- Written by Rob George
“I simply cannot believe he will react to these stupid comments from these silly people. They are supposed to be supporters, but, in fact, they do quite a lot of damage”
The words of Arsenal chairman Peter Hill Wood yesterday in response to Arsene Wenger’s astonishing press conference in which he parked his tanks on the lawn and started firing back. But any hopes Wenger had of drawing a line underneath the episode and limping on to the end of the season were dashed with another astonishing outburst, this time from his own chairman.
And who was he branding ‘silly people’, pundits, press guys or another manager? No, he was in fact attacking a section of the club’s own supporters, the Arsenal Supporters Trust no less. Hill-Wood was responding to a statement from the Trust expressing ‘bitter disappointment’ at the club's six-year trophy-less streak. Now maybe the Trust should have waited until the end of the campaign to vent but it was hardly a ‘Sack-em-all-they-are-all-useless’ speech calling for revolution and a complete change in Arsenal Football Club.
But Hill Wood has made it in an issue by branding them and anyone it seems that dares to have an opinion about AFC as ‘silly people’. The response is up there with Gerald Ratner’s claim that all the products his shops sold were ‘crap’ – that led to the demise of Ratner’s jewellery chain of shops, one hopes Arsenal don’t suffer the same fate.
What it also does is confirm that Arsenal in a state of civil war at the moment, supporters are being attacked for having an opinion despite the fact they pay the ticket costs, the programme cost, the beer and burger costs every second week. What about the supporter who follows the Gunners home and away, will work overtime to fund that trip to Braga, to Donetsk – doesn’t he deserve his voice to be heard?
Somehow, Hill Wood’s views could be justified if he owned a large stake in Arsenal, the reality is that he is chairman despite owning one of the smallest percentage of shares in the club. Even Nina Bracewell-Smith owns more and she was kicked off the board some time ago. In the past Arsenal has been the bastion of good ownership, a board which did the business while the manager managed, Hill Wood’s outburst is a worrying step in the wrong direction.
If Arsene Wenger was feeling the pressure already then the temperature has now been turned up another 10 degrees with this. As well as arresting a worrying slump which has seen them win once since February 23 he now has to tackle a supporter base who are going to be hacked off with the board. Arsenal’s next two games? Liverpool and Manchester United...oh and they are both on the television as well.
- Written by Luke Peterson
If he’s not scraping his boot down the face of an ex-teammate and colleague or verbally abusing the team that made him the player he is today, Emmanuel Adebayor is antagonising fans who backed him through thick and thin.
However, he did score two goals to effectively knock Tottenham out of the Champions League last night. On that basis alone, the Togolese target-man may well have placed himself back in Gunners’ fans’ good books.
No matter what he’s done before, this act of heroism is surely worth a place in Arsenal hearts?
To practically knock out a team who’s fans are getting far too ahead of themselves stirs up glorious feelings in the Arsenal faithful. Spurs and their fans really were, and still are, proving themselves hugely ignorant, especially in the eyes of those of us who support a team who have qualified for the Champions League 13 seasons in a row. For Spurs on the other hand, this is their first time in the midst of Europe’s elite. That puts them on a par with the likes of Bursaspor, Petrzalka and Swiss amateurs FC Thun.
Yet many of their fans still refuse to accept that Arsenal are North London’s leading football side.
This provides a huge sense of personal frustration for most Arsenal fans, a group of fans who accept their team’s failings without reluctance.
So therefore, Adebayor may well have given us the opportunity to feel a huge sense of relief and put Tottenham supporters in their place.
Memories of those long legs striding the whole length of the pitch just to stir up trouble in the stands at Eastlands in September of 09 will never vanish but maybe his latest offering will shed light on his successes.
Before the Tottenham game, the on-loan Madrid frontman claimed: “At Arsenal the fans loved me, I think even today they love me.” Before his two headed goals this statement was highly doubtful. However, maybe now it isn’t. Maybe we do still love him.
It would seem Adebayor’s main contribution to Arsenal is his destruction of the eagerness, misplaced confidence and downright cockiness of the Spurs faithful.
Maybe it’s time for us Gooners to put this rivalry with Adebayor to bed, focus on what he’s done to damage our main rivals in every way he can, and force their fans to wake up.
Adebayor’s goalscoring performance on Tuesday night could just give Gooners a welcome confidence boost and feeling of glee in the wake of our team’s failures in 2011.
It’s taken only 13 games for Adebayor to hit double figures against the White Hart Lane team, and 13 Arsenal Champions League seasons for Tottenham to manage just the one. It’s definitely unlucky for someone.
That someone... is Spurs.
- Written by Rob George
“I am not involved in any decision. I do not do the schedule. I have no influence on the fixtures, the referees, not on anything else here.”
The words of Sir Alex as he contemplates a maximum of 14 games in the next six weeks, Carlo Ancelotti as he attempts to revive Chelsea or Ian Holloway as he tries to keep Blackpool in the Premier League? No, those were the words of Arsene Wenger during a bizarre rant about an alleged conspiracy in the fixture list – despite Arsenal only having eight more games!
Le Boss vented his fury at the fact Arsenal have to play on Sundays for the rest of the season and after Manchester United. But a closer look shows Arsenal only have to play after United three times before the Premier League closes up shop in six weeks time. Six of the last eight games have been moved by Sky Sports, a company which paid £1billion for the privilege. A decision which was probably made when Arsenal were just two points behind in the title race not the seven they are now.
Truth be told, this latest outburst is somewhat expected from a man who seems to have imploded almost at the same time as his team. Since the Carling Cup final shocker, Arsenal have won ONE game of football – a 5-0 slaying of League One Leyton Orient who had held the Gunners to a draw at Brisbane Road. Three must-wins against Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion and Blackburn became three agonising and soul-destroying draws. Meanwhile Manchester United have won 1-0 against Bolton with 10 men and mounted a lazarus like recovery to beat West Ham United 4-2.
Fergie has grown in strength despite being hauled from his perch in the dug-out while Arsene has ranted at a referee, became embroiled in a club v country row and bafflingly re-signed a 41-year-old goalkeeper. As well as the dark clouds of despair, many Gooners must now be wondering what is going on at the Emirates, the successful professor who won league titles has been replaced by a mad scientist convinced his experiment will one day pay off.
And now this, a bizarre attack on the fixture list despite the fact that, save for one week between now and May, Arsenal will have at least six days between games. Meanwhile Manchester United could win a treble by May 29 – whose camp would you rather be in?
Suddenly Arsenal’s run in looks full of banana skins, what price an already catastrophic spring becoming a miserable May? Second place is far from secure and the way things are going in this 38 hurdle contest, Arsenal could fall at the last – will it be enough to see Wenger dismount? You wouldn’t rule it out now...
- Written by Rob George
Today marks the tenth anniversary of one of the saddest days I have ever experienced as an Arsenal fan, no not seeing the Gunners beaten on the field but the sad death of David ‘Rocky’ Rocastle at the age of just 33. When cancer went in to the 50/50 with Rocky it was a tackle he couldn’t win and he passed away quietly on the morning of March 31 2001 – the morning of a North London derby with them from down the road no less.
His tragic death at the ridiculously young age of 33 was sad enough but for me it was a very sad end to the first part of my love affair with Arsenal Football Club. My godfather spoon-fed me a diet of Arsenal football in the late 80s and on May 26 1989 I fell for the men from N5 for good to embark on an unbroken 22 year long marriage which has had its ups and downs but neither of us have ever consider moving on. At the heart of the early days were the likes of John Lukic, Tony Adams, Paul Davis, Alan Smith and of course ‘Rocky’.
David Rocastle was one of the unsung heroes in a team which had none of the flair of the current side but bled red and white and would never accept defeat. The archetypal utility man, Rocky was asked to play all across the midfield by George Graham and always gave his utmost for the cause and was rewarded with two league titles. His record of 23 goals in 228 appearances for the Gunners really doesn’t tell the story but then again any true Arsenal fan knows George’s teams worked hard and sought no praise.
While Alan Smith buried the goals in 1990/91 and Michael Thomas scored ‘That’ goal at Anfield in 1989, it’s true to say that none of it would have been possible without the meanest defence in world football thanks to George’s offside trap and the industry of the midfield. While the likes of Kevin Richardson and Paul Davis got the ball back, Rocky sought out the front-men and gave them the chances to write their names into Arsenal folklore.
It’s said that Rocastle burst into tears when Graham told him he had accepted a bid from Leeds United in 1992 for £2million and also that Rocastle refused to speak to the Tiny Totts out of loyalty to the Gunners. In truth his career went downhill after he left Highbury but that should not deter from the memories he left behind.
I was a 10 when he left for Leeds United, 19 when I heard Ian Wright break down in tears on the radio that Saturday morning announcing that Rocky had passed on. A childhood hero had gone too soon and in a way much of what he helped achieve was consigned to the history books. But Rocky will never be forgotten, he is one of the names which adorn the Emirates after all.
God bless you ‘Rocky’, may you always rest in peace and thank you for a childhood full of great sporting memories.
- Written by Rob George
Saturday's 2-0 defeat to Manchester United's reserves should be seen as a watermark moment in the recent history of Arsenal football club and the moment the club changes course forever. No, not by dispensing with the services of the club's greatest ever manager but by someone senior at the club approaching 'Le Gaffer' and telling him to face facts and make five key changes which would cement his place in Gunners folklore for immortality – because at the moment his place there is being questioned for the first time.
The calls for Wenger to pack his bags have hardly been rampant, nor should they be because without the urbane Frenchman Arsenal could be an obscure mid-table team by now, but for the first time many are beginning to doubt whether indeed Arsene does know. A glimpse at message boards and national newspapers shows the uncertainty, for every column defending him there is one attacking him. But Wenger has earned the freedom to depart when he wants and in a dignified manner, I for one hope that if and when the time comes it will be among friends at the Emirates and a standing ovation for the man who got the Gunners firing again.
But that day could be postponed for a while if the manager accepts he has got it wrong and makes crucial changes to steer his legacy back in the right direction.
1. STOP MAKING EXCUSES – The verbal attack on Massimo Busacca last Tuesday has landed Wenger in trouble with UEFA. While RVPs second yellow card was laughable, Wenger's attack ignored the fact that the forward was walking the tightrope because he raised his hand to Dani Alves in the first half. Claiming Arsenal would have won the game had they not been reduced to 10 men just sounded like an excuse, the Gunners were out-classed in the Nou Camp would have broken Arsenal down for at least one goal to take the tie to extra time.
2. FIND YOUR WALLET AND OPEN IT – For too long now Arsenal have needed a number one goalkeeper and a commanding centre-half. Almunia and Fabianski are not good enough at this level while Szczesny will be a good number one but needs a few more years to mature and learn. While at centre-half Arsenal badly miss a Tony Adams/Martin Keown/Sol Campbell character, a rallier of men, an organiser. None more so than in the Carling Cup final when centre half and keeper caused an error to hand Birmingham City the cup. Vermaelen is a sure-fire starter but the options beyond him look weak, Djourou is injury prone while Koscielny and Seb Squillaci are not up to the demands of Premier League football. It's widely reported that Arsenal have cash reserves (not a transfer budget) of almost £100million – time someone like chief executive Ivan Gazidis to fulfil the role of David Dein and act as Wenger's confidante and ensure he can spend some cash.
3. DEVISE A PLAN B – Too often Arsenal are stymied by opposition who roll up and defend, defend, defend (See the Sunderland game) or close them down and tackle hard and too often some players go missing. Wenger needs to encourage his players to win ugly at times and put the beautiful game down and scrap. Principles are wonderful things but they do not win you titles, even the Invincibles of 2003/4 recorded a few scrappy 1-0 and 2-1's.
4. DELIVER A WINNING MENTALITY – Arsenal's players are not winners, fact – they go out to play beautiful football and times believe their favourites tag (Carling Cup final again) will be enough. But they need a winning mentality, go out and win every game in whatever way legally possible, mix the total football 4-0 demolitions with poor 1-0 wins in an otherwise dreary game. Truth be told Arsenal only played Barcelona because the screwed up their qualifying group – 14 goals and three wins in the first three games put them on the brink of finishing first in the group but four goals and two defeats in the last three ensured a tie against the Catalans rather than an easier draw against Roma.
5. FABREGAS – This summer needs to be the end of the long-running saga, if the skipper wants to go home, let him and get the money the club deserves. Arsene has proven he can re-invent the side using the proceeds of transfers and with the emergence of Wilshire and Ramsey, maybe it is time to say Adios Amigo. While he is at it, let the summer be an open door for those who wish to take the exit door, raise cash for new players and let's start next season united and ready for an assault on all four trophies.
I'll repeat my earlier claim, this is not a call for his head but a call for a change in direction, failure to heed and Arsenal might not need to worry about being in four competitions next season – just finishing fourth could be enough of a challenge.
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