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The rise of complacency at Arsenal
I was watching a clip on Sky Sports where Ian Wright was talking about how the Arsenal players have let down Wenger. But that made me think about it in a different way. Have the Arsenal team really let down Wenger or basically do not play for him anymore? How can you let down someone you don’t actually play for and who will go the extra mile to make excuses on your behalf, despite how poor you perform, and on a consistent basis? If your boss kept making excuses to the upper management or other departments as to why you are not performing or meeting expectations, would you be happy with this state of affairs?
What I see is a symbiotic relationship between the players and the manager, where the expected norm is such that it is ok to disappoint and move on in the hope that at some point a good display will come off of it, with the manager himself praising that said player. Basically, if you perform bad, you still get to play in the hope that you will come good. And if you perform well, the team picks itself and the slate is wiped clean, only for another string of poor or very inconsistent performances to follow.
For years, players who’ve left Arsenal and have gone on to win bigger trophies have shown respect to and spoken about Arsene as a father figure type, who nurtured them until they ‘came of age’ and then parted ways with him to actually compete and win at the top level. Prior to Vieira’s departure that did not seem to be case. The notion was that pre-Emirates, when Arsene let go of said player, he was either a spent force or had peaked at Arsenal and was possibly in his retirement phase of football. Ashley Cole absolutely destroyed that notion without a doubt.
Let’s fast forward to the summer of 2020. Is it conceivable that by then Aubameyang may have moved on to let’s say United or City or even Liverpool, given his relationship with Klopp in the latter? Arsenal have already started that trend and to this club money is money. Contracts wind down. Top players can’t be arsed to play under Arsene and are fed up of the mediocrity surrounding them with the consistency in abject performances.
Wilshere, in his tweet, felt that we were hard done by inspite of the insipid performance. But given his consistency in petulant behavior, this might as well be a reflection of the manager, who at a complete loss of ideas and especially when the game is out of reach, starts to pace back and forth down the touchline, arms flailing at the assistant referee for whatever reason you wish to think of. This happens to be the one player most Arsenal supporters expect to be our leader and future captain. Is this what we should come to expect of him when things don’t go our way? It is as if these days, there is more talk in the dressing room than on the pitch. Whether its Cech or Xhaka or Wilshere.
Which brings me back to my main point. Mediocrity is acceptable and it’s a mutual feeling that exists between both, the players and the manager. And the board as well. The ones who do not settle for this, move on to win bigger trophies, where the actual competition is. For years, mediocrity was Arsenal achieving the 4th place trophy. Now that seems to be replaced by Europa nights. And we are in year 1 of this stage. Ramsey will perform well, now that his contract is up for renewal. And as his usual self, will settle into further mediocrity, with Father Arsene making excuses on his behalf.
Carl (Theo Walcott IS Arsenal.), AFC
Disagreeing on ticket prices
Interesting article from Daniel regarding a lost generation of football fans this morning. But the point about ticket prices is laboured and one I don’t necessarily agree with.
I can only speak for myself, as a season ticket holder at St James Park, one of the grounds mentioned in Daniel’s piece. My season ticket is about £400, a payment I spread across a chunk of the season at around £50 per month.
Not cheap by any stretch. And I do not earn vast amounts of money. But as a 24 year old with no dependants or real responsibilities I fit snugly into the category of person attending football less frequently. I love football and always have and the £50 a month for eight or so months seems a reasonable price to pay. I generally have to scale back on one or two nights out a month.
I think peoples relationship with their team and their towns is changing. People are moving around more than ever and I suppose feeling less of an affinity to their side. If it’s a couple of nights on the town and streaming the match vs staying in and watching your local side it’s obvious what younger people would rather choose . Ticket prices aren’t the beginning and end of the discussion
And agreeing on them
You will probably get a few of these but here we go anyway. I was prompted to write this email by Daniel Storey’s excellent article on football ticket prices.
I am old enough to remember being taken to every Spurs home game during the sixties and slightly into the seventies. In my uncle’s Sunbeam Rapier with my dad and brother, hurtling down the A12 before speed limits, fast enough to plaster my lips all over my face if I stuck my head out of the window, then showing a policeman a fictitious letter from a non existent local butcher giving us permission to park near the ground. Then a programme and a bag of monkey nuts to help pass the time leading up to kick off.
Happy days but my experiences of football were not due to great financial sacrifice by my dad. He worked for the Post Office and if I remember correctly it was half a crown to get in plus a few pence for the nuts and programme. My son occasionally goes to West Ham now but as a new father the cost is prohibitive.
As a slight aside, my son is the Chris from Essex who recently had an email published on missing the last ever game at the Boleyn ground. Are there many father and son combos who have both had letters published on your esteemed site? Our discussions on football matters often begin with ‘Did you read that stuff on 365 on…’
…A good article this morning on the aging fan base in the stadiums, something I’ve noticed as frequent Anfield visitor over the last 20 years.
I have other suggestions to add to this debate.
1) try getting a season ticket for Anfield. My father has been on the waiting list for about 30 years and is in the top 1000 now – and it’s a dead centre Liverpool address. So that is a massive factor, forget the price. The people that bought season tickets 30 or 40 years ago still have them today and they aren’t letting them go and they aren’t getting any younger!
2) 30 or 40 years ago the yoof had far fewer distractions in their lives and spent their time outdoors kicking a ball about. Their escapism was pretending to be their heroes then visiting them on the weekend to pay homage. These days there are a million more distractions and this also adds to the cost department. The same younguns who can’t afford a match day ticket find a way to buy the latest fashion item that costs considerably more. What did a youngster spend their spare money on 30 or 40 years ago? No idea, but their options were more limited.
Prices have gone up and are pricing out some younger fans but I think that is a reductive argument. Football has never been more accessible outside of a stadium, I can watch every goal on instagram in real time if need be, making any outlay on a ticket a diminishing return when there are cool trainers to buy.
My club doesn’t want me to have a season ticket
Good article from Mr Storey on the next generation of fans. As ever, the issue is more nuanced than just the pricing structure.
I grew up watching Rugby League as it was cheap and accessible. Going to the football was a treat as it involved getting to Liverpool by car with my dad. As a teen with my shiny new driving licence the access to football got easier and it was just £2 more than the Rugby to stand on the Kop. My mates and I could decide on Saturday morning if we wanted to go to Anfield and with the exception of games against United and Everton, as long as we were there early enough then we got in.
Now I need to decide in July if I want to see that match in December, the date and time may change, I still need to pay for it in July and because it’s so hard just to buy a ticket there’s actually only a handful of matches I’m eligible for in the first place. I’m on the season ticket waiting list, but they’re treated as a hereditary item by so many fans that I move up less than 50 places each year and with 12,000 still ahead of me you can see how that’s going to play out.
The club have brought in a few initiatives such as 10,000 tickets for £9 only available to locals, a further 20,000 at a 50% discount for 17-21 year olds and 1,100 free to local schools but that’s only 2% of the tickets across a home PL season.
The club doesn’t want me to have a season ticket, at any price, as I’ll turn up, watch the match and leave. The occasional visitor however will go to the museum, the shop, buy some food, maybe stay in a local hotel etc. The revenue from that guy blows away mine.
England have a massive goalkeeping issue
As there’s not much going on this week and the Arsenal pain train has a few days off until Thursday I wanted to write about something near and dear to my heart, and that is the state of the current crop of English goalkeepers.
Do you remember about 12 months ago? How it looked like we finally had competition for the number one spot in the England team with multiple extremely talented players. Hart was still the de facto first choice with a wealth of experience behind him; Fraser Forster was challenging him hard by putting in consistently good performances at cup finalists Southampton; Jack Butland was in and out of injury, but was always considered supremely talented and possibly number one when fit; and Jordan Pickford was getting rave reviews for hi shot-stopping and distribution at relegation bound Sunderland.
What’s happened to them? In 12-18 months we’ve gone from having three potential number ones and an incredibly talented youngster pushing to be first choice in Russia. But now, now we have three goalkeepers all fighting to be the least bad, and a youngster who looks to have regressed significantly in a better team.
Hart is now basically a reserve goalkeeper at West Ham, troubled by poor form and possibly age catching up with him (I don’t think he’s ever lived down Euro 2016); Forster has been shocking for a terrible Southampton team making mistake after mistake and losing all of his authority; Butland has shown glimpses of class between injuries but seems to consistently make game changing errors (see him deflecting the ball in to his own goal against Leicester); and Pickford looks a shadow of his former self conceding poor goal after poor goal this season.
Are any of them good enough to take the number one jersey for England in Russia? Would the mailbox be happy with any of them? I guess we have to play at least one of those four, I mean who else is there? Ben Foster (retired, and a poor man’s Jack Butland)? Rob Green (just no, please)? Nick Pope?!, None of the first four players in the frame would give me even the slightest bit of confidence and all of the alternatives seem somehow worse.
I’m genuinely baffled that we could end up in this kind of state in such a short amount of time. The only chance we have is shaving David Seaman’s mustache and sticking it to Tom Heaton where it would burrow in to his brain and give him Seaman’s goalkeeping powers a la the Dead Man’s Shoes Twilight Zone episode/Hell Toupee from Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror 9.
Calum, MUFC, Wokingham
On the winter break issue
Word is that FA proposals for a winter break for the Premier League would mean scrapping at least the fifth-round replays in the FA Cup. Obviously there are pluses and minuses here, and what matters most is the well-being of the players.
But from an outsider’s perspective, the FA Cup is special for two reasons: 1) the blind draw; 2) replays. Number 1) provides both suspense and a wide variety of intriguing matchups. Number 2) not only adds spice to individual results, but is a significant boon to lower-league clubs.
I realize the cup isn’t what it once was, but it remains a great competition. As number 2) gets eroded, though, it devolves towards just another knockout tournament. Maybe the change would be a good thing for the Premier League players, and for England in major tournaments, but it’s hard to be enthusiastic when something so unique continues to dissolve in the process.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA
On our old favourite
This from Stewie Griffin in today´s mailbox:
“The Arsenal fans have already proved they will accept anything. They are the kind of people who will get home, catch their wives in bed with the milkman and then blame the referee for it. Or alternatively, they’ll say they “cannot compete with milk money”.
I laughed out loud reading this, the funniest thing in the mailbox in a long time!
…“He who establishes his argument by noise and command, shows that his reason is weak.”― Michel de Montaigne
And so Stewie Griffin went into Mailbox exile, kept his council and allowed the passing of time to show his reasoning was in fact very strong.
“The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so.”― Gore Vidal
Martin (#WengerInTheMoney) CPFC
And a random question
Which players do you think will get into more than one club’s all-time Premier League XI. For example Ashley Cole would arguably be Chelsea and Arsenal’s best ever left back. Shearer for blackburn and newcastle also comes to mind.
Any other players that would do it for two or more teams?
Johnny Nic: Does English cricket have a drinking problem? (Cricket365)