalizing communities of color
      -leading directly to the deaths of PoC (selling single cigarettes is a classic “broken window” crime that police are told to clean up and which led to the death of Eric Garner)
      -heavy-handed policing

      What I think we are seeing in France and what we are seeing in other countries is a result of global inequality and anger with powerlessness. Manu specifically mentions that the supporters’ groups want to have dialog, that they want to be involved in the policing decisions, and that they want to find ways to make things safer but that the authorities are not listening and don’t want to have those conversations.

      In France there were also the yellow vest protests over the last few years and just on May Day there were violent protests in Paris over basic things for working class people like retirement age, wages, and cost of living.

      In my opinion this is a sort of canary in the coalmine: as the poverty and famine in the global south is exacerbated by global warming and migration begins to pick up pace we are going to see more and more people on all sides of the aisle getting angry and protesting in various violent ways.

      People on the left demand the government step in to help, but this also mobilizes the extreme right, violent neo-fascists who can use migration as a touchstone for their own favored policies.

      We are headed for full blown social chaos in the next 5 years or so in my opinion. Probably sooner in the USA where the white nationalists are armed.

        1. Thanks for the follow up articles Tim. I’ve never thought of broken windows as synonymous with over policing but it seems like that’s what is has become in some places. To me it was simply a basic truth that when people live in nicer conditions they are less likely to resort to crime. After all, a big part of the original idea is to put money into the community to fix the broken windows. I can see this has become a politically charged topic so that’ll be my last word on the subject.

          1. There are a whole host of racist theories based on “simple common sense” and “basic truths” that have been used to oppress people of colour. From low IQs to propensity towards certain crimes.

            They’re only ever used to over police those people of colour. Even the broken windows theory was I’m the main used as a tool first and foremost to crack down on black people.

            You can choose not to engage with any discussion on this, that’s your right, but ignoring issues because they’re uncomfortable for you and aren’t going to affect you anyway is how we avoid improving things for others who are affected.

      1. Tim, the Gilet Jaune comment is an interesting one. At its core this is the result of a government unwilling to enter into conversation with the bottom of the pile. The more you feel disconnected the greater the reaction. In the UK, the higher classes are dominating the opinion and more often than none, they point the finger at the lower classes as an explanation for why things are going as badly as they are. Let them fight between each other, providing some shielding from the higher classes. Same applies in football in France. Prevent the fan from entering into conversation about football and point the finger to why they are the issue and let the fans sort it out between themselves.

        Social chaos is possibly the best way to summarise what is going on right now in many of what we would describe as developed countries.

  4. Thanks for the post Emmanuel. Really great stuff.

    I don’t see how any professional sport in the world can avoid going down the rabbit hole of monetizing even more. Monetization is just part of the human condition.

    I just read an article in Arseblog and it sounds like William Saliba and Arteta are both anxious to have him playing for us next season. Hopefully if it happens he can replicate the form he showed playing in France.

    I just read the article from 2017 that is in the related articles section below and it sounds like the dressing room was a complete mess in the Arsene’s last couple of seasons and it certainly felt like things only got worse towards the end of the Emery era. Edu and Arteta clearly inherited a gigantic mess when they took over. Not a surprise that rebuilding a cohesive dressing room had to be one of the first priorities and that was always going to be difficult

    1. Monetization to an extent is part of the human condition. In excess, it’s like any other part of the human condition.

      The clearest evidence of excess for me is that every manager complains about transfer prices, yet the progress on a serious transfer budget and/or wage cap is minimal. To me, that’s because such a cap would prevent trillions in ill-gotten taxable wealth being laundered through the sport, which is not in the interest of some decision-makers. But it’s not healthy or inevitable.

      In the context of safety, club owners could invest in resilient community/city infrastructure and governance instead of just trying to ringfence their stadia on certain days in the year. But that is a significant running cost/engagement that they’re not really interested in incurring. Their choice, but when the next crisis comes around, no sane person will just sadly shake their head and conclude it was inevitable.

  5. Its possible Saliba could have helped us this year but I can’t think of a lot of 19-20 CB’s who have done well in the PL and I we had kept him in England he might not have played regularly and gained the confidence and experience. From a longer term view there is certainly an argument that there was logic to sending him on loance

    1. Small ask, amigo. Give your hobby horses a rest just this once. We’ve worked them to death, and Emmanuel’s brilliant piece (unrelated to this) gives us a chance to breathe and to turn the page on Arteta pros and cons. We gorged in pizza plenty… tonights’s serving is ratatouille 🙏🏽

      1. Christus, coming from Mr. “black and white is black and white, until I (a journalist!) say it’s grey…

        I hardly ever agree with Bill but let him be…

        1. I love you too, Emoticon Squiggles 😘

          Curious to hear what you think of Manny’s report on all this stuff that ailing French football. My goodness, the work that went into this…

          1. Was great until I dived into the comments and there’s the bastion of black, white and grey policing Bill. It’s your schtick though, policing people…

          2. Because only ex-journos can have an opinion…

            PS: rebus puzzle, work it out. Smoochy poochy.

  6. thanks Emmanuel. A surprisingly sorry state of affairs.

    French police are notorious among English fans at least for their high handed, even provocative, manner in dealing with crowds. It might be to do with English fans’ reputation too, to an extent, but it’s happening with domestic crowds as well so it can’t be just that.

    I think govts and large bureaucracies under pressure, either political or societal, tend to view this as something of a safety valve. Let the masses blow some steam off beating each other up in a contained setting. It reduces the likelihood of sustained political/social/economic movements. Both because the violent urge has already had an outlet and has created/hardened divisions. Any reputational damage is not only worth it, it also allows greater power to the authorities to clamp down as and when they see fit.

    I guess I think this is beyond football at its core. For what its worth I have seen some signs of worsening behaviour in English football crowds compared to about 10 years ago. It’s not out in the open as much, but it’s bubbling right there. A growing hostility towards foreigners.

    1. Thanks for your kind words. I think one of the post from Tim above in the comments section highlights perfectly some of my thought. Monetisation is only one part of the issue. People are bringing societal despair in stadium these days and this can only bring more extreme reactions.

  7. Thanks for that full, detailed and comprehensive walk-through, Emmanuel. I watch a lot of French football on cable (because of some players with Arsenal past/present/futures), but I hadn’t noticed how far Bordeaux, Auxerre or St Etienne had fallen. All 3 clubs helped to add to the ranks of gunners over the years.

    Also hadnt appreciated the extent of the problem of football violence. Marseilles, by accident or design, seem to be at the hart of more than its fair share of recent ones. Big question… can the authorities stamp out the violence?

    Another illuminating thing you show is how the character of PSG has changed from the club you used to know.

    Great stuff. I also enjoyed your recent piece on young French players to watch.

    Stupendous work, again.

    1. I cannot thank you more for your kind words. Marseille is a fiery environment and the fans are deeply attached to their histories. I also feel that there is a lot of resentment in their fanbase that they have been unfairly treated post Tapie. What I am looking forward these days is to see whether the foreign Saudi investment fund will finally manage to buy OM. It would be interesting to see whether the price of the tickets and the investment will drive some of the extreme fans out of the stadium or whether the new ownership would allow them to behave the way they are.

      In anyways, Marseille has always been a thorn in everyone’s feet. They are fiery, they are annoying. Guendouzi for example is perfect for them, because Marseille loves to be hated and loves to controversy. I would say that most of the time these things would never escalate further than being controversial. Nowadays, the fans are getting to the stadium full of social resentment and anger. What used to be acceptable in the past is not anymore and the fans feeling completely ignored resigned themselves to use violence as a way of protest.

      Can the authorities stamp out the violence? I would say no. The more heavy handed they are, the more the anger from the fanbase. Mass sanctions do not work.

      What they need is to open the dialogue box more widely…

  8. Thanks again Emmanuel for your comments. If the crowd wants to make trouble there is nothing the clubs ownership or the law enforcement can do. You can’t put enough police or security presence in a stadium. Violence like that is a symptom of where the society is in general and the ownership of a club can’t fix the country as a whole. You can’t realistically profile fans and lock out the ones you think might be trouble makers. You can increase ticket prices to the point where its only financially feasible for a small segment of the population to attend but that seems grossly unfair to the “silent majority”. I am not sure if there is a realistic answer.

    1. It’s really a small minority that are the problem. They use CCTV in England and ban the trouble-makers. It works.

      1. This is interesting. One of the point in there is the “decrease” of fan atmosphere in the stadium. Now I have a question back for you. Is that the case? I have experienced a few games in L1 and depending on the stadium the atmosphere is at times more exciting than at the Emirates for example. Were the stadium atmosphere in England better before all these changes were made?

        1. Oh, night and day. I wouldn’t say better, just very different.

          Your article and the one I shared got me thinking how much things have changed. Back in the ‘80s football was nearly exclusively the preserve of men. The game was much more tribal and local. Fans and often players were from the same town, even village. You’d often been to school with or vaguely knew a player or two. When I went to university in Nottingham I regularly saw Forest players out and about or in bars and clubs. Brian Clough’s brother ran the local newsagents and Cloughie would sometimes serve you (what a hero).

          Football’s a completely different sport and audience today. It’s not just about money. The element of local connection with your club has diluted. There’s little connection with the players as they’re no longer accessible or local. And a season ticket at Arsenal starts at £2.5k which is out of the reach of many.

          If you’re a sentimental sort Bielsa is a wonderful story. He lived in the most modest home in Leeds, walked to work and made himself accessible to all fans. A complete throwback, man of the people, full of humility which is why he was so loved. His story could only have worked at a club like Leeds who’d really lost their way and had a scattergun of owners and managers the fans were desperate for a saviour. In a different way Arsene represented the same and it’s a connection we’ve lost.

          The atmosphere at the Emirates has improved this season. Fans are excited to see the young team succeed. But the crowd also turn very quickly if things aren’t going so well. Back in the day we were supporters; now we’re the audience (lol).

      2. A lot of the UK legislation relating to football was conceived in the wake of Hillsborough, from fan ID cards to football banning orders.
        My problem is that the legislation followed the enquires and reports of the time and were based on the, now shown to be untrue, narratives put forward by the police and media.

        Fast forward and we’ve got justice for the 96, the police failings have been accepted but there won’t be any review of the legislation.

        In Turkey they have a scheme where anyone, anyone attending a match has to have a government sanctioned ID.
        It was commonly suspected to be an Erdoğan inspired restriction on liberty following the impotant role football supporters played in the Taksim Square protests. The govt claimed it was aimed at preventing hooliganism.

        Football supporters are often the whipping boys for larger failures of the state.

        Al Ahly supporters suffered the consequences of their role in overthrowing the Mubarak regime in Egypt with fatal consequences.

        The point is, I’m sort of agreeing, the authorities in France are simply using blunt tools because it’s easier to pepper spray fans they label as hooligans than address deeper problems within both society and football.

  9. hey Manu,

    I saw that Marseilles/Nice match live (on TV), and I thought that Payet should have been severely sanctioned by the French FA for his reaction. It could have led to something really ugly, and people could have been injured. Fans who misbehave yes, and we had a great chat a few weeks ago about Vieira and the Everton fan. But the authorities should come down hard as well on players whose actions can light fires.

    Guendo to me seems more mature. I saw him walk away from a potential flashpoint in an end of season match (I cant remember which one), and I thought that the Guendo of a few years ago would have done some theatrical squaring up (and that “hold me back” thing where the would-be aggressor is actually retreating) and probably got himself booked. His child recently turned one (thank you, Instagram). Perhaps he can now relate to tantrums! 🙂

    and while I have you here, would love your thoughts on Aurélien Tchouaméni, just snagged by Real Madrid from Monaco. He did not make your U-21 list in April because he was born before 2001, but I wonder how highly you rate him. Heard a lot about the guy, went to YouTube, and he looks the complete midfielder — can carry, tackle, pass and score. France look scary all over the park. And he’s one reason why.

    1. Tchouameni is the best prospective DM in the world right now: his tackles/int/pressures are off the flipping charts.

      1. For about the first half of the CL final, Liverpool made Madrid old, slow and pedestrian. Completely outplayed them in the middle of the park. As the game went on (and Liverpool hadnt closed it out) Casemiro and Kroos got better. Casemiro in particular read the danger like a professor, but man, the Liverpool midfield showed even those world class players that pace and pressing can worry them. With Modric also on the wrong side of 30, Tchouaméni is just what they need to freshen things up there. What a talent he looks. And what a get.

  10. I copied and pasted this from Arseblog in case we have not seen it.

    Saliba was like a white knight in some ways, the opposite of those kind of poorly thought-out signings. Instead he was a player for the future, and the answer to our defensive prayers.

    Except at that age he wasn’t. He had some personal issues too, and there’s a steep learning curve for central defenders in the early part of your career. It’s a position where you have to make mistakes to develop, and I think if you look back at what Arteta said all along, his decisions were not made to punish William Saliba, but to do right by a young centre-half who probably wasn’t ready for the Premier League. There’s no doubt he is now, and I hope we get to see how ready next season as he competes with Ben White and Gabriel.

    William Saliba was quoted as saying. “I belong to Arsenal, I still have two years left. I will be back with Arsenal. I have played zero matches and I still want to show them my true face and have the chance to play for these fans and this great club.”

    Arteta said. He has to come back. He has the experience and the environment necessary to be competitive with us.

    I have heard a lot of speculation that Saliba was sent on loan because Arteta made a self serving decision simply because he did not like the player and there was no regard to what he and the club and the player thought was the best short or long term interest of everyone involved. (Paraphrasing some of the comments I remember). None of us know what really happened but I think the Arseblog article provides a much more balanced and reasonable explanation for the way the situation has played out. We will see what happens but it certainly seems like both Saliba and Arteta are planning on him playing for Arsenal next season.

    1. sure, there’s speculation. whenever the management team does something unannounced that doesn’t make sense, they’re inviting speculation. however, i don’t recall many calling this decision “self-serving”. it was more baffling than anything else.

      if arteta had come out and announced this as his intent for saliba prior to the loan, no one would have had a problem with it as that decision would have been fair and rational. the problem is no one had a clue what was going on with saliba. given how arteta dealt with saliba the year before, and arteta’s reputation on dealing with players he didn’t care for, there was even more speculation as to why saliba was on loan.

      now, what is self-serving is for arteta to come out after the fact trying to take credit for this player’s development at another club under another manager as if this was the intent all along. if he couldn’t preemptively announce this intent, he shouldn’t be trying to own a portion of saliba’s success in retrospect.

      1. I know that it was 12 months ago and consequently a lot of folks like to pretend it didn’t happen but it’s also a fact that we told him he COULDN’T go on loan, that we wanted to play him in the first team, and then made him go play with the reserves for 6 months.

        He was angry and probably not the smartest move but he said he felt “locked up” by Arsenal on Guendo’s Insta. Let’s not pretend that everything was hunky dory between Saliba and Arteta/Arsenal for the last two years. Does that mean he “won’t play for Arsenal” as I have said many many times? I don’t know now. I could have been wrong about that but let’s see what happens. I still don’t believe it will happen despite the kisses both sides seem to be blowing each other this week. I will tell you one thing: he’s a French international now and he won’t want to play 15 matches next season because it would be a major step back for him and probably jeopardize his France place. If he’s not a regular starter I think he’ll be (rightly) quite upset and with his history I don’t think he’ll keep that bottled up for long. But again, let’s see.


  11. threatening to take major european events, like the champions league final, out of france, is a viable option. you don’t need to make a public announcement but a letter to the french fa is probably adequate in forcing them to take ownership of policing fans. with that, knowing the french like i do, i would also send a courtesy copy to the owners and chief administrators of all the teams in the top french football division.

    the point tim makes about cctv is very fair. thanks to manu, i have a proper understanding of what ultras are; primarily that ultras is not synonymous with hooligans. the ultras loves their teams and would think long and hard about behaving in a way that prevents them seeing their team play. the threat of a lifetime ban would likely be too heavy a price to deliberately pay for bad behavior. a heavy-handed approach is not necessary. ban one or 2 and announce those banned by name and put their face up and everyone will see that these bans are real; surely, most of the ultras know each other. cctv is incredibly effective and NOT that expensive.

  12. If Spuds pull it off they’re doing some cool business in Spence and Bastoni… building a very strong young side on top of their January signings.

  13. We have no idea what actually happened with the Saliba situation and there is only speculation. We tend to focus on the bits and pieces of news which supports what we want to believe. Guendouzi’s instagram is probably not the most reliable unbiased source because he might have a bit of a grudge against Arsenal. I do the same thing and focus on evidence which supports my beliefs which why I copied and pasted the stuff from that Arseblog article. Arteta was made captain by Moyes and then Wenger and Pep has been lavish in his praise as a coach. He clearly wants his team to succeed. The idea that he has evolved into a manager who makes decisions that would hurt his teams chance of success based on petty jealousy and other counterproductive personality traits seems very unlikely.

    No manager makes all of these decisions in vacuum and I assume sending Saliba on loan was part of a plan which included Edu and our management team. I can’t believe Arteta’s bosses would sit by and let Arteta make bad decisions based on the his petty anger or his likes and dislikes. . Arteta/Edu inherited an incredible mess and they had to make dozens and dozens of decisions with regard how they rebuilt the dressing room culture and the talent. its easy for us to criticize in retrospect but there was never a chance that every decision they would make would turn out right. We can disagree with some of the decisions and disagree with how certain situations were handled but I believe the theory put forth in the Arseblog article that our management team thought the best thing for the short and long term for Saliba and club was to send him on loan and let him gain experience. Perhaps Saliba was unhappy in the past but his recent quote is not ambiguous and he seems to have gotten over whatever he might have been angry about and is willing to play for Arteta and Arsenal.

  14. The clubs upper management seems to be very supportive of Arteta and the decisions the club has made in the last 2+ years. Why support him unless they agree with decisions such as moving Ozil and Auba and sending Saliba on loan. I can’t believe Edu and company are letting Arteta do whatever he wants just to appease him. We can disagree with the way the situations were handled but no manager who wants to keep his job would move away from his teams highest profile and highest paid players unless the clubs management hierarchy is on board. In the case of Ozil and Auba its clear the players production was headed downward and there was no evidence to suggest it was going to rebound and they were both on big wages and neither was part of a long term rebuilding plan.

  15. Josh

    I don’t see anything in the quote from Arteta that sounds like he or anyone associated with the club is claiming credit for Saliba’s development. To me it simply says he believes the player is now ready to be competitive for playing time at Arsenal. Whether we agree or not, I guess the unspoken implication is the club’s decision makers did not believe Saliba was ready in the past so they did what a lot of clubs do and sent him on loan.

  16. Saliba again. If the club concluded Saliba wasn’t ready, I think we need to ask them ready for what? It’s still unfathomable that we sent Saliba and Mavropanos out and bought a 50m CB when there were other priorities in the squad. We really are spending too much money. I know I know. But money is not a solution in itself, it just allows you to get away with more mistakes. Arteta’s doing a fine job of that. At some point, surely, we expect returns and results to match.

    On player development, how about the quote from Marcelo Flores, a prospect from our academy.

    “Mikel Arteta looks for a lot in rising talent and work rate is the most important. Everything off the pitch comes first and then the work rate comes before talent.”

    I know some may appreciate this as some cultural revolution but honestly this is just stupid. Of course it’s just one kid’s word and that too seemingly appreciative, but it does seem that this is how Arteta views team building. Which I will reiterate, is a consequence of him just putting his personal experience as gospel of how to make it in football. Just realised, Per is probably similar in his thinking too. Not sure this ‘unity’ is really for the best of this club.

    Anyway, transfer window open and one young Brazilian winger seems done. Nketiah will probably be done. What else do we have in store? Jesus? I have doubts. If at all, he’ll probably wait until the end of the window to see what other offers there are.

  17. It might sound stupid to you because you haven’t been in a high performance culture before. Work rate is of top most importance in anything even football. Of course talent is key but work rate is just as important if not more. That’s why James miner and Henderson are playing for a top team like Liverpool while someone like payet is playing for om

    1. A man takes some slogans about talent working hard and makes it into his philosophy, and I’m supposed to say he’s a genius?

  18. Man has no time for woman. She get new man; thrives, glows and grows. Yet we’re supposed to believe that the guy who had no time for her is responsible for the woman she’s become. The “Arteta can do no wrong” arguments have become increasingly logic-free.

    Tim, youre not really wrong about Saliba. By his own telling, he’s back at Arsenal because he has a contract. It would, he suggested, be a shame if his relationship with his club of 3 years ended without his kicking a ball for them. The young man grew up an Arsenal fan. That’s the Arsene effect in France. Photos of him, aged 9 and various other ages in an Arsenal shirt, are numerous. Moving to Arsenal was a dream. Again, by his telling, he was gutted by the way the club has treated him. He was not that direct, but the implication was clear.

    This time, 2 years ago, he and Mustafi were squad options. The club chose to offer Mustafi a contract extension, which he turned down. While they had Saliba, they bought Pablo Mari and Ben White, in addition to trying to keep Mustafi. Saliba, in the latter half of 2020, spent his time in England on the books of Arsenal but not registered for any competition. He didnt kick a ball competitively between August and January, went to Nice and was instantly one of their best players.

    After a successful loan, the manager said he was in his plans for the upcoming season (the one just finished). Loan again. He absolutely killed it, and his reputation has been massively enhanced. Apparently he alone needed Arteta’s special development technique of half a season doing nothing, and a season and a half on loan. We have in our squad and have given game time to Lokonga and Tavares, who are much less further along in their development as footballers. That this was part of sort of astute planning is all bullshit. The lad has thrived DESPITE his treatment by Arsenal, not because of it.

    Shard asked a great question… ready for what? The point about us not knowing what went on the boardroom is a cop out from folks who stan for Mikel non-stop and in the face of all contradictory evidence, and havent read the pile of reporting that is publicly available. Which is a lot.

    The club says that it wants him (and this time we mean it). What else are they going to say? Loan again? His form, his play, his ability, his development is something of an embarrassment for them in their handling of him. There’s no doubt that Arteta mucked around with the kid, and Arseblog can spin that however much he likes. The only thing we don’t know for sure is why. He, on the other hand, has little choice. He’s an Arsenal player. He’s also a guy who arrived at his boyhood club with a lot of dreams, but never played for them. It’s now or never. If he’s smart, he waits to see how things play out, before committing long term. If it does, great. If it doesn’t, at least he’ll have ahd the experience of playing for a club he’s a fan of. Besides, the last young contract rebel, Eddie Nketiah, ended up signing on on hugely inflated terms. I’d be surprised if Wilo commits longer term, this summer.

    1. Saka and Martinelli also have 2 years left. Will they sign a longer deal this summer?

    2. Oh and Folarin Balogun also ran his contract down before signing his deal right at the end. He shares an agent with Eddie Nketiah and…. Bukayo Saka.

      1. Martinelli has been giving off “Arsenal till I die” vibes. We’ll see what he does when push comes to shove. Saka is an interesting case. Our POTS for 2 seasons running, and poised for a really big career breakthrough. Im going to wager that he’s not as committed to some never-ending project as some fans seem to think. I hope Im wrong. I want us to hang onto him, but not being able to display one’s talents at the top table (Champions League) is going to become an issue, if it already isnt.

        Jesus coming (no pun) has become very critical to us. If a player of his calibre can join us even without CL, that’d be a very big signal that the club retains clout. A few players had been waiting to see where we finish.

        If Jesus comes, we have a better chance of keeping Saka, but perhaps not Balogun. Saka is the jewel, though.

        Oh, by the way, one of the rots that ArtEdu were supposed to fix is players running down their contracts. In almost 3 years, the only success they’ve had so far is Eddie, but at a very steep cost.

        1. Martinelli has been saying what will get him in Arteta’s good books. At least that’s how I read it. But maybe he means it. Maybe he will continue to mean it if Liverpool come calling in a year.

          I’d be very surprised if Saka signed this season. Maybe if we’re doing well till the world cup he would, but if I were him I’d wait it out. He is losing out on some money though, which brings me to our other problem. Retaining these young players is going to be expensive and a gamble. If they don’t work out, you also end up making them unsellable, and we’re back to trying to force them out and writing off their contracts.

          Saka is probably one of the safer bets though, but all that empty wage bill is going to start getting used up much quicker than we can fill all our squad needs.

          I mean even Gabriel Jesus. We’re paying ESR and Martinelli something like 80-90k right now. He’s going to demand 150k. And he’s not the most prolific. Indeed none of our players are, as Bill loves to point out. But we’re going to pay them wages of at least top 4 level goal scorers. It’s a more expensive, and less productive version of Wenger’s infamous ‘socialist’ wage.

  19. Shard

    Mavropanos has been with the club since 17/18 and he has been available to 3 different managers and none of them have used him which would strongly suggest that he is not part of any long term plans. Spending $50M on Ben white last summer and not addressing our needs for a new forward was not what I have done and I have questioned that as much as anyone. However, none of us was in the boardroom for the discussions. My best guess is they were thinking long term and planning the rebuild back to front and they believe White will be a foundation player at CB for the next 6-8 years. Ramsdale, Tomi, White, Gabriel, Saliba, Tierney Taveras (if he can figure out the PL) looks like a strong back 5. A better back up at RB would be nice but White can fill in there if needed. Add in Partey and you have the makings of a pretty good back 6. We don’t know the long term plans but hopefully this summer will see some additions to midfield and the forward line.

    1. I remember saying when we bought White that this is them seeing him as a franchise player because they think it is worth delaying our progress for him. Honestly, I don’t see him that way, and even if he is, I don’t think the football market works the way it would in US sports. It is in no way a justifiable action. With one exception. If they made top 4, in a season where we could focus on the league and had 150m to spend. You don’t choose between buying Ben White and making progress to the CL rounds.

      Honestly with Mavropanos, I believe it was as much a case of upper management wanting rid of Sven’s players as anything else. He did have some injuries too, but he performed well last season in the Bundesliga and could easily have been in the squad for us this season. Arsenal doesn’t make smart footballing, nor financial, decisions right now. Sure they talk a good game, but no one can convince me they really have a viable plan for building this team. I don’t think they believe it either, the way they keep changing the goalposts and avoid setting targets.

  20. Claude

    I am sure everyone hopes we hang to on to Saka and I suspect most will agree that he has been our player of the season 2 years in a row. He is excellent with a bright future. However any team whose consensus best player and #1 goal threat has only 16 goals in 70 games probably does not have the necessary talent to be a top 4 team. The ultimate success of Edu/Arteta will depend on whether they can spend enough money and buy the right players. Saka does not really profile as the type of player who can carry the load and our front office has to buy the right players to surround him with legitimate star power and firepower. We can’t afford many more mistakes like Pepe and Laca.

    1. The argument isn’t that Saka should carry the load. Absolutely we need to buy super quality up front to compliment him, Ode, Emile and Martinelli. What Im saying is that our POTS for 2 seasons in a row (as voted by the fans), can reasonably be expected to want to play with the best players in the world, who play in the Champions League. He may not be our spearhead forward, but he is an elite level wide player who is coveted by other, more successful clubs.

      Surrounding Saka with star power and firepower isn’t the only challenge for the front office — keeping him also is. And it’s difficult to attract top shelf forwards to play for a club in Europe’s second tier, that loses its best players.

  21. Shard

    Our footballing and financial decision making have been suspect since about 2016 which is why we have been out of the CL for the last 6 years. Edu and Arteta inherited a squad which had a downward pointing double arrow in terms of squad mentality/culture, squad balance, squad quality and results. They also had a total wage bill which was too high and needed to be fixed. It was a mess and they had literally dozens and dozens of decisions to make and some missteps and questionable decisions were bound to happen. To make things even more difficult the top 4 spots which is our current objective are much more competitive then any time during the Wenger era and its only going to get tougher if the Newcastle spending machine comes on line.

    Expecting any management team to fix all of those problems and drag us back into the top 4 in a couple seems like a clear cut case of unrealistic expectations. I hope most of us who watched the team last season would agree at least some of those downward pointing arrows have been reversed. I don’t know if or when we will move back into the top 4 but for the first time in several years there are realistic reasons to be a lot more optimistic about the general direction we are moving.

    1. Again, I disagree with the entire premise that we were on a downward swing and that we needed major surgery. So the rest simply doesn’t follow for me.

      If we wanted to take it slow and rebuild we first needed to see what we can salvage, what value we can add, and figure out priority areas based on performance. All we really needed to add to Emery’s Arsenal, which let me remind you collapsed late but made 70 points while reaching an EL final, was a backup RB (and a Ramsey replacement). We overreacted to his poor coaching/management, and opted to blame the squad to buy time. It was not a smart footballing decision. As it is, we ended up causing havoc, while still paying out those wages, and managing to finish in lower positions than we likely would have otherwise. Literally no upside to all of it. Even our academy players would have benefitted from playing under/displacing some of the more established players. And it’s not like they got a lot of chances from Arteta either (Saka excepted).

      In his 2.5 years we’ve changed strategies about 3 times. Management have made their own problems. And/or the job is too much for them if they are using the past as an excuse. It’s all a grand lie as far as I’m concerned. No, we have not been smart with money and well, the football and the results kind of speak for themselves.

      As for it getting tougher to qualify for the CL. It’s exactly why their nonsense of being ahead of schedule is just that. Nonsense. You take your chances when you get them. You don’t say aah well, I hadn’t planned to be so high up just yet. I’ll wait another year and everyone will slow down to accommodate me. For the money they’ve spent on wages, payouts and transfers, top 4 was a legitimate expectation. Messing it up doesn’t count in their favour.

    2. Bill,

      ‘Edu and Arteta inherited a squad which had a downward pointing double arrow in terms of squad mentality/culture, squad balance, squad quality and results’

      Help me understand what your sources are for this? The facts at the time were that in Emery’s first season the squad reached the EL final and hit 70 points (still a record in the post Wenger period). The following season that Arteta joined the squad won the FA cup. How does a squad that’s as poor as you describe achieve that?

      ‘They also had a wage bill that was far too high and needed to be fixed. It was a mess…’

      At the time Ozil was comfortably the highest earner. What did Edu and Arteta do? Benched him and ending up paying up his contract in full. Who was the next highest earner? Auba on the significantly uplifted deal given to him by Edu and Arteta. Let’s not even talk about Willian.

      Then let’s look at some of the incomings since. Yakubu – £10.4M for 5 years representing a 300% uplift on what he was paid at Atleti. White – £6.4M for 5 years representing a 200% uplift. Tomiyasu – £2M for 4 years representing a 300% uplift.

      Paying players out their contracts to either keep the bench warm or score goals that help other teams qualify for CL is not good governance. Overpaying for new talent that no other team is bidding for is not ‘fixing’ the wage bill.

      1. That’s some good work, Matt. As comprehensive a demolition of the “wage bill” argument as I’ve seen. Not that the argument won’t be resurrected, mind 🙂 I’d add to what you said here, that if the reports are accurate, Nketiah is moving from an already barely credible £45k a week to 100k week. Nobody else pays players at that level, wages at those levels. ArtEdu don’t sound like wage bill fixers to me. In fact, they seem to be exacerbating the problem.

        And let’s get something straight with Ozil. His was not an outlier salary for a Top 8 rich club in the world. Players like Pogba earned more.Many others did. In any case, ArtEdu did the same thing for Auba under identical circumstances of running down his contract. And at a lesser level, they’re repeating the mistake with Eddie. I hope that he works out, but if he doesn’t Arsenal can’t move him for years. We got lucky with Willian walking away from £12m in salary. Not every player is going to do that.

        Yeah, I too want to see some sourcing for those broad sweep strokes. But I’d like to know what Bill means by “squad mentality-slash-culture”. What does this mean, Bill?

        1. I agree with a lot of what you guys are saying here. I can’t understand people who think that Nketiah for 100k a week is a good deal. I like him as a player but that salary will make him literally untransferrable.

          I’ll break it down simply by looking at two hypothetical players:

          Player A is paid 5m a year over 4 years for a guaranteed contract of 20m.
          Player B costs 10m to buy, and you give him 2.5m a year for 4 years for a total cost of 20m.

          Let’s say that both players play two seasons before they flop. Player A will still cost you 20m total and you won’t be able to sell him or even loan him out because his salary is so large. Player B has had 5m of his transfer fee amortized and 5m of his salary paid. So, all you need to do is get 5m in transfer fees and you will have only spent 10m on player B. Player B is also significantly easier to sell and loan out.

          All transfers and contracts are gambles so what you need to do is gamble in such a way that minimizes your total exposure. Giving huge guaranteed contracts does the exact opposite of that.

          The rest of the world seems to get this, except Arsenal, who have had THREE big salary flops.

          I honestly can’t figure out what Arsenal are smoking.

          1. their problem is they cannot identify players they can buy for 10m @ 2.5m/yr. It’s what causes the wastage. Removing all football knowledge and experience at the club has consequences.

            Mari, Willian, Runnarsson bought and rejected. Possibly tavares too. Flip flops on Xhaka, Elneny, AMN, Aubameyang and Eddie Nketiah. Even on Mustafi and Lacazette for that matter. they have no confidence in their ability to replace players they let go, and Arteta combines that with an inability to work with ‘imperfect’ individuals. Is it any wonder they overpay? If they wanted Eddie he’d likely have accepted around 35-40% less if we signed him up 18 months ago and gave him a chance.

            By the way can anyone name our head scout? I just realised I don’t know who he is or if we even have one.

        2. Liverpool are often quoted as the model to follow. Their three most expensive recent signings (annual salary):

          Diaz – £2.9M
          Konate – £3.6M
          Jota – £5.4M

          To Tim’s point THIS!!!

  22. Even with $150M investment the club which started last season was not a top 4 level squad and not many people realistically expected us to do as well as we did. . All I can guess is front office including Arteta decided the club needed to continue to purge the high wage players who were not producing and the focus was on a long term rebuilding process. That was a decision which in retrospect should have been made in 2018. Last summers transfer business clearly suggests the rebuilding strategy was to start at the back and White must have been considered a long term foundational player

  23. Let’s say you are right and it’s a ‘long term rebuilding process’. What exactly counts as long term? How many years? How much money on transfers and how much on wages? What are the milestones you are using to chart whether they are on track with the long term goal? Was 8th last year part of the process, a blip, or an more than could be expected? Does that impact on the viability of the process? Does missing out on 4th?

    Has it occurred to you that no one expected us to do well precisely because of management and how they have used resources available to them? Even this season gone by, we didn’t make the most of all we had. And if we’re really waiting for perfect conditions before we can even get a seat back in the CL then we’re going to be waiting almost forever.

  24. bill, you need to stop being so gullible. you seem to be the only one buying all the bullshit arsenal are selling. they’ll say whatever makes them look good.

    the reality is, as a management team, they’ve been poor. they’ve failed to be efficient or economical with arsenal’s resources, they’ve failed to finish in the top 4, and they’ve often failed to play entertaining football.

    what’s worse about arsenal’s poor management is that every club now knows that arsenal will overpay for a player like ben white. likewise, they’ll know you don’t need to pay full market value for arsenal players. in fact, you often don’t have to pay anything for their best players if arteta proves he can’t manage them.

    i watched an interview josh kroenke did with a former nba player talking about arsenal. kroenke believes that arteta is the new guardiola. news flash: arteta ain’t guardiola and he’ll never be guardiola! the sooner kroenke realizes that and stop letting this guy waste arsenal resources, the better off arsenal will be.

  25. https://www.capology.com/uk/premier-league/salaries/

    Go back to the post that Tim wrote on Sept 4 2017 at the start of Arsene’s last season. I hesitate to use the term lost the dressing room but there is not doubt that Arsene left the team with a dressing room that with a mess and a squad whose results were clearly on a downward trend. Then Emery comes along and in his first season the club somewhat rebounded to a point and finished 5th. However almost everyone associated with the blog was constantly criticizing Emery and everything he was doing. It would suggest finishing 5th was similar to the Ole Gunner Solskjaer new manager dead cat bounce that we saw with ManU. In Emery’s second year everything went completely down the tubes and he lost the dressing room (at least according to most of the commenters in this blog) and the results were going downhill fast. After game 19 we were in 11th place and fading fast. The club clearly needed a new direction and a fresh approach and turning the club around and fixing the mess are what I think Edu/Arteta have been tasked with doing. It takes time and its inevitable that not every move will work out exactly the way we hope.

    Arteta/Edu inherited a squad which had quit on 2 highly experienced and relatively successful managers and whose results were cratering. You can criticize individual moves all you want but in the last 2 seasons it looks like there has been a focus on moving out high wage unproductive players who were not part of a long term plan and moving towards a younger squad with a much more reasonable wage bill. According to capology.com after moving out Auba we only have 2 players in the top 50 in PL wages with Laca at #25 and Pepe at #44. Next year with Laca out and more players coming into the league we might not have a single player in the top 50 in PL wages.

    Clearing out players whose production was on a downward slope or who were not part of the long term and making a clear move towards building a younger squad while clearing out wages so you have room to add more players certainly sounds like a long term rebuild in progress to me

  26. MattB @ 12:49PM

    Klopp is a great manager, perhaps the best in the world currently. I googled top wage bills in European football and according to the numbers I saw, Liverpool has been in the top 5 for overall team wages for the last 2 seasons so he is certainly helping himself by spending money. I don’t think anyone would deny that the #1 motivation for players to stay with a club or move to a new club is the size of their paychecks. Arsene was one of the best managers in the world in 2007 and he could guarantee CL football but he lost a lot of players he wanted to keep because he could not or would not pay the wages needed to keep those players. Klopp has not lost any critical players in the last couple years but he was a top manager when he was at Dortmund and he certainly lost players back then which I suspect is because he couldn’t compete with the wages other clubs could offer.

    There is only so much a management team can do. I think its indisputable that the long term success and ability of any club to keep its best players and bring in new star players and the level we eventually reach will be mostly dependent on how much money we are willing or able to spend.

    1. Bill,

      Nothing you’ve written here makes sense to me. I shared the facts that Liverpool’s recent recruits have been brought in on very reasonable salaries. For reference we’re paying Martinelli roughly the same as Liverpool pay Jota. Who’s doing the better job managing their wage bill?

      The point of sharing comments is to add an opinion / point-of-view or add some new facts. It’s not to make stuff up or be deliberately contrarian or argumentative just for the sake of it. There’s at least four posters asking you to explain the merit of some of your claims. At which point surely you have to ask what am I trying to achieve here?

      We’re all entitled to our opinions, just not our own facts.

  27. https://www.capology.com/club/arsenal/salaries/

    I looked again at the numbers and I missed Partey. He is actually our highest paid player. If rumors are true it looks like our #2 and #8 wage earners from last season will be gone next year.

    Just like with statistics you can prove almost anything you want if you focus on individual stats or in this case individual decisions. For example I would agree completely that giving Nketiah the new higher wage contract is a head scratcher, but I was not there when they discussed the decision so I don’t know the rational behind the move. If you look at the overall trend for the last 2 years it certainly feels like the club has been focusing on long term goals by building a younger and “hungrier” squad and revising the wage structure. Our results this year certainly improved.

  28. Bill,

    Again, what are the sources for these big assertions about dressing room dynamics that you make, like the players “quit on the manager”? Nearly everyone else here state their positions on available facts in the public domain. You seem to proceed on guesses helpful to your position, a lot. You say “I wasn’t there” to swat away inconvenient facts. So how can you then assert that the players quit on Wenger and Emery? And I ask again, what is this “squad mentality/culture” you speak of?

    On the wage bill….

    Before he left, Auba was 13th on that wage list that you link to. And as you say, Laca, Pepe and Partey (now Yakubu) featured in he top 50 or so. Arsenal were, in fact, well placed on that rich list. What wage bill pressure? This was an argument I only saw being made retrospectively.

    On our fortunes these past 5 seasons, disclosure: I wanted Arteta in, and Emery out…

    That said, Emery’s 5th place was a good outcome for a new coach under those circumstances. You strain hard to minimise it, but it doesnt change the fact. From last year of AW to now, we finished 6, 5, 8, 8 and 5. 5th is a position that his successor could only rebound to, at the 3rd time of asking. And Unai’s points total was the best of that lot, to accompany that 5th place and a Europa League final. Our FA Cup win the following season was achieved by players that Arteta (who arrived mid season) inherited from Emery.

    As we say round these parts, let’s give Jack his jacket.

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