The Truth: Mertesacker’s “absence” and Manchester United’s ticket allocation

First thing to do this morning is nip something in the bud quickly.

Per Mertesacker went the NBA London Game on Thursday night rather than to Arsenal v Tottenham in the FA Youth Cup.

This decision has led to huge criticism by many uneducated members of the media and fans. Most are looking for easy hits or RTs on Twitter.

Mertesacker is the Academy Manager.This means he oversees the operation at Hale End – where members of the Arsenal Academy train.

The U18s are not considered part of that academy. Once you reach U18 level, you move across to London Colney to train with the first team

You can not expect Mertesacker, Unai Emery or whoever to go to every game, every time. They have other things to concentrate on, and are allowed a life outside of work.

Going to the FA Youth Cup does not fall within Mertesacker’s contract parameters.

Now he might have gone out of interest, or to see how an U16 performed if they are stepping up a level, but on this occasion he decided to go to a basketball match.

A huge basketball fan, the NBA London Game is a once or twice a year thing.

So let’s just ignore the white noise and fake news surrounding his “absence”.

In other news, Arsenal are set to donate around 600 tickets for the FA Cup fourth-round tie against Manchester United. This after a dispute between the clubs over ticket allocation.

FA rules dictate that home clubs must make 15% of tickets available for the FA Cup. This is 9,000 tickets at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal have given Man U just 5,000 tickets, citing safety concerns.

Every club must get a safety certificate for every game. They must have this signed off by the local council and the police. In the past (when we play Tottenham in a mid week cup game, for example) the police have stopped us giving away the full allocation as they can not guarantee the safety of all fans.

Whether the council or police are behind the drop in allocation, or Arsenal are just hiding behind Health & Safety is not clear.

There is also a bigger story at play here. One which is rarely written about. And that is the fact that Manchester United never give visiting teams a full allocation for cup games.

The FA have approved Manchester United to give visiting teams a lower allocations for FA Cup ties at Old Trafford, where around 11.7% of the 76,000-capacity is handed over to the away team. This usually happens without much comment from the media.

This is potentially tit for tat with Arsenal. “We do not get full allocation when we visit you, so why should we give you full allocation”.

The same happened against Tottenham in the League Cup.

Spurs never give Arsenal their full allocation, yet a lot of fuss was made when we failed to give them theirs.

One problem with the 9,000 tickets is they are then lower and upper tier, with club level and executive boxes filled with Arsenal fans in between.

In the past when away fans have got upper and lower tier, there have been stories of those Arsenal fans in the middle tier being spat on, coins thrown and urine poured over them. This is clearly unacceptable and Arsenal’s first priority is the protection of its own fans.

Back in 2014  Everton (a club with a reputation for throwing urine) only got 9%

The FA responded to complaints stating the 15% was “subject to the local Safety Advisory Group (SAG) agreeing to that ticket allocation number.

“The SAG is made up of services such as the local council, police, fire brigade and the club amongst others and issues the stadium’s health and safety certificate.

“In regards to the Arsenal v Everton Sixth Round tie at the Emirates on Saturday 8 March, the local SAG has chosen to allocate just under 9% to the Everton supporters.

“Although we appreciate the disappointment in the SAG not granting the full 15% allocation, it is nearly double the amount of tickets that Everton would have received for the Premier League fixture at the Emirates back in December.

“The FA does not have any input into the decision of the SAG and cannot change it as this is a matter of health and safety.”

So here is an idea. If you want to have 15%. Stop throwing coins, spitting on, or throwing urine at fans below you.

Today is Chelsea. Not much to say except we need 3 points.



Should Unai Emery put more trust in talented youngsters?

Last night Arsenal beat Spurs 5-2 after extra time in the FA Youth Cup. A write up of the game can be found over on Jeorge Bird’s Arsenal Youth Blog. The win saw Arsenal progress to the fifth round of the competition – in which Arsenal made the final last year.

Arsenal’s victory in the competition over their North London rivals is even more impressive considering the likes of Emile Smith Rowe and Zech Medley were not involved despite being eligible.

For some time I have been thinking that during the sticky period, where Arsenal have struggled for a consistent line up and tactics, should Unai Emery have had faith in some of the youngsters, rather than swapping and changing his tactics to fit in whatever first teamers he had available.

We have struggled with width this season, due to a lack of natural wide man. In Xavier Amaechi and Bukayo Saka Arsenal have two teenagers with pace to burn and talent in abundance.

Amaechi was out injured until November, and Saka is just 17-years-old, but both could have contributed in recent weeks.

If the talent is there, age is nothing but a number, just like Matteo Gunedouzi has shown.

Could both have offered something out wide? Or at least been an option coming off the bench? I look at the West Ham game when we were crying out for width and pace. Had we bought the pair on in the 70th minute, I am sure they would have contributed.

Moving up a little older, Joe Willock and Ainsley Maitland-Niles have both spent a lot of their youth careers playing out wide. Could they not have been an option to offer us width on the wings?

And with emery struggling to play either Mesut Ozil or Aaron Ramsey for whatever reasons, could Willock have been given a shot in behind the striker? He offers the running from deep and goals that we have missed this season.

At the back we have seen Grant Xhaka and Stephan Lichsteiner both fill in at centre back. Why were they selected over Zech Medley?

Medley is raw at 18-years-old, but he is 6 4, quick and good on the ball. Alongside a senior partner (either Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi or Sokratis has always been available), Medley could have been guided through the game.

Would it have been a better option to play a proper central defender at centre back even if he is raw? I think yes.

With Arsenal set not to buy anyone in January, Emery surely has to consider playing some of the youngsters who are natural in their positions, rather than continuing to chop and change and put square pegs in round holes?


The white noise surrounding Sven Mislintat’s impending departure

Yesterdays Twitter rumours over Sven Mislintat’s future at Arsenal became a bit more real overnight with the ever reliable David Ornstein reporting on the situation for the BBC.

We were very much fence sitters yesterday. There seemed to be plenty of evidence that the rumours were true, but also enough question marks over the rumours to doubt them. It is now quite clear, Mislintat is leaving Arsenal.

What is now swilling round are the rumours as to why he is leaving. Every story in the media gives a different reason:

  • David Ornstein reports it is due to him being over looked for the Technical Director role
  • Miguel Delaney of the Independent says it was a breakdown of relations between himself and Raul Sanllehi – that Mislintat put forward some strong recommendations for players that have not been followed up
  • Over at the Express, Matt Law writes that he is unhappy that Unai Emery is taking a much more hands-on role to recruitment
  • We then have the handful of outlets that are running with the Bayern Munich story. That the German giants have approached him to head up their recruitment team
  • Ralph Honigsten of ESPN go’s similar to Delaney, that Mislintat is unhappy Sanllehi wants to use his network of contacts while Mislintat prefers a data/stats approach
  • There is another story that I read that Mislintat  found Arsenal’s existing network of scouts hard to work with
  • Finally some have gossiped that there has been a big falling out between Mislintat and Emery – similar as to what happened with Thomas Tuchel at Dortmund

The truth is, no one really seems to know why he is leaving and the gossip is more damaging to Arsenal than Mislintat leaving.

Arsenal fans have a habit of trying to create sides. From Wenger to Ozil, Ramsey to Emery, there seems to be a group of fans constantly talking about the extremes, not understanding that there is a middle ground where the majority sit.

We have just got through one civil war, if fans do not behave themselves we could go into another.

People blaming Emery or Sanllehi for Mislintat’s potential departure need to stop. aiming anger at the men who are remaining at the club is just damaging. Especially as that anger is based on rumours, not fact.

Lets remember that Sven interviewed Emery, so they all knew where they stood when it came to hierarchy and dealing with transfers. Likewise the rumours about him being passed over for technical director in favour of Edu are just rumours.

it also needs to be remembered that Mislintat and Sanllehi have a history of working at different ends of the market.

Mislintat unearths gems. The likes of Shinji Kagawa and Ousmane Dembélé, whilst Sanllehi  is comfortable dealing with the biggest names, their egos and their agents. There clearly is space for both of them to operate within the club, working different ends of the market.

My theory on the reasons behind Mislintat leaving are simple ones. they are human ones.

Mislintat was employed by Borussia Dortmund for 12 years. He had lived in and around the city all his life. At the age of 45, he left the city of his birth for a new job, a new country. This is a huge challenge.

I work in recruitment. You would be surprised how many CVs I see for senior staff who have been at a company for over a decade, and then have had 2 or 3 jobs in the next 2 or 3 years.

They left their life long company for whatever reason, and usually find that the grass is not greener at the new company. that the culture is not for them or the job not exactly what they wanted.

It is not unusual for new hirers to quit within their first year. It often happens a lot sooner than that. Hence why recruiters have rebate schemes for if a new hirer leaves within the first 6 months.

So would it be too much of a stretch to think that Mislintat struggled to settle at a new club, in a new city, in a new country? That perhaps he “gave it a go”. Was unhappy middle of last year, decided to give it to the end of the year and has now decided to move back to Germany.

He would not be the first person to try out working in another country, only to realise it is not for them and move back home.

Working at a football club is no different to working at any other company. It happens all the time. A company employs a new Sales Director from a rival firm where they were successful for 10 years. That new employee lasts barely a year before moving on again.

Look around you this morning. At your colleagues. At your friends. How many jobs have they had? How many moved job, only to be moving again a year later.

It happens regularly in the world of work.

I would be disappointed if Mislintat left. I really bought in to the trio of management. Mislintat leading the recruitment, Emery the coaching and Sanllehi the commercial and overall club vision. It would be a kick in the teeth after everything that has gone on over the last 12 months to lose a key man before the new era has properly got started.

However we move on. He is one man. One man who has been at the club for a little over 12 months. Arsenal were a success before Mislintat, and will be a success after.

We as fans have a habit of making a bigger deal out of things than they are. Only Arsenal could make headline news out of the Head Scout leaving.

After recent poor results and the news that “we have no money” it will feel to some fans that the club is a mess. That the bad news keeps coming.

My advice – take a step away. Remember that it is the football on the pitch, the beers with your mates that matters most. We do have an obsession with what is happening off the pitch.