He is one of a number of solid shouts for players that look old before their time. We also have the final words on lovely D-Beck and a rejection of end of season playoffs...
That's one opinion, but others give their thanks to the man. We also have ideas for a relegation playoff, happy memories of the season and a defence of Liverpool's campaign...
If you have anything to add on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wenger Got Lucky
The only feeling I have got from watching Arsenal play for the past few seasons is pure frustration. Matt Stanger thinks Arsenal fans have plenty to be happy about. Could a different manager really be any worse? Arsene Wenger has laudable patience and tenacity but there is a point where stubbornness begins to look like stupidity and he has crossed that line plenty of times.
For all his economic nous, Arsene is an overrated manager. I think he got very lucky with Arsenal - the team he inherited was defensively organised but out of shape and lacking attacking flair. Arsene bought some very smart players, revolutionised the training regime and added flair to a solid base and the result was a fabulous team. But Arsene will never be great manager -he lacks the ability to build a team from the ground up. SAF, Jose - they've done it more than once but Arsene never has and never will.
Arsenal's dreadful defensive record in the post Adams era is pretty obvious. But the biggest criticism of Arsene surely has to be how little value he adds to players. Bergkamp, Henry, Pires, Van Persie and Fabregas were incredibly talented players who clearly had an instinctive feel for the game. You didn't need to teach Bergkamp or Fabregas where to place the pass in the final third. They knew. You just needed to give them the opportunity to play. Which Arsene did and they were magnificent.
Arsenal no longer appear to be able to buy players of that calibre and the result? Gervinho, Walcott - players with pace and some skills but absolutely no "football brain". They need help. But year after year they just keep doing the same. Run down a blind alley on the flanks and give the ball away. And sadly Oxlade Chamberlain is heading the same way. I know Theo gets a lot of assists - but given his pace and the sheer number of potential opportunities this creates, it's the equivalent of a monkey at a typewriter writing Shakespeare. Mostly dumb luck.
And what's the obsession with 4-3-3? Given Arsenal have such a limited budget, surely the priority is to get the best out the players you have as you can't afford to buy any better. Arshavin, Walcott and Gervinho have never looked comfortable on the wings. And his treatment of Arshavin in particular has been bordering on the criminal. Arshavin might have flopped anyway, but his talent at least deserved an opportunity to play through the middle. I'm just grateful Arsene's obsession with 4-3-3 developed post Bergkamp.
It's not just frustrating watching Arsenal - it's actually bloody boring. There's not a single player who gets your pulse racing (except Santi when he's not feeling so tired and lethargic, poor thing). Arsenal have never quite got to Barcelona's level of tiki-taka passing (thank heavens - there's only so much sideways passing my limited attention span can handle) but at least in the past every so often there'd be a pass that made you smile. Now the strongest reaction is likely to be groan.
What is the point of this current side? It lacks flair. It lacks potency on the break. It lacks defensive organisation. It lacks leadership. A threadbare first 11 that is fragile and injury prone. This is the team that Arsene built.
Winning Not Important
Arsenal fans are crazy. Take last night. Based on the teams that have qualified for the first knock out rounds, there is no benefit to finishing 1st or 2nd in the group. You get slightly more money - but that's about it. I mean if you finish first you could play Real Madrid or Juventus. If you finish second you could play Dortmund or Barcelona. However Arsenal is in danger of all its key players breaking down, and losing ground in the race for the CL spots. So Arsenal just like Man U did a few weeks ago sent a team of youth, reserves and off-form players to a tough away fixture. They came back with a hard fought loss. Cue Arsenal fans screaming and wailing - with Piers Morgan leading the charge - about sending a team to lose and losing. Someone should tell them, that was the point.
Anyway tired of all the angst from other Arsenal fans, one of my friends came up with a modification to football, don't know what drove him to it - I blame Arsenal though. What would happen if they tweaked the rules of football and made it like ice hockey and extended the play past the goal line? Here are the few advantages/disadvantages we came up with
•Inzaghi and Van Nistelroy will come out of retirement and play until their 50s (advantage)
•Stoke will win the premier league and champions league (disadvantage)
•Barcelona will get relegated (advantage)
•The blindside header specialist will become one of the most sought after positions in football (disadvantage)
Can you add to the list?
Naz, Nigeria (the phases of play discussion will be awesome under this rule)
No Plan B
I have been a gunners fan since the early 90's and this being the case, missed all of the other glory years and was thrust directly into the Premier league era. My reason for choosing arsenal at the time was simply this; My bigger brother supported Liverpool and all my other friends supported united and being the competitive person I am, it was only natural that I would chose the next best option that seemed they could win a title.
Fast forward to 2012 when Wenger has created much stability and such a good team that it seems to be a nightmare that we have not won any trophies in 7+ years and now finding it hard to win Games. From a fans perspective I can say that its easy to point fingers at his selection/lack thereof of players(Aaron Ramsay and Theo Walcott respectively) even though the latter is quite like Dr. Jekkle and Mr. Hyde. From a footballers perspective, its clear Mr. Wenger doesn't have a plan B. Perfect example that comes to mind is a recent visit to old Trafford where Fergie put 5 players in midfield and Mr. Wenger chose to stick with his midfield trio. Shows me 2 things: 1, He is not a tactician only a good coach. 2, He is not proactive, surely reactive and these are not the qualities one expects from a Manager that should be winning Champions League and BPL titles year in and year out.
Mr. Wenger has now started to irritate me more and more by not only sticking with his formation but by not seeing that Arsenals style of play is PREDICTABLE and easy to defend but by also finding silly excuses about players being fatigued. This shows that he has now run out of excuses and ideas and his failure to gain champions league qualification this term will signify the end of his tenure as this would have been his first season to fail to accomplish same.
Ramon Dunkley(Why does he play Gervinho centrally? I don't get it!)
City Worse Than Last Year
I said at the start of the game as I was selecting which of my City shirts would make us lucky this time out (I know it's pointless superstition and I couldn't care less), I pondered what result would be lucky for City against Dortmund. Win and we go into the Europa League for a few games at least helping the coefficient and giving Roberto a free thwack at his 3-5-2 formation in a similar style competition to that which it appears to be designed around. But lose and we don't have to play in a competition we probably won't win and would distract from a premier league defence that's looking more and more tricky. I eventually decided I'd like a credible draw, no injuries and as many first teamers rested as feasible for Sunday because at the end of the day, Ajax deserved to go through ahead of us anyway.
The team selection wasn't exactly as I'd wish. Nudging Nastasic out to left back to accommodate Lescott makes sense but not when you consider that Lescott is equally capable of filling in there and you'd be breaking up a growing partnership ahead of the derby game. But never mind. We also decided to run Tevez around some more and leave Balotelli kicking his heals on the bench despite him previously showing he can trouble the thoroughly excellent Hummels.
It's then a good idea to sub off Dzeko and leave Tevez out there all night, thereby keeping our specialist sub ready for a potential starting role against United despite him clearly not being best utilised from the start. Never mind because at least we put in a good performance and looked like proper footballers again in Europe, building a little confidence ahead of a tough weekend and next years (hopefully) competition. except we didn't. Toothless, uninterested, lax and listless. Dortmund's stiffs made us look like a bunch of pathetic and embarrassing amateurs.
What galls me is we that this year's squad is palpably worse than last year's. Garcia is not as good as de Jong, Sinclair is not as good as Johnson and Maicon is not as good as a vacant shirt. The only exception to that is young Nastasic who couldn't have been worse than Savic but still shows signs of developing into a very decent player. Watching van Persie and Hazard lighting up the league (though Hazard not so much of recent weeks) one can't help but wonder why we didn't make a more concerted effort to get them to play for us.
I'd point the finger at Mancini but I believe the blame lies with Brian Marwood who thankfully will be busying himself with something else from now on while the chap from Barce gets on with the signings. Maybe in January and in summer we'll be able to get the targets we actually want because these guys look a lot like last minute panic buys and what's left of the market after the more organised negotiators have picked the cream off.
City are very lucky in the drop of the fixtures because they have a chance for an instant course correction. A big balled performance against United not only gets us back onto parity in terms of points but should help the players put the European aberrations behind them. A statement is needed from this team on Sunday and I for one would like to see if we have players who wish to stand up and be counted or a bunch of little boys feeling sorry for themselves. We're in the corner and we need to come out fighting.
Steve Bradley (Scott Sinclair? I'd still pick Trevor over him)
Now that City have been knocked out of Europe altogether, the reaction from many seems to be fine as they have less distractions in retaining the league. This is well and true, but they are probably going to find themselves in another tough group next year, and maybe again the year after. The Europa League provides some valuable (and sometimes more) co-efficient ranking points for teams. Liverpool, who have not been in the Champions league for a few years are ranked ahead of City. Going on the points as they are, they will still be marginally ahead next year and City will still likely be unseeded and have to face another "Group of Death".
The Europa league has an unfair reputation in some respects, the quality might not be as good, but as the games are so often less cagey affair, it more than makes up for it in spectacle. If UEFA would take some Champions League money and put it into its lesser competition, stop letting Champions League teams in, and perhaps making it a direct and seeded entry into the Champions League you'd get a much healthier competition.
I get the horrible feeling City will now find it within themselves to smash United to pieces on Sunday.
Pete , Dublin
Champions League: Difficult To Win
I realise that my title is stating the bleeding obvious, winning the champions league has never been a simple task, particularly when in recent years you have had to beat an outstanding Barcelona team on the way. However, a couple of very good teams will be focusing very highly on this coveted silver pot this season. Both Dortmund and Real Madrid are off the pace in the league, being 9 and 11 points behind the leaders respectively. Dortmund have shown themselves to be very impressive so far, topping the group, winning their 3 home games, and remaining unbeaten away. Madrid only just got away with a last gasp draw against them at the Bernabeu too.
Malaga are only a few points out of the champions league spots at this stage, but again have shown very impressive form in the Champions League competition itself, even though it's only their first time. Under Pelligrini they are improving all the time, and will look to continue battling. Milan are 10 points away from the champions league qualification spots. Although the team is in some kind of transition, and they're not likely to win the whole thing with the current personnel (watch them tonk everyone now I said that), they will fight tooth and nail to have a good showing and not be rolled over. Again another tough night in the San Siro.
Shaktar Donetsk and Juventus have shown themselves to be very impressive. The old lady has largely forgotten how to lose, and the squad looks quite strong. My mouth is watering at the prospect of them facing the two Spanish giants actually. Shaktar showed Chelsea some mean football, and were a little unfortunate to lose at Stamford Bridge. PSG have also done extremely well in the competition so far, winning 5 out of 6, with a narrow 1-0 loss away at Porto to 'blemish' the record. If they get an Utd or Arsenal in the next round expect Ibra to go nuts. (or not).
Bayern were last season's beaten finalists, Barcelona didn't win it last year, but have been winning it every other season. Somehow the champions league refuses to allow teams to retain it. And although Valencia have just fired Pelligrino, they may just try that bit harder in the champions league this season so their league form has been poor. This leaves me to the other 'weaker' teams, who are Schalke 04, Benfica, Galatasaray, and Porto. I can't say too much except, that as Utd or Arsenal fan, you might prefer either of these 4 in the next round, compared to the rest.
All in all, for some reason it feels like there are quite a few more teams who are more competitive this season, and some with big reasons to go as far as they can, rather than just pride, standard competitiveness or money. (maybe). If Man Utd sort out their defense they shouldn't necessarily fear anyone, although for some reason I don't like the look of Dortmund. Oh and Barca of course. And Madrid... probably not Juve either...and er... Bayer-- oh dear.
CJ (Just look at how long THAT turned out).
Don't Overthink This Atmosphere Thing
The reason is simple. Ale.
People generally aren't tanked up at matches anymore.
Apart from the away fans.
Dave (We're gonna have a party, when Suarez wins a pen) LFC, Southport
Standing Won't Help
There were some interesting thoughts on the poor atmosphere in football these days. I agree that generally home fans have lost something. But Mike's wrong with his assertion that seats are the issue. Seats are not and have never been the problem. I watch a fair cross-section of football on a now irregular basis and for each team I watch the atmosphere is less than it used to be regardless if it is terraced or not:
England - The days of the Wembley rebuild when the team was travelling around the country was great, away day every match - these were games played in all-seater stadiums. Now the atmosphere is one of poison.
Liverpool - well documented. Lack of anything to cheer about his dampened the once good atmosphere.
Bristol Rovers - When I go I always stand and the atmosphere is not the same as it used to be Non-league home town - Again, I begrudge paying the extra £1 for a seat so I stand in the elements. The passion that was once there is now dulled.
Hell even the watching games down the pub isn't what is used to be, so terracing or not, the atmosphere at grounds isn't what is used to be.
The German's may have a better atmosphere in their matches but seats are not the problem. Terraces won't miraculously bring back the what's missing from our grounds. I think the prawn sandwich brigade, the high costs and the football saturation is to blame. i don't think any of those are issues in Germany.
I am more in favour of terraces than seating, especially of the modern stadium sort (seriously Arsenal fans, cushioned seats??). But terraces won't solve the fundamental issues of there being too much easy access to football, especially on TV, and too much focus on football being entertainment and not enough focus on it being a sport.
R "or am I just getting grumpy as I age?" Fernandes
More On Chants
I seem to remember the Oldham Athletic die-hards in the Chaddy End (that's short for
Chadderton) singing the following gem:-
"Give us a T, TEEE"
"Give us an I, AYE"
"Give us a T, TEEE"
"What have you got? TITS"
"What do you do? HOLD 'EMMM" (obviously sounding like OLDHAM).
Whoever came up with that was truly inspired.
...Adam, Cov Fan (You Cannot beat an away day!) asked for a song for William Edjenguele (Ed-jen-go-ley). I'm not saying this will catch on, and the thought of 20,000 people belting out Celine Dion fills me with terror, but how about:
You're here, there's NOTHING I fear.
And I know, Will-iam Ed-jen gue-le-e-e-e-e
Rob H (ashamed this is the first thing that popped into my head), Gooner, London
Stanger's Disco Pants
Looking at the Top Ten Tactical changes piece, as soon as I read the line about forgetting to wear trousers to work, I thought, 'I bet this is Matt Stanger'. I'll leave it to you to decide whether it's because of his unique literary voice, or the fact that I assume he's the type of man to walk around in his keks.
Chelsea To Follow Shakhtar Approach?
Loved the article on Shakhtar Donetsk. I was really impressed with the way they played against us, and deservedly top the group right now in the Champions league. Could Chelsea be doing something similar in their purchasing strategy as them? Rather than buying the players to move on however they are buying them to grow into the team.
Piazon and the recently aquired Wallace will need to move into the squad, then you have more obviously Luiz and Oscar. If we get Neymar (which I highly doubt) and none of the above move on then we could have 5 young Brazilians in our starting line up by the 2014/15 season, not including anyone else we may buy from that obnoxiously good footballing country in South America.
Lori (Pirlo, do us a favour tonight lad) Peri, CFC. 26
Interesting how many footballing myths have been exploded in the last year. Some myths have managed to last many years before being exposed, others a mere few weeks!
-The Steve Bruce myth.
-The Owen Coyle myth.
-The Steve Bould as defensive mastermind myth.
-The "Arsene knows" myth.
-The Sam Allardyce teams only play hoof-ball myth.
-The Roberto Di Matteo myth.
-The now that he's won the Champion's League, Roman will be more patient myth.
-The AVB myth.
-The "Joe Allen might have actually been worth 15m quid after all" myth.
-The Fernando Torres has recovered his form myth.
-The lazy Dimi Berbatov myth.
-The "you can't buy value" in January myth.
-The Dzeko is a donkey myth.
-The Mark Hughes myth.
-The Ashley Young myth.
-The Joe Hart myth.
-The new and improved Wigan myth.
-The Scottish Premier League is respectable myth.
Justin, football fan