Negativity at Arsenal is a minority view

Morning all.

I was surprised by the response to yesterday’s blog about the financial restraints that are stopping Mikel Arteta and Edu building the squad they want to challenge.

What it showed to me is that the vast majority of Arsenal fans are still positive about the future, about Arteta, and understand the circumstances he is working under.

Those who are sitting crying for his head, trying to spread negativity throughout the fan base really are on the minority. They sit on Twitter or on YouTube and their negativity is amplified through running multiple accounts and orchestrating “pile-ons” via WhatsApp groups.

This then makes the outside observer think there is a lot of Arsenal up in arms. When reality it is probably just half a dozen kids at Newham College. It is the social media echo chamber.

There is also a huge difference between being critical of a performance and spending your waking hours spreading negativity on twitter day in, day out.

Moving on, yesterday evening we got drawn at home to Newcastle in the FA Cup.

Under normal circumstances, I would be fuming.

FA Cup 3rd round day is one of the great days of football, often providing some of the best trips away. From Preston to Sutton and more, we have had some decent trips in recent years. But there is nothing worse than being drawn at home to a Premier League team in the FA Cup.

Zero excitement.

We are already at the stage of the season where the FA Cup is our best chance of a domestic honour this season.

Arteta has lost just 1 out of 15 cup games – that last minute defeat to Olympiakos in the Europa League. Hopefully that record continues.

Those who managed to get a ticket for Thursday are now counting down the sleeps until they will be back at the Emirates.

With 3 home league defeats in a row, fans being in the ground might change the atmosphere a bit and push the team forward.

Onwards and upwards. And remember, those people constantly spreading negativity on social media will only end up affecting their own health.


Arsenal’s £350million problem

Unai Emery is a good manager who has had success everywhere he has been.

Mikel Arteta is a highly rated young coach, who has drawn praise from Jurgen Klopp, Arsene Wenger and Mauricio Pochettino.

Both men are good at their job. But they are being let down by the players around them.

The same issues we had in Arsene Wenger’s last season were present through-out Emery’s tenure and have not disappeared under Arteta.

The FA Cup win, and victories over Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea last year papered over some cracks. Defeats to Brighton and Aston Villa as the football returned from lockdown showed the Jekyll and Hyde team that we are.

Arsenal’s biggest problem is that the core group of players that have been with the club for the last 3 and a bit seasons are simply not good enough, and firstly Emery and then Arteta are paying the price.

We have amassed a squad of players that is lacking in quality, lacking in consistency and lacking in the right attitude.

And the issue is that due to the money that they are on and the length of contracts handed out, both Emery and Arteta, alongside Raul Sanllehi and Edu, have struggled to move them on.

That means neither Emery or Arteta have been able to build the squad they want. They have had to utilise the legacy players mainly bought in during Arsene Wenger’s later years, who have proved for some time that they are not god enough.

Now this is not a blog blaming Wenger for everything that has gone wrong.

He sanctioned the signing of some of those players, contracts were agreed by Ivan Gazidis, recruitment by Sven Mislintat. And Emery, Arteta, Sanllehi and Edu have not had perfect records of bringing players in.

But we have a good dozen or so players that need to be shipped out, and most of them pre-date Wenger leaving.

Take Mesut Ozil and Sokratis.

The pair are not even registered to play in either the Premier League or Europa League but will earn £23million between them this season.

We demand more of Stan Kroenke, but why would he invest when he sees £23million going out the door on players that do not play?

Then we have the likes of Granit Xhaka, Sead Kolasinac, Shkodran Mustafi for starters

Xhaka and Mustafi are in their 5th and Kolasinac his 4th. Have any of them every done it on a consistent enough basis to justify still being here? No.

They earn a combined £15million.

Is anyone keeping a running total? If not we are up to £38million a year. And we are not done yet.

Calum Chambers joined the club in 2014. This is his 7th season at Arsenal. He has been shopped out on loan to Fulham and Middlesbrough. Relegated at both.

Whilst Rob Holding is now in his 5th season at the club.

I like the pair. They seem to be normal lads. But are they ever going to be good enough for The Arsenal? At 25-years-old, we need to stop talking about what they might become and focus on what they are. Two lower-mid table Premier League central defenders. You’d maybe keep one of them around as a squad player, but certainly do not need both.

Both earn in the region of £40,000. Another £2million.

All these players mentioned so far bar Xhaka is fringe player. A squad player. And the two unregistered players. They earn in the region of £40million a year between them. Nd none of them are good enough.

Over 5 years that is £200million.

And then we come on to the likes of David Luiz and Willian. Two newer signings.

The Brazilian pair earn £15million  year.

They were short term options signed out of desperation. Both should be surplus to requirements at the end of this year. But we will probably end up stuck with Willian.

And then we have “senior pros” Hector Bellerin and Alexandre Lacazette.

I love Bellerin. He is a fantastic person and personality, and gets grief from some fans just because he is a little different. But as a player he is no better now then he was in 2016 as a 21 year old.

Lacazette has yet to do anything that has justified his £45million transfer fee and huge wages. He is the 5th highest earning player at the club but would not get into most peoples starting XI.

Bellerin and Luiz also earn £15million a year.

So we have Ozil and Sokratis. Xhaka, Mustafi, and Kolasinac. Chambers or Holding. Willian and Luiz. Bellerin and Lacazette.

That is 10 players who are not really up for it. Who have proved over up to 8 years that they are not the quality to take us forward. And they earn between them around £70million a year. That is one third of our wage bill on 10 players who are not good enough.

Over 5 years, those 10 players will cost Arsenal £350million.

Imagine the improvements on the squad Arsenal could make with a further £350m to be spent on transfer fees and 5 year contracts.

So if we got the 10 players clearly not good enough off our wage bill, that give allow us to finance 5 new signings. Players that improve the top end of the squad. Players like Thomas Partey and Gabriel Magalhães. Sign the likes of Max Aarons, Houssem Aouar, Dominik Szoboszlai.

“But we are losing 10 and only signing 5” you cry.

Yes, but lets remember 2 of those 10 are unregistered, and we currently have a 31-man squad.

Losing 10, signing 5 would see us with a 26-man squad, that would contain more quality than quality, looking something like this:

You can then fill in the gaps with the players you would want, but what it highlights is that due to having 10 players who are not really good enough, Arteta (and before him Emery) is being denied 5 players they do want. 5 players that would all probably start in the XI. 50% of the outfield players.

Until we ship out those players who have let us down time and again, we will not move forward as a club regardless of who the manager is.

The good news if that the contracts of Ozil, Mustafi, Sokratis and Luiz are expiring at the end of this season, so 4 of the 10 will naturally leave.

The club should be able to find buyers for Lacazette, Bellerin, Xhaka, Kolasinac & Chambers/Holding, even if we only accept a minimal transfer fee for them. That would leave just Willian.

Once these players are shipped out, even if it is just 7 of the 10, Edu and Arteta will then have the funds to rebuild the squad. Stronger, leaner, hungrier, better.


Match Report: Arsenal 1 – 2 Wolves

Arsenal (1) 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers (2) 2

Premier League

Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU

Sunday, 29th November 2020. Kick-off time: 7.15pm

(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Hector Bellerin, David Luiz, Gabriel Magalhães, Kieran Tierney; Dani Ceballos, Granit Xhaka; Willian Borges da Silva, Joe Willock, Bukayo Saka; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Substitutes: Alexandre Lacazette, Alex Rúnarsson, Rob Holding, Cédric Soares, Reiss Nelson, Mohamed Elneny, Eddie Nketiah.

Scorers: Gabriel (30 mins)

Yellow Cards: Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Kieran Tierney

Arsenal Possession Percentage: 56%

Referee: Michael Oliver

Assistant Referees: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett

Fourth Official: David Coote

VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Andre Marriner; AVAR Sian Massey-Ellis

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

Okay, let’s not put too fine a point on it, we need to win this match against Wolverhampton Wanderers today, and win well. Our only goal in 476 minutes of Premier League action was against Manchester Untied back on 1st November, and we now have a mere thirteen points after nine matches; historically our lowest points tally after ten Premier League fixtures is fourteen, back in 1992-93 and 1994-95. Let’s go!

The match started off in a lively manner, with the visitors having the best of the early play. After five minutes, there was an extemely bad head clash between David Luiz and Raul Jiminez after an Arsenal corner. David Luiz was patched up and continued with the match, but Raul Jiminez was stretchered off and taken to hospital for concusion assessment. The match continued after ten minutes, with both sides looking flat after the injury to Raul Jiminez, and after a while, we started to play with purpose and desire. Wolves, however, proved difficult to break down and just before the half hour, Pedro Neto opened the scoring for the visitors; their lead did not last long however. Just three minutes’ later, Gabriel levelled the scores with a superb header from a cross via Willian. The goals livened the match up, and a little while later, Bernd Leno was called into action after a Wolves corner, when he saved a strong header from Leander Dendoncker, and this preceeded a period in the match when both sides squandered chances to score. In the ten minutes’ injury time, the visitors took the lead when a shot from Pedro Neto was parried by Bernd Leno, only for the quickness of Daniel Podence to jink the ball past three Arsenal defenders to stroke it into our net. Time and time again we were getting caught out by long balls, not to mention our backs being exposed by Adama Traore and Pedro Neto, with the defence looking stranded at times. Our best chances came when we managed to catch the visitors on the rebound, but as half-time beckoned, we can look upon this half as forty-five minutes of wasted chances.

As expected, Rob Holding replaced David Luiz for the second half, and we started in a lively manner. Arsenal looked better and created one or two good chances in the first five minutes, and as the game levelled out, both sides were trying to find different ways through each others’ defensive systems, which proved more than difficult. Willian went close with a free-kick ten minutes after the restart, and as the match went on, it was becoming obvious that we were getting nowhere, fast. Willian was substituted for Reiss Nelson after sixty-three minutes, and as is often the case after a substitution, the team are lifted by the presence of a new player on the pitch. Some good movement by our chaps outside the Wolves penalty area, saw the ball fall to Reiss Nelson, who blasted it over the bar, and this period in the match saw us create some good chances for ourselves with clever passing movements. With ten minutes of the mtch remaining, Alexandre Lacazette replaced Granti Xhaka in a final attempt to get the equalising goal. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came extremely close to scoring a superb header, and as we applied pressure on the Wolves goal, our considerable attempts were there for all to see, but it made no difference in the end, despite all our efforts and pressure, for the third Premier League match in a row, we finished a game with nothing to show for all of our hard work.

This match will always be overshadowed by the awful Raul Jiminez injury in the fifth minute, but this aside, it was an extremely disappointing evening for us overall. As much as the play moves well in the midfield areas, there are still question marks at the back, and upfront, in the bread-and-butter Premier League, we are just not firing. What is to be done? Our position in the Premier League is disgraceful for a club of our stature, and somehow Mikel Arteta is going to have to square this circle quickly. We travel to Tottenham Hotspur next Sunday for the first North London derby of the season; heaven forbid for the wheels to come off then, especially there of all places. We pray.

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: Rapid Vienna at Allianz Stadion on Thursday, 3rd December at 8.00pm (Europa League). Victoria Concordia Crescit.


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.