The Secret Footballer: Arsenal plan failed

The Secret Footballer believes Arsenal's financial prudence has backfired, while he is critical of Cesc Fabregas but defends Shane Long.

Last Updated: 17/09/14 at 15:35 Post Comment

Arsene Wenger: Title success no closer

Arsene Wenger: Title success no closer

More of the games that matter

Upgrade in minutes or watch with a NOW TV Day Pass.

As a footballer playing in the Premier League, the Secret Footballer wondered whether people would be interested in knowing what life is really inside the game.

After a hugely popular weekly column in a national newspaper and two best-selling books, he has now joined TEAMtalk.

His anonymity allows him to tell fans how it is, from inside the game without the shackles of pre-conception or fan bias.

Read the Secret Footballer's regular insights from inside the world of football at thesecretfootballer.com and follow his views on Twitter @TSF.

- Sherwood will go: Last week, TSF claimed Tottenham's players already know Tim Sherwood will leave in the summer, while he heaped praise on Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers.

- Pards a ticking bomb: TSF labelled Alan Pardew a 'bomb waiting to go off' and admits he once 'squared up' to one angry manager in the dressing room.

- Ignore Sol claims: TSF dismissed Sol Campbell's claims, revealed what the League Cup means to players, and also discussed Vincent Tan and Nicolas Anelka.

- Dodgy deals rife: TSF claimed dodgy deals are still rife in football, talked racism in the game and questioned what the future holds for Newcastle.

- Meulensteen mistake: TSF criticised Fulham's decision to ever appoint Rene Meulensteen and explained how Manchester United can fund Wayne Rooney's deal.

- Fergie to blame: In his first column for TEAMtalk, TSF gave his thoughts on Michael Laudrup's exit, Leeds, Manchester United and Lee Cattermole.

Arsenal as far as ever from contention

Arsenal's wheels have finally fallen off. It happens at roughly the same time each year. Where other top teams seem to become stronger during the run-in, Arsenal tend to go to pieces.

It prompted manager Arsene Wenger to say that his greatest achievement as Arsenal manager was relocating to the Emirates Stadium and keeping the club solvent.

It certainly was a phenomenal achievement because it meant that the Gunners had to qualify for the Champions League every year until the debt was reduced to manageable levels.

In that sense, Wenger was competitive, but the gap to the Premier League title is still as far away as it has been since they last won it. Arsenal may be solvent but, with "Financial Fair Play" rules coming in, they may struggle for years to catch up with the rest of the elite who stole a march during that time.

The other reason they may struggle is because they still cannot deal with teams that are overly physical with them.

With one Premier League team I played for, we tried to fight fire with fire and play them at their own game. The result was that we were absolutely "tampered with", which is a saying in the game that basically means we were beaten out of sight.

But at another club I played for, the game plan was simple: kick them. During that time, our record was outstanding against the Gunners. They hated playing against us and you could see the fear in the tunnel on the faces of Aaron Ramsey and, in particular, Theo Walcott.

We employed every trick in the book. We muscled past our opposite numbers in the tunnel, we shook their hands aggressively before the game started.

If there was a ball to be won, it was won in the most aggressive way possible. And when we scored, you made sure that you screamed in the ear of the opposition player who was closest to you after the ball had gone in.

Now, let me add a disclaimer here. If I were a manager, I would not play this way, even though it works. I am a purist at heart and my dream would be to build a team that could beat Arsenal in a football match, not a war.

But I can tell you only what happens and I'm telling you that, in the face of physicality, Arsenal, routinely, go to pieces. And that is against an average Premier League team.

Chelsea, historically, have been even more physical but they can also play. It is no surprise to me that they regularly beat Arsenal. It must be the safest bet in football.

Prem spell held back Fabregas

How entertaining was the "El Clasico" match between Real Madrid and Barcelona on Sunday night?

These matches never fail to disappoint and I couldn't keep up with the texts flying backward and forward with the players who I know in the game. But the texts weren't as rudimentary as "great goal" and "what a finish". They are subtler than that.

"You can tell Fabregas has played in the Premier League," read one. That text basically meant that Cesc, for all his talents, just isn't on the same level as pretty much every other Barca midfielder.

He has traits that mark him out as a player who spent many of his formative years in England. Don't get me wrong, he is a fantastic player, but when you watch Xavi and Andres Iniesta the difference is marked.

Whenever I had Fabregas facing his own goal with nowhere to go, he would simply fall over, even if you weren't touching him. And he'd always get the free kick because it was impossible for referees to tell if you'd nudged him or not.

Players such as Iniesta and Xavi back themselves to wriggle out of those positions with Iniesta, in particular, standing out as possibly the most complete midfielder of all time. And I am prepared for the backlash from that comment...

Long stick hard to take

Back home and the abuse that Shane Long has taken from some West Bromwich Albion fans is harsh to say the least.

Long could never be accused of not trying wherever he's played. In fact, he's renowned for how hard he works.

But as he wasn't playing at West Brom, what was he supposed to do? He have could sat there and take a big pay cheque every month or he could move clubs and make the most of his career while West Brom get a good price for him.

And let's be honest, Long was never going to cause his club the problems that Nicolas Anelka did. He didn't even celebrate when he scored for Hull City against his former club at the weekend.

I don't get this type of hatred in football, I'm afraid, especially not in this case. Long is big enough to take it but he must be wondering quite what he did to upset the West Brom fans in the first place. And that will certainly annoy him.

Let me put it another way. If players like Long are being abused, then there is no hope for the rest of us.

Read the Secret Footballer's regular insights from inside the world of football at thesecretfootballer.com and follow his views on Twitter @TSF.

TEAMtalk Facebook Fan Page

The TEAMtalk fan page is a great place to meet like minded people, have football related discussions and make new friends.

Related News

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

S

hould have stayed because we carried him for 6.5 years. And then he has a breakthrough season, and was gone soon after. MU fans, you would be as disgusted had C Ronaldo left in 2007 and not 2009.

godof86
Is Van Persie Slipping Sadly Into The Night?

G

ood grief. Someone guessed that the form English player at the moment might be in his national side with some other players? And that's espionage? Now if they discovered that Emile Heskey was going to be in the starting line up.... at right back.... THAT would be espionage. Give it a rest Roy.

RogerRedHat
Hodgson hits out at Kane leak

H

e may get away with if Liverpool can swap the video with one of Skrtel dancing or something, but if they review the one shown on TV he's screwed.

hump3.
Skrtel denies violent conduct

Footer 365

European Qualifiers round-up: Holland and Italy held to draws

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's late header rescued a point for Holland against Turkey in European Qualifying, while Eder spared Italy's blushes in Bulgaria.

Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey bullish over Belgium clash after 3-0 win in Israel

Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey is confident of cementing top spot by upsetting Group B favourites Belgium in June.

Gareth Bale says he takes criticism of his form with a pinch of salt

Gareth Bale insists he has nothing to prove to anybody after playing a starring role in a vital victory for Wales.

Mail Box

Where's The Love For Walcott?

Theo Walcott is wanted by neither Arsenal or Liverpool fans in the afternoon Mailbox. Also, some good points on the FA skewed priorities, and glorious geekery...

Ripe Robin Still Has A Role To Play...

There is some support for the aging Robin van Perise in a frankly threadbare Mailbox. Also, more debate over homegrown players, with a suggestion of an import tax...

© 2015 Sky Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media company