You are dishonest to your federation

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You are dishonest to your federation

So, yesterday the FA released the full written reasons for issuing Arsene Wenger with a four match ban after the 2-1 win over Burnley.

We all know the broad outline. The manager took umbrage with the decision to award Burnley a penalty, had words with Anthony Taylor who, being a massive telltale and something of a ninny, called over Jon Moss who then sent the boss off.

Not only that, Taylor followed him down the tunnel and then told some more when Wenger pushed his arm away as the fourth official tried to usher him further into the bowels of the stadium where he was mandated to go after the sending off. This was presented in some quarters as a ‘shove’ by the 67 year old, when in fact Taylor was the one who provoked it.

Anyway, that’s the bit we all knew. In their full report, issued yesterday, this is what Taylor said to the investigation commission:

Following the award of a penalty kick against his team in approx. 92nd min, Mr Wenger left his technical area to confront me in disagreement at the decision. Before he said anything I said “think carefully before you say anything”. He responded by saying “you are dishonest to your federation”.

I considered this to be questioning both mine and the referee, Jon Moss’s integrity and impartiality. I stated to Mr. Wenger that such a comment was not acceptable and he told me to “f*ck off” on two separate occasions.

Once Burnley had taken the penalty and before the game restarted I informed the referee, Jon Moss, what Mr Wenger had said and he subsequently dismissed Mr Wenger from the technical area.

I can’t explain how marvellous this is. ‘You are dishonest to your federation’ is now right up the top of my insult list. I’m going to use it for everything and it works in so many circumstances.

Scenario 1 – Man returns to car to see a parking ticket being issued

Man: Oh mate, come on. I’m just a minute over.

Parking attendant, ex referee-Anthony Taylor: The rules are the rules, I’m afraid.

Man: I was helping my elderly mother back home after a brutal colonoscopy this morning. Have a heart.

Parking attendant, ex referee-Anthony Taylor: No. You’re getting a ticket and that’s it.

Man: You’re dishonest to your federation.

Parking attendant, ex referee-Anthony Taylor: *takes out phone, dials number* – Get me Jon Moss immediately.

Voice on phone: There is no Jon Moss here, you bad, bad grass. He’s still a ref. I mean, who knows how, but he is.

Parking attendant, ex referee-Anthony Taylor: *Hangs up*. Dammit, well, you’re still getting a ticket.

Man: F*ck off. Twice.

Scenario 2 – Captain James T Kirk does it again

Kirk: I think we’re in big trouble, Spock.

Spock: You think so?! The Prime Directive states prohibits Starfleet personnel from interfering with the internal development of alien civilizations.

Kirk: I know, I know!

Spock: Jim, you’ve impregnated half the planet. Look at these mini-Kirks running around with their jaunty bellies, staccato speech and vestigial tails. They’re monsters.

Kirk: Look, what was I supposed to do?

Spock: How about not riding all the alien women, you dirty old goat?

Kirk: Spock … *makes the ‘you know me’ face*

Spock: I know …

Alien official, Anthony Taylor: You idiots have ruined our civilisation with your foul interbreeding.

Kirk: Ah get a grip, these things could grow up to be … ahh, you probably have a point. They’re disgusting little bastards.

Alien official, Anthony Taylor: You’re dishonest to your federation.

Kirk: F*ck off!

Spock: Yeah, f*ck off you snitch! Tell yer da why don’t you?

Kirk: *Whispers* – You know we could just nuke the place from space and sell them the old ‘There was a big volcano’ story again.

Spock: Seems logical, captain.

Kirk: Can I keep one though?

Spock: NO!

Scenario 3 – Woman goes into buy coffee

Woman: Large cappuccino, please.

Barista, ex referee-Anthony Taylor: That’ll be £2.50 please.

Woman: Here you go.

Barista, ex referee-Anthony Taylor: Would you like sugar?

Woman: Yes please.

Barista, ex referee-Anthony Taylor: *forgets sugar*

Woman: You sir, are dishonest to your federation.

Barista, ex referee-Anthony Taylor: It was an honest mistake. Life is so hard now that I’m not a full-time PGMOL employee and occasional squealer. Please, have a heart.

Woman: You know what’s coming.

Barista, ex referee-Anthony Taylor: Please don’t.

Woman: F*ck off.

Barista, ex referee-Anthony Taylor: Stop!

Woman: *pauses for the longest time*

Barista, ex referee-Anthony Taylor: Just get it over with, for the love of god.

Woman: F*CK OFF!

Barista, ex referee-Anthony Taylor: *weeps at a life lost*

So, as you can see, it’s a masterful put-down and one which should now be used the world over by everyone in any circumstances they see fit. Today, I have to take my car to get its NCT. I brought it to the garage this week to get it checked out first and there were some problems with the gearbox and a few other things that needed doing. This cost me the guts of €450 🙁

So, if they fail my car today, after spending all that money and having it made NCT ready, I will most assuredly say to the chap ‘You are dishonest to your federation’. The Federation of Car Mechanics who are tasked with making people come back for a re-test just so they can squeeze another few quid out of you. I hate that federation so much.

Still, at least I’m well-armed with a pithy response when he says ‘Yeah, you just need a new engine and chassis and wheels and windows and carburettor and exhaust pipe and brakes and dashboard and mirrors and seats and then it’ll pass’.

Right, that’s just about that for this morning. If you haven’t yet had a listen to this week’s Arsecast Extra James and I discuss the mighty win over Sutton, Lucas Perez and his resting bitch face, Alexis Sanchez and his sinister powers, the unseemly magic of the cup, and lots more. Listen below, more from me tomorrow.

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Arsecast Extra Episode 162 – 21.02.2017

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Arsecast Extra Episode 162 - 21.02.2017

Welcome to another Arsecast Extra, the Arsenal podcast, with myself and James from @Gunnerblog.

On this week’s show we discuss the storming 2-0 win over Sutton United in the FA Cup, the so-called magic of the cup itself and how Arsenal, at least, managed to provide some with a great gesture. It’s 100 goals for Theo Walcott, Lucas Perez keeps banging on Arsene Wenger’s door, dodgy refereeing, and we answer questions about the current situation involving the manager, Rob Holding’s impressive display, a boardroom role for Edu, the sinister powers of Alexis Sanchez and lots more.

Remember, you can send us questions via which we’ll try and get to each week. Send them to either @arseblog or @Gunnerblog (or both) using the hashtag #arsecastextra. Best to send them Monday morning so they get noticed more easily.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast Extra on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes).

You can listen without leaving this page by using the player below, download the Acast app for iOS or Android, or download the MP3 directly using the link below.

Also, if you’re a fan of the show, please leave us a rating/review on iTunes, it’d be greatly appreciated.

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This Arsecast Extra was recorded with ipDTL

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Sutton United 0-2 Arsenal: We won

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Arsenal experienced glorious victory once again as the mighty Sutton United were put to the sword by the brave, lionhearted underdogs in red and white. Goals from Lucas Perez and Theodore P Walcott were enough to put us through to the quarter-finals where our plucky chaps will have to take on yet another footballing behemoth in the shape of Lincoln City.

In seriousness, it was a more difficult night that people had expected. Sutton were most certainly up for the cup, and we arrived to play on the plastic pitch in poor form and with confidence and belief fairly low, it’s true to say. I thought we struggled with the surface for most of the night, I’m assuming that’s what caused so many heavy, clumsy touches, but players were not on the same wavelength either. Passes went astray far more than they should have.

It was intense, but not much of a game. More a fixture to endure that enjoy, but not long before the half-hour mark we were ahead. Granit Xhaka sent Lucas Perez down the right, he cut inside and put in a low cross which Walcott tried to get on the end of. He missed but his effort was enough to distract the goalkeeper for the ball to continue it’s merry way into the far corner of the net.

It was the Spaniard’s 7th goal of the season from just 9 starts, and can we just play him a bit more now, please? Stories emerged yesterday that he is unhappy at the club, and you couldn’t blame him if he was, even if his agent denied telling an Italian website the 28 year old wanted to leave at all costs.

David Ospina decided he wasn’t involved enough so passed the ball straight to a Sutton player late in the first half, luckily the lad shot wide. The Colombian made fantastic saves in Munich last week, but was Señor Mucho-Flappo last night, remaining unconvincing on crosses and corners throughout.

Early in the second half we doubled the lead, Theo Walcott getting his 100th Arsenal goal when a Nacho Monreal cross fell for him in the area. He finished with his left foot, and that was that in terms of the goalscoring for the night.

Sutton had a go in fairness to them, and former Arsenal youth player Roarie Deacon was the shining star for the home side. He was involved in almost everything good they did, and almost got one back when a stinging drive smashed back off the crossbar with Ospina beaten all ends up, and then all ends the other way around, and then all ends back the other way again.

Then one of their lads tried to headbutt Oxlade-Chamberlain as he raced past him, the most Sunday League thing I have ever seen at this level of the game, and fair play it was pretty hilarious:

We put on Alexis for a run-around, but we never really looked like scoring any more goals. I think the keeper made a save from Ox at one point, and that was pretty much that. Not terribly exciting, perhaps not as high scoring as people might have thought, but afterwards Arsene Wenger admitted he was a bit surprised at how good Sutton were:

Yes, they were. It’s basically division five and when I arrived here 20 years ago, in division five they were not as fit as they are today. They didn’t drop physically at all. You could expect that they would drop more physically but they remained absolutely focused and organised and had a huge desire in their game. If we were not mentally prepared we would not have gone through today.

And look, fair play to them for that, and you could see it was a night that meant a lot to the football club. Arsenal apparently donated £50,000 to them post-game to a) help clean up the dressing rooms and b) for them to invest in community projects, so fair play for doing our bit in that regard. It wasn’t a requirement, it was a great gesture from us.

The old ‘magic of the cup’ bluster was hard to stomach at times though. How everyone laughed at the big keeper fella eating a pie on the sidelines until it was pointed out that some betting firm had put odds on it. Was he sticking it to the gambling man, or were there some crafty fivers put down on that happening?

Also, while I think we all love committed football, if something is a foul it’s a foul, regardless of how one team is lower in stature than the other, or hosting a once in a lifetime cup tie. When Alexis Sanchez was pushed over, it was a yellow card, not an excuse for the commentators to laugh or for the referee to let him away with it when he’d booked Arsenal players for less.

As for this challenge on Alex Iwobi:

I think it was Graeme le Saux on co-commentary who said it was a ‘proper tackle’ but also that ‘You wouldn’t get away with that in the Premier League’. You shouldn’t get get away with it at this level either. It was a potential leg-breaker, not a ‘proper tackle’, and it was a Premier League referee in charge of the game who should have done better there, because at the very, very least it was a booking. Not a clip to chuckle over at half-time as ‘soft Arsenal’ get kicked again.

So, while I hope Sutton had a nice night, I’m not buying into all the coverage. We beat a team who tried hard but who were sponsored by The Sun, and there isn’t a thing on earth that would make me onside with anyone who is sponsored by them. I understand why they did it, and hopefully the money will come in handy, but you know, it’s The Sun, and the only thing you can say about The Sun is that it should be sent in a rocket and incinerated on the sun itself.

So, that’s that for football for a little while. Because we were supposed to play Southampton in the Premier League this weekend the game is postponed because they’re in the EFL Cup final. Our next match is March 4th, away at Anfield, a massive game for both sides, and after that it’s Bayern Munich. At least we should be nice and fresh for that.

Right, James and I will be here later with an Arsecast Extra. If you have any questions, please send to both @gunnerblog and @arseblog with the hashtag #arsecastextra. We should have that for you before lunchtime.

Until then.

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Sutton United v Arsenal – live blog

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Arsenal live blog

Join us this evening for live blog coverage of the FA Cup 5th round clash with Sutton United, kick off at 19.55

Live blog is 100% free to follow on your computer or mobile device and gives you real time text commentary from the match. You can switch between the main theme and the mobile theme at the bottom of the page.

There’s also a Twitter account @arseblog_live which will provide important updates like goals, cards, substitutions, half-time and full time scores. If you follow that and enable SMS notifications via Twitter, you can get those updates sent directly to your phone*.

CLICK TO LAUNCH Sutton United v Arsenal – LIVE BLOG

If you want to take part in live blog chat, you need to register an Arseblog account here and sign up. Once logged in you’ll see an option to upgrade to a season ticket premium account. 12 months access costs £10 – which works out at a whopping 0.83p per month! You can register as a new user or sign in and upgrade via your Twitter account.

The subscription allows us to provide a decent place for Arsenal fans to chat during the games, without the craziness you find elsewhere. There’s already a nice community building so come on in! The season ticket will also give you upgraded access to the arses where you can choose your own arseprint.

Register with the Arseblog Portal here and upgrade to take part in live blog chat.

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Life’s a pitch as we prepare to take on Sutton United

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Good morning, welcome to a brand new week and we actually have some football this evening. It’s the FA Cup 5th round against Sutton United, and truly nothing epitomises the magic of the cup by a 7.55pm kick off on a Monday evening against a team sponsored by the betting arm of The Sun.

Arsenal are, of course, looking to bounce back from what was a dismal defeat last week, and one which reverberated through the following days. You can talk and analyse and rationalise all you like, but it’s only when you start winning games again that you can begin to put things behind you.

Tonight’s team is going to be interesting. Do we shake things up and give a chance to players who are fresh and hungry for an opportunity, or give the under-performers another chance to make amends? I’d be much happier to see the former than the latter, to be quite honest. I know there’s a need to keep things balanced, and to put out as strong a team as possible, but it really does feel as if an injection of something different is required.

Ideally, Danny Welbeck would be one of those players, but because of Sutton United’s artificial pitch and his recent return from a serious knee injury, he won’t be taking part. Instead, he played for the U23s v Leicester yesterday, and revealed concerns over the pitch were the reason for that.

Will that influence the manger’s thinking about other players? Per Mertesacker, for example, is in a similar situation to Welbeck, yet to play this season, and under normal circumstances might have seen this game as a way of getting his first run-out. Maybe it’s a different kind of injury, I’m not sure, so would his knee be risked? Either way, it seems as if the surface is something that is causing a little bit of worry in the build-up to this one.

Arsene Wenger says:

We will practise inside because it is an artificial pitch. It is not the same because it is a dry pitch [at our training ground] and Sutton I have heard have a wet pitch which they water before the game and is quicker.

It is a bit ‘stop’. The weight on the joints is different and you cannot slide to block every time so it makes football a bit different. The ball comes to you suddenly and accelerates and does not slow down like in a normal game, so we have to get used to the different speed.

Ultimately though, while it’s definitely different, it shouldn’t be real issue for us. I’m sure many of you have played on a pitch like this and they’re really very good – far preferable to going to a lower league team whose pitch is a muddy mess with lumps and divots out of it, so I really don’t believe it will be any real hindrance. Maybe you have to stay on your feet a bit more, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing either *cough Mustafi cough*.

Like any cup tie against a team of this stature, the danger lies in underestimating them. They have nothing to lose, they’re huge underdogs and there’ll be an energy and enthusiasm to their performance that we’ll have to deal with. A small ground with a raucous crowd making lots of noise, it’s all set up for them to just have a go and see what happens.

Anything other than an Arsenal win, however, would be pretty catastrophic. The FA Cup does provide the chance of a trophy this season, and when you consider the winners of tonight’s game will host another non-league side, Lincoln City, in the quarter-finals, it’s an opportunity we really have to make the most of.

Still, you never know what you’re going to get from this Arsenal team, so who knows what might happen. On paper we’re clear favourites, but the game is not played on paper, it’s played on grass a 3G artificial surface. Let’s hope that we’re up for the cup.

As ever we will have a live blog for you later on, you can follow the game with live text commentary if you’re stuck in work or don’t have TV coverage. We’ll also have all the post-game stuff on Arseblog News afterwards, so join us for that.

James and I will be here with an Arsecast Extra tomorrow, so hang tight until then for the podcast. In the meantime, have a good Monday.

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Orange you glad I wrote this blog?

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Ahhhhh Sunday. I wonder how many Sundays I’ve had in my life. I’m not a mathematician but I’m 45 1/2 and there’s probably a way of working out just how many Sundays I have experienced.

I suppose you would divide years into weeks and weeks into sevens and then go from there. I can’t be dealing with that kind of thing though. I’m sitting here this morning in a kitchen where there was, last night, a full bottle of gin now there is not. There is the bottle but all the gin in it is gone.

Does that mean it’s still a gin bottle or just a bottle? Does taking the essence of the insides of the bottle render its previous existence redundant? I wish I knew the answer. I am not a bottle doctor or a bottletician or bottlologist, so if you’re looking for the clarity regarding a rigid container with a neck that is usually narrower than the body of said object, you have come to the wrong place.

The only thing I can say with any certainty in this crazy, topsy-turvy world we live in is that when you’re having gin with tonic, you need a slice of orange. Lemon, oh please. Lime, all right, but that’s a bit like thinking you’re sophisticated by putting a sprig of some herb or other on a bowl of soup as you serve it. Everyone does it, and it’s just not necessary.

Don’t get me wrong. I like limes. They serve their purpose in many ways but being in a gin and tonic really isn’t one of them. They have fooled you into thinking it’s de rigueur but it’s really not. A lot of it is that they don’t want the hassle of providing orange and frankly I think it’s time we made a stand against this tyranny.

Just before Christmas I was in an upmarket hotel with the Mugsmasher. That’s not where we usually hang out, by the way. We’re definitely more downmarket in general but from time to time it’s fun to go somewhere where the toilets don’t stink like goats that have been dead for a week.

“Two gin and tonics,” I said to the barkeep. “With a slice of orange please.”

“Of course, sir,” he replied. “But I’m afraid I don’t have any orange. Will lime do?”

“No, no it will no DO,” I said. “What kind of establishment is this? If a guest asks for something to lay their head upon, do you say ‘I’m sorry, we don’t have any pillows. Would you prefer a concrete block instead?'”

“Calm down sir,” he said, “You’re not making any sense.”

“Well,” I retorted, “neither is your face. Good day to you.”

So, in conclusion, make sure you try gin and tonic with a slice of orange. You’ll never look back and I will accept thanks in the form of cold hard cash, vouchers, or mechanical devices that I would like but can’t bring myself to actually pay for. Like those cool Dyson hoovers which you hang on a wall but when you see them in the shops you’re like, ‘Woah, I didn’t win Euro Millions so I can’t afford that!’.

There is also a bottle of Woodford Reserve which is half-empty. I think that means the essence of the bottle is intact but beyond that I can’t really say. I heard that the town of Woodford itself has a pump on the village green which dispenses bourbon, and everyone who lives there is in a really good mood all the time once it’s after midday but before that they might be a bit crotchety.

You can understand why. And I would really like to live there, even if I have just made the whole place up.

Have a great Sunday,

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As you can imagine, it’s about Arsene Wenger and so on

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Good morning to you, happy Saturday. Let’s have a quick round up of all the non-Arsene Wenger related stuff that’s going on.

Well, there we go. I hope that was informative and enlightening. The manager and his future is still sharply in focus. At his press conference yesterday, which was called to talk about Monday’s FA Cup tie with Sutton, I’d estimate that 90% of the questions were about him, and there was almost nothing about the game itself.

Arsene Wenger: I don’t really want to say anything about the future.

Journalists: I’m afraid I must insist. You see, the fans, they have been most vocal on the subject of the future. “Where’s the future? “When are you going to get the future?” “Why aren’t you getting the future now?” And so on. So please, the future.

To be fair to him, he did answer lots and lots of questions about it, and you can read a full transcript of what he had to say right here. I suppose the one thing we have learned is that he’s not ready to stop being a football manager, and he made that quite clear:

No matter what happens I will manage next season. Is it here or somewhere else, that’s absolutely for sure.

Was it a message to critics, or just brutal honesty? If it comes across as somewhat defiant, then that’s really nothing you shouldn’t expect from him if you’ve watched him down the years. He then talked about his own responsibility when it comes to making the decision:

I did not work here for 20 years not to care about this club. I had many opportunities during my time here to go somewhere else. I care about this club. I care about its future. It is very important that the club is in safe hands. Is it me or is it somebody else?

Ultimately though, there was never going to be any clarity from yesterday’s press conference. He was not going to stand up, announce his departure, or anything else, so what happens now? Well, we chug along, play football matches, hopefully win many of those football matches, and hopefully in the background those who need to know first and foremost are informed as to what’s going to happen.

It’s such a weird situation. Arsene’s autonomy at the football club is almost unique. He is the football manager Atlas, holding up the world for eternity, and for some the fear is that without him everything will collapse. It won’t. Not everything anyway. As I’ve written extensively over the last few days, the task of replacing him is far from simple. It’s enormous in some respects, but it’s not impossible, and there will be always be Arsenal Football Club (as long as there’s also a world that hasn’t been blown up by uranium and that).

Anyway, it feels like those involved are very much in ‘gauge the mood’ mode. Let’s see how people feel if we go on a run of form, do well in the cup etc. That’s what we’ve got to aim for, but there are big, difficult games ahead. That second leg v Bayern which demands a response, at the very least, to what happened in Munich. Sp*rs and Liverpool away from home, Manchesters City and United at home, and who knows what the FA Cup might throw up.

Whatever message he’s trying to get through to his players, it has to start working, because more defeats against big teams will only increase the clamour for change. If if were me, I’d be inclined to shake things up as much as possible. Let’s get Danny Welbeck, Lucas Perez, Mohamed Elneny in the team. Ok, it’s not quite like calling Ghostbusters, but these are guys who, at the very least, haven’t let us down at key moments this season. A reminder to some players that they’re not untouchable wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

I’d expect significant changes for the FA Cup game on Monday, and even taking into account the stature of the opposition, maybe reward the ones who do well by letting them keep their place – as should have happened after the 4th round against Southampton. It’s the only real way we can change the dynamic at the moment, and at this point why wouldn’t we try and do that?

For some extra reading this morning, here’s the Arsenal Gent on the midweek comedy in the Champions League, and East Lower on the current goings on.

Finally, if you haven’t yet had a chance to listen to this week’s Arsecast check it out below. There’s obviously a lot of discussion about the manager but coming from four different guests, James from Gunnerblog, Miguel Delaney, Daniel Storey of F365 and the Man from East Lower.

Check it out below, the episode is almost at number 1 in iTunes this week, so all reviews/ratings there very much appreciated.

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Right, that’s that for this morning, hope you enjoy the podcast, more from me tomorrow.

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Arsenal Gentleman’s Weekly Review

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Arsenal Gentleman's Weekly Review

There are three prevalent myths about football teams and their followers that can quite easily be dispelled by simple methodical investigation.

Firstly, that there are no inhabitants of Merseyside with a realistic sense of their club’s failings and standing in world football. Oseyuke Emmanuel of Ghana is this fan. He confided in me this week that he understands that Liverpool have not been any good since the eighties and they are at best a top eight club with occasional bursts of form. All other Koppites believe they are the Real Madrid of the North West.

Secondly, that Tottenham are not trying to ape Arsenal with their new Middlesex stadium. The shortlist for names is as follows; St Totteringham’s Stadium; The He-Was-Actually-A-Boyhood-Arsenal-Fan-Harry-Redknapp’s-Car-Window Park; The George Graham Memorial Stadium; The SolDome; Jennings Lane & Lasagne Gate.

Thirdly, that Germans have no sense of humour.

Did you witness the ninety-minute comedy marathon from the Allianz Arena this Wednesday last? It was quite the laughter endurance test. Before the interval, giggles were less forthcoming. Arjen Robben, genital herpes made flesh, opened the scoring. So far, so Arsenal – big laughs all round the theatre as Frank Cockleton did his very best Charlie Chaplin impersonation, pretending to be the only person in the world who didn’t know that Robben was left-footed. Guffaw!

We got marginally less funny as the first act progressed, and even levelled with a penalty, converted by our very own Music Hall song and dance man, Whizzbang Saunders. During the interval, it seemed possible that things might not even be that funny in the second act. How wrong we were, and how hilarious it turned out to be!

Comedy Director Alan Windsor decided that street mime Dai Ramsden deserved his place in goal ahead of Harry the Helmet. And his quest for maximum laughs paid off in the end with the little Welsh Glove Butler picking the ball out of his net five times! Wah-wah-waaaaah.

Larry ‘Laughter’ Costerley, always eager to go for broad laughs with the penalty-winning pratfall or kick to the arse in the penalty area was on the right place at the right time. Or the right place at the wrong time. Or the wrong place at the right time. Or the wrong place at the wrong time. It was hard to tell. Anyway, Whizzbang put the ball on the spot, asked Herr Neuer what was invisible and smelled of carrots. He took the run up, shouted “RABBIT FARTS” at the top of his voice, missed the penalty, missed the second attempt and then finally put the ball in. A sequence worthy of the Three Stooges! Things are always funnier in threes, comedy fans.

Bayern then decided it was time to get the buckets of custard out. Herr Lahm set his shorts on fire and burst down the right screaming “EIN EIMER WASSER! EIN EIMER WASSER!” (Literally “A bucket of water! A bucket of water!”) Whilst grabbing his buttocks. He sent the cross over, where Herr Lewandowski performed a textbook wedgie on our centre-half and popped the ball in for 2-1.

Arsenal were in full Keystone Cops mode now, and I even recall the following thirty minutes in grainy, hand-cranked black and white with a piano accompaniment. Herr Alcantara honked a comedy horn for 3-1 and signalled for the Bayern drummer, high up in the stands, as he made it 4-1 to the sound of a classic ‘rimshot’. We switched to the farcical antics of Mr. Benny Hill chasing a buxom Thomas Muller, who escaped the clutches of OUR ENTIRE DEFENCE to make it 5-1. It brought the house down.

Those who saw Mr. William Hicks perform his stand-up will say that they had never seen anything like it. Followers of Mr. George Carlin will argue that this was comedy at its best. Those who were there will never forget the night of comedy genius. Mr. Bruce at Carnegie Hall in 1961. Steven Wright. Mr. Williams at the Met in 1986. Mr. Edward Murphy in 1983.

But none of these can compare to the solid ninety minutes of non-stop comedy from Mr. Windsor’s North London Funny Men.

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Focus remains on Arsene Wenger and his future + Arsecast 417

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Man, yesterday seemed like a very long day. I’ve been doing this blog for coming up on 15 years now, and I don’t remember a single day ever having quite so much weight. There was only one thing to talk about and write about of course, and that carries on this morning, into the Arsecast and will likely reverberate throughout the day.

Having had his post-Bayern press conference cut short by the club’s communications director on Wednesday night, Arsene Wenger will be back in front of the assembled press corps this morning, ostensibly to talk about Monday evening’s FA Cup 5th round tie with Sutton United.

My guess, however, is that there won’t be as much focus on that as there will be his future and what his intentions are come the summer. I would also be hugely surprised if he provided any insight to that at this point. What happened on Wednesday is still very raw, and even if he was thinking of calling time this summer, I don’t really see him announcing it in this fashion. He has hinted at a decision as early as March, but whatever happens and whenever it happens will be down to him, on his own terms, not because the lad from Sky has asked about him about at a presser.

He can’t not be thinking about it though and nobody should be under any illusions that it’s a simple thing for him or the football club. I wrote a bit for ESPN about it here, touching on the club issues that need to be addressed, and I think Amy Lawrence put it perfectly in her excellent piece for the Guardian about what Arsene himself has to consider:

Do not underestimate how scary a proposition it is for him to wake up in the morning and not be a football manager. The game, in particular Arsenal, has been his obsession for so long and he is not a man who welcomes relaxing or has other hobbies to enjoy.

I’ve seen people suggest the only reason he stays in the job is money, and while his salary – commensurate with other top managers at other top clubs, by the way – is very nice, if you think he’s a man motivated by money, you have a deep misunderstanding of him.

He’s like an old wizard, working harder and longer than ever to recreate the magic formula of his younger years. He almost gets there, so tantalisingly close, but when it comes to executing the spell, there’s something not quite right. Something missing. It’s trying to find that again which drives him, because he is, at the end of the day, a man obsessed with football, with Arsenal, with winning games, and more and more he appears beaten down by his inability to get his teams to take that final step between very good and champions.

As he told Roger Bennett from Men in Blazers on the 20th anniversary of his appointment:

Look in my heart here [taps chest]. Every defeat is a big scar in my heart here. We are all people. We love to win. We hate to lose. Most of the time the guys who love to win are strikers and the guys who hate to lose are defenders. I think a manager is a guy who loves to win, but as well, above all, hates to lose.

As I said yesterday though, there comes a time when it’s clear the message is not getting through, and for many of those players who owe him so, so much, there’s a need for some introspection on their part too. They’re not without blame themselves, but when it comes to the crunch, the players survive through sheer force of numbers, and it’s the man at the top who departs.

All in all, it’s going to be a very interesting period for this football club. Hopefully, what has happened this week isn’t too damaging, because there’s still a good chunk of this season left. The aim has to be to go as far as possible in the FA Cup and finish as high as possible in the league. It doesn’t change what should happen this summer, but nobody can down tools just yet.

Meanwhile, some vaguely worrying quotes from Mesut Ozil’s agent about how the player feels he’s been made a scapegoat for the team’s recent poor form. Speaking to the BBC he said:

Criticism is normal if a player plays badly. But Mesut feels people are not focusing on his performance; they are using him as a scapegoat for the team after bad results.

Football is a team sport and Arsenal are not performing well as a team. Eleven players were on the pitch but Mesut was singled out for criticism. Was he the reason that Arsenal conceded five goals?

I don’t think that’s too unfair really, and I think there’s been too much focus on Ozil during a period when almost nobody has played well and there have been others who have performed worse. Of course he’s the only one who cost £42.5m and his body language at the best of times tends to irk certain people who would prefer him to ‘run around a bit’.

But with that price tag comes expectation, and such is his quality you want to see him do more. I wonder if there’s something more to his poor spell, his loss of confidence seems so profound, and while criticism is normal, perhaps there’s just something up with Mesut Ozil the human as well as Mesut Ozil the footballer.

Hopefully his agent, when he talks about scapegoating, is referring to the media more than anything else, because if he’s including the fans or perhaps leaky-mouthed teammates, this could well be seen as a way of easing open the door ahead of an exit. Fun times.

Right then, time now for this week’s Arsecast and given the week that’s in it, there was really only one topic of discussion: the Bayern result and what it means for Arsene Wenger. To get some differing perspectives on it, I’m joined by James from Gunnerblog, Daniel Storey from Football 365, chief football writer for the Independent Miguel Delaney, and the Man from East Lower. We talk about the manager, his future, the structures of the football club, the board, and pretty much every aspect of the situation.

I also chat with Kurtis Powers from Arsenal NYC about a cool event involving Liam Brady, and as you might expect there’s not a lot of the usual waffle under the circumstances.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download the Arsecast directly, use the links below the player.

If you are a regular listener via iTunes, if you would be so kind as to leave a review/rating that would be greatly appreciated.

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All the news from the manager’s press conference can be found over on Arseblog News this morning and throughout the day.

Enjoy the podcast, catch you tomorrow.

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Mes-anine

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Tim Stillman column Arseblog

There are few folk heroes more celebrated in football history than the will o’ the wisp number 10. We are familiar with the well-worn stereotype by now. Socks rolled down, shorts pristinely clean well into the final stages of a game, fans and managers alike tolerate their unwillingness to muck in and track back in exchange for that one waft of the boot that unlocks the opposition defence. From Ronaldinho to Riquelme; we have all revered, adored and cursed the free-wheeling playmaker.

We appear to have entered an era of ultra-tactical sophistication. Few top clubs in Europe operate with this kind of maverick, free to roam the corridors of the pitch in pursuit of that one snatch of space that will allow them to produce momentary, yet significant magic. This process probably started when the ‘Guardiolasation’ of football made a midfield trio necessary, all but killing off the pure penalty box striker. Centre forwards have had their job descriptions broadened in the last decade and slowly this is happening to the game’s enganches too.

In 2017, Mesut Özil is one of the few ‘pure’ number 10s left in Europe. For all of his undoubted talent, the Gunners do pay something of a tariff by playing the German in a totally free role. His interpretation of space and end product make it a profitable trade-off for Arsene Wenger, but for games away from home at title rivals, the levy is a little higher. Özil does not really contribute defensively, which leaves Arsenal’s midfield duo short-handed against the majority of teams that adopt midfield triangles.

In the second half at Manchester City in December, Guardiola’s side strangled the Gunners with a high octane pressing game that neutered Mesut’s influence in an attacking sense and his lack of defensive output placed an extra burden on an already overworked midfield. A clip of him ambling through the midfield went viral on twitter in the immediate aftermath of the match. The criticism that emanated from that video was harsh. It was obvious to any observer of the entire 90 minutes that Wenger had instructed his team to deliberately sit off of City.

But it does rather highlight the issue that Özil’s presence can create against opponents of this ilk when Arsenal might not expect their usual lion’s share of possession. So the question is whether the German’s rather feeble showings against Everton, City and Chelsea demonstrate why he is something of a relic as a ‘pure number 10.’ It is becoming a noggin scratcher for Arsene Wenger, with many potential up and down sides. The team would probably best be set up in more of a 4-3-3 shape with a tight, interwoven network of central midfielders.

Indeed, we saw such a unit in operation at Southampton with the triple double barrelled midfield. Chamberlain and Rene Adelaide swapped the number 8 role at will, their mobility and energy meaning they could share attacking and defensive responsibilities. The Gunners struggled against Paris Saint Germain’s flying V of central midfielders during both Champions League encounters, as the Parisian trio stayed close together and progressed the ball upfield in a tight weave.

In a nutshell, Özil’s greatest strength is his ability to find space because he often runs away from play, but that in turn leaves holes for opponents. Most managers won’t tolerate the tactical looseness a roaming number 10 will give them, but most managers don’t have a number 10 as good as Mesut Özil at their disposal. There is a neat narrative at play too. Who else but Arsene Wenger, elite management’s last surviving aesthete, would be prepared to resist pragmatic convention and allow a player like Mesut license to glide?

Can Arsenal afford to make that downpayment in big away games? Yet if they want to win, can Wenger afford to push one of his most effective players out onto the flank, where he is likely to be less effective? There is a political element to this chin scratcher too. Playing in a free role means a lot to Özil. His ‘people’ made a big song and dance of Wenger’s apparent promise to grant him that freedom indefinitely during the summer of 2015, following a season in which Mesut had occasionally been moved to the flank in a 4-3-3.

In a recent interview with Kicker magazine, the German caused a slight frisson by implying that his Gunners future is tied to Wenger’s. There is a relentless obsession with the tedious ‘Wenger debate’ which frames Arsenal discourse indefinitely so the interview was discussed within that context. But it was the latter part of Özil’s interview that was most revealing. “I enjoy being at the club especially because Wenger trusts me a lot and allows me to play with a good amount of freedom on the pitch.”

That’s the Kicker, as it were. Arsene is trying to convince his record signing to pen a new deal and playing in a free role is a huge consideration for the player. To move him out to the flank to create an extra body in midfield would amount to a slight loss of trust. Wenger is a guy that tends to back the players he likes, so I would be very surprised if he did not ultimately play his number 11 in his usual role on an ongoing basis. But moving him to the left or the right of the front 3 might provide the team with interesting attacking solutions.

Particularly if Wenger persists with Alexis as a false 9, which naturally creates a lot of fluidity in the Gunners’ attack. Özil made a lot of goalscoring hay earlier in the season, by darting into the positions that Alexis vacates. Potentially, the two could still play quite close together and the German could still capitalise on this space, albeit from a wider vantage point. Were Aaron Ramsey to form part of a slightly tighter midfield trio, he too could finally carve out his Arsenal niche, freer to burst forward without abandoning a solitary midfield partner.

That said, Mesut’s defensive deficit would not be removed by moving him into a wider role, the extra workload currently felt by the central midfield, would just transfer to one of the full-backs. Antonio Conte’s adoption of wing backs expertly removed defensive responsibility away from Eden Hazard. The Belgian has an entirely free role, he lingers on the precipice of the play when the Blues are defending, but has license to pick the ball up close to the halfway line and run with it.

Özil does something a little similar late on in games that the Gunners are winning. He tends to drift to a slightly wider position and wait for the ball to break. Like I said, he gravitates to where the space is. Obviously Mesut is not the dribbler that Hazard is, so the two solutions are not entirely analogous. What is clear is that Conte has struck a balance with his greatest playmaker that Wenger is still searching for. Indeed, he is still searching for it with a few players. Pochettino has found a way of accommodating Delle Alli and Christian Eriksen into his well-coached system, but neither quite have the off ball liberty that Özil has.

Arsene has yet to find a universally suitable system for his players and consequently, individuals can suffer- especially when their form and confidence is low, as Mesut’s appears to be at the moment. We have entered the era of the ‘super coach’ at the elite level in Europe. Minute details are micro managed and the system is king. As such, the number 10 with the pure free role is going the same way as the penalty box striker and the dodo. Football is transient and that may not be the case in perpetuity, but it is difficult not to conclude that Mesut Özil may be the last of a dying breed.

Follow me on Twitter @Stillberto 

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