Players are just passengers on a train

Football players are just passengers on a train.

For most clubs, that train has been running for well over a century. It has had ups and downs. Gone through dark tunnels and reached the top of the mountain. The train never stops (except for war and disease).

A player gets on the train. His journey might last for 6 months (a loan deal). It might span 3 decades. It might be the only train he ever gets on. He might get on many trains during his career.

Some might even return to the train once they retire from playing, to manage the train.

But when the players (or manager) leaves; the train does not stop. It keeps going. It picks up new passengers and the journey continues. Even owners are just passengers. They get off when they sell.

Someone like Mesut Ozil’s train journey on the Arsenal Express has lasted 7 and a half years. He got on a train that had been running for 127 years already. He has been on the train for just under 6% of its running time.

Whilst Ozil has now got off the train, the train is still running. Other passengers still on their journey. New passengers will jump on soon. Others are nearing their stop.

Arsenal have seen legendary passengers get off the train before.

From Liam Brady to Rocky Rocastle. Patrick Vieira to Thierry Henry. All got off the train and jumped on a new one, heading to a different destination.

For very few players, the likes of Tony Adams and Dennis Bergkamp, the Arsenal Express is the final journey. There final destination is retirement.

And even when these great passengers get off the train, it continues to chug on.

The longest serving passengers on the train are those at the back. The fans.

Fans are often treated like 3rd class passengers by train owners. They are charged high prices for the worst seats. They do not get the luxury that players get up top. But it is the fans that keep the train running.

Whilst there are fans on the train, the train will keep running. Even if an owner spends all the money, asset strips the train, the fans will find a way to keep it on the tracks.

Ozil’s Arsenal journey is over, but for fans the journey only ends with death. It is not their choice to get off.

You see, the train is so much bigger than those passengers up in first class. A player gets off. The train continues. A player retires. The train continues.

The train will reach the top of the mountain again in the future, but will go through a lot more dark tunnels.

As the years go by, former passengers grow. They become less important. They are no longer on the same journey. Their journey has ended.

For fans, the journey continues…


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Mesut Ozil impending departure has NOTHING to do with China comments

One of the commonly written lines by fans of Mesut Ozil is that he was frozen out by Arsenal following his comments over the treatment of Uighur Muslims in China.

This is a fake claim created by Ozil fans in an attempt to paint their hero as a victim, and Arsenal as an evil entity that have been profit ahead of humanity.

The fact these people claim to be Arsenal fans, yet are quick to peddle lies that damage the club is sad. Let’s be honest; they are not Arsenal fans but Ozil’s fans.

These people will likely begin following Fenerbache or DC United or whatever 3rd world team decides to pay Ozil the millions he desires. For Ozil money is clearly more important than football.

When he scores a goal again some waiters or frat boys, they will be flooding twitter with their admiration. Saying he was proving Arsenal wrong. Ignoring the fact that the quality in Turkey and America is no better than League One or the SPL.

So they paint Ozil as a victim. That he spoke out for Muslims in China and was since ostracised from the team.

I stood with Ozil at the time of his comments, blogging my support of his comments. And I still back him and anyone else that highlights human rights issues, genocide and discrimination across the globe.

For too long sports – not just football – have taken their product to countries with horrendous human rights records. Sport should be highlighting issues by blacklisting those countries from having an F1 race or a heavyweight title fight. Not taking millions to host an event in one of the backwards nations so that they can sportswash.

But Ozil was not excluded from the Arsenal squad due to his comments over China. And there is two clear reasons which highlight how fake this claim is.

The Timeline

13 December 2019: Ozil releases a social media post calling Uighurs “warriors who resist persecution” and criticising both China and the silence of Muslims in response.

14 December 2019: Arsenal distance themselves from Ozil’s views stating “Following social media messages from Mesut Ozil on Friday, Arsenal Football Club must make it clear that these are Mesut’s personal views.”

15 December 2019: Ozil starts against Manchester City under Freddie Ljungberg.

29 December 2019: Mikel Arteta starts Ozil against Chelsea in his first game as manager.

1 December 2020 – 7 March 2020: Ozil starts every Premier League game under Mike Arteta making it 12 starts in 14 games since the comments about China.

9 March 2020: Premier League football suspended.

17 June 2020: Mesut Ozil left out of squad for first game back against Manchester City for “tactical reasons”.

20 June 2020 – 25 June 2020: Mesut Ozil unused substitute for games against Brighton and Southampton.

01 July 2020 – 26 July 2020: Ozil fails to be selected in a match day squad for the remainder of 2019/20; a run of 7 games.

20 October 2020 – Arsenal decide to not register Mesut Ozil; effectively ending his Arsenal career.

Once you see the timeline, you quickly realise that Arsenal and Arteta’s decision to deliver Ozil has nothing to do with China. Otherwise why would he have played so many games following his comments?

China’s Commercial Contribution to Arsenal

“Arsenal could not afford to lose the income that comes in from China” is usually the next sentence that Ozil fans type after saying their man has been excluded over his comments.

Again, this is simply not true.

The truth is Arsenal actually generate very little money from Chinese partners.

A look at the clubs latest accounts (yes, the club still have to produce publicly available accounts) shows we generated £110m in commercial revenue.

This was broken down as:

Puma: £30m

Emirates: £42.8m

Visit Rwanda: £10m

Total: £82.8m

So 75% of our commercial income in 2019 came from German, Emirati and Rwandan companies. None of them Chinese.

From 2020, Adidas took over from Puma. A German kit manufacturer replacing a German kit manufacturer. Arsenal doubled their income to £60m.

The Adidas deal would have seen income from the 3 major commercial partners increase to 80% of Arsenal’s total income.

Arsenal do not have a major Chinese commercial partner. The income that comes from Chinese companies would not even cover 2 months of Ozil’s wages.

So for Arsenal to exclude him to “protect Chinese revenues” makes zero sensez

“But what about the TV deal” is usually the next point made.

Arsenal do not get money directly from China for broadcasting rights. That income is negotiated by the Premier League on behalf of all clubs, and then distributed equally by the authorities to all clubs.

Would the Premier League have demanded Arsenal to exclude Ozil to protect their lucrative Chinese broadcasting rights? No.

It would be unthinkable for the league to be dictating to clubs who they can and can not see the. And if they did it would have been leaked by now.

So we have seen the timeline which shows that Ozil was selected for months after his comments; and we have debunked the myth that Arsenal dropped him to protect non-existent Chinese review.

So what is the truth?

For the truth as to why Mesut Ozil was dropped we need to look at his history.

When he left Real Madrid for Arsenal in 2013, the feeling was he did not have the hunger to fight for his place.

Carlo Ancelotti, Madrid manager at the time, was quoted as saying “Maybe he saw he was going to have competition, and he asked for a way out”

Whilst Zinedine Zidane made a similar accusation:

“Ozil decided to leave. He is a good player who has given us so much, so we wish him well.

There are players who have responded with strength and will to fight for a place, but not everyone reacted the same.”

Having been made the scape goat for Germany’s early exit from the 2018 World Cup, Ozil quickly announced his retirement from international football.

He blamed “racism and disrespect” but it is also another example of when things get tough for Mesut Ozil, when he has to fight for his club on country, he downs tools.

The same has happened at Arsenal under Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery and Mike Arteta.

On many occasions Ozil would pull out sick on the evening of a big game. And in turn all 3 managers dropped him for tough games.

Each time Ozil was dropped, the manager said it was for “tactical reasons”. The real reason would be that Ozil does not raise his level in tough games. He shrinks away.

Ancelotti, Zidane, Lowe, Wenger, Emery and Arteta. They have led their clubs to World Cup’s, Champions Leagues, League titles and countless other trophies. They know what they are doing.

What is becoming clear is that Ozil is the type of person who lacks drive, lacks hunger, and runs away from a fight.

At Madrid Ozil took the easy option and left.

At Germany Ozil took the easy option and retired.

At Arsenal he failed to adapt his game as to the managers demands, failing to fight for his place.

And at Arsenal he has preferred to sit in his £10m mansion for 6 months, not playing football; rather than take a move last summer.

Ozil is not up for a fight. He wants an easy life. And every time life has got a little tough; he has ran away.

Mesut Ozil is a yellow. A namby pamby. A coward. Yeh is not the type of person you would want in the trenches.

He will now go to Fenerbache where he will get the hero status he craves, but does not want to work hard for. He will coast in an easy league that is leaves below his talent.

He is like the University footballer who would rather play for the fifths rather than the firsts so that he can get an easy life.

Ozil’s time is running out at Arsenal. He helped bring trophies back to the club following an 8 year drought – winning 3 FA Cups.

But legendary players are those that drag you through the tough games, the tough times. Not run away.

The only surprise is that when Sead Kolasinac jumped out of their car to stop knife wielding car jackets, Ozil did not drive off. Did not run.


Match Report: Arsenal 0 – 0 Crystal Palace

Arsenal (0) 0 Crystal Palace (0) 0

Premier League

Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU

Thursday, 14th January 2021. Kick-off time: 8.00pm

(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, David Luiz, Ainsley Maitland-Niles; Dani Ceballos, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang; Alexandre Lacazette.

Substitutes: Gabriel Magalhães, Willian Borges da Silva, Alex Rúnarsson, Cédric Soares, Thomas Partey, Nicolas Pépé, Calum Chambers, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah.

Yellow Cards: David Luiz

Arsenal Possession Percentage: 67%

Referee: Andre Marriner

Assistant Referees: Scott Ledger, Simon Long

Fourth Official: Simon Hooper

VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Graham Scott; AVAR Timothy Wood

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

Tonight, we are looking to win four consecutive Premiership matches for the first time since October 2018, and if we are victorious, we could go into tenth place at the end of the evening. Good to see young Emile Smith-Rowe getting a start tonight, and on the bench, back from injury is Thomas Partey; let’s hope that he gets brought on at some stage in the proceedings here in rainy, icy North London. Let’s go!

We certainly started the match in fine fettle, passing the ball around and probing the Eagles’ defence as and when possible. Dani Ceballos and Emile Smith-Rowe were excellent in finding and manipulating space wherever they could, and although the visitors had one or two good efforts on Bernd Leno’s goal, they did not amount to much really at this point in the game. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cut in from the left-hand side and had a great shot saved by Vicente Guaita in the Palace goal after twenty minutes which led to the visitors having a very good period in the match, in which they tried to find gaps in our defence. It was becoming fairly evident that despite the re-emergence of the visitors as the game wore on, we managed to soak up pressure very well, and some of our efforts were those of a counter-attacking one, and in using this method, became the team more closer to scoring the first goal rather than the visitors now. The problem is becoming of one being unable to unpick the defensive lock of the south-eastern Londoners; we certainly are missing Kieran Tierney out there tonight. We then went into a period just before half-time when Palace were on the ascendancy and unfortunately we almost conceded a goal when James Tomkins’ header hit Bernd Leno’s post with eight minutes to go before the break; he was called into action again shortly afterwards when a Christian Benteke header was acrobatically saved when all looked lost. Going into the half-time break with honours even, we were mightily fortunate at times not to concede a goal; but if we had a goalkeeper a lesser than Bernd Leno we may well have done.

Surprisingly, no changes for the start of the second half, and we certainly started forcefully, with Hector Bellerin’s shot going narrowly wide of Vicente Guaita’s goal a minute or so after the restart. Arsenal applied pressure on the visitors in this period of the match, and despite taking the game to them, our chances petered out to nothing. Again. However, ten minutes after the break, Alexandre Lacazette did get close with a strong shot that hit the side netting, and although our football was looking pretty with nice passing movements, we were getting nowhere fast at this point in the match. Just after the hour, Mikel Arteta brought on Nicolas Pépé for Ainsley Maitland-Niles, and almost immediately the change zipped some life into the team. As feared, we got caught on the break, and if it had not been for some quick thinking on the part of Granit Xhaka, Arsenal could have been a goal down. Dani Ceballos was replaced by the much-missed Thomas Partey with twenty mintues of the match remaining, and shortly afterwards, Rob Holding was desperately unlucky not to score with a superb header from a corner. Alexandre Lacazette was replaced by Eddie Nketiah with ten minutes of the match remaining, and by now, despite all the huff and puff out there tonight, neither side even looked like scoring if they played from now until Easter, to be fair. In the four minutes’ injury time, we continued pressurising the Palace goal, and there was a last-minute horrific scene played out in our half when Granit Xhaka slipped, letting in Jordan Ayew, but thankfully his chance was neutralised by Hector Bellerin, which saved our bacon, undoubtedly, just a minute before the final whistle was blown by Andre Marriner, who brought the whole sorry proceedings to an end.

So disappointing really, especially after the last few matches. We lacked true creativity, missed the one player who could give us width (Kieran Tierney), and the spark that ignites our strikers was non-existent. Bernd Leno was excellent, and it was good to see Thomas Partey back at last. One of those nights, I guess.

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: Newcastle United at the Emirates on Monday, 18th January at 8.00pm (Premier 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.