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. 

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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.  

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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.

 

Where were you when we won the Cup?

A roaring fire crackles quietly, it’s susurration is the only noise that cracks the foreboding silence. The licking flames are housed within an overbearing fireplace and ornate marble mantelpiece, which is the resting place for candles on either flank, their frolicking flames casting an elaborate shadow dance upon the walls. In the centre of the thick slab of marble that sits atop the fiery embers, a brass carriage clock ticks it’s ominous march, teaming up with the fires’ crackling, creating music that only the tendrils of flame can dance to.

The room that is dominated by the fireplace is large and hexagonal, housing a large teak bookcase and one large bay window that currently is a portal to the tumultuous storm raging. Above the mantelpiece, reminiscent of the painting of Vigo The Carpathian, sits a large oil painting. The painting is of a distinguished gentleman with a black backdrop. He is extravagantly bearded, wearing a sharp black suit. Sitting on a high-backed, plush red chair, his expression is of mild perplexity, but also of stern consternation. A look behind you in the room will allow your eyes to see the painting could be a mirror, as the same image affronts your eyes. The hirsute gentleman sits in front of you in the flesh. I think he has a story to tell……
Good evening. It is my pleasure to talk with you this stormy eve. I am @JokmanAFC. Throughout the season I have attempted to narrate not only the goings on of our turbulent season, but of my personal musings. Most of what I’ve described has, in my mother tongue, been utter pish. Biased nonsense that is good only for rationalising the thoughts of the insane. I do however, have something useful to say.

The culmination of the season, unless you’ve been kept indoors and been subjected to sensory deprivation, was the FA Cup. I will not attempt to describe the play-by-play movements or narrate the tactics that each manager thrust upon the teams, for it is beyond me. I will though, say this.

Every team in the land has peaks and troughs, moments in the rose-tinted past that encapsulate what it is to support a team. instances that cover the whole spectrum of emotions, that only grow stronger with time and sharing. Time normally is the enemy of everything, but is only an ally of memories, rendering the triumphant and the torturous only more so. As a Gooner, we have many of these. Charlie George poleaxed upon the turf in 71, Sunderland in the 5-minute final in ‘79, Michael Thomas with perhaps the finest in ‘89. I would love to continue as the moments are not only powerful to imagine but infectious. If you start a conversation amongst colleagues/friends that include such powerful nostalgic instances, you can be sure in the knowledge that not only will some share and feed upon your emotions, but will proffer their own personal favourites. My own? The most joyous moment of being a Gooner was the Invincible season. The end of the Leicester game meant we had inscribed ourselves upon history, it would never be the same once the final whistle sung out.

Coupled with these colourful teardrops of thought are the part where you recall what you were doing when it occurred. I was prone on the floor, screaming with joy. It’s not often you get to scream with joy, and I let my vocal chords clang together like church bells, their gleeful sound ripping the serene setting open with a high pitched abandon.

My point, before nostalgia took me by the throat and made me ‘fess up, is that these memories, these moments that are forever encapsulated and handed down like a valuable heirloom, are so valuable. You always remember the wheres’ and whens’. Mostly.

The Final in the weekend will be forever inscribed upon my grey matter for so many reasons. Much like every Gooner lucky enough to have been witness to the dark romantic comedy that played out in front of us. The 25k that were present at the home of English football. The horde that were at our statuesque abode. The huge number that chose to view at their local watering hole. The untold amount of fans that watched at home. Every. Single. One. We all shared an invisible connection, like a winding umbilical cord that channelled emotions. We will all remember the unfolding events. We will all share these snowglobes filled with time, shaking the pretty flakes and describing to all and sundry what happened. I will do this now…..

I spent all week thinking about the final. Mainly fighting off the huge rat inside my mind nibbling away at good reason and leaving scat tinged with worry in every facet of my mind. I wasn’t alone but the majority were quietly confident. I mean, it’s Hull for fuck sake, not a Top 4 Rival……

I pride myself on being nigh-on tee-total. For a Scotsman, that obviously calls into question whether I’m a true Scot or not. I’d had an offer on the table for a couple of weeks from a friend of my brothers to come and watch the Final in his man cave, an elaborate portakabin that had a pool table, a bar and a conveniently placed large TV. This sounds like manna from heaven, but I really wanted to sit alone at home, away from the braying crowd and take in every kick, every moment the camera panned to our fans, the whole shebang. Not only that, but my brother and his friend are notorious drinkers who could quite easily drink a brewery dry. Always barking out ” Lets get on it ” or ” C’mon, have a beer “, peppering me with failed attempts to get me as inebriated as Paul Gascoigne during happy hour. I used to drink, I still enjoy a dram of Famous Grouse, but I had a bad experience which led me to end up sleeping in a graveyard. Repeated attempts to initiate me into the ‘LADZ’ would only cause me to get vexed. I wanted to enjoy the game, not get fucking shitfaced. A conversation with my wife, who accused me of being ‘boring’, however, caused me to about turn my decision, become a turncoat and turn my back on sensibility and open my arms to alcohol.

Saturday was here before I knew it. I finished my last shift at work early and now had two weeks off which only helped lighten my mood. I got home and my dad and I made our way down to my brother and his friend. As soon as we entered a cold cider was thrust into my hand. Sounds heaven for a normal bloke, but you forget that my idea of a good time is a few hours on my PS3, followed by copious amounts of food and a game of football on the TV. I gamely downed the noxious mixture ( I’m a whisky man ), and proceeded to waltz around the table like I was Steve Davis in his pomp. I won and won well. This day was going against the grain, it was indeed, going rather swimmingly. The time for kickoff was here, the nadir for conversation was upon us. Well for me anyway. Conversation is a stranger to me during games unless it’s shouting out obscenities in tandem. I do enjoy a good bellow. By this time others had joined the fray.
All family friends, all familiar with my booming voice. This was a bonus, as after 8 minutes my voice was shot. I’d thrown all the expletives I could at the TV, and some new strange concoctions as well ( thanks to Goonersphere Pod for stretching my filth vocabulary ). My brothers friend was a huge Hammers fan, so was neutral. His brother, who is a top fella away from football, is a massive chavski fan. As neutrals, they could enjoy the spectacle. Boy, did they enjoy it. Thety loved chowing down on my mental anguish. My head was in my hands, my hands were clutching my thin strands of hair atop my bonce. Fist shaking. Chair-stamping. arm-waving. They feasted upon my nerves and pain like it was the finest foie gras. If I was in their position, I would’ve done the same. At the time though, fuelled by a rare imbibement of alcohol and the painful score, I was on the ropes.

People who have read my blog regarding the Semi Vs Wigan will recall the antics I subject myself to during times of duress. This was twenty times as terrible. I couldn’t sit still, like someone had said that my new room mate was Piers Morgan. Until Santi pulled that miraculous set-piece out, I was in tatters. My self-confidence ebbing away, I was considering turning around and throwing my chair at the pair of tittering fools who supported our London rivals. I didn’t care that they extended their hospitality to me, I wanted to purge my pain.

Once we had pulled a goal back and got to H/T, I had a loo-break and several splashes of cold water. I had chosen the ‘89 jersey to wear, but it’s material felt like it was designed to make animals indigenous to tropical settings sweat. I told myself that we were the Arsenal who had a team studded with the finest creative talent. I still prayed three times to Bergkamp though, pleading for an equaliser.

Kos, you beautiful Gallic bastard. When he turned home the loose ball in the 6yd box, I whirled round to the now giddy taunters, ripped my top from my gaudy white torso and threw it down on the floor like an American Football player who was in the endzone. I kissed them both with a mixture of joy and relief. Thank Dennis. You saved us from enduring another season of trpphy drought jibes. You rescued us from Jose Mourinho gifs popping up on twitter. I eventually, after doing a few laps of the pool table topless like a stripper on speed, donned my lucky jersey ( I had my Patrick Vieira socks on and my lucky Arsenal boxers for good measure ) and sat shakily back down.

I had chosen a seat closest to the TV. My teams detractors were therefore behind me. As we pinned gallant but lucky Hull back like a circus ringleader lashes his whip to strike fear into the big cat on the pedestal, the two Arsenal haters amped up their jibes, especially Chavski boy. He despised us, chucking out such gems as ” It’s a shit cup anyway”, followed by ” we thought we’d give you a chance to win something for a change”. It was getting desperate. It was now a mission to displace my new found sense of optimism. Instead of snarling back like I had done prior to Kos’ wonderful piece of adaptability, I instead chose to smile. We were going to win this.
Ramsey scores the winner. I again choose to take my jersey off, but instead adopt Aarons celebration Vs Norwich. Standing with feet shoulder-length apart, arms aloft. Proud. I had contemplated what to do if we hadn’t fought back. I would’ve cried. Big racking sobs. No shame, just pain. I know I would have cracked. The celebration was so pure, so absolutely driven by the rainbow of emotions I was not only going through at the moment, but the darker range of feelings I had suffered in the 1st half. It was cleansing.

I was silently weeping when Arsene lifted the Cup. Justification for what he has suffered. For the questioning of his decisions by mere journalists. I wiped my tears away, luckily everyone had sojourned to outside to enjoy the sun and cider. I was sitting alone. I turned the TV off and the biggest smile stole across my face. I went outside with another cider and enjoyed the rest of the night without the weight of the match atop my shoulders. We won the Cup.

The rest of the night was enjoyable, I beat an absolute beast of a man in a press-up competition ( for a 20-a-day smoker as well, that’s quite a feat ), I got merry for the 1st time in years and I scrolled through my twitter TL and enjoyed everyones’ own stories of where they were, what they were doing. Every tweet raised a smile. I’ll never forget where I was and what happened when we won the Cup in 2014. It’s now, just like when the camera showed the engraver scribing our name on the Cup before the final whistle, permanently written upon my memory.

@JokmanAFC

I love you big man!

(Source: pppper, via wenger-in)

How do you solve a problem like Podolski?

 

I’m talking about my attendance at the Arsenal FA Cup Presser.  You’re bored I hear you cry!  Well, tough biscuits people.  If you had been there it would not only be the thing you write 3 sketchy blogs about, but it would be what you daydream of as another humdrum work day drags, as you attempt to scoff another substandard sandwich that claims to have at least 20% chicken but is about 95% re-constituted cat parts.  It would be the thing you tweet about ( constantly, sorry ), it would be the only topic of conversation you were interested in exchanging with colleagues, or indeed family.  To cut this meandering paragraph short, it would be the Ozil to your transfer window. 

I’ve exhausted all vaguely interesting anecdotes regarding the day, I would willingly tell them again, but no-one likes that guy.  He always ends up drinking alone.  No, what I’m touching on now is an interview that took place with Podolski.  I have the audio of the interview, I was present when it took place, he looked at me at least five times ( maybe because he noticed, along with everyone else, that I was dribbling?  Or perchance it was the fact my head size is ill-fitted to my torso? ), either way, with those furtive glances in my crazed direction, I knew a rapport had been built.  I’m just waiting on the invite to his gaff, I’ll come bearing gifts of sauerkraut, frankfurters & a video of Euro96. 

If I figure out how to post the audio file to the blog, or if @FindingCotton manages to dig to the bottom of this particular problem, then you must listen, if only for the Matty Fryatt quote, but I won’t reveal that just yet.

Lukas Podolski is on form right now.  12 goals in all competitions sounds mediocre, but his sporadic appearances puts paid to any hope of a radical goal return.  The 12 goals represent, when taken into consideration what I just mentioned, a decent goal return.  We know full well that he can score for fun. His shot has been known to decapitate & maim, he has a great instinct for goal & his link up play is sublime at times.  So why hasn’t he had a long run in the side?  Why isn’t he one of the first names that Arsene jots down when musing on his team for the biggest game we’ve had in years?

I’ll tell you why.  His movement is poor & his general lack of interest when it comes to covering Gibbs/Monreal is sometimes disenchanting.  So why is he still eyed by a huge portion of Gooners ( including myself ) as a fan favourite who deserves to play?  A fair share of players have been discarded to a footballing version of The RaggyDolls due to a lack of tracking back.  Why hasn’t Poldi been shown the door? Does Wenger realise the huge part camaraderie has to play within the balance of the team?  Does he listen to the fans & their opinions?  Does he see it for himself?  When I was watching the training from a very privileged position, most players lightly jogged to the training pitch past me, maybe a nod, most just heads down or deep in conversation with a colleague.  Not Podolski.  I could hear him minutes before he appeared.  His bellowing, hooting laugh could awaken people form cryogenic induced slumber.  He then appeared, gave me a salute & continued to cajole & exchange BANTZ with The Umlauted One.  He is as infectious as gonorrhoea.  He appears to be someone who you know would make coming into work that smidgen easier.  That helps.  He’s the oil that soothes the engine.  Santi & BFG also appear to be of that ilk, but lack a bristling vibrancy that Lukas has.  When being interviewed, his eyes are centred, his body language never distracted, complete focus.  You have his attention, now don’t waste his time or he will show you the meaning of pain. 

Getting back to why he only features in fits & bursts, last season he had a troublesome ankle niggle that even Joachim Low acknowledged.  This season, he is free from that hindrance but still hasn’t featured prolifically.  Only 19 starts this season though?  Rotation has come into play to be fair.  Rosicky, Santi, The Ox, even Jack has played on the left this season.  Tactics are another issue.  If we are on the road, maybe against a top half team, we need to keep it tight, Rosicky would offer more coverage & reassurance so our full-backs can do their signature moves of rampaging forward.  Even The Ox, now he’s fit.  Think back to the Bayern game, I can’t recall 1st or 2nd Leg, but The Ox lost possession, he then proceeded to harass the occupier of the ball for about 50yds before reclaiming possession triumphantly.  Podolski will get you goals.  That’s a guarantee.  You want anything more, then put someone else in.  That’s exactly what Arsene has done.  So it would seem we are at an impasse.  Obviously Lukas wants to play more, but if we are away from home, or if the opposition has a speedy little trickster on the right then safety is the best policy.  If it’s against a team that looks to sit back, then Lukas is your man.  He is an excellent option.  But he’s an option.  He’s never going to be Ozil or Ramsey.  They are musts.  I’d still rather we keep him though.  Like I proffered earlier, he gets goals. 

Let’s get things straight though.  He IS NOT a STRIKER.  He will score, but we’ve tried him central, Germany have tried him central.  It just doesn’t work.  He prefers the left anyway, let the happy German play there, he looks so happy. 

Back to the interview.  His answers dictated to my brain that I MUST LISTEN.  His voice is direct, much like his shooting.  He is also a tad more pertinent in his answering.  Thomas was more evading the answers he clearly wanted to say, but Lukas just answers affably.  It’s not until you listen back do you realise he’s not really answered the question properly.   His English is quite superb really, but it’s his accent that really holds you.  It’s in the same mould of Rainier Wolfcastle, the Arnie-a-like in The Simpsons.   Not as gruff, but just as hammy.  It’s just a joy for your ears to behold.  Rainier Wolfcastle

 

The Interview

I’m not going to transcribe this interview like I did with TV5’s.  One, it took me too long.  Two, it looked boring to read.  Three, I can’t be arsed.  It’s already half 6 & I’ve got an early night waiting. 

The interview started with Poldi being asked what it would mean to end the 9yr wait,  zzzzz, insert patronizing Arsenal slur here.  Poldi to his credit gave a straightforward answer, also comparing the Cup to the German Cup he won when at Bayern.  He realsies the importance.  He also gave a nod to the Premier League, saying that it’s the biggest competition in the world.  He loves it here in blighty, you can tell. 

In response to another question, he was quick to dodge the label that the press were so willing to give, in regards to us beating Hull handsomely twice.  He batted it back, mentioning the one-off nature & then seamlessly started talking about how the fans are representing the club so strongly with a fantastic number at The Emirates on Saturday.  I think I’m falling for you Lukas.

When a journo said that Podolski had mentioned he was unhappy last month, Lukas cut in swiftly & surely with a cracker of a line, “ I’m never unhappy, I’m always happy “, alluding to the known fact that he is the joker in the ranks. 

He touched on the fact we were top for so long but finishing 4th is Ok, if we win the Cup alongside it, then it will be a good season.  That might be twisted a tad there Lukas, maybe cut back on the candid nature!

Once more on the subject of the immense pressure Arsenal are under & the fact we are favourites, Lukas buts in quickly, reiterating the one-off nature comment & saying that there are no underdogs in a Final.  Lukas saying the word underdogs is frankly hilarious as well.  He did concede that we were favourites though, because we are “ the better team”.  Some hacks will use this as pool-hall talk, but if you read David Meylers interview, then you’ll realise that is a drop in the ocean.  Meyler is a bellend that even Pardew couldn’t abide, so make of that what you will.

In response to a question regarding whether the squad work on penalties after the fantastic spot kicks displayed in the Semi ( ha! ), Lukas simply states that they don’t want it to go that far, they want it finished after 90mins.  Attaboy.

A few routine questions, nothing of note, aside from Lukas stating that the FA Cup is the biggest Cup in the world & the oldest, which is always nice to hear from a foreigner plying his trade on these shores.  A humorous moment then occurs in response to a question as to why he thrives in the FA Cup ( he’s scored one less than Giroud in the Cup apparently ), his answer was “ To score Two on Saturday “.  I don’t quite think you got that right Lukas, but what a herald it would be if you did.  You heard it here first folks, get down to your bookies & put a note on it.  He eventually answered  with standard footballer answer fare.  Good recovery Lukas. 

When asked if Matty Fryatt is the dangerman on Saturday for the Tigers, Podolski glibly asks “ Who is this? “  Everyone, surprised by the frankness in his answer, imagine headlines of ‘ Matt Who?’  in the back pages & laughter abounds.  Lukas, you are a card my friend. 

A couple of questions, some more effortless returns by the German.  Some questions in Deutsche follow & we are done.  Lukas Podolski, biceps rippling, gets up, says goodbye which startles everyone out of their woolgathering & ambles out.  I just wish I had had the balls to pull out Lukas’ signature move, the double-thumbs-up.  That would have been a cracking photo opp.