Imagine my shock last night (seriously, don’t laugh) on the way back home after watching the Champions League games with a few friends in town. “Be careful what you wish for” is the age old maxim that should have bitch slapped me in the face when I asked the taxi driver to put some football on the radio.
With the BBC’s exemplary equal opportunity employment policy that allows mentally retarded presenters like Robbie Savage to become an “expert”, it usually is a coin toss between 5 live or Talk Spite radio as to which is capable of coming up with the most faecal matter that can be legally allowed in one production.
Unfortunately for me, it was BBC’s Mark Pougatch who gave me the urge to ask for the sick bag, and it wasn’t because of the alcohol I had consumed while watching the Manchester teams’ adventures in Europe.
As conspiracy theories go, Pougatch was banging on about how cynical it is for United to have 6 home Premier league games immediately following Champions League ties, while Manchester City had 6 away games. Not that I wouldn’t put that past fixture mandarins with the propensity to kiss Alex Ferguson’s rectal anatomy, but it was Pougatch’s next remark that made me wonder why it is again that British people are held at gun point to pay licence fees for public service broadcasting.
This apparently reputable BBC presenter then went on to say that he did some research on Monday before the Champions League games and found out about the conspiracy in favour of United. He also did Chelsea who had 4 away games, but didn’t bother with Arsenal.
“Why bother, they’re useless anyway”.
This is the thing. If Arsenal were useless, I have no problem accepting such an observation. But Arsenal are not useless. Notwithstanding the fact that we had a positive result in a very difficult game at Dortmund, the expectation was that United and City were going to sail through their match day 1 fixtures like the other teams didn’t exist.
But no, they didn’t, and it was fairly obvious that City in particular have a fight to make it through to the next stage. Napoli away won’t be a walk in the park, and they can wishfully think about how to beat Bayern Munich.
The thing that stood out most with this “Arsenal are useless anyway comment” from Pougatch was not what he said, but how he said it. You could feel the absolute contempt and disdain in his voice, and I was half expecting him to spit in the microphone next to complete the triangle with some illustration of disgust for Arsenal.
The worst kind of venomous people are the ones who hide their spite under a cloak of niceties and professionalism. But it eventually comes out and last night left me seriously questioning why I even bother to pay a licence fee to contribute to the salary of presenters who have this sort of contempt for their listeners. It’s no point writing to the BBC to complain, they’ve already got a statement prepared about professionalism and reputation and that they will review – yada yada yada.
My friend Consols Bob still has the e-mail they sent him about his complaint on Robbie Savage – suggesting that they have rigorous recruitment policies designed to root out the assholes an Savage passed with flying colours.
Mr Mark Pougatch – if you’re going to pretend to be professional and thorough in your presentation, then please do your job and research all English teams with the same vigour and intensity. The fact that you can spout out such venomous nonsense about a team that you clearly hate while on a public service broadcast to millions of people who pay your salary is an indictment of your professionalism and character. You’re are disgrace to the profession of journalism, but then again, you really don’t have a high threshold to beat in this respect.
It reminded me of a story that Mark Saggers, a former BBC presenter who’s now at Talk Spite radio once confessed to on air about the treatment he received from a colleague at BBC they regularly presented with. My money is on Mark Pougatch being the colleague Saggers was referring to and the contempt, disdain and disgust I witnessed last night is indicative of what was being suggested about this “mysterious” colleague who forced another to change ranches.
But then again you ask, what’s different from what Pougatch is doing to what the punks at Sly Sports do or what the cretins at Talk Spite do.
Indeed, why bother with Arsenal – we’re useless after all.
I think the most amusing thing about all this is that even though we’re useless (has anyone noticed my cynicism yet?), Tottenham are still beneath us. ‘Tis true what they say – A cannon will always destroy a cockerel.
And by the way, if you haven’t yet, follow me on twitter. I’m now getting the hang of it. We might even get @markpougatch to defend his disappointing comments last night. Although he’s already told an Arsenal fan that the fan was being flippant about his comments.
It’s been an interesting few days going walk-about, and meeting new folks while working in what I’d describe as a “pulling-your-teeth-out-without-a-local-anaesthetic” type of economy. You know the kind of economy that demands that you bend over, grab your ankles and doesn’t offer you the courtesy of using lubrication while shafting you in the most uncomfortable fashion.
“We’re heading to the dog house”, Joshua reminds all of us round the table discussing how best to stop our client from having to fold its tents and go to the wall.
To which I remind folks that whatever needs to be done should be done by Monday night so I can make my way back home. I have a very important
European engagement on Tuesday night with an organization in Germany that specializes in the kind of artistic expression I normally indulge in at the home of football.
“Since when was football an art”, comes the retort from Steve across the table.
See, you have to forgive Steve. Not only does he have the personality of a puff adder, he resents that I call Wengerball and what Arsenal does as art. Personally, I think he’s a closet United fan, but he pretends he doesn’t give a hooting funt about football.
“Europe is fucked anyway. How long will they pretend the frigging elephant in the room is a hippo”, Joshua eloquently brings some order to the table.
And it makes you think. Greece is way past staring at the abyss, and they’re at the point where the abyss is smiling right back at them before it swallows the whole country into a very dark place. Ireland and Portugal like most other fairly mediocre economies were propelled by the smoke and mirrors of a European political plot hatched in Maastricht to create the United States of Europe. A plot which has back fired spectacularly with the impending collapse of whichever is the lesser of two evils, the Eurozone and its single currency, or the European Union in its current form.
The amazing thing is this though. The football establishment still thinks that everything is normal and that what is happening around them will not affect their existence. You only have to listen to the illiterate punditocracy jizzing and sycophanting about the amount of money being spent by a cabal of filthy rich individuals, or in the case of Manchester City, another country’s sovereign wealth fund.
When talking about Everton, a club that pretty much has to ask Barclays Bank for permission to pay the bills – the solution offered is that they should go to the middle east and look for a sugar daddy because that’s the only way to survive.
This kind of “chocolate tea pot” reasoning is what has contributed to a culture of recklessness when it comes to football finance. The expectation is that the only way of working through the challenges of the game is by spending money you don’t even have to buy your way out of it. We’re constantly told that “it’s the way the world is now”. Accept it or take the highway. If you don’t have money, you can’t compete.
The hacks get bemused when Arséne Wenger suggests that football is pretty much going to hit a cash crisis in the very near future. You can almost see their rolling eyes scream out “Wenger should just stick to managing Arsenal and buying the big name, big money players he needs to compete with City and United”.
Mind you, Wenger is a guy who has a masters degree in economics, and it wouldn’t be farfetched to suggest that he actually has a clue about what he says regarding the economy. As they famously say, the tide is coming, and only after it has left will we see those who’ve been swimming naked.
It’s not even about the Financial Fair Play rules. Clubs will find loopholes around that. They won’t be able to cheat the economy though. I hear people say that clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid or even the debt riddled Man United will never be allowed to fail. There’s an Asian tycoon or Arab billionaire waiting in the wings to save them.
The thing is this though, it really doesn’t matter how luxurious and state of the art your yacht is. It could be the world’s most expensive and the world’s most fanciful boat. If you don’t have a lake or an ocean to prounce around in, then it’s pretty useless.
If the economies of Spain and Italy collapse – and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility – the super clubs in these countries will come tumbling down like a house of cards built on a foundation of smoke and mirrors. Ireland, Portugal and Greece are the proverbial warning signs and even though they represent a small percentage of the European economy, they’re the biggest red flags in town.
Italy alone represents 23% of the European economy and it’s pretty much unsavable by the patch up “rescue” packages being pushed around by Germany and France.
And people ask me why I love Arsenal so much. The answer – Arsenal is an oasis of sanity in an orgy of excess.
We get another opportunity to enjoy a new European adventure for the 14th consecutive season. We get to play a great team like Borussia Dortmund in an electric atmosphere.
And this is the thing to remember. Because of the foundations that Arsenal has built, we will continue to enjoy being at the high table of football for a very long time to come. While others figure out how to get out of their financial quagmire – well, they’ll probably try find a sugar daddy – we’ll be straddling the European landscape with our brand of scintillating and exciting football.
What more can you ask for?
Last evening, there was a captivating debate on ACLF about the extent of racism in football. Yogi’s joint has this eclectic mix of fascinating characters who occasionally take a spin outside football and indulge in profound discussions about politics, police states, the economy and many other colourful topics.
What struck me about the discussion yesterday was the level of understanding and ignorance in equal measure when it came to the reality of racism in football. It was a discussion triggered by the suggestion by former West Bromwich defender Brendan Batson that affirmative action was needed in
English football to open up opportunities in management for blacks and other ethnic minorities.
So, in the sporting world’s rendition of General William Sherman’s 1865 special field order No. 15, is it time for English football to start handing out the
“40 acres and the regulation mule” to managers of colour?
The redistribution of arable land to freed slaves was an effort to give them a chance to make a living in recognition of the clear disadvantage they already faced. Even as far back , that representation of affirmative action was deemed necessary to try and redress inequalities stemming from generations of slavery, despite its revocation after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
And here we are nearly 145 years later, and the “Rooney Rule” (nothing to do with that other one from Manchester) is seen as the only viable mechanism to break the establishment’s stronghold on the status quo when it comes to the lack of black managers in football.
Racism, like with most other “isms” is an emotive subject on any given day, and one commonly misunderstood characteristic is how racism manifests itself. It doesn’t have to be overt or explicit for it to exist. And in most cases, it is subconscious, subtle and hidden under the surface.
We’ve seen the numerous high profile initiatives and campaigns in football like “kick It Out” that in my opinion, are feeble and toothless PR exercises for the establishment to show that it is doing something. Only this week, the England football team were training with the “Kick it Out” bracelets to show the media and the world that they were sensitive to the racism experienced in Bulgaria during the fixture last week.
I know it’s feeble and spineless because it’s not nearly enough and not gutsy and deep enough to effect any changes. Footballing authorities are more interested in spending time witch-hunting banned managers for misdemeanours like sending signals to the bench from the stands via mobile phone, instead of tackling clear cases of racism.
It was only recently that Sergio Busquets of Barcelona blatantly abused an opponent with explicit racist slurs and FIFA and UEFA concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence. Gil Grisham from CSI would have built a case against Busquets from the TV footage even without leaving his sofa.
But it isn’t just the racism in the stands and terraces, and the racism on the field of play. When it comes to management, officiating, and the board room, the trend continues. It’s shocking that out of the 92 registered association football members, only Chris Hughton at Birmingham and Chris Powell at
Charlton are black.
At the highest level of football, we’ve seen the likes of Paul Ince, Ruud Gullit and Jean Tigana take charge of top football clubs, but is that nearly enough?
I don’t buy the argument that there aren’t enough black or minority professionals capable of doing the job at the highest levels. The fact that not many are even pursuing the opportunities in management is symptomatic of the fact that they are not likely to get the chance to manage at a high level, even if they were extremely competent and capable.
Nobody’s advocating for not giving the best man or woman the job. In an ideal world, the best candidate triumphs. But idealism and reality are two parallel universes. The reality is that the footballing establishment still live in the stone age and represent values and principles that are out of step with the modern world.
There’s a lot of noises about change, and a lot of noises about inclusion and diversity. They say “but, can’t you see how colourful the Premier league and the football leagues are? We have black, Asian and Hispanic players happily plying their trade alongside white folks”.
The blunt truth is that despite the player diversity numbers, racism is still alive. It’s taken a long time to get to where we are, but there are still tangible cases of racism towards players. My sense is that it got to a tipping point where it was impossible to ignore the talents of exceptional black players and that’s the reason barriers started breaking.
Sweden in the summer of 1958 was probably not prepared for a black 17 year old Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Pele), but history will suggest that the world will never forget him. Pele spectacularly announced himself on the world stage despite the “hostile” conditions towards black players.
Much more work has to be done in other areas of football, whether in management and coaching, or in the board room. As much as the establishment might want to rationalize or justify what is happening or what initiatives have been put in place, not nearly enough is being done.
If we need to hand over footballing’s equivalent of 40 acres and a mule, then it needs to happen. It’s criminal that opportunities for minority professionals in a game of such a high percentage of minority players is almost non-existent.
This isn’t about handing over jobs to disadvantaged folks for the sake of political correctness. It’s about recognizing that we’re not even starting from a level playing field and we have to do something drastic about it. It’s about getting them to the table. Those who are good enough can take care of themselves from there.
Don’t forget, we’re getting into this tweeting thing now. Join me on Twitter.
I must have missed the last few days while stuck in the reservation and away from the hyperbole of the ’silly’ season. Not that I care much about the amount of faecal matter that gets stirred in the name of inventing breaking news, but I wonder if I made a mistake of even bothering to switch on the sports news this morning.
The thing is this, the way rumours about Cesc Fabregas leaving Arsenal for Barcelona are being peddled, you would actually get the impression that it’s a full gone conclusion and that the removal trucks are waiting outside the Spaniard’s pad in leafy Hertfordshire ready to take whatever is going to Catalonia.
The narrative is so predictable. Cesc answers a planted question in a charity event in Spain by saying if he ever left Arsenal, it would be for Barca. Cue the punks at Marca who provide their own version of the story for it is written that any editor who doesn’t peddle a Cesc story will be fired on the spot.
The usual suspects here from the Daily Wail to Sky Sports News pick up the story as fact and even suggest that Fabregas’s representatives flew into London to talk to Arsenal.
Which by the way baffles me a little because Fabregas’s agent, who happens to be David Dein’s son actually lives in London so begs the question as to why he would fly from City Airport to Heathrow just to liven up the story.
What I also find amusing is that media houses send a whole crew to the Emirates stadium at 6 o’clock in the morning to stand outside and report their hogg wash. For one, no one is at the stadium and you wonder what the deal is. Are they going to get more credibility by standing outside the stadium and using it as a prop or doesn’t it make more sense to just sit in the studio and peddle their story?
I’ve never really figured out why journalists insist on standing outside buildings even at 11.00 pm talking about a story that happened in that building over 8 hours prior to that.
In the building behind me today, we believe that a meeting took place and Cesc Fabregas’s agents who flew in from Spain have held talks with Arsenal. No one is here to comment, but we speculate that the talks are on-going.
This story is not likely to go away soon though, and for the very simple reason that there’s nothing to fill the air waves and news columns. I tell you, 24 hour news cycles are a bastard.
Arsenal fans around the world will be biting their nails on account of the media shit stirring going on in the name of credible news. At Stone Cold
Arsenal Towers though, our view is that we should just relax and enjoy the summer for this is not a reason to blow a gasket for.
We have spent time on the phone this morning with our inside source at Highbury House. And this is not some friend of an uncle’s neighbour’s former school mates half brother who works as a janitor at Arsenal. It is actually our contact’s job to know and deal with these things.
Our contact has made us understand that Arsenal’s position is simple and clear.
Arsenal does not indulge in media speculation and will not enter a slinging match between the Spanish and English media and tabloids. The club is too classy for that.
Cesc Fabregas is on a long term contract and an employee of Arsenal FC and that’s not going to change because newspapers have columns to fill.
Arsenal are not interested in selling their best and most influential player in his prime. Speaking of which, transfermarkt.co.uk, a leading authority on player valuations places Cesc Fabregas as the 5th most valuable player in the world after Lionel Messi, Christiano Ronaldo, Xavi Hernandez and Andreas Iniesta.
Barcelona will have to break the bank if ever there was a decision made to sell Cesc.
The impression I get is that no one really knows whether as reported, Cesc has asked for a transfer. For one, that will be professional suicide on his part, not only because it will antagonize the relationship he has with the manager and other Arsenal players; by asking for a transfer he will forfeit some serious benefits and short change himself.
The long and short of it is that it’s just another summer when Arsenal players become target practice. Arsenal are not interested in selling (though I would read that as “we won’t sell unless Barca are silly enough to unleash an eye-watering offer that is too good to turn down”).
Cesc will leave Arsenal at some point in his career, and the only known and verifiable fact is that his departure will be on Arsenal’s terms. The club is bigger than any one individual and it will not be rail-roaded into a transfer by the media or an impending Barcelona presidential election.
Until then, let’s enjoy the summer and go easy on self inducing heart attacks.
A few Stone Cold Arsenal readers have asked about Chamakh, what type of player he is and what he could bring to Arsenal. As the deal is almost done and Chamakh is set to become an Arsenal player, we thought we’d share our two cents about the Moroccan star.
Marouane Chamakh was born on 10th January 1984 to Moroccan parents in Tonneins, a small town 75 miles south east of Bordeaux. At the age of 16, he entered the academy of Girondins de Bordeaux and a year later he started playing in their reserve team.
It took him only one more season to join the club’s professional squad and he played his first game in the top flight barely a month after his 19th birthday. During that 2002-03 season, he played in 10 league matches and scored one goal.
The subsequent season, despite the arrival of a new manager, Chamakh confirmed his status as a first team player, taking part in 25 matches in the league and 8 in the UEFA Cup, scoring 10 goals in the process. Having opted to play for Morocco (he has a dual French and Moroccan nationality), he reached the final of the 2004 African Cup of Nations with Les Lions d’Atlas, but lost 2-1 to the host nation, Tunisia.
His performances and the 10 goals he scored in the 33 league games that he played in 2004-05 drew the attention of French champions Lyon. Chamakh wanted to go but Bordeaux were reluctant to sell him. The young and promising striker was unsettled and was relegated to the bench for the best part of the following season.
Nonetheless, he made a further 29 appearances and scored 7 goals, with Bordeaux finishing as runners-up in the league.
During the 2006-07 season, he got his first taste of the Champions League but Bordeaux were no match for Liverpool and PSV, although they beat Galatasaray to third spot in the group stage. Chamakh, who had only scored 5 league goals, was offered a new contract until June 2010.
The 2007-08 season was a turning point for Bordeaux, who appointed Laurent Blanc as their new manager but was somewhat unremarkable for Marouane who only managed 4 goals in 32 league games and as many in 7 UEFA Cup matches.
The following season, Bordeaux were back in the Champions League and had Yoann Gourcuff on loan from AC Milan. The two players hit it off and led Bordeaux to their first champions title in ten years, breaking Lyon’s uninterrupted seven-year dominance of French football. On the score sheet, Chamakh was back to double figures finding the net 13 times in 34 league appearances.
As soon as the title was secured, Marouane publicly stated his desire of leaving the club and Arsenal emerged as the most likely destination. However, Bordeaux who had exercised their buyout option to hold on to Gourcuff, were desperate to keep Chamakh on board too.
Whatever happened behind the scenes, Arsenal gave up on signing the striker, who then chose to stay at Bordeaux to see out his contract but refused to sign a new deal. It is probably fair to say it was around that time that the Moroccan international’s reputation in Europe started going beyond the French borders.
Not a typical goal poacher, Chamakh is comfortable playing as a target man. His obvious strength is his aerial game, not only because he culminates at 6ft2” but also thanks to his great leap and timing.
Chamakh may not be as clinical a finisher as Torres or Drogba (and clearly adequate training will help him improve that part of his game), but he is far from being clumsy with the ball at his feet and has the ability to keep it, to dribble past opponents and to link up with teammates.
Most importantly he has the intelligence and the coolness for making the right decision, even under pressure, and is rarely caught giving the ball away cheaply.
He is also a combative player, a fighter in the very noble sense of the term and he is not afraid of harassing the opponent’s defenders. All these qualities make up for his relative lack of pace, which is the only real flaw in his game.
This season, Marouane has scored 5 goals in 9 Champions League appearances and so far 10 goals in 37 league games. Bordeaux have already surrendered their title to Marseille and there is no doubt that Chamakh will be a Gunner next season, joining Arsenal as a free agent.
To impose himself in the Premier League, Chamakh may need to make his tall frame a bit more muscular but the most important aspect of his integration is likely to be his understanding with at least one of the current key players.
Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri have already welcomed him but it will be interesting to see how he will be used by the manager and whether his incorporation will induce, at times, a shift in the style of play or even a change of the system if he ever becomes indispensable to the team.
Marouane seems to be the type of player who needs the confidence of his manager and his teammates to do well. At Bordeaux, the players, the technical staff and the fans hold him in high regard and the reception he got for his last home game was a testimony not only to his achievements on the pitch but also to his human qualities.
It is worth noting that as a practicing Muslim, Chamakh does not drink alcohol and fasts during the month of Ramadan, which requires a specific training regime. This year Ramadan stretches from mid-August to mid-September and could impact the striker’s adaptation to the pace of the English game. Therefore we should not judge him too quickly, be patient and give him time to settle in.
With a first name that translates to “rock”, one can hope that Chamakh will become the anchor of Arsenal’s strike force. I for one, welcome him and look forward to celebrating the many goals that hopefully he will score and set up.
That’s 1 down and 12 to go. One game at a time and the home stretch doesn’t look as daunting as it did for the last fortnight.
This was a week where everyone was taking pot shots at Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal charges. From Fleet Street hacks to despondent Arsenal ’customers’, from opposing team’s players to the tea lady at Stamford Bridge – criticism of the Arsenal team has been dished out in plenty from all corners.
Wenger observed that it was funny how Arsenal’s qualities are lauded when the team is winning by playing champagne football, yet quickly identified as the team’s Achilles heel when the Gunners hit a difficult patch.
It was never going to be a straight forward game last night. The air of doom and gloom around the Gooner nation, coupled with the collective naval gazing and low spirits that haunted the environs of London Colney, made last night’s task an arduous affair.
If there’s one thing that stood out most, it’s the sheer determination of the Arsenal players to put things right. It was the way they each played for one another and took responsibility for their individual and collective roles.
In the last two defeats, the way Arsenal gave away the counter attacking goals was as painful to the players as it was to supporters. There were already signs during the Chelsea game that some work had gone into the collective team effort, especially in the second half of the game at Stamford Bridge.
There was more evidence yesterday of the teams determination to fight. Liverpool gave a fistful as they sought to take advantage of what was comically described by a certain player as a one dimensional Arsenal style.
One dimensional it wasn’t for Arsenal most definitely mixed it and rightfully gained a result for the spirited effort.
If you believe everything you read, you would have got the impression that there was a runaway train with the title contenders sitting above Arsenal in the league table.
Perhaps what made the victory against Liverpool sweeter was the fact that elsewhere, other teams who recently accused Arsenal of being predictable were themselves employing predictable one dimensional tactics in trying to retrieve a sticky situation at the hands of the Toffees.
The Arsenal players will have drawn encouragement from the fact that their endeavour was also supported by the loss of 3 and 2 points for Chelsea and Manchester United respectively.
The title challenge that seemed to have slipped their grip was tilted back in the Gunner’s direction by a twist of fate that smiled kindly. All Arsenal can do is take a game at a time and ensure that they aim for maximum points.
Man United and Chelsea still have more points to drop and it’s paramount that Arsenal focus on doing what is in their control – and that is fighting tooth and nail for every point they can get in the last 12 games.
The spirit and work rate that the Gunners employed last night will have earned them the belief and confidence needed to approach the next stage of the campaign. The most impressive aspect for me last night was the way the players defended as a team. I would have been happy with a draw simply based on the shift that the team put in – but of course, I’m ecstatic about the win.
A classic example of how this team ethic was supplemented by individual responsibility was shown by William Gallas. The veteran defender literally took no prisoners when a through ball acquainted David N’gog with the whites of Almunia’s eyes.
Gallas appeared from nowhere just as the Liverpool striker was about to pull the trigger and executed the text book definition of a world class tackle. That single incident alone was enough to galvanize players and supporters alike.
It was also heart warming and kind of amusing to note that for a change, very few if any Arsenal fans left the stadium before Howard Webb blew the final whistle. In fairness though, the Arsenal crowd did stand up to be counted, despite a slow start.
All in all, it is a brighter day in the Gooner nation, if only to return to our world famous refrain of ’One nil to the Arsenal’.
Like many Arsenal supporters out there, I suffer from an acute case of Arsenalitis. It’s a disease characterized by a deep emotional attachment to anything that has to do with Arsenal football club.
Some of the symptoms include chronic insomnia when the Gunners lose games or draw games we should have won; and frequent bouts of hypertension and anxiety attacks when we feel the club is unfairly being misrepresented in the media.
Despite the responsible thing of managing one’s own health and well-being say by not watching or listening to diatribe – you can’t help but notice the blatant cases of bias against Arsenal.
So is this anti-Arsenalism really a myth, or shall we stop beating around the bush and call it what it is – blatant bias and xenophobia by the establishment towards Arsenal?
Years ago, my Liverpool loving friend Dean asked me why I love Arsenal so much. You see, Dean and I grew up together and we’ve been really close friends for just shy of 30 years.
When we were kids, we played our own leagues in the council estates and equivalents of Hackney Marshes. This was in the early to mid 80s when Liverpool were flying and many of the local neighbourhood teams adopted the names of big clubs like Liverpool and Manchester United, despite the fact that we were lucky to even watch a televised match once a month in our part of the world.
The funny thing is that we knew more about the team we supported and the players of the time, than we did about school work and the local curriculum. Prozone would have been proud of us at the time.
Dean was the local Liverpool’s star. Their Graham Souness, the guy who made them tick. He’s the only footballer who I know will nutmeg you and dribble past 3 players, turn towards you with that impish ”gotcha” smile, before smuggling the ball into the goal from a ridiculously impossible angle.
So I wasn’t the least bit surprised about his allegiance to Liverpool. His question to me about the roots of my allegiance to Arsenal did make me think though.
I suppose the biggest driving factor for me is to do with what Arsenal as a club represents. Victoria Concordia Crescit says it all, but it’s much more than that. It’s about the club’s values and philosophy of openness and opportunity. About the clubs desire to go about things in the right and fair way, and about the clubs patience and determination to develop an ambitious vision, stick to it and work hard at realising it.
There are many aspects of Arsenal’s journey over the last 2 decades that are a reflection of my own journey in life. In the last 18 years in particular I’ve identified more with the Gunners than any other development in my life I guess.
Friends tell me in a way that I’m lucky that my wife is also crazy about football. The down side though is that she’s a diehard Chelsea supporter (yeah! I know) – but I guess we all make sacrifices in life and have to live with the consequences.
Perhaps these are the reasons why I feel more sensitive and aggrieved about the open bias towards Arsenal that I encounter every day from the English football establishment. And it’s not paranoia. I know paranoia, believe me.
I’ll give you 4 examples (and there’s loads more) to illustrate my point.
1. Broadcasting of Arsenal Games on TV or radio
I’ll cite the group stages of the champions league. Out of 6 match days, there’s 24 opportunities that 2 radio stations have to broadcast the commentary for the games involving the 4 English sides.
I’ve used radio as an example because on the specific Tuesday and Wednesday nights of the Champions league match days, I was working and where I was , we can only listen to radio.
Out of the 24 opportunities that both radio stations had, only one Arsenal game – the match day 1 game between Standard Liege and Arsenal was broadcast. In a fair world, you’d expect that more than 1 out of 24 Arsenal games would get air time. In most cases, both stations broadcast the same match involving either Chelsea, Man United or Liverpool.
Don’t even get me started on the debacle of the Sky vs. ITV split that sees Arsenal relegated into broadcasting wilderness.
2. Anally Retentive Commentators.
It’ was refreshing that in his last webcast to Arsenal supporters, Wenger confessed that he rarely watches Arsenal games on TV with the volume on. The outright bias and diatribe the commentators have against Arsenal can drive you loco.
It’s almost like it’s a scripted attempt to brainwash Arsenal fans with negativity. Whether it’s constantly referring to Gallas’s drama at St. Andrews in February 2008, or the application of selective amnesia that blanks out any virtues of the Arsenal game and amplifies Arsenal’s shortcomings; some commentators need to be lynched.
In many cases, commentators have publicly referred to the opposing team as ”our”. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if they’re on the opposing team’s payroll, but to be fair, such commentators are just thick.
3. Xenophobia towards Arsenal’s colourful squad
The constant references to Arsenal’s supposed lack of English players is mind numbing and bang out of order. They serve to reinforce stereotypes that promote the dislike of the unknown and the misunderstood, and essentially fuel xenophobia.
The way the non-English mantra is latched on to suggests that there is something inherently wrong with not being English. An argument has been made that the English premier league is actually English in an attempt to justify the xenophobia.
Frankly speaking, in the 21st century, that’s an argument that needs to be filed right between shit and syphilis. There’s no room for that level of ignorance and arrogance for that matter in a game that is prostituted around the world as the best league competition on the planet.
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the Premier League is only popular in the world because of the myriad of international players and managers in the game. If it was still quintessentially English, the league would still be in the wilderness of the mid 80s to early 90s following the 5 year UEFA ban caused by hooliganism.
Furthermore, the billions of pounds Sky and other TV broadcasters pump into the game is only made possible by the ability to sell broadcasting rights all over the world. The English premier league can’t be a reality without non-English participation.
Inevitably, Arsenal is the whipping boy of this ”you’re not English enough” band wagon. It’s a shame that no one takes notice of the composition of the Arsenal youth and reserves team, and Arsenal’s stellar work in bringing through talented English players for the future.
4. Misguided truths or convenient lies about Arsenal
Take your pick:
- Arsenal don’t have strength and depth
- Arsenal need an English spine to win the EPL
- Arsenal must play ugly to win
- Arsenal can’t hack it if you bully them or kick them off the park
- It’s OK to actually kick them weak and brittle Arsenal players
- Arsenal are broke and there are a poor man’s imitation of the big 2 clubs
- If Arsenal don’t win a trophy this season then Wenger must go
- Wenger is a tight fisted egomaniac who refuses to spend money for big name transfers
- Arsenal are a selling team
You get the picture…
Basically a narrative has been building for several years now to serve the purpose of pigeon holing Arsenal into an also-rans outfit. There will always be a negative edge pursued on any Arsenal story.
A good example is when Andrey Arshavin said that Arsenal needed a miracle to have all their first team players available at the same time. This was swiftly rehashed and reported as “Arshavin says Arsenal need a miracle to win the title”
What is also noticeable is the contempt and disdain that Arsenal and Wenger are held in by the I-Zombies (pundits and hacks) in football. Most of them find it really hard to hide their contempt for all things Arsenal. It’s so pathetic to watch them pretend to be impartial.
It’s true what they say though. If they hate you this much, you must be doing something right. Is choosing to win by playing beautiful football such a bad thing?