Arsenal already struggling in post-Wenger phase

Date published: Wednesday 11th January 2017 9:00

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Forty-eight teams. FORTY-EIGHT!
Expanding the World Cup to 48 teams is ridiculous. They’ve completely ruined it. In a group stage of four teams, the teams know they have to at least go out and get a win somewhere to have a chance of going through to the knock-outs. Now they know 1 point and a decent goal difference from their two games will be enough. Defensive football it is then. Well looking forward to Israel 0-0 Greece, Egypt 0-0 Bulgaria etc. Christ. Also, with three team groups you can no longer play everyone’s final group game at the same time – losing some of spectacle as well as opening the possibility of half-arsed ‘bore draws’ that send both teams comfortably through. Yawn.

Aside from the impact to entertainment value, 48 teams is very nearly a quarter of all the nations within Fifa. A quarter! 25% of teams qualify for the World Cup. Why not just do away with qualifying altogether, so every single team in the world qualifies for a World Cup that takes approximately 9 months to complete. How’s that for “inclusive” Gianni? Absolute idiots.

Oh wait, my bad, I’ve just seen the important bit: “According to Fifa’s own research, revenue is predicted to increase to £5.29bn for a 48-team tournament, giving a potential profit rise of £521m.” Silly me thinking about the actual football. As you were, Fifa.
Olly Cole, THFC


In it for the money
Great article today on Hulk
and the money in football.

Whenever money is brought up regarding football, I try and think of time when the money just didn’t matter to remind myself that they do it for the sheer job. When it was all about what happened on the pitch. It always brings me to one of my favourite Arsenal moments.

In 2012, Thierry Henry came back to Arsenal on loan for just 2 months. Just because he loved Arsenal. He then went on to score a goal against Leeds. It was a pretty simple goal, it wasn’t even that important. But the celebration…this man loves Arsenal, loves the badge and everything it represents. I mean just watch it.

I can’t think of any current players today where the badge means that much to them. Anyone else?
Rob A (wish we had that passion in the dressing room) AFC


Arsenal already struggling post-Wenger
With all these stories in the press lately about the various player contract negotiations at Arsenal, it occurs to me that the club is already in that dreaded post-Wenger phase. Stories that Ozil is holding out on new contract talks until he knows what Arsene Wenger is planning to do next are confirmation of my very worst fears. Consider what it says about the club’s future negotiating power. Gunners will recall that every signing since Ozil has declared that the desire to work with Wenger was a big drawcard – I mean, it certainly wasn’t the recent trophy-winning record.

“Please sign da ting Mesut, we’re bringing Eddie Howe in, you’ll be fine” is hardly a winning argument when you’re talking to the level of player we need to attract and retain to be competitive in the league… I’m becoming increasingly convinced that unless Arsenal replace him with someone of equal or greater stature (whatever that may mean), this is the problem we’ll consistently have in the future. The current situation is just the teaser trailer.

In the meantime, for God’s sake Wenger, the “I’ll let you know what I decide when we get there” thing isn’t cute. Just sign the contract extension, even if it is just to assure Ozil/Sanchez etc that Dad still loves them…


Red card appeals
Is it just me or do an overly high proportion of red cards shown nowadays get appealed? It’s got ridiculous. As soon as a red card is branded, worthy or not, the ‘poor’ clubs on the receiving end of the cards just seem to think it’s their god given right to appeal it, regardless of justification. I mean what’s the worst that can happen by appealing it?

Of course there are some red cards which aren’t appealed, largely because they are so blatant that you’d look like a proper clown if you even considered appealing it. Aguero’s near assault on Luiz for example. Yes, there are some dismissals which are genuinely wrongful and should be rescinded, such as Feghouli’s 50/50 challenge with Jones. But there have been so many recent decisions where the referee was perfectly entitled to show a red card, yet the clubs in question still seem to think they can act hard done by and appeal in an attempt at having a legitimate suspension overturned.

Managers often get punished for questioning and criticising the referee during interviews, yet, surely by appealing a red card isn’t this just a different form of questioning the referees performance, and in doing so undermining the referee’s judgement? Whilst generally I feel that referees get far too much protection, this appeal procedure is a ridiculous set up. I’m bored of hearing that this club, that club, every f**king club has appealed a red card as wrongful dismissal! Well boo-f**king-hoo! Your player most probably made a rash decision, take the punishment and get over it. The whole appeal process is just too easy and without any consequence.

So, I have a proposal. If you decide to appeal a red card, and that appeal is rejected, an additional one match ban is added to the enforced ban. Simple. Appeal the ban, run the risk of losing said player for even longer. Hopefully this would at least make clubs think twice before appealing and minimise this incessant nonsense every time a red card is branded.

I actually thought that there was some system of this kind and was surprised not to see suspensions getting increased following unsuccessful appeals. Therefore, if there is or ever was some sort of system like this don’t berate me as I didn’t have time to do some proper research. I have more important things to waste my time with, such as venting my grumpiness by writing this ill-advised email.
Al (why it particularly bothers me so much I have no idea) Williams


European domination
Allright, I’ll take the bait. Here are some numbers about the last decades of european football.

Decade / number of competitions (champions league, europa) / highest % / second % / third %

60-70 / 19 / Italy 32%, Germany 21%, England-Portugal 16%
70-80 / 28 / England 28%, Germany 25%, Netherlands 21%
80-90 / 30 / Other 27%, England 23%, Italy 13%
90-00 / 30 / Italy 43%, England-Germany-Spain 17%
60-70 / 20 / Spain 35%, Other 20%, England 15%
60-70 / 14 / Spain 64%, England 14%, Germany-Italy-Portugal 7%

So, England has never won more than 28% of the european titles in a specific decade, and it was 40 years ago. I guess domination has a variable meaning.
J.B. (I learned excel for this)


In response to claims that the PL may be ready to ‘dominate Europe’ again like between 05-11 (even then, we only won the CL twice), I must say I think some are getting ahead of themselves. The Premier League’s ‘Big 6’ do look stronger than anytime since Fergie’s last CL final, but some way off the peak of 2008, where any of the old ‘Big 4’ could beat almost anyone else in Europe with players like Ronaldo, Torres, Lampard, Gerrard, Rooney, Scholes, Fabregas etc. all on top of their game. We have some great PL players nowadays, but we’re still a way off that, and even further off the peak of Europe in a Real Madrid side that really aren’t getting enough credit for their achievements (up there with the classic Barca & Bayern sides of a few years ago in my opinion).

How many PL players would get in the current Real side? De Gea at goalkeeper probably. I doubt any defenders would get it – Luiz is certainly in excellent form, but only really excels in a 3, and Pepe has had some wonderful games this year, particularly at the Euros where he really was phenomenal. In terms of midfield Modric is the best cm in the world by some distance at the moment, though a more ‘all-action’ player from the PL may get in next to him – perhaps Pogba for those more attack-minded or Kante for those more defensively focused, or both if we don’t play a #10 (I don’t think they really do anymore), though Kroos may still pip one of those two (more likely Pogba due to Kante’s defensive focus) depending on what attributes you prefer in your central midfielders.

As for the front 3, Bale and Ronaldo are both unquestionably better players than anyone in the Premier League (some may have shouted ‘De Bruyne!’ back in September – they were wrong then and would be wrong now), but Benzema’s level of quality has dropped recently. Whilst I would say Lewandowski or Aubemayang are still better strikers than anyone in the PL at this time (I also feel Dybala is very underrated, albeit not quite there yet), Costa, Ibra and Aguero can all make claims to be better than Benzema nowadays. I’ll give it to Costa as he has been the best of those three this season.

So, in summary, if we are being generous 4 players from the whole of the PL, coming from two different sides, would get into the Real Madrid team, and none of them are significantly ahead of the Real counterparts. The PL ‘Big 6’ may be rising above some of the ‘second tier’ European sides like PSG, but the top level of Real/Barca/Bayern/Atleti/maybe Juve is still some way off. I expect they will reach it eventually – football dominance almost always moves in cycles – but they aren’t there yet.

Rustin Cohle


On train companies
To Simon, Manchester, and his many rambling thoughts: I work for one of the major railways that operates around Wembley Stadium, and there is a very simple reason why we can’t always run extra services to accommodate fans. The infrastructure just isn’t there. There are five lines running to Wembley, and given the difficulty in driving to London, they deal with the majority of fans. This puts around 15’000 extra travellers on each line over the course of a couple of hours either side of game time. If you’ve ever been on a tube train in the evening, you can imagine how bad this could get.

Spurs’s game at Wembley this season have seen half a dozen or so specially added trains running from my station in London to Wembley, moving thousands of fans around. Extra stops are scheduled at Wembley for trains going both ways for fans coming in and going home again later. But it’s an absolute nightmare to choreograph for the train operators. We have approximately one train leaving our station every three minutes, on only one line through the tunnels that constant London construction work has decreed we cannot expand. Our trains are all equipped with automatic speed control measures as a safety feature that means they cannot travel at top speed within 3 miles of a red signal. Putting in extra trains means extra red signals, means everything is slower, means the train operator starts losing money. And more than that, we have to cater for the regular commuters. They are our bread and butter, so those trains take priority.

That said, last week we put extra trains put in place running from Stourbridge to Wycombe for their FA Cup tie. (If anyone was on one of those trains, I’d love to hear about it.) There’s only so much we can do, but we are doing it.
Harry, THFC. (Having Spurs at Wembley next year is going to be a waking nightmare for me)


The FA Cup is magic (you know?)
Sometimes, the FA Cup is magic. Sometimes it’s a bit rubbish.  You know what else is like that?  All football ever.

I’m all for improvements (relegation protection seems unlikely mind) but there are some aspects of the cup we should just leave alone.  Seeding is definitely one of them.

The absolute best thing about the FA Cup is that it is un-seeded and random.  We are used to the FA cup being this way, so I don’t think we all appreciate just how exceptional this is.  Nearly all other top level sport is fixed/seeded (delete based on personal bias) to some degree.  The randomness of the cup draw, is the one unique selling point the cup has.  Sometimes you get a great draw, sometimes you need to look a little harder for the fun.  I do think the TV scheduling is an issue – I totally get BT sport going for the big teams, but for some reason the BBC also seems to think it should be populist now.  Not sure when this happened, but I still think it should be for educating us unwashed proles and telling us to like it.  Show us Huddersfield against Port Vale, you cowards!

One of the other things I love about the cup, which I don’t think has been mentioned is that is does give fans of bigger clubs a chance to see their team if they can’t get/afford a season ticket.  We got Spurs at home last year, and there were a lot of Spurs fans in the Colchester stands.  Most were parents with kids, or young chaps who just can’t afford to get to games. Most were from Essex, and come to Colchester as a ‘second team’ anyway.  It made for a nice day, and everyone mostly got along.

Other reasons the love the cup:

– Sometimes, just sometimes you do get a proper upset.  An absolute top level team properly trying, still lose.

– Ipswich are unfailingly hilarious in the cup.

– Despite a gazillions years to get it right, the draw is still incredibly awkward and clunky.

– Colchester once beat Leeds, when Leeds were really really good.

Everyone enjoys their football differently.  If the TV companies get it right, then I’ll really look forward to Derby v Leicester, Oxford v Newcastle*, and Middlesbrough vs Accrington  Stanley.  Or, y’know, we could watch Man United. Again. The draw for the 4th round, like the FA cup itself, is what you make of it.

Football 365 and I will never be FA cup buddies, it seems.  That’s okay – we can still make this marriage work.  I’ll avoid the Premier League centric coverage during FA cup weeks, just as I avoid talking about Lithuanians with Mrs Aves around March 11th.
Jeremy (*made a lazy assumption that Newcastle will win. Which they now won’t.) Aves


Neutral for Sunderland
There has been a lot of p*ssing and moaning in the Mailbox about how the magic of the FA Cup is gone. Mostly by spoilt supporters of the bigger clubs (which dominate the mailbox) who have grown up numb to success due to its frequency for their club.  The day the FA Cup lost its sparkle was the day Manchester United chose not to defend it in 99/00.  They could have entered a reserve team or a youth team but instead chose to withdraw. The World Club Championships didn’t go too well for them anyway as a recall.  From that day forward teams have tended to see it as worth less than Arsenal’s perpetual “place trophy”.

Spoiled fans aside of City, Chelsea, United and Arsenal aside, I think any other team in the league would bloody love to win it – when was the last time Liverpool or Spurs won a trophy!?

Any fan worth their salt would swap winning in an FA Cup Final at Wembley for Champions League qualification.  Look at Leicester – would their fans trade a guarantee of being in the Premier League for the next 15 years for the magic of last season? Would they f**k!

It is disappointing to see managers (who have their jobs on the line based on the PL blah blah blah) putting out weakened teams in the FA Cup.  Where is the romance, the optimism, the cojones!?Which is why as a neutral (with Villa out) I am gunning for Sunderland to win the FA Cup. David Moyes played a full strength team v Burnley despite Sunderland being mired in a relegation dogfight/battle (delete as appropriate). Maybe it’s because he doesn’t want to see them get a hiding for morale reasons or maybe it’s because he’s an old school romantic ginger b*stard at heart but anyway Sunderland for the Cup!

PS. I hope they stay up too unlike Wigan so other teams follow their lead.
Ron Boucher


Just a word of warning on the FA Cup, if you keep trying to make little tweaks here and there to make it better, one day you may wake up and find that it looks like what the World Cup is turning into, and then you may ask yourself. How did we get here?

And you may ask yourself, How do we work this?

And you may ask yourself, What is this large ghastly competition?

And you may tell yourself, This is not the beautiful game.

And you may tell yourself, This is not the beautiful FA Cup.

Put the Semi-Finals back on the same day back to back, and in neutral grounds that are not Wembley, and just let it be the FA Cup. Everyone really knows there’s nothing wrong with it, they just wish the old girl would treat them better occasionally.
Chris ITFC,  Liverpool


Justice for Brendan
‘Nine years of development under Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. Four years of development under first Brendan Rodgers then Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool. Three of football’s greatest managers.’

Stu, Southampton


Storey and Springings > you
Nothing of significance to add to the ongoing debates. Just want to say the two pieces on Hulk and Clement are crackers.

“English clubs favour the bluebottle approach, buzzing from one room to another until they land on something they like”.

What a perfect summation of the manager merry-go-round.

Cormac, Galway

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