There's more in the afternoon Mailbox about Jose Mourinho and his potential return to Chelsea, while there's also a link to some pictures of eagles that look like Arsene Wenger...
After a disappointing end to his three years at Real Madrid, could Jose Mourinho struggle to bring immediate success if he completes his anticipated return to Chelsea?
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A Word Of Warning To Arsenal Fans
Yes, your team is struggling right now. Perhaps they are even on the decline. These things happen in football; I know, I'm a Liverpool fan.
As a Liverpool fan, I remember being in a similar situation not too long ago. We had a manager who was, for the most part, very popular amongst fans. He had brought success to our club, had us challenge for the Premier League, and (despite popular opinion) had us playing some good football. Alas, he was also working on a budget - having to try and balance books while dodgy ownership rotted the club from the inside. Nothing proves how dire the situation was more than considering selling Xabi Alonso for Gareth Barry (no offense to Barry, but Alonso was the thing of football wet dreams). I'm sure you all know this situation too well, and I apologise for bringing it up again. Broken record Liverpool fan.
But Arsenal fans need to look at this example to see that sometimes you have to stick with someone through the hard times. Arsene brought you the good times, and now you suffer the difficulties together. Because these things happen in football. What doesn't help is getting rid of the man who knows the club and replacing him with someone who signs Paul Konchesky. Now I'm happy with mid-table obscurity while we build the club from the bottom up. I miss Champions League football. I miss going into games and thinking "We're gonna f***ing do them!" I miss Rafa and his constant reference to mentality. The last two years Liverpool have been sliding backwards...you may think Rafa made some dodgy signings, but he didn't splash out £35m on Andy Carroll.
He's struggling at Chelsea at the moment. And he struggled at Inter before that. But he fitted like a glove at Liverpool, and Arsene is the same at Arsenal. Accept that struggles are part of this topsy-turvy game, and accept that when things get hard you need to get behind the man in charge and say "Go on, Arsene! Turn this around!"
The grass isn't always greener.
Alan (did I use the semi-colon right?), LFC
...I enjoyed the article about whether Arsene should stay or go and for all the depressed Arsenal fans it is a tough question whether to stick or twist.
I can't help but see some interesting parallels between the plight that Arsenal currently face and what Liverpool have been through. We had an established and successful boss who had been around a decent amount of time. The club was saddled with a lot of debt which was starting to constrain its ability to compete and our ownership was a mess and at odds with both what the club needed and what the fans wanted.
After a lacklustre season we parted company with Rafa; I have fond memories of him but also remember feeling it was the right decision at the time. His man management had led to the departure of Alonso and his replacement of Arbeloa with Johnson had shifted out defence from one of the tightest in the league to one of the most porous in the top half of the table. I just thought at the time a change of manager would hopefully yield a bit more success and perhaps Rafa had run his course and taken the club as far as he could.
Retrospectively when I look at what we've 'enjoyed' in the seasons since, I think we probably ought to have stuck with him. The club only got worse and actually our ability to attract a top-quality manager when we couldn't offer Champions League football or lots of money to spend to re-establish ourselves in the top four was massively reduced. To some extent I think Arsenal will have a better chance of attracting a top end manager in January while you're still in the Champions League and fourth is still a possibility versus the summer if/when the appeal is reduced as it's all gone pear shaped. I also struggle to imagine another manager taking the current group of players Arsenal has and achieving a great deal more. Given the wage and transfer kitty controls it's hard to imagine what a new manager might actually do so differently even if he did accept the job.
Arsene Wenger will surely go down in history as the second best manager in the Premier League - not just because of his invincible side (and other title/FA cup winning sides) but also because he managed to compete at an incredibly high level while not really spending a lot of money. I recall an article on Sporting Intelligence which showed how impressive both he and Moyes performed despite spending relative fractions on transfers/wages than the teams around them in the league. In some respects it's funny that his transfer activity, one of the things which earned him so many plaudits for so many years might also have ultimately cost him his job in the Arsenal seat.
Wenger Should Not Go, Says United Fan
If there is one manager, who knows what it will take to get back to the highs he took Arsenal to, it is Arsene Wenger. He believes in the club, its philosophy of investing in youth and developing them into world-class footballers and most importantly he has created teams which are closest to the current age of Barcelona. It's important that Arsenal fans accept that this not their era of success, considering the petro dollars flowing in to the Premier League. Arsenal has created success by themselves and not bought it like the other teams (except us, MUFC). Like for like in a not so unforseeable future of financial fair play regulated football environment, probably Fergie is the only boss capable to match Arsenal and Arsene Wenger at their game.
What Arsenal fans can do is to rally behind Arsene Wenger and show him support in his most difficult times. If this were a family, would not you rally behind your brother/sister/father to come back from the dumps and set their life straight. Often when we show the most unexpected gesture to someone we love is enough to re-fuel their existing synergies required to set them on their way of success. Arsenal fans are one of the most respected across the world and I do believe in all honesty that when your father figure needs that extra belief it is not only your concern, but also your responsibility to give it to him. Or else aren't we like the new age Chelsea/City fans? Your boss has it in him to create the new Henrys, Vieiras, Fabregas and the Van Persies all he needs is for you to tell him, "We know you can."
Looking forward to Frimpong Coquelin Vs. an imaginary Keane (I pray to God each day, we sign/develop one) in three years.
Sagar Deo (MUFC, Mumbai)
Wenger Should Not Go, Say Arsenal Fans
Whilst I am an incredibly frustrated Gooner at the moment, I believe the abuse directed at Wenger recently is nothing short of disgraceful. You've encouraged debate, so I'm going to provide the staunchest possible defence of Arsene Wenger.
Anyone who reads Swiss Ramble knows there is no money to spend. We sell to balance the books. This is a board decision and Arsenal fans should be grateful we have a manager of his quality who is both prepared to, and capable of working under these restraints. Countless times he could have buggered off for an open cheque book at Real Madrid, but he didn't. Instead Wenger loves Arsenal and has sacrificed his own legacy for the benefit of the long term future of our club. We should appreciate his loyalty. Before anyone reminds me that his loyalty is bought with a £7m per year contract, I would counter that he would get that in Spain too.
When you consider the financial doping at Man City and Chelsea, and the levels of debt at Man Utd, achieving the 'Fourth place trophy', that he is so consistently mocked for, is both the maximum Arsenal can be expected to achieve, and essential to Arsenal's finances. Last season Arsenal over-achieved. Under Wenger, Arsenal, have never under achieved.
This season we are five points off third place in the Premier League. Last season we were much further away from third place in the Premier League in February and with far less games left to play. To write off a top-four finish this season is knee-jerk, ridiculous and unintelligent. We have to beat Bradford for a League CupsSemi-inal place, where our strongest possible future opponents (on paper at least) are a club who have fans seemingly more unhappy than our own, and are on their worse run of form for 18 years. It's still entirely possible that this season could be our best since 2005.
In a recent article I recall f365 claiming that had Adkins not got Southampton promoted last season, they could be happily sitting in the pla- offs of the Championship right now and zero questions would be asked of him. Well, if Arsenal hadn't won two doubles, three FA Cups in four seasons (four in total under Wenger) THAT undefeated season, all the wonderful players he has developed, all the beautiful football he has created etc...he wouldn't be under this level of pressure for being five points off third place in the first week of December. Wenger is a victim of his own success and the standards he has set.
The season is long. There will be plenty of twists and turns, even if nobody can see it now. This time last season everyone would have said, (without twitching - ha), that Sp*rs are nailed on for a Champions League place. This time last season nobody would have thought Chelsea would be Champions League winners. F*ck, that last sentence was hard to write.
Liverpool thought Rafa had taken them backwards in his final season at the club, when in fact (sorry, I had to) he had over achieved in the seasons previously. Look at how getting rid of him worked out up at Anfield.
This time next season I hope Arsene Wenger is still manager of Arsenal Football Club. In Arsene I trust.
Naz, Gooner (Stewie Griffin, eat your heart out)
...Calls for Wenger to be sacked are painfully nearsighted.
I will concede that things are not right at Arsenal. Although a touch melodramatic, one could justifiably conclude that the defeat to Swansea represented the culmination of a plodding decline dating back to May 2005. Yesterday's vapid display at the Emirates typified the squad's deficiencies over the past several years: lethargic, lacking creativity, defensive fragility and absent leadership. What's worse is that it came following the manager labeling the match as vital to Arsenal's attempt to turn around their campaign. Losing 'big' games is bad, but losing a game against a relatively average opponent after calling it a 'big' game is even worse. Despite all the limitations Wenger faces, he has underperformed in preparing the squad to excel on the field this season.
Nevertheless, sacking Wenger is not the solution. The current squad is good, but few players could be categorized as 'world class' and the club lacks the talent necessary to compete for trophies. Whilst a team of galacticos is not it required for success (City won the league with Milner, Barry and Lescott as regulars), should Arsenal return to the top of the table, they will need an influx of top-calibre players (sorry for the 'Arry-esque cliches). Many have reasoned that Arsenal continually fail to bring in and/or keep players because of financial concerns. Yet, with new sponsorship deals and FFP coming into effect, there exists the possibility of a more expansive transfer policy within the next several years. Still, it is doubtful that Arsenal will ever be able to compete with the likes of City and Chelsea in the market unless they have non-monetary factors tipping the balance in their favour. For this reason it is essential that Arsenal hang on to Wenger.
Players have several concerns when choosing a club: money, trophies, prestige and location. Given their recent record, Arsenal don't fair well when it comes to the first two options. Yet, Arsenal are still considered one of Europe's most powerful clubs despite not having won a trophy in seven years. Much of this recognition is a result of their continued presence and moderate success in the Champions League. But the recognition also owes a lot to Wenger himself. He is considered one of the finest football managers in the world not just because of his tactical ability to win games, but also because of his vision of proper football and club management. Players are drawn to Wenger, regardless of Arsenal's league position. In sacking Wenger, Arsenal would be exiling the most salient example of why they are still a "big" club. It is difficult to imagine return to glory with limited financial resources, an empty trophy cabinet and memories of past prominence. If Arsenal are win trophies, they will need to attract the best players and Wenger is their best weapon in doing so.
Obviously, if Arsenal had the option of bringing in Guardiola or Mourinho, then they would undoubtedly have to consider doing so. But the plain fact is they don't because they recognize just as well that Arsenal aren't all that special without Wenger. If Wenger leaves, we'll likely see the arrival of Martinez, Laudrup or similar calibre manager. Decent enough, but capable of taking us back to the top? Surely not as quickly as Wenger could. Beyond the manager, what's to draw players to Arsenal? A big stadium? Ivan Gazidis? Please...
For all his frustrating traits, Wenger's ability to recruit quality players (e.g. Cazorla) gives Arsenal the best chance of winning trophies within the next several years. Sacking him now and the club will likely suffer a drop a la Liverpool post-Benitez.
Nickolas Milan, Gooner
Nope, Still Can't Decide
After reading both sides of Nick Miller's (and friends) excellent piece on Arsene Wenger it has now firmly made up my mind if he should stay or if he should go and now I have the definitive answer.
I have no idea.
Purely looking at the transfer dealings of Nasri, Fabregas, Van Persie and probably Walcott, AW comes across as a man that's lost his mind. I can understand not spending heaps on players to add to the quality you already have if money is tight but where the hell is the financial sense in letting contacts wind down so you either lose the player on a free or in these cases end up getting half the value in what is almost a fire sale? If you've no direct replacement already at the club then you have to spend to replace the player, that means a transfer fee, signing on fee and a wage. It makes no sense.
Even with financial restrictions in place there still has to be a level that the club operates at, surely global superstars such as Van Persie and Fabregas are far more valuable to the club's international image and marketing ability than the money saved on their higher wages, even if that money has gone into a bigger stadium. Bums on seats is one thing but in a city like London where competiton for fans is high that fact is that kids aren't gonna follow the team that's seven seasons without a trophy and counting, they'll go next door to the team that is winning stuff. This is something Arsenal either haven't taken into consideration or have and given AW money to spend that, through ego, he won't spend.
Big stadiums are only good if you are attracting enough people to fill them, look at the amount of empty seats you see in the lower leagues.
However, if there is about to be a civil war at Arsenal then they'll need AW more than ever. Boardroom battles do far far worse damage to the club than a couple of bad transfer windows or a few seasons without a trophy. Just ask Liverpool.
If I were a Gooner then I'd want AW to bring in more quality in Jan and blend the side to challenge next season. If he sits on his hands though and Walcott goes for peanuts then surely it's time for that bloke currently drinking fizzy pop and eating crisps in NYC.
Tony watching Father Ted
Despauring At The Vitriol
I enjoyed Nick Miller's article on Arsene Wenger - if enjoyment can be taken from such a gloomy situation. The point I want to make is one he touched briefly upon: not that Wenger is being questioned, which there is undeniable cause for, but the manner in which some of it is being directed, both at Wenger and more generally.
Somehow, despite living in firstly in the south and now in London, and growing up at a time when Arsenal were one of the most successful English clubs, I don't know many Arsenal fans - they're all Spurs or United - hence the pleasure taken from the likes of F365, Arseblog etc. It provides an opportunity to converse, albeit in a slightly reductive way, with fellow fans. The downside to this is the increasingly vocal, and voluminous, bats**t brigade, observable from the noisy margins on all such sites. Those whose who berate rather than debate, who threaten and abuse, and who seem to get so little pleasure out of the game - or, at any rate, pleasure which is far exceeded by the anger it provokes - that you wonder why the hell they bother.
Criticism of footballers, managers, referees, etc, has always been over the top compared to other sports. I don't follow any others closely, but whenever I have been to a rugby or a cricket game, I've never heard anything like the level of vitriol that rains down from the football stands. This is nothing new. But the Internet has, if not taken the abuse to a new level, given it a platform it never previously possessed. And in this instance, unlike on the terraces, there isn't the excuse of mob mentality: you're on your own when you post these things, and even if something can be dashed off in haste, you always have time to think before hitting 'send'.
Stating that Aaron Ramsey is in a poor run of form is one thing; wishing death on him (as recounted, with equal despair, by an Arsenal blogger on Twitter) is quite another. It's not localised to Arsenal - everywhere you look, fans work themselves up into similar unfathomable rages - but being my club I notice it more when Arsenal fans are responsible, and it makes me feel such despondence. This more than anything else turns me off of football because I can't see any way in which it will be stopped and it seems to get worse by the season.
As for whether Wenger should stay? If I were him, I'd be tempted not to. And if he were a man more concerned with matters such as personal legacy - rather than the club, which, no matter what his detractors say, he always puts first - then he surely would already have done so. I still struggle to imagine Arsenal without Wenger, but for the first time I am beginning to worry it might not make much difference either way.
Matt H, Battersea Arsenal
Well Done Swansea
Apologies in advance for not conforming to the inevitable and numerous mails you will receive calling for Arsene's head and demanding 'we want our Arsenal back' (a ludicrous concept which has already been dismantled by your wonderful selves).
Instead, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Swansea for a thoroughly fantastic performance from start to finish. They were better than Arsenal in every aspect of their play and were unfortunate to only win by two. In Michu and Ki they have two of the most effective players in the league and Laudrup seems every bit the manager Rodgers was and then some.
Whenever one of the 'big teams' lose there is often far too much introspection and fans and the media castigate the manager, the board, the players and any other Tom, Dick or Harry they can think of. However, sometimes, and today is definitely one of those times, you simply lose to the better team on the day.
Clock End John
Liverpool Are Looking Good
We are looking pretty good - against Spurs and Southampton we looked excellent for most of the match (okay, Bale tore us a new one first ten minutes but we had Downing at LB). Strikes from Sterling v Spurs and Shelvey v Southampton (wow that was a cracking strike) could have gone in giving us more comfort v Soton and one point v Spurs. It's a shame we are so blunt up front as some of our play is exceptional. I'm really warming to Brendan - philosophy talk or not.
Also - love how Rafa has decided to respond to the abuse/A4s and the like. That'll show 'em Rafa - YNWA.
With Suarez banned for the Hammers game, why not stick Gerrard up top and Sahin coming in with the rest unchanged?
Cuths (Swaziland is Liverpool country)
Lindegaard At Heart Of United Problems
Having witnessed United's defensive meltdown against Reading (haven't seen anything quite like that since we were hammered by Southampton back in '96) I was left reflecting upon Ferguson's recent vote of confidence in Anders Lindegaard, and the extent to which I feel the present goalkeeping situation at Old Trafford is hindering the club's defensive development.
There is of course no way that all of Reading's goals - and all of the other calamities which happened in between - can be pinned on Lindegaard; it was very much an all-round shocker from everyone involved. Nevertheless, he has never been the most convincing of goalkeepers, and whilst even the best can have off days (thinking back to Schmeichel during that thumping at The Dell) it is not as if this is one blip amongst a series of commanding, assured performances from the newer Dane. It has always been generally accepted that he is given runs in the first team because of his steadier, more dependable nature and superior physical presence to that of De Gea. Yet I was at the Norwich game a fortnight ago and Lindegaard looked no more of a commanding custodian than his notoriously lightweight rival, with John Ruddy's hulking authority at the other end offering a sharp contrast. On top of this, his shot-stopping and distribution is undoubtedly inferior to De Gea's.
The most damning point of all is that when De Gea is called up on his relative naivete and lack of experience, Lindegaard himself fares no better. I have always been of the opinion that a young keeper (like De Gea) should be supported by an older, 'mentor' type player who can advise his younger team-mate with veteran wisdom. Here some might say that the current set-up is still preferrable as it promotes a healthy competition between De Gea and Lindegaard, ensuring that they will both strive to reach the highest standards. But I feel this argument only works with established goalkeepers: the likes of Reina and Cech, players whose unassailable position as Number One can quickly lead to complacency if they are not challenged. De Gea, though, is not in this position: he is a young goalie with a tentative hand on the first team spot and a lot still to prove. He doesn't need a rival ready to displace him after every mistake and deny him another half a dozen games of vital first-team experience. He needs an experienced head to guide him through new experiences and step in whenever the Spaniard inevitably needs a break in a 60-game season. Put simply, if De Gea drops a few clangers and Ferguson decides he needs a break, I would rather see Brad Friedel walking out of the tunnel than Anders Lindegaard.
This might seem a trivial point given the variety of problems apparent in United's team at present. But until United have a goalkeeper playing game in, game out behind the back four, I can't see the defence getting back on track. Ferguson needs to pick a goalkeeper and give him an experienced running mate. In my opinion it is Lindegaard who must be sacrificed.
Joe (if I'm honest, I'm slightly disappointed it didn't end up 9-8) MUFC
Ferguson's first line in the post-match press conference should've been, "And that's why I don't play Anderson from the start!"
As a faithful Spurs fan, I have worshipped 'luxury' players over the years. From Hoddle, Ginola, Gazza, Modders, RVDV and to a lesser extent Tom Huddlestone. The kind of players that would rarely ever track back and be anonymous for 85 mins of a game then pop up with the sublime that reminded you why you love football.
However, none can compare to the genius of Mr Berbatov. I was watching the Fulham/Spurs game on a questionable internet link when he controlled a ball that was in the air like his feet had the power of telekinesis. So good was this piece of skill that I spontaneously burst into applause, forgetting that this move meant he was now bearing down on Spurs goal. If I had been in the away end or a pub in N17, I may have faced some tough questions from my own fans. My question is this: Who else has forgotten where their loyalties lie when in the presence of mercurial talent?
HBY, Sawbo (Would've welcomed him back in the summer with open arms and a pouch of Baccy)
Does Mark Lawrenson get dressed in the dark?