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

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.

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