The lessons of Dortmund | Wenger is elite mediocrity

by & filed under News Review.

Taller than the Emirates, which made me angry. Real angry.

Taller than the Emirates, which made me angry. Real angry.

I don’t do away days normally. I don’t have worry in saying that the main reason is because I’m not dedicated enough to spunk half my salary following my team to some of the least inspiring places in Europe. However, Dortmund was the place I wanted to go because of their whole approach to football and the spectacular nature of their offering. So instead of doing a match report, I’ll just ramble off some of the things I took from Germany.

FC Dortmund are culture

I’ve been all over Germany for various reasons, and I can safely say that Dortmund is one of the least inspiring Cities I’ve been to. It’s quite run down and there’s not a lot there in the way of culture. The town is basically dominated by the team. Yellow shirts pinging around all day, flags in shop windows… much in the way Newcastle sits at the heart of Geordie existence, you had a sense it was the same for the Germans.

The Square

Someone gave that guy on the fountain chair a child to dance with...

Someone gave that guy on the fountain chair a child to dance with…

Mostly popularted by a group of guys who looked like the wife had given them their first ‘pass’ of the century. Some serious energy and entertaining songs. The Van Persie ‘she said, noooo, noooo, no’ followed by Giroud, she said, yeeees, yes, yes’… standard 14 year old bantz when the fountain was filled with washing up liquid. Some high jinx as I watched a man fall out the fountain with a beer bottle in his hand, it smashed and I had to tell him he’d destroyed his hand because he was too smashed to notice.

All good fun, even more amusing was watching the Dortmund fans. They came to watch. Not saying a word, just watching like a shy cat does in a living room. Amazed at the high jinx going off.

The Train

... moments later, I became a hero

… moments later, I became a hero

I met up with a Twitter pal in the square and he suggested we leave an hour and fifteen before kick off. Suitably smashed, I went along, but secretly I wondered…

‘Leaving unfathomably early with a man off the internet could be dangerous?’

Arsenal home fans get to the pub an hour before kick off. On a Tuesday night, we get to the ground late because it’s such a nightmare getting around.

I needn’t have worried, my Belgian pal knew the score. The train was good fun. I added to the #AwayDayBantz machine with a song. Check this. We were one stop away and I started…

‘One stop, we’ve only got one stop’

So much real-time wit. Everyone was high fiving me, the train driver made an announcement, declaring my song as the best thing to have happened in German transport history. What a moment to be me.

Anyway, you jump off the train and to my absolute surprise there were thousands and upon thousands of people outside the ground. What was this? Arriving early for a game? Outside the ground was like a carnival, stands to eat, drink and spend… a hot air balloon for no reason whatsoever. It was all good.

Not sure where to add this, but one guy hit the back of our ankles, we turned round and he’d attempted a celebratory knee slide on concrete. Didn’t work out well for his knees.

In the ground

CaptureINSTAT

When in the ground, it was half full. With 40mins to go, it was 80% full. The place was rocking. It’s quite choreographed. They have special flag people around the ground whipping people into a flag waving frenzy. They have singing areas and they have a catalogue of songs so bad you want to gouge out your ears with the plastic seat. But the point with the songs is this… you learn to love them. I was with a sport CEO once and I asked him about his terrible stadium song… he told me, ‘Pete, the fans will learn to love it’… and so they did.

Now, some might say, ‘Hey Pete, heard about that song you started, well played. On the ‘early thing’, don’t they have beer in the stands to encourage early entrance?’.

The answer is no. They have a zero alcohol policy for Champions League over there as well. Amazing that so many of the English guys didn’t realise, goring on alco-free booze.

Anyway, point is, there is a purpose to go into the ground. The consumer currency is a great time. We don’t have that at Arsenal. Outside the stadium, Dortmund make it a party. Inside the stadium it’s like a Christian Summer Rally with Cliff Richard before you know what.

The Germans don’t wait for the atmosphere to happen, they force it.

Arsenal, you need to learn. If we want to an atmosphere, let’s engineer it!

The Game

Ok, so I have a confession. I didn’t think we were that bad. I know we were, but when you’re there, you’ve dropped a shit tonne of cash on late everything, you kind of soften. It wasn’t like the guys around me were crazy Arsene Apologists, it was just this weird acceptance of the mediocrity that was on offer. No one really said anything.

The reality

Oh my days bro, what was that? Well, it was expected. We’ve had a poor start to the season and we had an even poorer pre-season. We don’t play with a vision in mind at the moment. We don’t have a squad capable of delivering on 4 fronts, but here’s the key and the area it always come back to… even if we had players, we don’t have the manager to win major honours. He’s not good enough at elite level. He’s not even attempting to break into that level, like say, Brendan Rodgers.

It all comes down to preparation. We should never be going into a game with the possibility of Bellerin making a debut. Originally, they were going to play Flamini there, but he disappeared.

Arteta just isn’t cut out for football at that level these days. He’s too slow and all mobility he had seems to be disappearing at a rate of knots. Why are we in this situation? Post Spurs last year, I said to much abuse, we need to be thinking about replacing Flamini right at that point because he was the wrong side of 29. A year on, he’s faded. I think he was always a capable player, but he was never going to be the answer at 29. Now this morning, we’re looking at Lassanna Diarra as a stop gap solution post window. Everything Wenger does is a reaction. Nothing is a preplanned. Why is that? What’s the excuse for lack of preparation when you’re on £8m a year?

As a side not. THE 2009 DM REUNION. IT’S ON. Someone get Gilberto on the blower…

On that subject, how embarrassing is it that we constantly look to bring in past it ex players to save the day because Wenger is so ill prepared with his squad? How gutting is it that the one explayer who could have helped us was passed on to Chelsea?

On the pitch, Dortmund controlled us all game. We’re an easy team to play because Wenger never surprises you. You roughly know what you’re facing, so any manager worth their salt is going to be able to deal with you fairly easily. As far as I’m concerned, it’s almost sacrilege to play Ozil out of position.

‘If you’re complaining about Ozil, you don’t know football’

… I remember the same people saying that about Denilson.

Wenger then puts Jack in the hole despite him not really being suited to that right now. Despite him not landing that role for England. Also, lumping Arteta in a holding role he doesn’t have the attributes to deliver on is car crash management.

Not having a tactical game plan… well, jeez. What’s that all about? Not having a stylistic vision for the team this many games in? What’s that all about!

This lack lustre football is engineered as well. Players are football fans like you and me. They talk. They know how good their squad is. They know whether they have a chance. Arsene Wenger gave the players a free pass when he didn’t pull together the best squad possible. He said to them, ‘here’s an excuse boys’ and right now, they’re taking it.

This isn’t a hindsight thing either, I called this. I called it not because I have an inside line on the club, but because it’s so fu*king obvious.

You can change your fitness coach (whilst keeping your old one there), some of your players and your kit maker… but always, your old self catches up with you, it waits in the wings.

Arsene Wenger will never learn. Arsene Wenger will never change. The only way we move forward is if the manager goes. The only way the manager goes is if he fails hard enough to merit the sack.

I think Tim Payton made an excellent point yesterday when he said, ‘if Arsene goes,we could win the league or finish 7th. I can’t see either happening at the moment’.

Point is, we won’t see him leave. We’ll forever hang around top four, drowning in elite mediocrity. Not good enough to challenge for major honours, not poor enough to merit the plaster ripping. But make no mistake, that plaster needs to be ripped. When all the apologists have in the bag is ‘who else could do a better job’ you know the argument for keeping him on is dying.

He’s a faded star. He’ll still make the group stages, he’ll still make top 4… but is that what Arsenal are about? Is that what a club who were ambitious enough to move stadium during a recession are all about? Is that the sporting attitude you want to be proud of… ‘survive, never push’. It doesn’t work for me and it won’t work for some of the tremendous talents we have at the club that’s being badly utilised now.

Chamberlain, Ramsey, Sanchez, Ozil… they’ll want to be part of a winning machine because there’s no glory at the end of a career in a big bank balance, a massive house with a paid of mortgage and 3 mistresses in different countries.

No glory in that at all. Trophies are what people talk to you about. Major trophies.

Anyway, Dortmund was all about education, both on the pitch and off it. Will we use any of that information to make a better Arsenal? Hopefully…  but don’t hold your breath.

Restaurant #Bantz (I was a pro. I love sausage)

Restaurant #Bantz (I was a pro. I love sausage)

 

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Dortmund 2-0 Arsenal. Shit Sandwich

by & filed under Match report.

'This grass is a little bit short'

‘This grass is a little bit short’

In Pedro’s absence, I thought I’d struggle for content this week but that absolute shit show of a performance has provided me with plenty. So let’s get started…

Maybe it’s the fact we’re 7 games in and yet to produce a half decent performance, maybe it’s the fact our club captain is our worst player, or maybe it’s the fact I’ve drunk 1/2 bottle of wine and am penning this post on the train ride home but this season is already turning out to be a rum prospect.

We can say goodbye to the league and champions league now. No way, not a chance. We might put together some sort of a run in either of the domestic cups and hell we might even win one of them. But then what are we left with? Not much progress that’s what.

The most difficult thing about being an Arsenal fan – and there are many difficult things – is that gnawing, pervading sense of ‘what if’.  Always 2 or 3 signings away from a title challenge, always a poor refereeing performance away from the result we deserve, always an injury away from glory.

At least when you support a team like Crystal Palace you can manage your expectations; you know your place in the football hierarchy and you learn to accept the highs and lows. But when you know your club has the resources and ability to compete with Bayern Munich, and yet can’t build a squad to sustain any type of domestic or European challenge what hope is there?

The performance last night was embarrassing. There is no shame in losing away at Dortmund. But to play so abysmally, to have a team so demotivated, to have a captain and midfield anchor who fails to provide cover and to see the same mistakes repeated again and again and again, should not be tolerated from a man who earns £8 million a year.

I’m failing to find a positive from that performance other than the fact that Hector Bellerin didn’t get mauled. The fact he was one of our better players is testament to how woeful we were.

Jack Wilshere, who has played well recently, resurrected his World Cup form. Ramsey resurrected his form from 3 years ago when he was nearly sold to Fulham. Alexis was shocking, Podolski pointless, SZCZ put in epic levels of Almunia and I’m struggling to think of things to say about Mesut Özil. This guy is a World Cup superstar playing like a Sunday league player. Would any other manager have tolerated his woeful performances and tried to play him into form when you have Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rosicky more than capable of filling in?

The fact is all these players are fabulous players. I wouldn’t sell any one of them. There is one man who motivates them, who gives them tactical instruction and who changes things when plan A isn’t working.

That man is the manager.

Everyone knows Le Grove is not pro Arsene Wenger. But anyone who can, in all earnestness, continue to look on at these performances, these farcical transfer windows and injury crises and still not find fault with the guy who yields all the power at the club is not being ignorant, they’re being disingenuous.

Sure we don’t know everything that goes on behind the scenes. You can try and blame the fans for creating a negative atmosphere (anyone who says that has clearly never watched live football). You can produce statistics to show that Danny Welbeck has fewer ‘turnovers’ than Radmael Falcao. And you can continue to say that ‘you said we should’ve signed Ashley Young therefore you can’t criticise the manager’ but the fact is, the ONLY way this is going to get better is when Arsene leaves.

He’s been a great servant of the club, the best, but he is not the guy to lead it to future glory.

We may recover. We will put together a good run in the league and we will qualify from our group in the champions league, there will be better days ahead this season. But I do not hold out hope of reaching the promised land again until something significant changes at the top.

@aldo_doel over and out.

p.s. As this was ostensibly a match report, I better do some kind of player ratings…

Szcz – Almunia

Bellerin – Still alive

Kos – Dental Floss

Mertesacker – Training Cone

Arteta – Every Michael Bay film ever made condensed int0 70 minutes

Wilshere – Get up

Ramsey – As bad as Richard Dawkins on twitter

Ozil – Who is this and what have you done with the real Mesut?

Alexis – John Bishop

Welbeck – A touch of the Chamakhs


Dortmund preview

by & filed under News Review.

Good morning all. So tonight we face a real test away in Dortmund. Pedro will be there the lucky git, it looks like such an exciting ground to watch football in. Amazing atmosphere, amazing fans and apparently you can get a chateaubriand with a glass of verve clicquot at half time for 3 euros. Yet another damning indictment of the disgraceful way in which us hard working fans are proper mugged off #FAout

In many ways Dortmund and Arsenal are kindred spirits. The Germans have lost two of their best players, Gotze and Lewandoski, to their bitterest rivals and their other best player, Reus, is injured. They also look to play attractive, exciting football, except at the moment they are slightly better at it than us.

We got one of our best results (though not performances) when we beat them in Dortmund last year. Despite this, and the absence of the three aforementioned names, this will be a very stern test. However there was an indication against City that we are starting to find our form. We had the champions pinned back for long periods on Saturday. If we can come out of the blocks like that tonight and get an early goal, it might make the bitter pill of conceding from an own goal in the last minute a little easier to swallow.

The only concern is that our back line are dropping like flies and so blooding ballerina (ipad speak for Bellerin), if it comes to that, is going to be a huge risk but we covered that yesterday.

Lots of interesting comments about the change in formation, my understanding is that 4-1-4-1 gives us two box-to-box midfielders at the expense of a traditional number 10. Maybe why Ozil is struggling but also why Arsene is more confident of not getting spanked in big away games.

The other interesting tactical discussion from Saturday is zonal marking. I have to admit I always balk when an absolute clown like Andy Townsend berates the system but I am starting to wonder if it is right for us. We don’t have the height or the discipline to make it work effectively, so you wonder if it is time we went back to man marking. That being said I seem to recall a stat floating round that we concede very goals from set pieces.

A bigger bug bear for me and everyone I sit near in the stadium is our own set pieces, particularly our amazing awfulness to clear the first man on a corner. I wonder if arsenal do any set piece practice in training because it seems like such a wasted opportunity.

Anyway that’s all I’ve got for you today. Fingers crossed for a good performance and result tonight and keep an eye out for Pedro, he’ll be the one with the shit Marco Reus haircut.

You can follow me on twitter @aldo_doel x