… and welcome to a wet and foggy edition of Le Grove, the Arsenal blog that will remind you of the weather before every post.
Today we have FA Cup day. Oh what a day. We’re defending champions. Get that? Defending bloody champions. We’re playing Hull. They’re defending second placers.
I don’t know about the statistics, but I feel Hull City earn more live TV game time than any other team in the Premier League. They’re the live team every week. Such a bland outfit. They’re the modern day equivalent of Middlesborough. They shouldn’t be either, Steve Bruce bought pretty well in the summer. They just are though.
So today should be interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, we have Theo Walcott back in full contention for his first start in about 600 years. He really does need to be treated with kid gloves. If he breaks down again, you’d have to ask questions as to whether he has a suitable future at Arsenal. You can’t take half a season off every season if you’re an important player for a club. Don’t get me wrong, I think a lot of what goes wrong with Theo is down to the way we work with him… but he hardly boasts the robustness of someone like Sanchez.
Another player we’ll see join the party is David Ospina. A player who was injured, then returned too early and injured again, then out for three weeks, then out for eternity. He rejoins the first team with a massive opportunity. My problem with Ospina is that though he had a major World Cup, he does come from a very average club in France and he is a very small keeper. It’s like we purposefully didn’t sign a keeper to challenge Chezzer. In the same way we signed Viviano because he had average statistics in Italy we thought we could improve…
If he comes good today and plays a blinder, I’d expect him to keep his spot. Chezzer has been average all season. No question about it. His positioning is poor. His decision making consistently puts us in trouble. He very rarely bails us out of a mess. It’s amazing how many Arsenal fans don’t pick up on this. There is a hierarchy of criticism at the club. If you take selfies, you have to have at least 10 games grace before anyone will pay any attention to your failings. If you look like one of our greatest left backs (but one we don’t really like now) you’re totally immune. If you look like Phil Neville, fu*k man, you’re in deep shit. Sneeze out of turn and we’ll kill you.
The most exciting thing that could happen today would be handing Chuba (I always shout ‘Shaaaaaba’ in my head) Akpom a start. Outside Wenger putting Podolski out to pasture in Milan, the other interesting move was shifting on Yaya Sanogo. Geoff (Le Grove Geoff) always says that no one ever pulls Wenger when he slinks substandard love children out the back door. Yaya Sanogo was never up to scratch, a million miles off the pace of even a Championship striker, yet we have him lining up against Bayern Munich and in other games where he can barely run 3 yards without falling over like a stack of baked bean cans in an Adam Sandler movie.
Anyway, the offshoot is that the player who has looked better from day dot is in first team contention. I really like this kid. Is it partly to do with his British name, sure, I love it. It’s also down to the how much better he looks than any other child striker we’ve brought through lately. I think he’s the fastest at the club over ten metres, which means he’s winning over Sanogo already because he can stand up for ten metres worth of sprinting. He looks focused on the pitch, like he’s there to do a job… not like he’s been invited onto the pitch like some sort of shit box Mars Bar TV ad realised. He’s also pretty calm on the ball, he doesn’t give up and he runs defenders hard. I think he’s a real talent. One I’d love to kick on and do well. One that has ten games grace before I lead the call for him to go out on loan.
It’d be nice if we could bring in some other players, maybe give Hayden a go at centre back. Perhaps he could throw Zelalem into the mixer and give Cazorla a breather?
I guess the thing here is that we don’t have good players coming through the ranks at the moment. Have we ever been so bereft of young talent under Wenger? I mean, we don’t even seem to have talent that we could palm off to Sunderland at the moment. The players we put on the bench aren’t Premiership quality. I guess maybe a byproduct of having very little success over the years is that the youth talent doesn’t want to move to us anymore. When we kicked into project youth, the memory of one of the greatest Premiership sides of all time was fresh. Now, who’d want to up sticks and move to a team that plays for top four?
Arsene may have reframed success to a bunch of the Arsenal fans, but you can’t reframe it to footballers who don’t buy into the bollocks.
Interesting to read the interview from Tom Fox who has headed over to Aston Villa to be their CEO in the summer. The comments are all very future gazing and in a similar tone to what Ivan says at Arsenal. But you can see that he has total control over the set up over there. He’s supposed to be very good with an all American ruthless approach to getting things done.
There were some cornflakes guffawed over the table at some of his comments about a brand being about more than simply winning. I think this is where fans become too caught up in the lack of success at Arsenal. Our issues don’t stem from not having enough ‘winner’ at the club. We have World Cup winners, La Liga winners, 4th Place Trophy winners… plenty of winner You can’t built a global brand around being ‘winners’ because as soon as you’re not winning, you have nothing. The greatest clubs in the world are about so much more. Arsenal, for me, are a brand that is centred around belonging, community and closeness. We’re the most accessible elite club in England.
Our problems centre around culture. Arsene Wenger wants to be a winner. As anyone who has been around him will tell you, ‘nobody feels it like Arsene’… the issue he has is that he wants to be the man who runs everything. So he doesn’t encourage anyone to think for themselves. Dominant leaders stifle subordinate thinking because they don’t listen or they ignore what’s put forward. Our culture is clearly failing at the moment because we don’t have experts taking care of all the parts that make up the machine. If we changed that and put expertise in charge of each area, we’d be so much better as a club.
This was really interesting…
“What we’ve done on the football side is make Sean Kimberley head of the academy. He’s also hired a head of recruitment for the academy.
“Paddy Reilly is our director of recruiting overall at Bodymoor Heath and Paddy has hired a whole new scouting network on a full-time basis to cover the whole world.
“I hope that will help us identify talent internationally.
“We’ve also hired someone on the data analysis side from Opta so we can make better use of the data to make decisions on the back of it.
“The plan is simple, to monetise this football club within the global sponsorship market to a greater degree and then to spend that money as efficiently and effective as possible by investing in everything at Bodymoor Heath.”
All the parts of the puzzle we should be addressing. The main difference here is that Tom Fox will hire these people, then make sure they’re utilised in the right fashion. I have my doubts whether you’ll get a two heads of fitness issue over at Villa Park. Will all the above mean they’ll be winning the league in 5 years time? Doubtful, but it’ll put them in a position where they have an infrastructure that will allow them to compete more readily.
Villa, from a control perspective are at least 3 years ahead of us… sadly.
Right, enjoy the game today, sign up to our mailing list below and have a bloody good day!