Match Preview: Arsenal vs Manchester City

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Ok so we kick off our formidable fixtures list with a home game against City. Last time around at the Etihad in a 1-1 draw we were treated to a game of 2 halves, in which both teams stamped their authority on the match at different times. Let’s not sugar coat this, it will be a tough match for Arsenal to win and here’s hoping our tremendous record against City at home, continues to ring true.

This is however possibly the best time we could have to play City since they have many of their players out, both with injury and suspensions and also the African Cup. City will have to make do without Nasri, Kolo Toure, Aguero, Yaya Toure and Maicon. Unfortunately this does leave their defense pretty much intact but takes away from their physicality in midfield and creativity and finishing quality in attack. Arsenal meanwhile will have to make do with Gervinho which will be a terrible loss I’m sure and unfortunately maybe also Giroud who has a nasty cut over his knee thanks to a Swansea player stamping on him. Last time around it was very much a game of who could counter-attack better and somewhat amusingly, both goals were scored against the run of play. This time without the presence of Yaya Toure in midfield and the threat of Nasri on the wing, I would expect Arsenal to be able to assert some form of dominance over the middle and force City to play on the counter, rather than their usual tactic of short passing and possession in their opposition’s own half.

The defensive pairing for this match will be a big decision for Arsene Wenger and could play a crucial part in this match. On one hand we can play Mertesacker for his organisational abilities at the back, governing the offside trap and starting each attacking play, or we could bring in Koscielny since City possess players with good dribbling skills who could turn the slow German inside out, much like Aguero did to him last time. Given that City have scored over a quarter of their goals this season from set pieces, I would choose a partnership of Koscielny and Vermaelen, both for being able to stop tricky dribblers and because for some reason, both of these shorter players are better in the air than Mertesacker. I also think aside from the set pieces, one of the biggest threats we will face in this match will be Tevez’s movement and spontaneous shooting, so two players who are able to get tight to their markers and prevent shots on the turn will be ideal.

Attacking-wise, last time Wenger chose to use a striker with pace in behind their defensive line and deployed Ramsey at right wing to drift inwards and gain a man advantage in the midfield battle. I don’t expect this to change, though I feel Ramsey might be on the left wing this time, with Podolski coming off the bench in the second half, hopefully in the same explosive form as he was against Swansea City. With Giroud in doubt for this match, I expect Wenger to use Walcott as our striker and it remains to be seen if he’s physically tough enough to deal with the attentions of Nastasic and Kompany. I would expect Arsenal to attack mostly through the middle with Oxlade Chamberlain cutting in on the right at times to mix things up. I almost hope I’m wrong though as I’d like to see Podolski start this match, partnering with Gibbs and Ramsey on the right wing, with Oxlade held in reserve to use his pace and trickery to our advantage late in the match. The midfield trio is the key to success in this match, Arteta and Wilshere will surely have their hands full with Silva drifting in off his wing, looking to exploit any space and two volatile forwards like Balotelli and Tevez moving in and around our lines. Yet Cazorla can do the same at the other end of the pitch and unless City commit a Center Back to his movements, the City midfield may have a busy day as Cazorla is at his best, moving around and finding space even out on the wings and there’s no way he’ll just stay central in a match like this.

So overall, we have a good chance at this one, the real game changer in question is whether Mancini starts in a 4-5-1 as expected or his much-experimented 3-4-1-2, as this would change the entire dynamic of the game, for better or worse. It’s unlikely though and in the expected system this game would look to be a real arm wrestle in the center with neither having great options on the wing. Gibbs could be a deciding factor with his pacy bursts forward and Wenger’s decision on both his starting Center Half pairing and whether to start Podolski or hold him in reserve will dictate the tempo of the match, particularly in the first half. The other telling factor will be how well we deal with any set pieces they have, which also means not giving away fouls in dangerous areas of the pitch and defending corners properly.

Manchester City Dangermen: Well they’re all dangerous but the biggest threats will most likely be Tevez, Balotelli and Silva. And also Dzeko who I would expect to sub on in the second half and can be a real game changer.

Result Prediction: The similar pressures in midfield from the two teams, suggests a draw to me, I’d say 2-2 but hopefully we can nick a late win.

Predicted Lineup: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Chamberlain, Arteta, Wilshere, Ramsey, Cazorla, Walcott

Conclusion: Both teams will compete early for control of the middle, which could be quite a high tempo start. Expect only a few clear cut chances created by either side and a rather cagey affair until the first goal is scored with City playing on the counter and Arsenal breaking their teeth on City’s defensive line. Impact subs in the second half have the potential to blow the game wide open and make it a very exciting last 25 or so minutes. Who knows, maybe Giroud will be fit enough to sub in late and make an impact along with Podolski.

If you live near the Emirates, get down there and show the timid home support how to REALLY cheer on our team as it plays a major part to a team’s performance in a big match such as this. It will be a huge 3 points if we get them and considering the fixtures that await us, a real momentum boost. Come On You Gunners!

 

Match Preview: Bradford City vs Arsenal

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So a trip to Valley Parade to play league 2 Bradford City in the Capital One Cup Quarter Finals! With any luck the lads will be still be on a high after the great win against West Brom and we can move past this round with little difficulty. Mind you I’m sure that’s what Wigan Athletic were thinking last round and look what Bradford did to them, so it’s safe to say we should not take this match lightly. Arsene Wenger was quoted saying “we want to win in normal time” which is good to hear because I don’t think my heart can take another 7-5 win in extra time like in the last round of the Capital One Cup vs Reading.

Looking at how Bradford play and their recent track record they could prove a difficult obstacle to dislodge, they’ve won 10 out of their last 11 matches and progressed to this fixture by beating Wigan on penalties. Against Wigan they basically parked a big fat bus right on their goal box and Wigan simply didn’t have the means to unlock their defense and score. Against us this will be a much bigger risk. While it’s true that Arsenal have been having trouble scoring recently, most of that is due to teams pressing our midfield(particularly Arteta) and not allowing us to build up our nice flowing passing from the back. Bradford play in a 4-4-2 formation which I believe they will deploy rather narrowly against us in an attempt to stifle the midfield with the sheer amount of bodies. But if Bradford choose to play defensively and not even offer a decent counter-attacking threat trying to hold on for a draw and penalties, then i feel that Arsenal will rip them apart even if we play our second string squad players. The likes of Gervinho, Chamberlain, Jenkinson and Rosicky will too much for their defenders to deal with all match if they invite the pressure by playing defensively and by standing off and giving space to our midfielders, the chances will come. One issue we will have to contend with will be the quality of a league 2 football pitch, making passing more difficult but overall I expect us to score a few.

Looking at the players available it will be interesting to see who Wenger selects for this match. There will be the experienced players in the mix like Rosicky, Arshavin, Squillaci and with any luck, Koscielny but also I’m hoping a few of our promising youngsters like Gnabry, Eisfeld and Meade might all start this one. Coquelin is another player who may feature as well as Ramsey, we may even see a midfield of Coquelin, Ramsey and Rosicky starting this match, it just depends how much of a threat Wenger sees Bradford as. The last conundrum will be who starts at Center Forward. Despite some appalling  misses in the last match vs West Brom I think Gervinho should be the one up top, partly because I think he could do no worse than his efforts on the wing and partly because I believe Wenger has very little faith in Chamakh to start this one.

Overall I just hope he chooses a solid defense after that shocking 1-4 result at half time vs Reading last round. Bradford City have a very traditional-style pairing up front in James Hanson and Nahki Wells. Hanson is tall and strong in the air, while Wells is small, pacy and a decent striker from range, meaning long balls forward and the subsequent knockdowns are something that our defense must be wary of. I really hope Koscielny is fit enough to start this game as I feel he is the best player we have when it comes to aerial defense and interceptions. I’d also really rather see Szczesny in goal to Mannone as the memories of those weak save attempts vs Fulham come flooding back and the fact that Nahki Wells has scored 14 goals this season already, is cause for real concern.

Bradford City Dangermen: Nahki Wells, James Hanson and Nathan Doyle who is an ex-player from the Premier League at Hull City.

Result Prediction: Tough to call but I think we’ll manage a solid win. Wells can’t be underestimated so 4-1 Arsenal.

Predicted Lineup: 4-4-1-1 formation – Mannone, Jenkinson, Squillaci,Vermaelen, Meade, Chamberlain, Ramsey, Coquelin, Arshavin, Rosicky, Gervinho. Expect young prospects like Gnabry and Eisfeld on the bench.

Conclusion: This is a Quarter Final, Mickey Mouse Cup or not and Wenger will hopefully take it very seriously. If we field a decent strength squad we should break through their blockade eventually and win the match but be prepared for a frustrating game unless we score early, in which case all hell will break loose as Bradford chase the game.

Match Review: Arsenal 0 – 2 Swansea City

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After a slightly disappointing draw against Everton I was hoping for a better result against Swansea but in my mind I knew that given the level of fatigue on our players, we would have a hard time against an impressive Swansea side. That we kept them at bay till the 88th minute is a credit to our back 4 and goal keeper, more than a team performance. Arsenal enjoyed more possession, dominated the aerial duels and had a higher passing accuracy than Swansea, why then did Swansea create more chances and have more shots? The answer is actually pretty simple, the majority of our passing was lateral ie sideways. This wasn’t the fault of the midfield either. While it’s certain that both Arteta and Cazorla are suffering from being overplayed, they were still the best players on the pitch for us and Wilshere also did a good job in the pivot with Arteta. But our attackers were dismal. They were so lazy that our formation actually changed from our usual 4-4-1-1 system to a 4-3-3, that’s how far forwards the wingers Walcott and Podolski were playing. This was also the cause of the many thru balls in this match, our midfield had to play further forward in order to try and link up with the lazy front three, which in turn meant that Vermaelen played in a more advanced role to keep the link to the midfield and this created space in behind that Swansea exploited. Our wingers also offered very little in the way of defensive support for their fullbacks, Podolski had a paltry 22 touches all game while Walcott appeared to be more industrious with 44 touches. However to the trained eye Walcott’s performance had all the hallmarks of a player who doesn’t give a toss and it’s clear to me he will be leaving either in the transfer window or the end of the season. Heatmaps never lie and it shows that our usual wide playing winger, drifted inwards towards the Swansea defense. Why would he do this? Because he doesn’t want the ball. Drifting close to the defense appears as if you’re being industrious and wanting the ball when in actual fact you’re ensuring that your team mate sees that you’re heavily marked and therefore not an option. There was plenty of space for Walcott out wide, he just chose not to use it. As for Podolski I’m not too sure what his problem is. Gibbs is back in the side playing wide for him so that’s not the issue and leads me to speculate as to whether he’s carrying some sort of injury or if he’s just not fit enough for the Premier League. He’s starting to remind me a little of Chamakh, starting the season red hot and just petering out into invisibility. God help us if he visits the same Swedish hookers that destroyed Chamakh’s confidence…

Just look at these heatmaps

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Which leads me to Gervinho. I’ve never been a great fan of this guy, I think he has the decision making ability of a kamikaze pilot and the gentle touch of a rapist but on occasion he does do well. Sadly this was not one of those times. Gervinho is very different to Giroud in that he creates space for himself whereas Giroud creates space for the team. The difference is that Giroud’s movement can pull defenses apart like we saw against Tottenham. Gervinho however will only run into space to score goals and allow the oppositions defense to remain organised throughout the match. Swansea’s defense for the most part marked him tightly and prevented passes from Cazorla reaching him, resulting in only 27 touches of the ball but the Arsenal players still picked him out with a few crosses and his finishing efforts from these were simply not good enough. I’m not saying that each time a free cross is received from 8 yards he should score but he damn well should be getting his header on target and forcing a save. It just shows more and more that we really do need a secondary option for Giroud and if Chamakh once again can’t make the bench for this game then his time at Arsenal really is over and we need to look at realistic replacements. I see Gervinho as a cover for the right wing and nothing more, certainly not a viable replacement for Olivier Giroud and I can confidently say that if Giroud had been on the pitch we would’ve won the game.

On to the positives. Our back 4 did a good job of limiting Swansea’s chances although Vermaelen and Gibbs were on occasion caught out of position. Podolski bears some blame here for not dropping back and picking up the wide option, leaving Gibbs to do the job and isolating Vermaelen 2 on 1 with a player in front of him and a wide runner, which was perfectly illustrated during one very dangerous thru ball and shot in the first half that Szczesny dealt with expertly. Szczesny was excellent in this match, producing several fine saves and deservedly earning Man of the Match. Vermaelen’s advanced position was slight cause for worry with several dangerous thru balls nearly allowing Michu to score but thankfully he had the pace to make up for his lack of positioning. I will however still breathe easier when Koscielny is back in the starting lineup as he is far more solid. Jenkinson showed vast improvement from his efforts against Aston Villa, making far more attacking runs to the corner flag and whipping in several dangerous crosses, just as Gibbs does on the left wing. The other great positive to come out of this is the return to fitness of Rosicky which will hopefully mean much needed rest for Cazorla, to allow him to return to his best for us.

So basically a combination of fatigue for our key players in Cazorla, Arteta and Podolski prevented us from creating more chances to score as well as a very lack lustre front 3. Gervinho in particular is just not the type of player we required on the pitch to drop deeper and link up play, he tended to drift towards the left nearer the tired Cazorla, rather than the middle where Wilshere was. This is why we saw so little direct passing throughout the match. While I understand Giroud has a knock and needs rest his presence was sorely missed for this one. The late loss I contribute to Wenger refusing to lie down in this one and continuing to go for the win in the dying minutes, something that every manager knows is a dangerous premise since players are generally tired and more prone to mistakes at the end of a match, epitomised in the easy thru ball Michu latched onto to score the winner. I certainly hope the irony of the draw against Everton isn’t lost on those fans who cried out that the manager “didn’t know what he’s doing” when this time instead of a defensive substitution to protect the draw result, Wenger opted to bring on the offensive and not fully fit Tomas Rosicky instead and lost the game in the dying minutes. Suddenly that 1 point looks quite attractive when that happens.

So with Olympiacos next and group qualification assured I’d like to see a very young side start with the likes of Arshavin and Chamakh in there providing experience. Having seen Wenger’s named squad for the match I’m extremely pleased to see that Arteta, Cazorla, Wilshere, Podolski, Giroud and Mertesacker are all absent for this one. Wenger’s comment post-match about “There are many players who need a rest, because they are on the verge of getting injured. Some played with knocks today.” scares the hell out of me. To me it smacks of the hamstring injury that plagued Cesc Fabregas during his time with Arsenal that was caused by overplaying him. We need to avoid this at all costs, even if it means playing a weakened side and losing the occasional match. 1 or 2 poor results or a terrible season? Your choice..

Time to see what our young Gunners can do, hopefully they show some of the older players what it truly takes to earn the right to wear the red and white jersey, Come On You Young Gunners!

Match Preview: North London Derby!

Here we go again, our lily-white nemesis is coming to the Emirates to enjoy our hostilities for the duration of 90 minutes. The best thing about the long standing hatred between the two sides is that our home crowd support might actually make some noise for a change and incite our team into a great showing. This derby is somewhat marred by the sheer amount of players on both teams that are set to miss out on playing through injury. Arsenal have Gervinho, Rosicky, Diaby and importantly, Gibbs all out for this clash while Walcott, Giroud, Szczesny, Chamberlain, Arteta and Sagna all face late fitness tests and this could have a big impact on our performance. Arsene Wenger this week pronouncing Gibbs’ injury as “long term” fills me with dread and suggests we should start looking for a solid left back replacement since neither Vermaelen or Santos have really impressed in his stead.

The news is no better for Tottenham however with several key players out injured the biggest being Dembele who is capable of radically altering any Spurs match efforts. But they are also missing Parker, Kaboul and Assou Ekkoto while Defoe, Walker and Lennon all face late tests to see if they will feature so in a way this normally intense North London Derby is a ‘battle of the less wounded’. That’s not to say it won’t be a fierce contest it always is, even if we had to field nothing but our under 21 reserves they’d still go out there fueled by a burning desire to smash Spurs all the way back to White Hart Lane. Spurs are a very different team from the one we trounced 5-2 last season, ‘Ol Arry’ has departed along with the danger men in their midfield like Modric and Van der Vaart, only that young upstart Bale remains of their winning formula and Villas Boas has changed their tactics somewhat. Spurs usually setup in a 4-2-3-1 formation and play a fairly high line, choosing to counter-attack as their main offensive, something that a speedy player like Theo Walcott may be able to exploit. The 3 man midfield means that Arteta and Wilshere will be under pressure all match and may mean that Cazorla has to drop deep to modify our formation to a 4-5-1 instead of our preferred 4-4-2, isolating Giroud a bit up front.

Spurs have leaked a fair few goals so far this season and Arsenal’s defense lately has resembled that of a pub team so we may in for a high scoring affair from both teams. Given that without the partnership of Gibbs and Podolski our left wing is fairly ineffective as an attacking avenue, I think one of the key matchups will be Walcott vs Vertonghen on our right wing. With Spurs playing their 3 man midfield this may prove to be our only solid means of scoring goals with Walcott crossing for Giroud in the box and so it’s crucial that our inconsistent star player actually delivers in this match. Defensively speaking I believe we can handle any threat Spurs can bring, Sagna vs Bale is always a good contest to watch but their main issue in recent games has been Clint Dempsey playing as a passenger in the secondary striker role, rather than getting involved and almost every promising counter-attack they’ve had has been broken down by his slow passing reactions just in front of the midfield. Since with Dembele out he is the main man to link up any attacking thrust this will help us immensely to defend against them. The other main threat that will need containing will be Defoe’s poaching up front. He’s been in decent form and is their leading goal scorer, although he does face a late fitness test and may not feature which of course would mean fielding that old target of the crowd’s abuse, Adebayor…

So it’s really down to the players in the end. Wilshere in particular is key to our midfield working properly, so far nobody save Diaby has managed to play properly in the double pivot next to Arteta and it’s about time this changed. Wilshere’s drive and box to box mid style of play would seem an ideal match to Arteta’s disciplined approach it just comes down to how fit the lad is since he’s still returning from injury. We need Jack to be running back deep in defense to allow Arteta to push forwards at times and crucially, shake his marker that Spurs are sure to employ in the form of Dempsey. If  we can do this we stand a very good chance of winning this match comfortably, our overall player quality is more than enough across the pitch to give Spurs hell, plus we have great options off the bench such as Arshavin, Ramsey and Chamberlain, although I wish to god that Tomas Rosicky was available as an impact sub after his performance for us in this fixture last year. I believe we will score goals but defending against Spurs comes down to 4 key things.

1. Theo Walcott vs Jan Vertonghen
2. Wilshere’s energy and understanding of his role in the double pivot.
3. Laurent Koscielny’s marking in and around the box of Jermain Defoe.
4. Vermaelen and Podolski containing the left wing.
 

Tottenham Danger Men: Defoe, Sandro and Bale. Lennon although he’s doubtful to feature.

Result Prediction: I can’t imagine either side will keep a clean sheet but Szczesny hopefully back in goal we should be able to keep the tally down, whereas AVB’s mysterious decision to play Friedel in goals rather than the newly bought Hugo Lloris should see a few goals scored. 3-2 Arsenal.

Predicted Lineup: Szczesny, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Sagna, Podolski, Arteta, Wilshere, Walcott, Cazorla, Giroud

Conclusion: Tottenham will look to press our midfield of 2 with their 3 man advantage and try to hit us hard on the break. Arsenal will look to contain any thrusts on our left, drive hard at their center to utilise Wilshere’s enthusiasm and hit hard through Walcott out wide putting low crosses into the box for Giroud to finish. Podolski will also be used as a counter-attacking option on our left wing. Should be a great match up as always! COYG!

Match Review: Reading 5 – 7 Arsenal… WTF did I just witness???

Frimpong: “Hey Koscielny it’s your shout bro! Giroud’s too busy picking up chicks to buy me a beer.” Koscielny: “Nah man it’s Arshas.” Frimpong: Yeah but he’s passed out the little lightweight. And he told us Russians could hold their alcohol..” Koscielny: “Fine I’ll get it then”. Walcott: “Hey guys we’re playing in like 5 hours time”. Djourou: Relaaax man, it’s just Reading. What’s the worst that could happen?…

This is the image that springs to mind when I think about the first half performance of our team, the players out on a bender till the early hours of the morning before waking up in their own vomit, having a cold shower and getting on the bus to Reading. They simply must’ve been wasted or high because some of their mistakes would’ve shamed a pub team. There’s no reason to go into any tactics about how Reading managed to cut us apart because quite simply, they were playing against the worst performance our team has shown in a very long time. 2 goals were created by shockingly easy overlaps on the wing and a simple yet accurate cross to an unmarked striker. The 2nd goal that Koscielny scored for them was a comical mistake and then if that wasn’t enough, our goal keeper Martinez decided he wanted to win the award for the dumbest error and after Djourou decided to stand and watch the attacking player shoot rather than try to block, he proceeded to attempt to punch away one-handed a well struck shot that ended up in the net. That was seriously the silliest attempt at a save I’ve seen in years. Still he’s young and hopefully he will learn to NEVER TRY THAT AGAIN.

At 0-4 it looked like the world was coming to an end, I’ve seldom seen such sloppy play or stray passes from Arsenal and even though Walcott produced a lovely chip on half time it was hard not to feel like tearing your hair out, going on a rampage or simply drinking until you forgot. But nothing could’ve prepared us for what happpened in the 2nd half. What was said at half time by a furious Arsene Wenger is anyone’s guess. Perhaps he threatened to make Almunia the starting keeper for the rest of the season? Or maybe to lock them all in a room for 24 hours with Justin Beiber and Rebecca Black singing a duet? Or even to send the lot of them on loan to the Australian A-league for a season, or perhaps he just knows a fantastic cure for a hangover. Whatever he did worked although at first you had to wonder why no changes were made to the lineup, clearly things were going so well at this point that there was no need. But however unlikely, Arsenal started looking lively, their heads rose and the difference in their body language was obvious. Arshavin who up until then had attempted a lot of ambitious passes without success and not bothered to help defend suddenly looked like he’d drunk too much red cordial and chased and challenged everything. Our passing from defense to midfield looked crisper even if it still wasn’t at our top standard and when promising youngster Eisfeld and Olivier Giroud were introduced in place of Gnabry and Frimpong, Arsenal looked very dangerous and Reading could hardly win the ball.

Walcott in particular was looking extremely lively and after Giroud scored from an excellent headed corner he always looked likely to score his second. Reading’s defense simply couldn’t handle him and with Giroud winning everything as well as dropping deep into the midfield to link up play(the guy’s workrate is phenomenal) Reading started having doubts. Eisfeld put on an excellent performance in his debut and Arshavin became increasingly involved in every attack causing Reading many headaches before Koscielny headed in our 3rd on the 90th minute from another corner. Reading had their heads well and truly down now and I think it’s fitting that after wasting as much time as they could, the ref allowed the game to continue slightly longer for Walcott to tie things up at the death, literally willing the ball to cross the goal line before Jenkinson slammed it in to be doubly sure. An unbelievable comeback we’re not likely to see for another 10 years. A couple of Arsenal players were so excited they seemed to lose track of the score, believed they’d won and proceeded to throw their shirts to the fans, who very sportingly threw them back so they could play the extra time.

You’re gonna need those guys

In extra time Reading were pretty much broken and despite scoring a 5th goal never looked like beating us. They must have truly believed the apocalypse was on it’s way with the way things were going, a fact confirmed when Chamakh of all people drilled in our 5th from 20 yards thanks to a good leading ball from Arshavin. Walcott followed up soon after with a well earned hattrick and the game was done and dusted. Reading threw every man forward in the last desperate minutes(why wouldn’t you?) and were duly punished by Chamakh(again?) lobbing the keeper from 30 yards.

The Verdict: An amazing turnaround, one I still can’t quite believe happened. It’s like we had a nightmare while we slept that became a wet dream and we haven’t woken up since. Arsenal have always been responsible for giving us heart attacks but this time they outdid themselves. Overall Eisfeld looked really impressive on his debut and is a player I’ll be keeping my eye on. As did both Miquel and Meade. Arshavin showed glimpses of brilliance although he gave up possession a lot to do it. Walcott looked great, a hattrick and a general menace for Reading. Chamakh showed us he still has an eye for goal with 2 nice finishes and an all-round spirited performance. Lastly Giroud came on and changed the game with his presence up front.  The most alarming thing I’ll take out of this game however is that I’m an Australian and Reading’s keeper Adam Federici is our national starting keeper…

Oh and Walcott, please please, “sign da ting!” 

Manchester United next, Come On You Gunners!

Match Preview: Norwich City vs Arsenal F.C.


So, off to Carrow Road to play out of form Norwich City after this incredibly dull interlull and I must say, I think this is the perfect team to be playing against after the break. A team that we should be able to punish and blow out the international break cobwebs against provided our team turns up on the day. So let’s look at what we can expect to see from this one.

Norwich are currently 19th on the table and have shipped more goals than any team in the league conceding 17 in just 7 games. They typically set up in a 4-4-1-1 formation similar to our own and prefer a short passing game, usually attacking down the right wing through the combination play of Jackson and Snodgrass before crossing the ball into the box often to try and create chances and smother the goalbox clearances. They are a team that is not shy about shooting and have scored a couple of decent range goals, although happily the majority of their efforts fly wide, averaging only about 25-30% of all shots on target, their lead scorer Grant Holt has only 2 so far. The best news for our defense however is that they haven’t scored any goals from set pieces which our team is particularly vulnerable to.

Offensively we can hurt them a lot. Norwich play an offside trap which quite frankly, is suicide against the pace of our team even with Theo Walcott currently injured. Despite their lack of success Norwich are a team that likes to come out and play rather than park the bus and cower in their own half (particularly when playing at home) and this will play into our hands. Our lightning fast counter-attack play should be easily able to give them a torrid time. Norwich are not a physical side and are poor at retaining possession averaging only 42% possession so far and prone to individual errors which also benefits us and I would expect our midfield to completely control the game and dictate play through Arteta and Cazorla. So far this season they have been largely hurt by attacks down the wings so expect to see our potent left wing attack up to it’s usual tricks, the downside of this being that Kieran Gibbs will most likely not feature due to the injury sustained against the brutes of West Ham United.

Formation-wise expect to see Arsenal in their shiny new 4-4-1-1 setup with most of the usual suspects in place. As I mentioned Gibbs is doubtful for this encounter so expect to see Santos at Left Back provided he’s not booked for speeding on the way to the stadium(take the bus mate).  Let us hope he can provide the attacking sting that Gibbs has given us recently. Koscielny like-wise may be recovering from the small knock he took while on international duty and coupled with his dip in form in his last two matches, he’s unlikely to feature in this one. With Szczesny still injured Mannone will continue as first choice Keeper and with Diaby still out the third midfield position is up for grabs. Norwich are rather poor at preventing shots from range so I’d like to see the combination of Arteta, Cazorla and either Ramsey or Chamberlain (2 players not afraid to shoot) to give us an extra scoring option if the opponent is proving stubborn, however Wenger may choose to put his faith in Coquelin instead. Also, owing to Giroud’s excellent efforts for France (sticking it to Spain) and the fact that Norwich are weak at winning aerial duels I’d like to see him given the nod at Centre Forward to muscle up on their defence and dominate the opposition’s goalbox. Gervinho has been excellent in the Center Forward role but with Walcott not on the subs bench I’d like to see him start at Right Wing. Lastly, I’m sure I’m not the only one who would LOVE to see Jack Wilshere given 10 minutes or so towards the end of the match if his fitness is up to it.

Norwich City Danger Men: Jackson, Snodgrass and Holt.

Result Prediction: Conservative because of the interlull: 1-3 Arsenal. More goals and defensive shutout if our team plays well.

Expected lineup: 4-4-1-1 formation – Mannone, Santos, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Jenkinson, Podolski, Arteta, Ramsey, Gervinho, Cazorla, Giroud.

Conclusion: This is a game we should win and win well. I will be doing a post-match breakdown of the game after the weekend, till then let’s get behind the team. COME ON YOU GUNNERS!

The Evolution of Arsenal’s Gameplay

The Invincibles are gone, they’ve parted ways and chosen their futures. Some have gone on to rot on benches, others to try new prospects. As the dust settles Arsenal’s style of play has changed from the impressively successful 4-4-1-1 employed by the Invincibles side to a 4-5-1 formation for the modern game built around 1 man, Cesc Fabregas.  But as time went on the big teams learnt how to deal with this amazing playmaker and Arsenal’s offense looked more and more unimaginative and while it was at times, dazzling to watch, the majority of games saw us passing the ball around on the edge of the opposition’s goal box without ever taking a shot or looking threatening. As more and more teams cottoned on to the fact that they could stand off Fabregas(who rarely shoots) and simply man mark all the target players he would pass to, we also started to see how often and easily we could be undone on Counter-Attacks as the team got more and more aggressive, committing more and more bodies forward and leaving our back 4 very exposed in our desperate search for goals, despite having the self proclaimed “World’s best striker” Nicklas Bendtner, on hand to hit the target, or chair row Z, or simply put his shot out for a throw in.

The Diagram shows a fairly standard scenario from a few seasons ago when we still adopted this style of play and it’s easy to see the problems with what we were doing back then. Fabregas naturally plays fairly advanced and with the other midfielders pushing up in support you can see the huge gap it leaves in between our lines between Song and the Center Backs, that can be exploited by teams with a quick long ball to a target center forward who can then run at the defense or really stretch us if they have speedy players flying down the wings, like say United. By ignoring Fabregas, Player A intercepts a pass from Fabregas to Bendtner, hits it long to Player B who lays it off to Player C and then we’re screwed. You can clearly see how Song is outnumbered, Sagna is caught high up the pitch, Clichy is overlapped and the result is an attack with width running at our two Center Backs and the hapless keeper beyond.

Now,  jump forward to last season. Fabregas is gone, Na$ri(who?), Clichy(who?)  also and Wilshere is injured indefinitely. In their place Arsenal has Rosicky,Gibbs, Gervinho and Arteta. Now while these players are being utilised the same way there are some important differences. Firstly Gibbs is much more of a winger style player than Clichy ever was, Clichy was a no-nonsense Fullback who pushed forwards at times whereas Gibbs is more often further up field than his Left Winger. This has created the occasional problem defensively but weirdly it has also solved a big problem for Arsenal. Clichy was often found to be playing attackers onside resulting in a heart attack inducing 1 on 1 with “gulp” Almunia. Whether because Vermaelen is too aggressive or because Clichy was just useless at staying in line with his Center Backs is up for debate but since Gibbs is so eager to go forward this problem no longer exists.

Gervinho and Rosicky added some much needed energy to our offense, both have great workrates however the best thing that Rosicky inadvertedly did is get the other players involved. With their crutch Fabregas gone from midfield the other 10 players on the team started to take on more responsibility on the pitch and even though a certain Dutch traitor who we shall refer to as “Voldemort ie “He who can not be named”  was banging in the majority of our goals, the assists were coming from everywhere. In the later half of the season once the excellent Arteta had firmly stamped his mark on a midfield position in our side, the trio of Arteta, Song and Rosicky started to show their potential and with this new confidence we started to see a shift in formation, when attacking from the normal 4-5-1 to a very fluid 3-5-2. In possession, Gibbs would bomb down the left wing providing width, Gervinho would slide inwards into a secondary striker role and the Center Backs would adjust their position to compensate for this. This gave Arsenal an extra attacking option and allowed one of the best crossers on the team, Gibbs to show his attacking potential. With the speed of Theo Walcott on the Right Wing, Arsenal were able to not commit Bacary Sagna at Right Back forwards too much and still provide an attacking threat from both wings, crucially stretching the oppositions defense.


It’s a shame Rosicky is too old these days to always start as he did a fantastic job in Attacking Midfield when we really needed someone to step up. While all this was happening Arsenal also shored up their defense with the arrival of Per Mertesacker and the development of our young Keeper Wojciech Szczesny.  Mertesacker in particular was becoming a key player for us as he asserts his authority and experience on the back 4 and provides much needed organisation. Arteta likewise in midfield became more important than anyone save maybe Arsene Wenger could imagine as his performances are just so damn consistent it’s like having a machine in midfield. You program it to your specifications and then watch in awe as he carries out your instructions with unerring accuracy.

Present Day

So fastforward to this season and predictably the season started with  several players being sold.  While the article on this site written by Threkstari explains why this is necessary it is no less damn annoying. So adios to Song who suddenly discovered he had Barca DNA, while Voldemort has definitely turned to the dark side as he joins Manchester United. Wenger brings in Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud as his key signings, as well as promoting a young player by the name of Carl Jenkinson in place of the currently injured Bacary Sagna. Happily unlike last season the new recruits bed into the starting eleven much quicker than expected and Arsenal only drop a few points at the start thanks to not having a proper pre-season warm up to familiarize with each other. Cazorla proves a revelation in midfield and Podolski who struggled to play well in Bayern Munich’s 4-3-3 play wide formation quickly strikes up a great partnership with both Gibbs and Cazorla. Giroud impresses early also but fails to get the goals his performances deserve and loses his starting position to Gervinho who after looking rather unimpressive last season as a Left Winger, really seems to have hit his stride in the Center Forward position. But the most impressive thing about all these early signs is what we start to see in the formation.

That’s right, a return to the 4-4-1-1 formation that was the staple of the most glorious days in Arsenal’s history and we have the players to make it work, we have a sexy beast of a Center Forward with brilliant positional awareness and the attitude to get on the end of a cross regardless of if he’ll break his foot doing it.  Meanwhile we have Cazorla pulling the strings and the metronomic Arteta as the midfield anchor. Perhaps the most crucial change to this formation is the doing away with a traditional Defensive Midfielder. Instead we have in it’s place the double pivot of Arteta and Diaby ensuring 1 player(usually Arteta) is always covering the back 4 and eliminating problems we had in the past with 2 defensive lines of 4 players, thanks to the workrate of both Podolski and Gervinho on the wings.

While this is Arsenal’s standard formation now it’s worth noting that in offense we switch to a 3-5-2 due to Gibbs bombing down the flank and I think this is what utilises Podolski’s potential. It’s clear on the pitch he doesn’t like playing wide so having Gibbs provide the width and Podolski slide inside to become a secondary striker is perfect. This also moves Podolski closer to where Cazorla is playing and allows the great linkup play and intricate give and goes we’ve seen them play this season, most notably when Cazorla scored vs Liverpool and when they tore Southampton apart.The starting eleven is almost cemented with maybe 3 or so players who can give it a nudge. Players pushing to get into the starting team is great for promoting good performances from those on the field however and even though Wenger has to decide on which two Center Backs to start and which player should be at Right Wing etc these are decisions that are much preferred to not having any options at all.

Looking to the Future

This current Arsenal squad looks to have loads of potential with far more steel in the side thanks to the veteran players that have been introduced and the willingness of the players to defend and attack as a team. I think we can look forward with hope and belief that this is a team that can win consistently. There is still room for much improvement, particularly our defense on set pieces and also the tendency of a certain newly promoted captain to make rash tackles and press forwards too much but the team chemistry is looking stronger every week. Add to this current crop the fact that our young prodigy Jack Wilshere is soon to return from injury as well as other solid players such as Bacary Sagna and Tomas Rosicky and the future looks positively mouth watering.

A decade of profits (with make-up)

Recently Peter Hill-Wood has told the media that Arsenal Football Club has made a  profit of more than £35 million. While this is all nice I don’t think many fans of the club realise that this means that the last time the club has made a loss was in 2002, when the club recorded a £22 million loss. In other words: Arsenal have been through a decade of profit and have amassed a  stunning £248 million over the course of the past 10 years of which 77% (£191 million) was made in the last 5 years. Arsenal is not the first club to achieve a decade of profits as Bayern Münich has entered their 19th consecutive season recording a profit.

Just a quick glance at the above figure might give the illusion that the club is heading in the right direction, but the devil lives in the details so lets take a closer look at this years profit. To clarify the sales of Robin van Persie and Alex Song are not recorded in the 2012 profits since the end of the fiscal years is not on the same day as new years. So the 2012 accounts have the sales of Nasri, Fabrégas, and Clichy in them but not Van Persie, and Song.

Breaking down the £191 million

We are extremely dependant on 2 things: Players sales, and property development. Without the £2,5 million profit from property developments and the £65,5 million profit from player sales we would have made a sizeable loss of £31 million in 2012. In fact player sales have accounted for 80-90% (about £160-170 million) of our profits in the last 5 years. What this means is that the club has become reliant on player sales to maintain sustainability. Have you ever felt in the past 5 years that the Arsenal squad is a player or two away from title contention? Well this is the reason why. Although the sales of each player can be individually explained (Fabregas wanted to go back to Barcelona; Song had bad discipline) we should take a step back and take a look at the trend that has occurred in the past years: Arsenal has slowly turned into a competitive selling club! (My definition of competitive here is qualifying to the UEFA Champions League)

Now not everything is gloomy: We are still capable of staying competitive on the pitch (thanks to smart investment due to scouting) but title contention is highly improbable. Also thanks to our sustainability we won’t have to walk down the road of Malága, Milan, and Inter who had to part ways from their experienced, expensive players. Heck even Manchaster City was more restrained on the transfer market! The fact that we are run on a sustainable business model means that we will (most probably) always have funds to invest in the squad; however our title contention will be decided, to a large extent, by the lack of transfer dealings by our competitors.

The profit with make-up

Have you ever had a girlfriend who looked stunning with make-up on but once she took it off she wasn’t as hot? Well if not you are soon going to find out what that feels like: Our £35 million profit hides our inefficiency in generating revenue growth. In fact if we exclude property development we have generated a negative operating profit. Of course with property development included we are still making an operating profit but if the current trend keeps up we wont be doing so for long as the Highbury Square property is almost completely sold. The fact that turnover has dropped to £7,7 million from last years £30,3 million in the property segment reflects this. The rise in overall staff costs  from £124,4 million to £143,3 million had an impact on our operating profit as well. This rise in our wage bill can be attributed to our late signings last season. The good news is that the club has learnt from its mistake and concluded its deals well before transfer deadline day. The bad news is that our wage bill (and operating expenses) has grown at a faster rate than our revenue.

Deloitte Money League
(£ mil)
2011 Rev 2010 Rev
1 Real Madrid 433 359.1
2 Barcelona 407 325.9
3 Manchester United 331.4 286.4
4 Bayern Münich 290.3 264.5
5 Arsenal 226.8 224.4
6 Chelsea 225.6 209.5
7 AC Milan 212.3 199.8
8 Internazionale 190.9 184.1
9 Liverpool 183.6 184.5
10 Schalke 04 182.8 139.8
Exchange rate: £1 = € 1.1073 (30-June-2011)

Since I mentioned revenue it is time to look at our biggest weakness: Weak revenue growth due to sub-par commercial revenue. If we look at our revenue we are in the financial elite of Europe standing firm on 5th place with a revenue of £225,4 million last year (Deloitte numbers are not exactly the reported figures of Arsenal due to exchange rates changing). In fact it was reported in May 31 that our revenues have increased to £235,3 million from £225,4 million. which is only surpassed by Manchester Uniteds £320 million in the Premier League. While this might seem impressive Arsenal has only managed to increase their revenue by £10 million in 3 years while Manchester Untied was capable of achieving a £42 million revenue growth in the same time frame.

The biggest defect of Arsenal is its commercial revenue. The reason behind this is the Emirates Stadium: Arsenal had to tie itself down in long term deals to finance the Emirates stadium. The good news is that the Arsenal Board recognises this, hence the Asia tour which attracted commercial partners; however we are still lagging behind Manchester United in this area who are capable of attracting a lot more secondary commercial partners than Arsenal do. However we should not look at this and claim the Asia tour was useless as it is one of the factors behind our £10 million Revenue growth in the past 3 years.

However as Milton Friedman has already said “there ain’t such a thing as a free lunch” and just like everything the Asia tour has costs associated with them. The biggest of these is that the team does not have as much time to gel, not to mention possible injuries. These might not seem like  financial costs but they have an effect on performance on the pitch. And performance on the pitch will have a huge impact on profitability and commercial attractiveness. Long story short: Our Asia tour can attract commercial partners and have an uplift on our revenue growth but such a tour will have an impact on team chemistry come the first week of the league.

The promised land of 2014. The year our shirt deals expire. Many people expect our commercial revenue problems to be solved that year simply because both our shirt  sponsorship and shirt producing deals are pathetically bad and improving on them is a must. The board recognises this: Gazidis has claimed that “in terms of the financial impact, it will be as significant a step forward as the stadium was in 2005”, but if Arsenal FC truly want it to have as huge of an impact as the Emirates Stadium was than the commercial team and Tom Fox have their work cut out for them.

Now many fans will possibly lean back and say: “Who cares. Financial Fair Play is around the corner” and while this is true we must understand that FFP will benefit the teams with the highest revenue, as these are the teams that can spend most on their squad. As I have tried to convey Arsenal has limited to no revenue growth and if it wants to be a leading powerhouse in FFP, solving this is a priority.

What this all means

The point of this analysis is to show the reader how dependant Arsenal is on player sales. It does not need to be this way though. If Arsenal want to be title contenders then revenue growth and operating profit have to be tackled by the Arsenal board. Revenue growth can be achieved by increasing commercial revenue, since Arsenal is behind the curve in this area. The shirt deals will expire in 2014 (the promised land) and the new deals will lessen our dependence on player sales if negotiated correctly.Tackling operational loss making is tougher as it need wage re-structuring. That means the team has to try and renegotiate its wages and try and get rid off “deadwood”. We have seen Arsenal doing the latter by shipping Bendtner, Park, and Denilson out on a loan deal thus decreasing its wage bill but getting rid of unwanted players is imperative to Arsenals success. If neither of the issues are tackled then we will see more reports of profits… with make-up.

15 FAQs that are related to the Board

This is a blogpost I made earlier at GoonersUnite back in January 2012. However since some parts are still relevant I decided to publish it here as well. The post was about certain Frequently Asked Questions me and a couple of others had to constantly answer on the football forum: footytube. Most of the graphs are from the swissramble and if you haven’t you should definitely check his  blog out. Anyways enough words have been wasted on explaining the post so without further ado here is the post itself.

Q1. Why is our home support so silent/weak?

Some might think its due to lack of attendance, however the Emirates has almost always been filled. Even this year against Shrewsbury in the Carling Cup we had a healthy attendance of 46,539. However the high attendance figures shadow the real reason behind a silent home support as it does not highlight the composition of the support. To illustrate what we mean just look at the Arsenal home support  and the Arsenal away support.

The massive difference in the composition of fans is majorly due to ticket pricing policies (both season ticket pricing and match day ticket pricing) by Arsenal FC. Arsenal have the most expensive match day and season tickets in the Premier League which leads to many fans who cannot afford to go to each game (or to the extra expensive home game) to attend away games. We have seen many times that Arsenal fans “borrowed” the oppositions stadium for the match day. Ironically the opposite is the case for our home ground.However recently Arsenal has joined Aston Villa in an effort to push through plans to create safe standing places. Standing places were made illegal in any stadium due to the Taylor inquiry which was the inquiry into the reason why the Hillsborough disaster happened. The plans to push through safe standing places is a rather brave one given that it was in the Premier League that such an incident happened, however given modern technology we should be able to achieve safe standing places (one should also resist the temptation to sell more tickets than actual standing places but if the project does go through extra attention should be given to the accounts of the teams that have standing places by the FA/UEFA). In my opinion standing places would help make the Emirates a fiercer environment (assuming the board does not make its prices too high)

Q2. Did Arsenal need to raise ticket prices?

No. We were in a healthy position regarding both football and finance so the team did not have a gun to its head when they made this decision. Arsenal already had the 3rd largest match day income behind Real Madrid and Manchester United. Having said that a comparison between season ticket prices is extremely hard as an Arsenal season ticket also includes 7 cup games. Arséne Wenger made a reasonable argument that the 6.5% increase in ticket prices was needed “to increase our income to fight with other clubs” however this could have been achieved in other ways. (see Q3 for more on this)A more logical explanation for the price hike was given by Tom Fox. In the interview Tom Fox outlined that after seeing a 40000 waiting list for season tickets “you think you are not charging enough for tickets”. Factor in that in football a price increase has the least drawbacks as the teams “customers” have a fierce brand loyalty. After all we don’t expect an Arsenal fan to suddenly switch to Tottenham due to the price differential.

Q3. Apart from increasing ticket prices what other ways could have Arsenal increased their income?

Most Certainly. One way (which is utilised by the likes of Manchester United and Barcelona) is to actually win competitions. However we should note that progressing as far as possible in the Champions League should be a priority over a Domestic Cup. After that would our priority should be to qualify for next seasons Champions League. (if we look at the amount of funds receivable rather than the amount of gloryhunters). However for Arsenal to actually be able to compete in the UCL they would have to hold onto the talent they produce/polish and not force Arséne Wenger to rebuild a semi-good team every 3-4 seasons but for that to happen Wenger desperately needs the help of the board.

Alternatively to winning more the board could quite possibly renegotiate some sponsorship deals. If we look at our books it is painfully obvious that we are behind the curve when it comes to commercial revenue. From this figure we can see that due to the boards unwillingness to renegotiate these deals we are missing out on approximately 30-40 million pounds of revenue EVERY SEASON. Out of all the sponsorships though Arsenal is doing the worst in shirt sponsorship and kit supplier deals where even Tottenham are doing better.

Q4. Why is commercial revenue so low?

AFC needed to tie itself down into long term deals to provide cash upfront for stadium financing because we got no subsidy from the government. The board was aware that in the long run this could possibly leave us behind the curve when it comes to commercial revenue but in order to build the Emirates they were willing to take this risk. This was a strategic decision made by the board which left us with sub-par commercial deals in the short run but a stadium in the long run (I’ll let the reader decide whether the board made the right decision)

Q5. Is the club doing anything about increasing commercial revenue?

Yes the board were actually renegotiating the shirt sponsorship deal but this is not enough when you have the likes of Stan Kroenke in the room and Alisher Usmanov knocking on the door. I’m fairly certain that one of these gentleman would be more than kind to buy-out some of the commercial contracts and help us negotiate new and better sponsorship deals which would help the clubs already slowing revenue growth.

Q6. How is our Emirates debt looking like?

The Emirates project cost us 470million pounds of which 260 million was a special loan package. According to the annual AFC financial report our property debt (the debt on the Highbury square apartment complex) has been repaid so that leaves us with a gross debt of around 250-260million pounds which consists of:

-the long term bonds on the emirates (lets call these mortgages) which account for around 230 mil
-debentures held by supporters which account for about 30 millionIf we deduct these cash balances we are left with a net debt of around 90 million. I would like to express at this point that since“Our property business is debt-free, any new sales of property do accumulate cash, which is very positive for the future.” (Ivan Gazidis). It is true that only 16 of the original Highbury apartments remain unsold, but in 2012 20-21 additional units will be added.


Now onto debt servicing: If we were to look at the accounts of Arsenal Holdings plc we could make our own estimate of the amount of transfer funds Arséne Wenger potentially has. The Swiss Ramble estimated 53 million pounds in October (since then the board has sat down with our shirt sponsor to try and renegotiate terms so this number should be taken with a pinch of salt). Another reason to not take this number as gospel is because the club has to keep some of this as a reserve for debt servicing (not to mention the uncertainty of season ticket renewals).

Q7. When will our Debt servicing end?

This will probably make some of you angry/sad but “Further significant falls in debt are unlikely in the foreseeable future. The stadium finance bonds have a fixed repayment profile over the next 21 years and we currently expect to make repayments of debt in accordance with that profile.” -Ivan Gazidis (2010)
So we still have to pay debt servicing for another 20 or so years. Theoretically it would be possible to pay back some portion of these debts earlier but the board has shown no signs of such a thing happening.
“The debt that we’re left with is what I would call ‘healthy debt’ – it’s long term, low rates and very affordable for the club.” -Ivan Gazidis
This is not however not necessarily a bad thing since the club is in a financial situation where it can afford such debts (as Gazidis has said)

Q8. What is the 10 year plan? How does it fit in the Arsenal philosophy? (By Cloudst)

The 10 year plan that Mr. Arséne Wenger has for the club can be interpreted in a process of steps. First it was (in my opinion) implemented when the invincible era came to an end. Players like Robin Van Persie and Cesc Fabrégas came into the club in terms of a long term future for the club that would stabilize the team into more success years for the future. Everything had gone to plan our youth academy is also producing some fairly well known players now that hopefully will be more involved in the near future but then the selling off of key players and figures of Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira had a dramatic repercussion on the first team as the introduction of some of younger players meant that there was no leader in the back room and a figure that had left a dominating presence in midfield which eventually left us to our current trophy drought. Years went by and now standing at 7 years arsenal have been without a trophy but this particularly does not mean the 10 year plan of Arsene Wenger had come as a failure. Arsene Wenger realized now more than ever that he needed the presence of an experienced person in the backroom of the squad to unite the team together and give the younger generation of arsenal players a better understanding of the game (thus enter Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker, Yossi Benayoun and Andre Santos). This, by all means, is just the background to the 10 year plan as it has massive links to our stadium debt as well. If you are interested about reading about the 10 year plan just click here as it is outlined clearly by the author.

Q9. So was the youth policy just a necessity? (By Cloudst)

In a sense it makes us unique from the rest of the teams and it has it’s benefits as well as it’s downfall’s. Youth development is not a simple process of 1,2,3 and the player has made it. There’s many factors to how a player shall reach that potential, Theo Walcott is a fantastic example of how such a wonderful talent can be bogged down to early exposure to the first team and the pressures of the media to perform (which came from him being called up to the WC squad at the age of 17!!!!! Much too young for him with too much expectations). There is also the factor of younger bodies of youth products not growing stronger than the body of a mature 27 year football player who’s body is fully grown and matured (which lead younger players to be injured more, which is why we have recently opened up a brand new clinic facility near our training grounds to tackle these problems. These are the negative repercussions of youth development however the positives mostly out weigh the negatives at times for youth development (especially in a stadium debt)

Q10. This is all fair and dandy but why doesn’t Wenger buy proven players like Mata? Why did he let Nasri and Fabrégas leave in one summer?

The board has the say on which transfers go through and which ones don’t. A good example of this is Phil Jones and Chris Smalling who were identified by us but the board refused the extra 2-5 million to authorize the deal to go through. Further proof is the fact that Arsenals money floodgates opened after the memorable 8-2 at Old Trafford. It normally takes weeks to sign 1 (!!!) player let alone 3 (in a matter of days) which suggests that most (if not all) the paperwork was already done prior to the Manchester United game. What was needed was the green light from the board and the final signature of the player(s).

Q11. Gazidis and Hill Wood said that Arsenal can do with missing out on the UCL for one season. is it true?

As I am not an insider to the Arsenal Board I do not fully know if this is true or not. Having said that this seems to be more of a message to the stockholders than the fans (“Don’t worry stockholders your dividends won’t be affected”).This highlights the problem that the board is more concerned and is only accountable to the stockholders and not to the stakeholders (fans) of the club. Not to mention that most fans blame Wenger when a transfer breaks down so the board enjoys a little safety due to this common misconception about football clubs (as an enterprise). This misconception comes from the fact that both FIFA and PES franchises manager mode gives the player almost absolute control over a clubs finances, tactics etc. which is not true in real life football management.Having said that Arsenal has qualified to the Champions League for the past 14 seasons so one can argue that the Club has got accustomed to the funds received from UEFA. If we just look at last season Arsenal received a total of 30 million euros (that was around 26 million pounds) from UEFA for reaching the round of 16 (the season before that Arsenal received 3 million more for going an extra stage). And these figures only capture the funds due to television distribution! We have to also count for extra gate recipients as well as bonus clauses in some sponsorship deals. So if Arsenal would miss out on the Champions League we would be talking about a loss of 37-45 million pounds (I cannot give you an exact figure as I do not know the bonus clauses of the sponsorship deals).

Q12. A Loss of 40 million?! Surely Europa Cup is still better then nothing!

True it is better than nothing but the question is how much better? Is it worth taking seriously (financially)? Both Liverpool and Manchester City received 6 million euros for reaching the round of 16 and the highest pay-out in the Europa Cup was a mere 9 million euros. The question is that if we do end up in the Europa Cup is that 6-9 million worth it to risk first teamers getting injured. I will let the reader decide that (feel free to leave a comment in the comment section as to what your answer is and why you think that way).

Q13. Arséne Wenger and the board. What is their relationship?

Well right now we can witness some sort of dichotomy between the manager and the board. Both PHW and Gazidis have claimed at some point that missing out on the UCL won’t hurt us while Arséne Wenger recently claimed that “We want to be in there, in the top four, and to play in the Champions League. Anything else would not be good enough”. Sure this doesn’t necessarily mean that missing out on the UCL will hurt us but it highlights that Wenger would go all out to grab a top 4 spot while the board would rather get ready for missing out on it. Why the board is okay with Wenger working ‘against’ them? Unfortunately for Arséne Wenger the way the board handles things (not taking risks on the financial sphere) AFC is forced to act like a selling club since the only way profits are achieved is by selling the top talent of the club. And since Wenger is a master of choosing talent while its still rough and undiscovered, the board needs him to achieve profits. Of course this isn’t the only way to generate profits though (For more on this see Question 3).
Apart from the profit Wenger is able to turn on the market there is also the fact that when something bad happens the fans turn on Wenger rather than on the board. So safety is another reason why the board needs Wenger (for more on this see Question 11) although it is not as an important reason as the face that only under a manager like Wenger is the club able to turn a profit.

Q14. Was the relationship between Arséne and the Board always so polar?

Until 2007 there was someone called David Dein who was part of the board and acted like the right hand of Arséne Wenger. The moment Dein left we have seen the manager and the board working in 2 opposite directions and things started falling apart. I will not waste space here to talk about the importance Dein had on Arsenal since there is a page on him on wikipedia that gives a quick and accurate rundown on how influential he was in creating the Arsenal that us gooners are so proud of.

Q15. Is the board really the villain?

I would not go as far as to call the board a villain as their actions are business oriented. I fully understand why the board tied itself down into subpar commercial deals as this was the only way we were able to handle the dent that the Emirates project left on our finances. What I do not agree with is their lack of ambition nowadays where they are not willing to take any risks. How many times have we seen after Dein left (2007) that Arséne built a team just to be deconstructed by the board for profit? I can recall 2 times! 2 times in less then 5 years! This is absolutely outrageous and should be addressed as fast as possible otherwise us gooners should be happy if we even make it into the top 4. It is time to bring Dein back on the Board and if that is not possible then introduce fresh blood (in the board) who have the ambition to make Arsenal a global brand in football and not in finance.