2 points lost at home, Alexis the Great, The Living wage

Risk Management

There are times when scoring a late goal to draw a game feels like a point won, as with our game at Everton, and there are times when it feels like two points lost, as on Saturday against Hull. Watching the game up to the point when Hull equalised we looked in complete control and I have to say I thought if we scored once we’d score more. Hull didn’t look in the game at all but in hindsight that was by design rather than necessity. They are one of the many clubs in the league who have figured out that it doesn’t matter if we score against them because we will continue to play possession football, high up the pitch, with high numbers in the hope of overloading opposition defences. The way sides counter this is to bide their time, defend in numbers, stay compact and wait for the inevitable moment when we make a mistake with too many players ahead of the ball. Like most modern Premier League clubs, Hull have a few players with breakneck speed who when we give the ball away find themselves running into the vast space in front of our defence with Flamini scuttling across to try and protect. These are the rare occasions when the opposition attack in numbers. Meanwhile the rest of our midfield are scrambling back to try and break the counter up without any obvious shape. It seems like a case of first player who gets back to the man with the ball is responsible but even if the man with the ball has his run stopped there are usually other free players. I’m not advocating ten men behind the ball but tempering our approach on a day when we had to play our second choice left back at centre half and third choice right back was a must. Wenger has taken a lot of flak for not adapting our game away to the big sides last year. This season however we’re not playing the situations that are put in front of us for sides outside the top four. We played exactly the same way regardless on Saturday despite having Monreal at centre half and the inexperienced Bellerin at full back – although the latter did acquit himself well. Our problem is that we give the ball away in high risk situations and it’s costing us. The stats bear this out as well. In games against sides outside last year’s top four we’ve played; Crystal Palace (two shots on target, one goal), Everton (three shots on target, two goals), Leicester City (three shots on target, one goal), Aston Villa (two shots, no goals), Tottenham (four shots on target, one goal), Hull City (four shots on target, two goals). Hull could have had a third to kill the game as well had Ramirez – I think – not gone for goal late on when he had teammates in better positions. The goals against us represent a high return for relatively few chances but it’s not the quantity, it’s the quality of the chances. If most opposition sides have the ball but see that we’ve got numbers back they tend not to attack with numbers themselves because they know if they’re patient, they’ll get a situation where the numbers are in their favour, then they commit players and punish us if they’re ruthless like Hull were for their second goal on Saturday. The sides who didn’t reap the rewards of our set up this season were managerless Crystal Palace and an Aston Villa side suffering from vomiting bug and even they would have taken the lead were it not for a good save by Szczesny from Ciaran Clark at 0-0.

Alexis on Fire

One of the bright points and cause for optimism this season has been the performances of our new signings especially the attacking ones. Not only did both of our goals on Saturday come from new signings but they came in ways that we haven’t been used to for a while. Alexis’s goal came about through direct running and striking early rather than looking for “the perfect goal”. This also played a part in the second goal as well with Alexis running through the centre of Hull’s midfield, pulling their midfield and defence out of shape which allowed Welbeck to work himself into space and finish well. This is something we’ve been sorely missing since Theo got injured. Of our other signings, Debuchy looked very good until his freak injury and Calum Chambers looks like he’s going to be a top class centre half. Credit where it’s due for the signings we have made but the lamentable side of it is that we stopped two players short and left the signing of a striker far later than we should have.

The Living Wage

Supporter groups put aside their differences last week to apply pressure on the club to pay the living wage. In my opinion this is an admirable cause, however surely there are much more pressing issues to pursue from a fan’s perspective? Greater detail on Kroenke Sports Enterprises three million pound fee, continually rising ticket prices and the closure of the Fanshare scheme – the miniscule £75,000 it costs the club per year was laughably cited as the reason. When asked about the payment to Kroenke’s company, Sir Chips Keswick, said “KSE is one of the most respected and successful sports organisations in the United States, operating in the most sophisticated sports business market in the world”. Now this depends very much on what your definition of success is. If it’s monetisation and strengthening of the commercial side of the things then this may be true. If however, like most sports fans, your definition of success revolves largely around results and performances on the field this is a massive stretch. Taking his other marquee sports team, the St. Louis Rams as an example. Kroenke has had a share in the club since the mid-90s, through their halcyon days of the late 90s and early 00s but didn’t take control of the club until 2010. The Rams’ record on the field since has been as pitiful as it was when he took over. In 2010 their record was 7 wins and 9 losses, 2011 2-14, 2012 7-8 with one tie, 2013 7-9 and this season they’re already 2-4. Maybe our chairman meant the commercial side, maybe he meant performance and doesn’t actually know the Rams’ record or maybe he was hoping enough people would be ignorant of it and not concerned with fact checking his statement.




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10 Reasons why we will beat Hull + My starting 11

1)  Hull played a 3-5-2 in their last game, they do this at our place they will get battered.

2)  Our Captain Arteta is back, he can play CB right ?

3)  We have beaten Hull the last 7 times we have played them.

4) Hull have won once in London in their last 12 away games in de big smoke.

5) The highly versatile defending genius Monreal will play CB, due to Koscielny having a sore leg. young Hayden is also likely to be in the squad.

6) Diaby played 67 mins for the under 21’s last night, counting him out of playing again for atleast a month.

7) Jack had a great international break, showing some great form and spraying long and short balls all over the pitch.

8) All the English lads had a good break, all come back fit, the only problem is Chambers is suspended after picking up 5 bookings.

9) Even with the players we have missing (Hull have a few out too) we have miles too much for them.

10)  Wenger Knows, the pressure is on, all the money in the bank and our back 4 look stretched after only 7 league games, without Ozil and Ramsey today he needs to pick an attacking lineup to unlock what could be 9  men behind the ball tic tacs by Bruce.

My Starting 11 – Chesney, Bellerin, BFG, Monreal, Gibbs, Flamini, Jack, Santi, Podolski, Ox, Welbeck


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The rarely mentioned Price of Football – Being an away fan

By now I am sure you would have all read the yearly BBC investigation or the Price of Football. I am also sure you would have read plenty of commentary on the matter from fellow bloggers. Most of the discussion has now been done to death, with the main topic’s revolving around how expensive football now is and how once again, the media highlight Arsenal as the worst of the worst, despite us getting 26 games from our Season Ticket.

There is a group of fans who never seem to get though about when the Price of Football comes out. And that is the away fans. The topics covered include ticket prices, and prices of pies, a cup of tea, a programme and an adult shirt. It is very much home orientated.

What is forgotten about is the most loyal fans in the country. The away fans. The fans who get to Euston at 6am to get to Wigan for a 12.45 kick off. The fans who are unable to get back to Newcastle due to Sky moving London away game to a Monday night. The fans who spend hours working out how to get to a game due to trains being suspended due to engineering works. These are your most loyal, and most neglected, fans.

As a member of the away ticket scheme, I travel up and down the country watching the Arsenal. There are 2 things that frustrate every Arsenal travelling fan – and I am sure every fan of every club:

1) Category A games
2) Trains

Firstly let me approach the latter briefly. The cost of trains. Any commuter will agree, our train system costs too much. But where football fans are hit is due to the inability to take advantage of tickets when they 1st come on sale. the ‘advance’ tickets.

In theory, it should be easy. The fixtures list comes out in June. Train companies sell tickets 12 weeks in advance. Travelling fans should be able to take advantage. But no. Due to the TV companies only deciding what games they are going to show over a 1-2 month period, it means that fans often miss out on the cheapest tickets.

Next week, it will be 12 weeks until Manchester City away, I should be able to buy my train tickets early, benefiting from the reductions. An early bird cost would be around £25 return.

TV companies tend to release what games they are set to show around 6 weeks in advance of the beginning of that period. If I were to book train tickets to Manchester for 6 weeks from this weekend, the cost would be £66. So football fans get stun by an additional £40+ due to TV companies.

Add in late changes of games (Hull away), games being moved to late afternoon/evening, resulting in fans not being able to get a train home (Everton away) and games being moved to a Sunday when National Rail have already announced there will be no trains due to engineering work (Leicester), organising away travel is the bane of away fans. But it is the increased cost caused by TV companies that is often most frustrating. (Sorry, it became a lot less brief then it was supposed to).

Every club (bar Manchester United) implements a pricing category. Some just do A & B. Some go all the way to D. The justification is supply and demand. That more people will turn up to watch Hull v Manchester Uinted than they would Hull v Southampton.

The problem is, the same clubs are always a Cat A. Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and more recently Manchester City. Whilst a home fan often does not mind paying a little extra – the increased cost to watch their side play Liverpool is offset against the lower cost to watch their side play Burnley – the fans of the Cat A sides are punished every where they go for supporting a bigger, more popular, more successful, club.

I spent a little time investigating the difference between being a Category A club, and being in the lowest category as an away fan (I have used Arsenal and Leicester as the two clubs):Cost  For Away FansI expected the results to show a gap between the costs of the two sides, but I did not expect it to be so vast. A difference of over £200 between the two sets of travelling fans is astronomical. Disgraceful. Embarrassing.

The most a Cat A game fan has to play is at Arsenal – £62. The most for the low Category Sides is £47, away to Chelsea. A Cat A’s cheapest trip this season will be to Hull City, whilst a lower Cat side’s cheapest is to Leicester.

Some of the differences are shocking. Three of the sides (West Ham, Leicester, Arsenal) charge over 100% more to some teams than other sides.

For a long time, I have been a supporter of the FSF’s Twenty’s Plenty campaign, where sides agree to only charge away fans £20. It would cost the clubs very little in income, but would save the fan of a Cat A club £464.

By the time you add in transportation costs, you are looking at on average spending £100 a game following a Cat A club up and down the country. That is £1900 for anyone who, like me, does every game. Add in drink, food, and other expenses, the average away fan will spend around £3000 a season. I wonder sometimes how I can justify that expenditure.

How clubs continually get away with charging different sides different amounts I do not know. All the fuss is always over home fans. Their season ticket cost. Their Price of Football. But the away fans are always forgotten about. And the away fans of a top club are victimised. Arsenal being amongst the worst to punish other top sides.

£200, that is the difference in being an away fan of certain clubs. It is a shocking Price of Football that is rarely mentioned, but hits the loyal fans more than anyone else. It’s a disgrace.


Further information:

  • All prices were taken from Football Fan Guide
  • Where clubs offer away fans adults, seniors, juniors and concessions, all prices are adults
  • Where clubs offer lower and upper tier at different costs, the same banding has been taken for both
  • If you paid a little more a little less than the above quoted, please don’t whinge, bitch and moan, do your own research, write your own blog