Most remember why we fell in love with our teams, but for me I do not know how I fell in love with Arsenal for the first time. I do know it was love at first sight.

For me, no other team compares and I am sure that goes for every other passionate football fan out there in the world. I am in love with Arsenal’s beautiful passing, the finesse of their game, the highs and lows of their seasons, but most of all the hearts of all the players and fans who each and every day give all their love and support to the game. Loving a team requires more than loving them for winning games and titles. Loving a team requires to love them through ups and downs, winning and losing because as an Arsenal fan this happens to me every season. 

As passionate fans of the game, we have a special relationship with our teams. Like any other relationship that requires love, our hearts have been broken a couple of times in the process. In the end passion and love always win over broken hearts because if you are a real football fan, chances are you feel the exact same way I feel when I see Arsenal play.

THIS.

(Source: t-henrys, via kissawaythetension)

Why Brazil’s humiliation made me sympathise……

I reserved my spot and the TV remote.  With much difficulty as you can all imagine.  The remote to the family TV can be likened to having the voice with the most gravitas during an argument.  We all want it but only one of us can have it.

  I started my campaign for the Remote early, over the breakfast table.  My eyes, if they are indeed windows to the soul, then they were a sandwich-board of messages of bleak doom, unable to open fully yet observant enough to see that the family were in attendance.  I offered my morning platitudes and, like a narcoleptic ninja, I made my move.  I told them all, this evening, the World Cup Semi-Final is taking place.  The TV is mine.  The couch is mine. No interruptions will be endured.  Repercussions will be swift and severe.  I then jumped on my magic cloud and beat a hasty retreat to my Kingdom of Midgets…….I may have fell asleep again at the end.

The reason that caused much panic within myself?  That forced  me to hatch a plan to wrestle the control of the plum spot and  remote, like a balding Professor Chaos? 

In my own ever-so-humble opinion, Argentina Vs Netherlands was decided by the Dark Arts of the sporadically beautiful game we love.  Simulation, theatrics, a musical number lent from a tragic Broadway Show.  Mostly performed by Robben.  With a one-man-band kit.  Dressed in Victorian garb.  Whilst performing erudite gymnastics in the opposition penalty area.  Quite an image. 

It wasn’t just Robben  who used the subtle arts of  gamesmanship however.  Argentina are well versed in this, but also reverted  to the tried and trusted method of ’ Kick Lumps out of them ’  when their tactical masterclass of ‘Give Ball To Messi’ doesn’t reap dividends.  This Semi ( hrmph! ) was a filthy chess match, the odd masterful move interspersed regularly with regular dollops of referee interruptions.  It wasn’t classic viewing. 

I did think this before the match kicked off, but anyone who has seen me attempt to predict the results of this fantastic competition will testify to this.  However, I knew the Brazil Vs Germany game would be a match for the purist.  Two contrasting styles, a partizan crowd, it had all the makings for a classic.  I wasn’t wrong on that occasion.

As I sat down to watch the unfolding events, the further Brazil had their noses rubbed into their own mess, much like a puppy being made to learn about toilet training, the more I thought about last season.  Those horrifying defeats that have left ugly scars.  Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea, their ugly visages screwed up in a sneer of derision as another goal was scored past our blameless GK.  Every goal was a notch upon our bravado. 

The shellshocked looks upon the Brazilian fans echoed evocative, locked away memories within my mind. 

The hollowed out husks of the players that took to the field in the 3rd Place Play-Off wearing the Selecao jersey was testament to what a humbling can do.  When the players know how much their beloved fans are smarting.  Defeats in huge matches always leave a resonance during a set period of time, but a Heavy Defeat, a tonking, in a match of much prominence will always be brought up, it leaves a statue of sombre remembrance that journalists leave garish wreaths at the foot of when the anniversary occurs or every time the teams play each other.

As Gooners, we could relate to this black comedy unfolding on our screens.  We have had moments similar to this, defeats of such overwhelming harshness that they will always be brought up in conversation, will forever be used as comparison, will permanently be used to illustrate weakness, will be used in adverts for TV channels.  A ghost of an injury that leaves its debilitating breath upon your body and mind.

The Brazil defeat had marked differences of course.  It was a match of huge significance of course.  It was their home WC, the expectations upon their shoulders were high.  I’m also sure the Selecao boys were indeed privy to the ugly events happening outside of their bubble of serendipity and wished to bring harmony to the people in perhaps the only way that could work.  Certainly the Brazilian government weren’t the answer, plus, Brazilians are more fanatical about their national team than any, I would say.  Bringing that famous trophy back, to some say where it belongs, would be a soothing balm to a wound fast becoming inhibiting. 

The pressure, inevitably burdening, obviously affected the players.  Some are saying that the omissions of Neymar, the Talisman, the Jewel in the Crown, the Ray of Hope, and Thiago Silva, the General at the Back, were the mitigating factors for such a shocking result.  I disagree.  If Neymar were in the line-up, I’m sure they may have carried a bit more of a threat but their issues were at the back.  If Thiago Silva had indeed won his appeal against his booking and lined up instead of Dante, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been a sorry seven goals that were conceded.  It would have been about five. 

Brazil were rudderless, like a campaign to bring ‘Rolfs Cartoon Club’ back but filming from his cell. 

The way they kicked off, the sight of Fernandinho with the ball at his feet but not a clue what to do with it, before being promptly dispossessed, is a memory that will surely haunt the faithful Brazilian fans, who have been nothing short of fantastic despite seeing their beloved side falling way short of the standards demanded by the greats of the game. 

As I watched the goals fly past Julio Cesar, who produced a few smart stops in the 2nd half to at least offer a tissue to the nations tears, I thought of the City, L’pool and Chelsea games, in particular the last two.

I thought against City, we weren’t as bad as some like to dramatise.  It was simply because once you go past three goals conceded, anything that succeeds that number is then vaunted as a thrashing.  Rightly so if you are a club that has aims for the Title.  We did score three however and if circumstances were different, and the officiating weren’t of the ilk of Anthony Taylor, then it would’ve been a tad more competitive.  Fundamentally, the defeat didn’t cause me to abstain from social networking and avoid certain colleagues at work.

The Liverpool game at the time was horrifying.  As bad as arguably the worst defeat in our history, the 8-2 mauling?  Not quite but it burned deep.  We had the best CB pairing in the League, how did this happen?  It pains me to type it, if my fingers could puke they would, but Liverpool deserved credit for that result.  Their attacking was akin to ours when we are in full flow. They were fluid.  The reason my heart felt like it was going to implode with a heady mixture of pain and anger?  A combination of the media infatuation with a Scouse Title win and Brendan Rodgers, the smug idiot.  It doesn’t take much for most scousers to lord it over you, it could be that they have a better taste in breakfast cereals than you, or in the case of Jon Flanagan, that they have more fingers than you do.  So a 5-1 humbling caused them to declare that we have always been below them, that this is their year, that this is their time.  Fast Forward a week later and we beat them 2-1.  Hush now, you blithering morons.  The pain will subside.

 

The Chelsea game hurt the most though.  Their fans are and always will be the biggest, ignorant twats we have to deal with.  The very fact they forget their roots and declare themselves as Londons Biggest and Oldest Club is rather infuriating.  The crux of my fury and pain though is that I’m still awaiting karma to slap their behind pertinently and send them off to bed with no supper.  They run their club with debt, they play football like a python asphyxiates its prey. A team run by Mourinho, who revels in our hate, comparable to certain journalists rolling around in our fury as we click on another link that sends us to their latest spurious yarn. 

It was Arsene Wengers 1000th match at the helm, an occasion that merited celebration, of frivolity and nostalgia.  All that is left however, is an ugly injury.  If the experts from CSI were to investigate the death of our title challenge, they would no doubt find the DNA of Chelsea underneath our fingernails as we scrabbled for purchase to fend off our rabid attacker. 

Brazil were left in tears on the pitch.  Some argue it was the quality of the opposition that left them with potential demons to fight in their fraught dreams.  Some say it was the huge apertures left by vital players.  Some say it was a tactical deficiency by the manager.  The fans will no doubt chew the fat over this nightmare conundrum.  Do you notice the correlation though?  Why when this match was being played, my thoughts strayed to memories of our beloved Club temporarily defiled? 

It is the fans left questioning at the end which binds us.  After a heavy defeat, unlike certain fans who will brush it off, put the old tried and trusted blinkers and rose-tinted specs on and pretend everything is A-OK,

we, like the faithful Selecao fans, will be left with a ruined appetite and questions that can’t be answered fully.  One terrible defeat doesn’t make you a bad team.  We know this ever so well, but much like my Goonersphere Podcast pals like to mention, it can be used by fans as a stick to beat whatever part they feel is ailing us.  Falsely or not.  We feel your pain Brazil. 

Has Anfield ‘89 set the standard for dramatic conclusions?

I’ve found it difficult to start this blog.  I’m not writing about a certain player, or infuriating media bias or even emotionally fuelled nonsense, which is a speciality.  The subject of this piece is something that a churlish, phlegmatic approach is not respectful enough, nay, wouldn’t be fit enough to lace Mickey Thomas’s boots.  I need to don the white gloves, lower the harsh, fluorescent lights and type in hushed taps.  This event deserves revered glances, the best seats in the house.  If it were a celebrity it would undoubtedly have a ’ An Audience With ’ show on PrimeTime TV, the crowd filled with the Hoi-Palloi of acting talent. 

So, as I mentioned, I have struggled to kick things off ( pardon the pun ) with this blog. 

What I want to portray, is the sheer magnitude of the task Arsenal faced on that famous day in May 1989.  I want to be the portent of the sheer difficulty they faced, I want to be the harbinger of the emotions that not only the players attempted to subdue, but what the fans endured.  On the topic of emotions, I will begin with my own.

I’m jealous of every fan that was there for that pivotal, historic, salient, ground-breaking, epoch-making, paramount match.  What a story to tell your offspring.  Screw that, what a yarn to unwind with every single person you meet.  If I was there ( seeing as I’ve watched the DVD so many times my wife groans when I watch it ) I would wax lyrical about the day, the whole day.  A lovely lady I know from Twitter, Amanda, was lucky enough to be present for possibly the greatest ending to a season ever, and she wrote a blog describing events from start to glorious, golden finish.  As I read hungrily, devouring the words and fervour that sprung from every syllable, I thought to the images, the iconic, unforgettable effigies that stand sentry-like whenever the Gunner memory files are opened.  The shirts, the delirious, fantastically voiced fans, Nigel Winterburn’s free kick that Smudger glanced in.  That glance, like an Angels Sigh. 

The most symbolic though, even surpassing Mickey Thomas and his goal celebration where he gave in completely to delirium, was Steve McMahon, holding one gnarled, expectant finger, sending out a message to the rest of his Scouser Cadre that they only had to withstand the Arsenal onslaught for one, more, minute.  Not only did that make it all the sweeter, but he was wrong as there were three minutes added due to Kevin Richardsons injury.  Egg on his face I don’t think even begins to cover how he felt at the final whistle.

Normally I’d apologise for digressing somewhat but is there anything better sometimes to submit to nostalgia?  Aren’t memories the currency we use in later life, that always guarantee happiness even in the face of duress?  I will not acknowledge guilt for pulling up a plush armchair in my mind, in front of a roaring fire, and indulging myself with the best movie you will ever have the the good fortune to witness. 

As an Arsenal fan, one of our token phrases is ’ We never do it the easy way ‘.  Never truer words spoken when it came to the ‘88 - ‘89 season.  15pts clear at the start of the year, the League Table before the match gave a now notorious situation: Arsenal 3pts behind, need a win by two clear goals to claim their first title since 1971. 

I’ve spoken to a few fans who attended that day, or were riveted to a TV in the local.  A lot said that only a smidgen of their grey matter allowed any sliver of hope to permeate through the grey blanket of rationale.  The grey blanket was weaved by the odds stacked against the boys in yellow and blue.  Even a national newspaper had the headline ” You haven’t got a prayer Arsenal “.  It wasn’t the Daily Mail funnily enough.

The plain harsh facts were Anfield was beyond a Fortress.  The last time they were beaten there by two clear goals, Ian Rush’s moustache was but a sparkle in his dads eye.   The Liverpool team of the ‘80’s was all conquering.  Merciless.  The press expected nothing less than yet another Scouse League win.  Isn’t that what makes the best scripts for the movies you watch repeatedly?  Triumph in the face of overwhelming adversity?

I am going to put an opinion out there in cyberspace.  It’s contentious, but I fully stand by it.  @ me if you must. 

I think that match is the most dramatic conclusion to a sporting event in recent memory.  I’d like to think my narrative above would rekindle the passionate fire that burns in your memory banks, that my prose enabled the ghosts to flood with colour and sensation once more, but if not, I’ll have a crack at outlining why I’ve made such a bold statement.

In all cataclysmic sporting events, there is normally a David and a Goliath.  There needs to be extraordinary circumstances and odds involved to sear an indellible mark into your psyche.  There aren’t many events that even the sports layman can recall, but I’d hazard a guess at Utd Vs Bayern in ‘99, Dennis Taylor Vs Steve Davis in ‘85 and The Miracle of Medinah Ryder Cup in 2012, to name three.  These events, if shown on a highlights reel even in a Primark on Saturday, would return a high percentage of recollection, in my humble opinion. 

There are those moments that  are paired permanently with a phrase, which is ” Where were you when? ” which is normally reserved for disasters or tragedies.  These titanic tussles also have this idiom latched to the side of them as they are endlessly shown on TV, referred to in conversation etc.  They changed the sport for the better.  Utd Vs Bayern didn’t quite have the odds stacked against one team or the other, but the ending, the curtain call, was on a par with Anfield. Taylor Vs Davis reached a standard that will never be reached again for snooker.  The Medinah Ryder Cup had the greatest comeback in history for the hotly contested golf tournament.

There are other sporting moments that shine brighter than others.  The reason I listed the ones above along with Anfield ‘89 is because of the sheer drama that wasn’t extinguished until the very last drop of excitement had been wrung out, not until the final seconds did you know where victory’s head would rest. 

In all the events aforementioned, the prize that was dangled above the competitors as they fought with every fibre of their being was ‘Up for grabs’ ( sorry, couldn’t resist that one ) until the fat lady had warmed up her vocal chords and had emitted the first note of her song of finality.  Fans who had this level of tension inflicted upon their suffering tickers by the unfolding events were unsure to watch or comically put their hands over their eyes.   In all these match-ups, the angst, drama, white knuckle ride was significant enough to lull non-watchers into its web of agitation.  Everyone of all persuasions could view them and enjoy the suspense.

Anfield ‘89 had every ingredient needed to concoct the perfect broth for the audience.  The travelling fans, the pub-going fans, the TV viewing fans, all experienced the full spectrum of feelings that only a labour of love can bring.  Once in generations will a game come even remotely close to recreating how finely balanced the trophy was, even until the last minute.  How glory rested on a precipice the width of a shaved ant.

How lucky we are to have this happen to our club.  To end the iron-grip holding the League, to win it in such mitigating circumstances.  All variables that eventually pointed to distinction for the Gunners.  As I mentioned previously, it is a daubing in the halls of your mind in permanent marker, something you can never rid yourself of, a memory that will always make other incidents, once the flames of passion have dulled to embers, pale into comparison. 

To be fair, I don’t think my innards could take watching a match of those parameters.  My aorta is already screaming blue murder every time I scoff more cooked animal carcass.  I also know this as whenever I hear Brian Moore nigh-on SCREAM those immortal words, my heart skips a beat.  I don’t want another title decider like this.  It deserves its place as head of historic, dramatic conclusions.  Plus, not many other sporting events have warranted a film surrounding its happenings. 

It seems it is past the time to wrap this up.  Time to watch Fever Pitch for the umpteenth time.  I do hope you have enjoyed this tour down Nostalgia Avenue, where the tickets are free and you always win the prize.  I look forward to your feedback. 

@JokmanAFC

Alexis Sanchez, Christmas and getting Moist……

I’ve just finished recording a rather frenetic Goonersphere Podcast.  As we wrapped up discussing the usual mix of Arsenal, filth and baser instincts, we chewed the proverbial cud.  We had discussed the potential signing of Sanchez but, due to the parasitic nature of the ITK Brigade, we had all been burned to such an extent that the only way we would believe a new signing had been clinched was to view them in our shirt or the beloved Sky Sports ticker.  Lo and behold, a great light shone from my laptop as James, Daniel and Fonky set about once more verbally emasculating me.  A high pitched squeal emanated from one of them.  Then an exclamation of joy and shock.  ” Sanchez IN OUR SHIRT!!! “.  We all excitedly hurried to the picture.

It was just like all our dreams had foretold, but twice as glorious.  His sunny disposition looked up at the lens, nay, my heart, and promised happiness fulfilled.  Stood bedecked in our new training top, I felt my insides quiver.  In regards to the pod group, I’m more liable to pour forth my feelings like a violent gushing of fluid and I did so as we all decided to record a bit more to cover what was a monumental occasion.

Twitter was awash, frothing with a buzz not felt since I electrified my junk with a toaster.  All accounts, even the ones with a penchant for the negative, were enjoying the moment.  Genuine excitement gets harder and harder to find as we grow older and more cynical, but the Ozil signing and THIS had caused everyone to post pics and humorous tweets that alluded to the butterflies currently moshing in their stomachs.  I joined in and sent a flurry of complete nonsense.  It was a hive mentality.  We all knew there was a good chance he would join but the ITK germ has grown so much, grown so caustic, that it has affected the way everyone views what could actually be veritable news. 

The mind will not believe until the eyes see it.  So the picture was a portent of not only joy, but of things to come. I, and I’m sure my Pod comrades will agree, felt slightly like I was a kid on Christmas morning again.  The age where you realise that the thing you’ve wanted all year, the thing you’ve bugged your parents silly for, is somewhere amongst the wrapped objects under the garish tree.  It’s there.  The slightly nauseous feeling in your stomach, the giddy feeling that garbles your thoughts.  Sanchez was my Christmas present.

Ozil and Sanchez represent a change of tack from the supposedly obstinate Arsene.  These players were not 15 year old goat herders from the Alsace.  They were not works in progress, a semi-precious stone that has to be hewn by the masterful and careful strokes of Le Prof.  They weren’t the ‘NEXT BIG THING’.  They are already big.  Gargantuan.  Vanessa Feltz big.  Proven World Class.  These players can turn games on their own.  This wasn’t just squad filler.  They will undoubtedly take us to another stratosphere.

Think I’m getting carried away?  You may have a point, especially as I’ve spent all this time explaining to you all how I feel like a kid again.  I offer you this point of view before you send me to the doctors with a severe case of frothing at the mouth. 

Arsene Wenger, Ivan Gazidis and others over our barren seasons always alluded, hinted toward a new horizon where the shackles of our stadium debt would dissipate and no longer would we be the Premier League equivalent to Fagin; relying on kids to do a job and scrimping an existence out whilst casting an envious eye over our moneybags rivals. 

There would be a time when we could look at a player and there wouldn’t be guffaws when we expressed an interest.  There would be a time when we wouldn’t have to shop in the Transfer Window equivalent of Lidl.  Eventually, if we kept our head above the rising tide of oligarch money and the dollar taking over football, then we could rise from our monetary incarceration and show everyone that Arsenal is a massive club with a huge draw for star players.

Rivals lapped it up like a lusty cat.  The media used this as a stick to beat us with for many a year, I’ve mentioned the media stigma more than once, so has many of the people I follow.  Even Sky Sports News used to lightly nibble at our situation.  No more. 

We still have a part of the stadium debt, I didn’t pore over every letter of the AST meeting notes so forgive me if I can’t recall the exact amount.  We do however, have the 8th highest income in European football according to the last Deloitte money league.  That moolah is no longer primarily for debt repayment.  It has lightened the noose around our neck and now we have been given the keys to the sweet shop. 

What about Arsene though?  I thought he was unable to spend as he is too transfixed by his devious plan to unearth unknown gems and polish them to an extent that we win all in sight with a team of 17yr old french polishers?  Wenger always said he would spend money on the right player.  A lot of people thought that was just a soundbite.  I started to doubt as well, seeing as our record buy was £16m before the almighty splurge of £42.5m.  I needn’t have worried, it would seem that all those words we thought were sugar coated in order to appease the baying fans were actually truthful. 

It’s taken a while to reach this moment and a lot of work from Arsene.  Not to mention forgotten man Dick Law and no doubt Gazidis for masterminding the mammoth Puma deal which further bulge our coffers like a Sepp Blatter World Cup meeting.  I think every Gooner has earned this.  Enjoy it.  Relish it, remember it.  We have been through the trough, faced the jibes and the awful results. Even adjusting our lofty ( and rightfully so, we are the Arsenal ) ambitions.  That hurt.  Now the plaster has been ripped off and we are uninhibited.  Who next?  Khedira?  Bender?  No more Samba or Kalou links for us!  Now THAT IS a cause for celebration!

So, here we are.  I’m typing and still buzzing.  I need to stop as I really should go to bed, Santa Wenger has been and I can’t wait to see if he has brought me what I’ve always wanted.

 

The media and their witch-hunt of Ozil - Just sit and watch him….

A lot has been made on the so-called ‘experts’ views.  I myself have written a blog only two weeks ago listing the pros and cons of the pundit glitterati.  It seems that a trophy-laden football career or a degree in sports journalism isn’t required when airing your offerings in front of a camera or scribbling your thoughts onto a national rag.  No, what is wanted, what is mandatory, is to raise enough heckles, turn enough heads to give the opinion credence via word of mouth, and to relent to tired cliches that are rolled out by no-marks and people who are trying to converse in a football conversation but have less clue than an England World Cup Celebration Committee. 

These cliches, these old adages are dangerous.  Spouted often enough and instead of dying in the shadows, much like spurs after spending over £100m, they glean new life from morons repeating what they heard Adrian Durham or Mark Lawrenson say.  If they’ve said it, it must be veritable, for they are the deitys we visit at the altar of MOTD and TalkSport, to hopefully sponge some titbits of genius we can then pass off to our friends, lording it over them as we falsely claim football intelligence. 

This hasn’t been the case for as long as I can remember.  Maybe it is the Age of The Click, where even the pundits will sell their dignity in order to gain a higher standing on the ladder of punditry, heaven forbid that they form an original opinion grounded in fact.  ” No! This is heresy!  Look to Crooks and Owen for the answers you seek! ” hisses a craggy-necked Hansen, cowering in the dark depths of the unlit MOTD studio, refusing to leave like a morose barnicle.  There are exceptions of course, if you read my blog then you will be fully versed in, not only bullshit, but of the true experts, the men who do not shy away from the illuminating facts and will openly disagree if the fatigued phrases are wheeled out.  Dixon.  Vieira, Savage, Neville, even Shearer is slowly turning to the ways of the Force as the influence from Hansen grows weaker. 

Unfortunately though, this lazy style is still used and is doing the rounds even during the Worlds Premier Sporting Competition, the World Cup.  Countless times I’ve muted the TV as I’ve had the unfortunate luck to hear another specialist trot out a comment regarding Balotelli bringing trouble wherever he goes, to Germany lacking in flair but they always bring the results to the fore and always when commenting on England. 

The one phrase, the one perversely wrong opinion that has me taking to my keyboard like the very ‘Keyboard Warriors’ I detest, is that Ozil is underperforming. 

He is coasting.  He is being carried.  What does he bring to the team?  Why does Yogi Low insist on starting him?  If you watch him he doesn’t do much.  All these fucking sentences compiled of fucking drivel have been what I’ve seen or heard during the WC. 

We all know what the cognoscente thought of Ozil during last season.  I think I know why the negative ratings were consistent for Mesut however.  He cost £42.5m.  He was our record buy.  He had rave reviews from the elite in the game and the stats to boot.  The problem is though, that the press, for that huge amount of readies, expected trees pulled from the root, huge ploughs furrowed in the Premiership, defenders stricken on the pitch with twisted blood and an anguished expression.  They wanted Ronaldo, they wanted Messi.  Ozil was so lauded in Spain that surely the goals and showboating would follow? 

I genuinely think that MOTD and most wireless shows are dated and offer no valid opinions.  I listen to podcasts and read blogs to get unbiased, truthful and often brutal opinions.  Twitter is my morning paper.

In the words of my good friend James ‘Raul’ Stokes, I’m going to hit you with some science.  Hold tight now, do not put your hands out of the carriage whilst riding. 

Paul ‘Poznan In My Pants’ wrote a blog a wee while back regarding Ozil.  It was my favourite single piece I’ve read in my whole time on twitter, if you can find it, I implore you to read it.  After finishing this though, of course.  Paul used an expression in the piece which has stayed with me.  It was ’ An assist of an assist’, a Pre-Assist if you will.  Because Pre-Assists, or PA’s aren’t recorded as stats, then it is impossible to illustrate how vital a cog Ozil is.  How often that when a goal is scored, if it isn’t Mesut assisting it directly, you can bet your arsehole that it was Mesut who started the move or provided the pass which opened up the opposition like Oscar Pistorius going through a bathroom door.  It was such a succinct point and it is so genuine. 

Ozil finished with figures of 6 goals and 11 assists last season.  In his first season in a League which is a vast contrast in styles to La Liga.  A far more physical, fast, close control competition.  Not bad at all.  Of course, if we are all honest, when he first arrived, when the buzzword of ‘assist’ was bandied around, we had visions of Our God Dennis, slide-rule passes with Theo gleefully gobbling them up.  Injuries curtailed that dream of course, but what could’ve been was looming in every Gooners vision.

The pundits, relying heavily on the fact that Arsene shelled out a small fortune on Ozil, set about lambasting Wengers decision, Wengers judgement and also Ozil himself.  He looked disinterested, he looked forlorn, like he had made a mistake joining us. 
On more than one occasion, he covered distances during the match that were up there with Rambo, the Human Duracell Bunny.  A player who is here for the money does not run himself into the ground.

My main gripe is that, if you actually watch a player you want to focus on, let’s continue to use Mesut as the example, then these people who are earning a shedload more than us should easily be able to highlight the actual facts and not rely heaviily on popular opinion.  I swear sometimes when half-time analysis takes place that a work-experience boy was made to compile the clips and they just talk through them.  I genuinely don’t think the people paid to offer their expert opinion watch the game in full.  Maybe they’re busy.  Perhaps the demands of the job take their toll somewhat.  Either way, if you watch Mesut in action, he rarely misplaces a pass, he has an unerring ability to know where his colleagues are on the pitch without looking up, he has great spacial awareness and his eye for an assist is rarely shadowed.

The same applies to when commentators mention that BFG is a liability due to his pedestrian pace.  Bitch, he can read a game better than you can read a book.  He doesn’t require pace when he can preempt what the attacker is going to do. 

Another reason why these pundits, this ‘cadre of cuntery’ couldn’t be more wrong is that Arsene Wenger and Yogi Low both insist on Ozil being one of the first on the teamsheet.  Surely these men deserve an iota more respect than to doubt whether Mesut should even be on the pitch, let alone one of the best?  If AW and JL both think Mesut, and most certainly BFG, more than merit their place and count themselves lucky to be able to call upon them, then surely these experts must have to think twice before putting their offal out to all and sundry?

Mesut Ozil will almost certainly be starting in the WC Semi-Final Vs Brazil barring injury.  The 2nd biggest match you can take part in as a player of the beautiful game.  I do so hope that Mesut rips open the net with a thunderfucker of a shot from 30yds, but more than likely he will provide an opportunity to slice open the soft underbelly of the Selecao with a simple pass.  He is a surgeon.  Why wave around the gory entrails with abandon, screaming ” I JUST TOOK THIS OUT OF THE BODY!!! “, when he can just do the surgery with the minimum of fuss, leaving his brain to problem solve, to concentrate on unlocking?  Why go past four players, using valuable bodily resources as you go, when you can let the ball do the work? 
Mind you, I bet if he does provide a Pre-Assist, or an assist, then the pundits won’t mention it.  They probably won’t even notice and just give him a 6/10.  It doesn’t matter though, as we know what he’s worth to us.

The death of Tiki-Taka? That’s a tad presumptuous….

The scene; World Cup 2010, South Africa.  Iker Casillas holds aloft the most elusive of laurels.  Spain swept all and sundry aside brutally to claim the mantle of World Champions. 

The pre-tournament favourites and the only nation that could come close to the sheer amount of talent in Spains squad was Germany, who were dumped out in the semi-final stage by the eventual winners.  The Final was viewed, after the game was played, almost as a battle between good and evil.  Spain were the purveyors of the beautiful game, trying to show all that you can gain results without resorting to cynical behaviour or negative tactics.  The Netherlands, obviously before the game realising that they couldn’t match Espana for guile, set up their team akin to trench warfare.  Give them not an inch.  It verged on the bestial at times, none more so than when part-time doorman Nigel de Jong planted his boot firmly into the torso of pass maverick Xabi Alonso.

  The Oranje had set out their stall to disrupt and unsettle.  Spain though, went about their business much like they had all tournament; pass, move, keep possession.  They did just that, albeit needing extra time to earn another 1-0 win, with the jewel in their crown Andres Iniesta grabbing the most famous goal in their history. 

So, to recap, Spain, already European Champions, were crowned Champions of the World for the 1st time in their underachieving history, on the back of a footballing ethos that had nullified all threats on all stages for the best part of four years. 

Now let’s grab the remote and press fast forward.  Present day.  Spain, large and present the same squad that had sparked their nations biggest Fiesta just four years ago, had now been unceremoniously left out in the rain like a tramps lunch, dumped on their ‘culo’.

  A comprehensive defeat by Chile and, on the first game of their campaign, a horrifying, gut-wrenching, rip-your-entrails-out-and-watch-as-they-use-them-as-a-skipping-rope, truly condemning 5-1 loss to the very opponents who had watched in silent fury as Spain lifted the famous trophy four years ago, the Netherlands.  It all started so well as well.  Spain were coasting to a half-time interval 1-0 lead, a Xabi Alonso penalty was the certificate of authenticity as to who had pretty much dominated the game thus far, if it weren’t for David Silvas’ profligacy in front of goal, the lead would be double and no doubt LVG and Co would be trudging off to the dressing room half beaten.  But we know what really happened.  He tried to chip Cillessen who stood up bravely, denied him and it sparked a counter attack.  Daley Blind, son of famous Dutch stalwart Danny Blind, stood out on the left wing, received possession with the clock ticking towards half time.  He looked up, saw Van Persie had started a run and launched a pass toward him.  We have all seen the travesty that is Spains central defence when Puyol isn’t present, so when Van Persie connected with a header, never mind what he did with it, we shouldn’t have been surprised.  The header, loath as I am to admit it, has to go down as one of the finest examples of heading we have seen on the global stage.  It had improvisation, it was laced intricately with planning.  RVP knew Casillas had strayed inexplicably off his line and he managed to get enough power and lift to float it over the stricken Spaniards head and nestle into the net. 

1-1, the force was now strong with the Oranje. 

I won’t go into a blow-by-blow account of the game, needless to say, Spain were given a hiding in the second half akin to my beatings as a boy when I wrecked my brothers artwork because it was better than mine, ( to be fair I had created mine using my own shit, but that’s a story for the therapist ).  The headline-writers were foaming at the helmet, what an opportunity to finally knock those cocky bastards off their pedestals! THE DEATH OF TIKI-TAKA! 

You can’t blame these superfluous sputum receptacles for jumping to this conclusion.  The comprehensive bottom-spankings dished out gleefully by Netherlands and Chile ( or so everyone thinks ), coupled with Germanys’ finest Clubs teaching Real Madrid and Barca such a humbling lesson that, if the clubs involved were West Ham and Tottenham, the DVD sales of the games would’ve reached record sales.  To be fair, a DVD of Danny Rose NOT falling over would be a welcome addition to spurs DVD collection, but I digress.

  Funnily enough, when these defeats were doled out, the death knell for that infuriatingly-titled style of play were sounded in earnest back then, which were two years previous to right now. 

Another good reason as to why people believe tiki-taka is on its knees is the watered down version offered by Tata Martino last season.  The season before Barca were in disarray as, the now late head coach Vilanova was battling cancer and rightfully so, the Catalan players minds were not truly tuned to their trade.  Martino came in and has not won over the purists.  Many games I watched last season in La Liga and I witnessed the unthinkable.  This is a problem that faces Arsenal on many occasions so we are more than familiar with it.  The Bus parked in an obstructive manner.

  This has never really fazed Barca, nor Spain previously, but last season, they were often perplexed, running into corners, pleading for set-plays ( more than usual I add ) in an attempt to crack open the door an inch.  Subs came on, tactics changed more than once but to no avail.  They were an insipid Barca, a version that wasn’t even half as colourful and threatening as even last years.  Same players though.  So that is down to the Manager.  Strangely enough, he’s gone from the club now…. 

The initial vindicator of this beautiful game was Pep Guardiola.  Once midfield general for Barcelona, he made a seamless transition to coach and in his tenure from 2008-12, this indomitable tactic payed huge dividends.  The rollcall of honours is breathtaking - 3x La Ligas, 2x Copa Del Reys, 3x Spanish Supercups, 2x Champions Leagues, 2x FIFA World Club Cups.  Pretty much everything.  Barcelona under Guardiolas’ leadership were the fat kid in the lunch line, taking all the best bits and leaving you with pizza crust.  It was all down to their style of play.  Real Madrid had arguably the better players most seasons, but some Clasicos I viewed were so one-sided it was easy to stop watching, not like the hotly-contested cheat-a-thons we watch now.  When he left to join Bayern, I expected a raft of departures to join him in his revolucion of Munchen.  Only Thiago Alcantara joined.  Let’s face it though, what a challenge he faced, he needed all the players he could sign.  The previous boss was Jupp Heynckes who had just won every trophy available to them and also smashed the living shit out of the Catalans, 7-0 on aggregate.  It was a sweeping style of play, adopting the extreme pressing but with swift, incisive attacking.  Relentless.  Guardiola had to at least match that.  He did rather well adapting Bayerns style of play, breaking the record for the earliest Bundesliga to be won, on Match Day 27 coincidentally.  The previous record holder was Heynckes Bayern the previous season! 

So to clarify, Tiki-Takas champion did rather well at Bayern.  The doom-mongers who had predicted that possession football was floating face down in a pool of its own vomit were rather wide of the mark, but the press are scurrilous, drama-chasers.

As mentioned in my droning, there are a few reasons why Spain not only losing their World Crown, but having it ripped from their shining bonce and then being tea-bagged, happened.  Tata Martino muddying the waters, Pep leaving those shores, the death of a much loved coach, or just simply not playing well.  No one has mentioned that the ingenious Spanish maestros in the centre of the park just had an off few games.  The lynchpin in the middle, Xavi, is fucking 34.  It seems sacrilegious to suggest that the standards which they set so high, they now struggle to reach consistently.  I think though, the biggest reason for Spains demise, is Diego Costa.


Someone described Costa on Twitter a month or two back.  They said he resembles ” A serial killer who has gutted Eduardo and is now wearing his ill-fitting skin “.  Now, whenever I look at the ugly lump, it’s all I can see.  It is common knowledge that Costa gave up his birthright to play for the Selecao and switch allegiances to play for Spain.  His modus operandi for such a scandalous decision was probably due to Spain lacking a striker in form.  Villa had been playing sporadically for Atleti, whilst Lorente wasn’t in the squad.  Torres was just……Torres.  Costa thought this would be an opportune moment to declare his service to the King of Spain and lead them to inevitable glory.  Glory in his homeland.  The boos that ring out every time he touches the ball tell you what the natives think.  I never really understood this decision though.  Looking at Brazil and how they line up, they’re not exactly suffering from an excess of attacking options.  They play Fred up top.  He would piss all over Fred.  To be fair, the guy down my street who had polio and has a clubfoot may well offer a better option than the man with the least ‘Brazil name’ since Albert and Keith were close to a call up in 1958.  Costa would most certainly be their foremost striker but he’s made his paella, he’s got to sit down and eat it.

Watching the three Spain games, especially the first two, you notice the main thorn which does the most damage.  The midfield operate just as effectively as ever, the defence is weaker due to Puyol being absent but that was never really a strength.  The reason is, instead of carrying the passing play on and into the opposition box, they play the ball to Costa.  A half-fit Costa.  A Costa that wasn’t allowed to turn.  Thus, every time, he either lost possession, didn’t even touch it, or when he managed to turn, shoot wide or pass it back.  It didn’t work.  They had the Tiki, but the Taka was gone.  It was like a bad welding job on your car.  Just sellotaping a slab of metal to a hole isn’t going to work. It needs to be adapted.  Why in the name of Bergkamp they didn’t start with Villa I’ll never know.  They did against the Aussies and he proved his selection was the right call.  You could see that Costa was the Plan B that Spain needed if things got a little tight, but the plan A should have been the original option.  Pass, pass, move.  It worked for a reason.  Like Floyd Mayweather in a fight, he won’t knock you out.  He will however, continually land blows and rack up the damage.  Costa didn’t work.  Ultimately, in my eyes, his selection cost them the Cup.  By the time they subbed him both games, it was too late.  The confidence, such an important attribute in todays’ game, was bereft. 

Costa will thrive in the Premier League.  He’s a dirty player, so his card may be marked just like Suarez, but he’s physical and will win headers.  For the beautiful play of Espana however?  That was a mistake of Moyes proportions. 
Back to the drawing board, start afresh to incorporate Costa into the Spain way?  Or continue to drive with a badly welded exhaust pipe?  As an advocate of the beautiful game, like we all are, I think Tiki-Taka, or possession-style football, will make a return from the ashes.

By @JokmanAFC

Battle of the World Cup Pundits…..

The World Cup has been more than the expected stop-gap for Gooners until August brings us the Emirates Cup and the welcome return of our much-missed team.  No, it’s been a fillip, a shot in the arm to our flagging spirits as we lollop around in our comfies, attempting in vain to ignore the inane transfer shite that fills our every waking minute. 

It helps that it’s been thoroughly entertaining, the snoozefest of Nigeria Vs Iran aside.  Goals, goal-line tech, goal-line tech cock-ups, errors and questionable team-selections.  It’s been what I remember a World Cup being.  A festival of football, a smorgasbord of soccer, the luminaries of our beloved game uniting in an attempt to be crowned the World Champions.  I know I’m getting a tad sugar-coated, but isn’t it nice when football is without the added ingredient of Sultans cash, hated rivals goading and the loathed transfer speculation.  It’s all we enjoy ( minus the cannon ) with the added bonus of all Vuvuzelas grouped together and recycled en masse, to create a spectacle.

Back to my cynical self.  Ooh, that IS a comfortable fit.  An enjoyable side-mission to the matches and trying to predict the scores is gauging the pundits.  As Gooners, we only have a select cadre of supposed ‘specialists’ who aren’t so biased they would make a referendum in Iran blush.  We all have our most hated as well, a vile cognoscente that surely take up a place in the Deep Below, being continually shown our Invincibles season.  BBC and ITV, our Chief purveyors of the games, have made a lot of their recruitment of ‘Super Pundits’, a phrase of such epic buffoonery I will not type it again.  The line-ups of each channel is as follows:

       ITV                                                            BBC

Dixon                                                                 Titi

Vieira                                                                 Savage

Hoddle                                                               Seedorf

Poyet                                                                Ferdinand

Cannavaro                                                          Shearer

Townsend ( ? )                                                   Keown

So, if you look at it objectively, then you would say both have their fair share of knowledge and star quality.  Who has the best line-up though?   Who can claim to have the best show thanks to their array of leading lights?  In the immortal words of Harry Hill, there is only one way to find out………………FIGHT!!!!!!

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, IN OUR RED CORNER, COMING ALL THE WAY FROM MANCHESTER ENGERLUND, STOKE, GIVE IT UP FOR THIS ARSENAL LEGEND, THE SCOURGE OF THE BBC, LEEEEEEE DIIIIIXXXXOOOOOOONNNN!!!!

IN OUR BLUE CORNER, EMINATING FROM THE FRIGID NORTH OF NEWCASTLE, THE ENGERLUND GOAL-HERO, THE MAN WHO LET HIS COUNTRY TAKE HIS HAIR, ALAN - IM BETTER THAN THE OTHER ALAN, SSSSHHHHHHEEEEAAARRRRRRRRRREEEEERRRR!!!!!!


It is quite easy to be overtly cruel on Shearer, especially faced with Dixon, who is beloved by all who are synonymous with the Cannon.  I will caveat in though, that I personally think that Shearer has upped his mojo somewhat.  On MOTD, I think he was dragged down by the drudge of Hansen.  He isn’t quite the beautiful butterfly who has been set free of the manacles of the morose, but he is being a tad more opinionated, which will help soothe the splinters in his arse from the season passed.  He still loves a cliche but his knowledge isn’t bad.  Loses points when attempting ‘BANTZ’. 

Dicko is undoubtedly missed by the BBC.  Why on earth he was shipped out is beyond me.  He speaks sense, knows the technical side but can portray it without losing the untrained viewer, he has a lovely airy manner in front of camera and doesn’t look out of place alongside Cannavaro and Paddy.  That’s because he IS a legend in his own right.  Loses points on wardrobe selection as he dresses very M&S. 

Verdict - Dixon with a TKO 

Next up,

IN THE WHITE CORNER, WEIGHING IN AT AN EVER-INCREASING 350 POUNDS, THE FORMER POSTER BOY OF ENGLISH FOOTBALL, TURNED FAILED FOOTBALL MANAGER, THROW YOUR HANDS TOGETHER FOR GLENN, THE FAITH HEALER, HOOOOOODDDDDDDDLLLLLEEEE!!!


IN THE ORANJE CORNER, COMPRISING COMPLETELY OF RIGID MUSCLE, A LEGEND OF THE GAME, A PROMISING MANAGER CUT SHORT BY A BUMBLING BOARD AT MILAN, GIVE IT UP, FOR CLARENCE, ‘OLE DOUBLE-THIGHS’, SEEEEEEEDDDDDDOOOOOORRRRRFFFFFF!!!!

It is hard to judge this.  I’ve heard nuggets of wisdom from Hoddle and I happen to think his England team was the best in the last 15 years, but the photo showing his male ‘camel-toe’ has horrified me so much that whenever I look at him, I see his scrunched up junk housed by chinos.  A shame as he has the knowledge and has an easy style in front of camera, but does enjoy a sit on the fence.

Clarence is still involved with the present day game, which gives him a distinct advantage.  He has sampled football in many countries and his English is accomplished.  Smiles A LOT, if English were his first language then he would be a shoo-in, but sometimes, for all his knowledge, his occasional English faux-pas and over-reliance on technical talk can have viewers losing their attention. 


Verdict - Seedorf on the judges cards, thanks to a lack of male camel-toe.

Next up -

A BATTLE OF THE FOREIGN PUNDITS, PUT YOUR HANDS TOGETHER FOR FABIO ‘ITALIAN STALLION’ CANNAVARO AND THIERRY ‘VA-VA-VOOM’ HENRY!!!!!!!!


Both World Cup winners.  Both had glittering Club careers.  Both, in my strictly heterosexual but comfortable in my own skin opinion, are devilishly handsome.  As pundits though, this is a walkover.  Cannavaro is handicapped due to his pidgin-English, he has a good stab at it but ultimately it means most of his statements and observations, whilst may be overflowing with sensibility and information, are not portrayed in a manner that allows it to be mentally digested.  Does win points for his Italian Chic fashion sense however.  Titi, I don’t want to wax lyrical, I don’t want to be biased, but I’d let him take me to a fancy hotel, Pretty Woman style, and he wouldn’t have to fork out on expensive trinkets, shall we say.  He is all that I aim to be!

VERDICT - Fabio puts up a game defence, but Le King ends it in the 3rd with a brutal knockout.

Next up…..

A BATTLE OF THE MIDFIELD GENERALS, GIVE IT UP FOR THE WELSH BARBIE, THE WHINGING BLONDE GAS-BAG,  ROBBIE SAVAGE!!!!!!!  HIS OPPONENT, FROM SENEGAL, PLAYED FOR ARSE-NAL, IT’S PADDY ’ VICKS PATCH ’ VIEIRA!!!!!!

A lot has been said of Savages’ performances this season as a supposed ‘expert’.  I for one, happen to think he sticks to his guns, offers up a few pertinent points and at least doesn’t wear beige.  You just have to look past the outer shell of nasal whining and lack of upper-crust football.  Even his host Lineker ripped the granny out of him when he was next to his more illustrious colleagues Henry and Seedorf.  Still, I’d rather him than Hansen.

Paddy, on the other hand, has done it all in his playing career and is still involved ( partially anyway ) in the current game with Citeh.  He is tactically sound, his English is passable and, whilst Savage wins valuable ‘BANTZ’ points, Paddy is rather sharp and pithy even.  Does fall short when in more heated instances, as seen when Dixon pushed him on the Pepe dismissal.  He rather often just repeated the same answer.  A small criticism though.

VERDICT - VIEIRA wins on the scorecards, unanimous decision. 

Last, but by no means least…..

HAILING ALL THE WAY FROM URUGUAY, FAMILIAR TO ALL CHAVSKI AND SPURS FANS, IT’S SUNDERLANDS SAVIOUR, GUS ‘MACKEM’ POYET!!!!!

IN THE OPPOSING CORNER, ONE OF ENGERLUNDS LYNCHPINS IN THEIR MODERN DAY DEFENCE, CHIEF CHOREOGRAPHER OF EVERY DAMN GOAL CELEBRATION HE CAN MUSCLE IN ON, ITS RIO ’ MY TOP LIP IS PREPOSTEROUS ’ FERDINAND!!!!!

I enjoy Gus’ passion, I enjoy the way gets animated nearly every two minutes, he dresses well, he has a sound tactical mind, but whenever he speaks, I think to myself it’s as if our Grand Creator has given a piranha the power to talk.  His jaw looks like it’s going to clamp down on whoever is unlucky enough to be near.  Fingers crossed for Lawro.

Rio, well, I for one think he has a case of the Nevilles’ about him.  Thankfully, not Phil though.  Thoroughly despised his presence on the pitch, any pitch.  Couldn’t abide the way he’d run 90yds to jump on the shoulders of the player who deserved the plaudits.  I also abhor his monstrous top lip.  Listening to him though, his refreshing views on zonal marking, his take on tactics and his general opinions haven’t been the way of his playing persona.  He has put himself across well, even in the presence of more charismatic men and may yet have a future replacing MOTD’s current defensive cuntchop, Alan Hansen.  Oh yeah, I hate his clothing line as well.


VERDICT - Rio with his rangy jab keeps Poyet at bay long enough to score a points victory.

So, to sum up, Titi, Seedorf, Rio, Dixon and Vieira would all line up on the sofa and show Redknapp and the rest of the incumbent pundit squad next season how it should be done.  alongside Neville, this crack corps of footballing genius would lead to much more freeflowing football viewing.  The zenith of this group, the star atop the Christmas tree of punditry, would be Thierry.  His wisdom, his humour, his rapier wit, all in his second language, pale into comparison when highlighting his smooth charisma.  He can ‘BANTZ’ it with the rest, showcased when Robbie Savage got his just desserts twice on one show.  We all know he can dress like a Hollywood leading man, his looks make George Clooney look up at the heavens and shalke a fist at Old Man God and it helps that his career has been studded with every precious jewel you can care to think of.  I implore the BBC to snap him up when his contract with NYRB ends, but I suspect that, just like during his playing career, there will be a queue for his services longer than a dole line in Stoke. 

All these views are my own and they are just that, views. I do realise that I’ve missed out on Keown, Townsend and a couple of others but Keown rocks everything he does and Townsends utter gibberish is only fit for kids TV, plus this blog is long enough as it is.  The less said about Captain Sleep himself Phill Neville the better.  Please don’t take umbrage if you think Hoddle and his man-meat should be crowned best pundit.  Just send me a tweet.  This was just a bit of fun to fill the time.  The World Cup has been brilliant thus far and I thought I’d capitalise on this by putting out a bit of gubbins that I’d seen people commenting on.  I do hope you’ll read and have a titter. 

I’ve been @JokmanAFC, your Ring-announcer and Head Pundit-Killer.  Enjoy the Cup.

Usmanov - The wolf that has shed the sheep outfit….

Usmanov, that wobbly-jawed, walking Rouble, first came to most Gooners attention in 2007.  This was the year he breached the previously impenetrable group of shareholders.  The people who technically owned our club were part of an illustrious group that still held the values of Arsenal aloft to the rest & showed that a successful team could still be maintained without a major foreign-investor.  The dusty, mahogany-filled boardroom, much like Ron Burgundys house,https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRYGMBqyeGdo_5U2NT2BK6YRuKIeOc8aHTSBYt-ij056XwFJL8K was an example to all clubs.  It was serene, untouched, untroubled.  Fans never really had cause for concern in that regard.  We were in fact, proud that the traditional values were still in place.  Until 2007. 

We had become a valuable commodity.  Thanks mostly to our manager, we were making waves in the financial pool & the smell of a crisp note wafted to the ever-pricked nostrils of the savvy Uzbek. 

http://www.septicisle.info/uploaded_images/20060912205814_7-usmanov-1-703027.jpg
His investment, when everyone found out about his net-worth, was greeted by a fair portion of fans with positivity.  Thanks to Abramovich resurrecting a club that was on its knees to a lofty position fighting for honours it had no cause to fight for previously, it would seem that a slice of Gooners wanted that for themselves.  They wanted us to suckle on the teat at the expense of our scruples.  With Usmanovs comment in an interview with Bloomberg stating that his stake with Arsenal is ” a business interest “, does this pull back the hood on the Oligarch’s intentions & reveal the sharp incisors bared in anticipation?http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-xVtm_pgrWhg/Ume8RF0qX5I/AAAAAAAACZM/qS1D8BRzT4o/s1600/The+Wolf+White+Background.jpg

Let me blast some background at ya’ll, all gleaned from everybody’s favourite reference tool, Wikipedia.  Alisher Burkhanovich Usmanov was born in Uzbekistan.  His father was a State Prosecutor, so not quite the humble beginnings that we imagined.  Alisher naturally followed daddys’ leanings & progressed through University to earn a Degree in International Law.  Now comes the fun part. The cash.  He earned his first millions with investing in metal & mining, but the breakthrough came when he invested in Metalloinvest, of which he is now the majority shareholder.  So far, so Abramovich.  This company now is the sponsor of Dinamo Moscow, so if they face us, expect Alisher to purchase ALL the half ‘n’ half scarves.  

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2014/04/20/1397997478432_lc_galleryImage_HULL_ENGLAND_APRIL_20_Fan.JPG

It would seem that once the moolah started rolling in, that ole’ ABU got a taste for the success and power, because he started to cut a swathe through most of Russias’ power companies.  He not only did that, but they were shrewd moves as well.  He invested in media.  A lot of it. 
Kommersant, the rather large Russian newspaper, formerly owned by Boris Berezovsky, yup, the same Boris who was the Russian tycoon who was in exile in the UK, facing tax embezzlement charges after disagreeing with the Kremlin, also found dead by suicide in 2013.  Well, Kommersant was bought by Usmanov.  ABU also co-owns Megafon, the 2nd biggest mobile phone operator in Russia.  ABU also dipped his toes into the internet, he co-owns the biggest company based on the web in the Russian-speaking world.  So Newspaper, telecommunications and the internet.  That’s quite a portfolio.  No stopping for portly Alisher though, for his corpulent frame belies his rapier business sense.  In 2013 he bought shares in Apple.  In 2014, he sold them.  No doubt for a juicy profit.  He also owns shares in Facebook, Zynga and Groupon, not to mention everybodies favourite soapbox, Twitter.  I’m having second thoughts as to putting this blog out……..http://sd.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/i/keep-calm-cuz-we-re-watching-you.png


I worry for legitimate reasons, for our chubby shareholder is a former jailbird.  The conviction was vacated upon further inspection in 2000, but 20yrs earlier, he was doing bird at the Kremlins Pleasure, serving 6yrs out of an 8 year stretch for Fraud.  It is sometimes hard to hide your millions under the mattress……


Now to the crux of the matter.  ABU’s interest with our beloved Club.  Our Club that had upheld it’s traditions throughout its existence.  Proudly standing under fire whilst its rivals sold their soul to pay for dreams that were wafer thin.  As mentioned previously, ABU ( I do hope he doesn’t mind me abbreviating his name in such a way, why do I feel he’s watching me after I found out about his investment in Twitter? ) first invested in 2007, when he bought David Deins’ shares, £75m for 14.58%.  David Dein is still lamented as a significant loss to many of us as his close ties with Arsene & his suave, dilligent business manner were useful in luring targets to us, but I digress.  Dein still had a part to play in this tale though, as he became the Head of the Investment Vehicle that owned the shares, Red & White Holdings.  Leap forward a month, R&W Holdings upped its stake to 23%.  Fiszman was the biggest shareholder at the time with 24% as Silent Stan didn’t get to 30% until a year later.  Coincidentally, ABU worked behind the scenes & by Feb 2008, he had acquired just over 24%.  Upon reaching this marker, he issued a statement, stating that he had no intention to make a full takeover bid for 6 months and that he had been a fan for 7 years.  Upon this statement being released, our beloved Peter Hill-Wood, Chairman at the time, issued a lockdown at Boardroom level.  I can just imagine the meeting around a gargantuan Oak table, high backed chairs, all members swilling around brandy in their glasses, but with stern faces of consternation to offset the walls of leather-bound tomes.  It must have been the most dramatic meeting they’d had for years.  http://www.virgin.com/sites/default/files/legacy/12_angry_men-15876.jpg

The lockdown constituted just that - No shares were to be sold without approval from other Board Members & fellow members had first refusal.  Hill-Woods first impressions of outside investment, a breach of the Old-Boys Club if you will, were voiced to his favourite mouthpiece, The Daily Star, of all channels, and were thinly-veiled at best.  It would seem that Silent Stan seemed the lesser of two wolves baying at the door though, as an about turn meant that Stan was welcomed with open arms by PHW, beckoning him to his plush chair to talk about hunting and Faberge Eggs, I suspect.  ABU however, was left at the doorstep.  It was raining and Alisher hadn’t a brolly.  He looked in the window to see a roaring fire and Stan sitting comfortably, seemingly regaling the other Board Members with tales of the USA.  You don’t get to where ABU is without some resolve though, so he didn’t let this disturbing chain of events rock his yacht.  It would seem a storm was approaching though.


Kroenke, or rather, more appropriately, KSE UK, became the major shareholder in Arsenal plc in April 2011.  Stan had bought Danny Fiszmans’ and Lady Nina Bracewells’ shares to take him to 62%.  He offered to by Alishers shares, to which, unsurprisingly, ABU refused.  No doubt with an imaginary turd through the letterbox.  As a riposte to this, ABU increased his stake to 29% two months later.  A somewhat surprising fact I unearthed is that Rangers Football Club held shares in us.  Due to financial constraints they sold them to ABU in 2012. 

So, these late purchases after Kroenke became majority shareholder were obviously a statement of intent, a post-it-note on your lunch that is left in the communal work fridge if you will.  To further set out his stall, maybe in part in an attempt to curry favour with disenchanted supporters of which many had become tired with a perceived lack of investment, ABU issued a statement.  This manifesto was precipitated by that skunk-faced, cunt-weasel RVP leaving for more trophy-laden climes by jumping ship to our rivals.  It would seem ABU saw this as a good time to strike, no other man could claim to have his finger closer to the pulse of social emotion than Usmanov with his portfolio of media. He claimed that ” current politics of the Clubs management ” were in part responsible for the Clubs  malaise.  He repeated this claim a month later.

All quiet really in the marina for a couple of years, until the comments to Bloomberg yesterday.  I felt compelled to write about this and air my redundant views as I feel that the use of the phrase ” business interest” has finally pulled back the skin on the greedy, flaccid phallus and revealed the gangrenous intentions beneath.  His earlier claims to be a fan and have great love for the club were always utter tosh, but to even spew them and expect the fans to eat it up hungrily had me opting for any other option than him.  There was a growing quell of fans, even last season, who were still calling for ABU to ride in on his many chromed steeds, saving the Damsel in distress ( us ) and riding off into the sunset, eventually stripping her for parts to the highest bidder, akin to the auction scene in Taken.  Dirty.  I have never been one and I think the general concensus was the same.  We don’t want your money.  We don’t want to set a foundation of borrowed money and set a stall out atop it only for aforementioned foundation to be pulled out under us at any given time, sending every fibre of our Club slowly tumbling toward ruin.  I may be being dramatic, but it’s transparent the motives that compelled Usmanov. 

I agree Silent Stan isn’t exactly Prince Fucking Charming either.  Due to his penchant for sporting franchises in the US, it is quite clear he sees us as a business as well, but in a different sense.  He has never attempted to claim fandom.  He has never issued barbed statements toward the Board when attempting to swill brandy with the old guard.  He’s never tried to be anything other than what he is.  I’ll finish with this.  Peter Hill-Wood, the third generation of family to have deep connections with our Club, had a choice between the two.  He chose Stan, as did Fiszman and Lady Nina.  I sure as hell trust their business accumen and decision above anyone elses in this instance.  They knew. 

 

 

A Legend is a rare thing, don’t spoil it by over-labelling…

In the early days of social networking, my attempts to integrate with the indigenous fauna were laughable.  I had tweets regarding biscuits, work dross & morose bobbins.  Mostly though, I was on a warpath with morons who were bastardizing the English written word.  The Queens English being repeatedly punched full force in the face, like Dale Winton Vs Mike Tyson in his pomp.  I took to the cyber-streets, criticizing unwanted abbreviations & giving typed lashings to vagabonds who fell into the snare of internet-speak.  ROFLMAO my fucking ballbag.  It didn’t go down too well with friends when they posted baby pics & the general concensus is cooing & wooing over the cute new addition to the world & my comment on the bottom, contrary to the rest, chastising the new parents for their flagrant use of ‘lol’.  The problem is not me.  It never is.  Maybe my approach was too militant, but scroll through your TL ( I realise this is an abbreviation ) & I guarantee you, once you start looking for the errors, they will flood your eyes & make you wish you hadn’t seen them, much like a naked selfie of John Mcririck.http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-j9QrtS20noo/UoQorhAkI2I/AAAAAAAAEIs/vtSkrkiwqC8/s1600/mccririck.jpg

It’s a plague & soon all memory of correct spelling, punctuation & general grammar will fall by the wayside as youths who are parented by youths & communicate only in grunts will rule the world.  Maybe. 

The reason I mention all this is because of the constant misuse of one word.  @GoonerGirl1969 & @Gooner_In_BCN raised a valid point regarding it & it was exactly what I was attempting to write about.  The phrase ‘Legend’ is bandied around far too frequently.  It conjures up images of Kavos cavorting teens, with their sideswept ‘reem’ hair, with their slogan t-shirts & avid compulsion to vomit.  Those fuckwits.  They use this word that is surely reserved as the highest accolade one can bestow on someone?  Surely someone doesn’t deserve this moniker if they can crush a beer can with their forehead?  It should be earmarked for heroes, ones that warrant unrelenting praise.  In the words of @Gooner_In_BCN “There are very rare cases of players that deserve support no questions asked, it’s becoming too frequent & easily given”.  My point entirely.

Who can you instantly name that justifies such praise?  I bet that his name begins with T & his surname is Adams.  Look no further ladies & gents, we have a winner.  http://www.arsenal.com/assets/_files/scaled/876x1000/dec_11/zp_Adams1_9621.jpg

Mr Arsenal.  4 League titles.  3 FA Cups.  2 League Cups.  A Cup Winners Cup.  672 apps spread across 19years.  All with us.  No other Club.  Just us.  Surely ‘Legend’ is the least we can use?  How about ‘The Exalted One’?  No?  I honestly struggle to sum up all the praise I want to lavish upon him with just one title.  Legend is the least he deserves.  What attribute makes him a legend though?

Is it his longevity at the Club?  If so, then surely David O’Leary, our RECORD appearance holder, warrants the title more than he?  Surely the Celt lords it above Tony in the Legend stakes?  There is more than just duration to consider.

Fans views of a player ultimately define what Title the player will be remembered with.  Case in point, look no further than John Jensen.  The man had mettle & was, whilst not world class, a workhorse in the centre of the park.  He made 132 apps for us, but mention his name & most Gooners will remember his toiling for a goal, so much so that no matter what position he found himself in on the pitch, he was implored to shoot by the baying fans.  He got his goal, but he has found himself with a cult status & most importantly, a lasting memory with the fans who screamed his name when he got his solitary goal.  So, to sum up, the only reason John Jensen is remembered so fondly with most fans is, let’s be fair, not for his robust tackling & Danish accent, it was his everlasting struggle to score.  You don’t have to win a cart full of silverware to leave an impression with fans, you just have to work harder than horse placenta on Diabys knee.  What else could affect the way fans refer to players after they leave?

If it was just honours won, then every member of the Invincibles team would be remembered equally fondly, but everyone has their favourites.  For every Henry, you have a Gilberto.  This is not a slur on the Brazilian, far from it.  Everyone who watched slackjawed as that team took opponents apart more efficiently than a plastic surgeon on speed could see the brilliant job he did.  Aside from his early goal Vs PSV though, I can’t remember a singular occasion, a raw tackle, a top corner screamer from him.  He was the Ultimate watercarrier.  So another variable to consider is memorable occasions.  For example, Ozils goal Vs Napoli was ALL technique.  It was visual treacle.  Sticky.  What about Sylvain Wiltord grabbing the League Winner at Old Trafford?  Not a huge slice of skill, but you’ll struggle to wrack your brains for a more memorable domestic moment.  Henry volleying in from 30yds Vs Barthez.  Wrighty getting his 179th Vs Bolton, Pires lobbing Schmeichel.  EVERY BERGKAMP GOAL.   Anything else to consider?

Players may leave under a golden haze of praise, fans hoarse voices ringing in their ears as they repeat the players name over & over ad infinitum, but if they leave for a rival club, instantly the praise switches to vitriol, where once it was memories painted with the full spectrum of colour on the canvas that is memory, once a player joins a rival the kaleidoscopic range of colour turns brown & the painting is ruined.  Many discussions have been had regarding Sagna leaving in the past few weeks.  No points more pertinent were made than this.  It doesn’t matter if he leaves to go to PSG, or even Citeh.  The point is, that the hard cash offered to him from a plethora of clubs can be obtained without sullying his memory of what a remarkable player he was for us.  He doesn’t need to join a rival.  Some will argue that Citeh is a rival & you’d be right, but it would smart a whole lot more if he jumps ship to the bounders down at Chelsea.  It matters where you go & what choices you make even when you’re not wearing the Cannon.  You can’t take it off.  It is forever emblazoned upon your chest.  At least in our eyes.  there are exceptions though ( Nasri, Cole etc ).

Ian Wright I would surmise as a Club Legend.  I look past the cups he won.  I look past his amount of apps.  I refer simply to the sheer amount of goals he plundered & the amount of love he had for our Club.  It’s a good thing really, as he has said some almighty stupid things as a pundit.  Some things were truths shared by many but didn’t have an adequate soapbox to broadcast their opinion.  Mostly though, this is an opinion that a few share, as a pundit, he’s a bit of an idiot.  I feel bad for even typing that about him, such is the adulation I lavish on him, but it’s true.  The same with Smudge.  Brilliant goal-hanger for us, but is prone to the odd bout of verbal diarrhoea.  Your actions on the pitch have to outweigh the inevitable cock-ups that will befall you when you stop playing.  Some players it doesn’t matter a jot what they say in front of the cameras or in the rags though, as they didn’t endear themselves to the fans in their playing days.  David O’Leary is a strange case as mentioned at the start of this lengthy blog.  For a man to make the most amount of appearances for the Club, more than ANYONE EVER HAS DONE, then I would like to think that would book your ticket to Bronze-StatueVille.  He is regarded by most though, with indifference.  Due to his behaviour as a manager with Leeds & Villa, his memory is forever tainted.  Which is a shame. 

So, to wind this fuckery down, let’s sum up.  It takes good behaviour off the field & after you leave, you need to win honours & make your performances memorable, you need the fans support & you need a lengthy stay.  You also need to love the Club as much as the fans love you.  All of these elements combined will indubitably leave your likeness forever etched in bronze outside the home of The Arsenal.


That leaves the people currently cast in bronze as Legends.  Would any of our current squad warrant such a title?  In short, no.  Not that we don’t love them, we do, with all of our heart, but not all the boxes are ticked.  Love isn’t the only consideration, otherwise Tomas Rosicky would have his likeness splayed in cloud writing in the sky before every game.  There are plenty of contenders for the crown.  Jack, Rambo, Theo, BFG, Kos & Szcz are at the forefront of my mind in regards to potential statue candidates.  A lot hinges on the variables mentioned previously, but I have confidence we will see these names in the distant future talked about with as much gusto as we do with God, Mr Arsenal & Le King.  

A world without football is a barren place……

I’ve been sans phone for a week.  Phoneless.  Without my sleek, metallic, personality-bereft friend.  No bulky weight in my pocket ( easy ladies! ) to remind me of the exciting potential & window of wonder that is my mobile.  It has been ridiculously tough.  Why? I hear you cry in your sarcastic, I really-don’t-care, tone.  Well, I’ll tell you.  I’m a 20-a-day smoker.  I used to be 6”4 before I started ( Zing! ), but seriously, I do enjoy a cigarette.  I’ve found though, that the nicotine hit that is supplied by these small, pencil-sized cancer bringers is supplemented by my phone.  Hold your equine-based creatures for an iota.  Not for a second am I suggesting that phones are the harbingers of death, oh no, we let The Big Guy decide all that stuff.  No, what I was trying to say, is that the feeling that is supplied by the cigarette & it’s combo of noxious chemicals is aided, boosted, by my phone in my hand.

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Whilst smoking, I am plugged into the Twitter matrix.  Fuck Facebook & it’s horde of English-bastardizing, baby-pic posting, motivational quoting nincompoops.  No, Twitter is my gateway to like-minded individuals who I not only enjoy conversing with, but also rather like to read their opinions, blinkered or not.  It also massages my competitive side.  Massages is not the right word, no it flexes my shoulder muscles like an over-zealous corner man in a boxing match, shoving my imaginary gumshield in my bloodied gob, points it’s ethereal finger at my face & implores me to go out there, pluck a tweet from my haphazardly filed mind & go & get some RT’s & Faves.

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Yes, I’m that sad.  I crave reassurance.  Maybe it was my upbringing in the circus, pining for applause as I put my head on the line night after night as a plinth for the apple that would be repeatedly shot at by a blindfolded midget in lederhosen.  I believe my tangent has taken me wildly off course.

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My phone offers comfort, it offers potential.  It is the bringer of opportunity.  Whilst I puff on my cancer-stick, I’m scrolling through tweets, I’m reading blogs, I’m looking at Vines of cats ( Kitty-Kats mind you ), it is a wealth of information.  It is the font where I dip my head to get baptised by information & fact.

Whilst I smoked without my phone, the cigarette coldly offered a disinterested hug.  What about my laptop?  I sat outside, in the rain, considering the risks & thought better of ruining an expensive laptop just so I could check if someone had replied to a query on Twitter.  However, like a junkie chasing crack, I would stoop low.  My mother has an ipad, I could use this!  I appropriated the tablet for my own nefarious needs.  No longer would you be needed to search for price comparison on Cillit Bang!  No more research on spa breaks!  No, you shall be my sidekick on my Twitter quest! 

It was a fair substitute.  The format for twitter on ipad though, is slightly different to my phone & I don’t like fucking change.  Like an ill-fitting jumper bought for you by a distant relative, It just wasn’t right.  It would have to suffice though, for my time without my pocket buddy was still long & arduous. 

As I sat on the porcelain throne this morning, after reading the ingredients on the shampoo bottle for the umpteenth time, a rare & illuminating idea came to me.  My week without my phone has been horrible, a spoilt 21st century child, ignorant of the current plight of the rest of the world, lamenting his missing phone whilst children all throughout the globe didn’t have food.  I disgusted myself.  1st world problems indeed.  What if we were devoid of other amenities, other things that to other people were not necessary, but to us, they were as vital as limbs?  What if we were without Arsenal?

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I’m looking at it from a standalone viewpoint that we all share.  Fanatical Gooner.  I know it sends chills throughout your body but imagine now a life without football.  I could say just without our beloved Club but if Arsenal never existed then our love for football would simply see us support another team.  Never spurs though.  If we were without football, Life would be June-August permanently.


Scores of meandering fans in shopping centres, dragged by their better halves to changing rooms to offer their paltry, half-arsed opinions on maxi-dresses, open-toed sandals & slingbacks, whatever the fuck they are.  Fans wandering the shop floor for a place to perch & pluck their phone from their pockets, playing whatever new game there is that blots out the miserable existence of weekends.  A fan sees another fan across the dunes of blouses.  They say the eyes are windows to the soul, well both mens’ eyes send out a bleating message of melancholy.  Fans nomadically walking around B&Q looking at what potted plants could liven up the back patio, but not really giving a fuck either way.  Scores of fans in coffee shops, or sitting indoors, trying to care about golf or tennis.  No fervent nature, no blind-eyed support.  Just looking ahead to the working week & looking forward to the respite. 

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Weekends without a point.  Ploughing your thoughts & cash into some time-wasting efforts or hobbies that might pique your interest somewhat, but in your subconscious you know full well that nothing will grab you by the funspot & simply engulf you.  Nothing.  So it’s back to efforts in procrastination.  Twitter would be a fucking wasteland of food-photos & vitriiol. 

This isn’t a dating blog, but my other hobbies include Playstation, movies & eating copious amounts of meat ( Ha! ).  So I’d be the character in South Park in the World of Warcraft episode, all my self poured into a cyber-dream version of myself that is the complete opposite of what I would be.  World conqueror in my head, morbidly-obese, half-dead, balding, cooking in my own bodily-juices, in real life. 

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Since the epic triumph in the Cup, I’ve been like a street urchin, feasting on the raggedy bones & burger wrappers that is the League Play-offs & any foreign football I can find.  Thank heavens for Sky & my laptop.  Now most of that has reached it’s nadir, the WC is on the horizon.  Exciting stuff but I yearn for Arsenal. 

It’s still hugely exciting for us Gooners though, despite what the nay-sayers & doom-mongerers cry.  Arsene will reinforce this summer.  We are on the up.  Cue the speculation & lies, bring on the smoke & indeed mirrors, herald the untold stories of players currently at Heathrow Costa Coffee, wearing Arsenal Polo shirts, consuming biscotti with their lattes.  This is the stuff that, despite the fact I, along with the majority, abhor the transfer talk, it still gives me sustenance, a source of Arsenal.  Whilst we know that Edinson Cavani, Reus & Balotelli are not currently at Colney having the craic with Vik Akers, The contentment I get from seeing like-minded Gooners share my thoughts & opinions lambasting the tripe-flingers is good enough to last me until The Emirates Cup, which I shall be attending.  A man cannot live on bread alone, but I’d rather have a bread-only diet than be a coprophiliac.  Seems sound logic to me.  Time to read some more fabrication.  I’m hungry.