Sky and BT ruining football…AGAIN

So yesterday, SkySports and BT Sport announced the first round of TV games covering up until the beginning of October and quelle surprise, they have made it as tough as possible for Arsenal fans.

As in April last season, we have had pretty much every match moved, with only 1 out fo the 7 match’s remaining at 3pm on a Saturday – Aston Villa on the 20th of September. The full set of fixtures are:

Sat 16th Aug 17.30 Crystal Palace H
Sat 23rd Aug 17.30 Everton A
Sun 31st Aug 16.00 Leicester A
Sat 13th Sep 12.45 Man City H
Sat 20th Sep 15.00 Aston Villa A
Sat 27th Sep 17.30 Spurs H
Sun 5th Oct 14.05 Chelsea A

Firstly the Spurs game. I remember the days when it used to be an 11.30am kick off. It perhaps shows the way the game has changed, the hooliganism being less frequent, that it is now at 5.30pm. Or is it just that the power of the TV companies is now great than the power of the police?

As always, the biggest problem is going to be travelling to and from the games.

Everton v Arsenal

Everton v Arsenal

There were already major engineering works on the weekend of 23/45 August (Bank Holiday weekend), meaning that to get to Everton it was going to be a 4 hour, 3 train via Birmingham trek, but it was manageable. The changing of the fixture however has made it a nightmare for Arsenal fans.

A 3pm kick off would have meant fans could comfortably get the 19:04 and get back to London in time for the last underground trains. Due to the change, fans are either going to have to leave half way through the 2nd half, make other arrangements to get their, or do an over nighter. The only bright side is with it being a bank holiday weekend, an over nighter is not too bad.

The Leicester game is an even bigger piss take. On Saturday 30th August, you can get a train back to London up until 21:58. Brilliant. Sky, however, have moved the game to a 4pm kick off on the Sunday. The result:

Leicester v Arsenal Out

Leicester v Arsenal Out

Leicester v Arsenal Return

Leicester v Arsenal Return

On first look, it does not seem to bad, until you see those dreaded words ‘bus service’. The journey home will now take you via Kettering, where you will have to take a 70 minute bus journey back into St Pancras. This highlights the disregard that TV companies have for travelling fans. On the Saturday, no problems, on the Sunday, problems, so what do they do? Move the game to the Sunday.

So once again, thanks Sky, thanks BT. One 3pm KO in the first 7 games, and two nightmare journey. You clearly do not give a fuck about us. The more you do this, the less guilty I feel about streaming everything for free. You do not care about us, I will refuse to put money into your pockets.

By hook or by crook, I will get to Everton and Leicester, but I get the feeling this is the first of many travel challenges I will face as I embark on the 38 game season.


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Jack Wilshere on his last chance?

Once again, Jack Wilshere has been pictured, cigarette in hand, surrounded by girls, partying with friends in a far off destination. Pouring drinks down friends throats. Once again, it has led to criticism in many parts that he is wasting his talent. I have discussed Wilshere’s future numerous times here. That previously, he needed to focus. That he could learn from Aaron Ramsey. unfortunately, I am now wondering whether he is right for Arsenal. Whether he is now on his last chance.Wilshere

Arsenal as a club is changing. Cash rich, we are now able to attract some of the best in the world. Mesut Ozil & Alexis Sanchez have signed. Sami Khedira could be on his way. We have so much strength in the middle of the park that we were able to turn down Cesc Fabregas. It also means that we are now in a situation where Jack Wilshere is currently not good enough for our first 11, and questions marks are starting to be raised if we even need him in the squad. “If someone wants him for £20m, they can have him” a friend of mine recently said. And I reluctantly agreed.

unfortunately, Jack Wilshere seems to be going down the same route as many other talented Englishmen before him. A brilliant teenage talent, he has struggled to go from being the teenager to a man. He has slipped.

Germany won the World Cup. There has been plenty of chatter since that whilst their players concentrated on football, the English failures were too occupied with tattoos, hair cuts and what birds they were banging. In 2009, England played Germany in the final of the European Under-21 Championship final in Malmo. Germany ran out comfortable 4-0 winners.

Since that game, 6 of the victorious German’s went on to start in the World Cup Final. That day, England lined up: Loach, Cranie, Richards, Onuoha, Gibbs, Cattermole, Muamba, Noble, Milner, Walcott, Johnson. Gardener, Mancienne & Rodwell were the used substitutes. Only Theo Walcott (and to a lesser extent James Milner) has gone on to become a consistent performer and regular starter for a top Premier League side. There is a clear problem in English football in turning talented teenagers into World Class performers.

Explanations for this are numerous. Are youngsters paid too much too young? Are they thrust into celebrity lifestyle rather than concentrating on football? Do they become too concerned with tattoos, hairstyles, booze, birds and partying? I believe a mixture of all of these go into a mixing pot and create a footballer who is often content with becoming a millionaire, whilst not having to try too hard. English footballers are more interested in earning as much as possible, with as little work as possible and getting the girl. Meanwhile their foreign counterparts are driven by success. They want the Champions League, the World Cups, knowing that along the way, they will pick up the millions and the girl.

It is not a new thing. You read the books of Paul Merson, and many others. They trained, and went straight to the pub out partying, they were content. Meanwhile, the likes of Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry came across from the continent. They were first into training, and whilst the English lads left quickly to hit the pub or golf course, they would stay behind. It is often said that Lionel Messi trains more, and harder, than anyone else at Barcelona. To become the best, you have to train the best. Natural talent only takes you so far.

This is an epidemic in English football. David Bentley never fulfilled his talent, he is not yet 30 and retired. Even Wayne Rooney, the bright hope of English football, has never really fulfilled his talent. Jack Wilshere, whilst not being as bad as David Bentley, is close to becoming the next Joe Cole, the next Wayne Rooney. Incredibly talented, but never really fulfilled it.

Yes, he has had injuries which have hampered his performance’s since his break through season in 2010, but that was 4 years ago. His best performance in an Arsenal shirt was against Barcelona when he was 19. That was in 2011.

This season could be a defining one for Wilshere. He will be 23 on January 1st. We should no loner be talking about his potential, but about his actual talent. The older he becomes,the more younger players will be breaking through who are performing at a higher level. At an international level, Ross Barkley is 2 years younger. At arsenal, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is 18 months younger. Both of these are on the verge of overtaking Wilshere for club and country.

With our new found wealth, we can buy ready made stars. We no longer have to look at a players potential and hope that they fulfil it. If they fail to do so, we can ship them out, buy in better. We no longer have to ‘make do’.

Yes, every player deserves a chance, and Aaron Ramsey showed the benefits of giving a player that chance. For me, Jack Wilshere is on his last chance. He needs to step up, otherwise he could find his Arsenal career being finished.


The transfer window is open, and Arsenal have signed….

precisely no one. Nowt. Zilch. Nada. Sweet FA. There is nothing happening. The joke used to go that our trophy cabinet was duty due to lack of trophies, well now it is the interview room that needs a good clean, as it seems unlikely that we are about to sign anyone any time soon.

But is this a problem? There is, after all, a World Cup going on, and we all know no big business happens before – or during – a World Cup. I jest of course. You only have to look at what our rivals have already done:

Cesc Fabregas – Barcelona to Chelsea – £30m
Rickie Lambert – Southampton to Liverpool – £4m
Emre Can – Bayer Leverkuson to Liverpool – £10m
Fernando – Porto to Manchester City – £12m
Ander Herrera – Athletic Bilbao to Manchester United – £29m
Luke Shaw – Southampton to Manchester United – £27m

Our rivals have strengthened, meanwhile, Arsene Wenger has been frolicking on the beach with scantly clad babes.

On the other hand, Arsene Wenger has been in Brazil, commentating on the World Cup. Those who say this shows he is disconnected are misguided. By being in Brazil, albeit in a working capacity, it means he is able to watch a lot of targets himself in the stadium, under the guise of commentating, without a fuss being made of him scouting.

He is also able to speak to scouts and families of potential targets. It has already been rumoured that he has had breakfast / lunch / dinner with James Rodriguez, Mario Balotelli and Alexis Sanchez, or their families, or their representatives, or someone who vaguely knows them and wanted free food.

Also, it is a bit hard buying a player who is still playing in the World Cup. Let’s look at that list of players our rivals have signed again…

Cesc Fabregas – Spain knocked out after 2 games
Rickie Lambert – England knocked out after 2 games, Lambert played 3 minutes
Emre Can - Not in German squad
Fernando – Not in Brazil squad
Ander Herrera - Not in Spain squad
Luke Shaw – £27m…lol? Is that what you have to pay to wrap a deal up early

The fact is, when Arsene Wenger said big deals do not happen before the World Cup, he was correct. Bar Cesc Fabregas, no other transfer has been for big cash and involved two big clubs. And the fact Cesc wanted to leave, and Barca to sell, meant it was a fairly easy deal to complete.

None of the above deals would have taken much work. All players wanted to leave, all players took a step from the club they played for, and in many cases, the buying club has over paid to secure their man early.

Call me what you want, but I would rather we wanted for the right player, than went and secured average, overpriced players just so that we could have got a deal done early.

Looking at the players on that list, the only one I would have considered were I Arsene Wenger would have been Cesc Fabregas. And you feel that with Ozil, Cazorla, Ramsey, Wilshere and Rosicky, Wenger made the correct decision. He let his head rule his heart, something fans struggle to do.

Yes, reported targets Serge Aurier and Mario Balotelli are now out of the World Cup, and they could be deals we could get done, but it is clear that Arsene Wenger is unsure on either. It is also clear in the fact that the media have linked us to 50 players since the season was over that their might not be any truth in our interest in these.

A final point to consider is the players who are still at the World Cup. Or a single player. Alexis Sanchez. Barcelona want rid. Arsenal want him. He wants Arsenal. According to reports. With Chile only just being knocked out, a deal could take a while to bash out. If interest is real, we may well see a similar scenario to the Ozil deal from Madrid, where Arsenal have a promise, on the basis that they get their target.

In Madrid’s case, it was clear that, having signed Isco, once Bale would join, either Ozil or Di Maria would be available. Barcelona are the same. Once they have secured Luis Suarez, Sanchez will almost certainly be off. So this deal might run.

Some good news on July 1st is that it is the day contracts run out. It is the day Nicklas Bendtner leaves us. If that is not something to celebrate, I do not know what is.

Keep calm. Carry on. The transfers will happen.