Broken, Broken Arsenal

Arsenal are broken. And the bleak outlook is there is not an obvious way to fix us.

Under the Arsene Wenger / Ivan Gazidis regime, Arsenal declined, and the solution was clear. It was time for Wenger and Gazidis to go.

Bring in a new manager with fresh ideas and a CEO who will drive us forward.

Wenger departed, in came Unai Emery, Raul Sanllehi and Sven Mislintat.

The 3 new appointments, alongside Gazidis, was supposed to bring in the new era for Arsenal. A separation of powers.

Emery deals with what is happening on the pitch, Sanllehi off the pitch, Mislintat the recruitment and Gazidis the commercial side.

It quickly fell apart with Gazidis, and then Mislintat leaving.

Despite the changes, Arsenal continued to be broken. But the feeling was we were making gains off the pitch under Sanllehi and Vinai Venkatesham, and the problem was on the pitch with Unai Emery.

So Emery fell and another “new era” was set to begin following the appointment of Mikel Arteta, who led us to FA Cup triumph.

The first post-Wenger era came to an end when Sanllehi was relieved of his position, meaning all the men in to replace Wenger had departed the club.

So the 2nd new era. Arteta, Edu and Venkatesham. And it has collapsed once more.

The solutions were obvious under Wenger / Gazidis, and under Emery. The worry this time is the solution is not obvious, and it highlights just how broken the club is.

You can get rid of the manager, and following many limp displays that is probably the right decision. But will that change anything?

A new man comes in and he still has the same players.

The same set of players who have now let down 3 managers.

The squad needs a total overhaul. But it needed one under Wenger, and under Emery.

Including Wenger’s last season, Arsenal have spent £420million in the previous 4 seasons. We also have one of the highest wage bills in world football.

So despite spending on average over £100million a year, we still have a squad where the “not good enough” out weigh the “good enough”.

So we have a new manager, but do we trust those around him to search, select and recruit the right players to play that managers way? And can we get rid of those players at the club sitting on big contracts?

Do you trust a recruitment team that thought bringing Willian in on a 3 year, £200k a week contract was a good idea?

So  a new manager, whilst it might improve the performances on the pitch to some extent, it would not solve Arsenal’s problems.

Any impact of a new manager would be temporary with the club in disarray off the pitch.

We also have the European Super League. I am bored of talking about it now but it is clear that those running the club, both Venkatesham and the Kroenke’s, are not working in the interests of the Arsenal fans.

So you go through it one by one:

  • The players are not good enough
  • The manager is not good enough
  • The recruitment is not good enough
  • The men running the club are not good enough
  • The owners do not care enough

The only part of the club that seems to be working is the academy. But how long until the poison running through the first team begins to drip down to the academy? How long till we start losing our bright young prospects to Tottenham, to Chelsea or West Ham?

So do we sack Arteta, Edu and Venkatesham? People might cry for that, but then who replaces them? And who is making the decision on who comes in to replace them?

If we got rid of all 3 in one swipe, it will be the 3rd overhaul of the clubs management in 4 years. Anyone you just can not run a successful business by continually getting rid of the senior leadership team.

I have never worried so much about where the club are going then I do now. Because the reality is I do not understand where we are going. What we are driving towards and how we will get there.

And I also think that those working for the club do not know that either, and that is the biggest worry.

Keenos

Match Report: Arsenal 0 – 0 Villarreal

Arsenal (0) 0 Villarreal (0) 0

UEFA Europa League, Semi-Final, Second Leg

Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU

Thursday, 6th May 2021. Kick-off time: 8.00pm

(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Pablo Marí, Kieran Tierney; Bukayo Saka, Thomas Partey; Nicolas Pépé, Emile Smith-Rowe, Martin Ødegaard; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang,

Substitutes: Kieran Tierney, Gabriel Magalhães, Alexandre Lacazette, Willian Borges da Silva, Cédric Soares, Calum Chambers, Reiss Nelson, Mohamed Elneny, Eddie Nketiah, Mat Ryan, Gabriel Martinelli, Arthur Okonkwo.

Arsenal Possession Percentage: 56%

Referee: Slavko Vinčić (Slovenia)

Assistant Referees: Tomaž Klančnik (Slovenia), Andraž Kovačič (Slovenia)

Fourth Official: Matej Jug (Slovenia)

Referee Observer: Hugh Dallas (Scotland)

VAR Team (UEFA): VAR Bastian Dankert (Germany); AVAR Pawel Gil (Poland)

Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions

No margin for error tonight, nothing less than a win (with no goals conceeded) will do. As we know, our season literally hangs on this result tonight, so a top performance from the team is essential. Let’s go!

Sadly, Granit Xhaka was injured in the pre-match build-up, so Kieran Tierney, who may not be completely fit is now in the starting line-up, and because of this, the formation for tonight’s match will change. The visitors started strongly tonight, with Bernd Leno being called into action as early as the fourth minute, when he spectacularly tipped a shot from Samuel Chukwueze over the bar and away for a Villarreal corner, which thankfully went nowhere. Arsenal look very nervous tonight, whereas the visitors look strong and confident, just waiting for a mistake in which they can capitalise on. Meanwhile, the game was merely drifting along, with neither side taking a chance in breaking out and trying something different in order to open the scoring. After twenty-five minutes, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was desperately unlucky not to score, when his right-footed shot hit the outside of the Villarreal post; so near and yet so far. Just afterwards, the visitor’s main striker Samuel Chukwueze collapsed with a pulled muscle, and Yeremi Pino took his place; maybe his enforced absence will inspire our strikers to strengthen the pace up front. We’ll see. With seven minutes before the break, an Emile Smith-Rowe pass found the feet of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whose shot was clumsily saved by the Villareal goalkeeper, then Francis Coquelin commited a foul just inside the Villarreal half, allowing Martin Ødegaard to send over a ball from the subsequent free-kick, but Pablo Mari’s header went wide for a goal kick. In the three minutes’ injury time, it looked as if we were going to score from a well-taken Kieran Tierney corner, but the ball was cleared comfortably by the Villarreal defence, and a minute later, referee Slavko Vinčić brought the first-half proceedings to a close.

No changes at half-time unbelievably, and Arsenal have forty-five minutes left to make something of this season. Within a minute or so of the restart, a clever Kieran Tierney flick found Nicolas Pépé, whose strong shot went narrowly wide of the far post; Emile Smith-Rowe also flicked the ball wide of the post after trapping the ball neatly in the visitors’ six-yard box. At the other end, Bernd Leno made a superb match-losing save from Gerard Moreno, which was a heart-stopping moment to say the least. Every time we move forward, Villareal caught us on the break, and our defenders were starting to look tired, and that situation brings with it errors, which is a concern to say the least. Gabriel Martinelli replaced a fatigued Martin Ødegaard after sixty-five minutes, and a little while later, Rob Holding was unlucky not to score when a Bukayo Saka free-kick found him in the penalty area, and his header went over the bar; he went even closer soon afterwards when his inspired header flew past the near post by inches. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit the inside of the post after a superb cross from the right flank by Hector Bellerin, which was his last effort of the match, having been replaced by Alexandre Lacazette shortly afterwards, as was Kieran Tierney, being exchanged for Willian with eight minutes of the match remaining. Time and time again we pushed forward, with good chances created by Gabriel Martinelli, Alexandre Lacazette and Emile Smith-Rowe, but the Villareal defence held firm, unfortunately. In the five minutes of injury time, Eddie Nketiah replaced Hector Bellerin and despite plenty of passing and moving, we exited the Europa Cup at the semi-final stage soon afterwards.

Outpaced, outsmarted and lacking of drive, the truth of the matter is that we were beaten by a team who were better organised, and were focussed on getting into the final by pressing us in all areas of the pitch. With just two shots on target over the whole of the match, we looked exactly what we are; an okay side that is going nowhere fast. Leaving Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out of this (as he still not completely fit after his bout of malaria, but still managed to hit the post twice), our senior players did not step up when needed, and we never imposed ourselves on Villareal at any stage of the game enough to win the contest. With the chances of qualifying for European competition almost an impossibility now (for the first time in over a quarter of a century), a serious review of Arsenal Football Club is needed in the summer, or else years of finishing mid-table could be a fact of life. And this club means too much to too many people across several generations for this to be allowed to happen.

Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates on Sunday 9th May at 7.00pm (Premier League). Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Steve

Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.

The European Super League: The story of 6 very different owners

One thing has been bugging me throughout the European Super League fiasco and that is the spotlight put on the owners.

Without appearing to stand up for Stan Kroenke, I want to ask the question “would a different owner have made a different decision?” And to get to that answer you have to look at the owners of other clubs.

Manchester City

Manchester City are set to win the Premier League this season. They are also in the final of the Champions League.

Owned by the Abu Dhabi United Group, City have been bank rolled to 5 league titles In 10 years, if you include this.

No City fan will have anything bad to say about Sheikh Mansour, Khaldoon Al Mubarak or anyone else running the club.

Not only have they bought success to a club who playing in the 3rd tier in the late 90s, their owners have overseen stadium improvements, training ground improvements, and turned the club into a global force both on and off the pitch.

And yet they still signed up to the European Super League.

Chelsea

Before Manchester City there was Chelsea.

Roman Abramovich changed football forever when he arrived at Chelsea in 2003 and “parked his Russian tanks on the lawn and is firing £50 notes at” every other club in the Premier League.

Chelsea have won 16 major honours since he took over the club, and it has only been someone richer coming along with Manchester City that has seen that rise even more.

Roman has given Chelsea over £1bn wrapped in loans since he took over. £500m of which has been in the last 6 years. He shows very little interest in getting Chelsea to repay those loans.

Like Manchester City, he has pumped in a huge amount of his own personal wealth with no intention of a return.

And yet they still signed up to the European Super League.

Tottenham

“You are not going to get someone that grew up on the Cally become a billionaire and buy Arsenal” is often said; pointing out the fact the days of life long local fan buying a club are gone.

But Tottenham have a life long fan owning the club, and another running it.

Spurs are owned by ENIC, who themselves are owned by Joe Lewis.

Lewis was born above a pub in Bow, left school at 15 to help out his fathers fledging business.  Roll on 42-years and he is now one of Britain’s richest men, although he now lives in tax exile in the Bahamas.

Chairman of Tottenham is Daniel Levy, a boyhood Tottenham fan who was first taken to a game as a 6-year-old by his uncle.

When talking about his ownership of Tottenham, Levy said “it is simply our turn to look after it, grow it and support it.”

On paper, Levy and Lewis should be perfect owners.

Boyhood fans who have made their money and have the best interests of Tottenham at heart.

And yet they still signed up to the European Super League.

Liverpool

Despite being American, Fenway Sports Group founded by John W. Henry and Thomas C. Werner were often talked about in different terms to Arsenal and Manchester United’s owners.

They seemed to have a passion for sport, and winning.

Unlike Stan Kroenke and the Glazers, they drove Liverpool towards success, not just sit their and watched their share price increase.

Whilst they did not bank roll success, nor claim to be boyhood fans, they made a lot of right moves and, perhaps most importantly, put the right people in charge of running the club.

One reason for Arsenal and Manchester United’s fall in recent years is they have had the wrong people running the club.

In 2017 they appointed Peter Moore, a Merseyside born businessman, as CEO. He oversaw Champions League and Premier League success.

Moore stepped down from the role in August 2020, replaced by American Billy Hogan. And it was Hogan who was involved in the European Super League talks.

So up until 2020, FSG had worked in the best interest of Liverpool and its fans, with a Liverpool lad running the show. And then from 2020 Hogan took over from Moore.

Would Liverpool have joined the ESL under Peter Moore’s? Who knows. But it perhaps shows that whilst the owners are the ultimate decision makers at the club, those they put in charge of running the thing day to day – Hogan, Ed Woodward, Ivan Gazidis, etc are perhaps even more influential.

Liverpool’s owners seem to have very good intentions, and are focused on winning.

And yet they still signed up to the European Super League.

Arsenal and Manchester United

Finally we come onto Arsenal and Manchester United.

It is easy to talk about both together as both are similar.

Neither are overly concerned with success on the pitch, they are motivated by the finances off it. The increasing share price of both clubs is most important.

Whilst FSG at Liverpool seem to understand that the quickest way to increase the share price is through on-pitch success, Kroenke and the Glazers seem happy not driving their businesses along aggressively. Seeing the share prices of their assets grow because of how big their brands are rather than on-pitch success.

The saying goes a high-tide rises all ships, and Arsenal and Manchester United certainly fall under that category.

Both have seen their share price increase due to the overall market cap of football increasing, rather than anything special they are doing,

It is no surprise they were the two English clubs leading the way in the ESL talks.

So in summary, there have been a lot of protests against owners in the last 7 days – most noticeably at Arsenal and Manchester United. But would a different owner have made a different decision to join the ESL?

Owners of Everton, Leeds United and Aston Villa all came out and spoke out against the ESL, but it is a very easy thing to do when you were not invited.

I bet had they been invited their tone would have been very different.

Sheikh Mansoor is a very different type of owner to Stan Kroenke, Joe Lewis very different to the Glazers, Abramovich different to John Henry. Yet all 6 owners came to the same decision (or the people they install to run the clubs came to the decision).

That decision was to join the European Super League.

Would a change of owner lead to a different decision in 10 years time when a European Super League rears its ugly head again? My feeling is no. It will not.

Keenos