Tag Archives: Arsène Wenger

Why the Wojciech Szczesny love in?

It is always interesting to see who’s narrative changes to suit the agenda. Often this happens when it surrounds either criticising or praising Arsene Wenger.

You will have some who will change their opinion on everything just to dig the Frenchman out, others who alter their views to go OTT in defence of him.

With Wojciech Szczesny set to join Juventus in a £10m deal, we have seen the changing narrative to suit an agenda rear it’s ugly head again.

It is two and a half years since Szczesny was dropped having made errors leading to both goals in Arsenal’s 2–0 defeat at Southampton. He was later fined £20,000 by the club for smoking in the changing room showers after the match.

I remember at the time, pretty much everyone was in agreement. Szczesny had become a liability and had to be dropped.

For most of the first half the season, many Arsenal fans had taken to social media to point at that Szczesny was a clown. And that Wenger was being his normal loyal, idiotic self, by keeping with him despite a string of high profile errors.

After Southampton, he was dropped to the bench for the rest of the Premier League season, with David Ospina replacing him in goal. It was tough to find a fan who disagreed with the decision. Many said it should have been earlier.

That season, Szczesny played in the FA Cup run. Fans were still being highly critical of Wenger and Szczesny when it was the Poles name who appeared on the team sheet for the 2015 FA Cup Final.

The summer of 2015 saw Petr Cech join Arsenal. Arsenal fans were elated. Finally Wenger had acted. He had realised that the clown Szczesny was never going to be good enough, he had got in a world class keeper from a rival, and all that was left to do was to ship out Szczesny as quickly as possible.

Szczesny joined Italian side Roma on a season long loan. This ended up becoming a 2 year loan.

During the time, he showed exactly what he had shown for Arsenal. Capable of making world class saves, but also capable of silly errors that cost goals, cost games.

In December 2015, he was dropped for Morgan De Sanctis for a league game against Atalanta after again being caught smoking following a 6–1 loss to Barcelona. Déjà vu?

Role forward to today and Arsenal are finally selling a man who has not been part of the first XI (bar cups) at Arsenal for 2 and a half years. And as expected, the narrative has changed.

Rather than people wishing Szczesny well, and being happy that we have got £10m for a player in his last year of the contract, people are moaning.

Suddenly I see people, who were highly critical of him in 2015, labeling him as the best keeper in Europe.

Good enough to replace Buffon, not good enough for the buffoon Wenger

Well let’s get a few things straight:

  1. Buffon will be the Juventus number one next season. Szczesny will be number 2. He might replace Buffon when he retires, he might not
  2. Szczesny had 1 year on his contract, and wanted to join Juventus as number 2, rather than be Arsenal number 2
  3. He is certainly not the best keeper in Europe. He would still not even be one of the top 5 keepers in the Premier League

Interestingly, a lot of people claiming that he is the best in Europe are doing it without having seen him play for Roma. They are basing it on statistics. These are the same people that would laugh at you if you ever said Giroud is one of the best strikers in Europe based on statistics supplied by the same company.

You can not judge a player on statistics they will say. Despite them doing that when it comes to Szczesny.

To reiterate, Szczesny is still a great shot stopper. But still has a tendency to lose concentration. Will still drop crosses. Still can not kick. And will still make errors that lead to goals.

Maybe Szczesny is suffering from the Michael Carrick affect. The less he plays, the less people see him play, the better he gets. Forgetting the reasons why he doesn’t play, or was sold.

It is like when Chris and Olivia on Love Island went on a break. They lasted barely 24 hours before they were all over each other again. Being apart, even just for the day, had made them lust for each other even more. They forgot why they had split up to begin with, and got back together. But then when they were together again, the old faults reared their head, reminding them both why they were incompatible.

Olivia and Chris got back together, and within 48 hours, were at each others throats again. The same will be with Szczesny. Fans have forgotten why he was discarded in the first place. Had he returned we would all have been giddy with excitement again. Until he makes that first error. And all the old, bad, memories flood back.

I have found it interesting following social media today. In summary it has been:

2015: Wenger picks Szczesny “What are you doing picking that clown”
2017: Wenger sells Szczesny “What are you doing selling the best GK in Europe”

Are you a fan who changes the narrative to suit an agenda? If you are, I probably do not care for your opinion. As it is not balanced.



Time up for Arsenal stalwart

In his 11 years at Arsenal Football Club, I have often found myself defending Theo Walcott. At times I wondered why I was doing it, at other times my defence was justified. But it now feels his time at Arsenal is running out. That it has come to a natural end.

Walcott joined Arsenal on 20 January 2006 in a deal worth £5m upfront, rising to £12m with add-ons. The deal only actually ended up costing Arsenal £9.1m. Walcott was just 16 and it would not be until March that he could sign a professional deal.

In the 2nd half of the 2006 season, Walcott was not seen of. He was put away tpo train, to grow, for 6 months. A smart idea after all the hype and expectation that followed him after such a big money move from Southampton.

Things changed for Walcott in May 2006 when he was surprisingly named in Sven-Göran Eriksson’s squad for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. He became England’s youngest ever senior player before he had even made an appearance for Arsenal. And the British media went into overdrive, doing what they do best, building him up to knock him down, all for advertising revenue and clicks.

Despite being one of only two fully fit strikers in the England squad (the other being Peter Crouch), he did not play during the tournament.

Over the next season, Walcott became part of Arsene Wenger’s first team plans, often making an impact coming off the bench to show his lightening pace. At the same time, for England, he had been dropped down to the U21s.

Despite barely playing for Arsenal or England, Walcott’s won BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award at the end of 2006. More pressure on the shoulders of someone who had not achieved much.

An early career highlight came in 2007 when he scored against Chelsea in the League Cup Final to see Arsenal go 1-up. Ultimately Arsenal lost 2-1

Just as it looked to be going well for Walcott, it went wrong. Persistent shoulder injuries limited his performances, and would result in him having surgery to put pins in both shoulders.

Over the next 3 years he would struggle for form and fitness. He would get over played and was getting picked for both the England senior and U21 team. He was selected for the Euro U21s in both 2007 (when he would become the youngest player ever to score for the England under-21 team) and 2009.

Wenger complained that Walcott’s participation in the tournament as well as matches with the senior squad would lead to burn out and injury.

In 2010 he would force his way back into England reckoning, only to take yet another knock.

After a poor performance against Egypt, His performance came under heavy criticism from Chris Waddle who said of Walcott, “I’ve never seen him develop. He just doesn’t understand the game for me – where to be running, when to run inside a full back, when to just play a one-two. It’s all off the cuff. I just don’t think he’s got a football brain and he’s going to have problems. Let’s be honest, good defenders would catch him offside every time.”

The football brain was a disgraceful comment made from a former England international at a 21 year old player still making his way. Later that year, Fabio Capello would omit Walcott from the disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign.

Walcott was still just 21, and had taken an incredible amount of knocks in his career. Hyped up, written off, hyped up, written off. It was impossible to not feel sorry for the young man.

After his 2010 World Cup omission, Walcott’s form dramatically improved, scoring double figures in the next 3 league campaigns.

Walcott turned 24 during the 2012/13 campaign and it seemed like he was finally becoming the quality operator many had hoped 7 years before. He scored 21 goals in 43 games, also contributing countless assists.

At this point, despite a solid season, many Arsenal fans were writing him off, calling for him to be sold. I compared him to Freddie Ljungberg in a blog back in 2013.

2013/14 saw him hampered by injury. He would get fit, score a few goals, pick up an injury. Get fit again, score a couple more goals. Get injured again. He failed to make another appearance after being stretchered off in a 2-0 victory over Spurs. He would score 6 goals in 18 games.

The injury against Spurs would see him not make another start until against Hull City in the third round of the FA Cup on 4 January 2015, exactly a year after sustaining his injury at the same stage of the competition.

2015 would finish on a high as he scored the opening goal of the 4-0 win over Aston Villa in the FA Cup final, making up for missing the 2014 final.

The next campaign would prove to be a frustrating one for Walcott. He would remain fit, but struggled for form. This form led up to miss out on the 2016 European Championships.

Despite being picked for the 2006 World Cup, Walcott sole appearances in a major international tournament remain a handful of substitute appearances at Euro 2012.

Last season was a mixed bag for Theo Walcott. 19 goals in 33 games was an exceptional return, but in the later part of the season he found himself on the bench, as Arsenal moved to playing 3 at the back.

Arsenal and Walcott now have a decision to make.

If Wenger sticks with 3 at the back, it is tough to see where Walcott will stay. And with another World Cup just around the corner, will Walcott risk missing what could be his last chance at a major tournament to sit on Arsenal’s bench.

The problem is Walcott is highly paid, on £140,000 a week, and is nearing his 29th birthday. If a deal is agreed to join (for example) West Ham, he is going to have to take a pay cut.

Back end of last season he was frozen out of the day. The cold shoulder over the summer could see him decide he has enough money, but wants 1st team football, and requests a move himself to get him back in the England side.

With Thomas Lemar and a new striker also incoming, it is tough to see where Theo Walcott fits in next season.

He has never been the prettiest on the eye, and has had a career filled with knock backs and criticism, but he has also carrier himself well.

And ultimately, if his Arsenal career does finish before his 12th season at the club, he can point to 104 goals in 377 games. A goals to games ratio of 1 in 3.6. Not a bad return for some who consider him to be a poor player.

This summer it feels like a natural end for Theo Walcott at Arsenal. I will wish him well wherever he go’s, stick him in my Fantasy Football team, and hope he makes an impact for England next summer.

It is time for Arsenal and Theo Walcott to part ways.


Arsene Wenger Stays…Henry Onyekuru Signs

Well yesterday was a fun day wasn’t it?

It started off with bickering between fans – is there any a day where Arsenal fans are not arguing on social media? Yesterday it was between those delighted that we won the FA Cup, and those who were unhappy that we had won it.

At around 2pm, the bickering stopped and turned into vile abuse as it was announced that Arsene Wenger was set to sign a new 2 year contract at Arsenal.

Before I go on, why do fans need to get abusive to other fans, just because they have a different opinion. Yesterday I have seen people call 60 year old women c**ts and mock fans dead families members. On top of this the usual wishing cancer on people, wishing death on people. Just because you might be hundreds of even thousands of miles apart, does not mean you should not have to treat people with respect.

The majority throwing abuse would not say the same things to peoples face. They would not turn up to a pub in Holloway to continue the argument. Big brave men (and it is usually middle aged men throwing the abuse) hiding behind a keyboard. And it is both sides of the argument. Wenger In’s are just as abusive as Wenger Out’s. No one covers themselves with glory.

Rant over, back to yesterday’s news.

Wenger signing for another 2 years was predictable. Even without the FA Cup win, he was always going to stay. The FA Cup did not save him – and that is why we should celebrate winning the FA Cup. Had we lost against Chelsea, yesterdays news still would have been announced.

The deal was reportedly agreed back in January. Rumours circulate that we had spoken to a few other managers. Massimiliano Allegri of Juventus was sounded out, but has decided to remain at Juventus. Thomas Tuchel indicated he was not yet ready to leave Borussia Dortmund – ironic that he was then sacked yesterday.

Diego Simeone plans to see out his contract at Atletico Madrid. Doors were getting shut. Did Arsenal do enough to keep those doors open? Probably not. Deep down they were happy with Wenger staying.

Even if Alisher Usmanov had his bid accepted earlier this year and was now majority share holder, Wenger would have been given a new contract. Usmanov has spoken before about being a big fan of Wenger and, with David Dein likely to return as Chairman if Usmanov ever returned, Wenger would have two strong allies on the board.

Wenger staying is the wrong decision. He should have been announcing he is leaving Arsenal, not announcing his new two year deal.

People seem to forget you can want Arsenal to win trophies, but still want Wenger to leave. The weekend was perfect. Arsenal won the FA Cup. But then Wenger should have walked. On his own terms. With his dignity in tact. No one would have criticised him had he done a Kevin Keegan and resigned in a toilet in Wembley.

Wenger has been a brilliant manager for Arsenal. He has continued to build the club after the successful George Graham era. Those that say he ruined it are deluded. 3 FA Cups in 4 years cements his greatness. But it was time for him to go.

Whilst some managers might have turned us down, with £10m a year salary on the table, there would have been plenty of options through Europe. Instead, Wenger will be heard for another 2 years. Another 2 years of infighting. Another two years of arguments. The only hope is we have a couple more years of success in that time.

So Wenger is staying, time to deal with it, we can be unhappy but can still back the team. Let’s win the Europa League, the League Cup, the FA Cup and the Premier League next season.

The second piece of news to break was that Nigerian youngster Henry Onyekuru was set to sign for £6.8m. And as predicted, all hell broke loose.

I had a discussion a few weeks ago with a few in the She Wore Whatasapp Group. The discussion surrounded Arsenal’s recent inability to uncover gems. Specifically from South America. I blogged about this a bit last week.

Ultimately, South American youngsters are hugely over priced. You pay extra because they are Brazilian or Argentinian. A lot of money spent on the next Pele or Maradona. Whilst there have been some successes, a lot of them end up flopping. And expensively flopping. Just look at Gabriel Barbosa over at Inter Milan.

€29.5m spent on ‘the next big thing’, 9 games, 1 goal for Inter Milan and he already looks like he is heading back to Brazil.

In the discussion I mentioned that your value is in the African market. If you can pick up one of the many young Africans plying their trade in Belgium, secure them before they make that move to France and become an established star, you can still find value.

Think Kolo Toure, think Michael Essien, Yaya Toure, Emmanuel Eboue, Didier Drogba. All of these players went for pennies when they first made a move to a bigger side in Europe. Yes, there are still risks, but the risks are a lot cheaper than a South American import.

To those moaning about Onyekuru joining the club, have you been cheering Rob Holding’s name over the weekend? Think back to last summer.

Arsenal announced the signing of 21 year old Rob Holding for £2m from Bolton, who were relegated from the Championship.

Fans: “Wenger doing it again, going for a cheap youngster rather than an established star. I wish he would stop these projects. Booo. La Fraud. #WengerOut”

AW: “I am sorry he didn’t cost £55 million, so he can’t be good.”

Arsenal win the FA Cup with Rob Holding staring

Fans: “Rob Holding, you know, his better than Canvarro”

What I will always say is it is not the cost of a players that is important, but their talent.

In 2015/16, we all moaned that we had not signed Riyad Mahrez on N’Golo Kante when Leicester did. Wenger admitted he knew about them but decided not to move for them. They cost Leicester buttons, and go on to be win Premier League titles and back to back PFA Player of the Year Awards.

But could you imagine the outcry if we signed Mahrez from Ligue 2 Le Harve – he had scored 6 goals in 3 years in the French 2nd tier. Imagine if we went for N’Golo Kante. 1 year in the French top division. No caps. At 5ft 6in he is not exactly the physical specimen we have needed in the middle of the park. Typical Wenger going for an unknown Frenchman.

Recently we have had people moaning that we did not buy Kylian Mbappe last summer. Wenger was close to a deal, he even visited Mbappe at his parents house. Imagine if Arsenal went and signed a 17 year old French striker with just a single Ligue 1 goal to his name, rather than Lucas Perez. We would be up in arms.

12 months forward, Mbappe is being pimped round Europe for £80m and those same fans who would have moaned if we signed him 12 months previous are now moaning that we did not sign him 12 months previous.

Maybe we just love to moan? We could sign Gareth Bale and people would complain we had just signed an injury prone full back with the best days behind him.

Henry Onyekuru is a 19 year old striker who was top scorer in Belgium last season. He had a release clause of £6.8m and Arsenal have offered £6.8m +£1 to secure him.

I am sorry his name is not Gabriel Henry, the next Santos ‘wonderkid’ and has just cost us £20m. Imagine how excited we would have been if we had signed Henry from Brazil ,he had just finished top scorer – the Brazilian league is no better than the Belgium.

Don’t believe the hype over South American youngsters, and lets back young Arsenal players when they join. Give them the chance. Not get on their back and have a go at them before they have even held up the shirt.

Onyekuru could be the next Drogba, but he could be the next Kalou. Gabriel Jesus might become the next Neymar. But might also end up the next Alfonso Alves.

Support the team, back the players, even if you do not support the regime.

Up the Arsenal