Man City Cheating Already? | Arsenal Player Injuries | Backroom Staff Conundrum

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So, turns out Geoff is still alive. I went round and knocked for him, no answer, so I firstly checked the shed, just incase he’d taken this depression too far, luckily he was ok. He had a conversation with Arsenal yesterday about the price rise, he’s pretty miffed. He asked them to explain themselves…

‘Sir, we’ve spent lots of money developing Club Level facilities for you’


‘We’ve built the Foundry and the WM Club’

‘Ok, so you’ve built two areas I have to spend £15k a season to enjoy, haven’t you just improved club level to improve your bottom line?’

‘Well, I guess so, I didn’t think of that’

There you have it people. The new breed of football executive trying to cater to a new breed of fan.

I touched on the commercial team yesterday and wondered what exactly they’ve done over the past two years. Our commercial revenue actually dropped last year, which was pretty worrying. More worrying is that Spurs could actually overtake us on that front next  year, wouldn’t that be awful?

I think what’s even more humourous and entirely predictable is that something I said would come to fruition last year, to vehement disagreement, is now happening. The big rich clubs are already making their moves to counter the UEFA fair play rules.

I said that in American sport, restrictions on wages didn’t change the landscape for the poorer clubs. All it did was give the rich clubs another platform to showcase they were the richest because they had the most intelligent people working for them.

You know… a bit like how the super rich are always so clever at avoiding tax.

In this case, I’m talking about Manchester City. They aren’t more intelligent, they’re just flush with cash and a million subsidiary businesses who are unsurprisingly lining up to sponsor the club. Inside a year, they’ve doubled their commercial revenue to £47million. Who has helped them hit these dizzy heights?

Ethihad Airways, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, Etisalat, and Aabar… classic big name brands you’d associate with football.

Also the naming rights for the Stadium are now up for grabs as well after the council gave permission for them to be auctioned. I told you commercial enterprises aren’t interested in naming rights offers unless it’s a new stadium… generally because places like Old Trafford will always been known as that to the fans. Does that matter to an Abu Dhabi sweet shop who fancy a piece of the action? Of course not… those interested in the taking over the name aren’t looking at ROI.

So they’re already beating us commercially after 1 year, where are they going to be when the regs come into effect by the end of 2012? What are UEFA going to do about this?

The sad fact about all of this is the only people who are going to get stung are the fans. The big clubs can afford to bring in the big dollars from questionable partners, where as clubs like Arsenal do what all the other small clubs will have to do… stick it to the fans in a season ticket increase. FIFA Fairplay screws anyone without money. Arsenal are lucky because in 2 years time we can take our commercial revenue from £44million to £68million in an instant. West Ham, Bolton, Everton? No chance…

So if we ever truly want to compete at the top-level for a sustained period, we’re probably going to have to consider a sugar Daddy at some point. Usmanov is richer than Abramovich, he has incredible business acumen and he has Eastern European pride. Forget his past, David Dein has a murky background from his Sugar Factory days… I doubt Danny Fiszman ensured minimum wage and a lunch break were granted to the diamond hunters in Africa and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t take too long to dig up dirt on the Walmart empire.

I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times… filthy rich people don’t ever have clean pasts. You just have to look at what is best for Arsenal going forward. I know that an AST Fanshare idea is the ideal… but lets be realistic, we’ll always be in the shadow of the spiralling wage costs City and Chelsea are pushing. They’ve single-handedly increased wages x4 since their Sugar Daddies joined the party.

If correlating wage bill and league position is an accurate way to gauge success… it’s going to be a long time before we’re dominating world football.

If you’d care to read in more detail about the City stuff, may I point you in the direction of the Swiss Ramble… the Megan Fox of Finance.

In other news, the shock come back of Johan Djourou was short-lived. He’s out for the season now after dislocating his shoulder. On the upswing of things… at least he’s not going to play for Switzerland.

Gutted Hitzfeld…

I was told we could expect Song, Cesc and Theo back for WBA. Wenger said Song wouldn’t be back for the WBA game… so my guess is I’ve either misheard what was said, or Wenger is telling a whopping great tactical lie. Either way, I’m cool as long as I don’t see expert jogger Denilson on the pitch.

In other more bizarre rumours, there was talk last night in the comments that Arsene Wenger had handed in his resignation. These rumours would come with a believability factor of zero. Who in their right mind quits a job as good as Arsenal when there are ten games to play that could end with you winning the league? If Wenger pulled this off, it’d go down as a Brian Clough moment regardless of how angry we are at the way the season has panned out.

One person who hasn’t been discussed in great detail is Pat Rice. He was retiring, then he was staying… then I heard no one knows what the deal is. I think it’s interesting that most managers turnover their training staff on quite a regular basis. Arsenal have spent the last 15 years with pretty much the same collection of back room staff. Pat Rice, Boro Piromac and Arsene Wenger have formed the backbone of the club for years. Maybe it is time for a change in the dressing room? Maybe a Patrick Vieira \ Tony Adams type figure at the club would help spice things up?

Maybe a new more qualified fitness coach could help ease our injury problems? Looking at Tony Colbert’s CV… well, he’s hardly dynamic compared to others? I’m not about digging out people who are earning a living… but lets look at the state of our fitness. Sure we’re getting maximum use out of the medical equipment… but jeez… couldn’t get someone in who could do a better job keeping players in tip-top condition for longer than 3 weeks?

As for the training methods, sometimes you’ve got to freshen things up, bat new ideas about, step out of your comfort zone. Ferguson is always changing his assistant coach, always looking to improve the way he works and he’s always been successful for it. Maybe it’s about time Arsene Wenger looked at his methods and thought about supplementing them with something new?

Anyway… we’re into Wednesday, tomorrow we start talking about the weekends games. I’m over the weekends loss, I’m chuffed to bits United just added to their fixture congestion and I’m hoping Chelsea can do the same tonight whilst picking up a number of injuries along the way!

Anyone thought about Bastian Schweinsteiger at Bayern lately? I have… Louis Van G is on his way out, Bastian loves England, Arsenal have lots of money.

Could be a good move and a nice gift to the Arsenal fans who have just been spanked with that 6% pay increase…

P.S. I had a chat with Gooner reporter John Cross at the Mirror yesterday, he totally empathises with fan concerns about a lack of spending / season ticket price increases and he’s put together an article here. Hopefully Gazidis will read it… hopefully he’ll have a rethink on the next wave of increases… Arsenal said they hadn’t made any decisions yet, so fingers crossed. A big thanks to John for kicking the story onto the next level!

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Season ticket stinger… | Mad Jens signs | Some great stats for you!

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So the worst kept secret since Wayne Rooney entrusted a hooker with £200 to buy him some fags is out…

Jens Lehmann is back!

I was told about it on Sunday, totally forgot about it amongst all the other stuff, then missed out on an exclusive


Anyway, I’m pretty excited about it. I’m not really sure why so many people are getting bent out of shape about it. The likelyhood of him playing are about as slim as Denilson picking up an injury or getting that much mooted transfer to Barcelona this summer. Manchester City, with more money than Wayne Rooney’s hooker after buying him some fags, had a similar situation last year and they ended up ushering in Márton Fülöp.

Jens will come in, kick a few puppies, shout at a few people for standing on his shadow and possibly chase Almunia round the shower with a damp towel (that’ll get some colour in his gaunt cheeks). He’s been around the camp for a few weeks apparently and he’s been great. You can’t argue with his inclusion, the guy is a legend. It’s amazing, when he was with us, I always used to find myself getting angry at his petulance… how I’d have opted for that over the calamities we’ve faced over the past few years.

Still, we’re in good shape on the goalkeeping front. No one could account for the mess that’s happened this year. Chezzer is our number 1 now, he is probably the best young keeper in the world and he will be a great asset going forward.

Onto news of a more serious nature. Geoff and I received our club level season ticket renewals through the post yesterday, Arsenal have lumped us with a 6.5% price increase taking a pair of tickets up to £5540 for the season. All in all, the total additional revenue generated by this pocket busting exercise is about £6million. That’s 2 Abou Diaby’s in wage terms. I find it disgraceful that we’re employing an expensive collection of International Commercial monsters and the best they could come up with for revenue generation ideas was a ticket price increase.

I also find it amazing that we’ve employed a new Communications guy and he didn’t look at the fixture list before landing the bombshell on our doorsteps. What an absolutely believable piece of toilet Arsenal PR. Where do the club get off doing this to us at this time?

People will say that 6.5% when you consider inflation and the VAT rise isn’t that much. Well, it depends what angle you look at it. If you think we merit the most expensive ticket in the game, fair shout. If you think like most that we’re being shafted, you’ll probably find the increase harder to stomach than seeing Wayne Rooney naked smoking a £200 box of fags after sex with a hooker.

We pay all this money and the coach doesn’t invest in the squad, we haven’t won anything for 5 seasons, the wage bill is going up, the managers salary is at £7million, the CEO is getting a 70% bonus and we’re lumped with the increase in inflationary costs?

@TimPayton made a great point on twitter yesterday, if we’d won our Champions League group and qualified for the quarter finals, we’d have an extra £8million in the bank right now. That’s 40,000 boxes of Wayne Rooney fags.

If you thought that was bad enough, we’ll be donning two new strips again for our 125 year anniversary (The away one will be blue because they sell more). It’s absolutely relentless being an Arsenal fan and it’s becoming an unfeasible for even the well off middle class these days. Arsenal need to be careful they don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg, even if Arsenal promise to engrave that egg with your name for an extra £45.

As with all things, there comes a tipping point, with all the empty seats we’ve seen in a pretty competitive season this year, you wonder if fans are reaching it?

I don’t mind wedging out for a ticket if I know the club are going to invest in the playing staff… and I don’t mean paying our poor players more than they’re worth, I mean buying in what we need. I’d much prefer a lean squad of top players who want to fight for the shirt than a squad of over paid teenagers who might make it with a dubious attitude. Paying out football tax and seeing it squandered is gutting and if it’s not pricing people out of paying, I’m sure it’s making them feel a little queazy at the prospect of handing over their pay day loan to cover the cost.

Since Arsenal purchased Dennis Bergkamp way back in 1996, we’ve never had to sell a season ticket on general sale. 8,000 people bought a season ticket off the  back of his signing. Who says superstars are a waste of money?

The sad fact is, we’re still 50% more expensive than Manchester United across all levels. Now, I know it’s pretty under privelaged once you’re outside the M25, but not to the extent where ticket prices are that much lower.

It was interesting that last year people flew down the waiting list. People claimed that Le Grove lied about that, well, I’m pretty sure if you know anyone on the list they’ll tell you first hand their number dropped significantly. The thing with a waiting list is that there is a big difference  between being on it complaining about not getting a chance… then actually being presented with a £2,500 bill for two tickets. Now, I know plenty of people wouldn’t have paid, however, I can’t lay my hands on those statistics. What I can tell you is that a number of additional season tickets were made available last year in the areas that didn’t sell well when on general sale.

Last season the overall ticket churn was 3%, question is, what will it be this year?

I can’t leave you without giving you a balanced argument, we’d never do such a thing on this Arsenal blog.

If there was a tick box on your season ticket form that said, ‘The keep Cesc & Nasri‘ fund and the cost was 6% on your ticket, what would you do? That’s the reality of it. Samir Nasri is not going to sign up for anything less than what he’d get at Chelsea or Manchester City. Arsenal did not have those two clubs in mind when they moved over to the Emirates and for those of you asking why we left Highbury, well, our wage bill is now equal to the total revenue made at Highbury. We’d be dead and buried like Everton if we’d stayed.

That said, I still believe when you earn the money the people at the club earn, you lose touch with reality. Who on our board is thinking about the fans? No one is my guess… Can you see people like PHW caring a hoot about fans struggling to pay their fees to see their beloved club? I can’t. It’s days like yesterday that make you feel what you have become… just another paying customer.

Shame on you Arsenal, shame on you.

P.S. Le Grove had ventured into the exciting world of tumblr! We used to have a funnies page, it became too much for me to handle and it was hard to access. So instead, we’ve set up a Le Grove Tumblr so I can stick the best photo shopped pics on there. In fact, any pictures or videos you might have would be of interest. As long as they’re unique and most importantly… funny!

Finally, if I haven’t responded to your e-mails over the last month, it’s mostly because I went all big time when the band Morning Parade said we were their favourite blog. We didn’t hang out or anything, I just stayed in, drank coffee and ignored e-mails. Anyway, I’m back online, so if you do e-mail in, I promise a prompt response.

Finally, finally, if you have any spares for WBA, get in touch, I have buyers galore. I also have club level renting opportunities if you’re interested. Enquire within!

Also… pray for JD, could be back sooner than expected… according to others.

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What’s up with Alex Song? | Arsenal injury update | What happens next…

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The blues…

I woke up Sunday morning and I felt pretty terrible, I thought it might have been the beer or the chinese I’d gorged on the night before, but I’ve woken up today with the same dull feeling in the pit of my stomach today as well. If I was a betting man, I’d Eden Hazard a guess that I, like 90% of Gooners, have come down with a severe bout of Football depression.

Is it worse this season? Ultimately yes…

I actually believed that this year, things would be different. I thought we’d managed to weather a few storms, I thought Lady Luck had finally decided to bunk with us… and now it all seems to be disappearing faster than a plate of chips when Frank Lampard is in the vicinity.

Where has it all gone wrong?

Well, that’s a tough question. I do wonder what impact that 4-4 draw in the Premiership had to our overall confidence at the back? I know we’ve taken results here and there since then but as a team, you feel that a result like that tells you that you are never more than 45minutes away from blowing everything.

The defensive displays since then have been very up and down. Even when we’ve been keeping score lines respectable, we’ve still been very shaky. The Carling Cup final really hit everyone for 6. If you can’t defend your goal when you’re taking 60% possession, you have a real problem. A defence like ours shouldn’t be leaking as it is. Mostly, they’re not conceding too many shots. David Seaman said that being a top keeper for a top club was all about concentration. You’ll do nothing for 90minutes, then you’ll be called upon to make a top save. Our defenders have the same scenario except they don’t deal with their one attack very well.

Our boys at the back struggle as a unit. Is that because they’re not drilled in defence? Possibly. Is it because we didn’t buy in the necessary quality? Possibly again. However, I’m not sure even the best defender in the world could play with a Denilson or a Diaby in front of them. I’m not sure cultured talent is enough to outweigh a lack of team discipline.

I’ve asked around about the defence thing. As far as the people I know are aware, we don’t drill the defence. I also heard that Martin Keown didn’t really have a major impact on the back 4 our 2006, that was more a luck thing. What I do know is that our greatest defensive unit of the last 20 years have in the main all been taking coaching badges, are all far more qualified than any of the first team staff to coach defence  and they’d instantly command respect of the players because of who they are.

So why are none of them allowed near the back four? Why has no one invited them to coach the first team (Steve Bold is on kids)?

Why are we not taking advantage of medal winning experienced defenders who love the club? Why does Wenger not bring in the much needed expertise to improve an area we really struggle with? On an individual level, I think all of our first team defence are good enough, they just seem to lack practice as a unit. Is this another case of the coach surrounding himself with yes men? It seems that way. Simply put, there is no way Arsene would tolerate a dissentful voice in the coaching staff and lets be honest, players like Adams, Bold, Keown and Seaman would not tolerate some of the things that go on in our backline.

If you have a management structure where no one speaks out, how do you ever improve? How do you pull yourself back on track when things go wrong? You don’t… you stagnate with the same issues, year, after year…

Player love…

I think the other area we’re struggling in is player loyalty. It’s clear for everyone to see that certain players around the periphery of the squad don’t care. Denilson, Diaby, Eboue and Bendtner are sulkers. That my friends is a fact. Half the issue we have is they’ve only played for one top club, they’re outrageously rewarded considering their market worth, so they act like spoilt children. They don’t bleed for the shirt, they bleed for the pay cheque. We need to move players like that on and we need to blood players who do care.

Even Alex Song is getting to me. He cried off pre-season under dubious circumstances and once again we find him picking up niggly injuries for the big away crunch ties. Does he think by not playing the major away games we might lose, somehow his stock goes up? It’s starting to look that way for me… now he has his big contract, is he looking for the next one. A hint of the Adebayor’s perhaps…?

We’ll see what happens with him in the summer if someone big comes knocking…

Like I said yesterday, I’d have a clear out. I’d raise £30million and reduce the wage bill straight away. Then we could go out and buy a Scott Parker type of midfielder. Hell, why not even Scott Parker himself? He puts his body on the line, he’s pretty much single-handedly kept West Ham alive and it’d be a great swansong to his career. It could be an Edgar David’s 2006 style signing.  Parker certainly wouldn’t tolerate the bo*locks we’ve seen on the pitch of late.

If we’re not interested in him, how about Muntari of Sunderland? He was good enough to get a move to Inter Milan, he’s a ball winner, he was superb against us the other week and he’s only 26. We could pick him up for a pittance.

We have this Ryo Miyachi chap ripping it up in the Dutch league at the moment. As a winger, bulk isn’t an issue, he could give us the much needed pace out wide. If it’s too early for him, I know we’re looking at Hazard, he could come in. We absolutely need to sign a top quality striker. Nik’s head isn’t right for Arsenal, Chamakh can only play the way he’s facing so we could flog him for a massive profit if there was a chance of brining in a top-notch finisher. The simple fact is, our options outside Robin are diabolical and they cost us as we don’t have an alternative when things are going against us.

In defence, I’d bring in Gary Cahill. Ignore the rumours about him costing £30million, they’re way off the mark unless City get involved. We could pick him up for £15million. He’s great on the floor, he’s good in the air and he’ll absolutely cherish an opportunity at one of the greatest clubs in the world.

People can bleet on about Championship manager, but the fact is, this squad needs a radical shake up. It’s flat, it needs and injection of quality and the deadwood needs to be cut out. We need to be supplementing our top players with players who have a top attitude.

Nothing gets the fans or the dressing room buzzing like new signings. It sparks competition, it revitalises players who are tired of playing with the same dross and bored of losing. A proper shake up could inspire the core of this team to great things.

The question is, will Gazidis pull Wenger to one side and tell him that he has to address the way he’s managing the club?

Someone has to. He has to be accountable to someone. He has to realise that we’re not his pet project. I don’t think he should be sacked, but I think he should be told he has to address the obvious weaknesses in the side this summer and he has to make the team properly competitive.

… because let’s get one thing straight, he won’t make that decision off his own back. He’s shown us he’s incapable of that over the past 3 seasons.

Going forward…

We’re really up against it now. We should have Song and Theo back for the West Brom game. There is an outside chance that Cesc will make it now and I’ve been told that the feeling is, if Squillaci is given a run of games, he’ll be a different player. If we can get to the United game in May on the back of a winning streak and we can field a proper first team, there is no reason why we can’t rescue this season.

It’s all about the players now. If I was Cesc Fabregas, I’d be calling a team meeting this week. I’d thrash out the problems of the last month, let a few players know what is what and get fired up for the 10 game run in. Tony Adams did a similar thing after the Blackburn game we lost in 1998. He called a squad meeting, he told Paddy and Petit they weren’t giving the back 4 enough protection and he landed a title winning response. Do we have enough leaders in the dressing room to take an initiative like that?

I damn well hope so…

Wenger and the boys have ten games to save this season. Win all ten. We win the league. Simple.

Mental strength at the ready… this could get messy!

P.S. If you’re interested in getting to the Emirates to see Brazil play, ticket are on sale now. I wouldn’t normally post an advert, but if you use the AST Promo code, you’ll get a discount and they’ll get some funding for the great work they’re doing behind the scenes. It’ll also help keep future price rises low!

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