Why Didn’t Souleymane Complain About The Racist Chelsea Fans?

When Souleymane, a black Frenchman was prevented by Chelsea fans from taking the Metro on his way back home from work in the evening of Tuesday 17th February, he did not complain to anybody.

Not to the officials of the Paris Metro.

Not to the police.

Not to his wife and children.

Souleymane waited for another train, got home, had his dinner and went to bed. He went to work the next day and told no one about the incident. On his way back home, he was met by a Parisian journalist who was actively looking for him based on his appearance in the video of the incident from the previous evening.

Souleymane kept this most humiliating experience to himself for 24 hours as the journalist was the first person with whom he ever spoke about the incident.

As soon as the news broke and the video was being played in a loop online and on TV, the usual outrage and indignation that follow this type of stories were in abundance. Everybody has an opinion on the matter and thankfully, the consensus was that it was bad. Mercifully, this is not the United States of America where black people can be murdered on video and there will be more news about the victims’ irrelevant past indiscretions than the actual murderer.

I am most grateful that that is not the case here in the good old United Kingdom.

A question that nobody asked and which I kept hoping that somebody would, amidst all the garment rending and shedding of tears for the poor black man denied of the use of a service that he has paid for because of the colour of his skin was this:

Why didn’t he complain to anyone about the incident? Why do people feel so outraged by the event but the victim simply kept his mouth shut for more than 24 hours?


I am not going to suggest the reason(s) why no one in the media asked this most pertinent and intriguing question despite spending days on the story but I am going to try to answer the question of why Souleymane didn’t complain about the racist incident to anybody.

Souleymane knew that complaining about it was a waste of time! He would have been accused to playing the race card or more charitably, reading too much into it. Without the video, who would have believed his allegation of being prevented from entering a train by a group of white people because he was black in 2015? Well, other than people of colour with similar experiences.

Apart from facial and height differences, I could pass for Souleymane in a low resolution video. When my wife first saw the video, one of her comments was about how the man was dressed like me and carrying a bag that was quite similar to the one I carry to work. I also use public transport primarily to commute to work. Swap the Paris Metro station for another train station in the North West of England and I could be the one in the video.

I absolutely understand Souleymane. I have been in Soulemany’s shoes. Hell, virtually every person of colour living in Europe and America have been in Souleymane’s shoes. Not by being kicked off trains necessarily but suffering other forms of racial discriminations against which we can’t complain. And we know that there are two diametrically opposite reactions that usually follow complaints of racism depending on the circumstances.

1. With Evidence (especially video)
We get righteous indignation and outrage. Big chastising words are used to describe the offenders. Solutions akin to killing a mosquito with a sledgehammer are prescribed.

If you need any example of this, look no further than the reactions that followed the actions of the Chelsea fans in Paris when the video emerged.

2. Without Evidence
If a person of colour has the misfortune of suffering acts of racism without recorded evidence – which is 99% of the time as we don’t go about with the recording features of our mobile phones turned on in anticipation of capturing racial abuses against us – then it is our word against those of our abusers before the person of authority who is most likely to be white. This seldom goes well and justice is seldom served.

There will be outrage and righteous indignation alright but it will be coming from the accused. Tears will be shed in sorrow for being so evilly portrayed. Other white people will line up to vouch for the accused racist’s colour blindness. We will learn about his black friend. If we are lucky, we are told that we are just making too much of nothing. In less lucky instances, we are accused of playing the race card.

When we tell our family about our experiences, depress them as they have their own from time to time too. When we make our children aware of our experiences with racists, we scare them and deprive them of their innocence and opportunity to forge a resentment-free relationship with their white peers.

Souleymane said as much and in case anyone is wondering whether the guy was just not really bothered, he filed a report with the police as soon as he was made aware of the video evidence, demanding punishment for the racists. In other word, he didn’t file a report before only because he had no evidence and I suspect, based on personal experience in this respect that he chose to suck it up rather than risk being labelled a race card player.

The lack of self awareness from the media on this matter and the fact that despite all the noise, not one media or public figure was bothered by the fact that the guy took this sad experience on the chin is worrisome even if not unexpected. A perusal of Souleymane’s story shows very clearly how hurt the man was by the incident.

A few quotes:

“I live with racism … We’re vaccinated against racism”

“I was a little bit hurt physically but in terms of morale I was hurt a lot”

“It was important that all this came out. I’m not the only black person who has been the victim of racism and if I’m here it’s not only to denounce what I’ve been through but it’s for all the black people across the world facing it, everywhere, be it in France, London, the US … It has to stop. We’re in a world where everyone has their place, black, white, Muslim, Jew, atheist or anything else.”

“I just want justice to be done, no more than that”

Focusing on What’s Important
I decided to write this piece not to counter Pararealist’s brave and well meaning article from a few days ago but to add a few points. Para’s mention of misplaced outrage is my favourite part of the article. Minorities and people of colour are not as worried about being called names as we are about being denied opportunities to progress career-wise despite having equal or (in many instances) better qualification and experience. If a black person is called the ‘n’ word or an Asian is called the ‘p’ word AND it is recorded, we never hear the end of it but while being called disparaging names because of our skin colours or nationality is hurtful, what hurts more is the racism of the board/interview room.

While Suarez and Terry were subjects of intense media focus, we don’t hear anything about the improbably low number of football managers who are ethnic minorities or the fact that no person of colour is good enough to be a top tier English referee. While minorities detest the humiliation of being called names or treated differently in social situations, what we hate a lot more is being denied opportunities for economic advancement. This is one area that you never hear anything about in the media except when some embarrassing statistics emerge and then we get the standard patronising expression of concern from the media and the politicians and then nothing.

I am very happy that Para raised this issue and dealt with it very well. Where I don’t really agree with Para, is on the definition of racism. Para believes that it is the combination of prejudice and the power to act on that prejudice; I think it is a superiority/inferiority belief system or issue. Naturally, a racist with power can do more harm than one without but what guides all them all is their belief in the superiority or supremacy of their race.

If you believe that people of your race are superior to people of any other race then you are a racist. It is that simple. There are various types of racism from the passive to the active to the morbid but they are all based on the belief that some people are inferior because of their skin colour.

Passive Racism: Passive racists are not going to consciously act in any bad way to people of other races even though they believe that they are superior to them. Some passive racists will even be patronisingly nice to those they see as inferior. Most people are in this category as we all have some prejudice in us that have been imbibed since we were too young to know better. It takes conscious effort to not be passively racist.

Passively racist people are often offended when informed of their subtle racism. They think that only using racial epithets or stopping people from boarding a train because of their skin colour is racism. Passive racists are typically good salt of the earth decent people. We all know some in our family and social circles. They say awful racially stereotypical stuff in the guise of ‘plain speaking’. They are quick to complain about political correctness gone mad when called out. Sheldon Cooper’s mother’s character in the Big Bang Theory is a very good example in popular culture.

Passive racists may not cause hurt out of racial spite but if they are responsible for filling positions, they will always appoint people like them. A fancy term for this is institutional racism, which is what we get when well mannered racists are calling the shots in an organisation. This is rampant in the UK and most of the Western world and it hurts people of colour more than negative name calling and the idiotic action of the Chelsea fans that polite white people would usually be outraged by.

Active Racism: This takes conscious effort. Active racists don’t just believe that they belong to the superior race; they believe that their race is supreme. They take a lot of pride in this and actively endeavour to maintain the supremacy. The good news is that there are not that many of them; the bad news is that they are allowed to bear and raise children.

Morbid Racism: Active racism combined with psychopathic tendencies (usually possessed by a charismatic lead figure) lead to unspeakable evil that have occurred in history and which I am not very comfortable talking about.

Reverse Racism or Resentment?
When people of colour react to the constant racism they experience, the charge of reverse racism is made to show that it all balances out or, worse, that the minorities are now the real racial oppressors. This is ludicrous.

There may be some Africans or Asians who believe they are superior to whites but they are a very tiny minority. Many of us believe, with great defiance, I must add, that we are equal to whites and what is usually termed reverse racism on our part is nothing but resentment because of the discrimination that we experience but have no power to change or even challenge.

Racism is an uncomfortable topic. More so for white people who – to be fair – are often lumped together in heated moments and collectively blamed for atrocities of bigots today and generations past. On the other hand, white people need to stop the knee jerk defensive reaction when people of colour complain of racism. The next black person to suffer Souleymane’s fate should be free to file an official complaint, safe in the knowledge that his case would not be treated with suspicion or prejudice.


Avoiding Those Big Embarrassing (Away) Losses

Arsenal’s losses in the premier league for 2013/14 season:

Arsenal 1 – 3 Aston Villa
Manchster City 6 – 3 Arsenal
Liverpool 5 – 1 Arsenal
Chelsea 6 – 0 Arsenal
Everton 3 – 0 Arsenal
Manchester United 1 – 0 Arsenal
Stoke City 1 – 0 Arsenal

The relevance of each of the aforementioned defeats to our failure to win the league last season has been discussed exhaustively here on Untold and elsewhere in the Goonershpere so I won’t go there. Our first loss of the season is also not going to be discussed as it isn’t a heavy loss to a rival and the circumstances that led to it are very clear to us all.

The infamous trio of losses were against our direct title rivals but I am adding the Everton loss to make it 4 as the margin is exactly the same as Man City’s and Everton finished 5th.

Why did we lose those matches by big margins? Were these teams that better than us? How come none of the other top teams lost these many away games by big margins? How come few (if any) of the smaller teams lost these fixtures by those kind of margins? As the popular saying goes, you cannot find answers to a problem that you have not been able to diagnose. So, why did we lose 4 out of 4 away matches against the other teams in the top 5 by big margins? Knowing the cause(s) might help us to find solutions to avoid repetition.

We were flying high before the Man City game. We had just got a valuable and absolutely key victory on our trip to Dortmund. We were cruising in the league sitting comfortably on top. We were buzzing and our spirits were high. The talk was about beating Man City rather than getting a draw. But the team was not well rested from their travel. After playing till 10pm on Wednesday they had the 12.45pm kick-off Saturday. I think that when we look at the circumstances surrounding the game, including the referee’s ineptitude, we can let the 6-3 loss slide. It is the one of the 4 big losses that we suffered that is least troubling, the margin notwithstanding.

If the Man City loss can be understood, the Liverpool one is the most troubling. The 1st half is one of the worst that I have ever seen of 2 teams in the same league. I have seen lower league teams avail themselves better against top premiership oppositions in the cup competitions. It looked like Liverpool were going to score every time they attacked us. They even missed 2 to 3 good chances in those horrible 30 minutes.

We suffered a similar fate at Stamford Bridge but even though the margin was higher, the performance was not as scary as that at Anfield considering the circumstances. Our 3-0 loss to Everton was in the same pack.

No one can seriously say that our defence was poor last season. No way! We conceded 18 goals in 33 games and then conceded 20 in 4! What the hell is going on?

I have a theory and it goes thus: Disrespect of our opponents. It sounds harsh; I know but please hear me out. (No monster defensive midfielder nonsense though).

Apart from the result that got us the FA cup in May, my most satisfying result of the 2013/14 season was our 1-0 victory at Dormund. It was a game that I was praying for a draw in based on how the Germans played us at the Emirates a couple of weeks earlier. We went into that game with respect for our opponents. We kept things tight at the back. We let them have the ball but we were resolute at the back. Because we weren’t venturing forward too much, we had enough men to help at the back. We were basically playing for a draw but we nicked it with a few minutes to go and the table turned with us nearly getting a second goal.

A similar template has been used twice against Bayern Munich, making Arsenal undefeated at the Allianz Arena in 2 visits. We treated our German opponents with respect and played cautiously, no going gung-ho looking for a win. In the end we got 2 wins and 1 draw in 3 visits to 2 of the most difficult away grounds in Europe.

Despicable as he is, Jose Mourhino gets this. I was discussing with my Gooner cousin after last season and he mentioned that had it been Chelsea who only needed a DRAW at home against Liverpool that Mourhino would have set up a wall at the back and get his draw. I couldn’t agree more and I hate to give that cretin any credit. Much as we love to hate what he stands for in football and humanity, we must admit that Mourhino is a pragmatist.

The key to Arsenal avoiding heavy away losses is pragmatism. Heavy is emphasised as I don’t believe that there is anything we can do about losing away to our rivals. I worry more about our inability to beat our rivals at the Emirates than about losing to them in their own stadium. Man City got only 1 point out of 9 away to their title rivals. Second placed Liverpool got 0 point in 9 just like Arsenal did. No one is talking about these 2 teams’ away performances the way they do about Arsenal because they both lost respectably.

Mourhino went to Old Trafford and didn’t bother to field any striker. He left with a point. Although I think that he must be kicking himself later when teams like West Brom and Newcastle started winning there but the key point here is that he got what he wanted.

We won 11 of our 19 away games last season, more than any other team in the league. Against lower oppositions away, our expansive style of play works as they must come out and play us. Their firepower is beneath ours so we don’t get punished for going forward and we get rewarded for our audacity. No team got more away points (35) than Arsenal last season. Our away form was outstanding!

Our audacity away from home is also the reason why, instead of losing 0-1 or 1-2 or 2-3 away to our rivals (as they all did against each other), we lost by at least 3 goal margins. The solution to avoiding big away losses is pragmatism and respect for our rivals at their home grounds. I hate bus parking as a football strategy but in those 4 away matches to our top 5 rivals, it is what we need to do. Contrast our 1st half at Anfield with Chelsea’s and weep. They kept it tight and didn’t give an inch whereas we left huge spaces for Liverpool to attack us from as we rushed forward in search of goals. Yeah, the football played by Chelsea at Anfield was ugly but they left with 3 points and +2 goals while we left with 0 point and -4 while giving BT Sport the material for the worst pre-season promo by any sport broadcaster that I have ever seen.

I am not advocating that Arsenal start playing negative football but as our results from Germany show, when you are playing at the home of a good opponent, show them respect and keep things tight at your end. We have 33 or 34 games to play our beautiful expansive game so I think we can be easily forgiven for going negative against 4 or 5 opponents out of necessity. I am certain though, that we’ll be praised to high heavens if we pull off wins no matter how dire the football might be.

$h!t That Arsenal Fans Say: Chronicles of the Fickle

And so it begins, the 2014/15 Premier league season. Thank goodness, the long wait is finally over. We now have some football to take our attention away from the mind-numbingly ridiculous pastime known as “transfer speculation”. Kudos to Mr Tony Attwood for his valiant effort to help us make a good sense of it all with humour by consolidating all the crap being peddled each day by those ‘in the know’ into brilliant mocking articles.

The general consensus amongst Gooners is that this current transfer window is their least stressful in a long time but I’d be telling a big lie if I say the same. No transfer window has ever been stressful for me. How people get stressed on matters that are not of life and death or even concerned with their physical and economic well-being is beyond my comprehension. Why folks would be stressed about how a club that they are paying meaningful parts of their paltry income to support is not using such funds to buy the services of millionaires to be paid on weekly basis what most of them earn in years, is beyond my comprehension.

After parting with over £2,000 for season ticket, shirts etc (which is about 10% of the income of many after tax and all the other mandatory deductions), we must then pull our hairs out as the club’s management takes toooooooo long to spend that fucking money. If the club’s management think that a player that we want is demanding £30,000 per week more than what he deserves, we go up in arms. JUST PAY HIM THE WHAT HE WANTS! We literally scream. Well, except for me and a very small minority of Gooners and footy fans everywhere. On the hand, when the club increased ticket prices by 3% after freezing it for years, the same people who want us to pay players whatever they want were up in arms. Apparently, they just realised the value of money and how little of it they have and are willing to part with.

The shit that footy fans say!

Nonetheless and whatever ones’ persuasion on the issue of the club’s spending, this has been a very good summer. Only one important first teamer left and we replaced him with the player benching him in their national team. The same player has fitted in perfectly into our system. We have added one of the best attacking talents in the world and a warrior of a player; the sort that you need in those battles that we sometimes look timid in. Most of his efforts in his first Premier league game did not come to fruition but like a true warrior, he just kept fighting and fighting. The rest of the league will not know what hit them after he has gelled fully with the rest of his team mates.

We got another English teenager and he came with the sort of price tag that they usually do. I am not happy about the price at all but it is not the fault of the young man and I don’t hold it against him. On the field of play, however, he has been beyond impressive, especially for his age. He has been so good that we are not really missing our new vice-captain and world cup winning BFG! We’ve also got, as a back up, a world cup goalkeeper! Missing the goalie, whose heroics (especially against Liverpool and for the shootout against Wigan) won us the FA cup is not looking like a problem at all. And we got our new goalie at a bargain too; I like that very much!

As was the case last season, the club has done a great job by keeping the core of the one from the previous season and have added valuable talents. The manager has been making his usual nuanced comments about adding players which is like a Rorschach test: every fan hears whatever they want him to mean. Many believe that we are still going to sign players and we might but it is unlikely, so it is time that people curb their expectations and support the team that we HAVE and not denigrate any of them in anticipation of the ones that we hope to get.

If you scan around the web and look at Arsenal fan sites, you’ll come across 3 main memes:

1. We need a MONSTER defensive midfielder; followed by how crap Arteta is. (They seldom use the word crap but I think you get my point)
2. We need a WORLD CLASS striker; followed by how crap Giroud is. (This is more literal)
3. We need another central defender of high calibre as Vermaelen is now gone. The reason why Vermaelen left is ALWAYS ignored.

These three are all valid desires and it is always a good thing to have as many good players as possible. When spoilt for choice, team selection headache is the sort that team managers must prefer (I assume as I have never managed a football team before in my life). The problem, of course, is the kind of shit that Arsenal fans spout as they make the aforementioned demands.

Need for a MONSTER defensive Midfielder: This is now a religious truism in Goonersphere. The reason why this position is mythical in Arsenal setting has been explained to death by many here on Untold Arsenal, Positively Arsenal and a few other blogs but like most things religious, rationality and evidence be damned. I read this piece detailing why we don’t really need a DM with facts and stats. It was followed by comments agreeing with the facts and stats BUT with most still dogmatically demanding a ‘monster’ DM.

A great point in the Community Shield victory over Man City was when our little Spaniard magician came to make a block inside our 18 yard box as a City attacker was about to shoot. Football, at least the sort that Arsenal play, is too fluid for a ‘monster’ defensive midfielder acting as a Wall of China, using his monster might to stop all opposition attacks from getting anywhere near our final 3rd. To be honest, it is a tantalising thing to have; the problem is that it is a myth. Unfortunately, people love nice sounding myths.

You can’t make a request for your ‘monster’ DM (or MDM for short) without letting the world know that 1. Arteta is slow; 2. Arteta is meek (unlike those aggressive mythical MDMs); 3. Arteta is old; and 4. We suffered those heavy away defeats to our rivals because we lacked a MDM. It is important to rubbish our captain as much as possible without actually calling him insulting names. In this respect, he is really, really lucky compared to Giroud.

Well, Arsenal fans in all their fickle glory can say whatever they want about Arteta but the person that really matters just gave him the biggest and most deserved vote of confidence by naming him captain. It gives me enormous satisfaction to read comments like:

“Now that Wenger has named Arteta captain, that mean he will be continue to be a first teamer and he is unlike to sign a MDM” followed by abuse of the manager.

Well, fuck yeah! And here is why! Wenger has always rewarded competence and loyalty and no one is more deserving than Mikel Arteta. He already captained us to 2 silverwares and he will captain us to more.

Need for a WORLD CLASS Striker: This is not new. No transfer demands list will ever be taken seriously if it does not include “a world class striker”. Arsenal particularly need this type of striker because….well, we all know that that Giroud is useless. Crapping on Giroud is a favourite pastime of far too many Gooners and it is often embarrassing to read, especially when you have fans of other teams writing stuff like this:

“sammy lee (Liverpool): Just read that Giroud has 40 goals in 100 games for Arsenal. That is pretty good. Does he get more stick than he deserves? Just the fact that he has played 100 games in 2 seasons is pretty outstanding considering Van Persie played 194 games in 8 seasons…Van Persie scored 96 goals, a higher average, but he did get fire in his boots in that last one. Giroud still has time to do that too and is only 27. Not long until Wenger has developed another player from good to great in Giroud. I think he will be one to look out for this season.” (TeamTalk YourSay- main page)

Aren’t our fans the most fickle in the world? Wanna find out? Go to the Arsenal Fan TV channel on Youtube and be amazed. The prevailing meme is ALWAYS based on whatever result the team just got and about how individual players performed – match by match! Robbie, the owner of the channel will pose questions to his interviewees in a manner that brings out their fickle worst. Another observer put together a mash up video of the regulars in their fickle glory and it was a beauty to watch. I regret not downloading the video before Robbie ran crying to Youtube to take it down because it gloriously showed how ridiculous he and his crappy ‘TV’channel are. The highlight of the video was a middle aged man literally crying about how useless Giroud was after a match and then singing “Nah na na na Giroud” a few clips later (after another match). Fickle fucker!

Need for Another Good Central Defender to Replace Vermaelen: This makes sense when you consider the fact that we just lost a good player. It’s ‘logical’ to just go ahead and replace him with a like for like defender. The issue that is always ignored by those clamouring for this, however, is why we lost our captain in the first place. The sort of central defender that is being requested is not going to sit on the bench as Vermaelen as just made clear, a sentiment that Gooners kinda, ironically, unanimously agree with.

So, why the request? We have 3 central defenders presently with Monreal being gently introduced into the position for emergency situations. One or 2 of our u-21s can be used for further cover in the extreme cases. The sort of defender that will be willing to sit on the bench and only be called upon once in a while is not likely to be any good, so what’s the point? Chambers will happily sit on the bench when Per returns. He will happily do this for the next couple of years but from what we have seen of him, he will get lots of opportunities when the games start coming fast and rotation becomes mandatory.

It has been a great transfer window for Arsenal and we have started the season better than we have in years. The team’s performance against Crystal Palace is far below what we all know they are capable of but let’s remember that we only got a scoreless draw against Sunderland 2 years ago and we lost 1-3 to Aston Villa (irrespective of the reasons) last year. This has been our best start to the league in 5 years. I don’t give a flying fuck about how jaded our performance was. We got the 3 points and I know that our boys are going to get better. I know that they are way better that what we saw on Saturday so I am not worried at all. I am just grateful that we did not lose any point.

The manager is keeping an open mind on recruitment and I intend to do the same. If he signs the mythical MDM; gets Falcao and Cavani to leave their respective mega rich clubs for us and at the same time gets a world class defender to warm our bench before the window closes, GREAT! If a less desirable combination of these or indeed none at all happened, I hope that our fans can appreciate what we have and carry on supporting the team without second guessing the players and their manager.

I did something that I have never done before in my life on Saturday morning before the Palace game: I gambled. Paddy Power advertised the odds of Arsenal winning the league as 20/1 (from 6/1). If it was a marketing ploy on their part, it worked as I felt so insulted by the odds that I decided to ‘punish’ them by collecting £210 with a tenner bet if my team pull it off. I am never betting again but my faith in this team is too strong to let this kind of insult slide. I don’t know if we are going to win the league or any other trophy for that matter but I am ready to battle anyone who thinks that we are out of any competition before a ball is even kicked. My hope is that I do more of those battles with the media and opposition fans and not my fellow Gooners.

Here is to a successful 2014/45 season; let’s all unite behind our darling Arsenal and keep the faith!

Olivier Giroud and the Illogicality of Unfounded Criticism and Abuse

Fans have always had different reactions to different players and such reactions have not always been logical. Players are not necessarily beloved because of the cogent contributions that they make to teams; they are often valued based on how they make fans feel. It is for this reason that flair players and the sort who wear their emotions on their sleeves are the usual fans’ favourites. You can see the flair even if it leads to nothing useful; or even counter-productive at times. Players who show passion on the pitch act exactly the way the watching fans would have probably acted in most situations. It is therefore not surprising that these 2 types of players are the most loved.

How many times have a player been criticised and abused for being crap only for the numbers to be broken down for fans (and most irresponsibly, the media) to now realise that they were wrong? Sometimes, the criticisms are well justified but most of the time they are not. I can’t recall a more unjustly criticised player than Olivier Giroud of Arsenal FC this season. I hear people criticise him and I wonder if I have been watching the same player or there is something wrong with me.

I have an attitude when it comes to Arsenal player that I must confess to my dear readers: I never abuse any player as long as they are in the service of Arsenal FC. I have complained about a few players during the heat of the game but that is it for me. I never take my hurt at how a player performed in a game away from that particular game once the final whistle is blown. I don’t necessarily forget how poor a player was in a game but as long as they are still wearing Arsenal’s red and white, I continue to support them and hope that the manager (who knows more than anybody alive on how to turn players around) will get them sorted and performing on top soon.

This attitude has saved me from having eggs on my face on countless occasions. I feel extreme pride in myself when I read comments from Arsenal fans on how they used to give Ramsey grief but they are now glad to be proven wrong. Fuckers. You are not supposed to be giving the players of the team that you love and support grief, no matter how poor they might be performing. It is not your job. There is a man employed by Arsenal FC to do the job of setting our players straight both tactically and with harsh words if necessary and he is pretty good at his job.

It is not my place to harass players or call them names like “Flappyhandski” or “van Porcelain” when they make mistakes or are struggling with injuries only to then whine about Arsene Wenger not giving them long contracts when such players seek more opportunities to play or earn more money elsewhere. (I am not too sympathetic with the Traitor but calling him names then was wrong all the same). Ironically, those who have abused our struggling players in the past would then follow up their mea culpa with immediate abuse of a current struggling player.

How many times have you read this line: “I am one of those who used to criticise Aaron Ramsey but I am glad that he has proven me wrong ……. But that Sanogo is never going to come good or Carl Jenkinson is not good enough, we need to get another RB”. You would think that someone just eating crow would have learnt their lesson but you would be wrong.

Of all the players that Arsenal fans in their infinite stupidity have treated unfairly, I struggle to find anyone like Olivier Giroud. We can say that some players have underperformed in the real sense of the word and that while this doesn’t make the abuse right, one can at least understand the reason for it. Giroud’s case is a strange one for me.

The guy gives our defence very good cover during set pieces and tracks back when we are under constant attack to help out. He is in the midfield during battles. He is a very selfless striker who would not only willingly pass to better positioned team mates but would celebrate their goals like he is the one who actually scored it. And, he scores his fair share of goals too. With 16 goals in the premier league and 22 overall, I think he is exactly where Arsene Wenger expects him to be this season.

What Giroud does better than any player in the league, in my opinion, is that famous link up play of his. He is bloody good at it. The way he keeps possession at the opponents’ goal area and calmly waits for his team mates to take good attacking position is superb. And the flicks, oh the flicks! Giroud has some of the most delicious assists in the entire league this season. Statistically, he is where Thierry Henry was at the end of his second season with Arsenal. True, he is older than Henry was but he is not at the peak of his career yet so there is room for improvement.

Now, why has the guy been treated like some bumbling doofus by the media and many of our fans? Why?

Apparently, he missed some good chances in some high profile matches unlike, you know, every striker who has ever played the game! Luis Suarez scored none of his 31 league goals against a top 4 opposition. That is zero in 6 matches!

Arsenal’s attempt and failure to get Suarez last summer is probably most responsible for the animosity of many of our fans towards Giroud. Most of the criticism and abuse are borne out of nothing but covetousness. Many wish we had Suarez and because we actually went for him but failed because Arsene Wenger wouldn’t write a blank cheque to a club that was unwilling to part with their most treasured resource, these souls took it out on Giroud.

Every time Giroud played, he reminded those Gooners of what could have been. His minor errors are exaggerated; they are errors that Suarez would never have made. His missed opportunities are those that Suarez would have converted. In the end, Giroud was not being judged on his own merit but with another player that they wish we had. Giroud was portrayed as one of the worst strikers in the league. Ironically though, you would often see the same detractors whining about what would happen to the team should he get injured. This bit gets me every time. Why would the team miss a player that is so crap?

The media fanned the embers of this discontent amongst Arsenal fans, as they have always done with our players whenever they notice our fans getting on their backs. News reports and analyses were written mocking and berating the guy with emphasis on how he shouldn’t be Arsenal’s leading man. It would be safe to assume that Giroud would score very low in any rating system used by the media. Afterall, they couldn’t stop slating the guy. But it turns out that the Telegraph scored him 214 which is only second to Suarez’s 290. All the other strikers scored less than 200. I am not a believer in the Football Fantasy points of players because I utter distrust the media when it comes to player ratings, which bad enough, is subjective on its own. However, Giroud’s position here is interesting to me because it got me by surprise. It also means that while the guy was being written about as inadequate by the media, their subjective player ratings system is showing a different result.

Here are the top 5 rated strikers in the league (courtesy of Andrew Crawshaw of Untold Arsenal):

Luis Suarez 290
Olivier Giroud 214
Daniel Sturridge 197
Sergio Aguero 180
Edin Dzeko 180

The fact that our very own much maligned striker is ranking this high (even though this is an unscientific rating system) shows that much of the abuse and criticisms that the guy has received are illogical and mostly unfounded. If a rating from a media publication – who are not known for being Giroud’s fans – put him this high, then he must be doing something right for us. Not that I was ever in doubt of Giroud’s contribution to the team but I hope that those who berate him and call for someone else to be signed to take his place would just calm down and show the guy the respect that he has earned.


2013/14: The Season the Media Got Everything Wrong (as Always)

That’s right; my summary of the 2013/14 season is that it is the season that the media got it all wrong. There are very few things that I love more than the media being wrong, so I have enjoyed this season very much. The media’s smarmy “we know what is best” and “we set the agenda” attitude irritates me to no end, so you might understand why I rejoice every time they end up with eggs on their faces. The problem, though, is that they are experts at conveniently forgetting what they said minutes ago talkless of months or years before so they seldom, if ever, own up to or account for being wrong. But we know when they are wrong. We always know and we’ll take every opportunity and available avenue to rub their noses in it.

Let’s get started on the themes and memes of the season and how the media flubbed them all.

Spending Equals Glory

My favourite of all the media’s wrong prognostications is their fanatical belief that spending always equals glory. While this is not wrong in professional football, it is not a water tight theory either. In fact, there are other viable theories but none is as exalted by the chattering class. Spending doesn’t always lead to glory which can be equally achieved with great team work, tactical discipline and of course, luck.

The league was predicted to be a 2 horse race between Chelsea and Manchester City because they have spent the most with Chelsea having the added bonus of rehiring Jose Mourhino ‘the tactical genius’. Some of the pundits had their snouts so up either of these 2 clubs’ rectum they nearly asked that the league trophy be handed over to them before a ball was kicked. To be fair, one of the 2 anointed teams ultimately won it but it was done in a manner that brought some modicum of humility to all concerned. Arsenal and (more closely) Liverpool had their say on the title and while Man City eventually won it, it was nothing like the walk in the park that the pundits have predicted based strictly on the amount the duo have spent. Poor Chelsea and Jose Mourhino could only come 3rd.

To maintain the record for the most often predicted outcome of the season for the last 6 seasons, Arsenal were again predicted to miss out of top 4 and by consequence, Champions league because they wouldn’t spend. Tottenham Hotspurs, after spending the windfall from the sale of the player who carried them all the way through the previous season and about £20 million more, were definitely going to overtake their tight-fisted rivals at long last. When on the eve of the North London derby Arsene Wenger, in his usual thoughtful manner said that Tottenham would struggle on the account of the number (7?) of new players they’ve just added, he was savagely ridiculed with many of our own fans shamelessly leading the verbal assault.

It is interesting that the same pundits who ridiculed Wenger (who was the first person to mention this drawback to Tottenham’s spending) would then turn around to use the same rationale for Spurs struggles immediately after their defeat at the Emirates and for the rest of the 2013/14 season. But in their true character (or lack of), none of them gave Wenger any credit for being the first to raise the issue and neither did they apologise or show any remorse for ridiculing him when he prophetically raised it.
Jose Mourhino’s return to Chelsea will be bring back the good times

Since Mourhino left Chelsea in 2007, Chelsea have been to the Champions’ league final twice winning it once. They’ve won a premier league title, 3 FA cups and a Europa cup. In one of their only 2 barren seasons (2007/8), they were in 2 finals while also coming 2nd in the league. The point being made here is that Chelsea’s performance and results this season are arguably their worst in Abrahamovic’s era. They made no final of any of the 3 cup competitions and came third in the league as they did under the much hated (by Chelsea fans) Rafa Benitez. Looking at the chain of results that Benitez pulled off in the 2nd half of last season, I feel very strongly that he would have achieved much more with Chelsea this season.

As always, the media bought his “I have no striker” line rather than question his tactics. He is described as a ‘tactical genius’ when he beat his rivals with bus parking, a strategy that his ‘ingenuity’ seemed incapable of dealing with when employed against him by smaller teams.
The only thing that Mourhino gave Chelsea this season is boring football and a return to the days of the club being universally despised by neutrals due to his many childish statements and generally uncouth behaviour. As a bonus, he got rid of the club’s best player for the 2 previous seasons and is on the verge of getting rid of the current player of the season.

What we see this season is in clear contrast to the cocky predictions of the yammering class who bought is “Happy One” tag like every other spoilt good that he has always sold them. After his “specialist in failure” jab at Arsene Wenger, Chelsea ending the season empty handed is my most satisfying outcome of the season. Mourhino’s failure becomes more apparent when we remember that 2 less regarded managers have won 3 trophies including 2 European triumphs (one of which is Abrahamovic’s Holy Grail, the Champions league) in 2 previous seasons for the club.

The Signing of Ozil is Lifting Arsenal

This is the one that my friends on Untold might not like but I am saying it as I see it and I intend to use facts to back my points. I already wrote about this issue where I objected to the word “lift”. To my understanding, it connotes “getting out of dire position” or “raising to a higher position that wouldn’t have been achieved otherwise”. And therein lies my problem with this meme.

There are 2 reasons for my objection: 1) Ozil being given unearned credits for Arsenal’s success and 2) the media being wrong about this long used talking point.

Walter wrote some weeks back about how the media didn’t want Ozil to succeed. Now, I rarely disagree with Walter but he is wrong about this particular charge. The media wanted Ozil to succeed and this can be easily verified by Googling stories on Ozil from September 2013 to the end of the year. Actually, during this period, Ozil could do nothing wrong, according to both our fans and the media. Passes that other Arsenal player are clearly capable of and have indeed made in the past are analysed with the common conclusion that ONLY a player of Ozil’s class could have made them. Every Arsenal victory was credited to the club signing Ozil. This from a club that was the best in the last half of the previous season and for which the only blight was the Anthony Taylor inspired debacle on the opening day of the season!

As I have always stated in all my writings on Ozil and, more importantly, based on my conviction: Ozil is a class player and one that I am very happy the club signed (although, the price tag is something that I don’t like for VERY personal ethical reasons). My objection has always been with him being credited with the work of other 12 to 15 players by overzealous fans and agenda driven pundits.

Initially when Ozil’s form dropped (as it happens to all players), Olivier Giroud was getting blamed for not making the right runs that Cristiano Ronaldo or Theo Walcott would have. In other word, when things were going well, it was because of Ozil’s greatness. We were regularly told that the mere act of signing him has lifted the club’s spirits. But when things were going south, it was because his team mates (especially everybody’s favourite scapegoat, Giroud) suck.

Well, this was until our friends in the media couldn’t take it anymore and then the vitriol started and many of our fans who have bought and (or) fed the media narrative were disappointed witch-hunt that Ozil was a victim of. “The media are picking on our dear player in their usual anti-Arsenal manner” they said. But the truth is a little different.

The media have only one constant: they loathe Arsenal and loathe our manager even more. They were happy to praise Ozil earlier as a backhand way of saying: “Told you so, you stingy Frenchman. Spending brings success. You finally spent big and voila, your team is doing well. If you had only spent as we have been telling you for years.” The little fact that the club had been doing well long before Ozil was signed was largely ignored. Now, if we collude with the media to hype our players up, we can’t complain when they maliciously tear them down with a vengeance at their slightest drop in form.

While this may sound bad on my part, I must confess that I was a little relieved when the media’s Ozil witch-hunt began. I knew that whatever the team achieved at the end of the season, it won’t be credited to a single new player. Considering how this team plays and the number of heroes it has, I consider that unjust. I derive a lot of satisfaction from not hearing anyone say that Arsenal’s long trophy drought is about to end because we bought Ozil. I know it is not that big a deal but as a lover of fairness, it is a big deal to me.

Confirmation of the Media’s Arsenal Hatred and Liverpool Love in

Arsenal led the league for longer than Chelsea and Liverpool combined but throughout these periods, we got told repeatedly that Arsenal would not win it. We were always told that it was strictly between Man City and Chelsea. Well, except for those periods earlier and later in the season when Liverpool were sitting on top. No questions were asked of Liverpool’s ability to win the league. They were cheered on, with their manager being hailed as a ‘genius’ and some including many of our fans asking: “if Rodgers can do it, why can’t Wenger?” Both teams will ultimately fail in the end and Man city would go on to win it.

Granted that Liverpool came closer than Arsenal in the end but it is upsetting nonetheless that Arsenal’s ability to succeed was vehemently denied on the account of Man City and Chelsea’s greatness while the same standard was never applied to Liverpool. So much for objectivity!

Remember Gooners, when next you hear the pundits tell you that Arsenal being top doesn’t matter as they will ultimately falter that they only apply that standard to Arsenal. When others top the league, they are credited for doing so while being given the chance to go all the way.

Why Arsenal Lost the League (Part 2)

In an earlier article on why we lost the league, I challenged the emerging talking point that we lost the league because of those infamous away defeats to the top 3. My position is that if you fail to meet a target, you can’t blame the most difficult points for your failure. You should rue most the easier to achieve that were not achieved.

The home loss to Aston Villa (irrespective of how it came about) and home draws to Swansea, Everton, Man United, Chelsea and Man City and the away loss to Stoke should come before away losses to the top 3 teams in my opinion. The media were driving the narrative because of the scandalous nature of those 3 losses and it is one that many Gooners were willing to accept out of the hurt that they feel from the nature of the results rather than look at the entire results from the league for why we lost. The eventual league champions and runners up got only 2 and 1 more points than Arsenal in the top 4 mini league while the all-conquering Chelsea could only come third despite getting 9 more points than Man City in the mini league.

On the human front, the main reason why we lost the league is because of Aaron Ramsey’s injury. I know that we lost quite a few key players to injury and I didn’t hold the position that Ramsey’s absence cost us the league title until after our last game away to Norwich. I look at Ramsey’s form throughout 2013 and Arsenal’s form throughout 2013 and then I look at our form when he was away and finally his form and our form since his return, I have got to conclude that missing Aaron cost us the league.

I am not sure if we would have taken any points from any of the matches away to any of the top 3 with Ramsey around but I feel very strongly that we would have taken more points from those ultimately costly home draws and that fatal away loss to Stoke. My doubts about this were removed by Rambo returning with his all-action playing style.

An unconventional headed assist to Podolski for our 3rd against West Ham. His initiation of an attack from the midfield while making his usual run into the box to finish it off for our 1st against Hull City; his beautifully chested assist for Podolski’s 1st and Arsenal 2nd and his rebounded shot for Podolski’s second Arsenal’s 3rd. And finally, that scorcher against Norwich. These are in quick succession of games and 2 of which were away from home.

This is what we missed while Rambo was injured: that swashbuckling take no prisoners all action style. He particularly loves running into the box and is never afraid of shooting. Aaron Ramsey ended the season exactly the way he started it and I kick myself for those 3 months that we missed him for. Who knows what might have been?

In summary, we lost the league because of the points that we lost in the previously mentioned games and we lost points in those games because we did not have our most productive player of the season around for over a third of the season. I hope that Ramsey carries his form to next season and that the injury gods spare him this time. Frankly, the young man has suffered enough and so as Arsenal FC.

Why Arsenal Lost The League

Anyone who has read any my previous rants on Untold Arsenal may know how much I hate common wisdom and clichés, especially illogical ones. But boy, football pundits and fans love clichés. They can’t have enough of them. Somebody, usually somebody (considered to be but not necessarily) important, says something about the game and the next thing you know, it is being repeated like impeachable fact all over the mainstream media and the Internet. Mark Holmes of is one of the very few people in the media who usually takes a step back and questions the orthodoxy. If you have the time, check out his Monday Moan articles. I don’t always agree with him (he is a Stoke City fan) but he is intellectually honest and is never timid about going against illogical populism. Most of the rest of the football media, unfortunately, are lazy, mediocre and dishonest hacks.

At the peak of our injury crisis this season, well-meaning Gooners were asking, out of frustration, why we have so many injury cases. Some were coming up with hypotheses on the causes. Walter wrote several pieces on the topic and his final conclusion ended where I have always been on the issue: we get so many injuries because we get kicked a lot due to poor to no protection from the referees. Even cases of relapse occurred because the injuries happened in the first place. Walter, an unpaid writer for a mere fans’ site did a comprehensive and data backed investigation. Our traditional media on the other hand were going with their guts and using innuendoes and stereotypes.

Arsene Wenger was asked about the injuries and he said that the club would investigate the causes. The media blew up and Arsenal fans nearly burned their keyboards with chants of “told you so, even Wenger is now going to investigate the causes”. I would laugh at the naivety being shown if not because the matter is not a funny one. So, Arsene Wenger, who revolutionised diets of Arsenal and brought many innovations that elongated the careers of players like Tony Adams needs to be prodded at press conferences to “investigate” the cause of a problem that he has been having over 5 years? Why not just call him a clueless moron while at it?

What Arsene did is called throwing a bone which described as: To be rid of unending attention seeker. The media weren’t interested in the reason why Arsenal have lots of injuries; they were just harassing the Arsenal manager based on the latest concerns of Arsenal fans. If they were really interested in knowing the causes, they’d do what Walter did.

The same thing happened a few days ago when Mertesacker was asked if he thought our heavy losses to our rivals caused us to lose the league. First of all, how was he supposed to answer?

“Nah, they are not that vital in the in the final analysis”? He says that and he’d be crucified. Arsenal fans would ask for his head and the club would be mocked for not taking the losses seriously.

When public office holders are asked questions about failings of their departments, they never say that their system is great (even if they are) and what happened is just an anomaly. If they say this, the outrage merchants, who never saw anything wrong with the said system before the problem surfaced, would be up in arms asking for “heads to roll”, for “resignations to be tendered” and other pitchfork wielding stuff like that.

When facing the public after things have gone wrong, representatives of major organisations would give the types of responses from Per and Wenger. They would just throw the media a bone. You hear stuff like: “we take full responsibility for what has happened and we’ll a have a review of our system and make all the necessary adjustments”. You see, the public love to hear this even if no one ever asks again about the promised reviews and changes once the outrage has died down. Case in point, when was the last time that anyone talked about the cause(s) of Arsenal injuries since Arsene threw them that “investigation” bone?

Some, if not many, of our fans seem to be unaware of this tactic from high profile individuals. Mertesacker’s comment: “The early away games killed us this year. Hopefully we can learn from that” is now being cited as EXPLICIT verdict on why we have lost the league. It isn’t. When one of Liverpool or Man City win the league, would anyone be talking about them being beaten home and away by Chelsea who are only likely to come 3rd?

Below is the top 4 mini league:

Played Win Draw Lose Points GD
Chelsea 5 1 0 16 11
Man City 2 1 3 7 1
Liverpool 2 0 4 6 -1
Arsenal 1 2 3 5 -11
Like Mertesacker, I agree that our position here is poor and we must ensure that we do better away to our rivals in future. Conceding 17 goals in 3 games is embarrassing and every effort should be made to ensure this never happen again. I also agree that the points that we lost in this games are PART of the reasons why we lost the league. Where I differ on this issue is in the conclusion that this is the MAJOR reason why we lost the league.

Just before the 2013/14 season kicked off, I wrote a piece titled: “How Arsenal Can Win The League” and in there I projected that if we win all our games against the bottom half team, home and away, we’d get 60 points. If we beat all the next 5 teams at home and draw them away, we’d have another 20 points. That’s 80 points. Then whatever we can get against the remaining top 5 teams might just be enough to get us across the line.

We have done very well against the bottom 10 teams and if not for some questionable officiating (e.g. Aston Villa at home and WBA and Stoke away) and injuries (Swansea at home and Stoke and Everton away), we might have done even better.

We lost points, net of my projections, to:

Aston Villa at home, 3 points – (officiating)
WBA away, 2 points – (officiating)
Everton at home, 2 points – (I blame no one for this)
Everton away, 1 point – (injuries)
Man United away, 1 point – (injuries and sickness)
Man United at home, 2 points – (I blame no one for this other than timidity and fear of losing)
Swansea at home, 2 points – (injuries)

Now, other than the scandalous nature of our losses to the top 3, I don’t really see what the hullaballoo is all about. Was anyone thinking that we were really going to beat all these teams away? I am not saying that it is impossible; I just think it is an unrealistic expectation. I have always recorded zero for Arsenal in these games and any point gained would have been a bonus point in my book. I am more upset about our home draws to Chelsea and Man City where we lost 4 points than the big losses away to them but ironically I am not hearing many complaints about the former. Why can’t the complainants just concede that they are upset about our embarrassing away losses rather than making them the major reason why we lost the league?

Looking at the net points that we dropped and the points deficit that we have against the eventual champions, we can see that with just 8 more points, we would have been alright. Seven could have done it but we need 8 due to our comparatively low goals difference. In my opinion, it is much easier to make up those 8 points from any of the combinations from the list above than from beating the top 3 away from home. It is for this reason that I believe that the MAJOR reason why we lost the league is because of the points that we lost to lower teams.

Again, which is easier for this Arsenal team based on our form this season: beating Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool away (9 net points) or beating Aston Villa, Everton and Swansea at home (7 net points) and drawing Man United or Everton away (1 net point) to make the 8 point deficit? If you agree that it is the latter, then shouldn’t those lost points be the MAIN reason why we lost the league?

If in a mathematics GCSE examination, a student lost 13 marks on ratio & proportion (D/C grades), simplifying expressions and index laws (E-B grades) and also lost 9 marks on transforming graphs (A* grade) and vectors (A* grade). If the student ultimately failed to get her desired A grade in the exam by 8 marks, could we say that the student mainly got a B grade because of the higher grade questions she missed or because of the far easier to get lower grade questions she missed?

I rest my case!

Millennium Tribute to Arsène Wenger

I have very little interest in celebrating milestones.

General ones like the New Year are particularly unworthy of celebrating in my opinion. It is just another day. I call my birthdays my own New Year and while I take stock of happenings in the last calendar year, I do nothing else about it unless there are loved ones around who want to celebrate with me. Being a scrooge is bad enough but being a party pooper at your own party is unthinkable. Very uncharacteristically, however, I am in a very celebratory mood for the upcoming 1000thgame of Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal reign.

The cause of my mood may come across as bizarre to many but I am comfortable posting this weird tribute here because I believe that if you are a regular on this site you will understand. I am so eager to celebrate Arsène Wenger’s 1000th game because he has not won any trophy in nearly a decade.

Weird right? Well, you can’t say I didn’t warn you!

There are many reasons why I am in such a great appreciative mood about this new Wenger milestone but rather than bore you with poorly written gibberish, please go to or click on this link for the Club and Opta’s report on his 999 games in charge. I beg you to please read the analysis. I promise that it will be a great use of your time. It is totally worth it.

Here is a gem for example: “The Gunners have won 30 of the 45 games so far in 2013/14 – for a 66.7 per cent win rate –better than each of the previous 109 seasons since Arsenal became a league side in 1893.” Seriously, I wouldn’t believe this if anyone had told me before I saw it with my own eyes!

I am celebrating this great man because of his lack of trophy success in the last 9 years, as I said earlier. I am doing this partly in reaction to but mainly in defiance of the qualifier which none of the tributes to him from the traditional media will ever fail to include in order to diminish the great man’s record, even if they don’t openly infer such.

I was really interested, as I looked through the stats rich analysis on, in how Arsene has fared in the last 60% of his reign which coincide with the trophyless years, in comparison with the preceding 40% that include the trophy winning years.

The most shocking bit for me is that the number of games won (on average) in the latter is actually slightly more than those in the former. For example, in the 1st and 3rd centuries of games, Arsenal won 53 games each. Those were the lowest wins in all of the 10 centuries but trophies were won in each of the seasons included in those lowest points. In other word, we’ve been winning consistently the same number of games (or a few more) but we are just not winning the trophies to show for it. (Reason for this shortly).

So much has been said about Arsène and, by implication, Arsenal’s lack of ambition. Going by this assertion, I was expecting to see a big drop in the charts on our results in the last 600 games but I was delightfully wrong. Our win percentages have been pretty consistent all through Arsène’s reign.

Now, how come we won trophies in 4 centuries of games when we won only 53 games on 2 occasions but then failed to win any trophy in 6 centuries when the lowest was 54 and only once? What is(are) the cause(s) of the trophylessness? Well, I’m glad you ask and here is your answer:

  1. Financial doping of our nouveau riche rivals:- It is interesting that we have not won anything since Chelsea’s ascendancy, despite winning as many games as we used to before they got their sugar daddy. The arrival of Man City’s sheiks has not helped our cause either. A lot has been said on here about financial doping so I’m not going to waste your time but the millennium game piece on gives visual resonance to the point. The high end games (finals and semi-finals of cups and top 4 meetings in the league) are where Arsenal have suffered from being unable to match our free spending rivals. They could also beat more of the lower teams (this is where man United excelled).
  1. Ill luck:- I know that many do not like to see that word but unless anyone can explain to me how a team that we had beaten 3-0 twice, both home and away, could beat us 2-1 on a neutral ground from an error from one of our best defenders, that is what I am going with. Also (and on a flip side), have another look at 2005 FA cup final and tell me luck is irrelevant.

I would normally put The Emirates Stadium as point 3 but not on this occasion. That stadium is Arsène Wenger’s greatest achievement for Arsenal so I am not going to attribute our lack of trophies to it. I don’t want to diminish it. Besides, the stats on our win ratios shows that we have remained consistent even in the post Emirates era; so if we are winning about the same number of games as in the past, why aren’t we winning trophies too? It is more for the 2 points above than anything else.

So to summarise my points, Arsène’s remarkable tenure has our manager has been pretty consistent in terms of style and results. We have missed out trophies dues to bad luck and being financially out-muscled by our rivals. But at the same, and more importantly, we have grown and expanded as a club and as global brand. We are a more robust organisation financially thanks to Arsène and the board’s prudence and progressive thinking.

Small clubs, which thanks in great part to Arsène we are not, seldom win trophies. Big clubs always win trophies; as long as we are a big club, we WILL win trophies. It is only a matter of time.

My Tribute

I referred to myself as an atheist to a Gooner friend during a recent conversation and he objected. “You can’t be an atheist”, he said. “You are an Arsenal fan!” I gave him a puzzled look and he said with a smile: “Are you denying that Dennis Bergkamp is God or are you telling me that you don’t believe in him?”

Now, I have got to tell you, that caught me unawares. Of course, I believe that Dennis is God and this not a faith based acknowledgement. I may not believe in the theological God but I saw with my own eyes how Dennis disobeyed the laws of physics with impunity.

I have seen him make grown men shed tears of joy. I have seen him make opposing fans shed tears of sorrow. I am among the many faithfuls looking forward to his return to the hallowed grounds called the Emirates stadium. Just like in many religions, his statue now adorns our ‘Cathedral’ and we faithfuls will look at it and say: “may your return be hastened, o dear Dennis” or other religious stuff like that.

Is Arsène Wenger God too? I’ll say maybe but I have never seen him nutmeg opponents before. I have also never seen him rewrite the laws of physics. Only God can do that! That is why Bergkamp is God! Arsène is something more realistic though. He is a father. He is a mentor. He is a role model. He is a philosopher. He is an artist. He is an economist. He is a non-sanctimonious moralist. He is a visionary. (Please help me add to the list)

Why do I love Arsène Wenger so much? Because, and this is my ultimate reason, he is a good human being. Arsène Wenger, whatever you might think about him as a manager, is a phenomenally good person. In my professional life, I have worked under many managers (with various titles, they are not always called managers).

What has always stayed with me about each of them is seldom how they treated me professionally but how they react to issues as human beings. Many are calculating, devious and will not hesitate to sacrifice their underlings to further their own careers. Some just want to avoid trouble for themselves and as long as you are doing your job properly, there will be no problem. They will not stick up for you at bad times but they will not add to your problems either.

Finally, there are those very few who I am grateful that I had opportunity to meet and work with. They are mentors and father figures. With them, you learn something new everyday. You want to do whatever it takes for the team they lead to succeed. You know that if you make mistakes, rather than scapegoat you, they’d help you to overcome them. They trust you with responsibilities and they give you room to grow by using your own initiatives. When you have non-work related issues, they support you as you try to sort them out.

This is how every player who has ever worked with Arsène Wenger feels about the man. When I listen to the guys wax lyrical about their boss who I may never meet, I know what they are talking about because I have worked under people like that. When you work with bosses who are good people, they enrich your life in more ways than just the professional. They make you believe in yourself more than your own meagre ability. How many of our players have left for greener pastures only to become irrelevant in the football world because their new manager is notArsène Wenger?

This is my tribute to Arsene Wenger, one of my role models, on the milestone of managing my darling club for a thousand games. Please raise a glass of whatever you are drinking to good health, long life and good luck for our esteemed and beloved Arsène Wenger!

Who Lifted Arsenal More in Their First Season: Ozil or Cazorla?

This is a very polarising topic and one that I have really struggled to write. This is particularly difficult for me because I am against pitting Arsenal players against each other. I am a socialistic supporter: the team wins because all players are great and loses because they all didn’t do enough. Of course, I am not that blinkered to think that all players make equal contributions but I prefer to not over criticise under-performing players and not over-praise the ones on form.

With this mindset, why embark on a venture to draw a line under the performances of 2 of our most important players? Why start a Cazorla vs Ozil battle? Well, as much as I want all Arsenal players to be viewed the same as much as possible, I have no power to make everybody else do this. The implication of this is that people keep praising individual players and giving accolades which aren’t always deserved while making critiques that aren’t always fair. The Libran in me struggles with this injustice and ultimately my desire for justice trumps my unwillingness to pit Arsenal players against each other.

I have had to argue too many times on this site about the impact of Ozil on Arsenal this season and I won’t be surprised if some readers have already concluded that I dislike the guy. Unlike maybe 90% of Arsenal fans, I was not over the moon when I got confirmation that we’ve signed Ozil. I had exactly the same feeling as when I first saw Koscielny with the number 6 jersey on a few years back. I have always welcomed new signings with a reserved enthusiasm that goes like this:

“Welcome to Arsenal (name inserted), I know you must have good prospects for Wenger to have signed you. I hope that you realise those potentials for the team.”

I know that I am in a very tiny minority but that was my sentiments about Ozil. And yes, I am quite aware of his stats and reputation, I just like to base my accolades on what players have actually done for the team rather than what they are reputed to be capable of. At the same time, I was rooting for Ozil to succeed just as I had rooted for Sanogo and every Arsenal player signed before him. I don’t give a damn about how much it cost to bring Ozil over and to be honest, his high price tag (yes, I know we got him for a bargain) was a kind of put off for me. It’s not about Ozil, I am just against huge transfer deals in principle.

As we all know, Ozil was brought in at the tail end of a campaign of calumny against the manager because he “wouldn’t spend the fucking money”. Spending over £42 million and bringing a player of Ozil’s calibre was like killing 2 birds with a stone. A quality player has been brought in and the “fucking money has been spent”. When I hear the media and many of our fans repeat the mantra: “Ozil has lifted Arsenal”, I want to tear out the little hair in my balding head. Ozil has not “lifted” Arsenal; spirit or performance. Some fans’ obsession to see a big name signing has just been appeased by who the player is and how much he cost; no more, no less. We did not lose to Aston Villa in the first match of the season because the “fucking money hasn’t been spent”. We had also gone on to win our next 4 games, home and away, before the “fucking money” was spent. In short, the Aston Villa loss was quickly proven to be a freak result and the team was back to its usual self before the signing of Ozil was completed.

Ozil hit the ground running and even if he hadn’t, I wouldn’t give him any stick over it. The guy is real class though and we all agree that the money was well spent. I, unlike many Gooners that I know, however, was never comfortable with the over the top praise of Ozil and I get agitated whenever I hear anyone ascribe the team’s success to his signing. It is not only wrong and unfair to all our other players but shows lack of any sense of perspective on the part of those doing it. I have looked at all our results against the top teams (our one true fair criticism at the moment) and compared pre and post Ozil ones head to head. We came out a little better pre Ozil! Our results against the lower teams have been pretty consistent pre and post.

So, how exactly has Ozil lifted Arsenal? Making disgruntled “buy-buy-buy” brigade happy does not count in my book. I decided to write this piece after thinking about the circumstances that we were in at the time of Ozil signing and that of Cazorla’s. I therefore decided to compare the impacts of the 2 players and hence the title.

Cazorla joined Arsenal for £15 million from Malaga in the summer that we lost our most important player along with arguably our most important midfielder. The loss of RvP and Song was a very big one and it was a despondent time for most of us fans. We did not finish the season before that anywhere near being the best team at the latter half of the season and we have lost 2 very important players. Cazorla hit the ground running and for me personally, he was a beauty and great joy to behold. Cazorla amassed Man of the Match awards match after match and he was the Player of the Month for his first 2 months in the club according to voters on who I want to believe were Arsenal fans.

Nobody in the media or amongst our fans ever said that Cazorla lifted Arsenal despite the overwhelming evidence that he actually did. Yes, Cazorla got the accolades that he deserved but that silly line about lifting the club was never used. Cazorla ended the season with 5 Player of the Month awards and was justifiably voted Arsenal Player of the 2012/13 season. That was his first season, in case anyone is wondering.

May 2013 Aaron Ramsey
April 2013 Santi Cazorla
March 2013 Santi Cazorla
February 2013 Santi Cazorla
January 2013 Olivier Giroud
December 2012 Theo Walcott
November 2012 Theo Walcott
October 2012 Theo Walcott
September 2012 Santi Cazorla
August 2012 Santi Cazorla

Cazorla joined a badly depleted team that was really low on morale after losing its captain and league’s best striker along with our best midfield enforcer. He joined a team that was not in any kind of consistent run from the previous season. True we came 3rd in the league but it was a crazy season in which Newcastle came 5th and the Tinies threw away a 13 point lead between within 3 months! Okay, I love that bit, especially them making way for 6th placed Chelsea as UCL winners. Happy days! Bottom line, before I wander off again, is that Cazorla indeed lifted Arsenal in his first season and his numerous awards are a testament to that fact.

Ozil joined a very stable Arsenal team that was the best team in the second half of the previous season’s league and that had a very successful pre-season for £42.5 million. The team had already proved with their next four victories that the debacle against Aston Villa was just a blip and they were just carrying on as they ended the previous season. But if anyone had been asleep for the last year, they would be forgiven if they thought that Ozil joined a failing team and single handedly turned its fortunes around.

List of winners of the Player of the Month awards for the season so far:

January 2014 Santi Cazorla
December 2013 Theo Walcott
November 2013 Aaron Ramsey
October 2013 Aaron Ramsey
September 2013 Aaron Ramsey
August 2013 Aaron Ramsey

In the absence of an objective means of comparing Arsenal players, I think the player of the month is a pretty decent yardstick because it is based on votes by Gooners and they have never been controversial. They are close sometimes but they are never controversial. If an Arsenal player is ‘lifting’ the team, I would expect that Gooners will recognise that and honour him accordingly with votes but the best that Ozil has done is come a very distant second in September and a close second in October, both to Ramsey. A cursory look at the tables shows a few important facts.

1. If we were so eager to use the term “lift the team” for any player, we should have used it for Santi Cazorla who indeed lifted the team in his first season.

2. Ozil is a great guy, a fantastic player and a very humble person but he has not lifted Arsenal. The fact that those who are desperate to see us spend are happy that we signed him is not the same as him lifting the club.

3. We have done incredibly well in the absence of our most important player – Aaron Ramsey. Let’s hope that he gets back soon and returns with his pre-injury form.

An objective look at this team for the last 14 months shows that we are a great team that has been made better by the inclusion of talents like Ozil and Flamini. Based on available evidence, no new player is lifting the team.

Finally, if there is any good thing that can be taken from the media’s latest campaign against the player that they had originally labelled as our saviour, it is the fact that if we win a trophy this season, they (hopefully) won’t give the credit to Ozil. That will be a great injustice to our dedicated band of brothers. All for one and one for all!

Can Footy Fans Do Their Jobs and Just Support Their Teams, Please!

It’s another transfer window; the most annoying periods in the football calendar. Footy fans are now busy watching Youtube 30 second clips for the names of the next saviours of their clubs, which they will then spam their online support forums with.

“We need to sign a lethal/world class/potent (etc) striker” – This is always on the wish list. No transfer speculator would be worth their onions if their list does not include a striker, described with one ‘killer’ adjective or the other. Many would be kind enough to list a few of such strikers, thanks to Youtube. Interestingly though, on the same threads, somebody would pop up to burst their bubble with detailed information on why the speculated striker signing cannot be possible. Usually, the speculator would just move unto other names, oblivious of the lesson that they’ve just been taught: player signing is very, very complicated!

It is understandable why football fans play the transfer speculation game. We all want our teams to do well, and we naturally want to do our bit to make success possible. This is a noble thing. However, while it would also be noble to rush into a burning building to save people, it would be stupid to do so when the fire-fighters are already on the scene. The fire-fighters are professionals. They know what to do. Any other passionate person around (perhaps with relatives inside) would only be hindering the professionals from doing their jobs by going in with them. Or in respect of us online football fans: screaming ideas and instructions at them from the sideline.

Many of us have been following the beautiful game all our lives. That’s a very long time no matter ones’ age and this gives the false impression of skill at running the game. But all that following football gives us fans is knowledge of facts of the game. In other words, we know the history. Period. I have been wearing clothes all my life but I cannot sew a shirt; and I have used hundreds of them. Some people may be able to sew shirts but it will only be because they’ve learnt how to from tailors. To be fair, anyone can sew shirts but I doubt many would be proud to wear theirs.

One of the major accolades (amongst many) bestowed on the then Senator Barack Obama in his 2008 presidential run was that “he knows what he does not know and he always get people who know to help him out”. Another term for this is self awareness. Know what you are good at and stick to it. At Untold Arsenal, I can guess who wrote an article just by the title. If it is historical, financial, about the media or Tottenham, it is very likely to have been penned by Tony. If it is about officiating or a very enthusiastic title in support of the team, Walter must have written it. Other Untold writers have their forte and tells which can be guessed more easily the more one reads their articles. That is precisely what makes Untold Arsenal what it is today. There are different writers, different ideas and perspectives but all in support of Arsenal.

What also makes Untold great for me is that we don’t play the transfer speculation game here. Damn, I hate that stupid game.

Is Bacary Sagna going to sign a new contract? I have no bloody clue. Am I worried that he might leave at the end of his contract? Of course, I am. I love Sagna. He is the perfect professional or the closest thing to one (but that is only because I don’t want to sound like a sycophant). There is nothing that I would love more than to see him extend his contract (okay, maybe the 2013/14 EPL title).

There are 2 things that we need to take cognizance of here:

  1. Players don’t do ANYTHING because we want or wish them to. They would listen to their agents and others in their entourage before they listen to us. That is if they ever listen to us at all. To be honest, I don’t blame them for looking out for themselves. Football fans would start slagging them off as soon as their forms drop. Or asking for a better player to be signed to take their place. For example: Olivier Giroud!
  2. Whatever worries we might have about Sagna or any of our players for that matter, Arsene Wenger has more and if he doesn’t, it must be that we are worrying for nothing because there is nothing to worry about. Whatever the issue may be with any member of the team, I have full faith in Arsene Wenger to handle it in the best possible way for Arsenal Football Club. He is a consummate professional and a father figure to many of our players. I trust him to act in the best interest of all concerned.

At the beginning of the season, many Gooners did not give the team any chance to do as well as they currently are and this is almost exclusively because Arsene Wenger did not listen to them and splash the cash on world class players. Unlike Chelsea and ManchesterCity who “spent some fucking money” in the summer and are as a result going to compete for the title between them; Arsenal are going to struggle to get 4th place as usual.

This prediction has so far failed to come to pass. The team has led the league most of the season so far. The point gap has gone up and down but no team has had more points than Arsenal, after playing equal number of games, in months. Chelsea and Man city have only led for very brief periods and at the time of writing, 20 games have been played which means all the teams have played each other plus one.

Normally, common sense would dictate that if you’ve failed at a venture, you either give it up or tread more carefully in future when trying again. It sounds ridiculous to read comments admitting to being wrong about the team’s progress so far but then followed with not just expression of doubt but outright certainty about how the team is not going to make it in the end because the same Man city or Chelsea are going to win it. This line is understandable from the fans of the other 2 contenders. Fans are supposed to be optimistic in favour of their teams. It is indeed their duty to prop up their teams and spread confidence amongst the supporters, many of whom will take that swagger to the stadiums, resulting in louder support.

I hope it is not too much to ask the same of us Gooners. I am not oblivious of the doubt that many of us have about how this season will turn out. I have it too. This is what you get after almost a decade of winning nothing despite coming close on many occasions. Doubt is the enemy here and we need to conquer it. Unless one can see into the future, we can never totally conquer doubt but we can limit it or more importantly, desist from spreading it. Believe me when I say that whatever doubt you have about the team, many others share it but are only keeping the faith because that is what supporters do. Don’t reinforce their doubt by repeating yours ad-nauseam. You are not being realistic, as you like to claim; you are spreading gloom and undermining the same team that you claim to love and support.

It is the season of speculation and every fan wants to show off their (often) non-existent knowledge of the game by pulling out assorted, usually, exotic names. My hope is that we will give it a rest and the let the manager do his job as he and his team see fit. If we do ours as supporters by spreading positive vibes about our team, this team will land us the silverware that we all so desperately desire.

Keep the faith.

Sometimes you just can’t let it go

I am not the biggest fan of Mondays. I don’t hate them but Friday and Saturday are my favourite days of the week. While I’ll just get on with it at the dawn of most Monday mornings, I hate that sinking feeling that I get on the ones following bad weekends for Arsenal. Something tells me I’m not alone here. On the other hand, I love Mondays following great weekends for Arsenal. I’ve been having lots of those recently thanks to the Wenger boys.

One of my daily rituals is reading the Metro newspaper during my train commute to work. I quickly flip through the pages, perusing the headlines for happening around the UK and the world. I always read the readers feedback on recent stories and issues about a third way through the paper. I love reading other people’s opinion of issues. It gives me a sense of where I am compared to others and every now and then, someone writes in something profound that changes my view of things. All of these though, are like forcing yourself to eat your vegetables so that you can have your sumptuous dessert in the end. Once I’ve read the readers feedback, I move on to the back pages. If any other story is important enough and not some celebrity gossip, it would be in the early pages.

The sport pages are my actual destination and I take time to read rather than rush through as I do with the other sections. I think Metro does not have any agenda one way or another on Arsenal. They mostly parrot whatever common wisdom is being touted about the club but their match reports and basic reporting on state of things are usually fair, in my opinion. Every now and then, they’ll write something annoying about my beloved Arsenal and I’d just wave it off and let it go. Well, sometimes you just can’t let it go. Today is one of those days.

There is a 2″ by 4″ snippet on Arsenal that is written by one Peter Wood. I quote the snippet verbatim below:

“Arsenal fan and Club Metro reporter Peter Wood is still feeling worried” – Metro’s introduction.

Peter Wood now says:

“You don’t win the league with 11 players, you win it with a well rotated squad. But Wenger has never been a fan of a big squad. So far this season, we’ve dominated with consistent performances and we have managed that because we have not rested players. The problem is, they are now starting to look jaded – they need a rest.”

If I or any Arsenal fan wants to be responding to every rubbish written about our darling team, we’ll not have time for any other thing in our lives. But crap like this just grind my gears. Especially because the writer is an “Arsenal fan”. I will now deal with each of the points raised one by one.

“You don’t win the league with 11 players” – No shit Sherlock. Who knew that you cannot execute a 38 game campaign with 11 players?

“You win it with a well rotated squad” – This is just like the mantra, “spending will help you win trophies”. While not entirely wrong, it isn’t exactly fool proof. Besides, it’s not rotation that helps you to win; it’s having quality players performing consistently in the key areas of the game. What is probably most wrong with this comment is that it is false. Arsenal have already used 25 different players in the league this season. That is 25 players in 13 matches! I don’t know the statistics for other teams in the league but I doubt many have used more. Also, rotating your team is not always a good thing, especially when you are winning. What happened to “never change a winning team”?

“But Wenger has never been a fan of a big squad” – Here is another bullshit statement that is not based on reality or any evidence. Prior to this season, there was a lot of noise about the “dead wood”, about having a big squad of average players and so on. Arsene Wenger has always believed in having a well-balanced squad. It is not really about numbers. It’s about what the members of the team can do and how many of them can do the same thing. In other words, versatility is preferred over huge numbers. A look at our bench last Saturday tells anyone who knows anything about the game that we have strength in depth.

This was our bench on Saturday: “Subs: Fabianski, Vermaelen, Monreal, Rosicky, Flamini, Walcott, Gnabry””

Anyway one looks at this statement, it is still bullshit that was not well thought through.

“So far this season, we’ve dominated with consistent performances and we have managed that because we have not rested players.” – First part of the sentence is basic statement of fact while the other is, well, silly. Only an Arsenal “fan” would write nonsense like this. Why should we rest players who are consistently getting us results? Should we rest Ramsey, the league’s current best player or Szczesney, the league’s current best goalkeeper? Which team did this in the past? Do Barcelona rest Messi or do Manchester United rest RvP, unless they are not fit to play? Apart from dishonest statements, I also loathe whining just for the sake of it. This is whining just for the sake of it!

“The problem is, they are now starting to look jaded – they need a rest.” – As you read this line, please remember that the writer is a REPORTER! I wonder what Arsenal team he has been watching but “jaded” is the last word that any objective observer would use to describe the team after Saturday’s game. This writer is one of those who actually put words in the newspaper for us ‘unenlightened’ folks! He doesn’t know jack! But sadly, someone somewhere would read that and start parroting the same and before you know it, it becomes common wisdom, especially if the writer is well known and therefore influential. Thank goodness he isn’t!

I understand Mr Peter Wood’s apprehension. Even the most optimistic of us (e.g. yours truly) have our moments of doubt but common sense and reality must still prevail. If the players and management are doing their best and succeeding on their way to win our first silverware in over 8 years, the least that we supporters should be doing is supporting and believing in them. We shouldn’t be allowing our own fears to cloud our reasoning to the point of jettisoning the confidence that our good and consistent run have created.

Thanks for reading. See you in the comments