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29.1.14
To Buy or Not to Buy

First things first, we actually deserved to get beaten last night, so let's be glad of the point. We were all over the place in the first half, Arteta looked very rusty and both full backs were severely tested. I imagine that Monreal will get a roasting from supporters and he did look "bambiesque" at times, but Luke Shaw (who looks a £15 million player) destroyed Sagna for most of the game. The attacking three midfielders didn't track back sufficiently to provide enough cover and as a result there were huge gaps between our defenders and forward players, so Giroud was totally isolated.


So we looked distinctly out of sorts, we missed Jack of course and we are missing Ramsey's dynamism, but we have as many midfield options as any other team in the league so there's little excuse for the first half performance on that basis. However, after the break we were much better. We are far more effective when we move the ball quickly, we are a classic tempo side as we have players who can receive the ball in tight positions and pass it quickly and accurately (this is why United have spent £37.1 million on Mata).

The goals were very well taken, especially Giroud's and then we committed the cardinal error of throwing away the lead cheaply. This Arsenal team is much improved due in part to a far better defensive shape and discipline. When I was young, I was always told to "keep it steady for ten minutes after scoring". We scored twice and then decided to throw the doors wide open for Southampton to gallop through the wide open spaces created by absent midfielders. Not good enough.

However, this was an excellent Southampton performance. We need to take a look at what their academy is producing and how because it's the best in the league - by far. 18 year old Sam Gallagher looked like the real deal last night, he should have scored, but his movement and control were superb.


I'm keen to comment on one of the hot topics last night, namely that Podolski was kept on the bench until the 89th minute. There was outrage on twitter that he was unable to contribute last night. This simply doesn't add up, I'm a big fan of Lukas, but there is a feeling in the club that he is an out and out forward and doesn't do enough defensive covering. We were down to ten men, quite rightly, Flamini's challenge was stupid and he deserved to be sent off, and we had to keep our shape, and going for the win could have cost us all three points, so I agree with the straight swap of Podolski for Giroud, perhaps it could have happened a little earlier.

Despite this, we were outplayed in the first half and the second half was quite even - point gained.


The worst news of the evening was that Aaron Ramsey may be out for a further 4-6 weeks due to a tendon strain. Apparently the manager played this down at the post match press conference but any delay on his return is bad news. Which leads me to look at the prospect of Arsenal buying in this transfer window.
Should we? Absolutely! Will we? Probably not...

Mata's move to United is exactly the type of business we should do as he is an established premiership player who can fit in to a team and produce straight away. Draxler doesn't offer that prospect, and if he's available for a better price in the summer then we will wait. The one player that we should go for is Demba Ba, but it all depends on how keen Chelsea are to sell him. I know for a fact that they were desperate to offload Mata and would have even sold to Arsenal if we needed that type of player. I think that this relates to the situation between Mata and Chelsea but if there is a new realisation of the need to comply to FFP regulations at the bridge, we should go for it.

Ba is just the type of player we need, because we don't have that type of player. He's also the type of forward that Özil is best suited to supply. However, I'm almost convinced that this won't take place.
So let's move on, Palace at home on Sunday, play well, score goals, three points.

By Ian Byrne

Follow me at @RightAtTheEnd, I'll follow you back.
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21.1.14
Dennis Bergkamp - Stillness and Speed

I was prompted to write this blog after reading Dennis' book, Stillness and Speed, co-written with David Winner. 

The structure of the book is different to most (auto)biographies, in that the writers have decided to allocate a paragraph to each significant aspect of Dennis' career; there is an initial contextual description, but this is then followed by an interview conducted by David Winner. It works, sort of. As a great student and advocate of the brilliance of Dutch football, David Winner is obviously (and quite correctly) in some awe of Dennis Bergkamp. I believe that this relationship feeds a slightly higher degree of deference than might be best, this is my only criticism of the book - and it's a small one. Winner does tackle head on some of the problematic aspects of Bergkamp's career, there are really only three: his fear of flying, his disappointing experience at Inter and missing the penalty at Villa Park in 1999. Three in a twenty year career, that's some career isn't it?

There are some great photographs and plenty of Dennis' interpretations of the greatest moments of his professional life. He talks in some detail about the goals against Leicester City, Argentina and Newcastle United, in fact the comment under a photo of the goal at St James' Park says it all to me: "which part did they think I didn't mean?"


What becomes clear in the book is Dennis' sensitivity. There is some criticism of his attitude while he was at Inter Milan from the his ex Italian team mates. He doesn't shirk from the criticism, Winner actually flies to Italy to interview Beppe Bergomi and Riccardo Ferri and they don't hold back, when Dennis is confronted with their comments he listens, takes it on board, but ultimately bats them away "they're wrong, it never happened like that". So, sensitivity, but also the strength and the single minded purpose that conditions a great athlete mentally and physically. It's a testament to his drive and his love of the game, that from an early age, he was practising for hours at a time, hammering a ball against different patterns of the brickwork on the wall of his block of flats, alternating with his right and left foot.

There aren't too many revelations in the book, but Dennis' forthright admiration of Bruce Rioch is a surprise. Perhaps it's because we're so used to Bergkamp having been a critical part of the Wenger era, that Rioch's involvement in signing Dennis gets overlooked. Dennis Bergkamp's impact on Arsenal merits a series of blogs in it's own right, and people have talked about the beneficial impact Mesut Özil's signing has made, but trust me, when Dennis arrived, it was like the arrival of a messiah. Mesut has joined a very good team regularly in the Champions League, Dennis joined a team in decline, still with several good players, but pretty much going nowhere.


I would actually say that the most interesting parts of the book, concern Dennis' career as a coach at Ajax and also the appalling political situation revolving around Johan Cruijff. I also believe that Bergkamp is very interested in assuming a role at Arsenal - if the right role for him were to become available. He is an earnest and an honest man and therefore would prefer to fulfil a role that suits him best - this seems to be working with young strikers.

I would recommend the book whole heartedly, but I am going to keep an eye out for the English translation of Jaap Visser's Dutch equivalent, which according to David Winner's foreword is far more extensive. But please don't that stop you, in the unlikely you haven't already received it for Christmas - give this a go.

By Ian Byrne

Follow me at @RightAtTheEnd and I'll follow back, I love to see what Arsenal supporters are thinking and writing about our club.
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20.1.14
The Man Who Hates Arsenal

Ceteris paribus, it’s Latin for “all other things being equal”. It assumes that there is a level playing field (very suitable for football) and that normal conditions apply.
There are numerous permutations in football, but let’s examine the “constants”, both teams have the same number of players, the ball is the same for everyone, the pitch is the same, you play the same number of away games as you do home games. Critically, the referee and assistants will apply the rules of the game to both sides evenly and equally.



There are 18 select group referees (qualified to be an official in the premiership). Therefore, you would expect that each referee would officiate a given team twice a season and that over a season, or to provide a more comprehensive statistical base, five seasons for example, you would expect a team to be awarded roughly the same number of key decisions. As a result, an individual football club wouldn’t endure significant deviations in the number of games won, lost or drawn depending on the man in the middle.
That should be the case unless your team is Arsenal Football Club and your referee is Michael Leslie Dean. This is the gentleman who presided over the league cup defeats to Birmingham City (2011 final) and Bradford City (2012) and the FA Cup home defeat to Blackburn Rovers (2013), as far as I am concerned he is at the very least, the kiss of death, or at worst – the referee who hates Arsenal.

Earlier this month, Southampton pressed the FA to ensure that Mark Clattenburg wouldn't referee any further games involving their club because of, let’s face it, a fairly tepid criticism of one of their players. I would invite you to consider the statistics below and then suggest that Arsenal FC take out a banning order on Mike Dean setting foot in the borough of Islington ever again.
First of all, this is Arsenal’s record over the last five, completed seasons:





Won

Drew

Lost

2012-13

68%

13%

19%

2011-12

53%

26%

21%

2010-11

57%

17%

26%

2009-10

52%

24%

24%

2008-9

60%

15%

25%

Average

58%

19%

23%


Let’s now consider Arsenal’s record in games where Chairman Mike is the referee These stats are the totality of Arsenal matches refereed by Dean:




Played

Win rate

Draw rate

Loss rate

Arsenal

22

18.2%

27.3%

54.5%


So in a nutshell, when Dean is the man in the middle, we are more than three times less likely to win and twice as likely to lose. Dean also presides over a lot of Arsenal matches, 22 provides, as far as I’m concerned, a more than decent statistical base.

Next, let’s compare and contrast Dean’s record when he is in charge of the other “big six” clubs:




Played

WR

DR

LR

Arsenal

22

18.2%

27.3%

54.5%

Manchester Utd

18

50%

16.7%

33.3%

Manchester City

21

61.9%

23.8%

14.3%

Chelsea

24

62.5%

29.2%

8.3%

Tottenham

17

41.2%

41.2%

17.6%


I think that there is a clear picture here. Tottenham have consistently finished behind Arsenal every season that Dean has been a top flight referee, but their loss rate is 17.6%, whereas Arsenal’s win rate is 18.2%?


If Brendan Rodgers looks at City’s loss rate of 14.3% he might want to add Dean to his list of referees who should be barred from presiding over games involving the petro-dollar fuelled lottery winners along with Bolton based Lee Mason.




It’s not just the statistics I dislike about Dean. It’s the way he referees matches that grind my gears. He is very fast to make decisions (inevitably against us) without checking with the often better placed assistant. He sees a situation and either (a) emphatically signals his decision, usually accompanied with an unmerited card, or, (b) sees a genuine foul and decides to emphatically wave away the wronged party, and book them for dissent.
There used to be a crumb of comfort in that referees had to retire at 48, however, since it was challenged via European laws, referees can continue into their fifties. Dean is 45, so I assume that we’ll have to put up with his myopic twittery for quite a while yet.



By Ian Byrne
All statistics provided by mathematical guru Catherine Byrne.

Follow me @RightAtTheEnd, I’ll follow you back.
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14.1.14
Time for the real Mesut Özil to appear?


  • Mesut Özil was mainly rubbish last night against Aston Villa.
  • Mesut Özil is taking time to find his feet in the premiership.
  • Mesut Özil is an understated player whose best work is often un-noticed.
  • Mesut Özil is missing Cristiano Ronaldo.

Which of the four statements to do you agree with most? I think there is a degree of truth in all four
of them; in the first half Özil gave the ball away repeatedly, even the best players take a while to acclimatise to the toughest league in the world, he is a very subtle footballer, who wouldn't?


However, to judge Özil's performance in the premiership so far leads inevitably to compare him to the Real Madrid player so highly rated that the hitherto most abstemious major premiership club in the country smashed it's transfer record to buy him. The assumption is that if a footballer is so good that he can cost £40 million +, then at some point in the future, given similar conditions, he will continue to be worth at least £40 million + and if anything, his value will be increased.

It is early to judge, but I'm keen to consider how successful £42.5 million of Arsenal's (hard) earned coin has been thus far. Like all blogs, this is an opinion piece and in my opinion, he's fallen short. Thus far, I haven't been overwhelmed by supporters of other clubs telling me what a player that Özil is, in fact the majority of conversations have involved me defending the money spent on the German and feeling the need to mention that he has been responsible for more assists than any other premiership player. The truth is that Özil has been peripheral, and when he has had the ball, he hasn't used it effectively as he might. Özil has looked excellent in two games so far, against Norwich City and SSC Napoli, in these matches he made a fundamental statement about his ability and potential. In far too many others, he has had the look of a top footballer weighing up whether he wants to get involved and judging the limits of this involvement.


I've read that a tangible benefit that Özil brings to the Arsenal squad is that he's Mesut Özil. The mere fact that the club has signed a German international from Real Madrid for such a huge amount has lifted the rest of the players in the squad. This might be true, but two facts evident in the matches played don't lie, first, when Özil hasn't played we haven't missed him and second, where we might have expected opposition teams to have altered their set-ups to counter Özil, this hasn't happened.

The reality is that, at Real Madrid, Mesut Özil played with, in fact next to Cristiano Ronaldo.Özil has one of the softest left feet in world football, witness the ball through to Monreal that set up the first goal last night. When he was at Real, he would look up and Ronaldo would be speeding like an arrow into a space and time and time again Özil would put the ball exactly where Ronaldo wanted it. Özil also provided exactly the same service to di Maria. Özil's signing makes good sense, but if Arsenal had secured the services of Luis Suarez, it would have made perfect sense.

I believe that in the fullness of time (next season) Mesut will prove to be an exceptional addition to the team and we'll see the best of him, however, the signing of a fast, central striker will make this far more likely.

By Ian Byrne

Follow me at @RightAtTheEnd and I'll follow you back, always to keen to read opinions about The Arsenal.
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11.1.14
Rocky - Arsenal Legend

The M6, just after the first junction, when you've just come off the M1. That's where I was when I heard that David Rocastle had died, it was a Saturday morning, the 31st of March, 2001. I was driving back to Manchester having been in London, it was a lovely day, warm and sunny and I was listening to Ian Wright and Mark Bright on Radio 5 live. Ian Wright had obviously been given the news and was tasked with breaking it to the audience, I remember the catch in his voice and he started crying as he broke the news that David had lost his battle with non Hodgkin's lymphoma, Mark Bright was also in tears. David was 33 years old.

I've decided to write a series of profiles of Arsenal legends, 14 of them seeing as it's 2014, purely arbitrary. David Rocastle isn't the best player to have ever played for Arsenal, he's not even the best player I've seen in an Arsenal shirt (Dennis Bergkamp), but he's my favourite player from the period when I was closest to The Arsenal. In the mid to late 1980's was when I was a real supporter, I went to watch the team whenever I could and it was easier to identify with the team in those days. It wasn't just a case that they were mainly English, they were mainly London lads as well, and a lot of the team from the George Graham era were Arsenal products (Adams, Thomas, Merson, Davis, Rocastle, Keown, O'Leary..)



Football was different then. For a start, it was a lot cheaper! We would meet up at The Plimsoll for a few pints (always lager) at about 1pm (matches were always played at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon) and then walk to Avenell Road, get a programme for a quid and then to the Clock End and pay a fiver to get in. After the match we would head into the West End for a few more pints and then home - all in all, the whole day would cost about £25 or £30. In those days, when watching football, we probably had more in common with supporters from the 1930's, than with regulars at "The Emirates" today.

Attendances then were between 30,000 and 35,000 for league games, occasionally, for example the league cup semi-final against Everton, there were over 50,000 in the ground (one of the rare times I've felt that the situation was dangerous - we were really packed in for that match). So, as a result, it was easy to get into Highbury five or ten minutes before the whistle. I had a mate, Gary, who would walk out of the Arsenal tube station at a given time before the game and say "feels like about 33,000", he was usually right (within 500 supporters).



What made David Rocastle so special was that he could really play, when he first came into the side, he played in front of Viv Anderson and the two of them were magnificent. Viv was an exceptional player and was always looking to release David, urging him to take on the full back (which he always did). Because David was so skilful and could run with the ball seemingly glued to his feet, he was able to attack the left back either side, he would feint to go wide and then cut inside the defender at full pelt and attack the goal area. It was thrilling, when Rocky got the ball, the whole crowd would crackle with anticipation. This was all the more evident as at the time, Don Howe's teams were "functional" to say the least.

When George Graham arrived players like David started to get regular games, I think George wanted to break up the old boys club of well paid senior professionals and the apprentices were cheaper and more likely to play the way they were told - George was all old school Arsenal discipline. Results started to improve and the younger players started to become the basis of the team, and although we were never Sacchi's Milan, Arsenal could play and David Rocastle was the stand out talent.



Check out the clips on YouTube; the goals against Villa, 'Boro, and United are superb. David was two footed and he was so versatile, he had the lot, he could lob, chip, fade the ball and could hit it like a hammer with both right and left feet. I remember a goal at Anfield in a league cup game, David hitting the ball on a half volley and the keeper not even reacting, it flew past him so fast. He was tenacious as well, tough, 5"9, but over 11 stone and able to take care of himself, he was in the thick of it at Old Trafford in the 20 man brawl in 1990. But most of all, he was a graceful, explosive, brilliant footballer.

When David was sold to Leeds in 1992, he was still only 25. I'm still not too sure why George sold him, Rocky was adored by Arsenal supporters in the same way Liam Brady had been and I don't think the crowd has ever warmed to a player in the same way since.

I've just read a fantastic book called The Nowhere Men by Michael Calvin. It focuses on football scouts and he interviews Terry Murphy, an ex Arsenal scout who recalls David talking to a group of young Arsenal Trainees. David told them: "Remember who you are, what you are and who you represent".

An exceptional footballer and an exceptional human being.

By Ian Byrne

Follow me at @RightAtTheEnd, I'll follow you back, I like reading all opinions on The Arsenal.
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9.1.14
Tomás Rosický - Hidden Gem, in praise of the Little Mozart

I remember seeing the news that Tomás Rosický had signed for the Arsenal in May 2006 on ceefax (or teletext) and was both surprised and delighted. The signing took place in advance of the World Cup, which was unusual in it's own right, but crucially Tomás was a class player, nicknamed the "little Mozart" from an early age, he was also a near permanent fixture in both the Borussia Dortmund and Czech Republic teams.

He was one of those players that always caught the eye, he moved and passed the ball like a real footballer, and he was obviously on the cusp of great things and we were buying him at the age of 25, just about to enter the most effective 3-4 years of his career.


I feel sorry for Tomás for two reasons; first, his injuries have limited him to less than 20 league games a season and second, his career has been played out during an era when Arsenal were paying off the debt of building one of the best stadia in the world, as opposed to building a world class squad. Do the math (as our cousins from across the pond like to say), imagine £650 million + being invested on footballers?

Therefore, for Tomás Rosický, it's a frustrating picture; when he scores two great goals against Liverpool in a 3rd round FA Cup game at Anfield during his first season (I was at the game with my daughter and she's never forgiven me for being responsible for missing both), we thought we had a real player on our hands, but his career at Arsenal never really got going.

He suffered a significant hamstring tendon injury in 2008 and didn't kick a ball for 18 months. That is a massive gap in anyone's CV and on his return Tomás failed to impress, there were snatches of the old player here and there, but when you talked to supporters at matches (especially away from home) there were mutterings of discontent about him. It took a while, but then something wonderful happened, he played Spurs off the park in February 2012. This was a huge game for Arsenal, failure to win would have meant missing out on Champions League qualification for one thing and Tomáš was superb.

Since then, I would say that Tomás Rosický has been as good as anybody in an Arsenal shirt. When he's been played, he's rarely let us down (he played poorly in the 8-2 humiliation at the Theatre of Muppets but he wasn't alone) but apart from that, he's been excellent. I think that the reason for this, is that, like the clever footballer he is, he has re-designed the way he plays. Whereas previously, Tomás was at the heart of everything - although he still plays this role for the Czech Republic, he made himself into a modern link player.


When he's on the pitch he always makes himself available for a pass, but he knows when to make it simple and when to up the ante and try and start a meaningful attack. This requires an uncanny ability to read the game, but Tomás also has a good engine so he's able to start the move (he often spots Giroud coming short for the ball with his back to goal) passes, collects the return and then makes the vital pass that plays in the wider player (Walcott, Cazorla, Wilshire, Ozil, Sagna) who then slide the ball into the most dangerous area.
When non-Arsenal supporters talk about admiring the way we play, they usually mean this passage of passing and it relies very heavily on footballers with the quality and vision of Tomás Rosický.

Tomás is now 33 years old, so it would be reasonable to expect diminishing returns from now on, but I firmly believe that he's vital this season. At the start of the term, Glen Hoddle was asked about Arsenal's depth in midfield, bizarrely the question asked was "do Arsenal have a problem as they have too many midfielders?" Hoddle said that as it was a long season, having more midfielders, bearing in mind this is where the bulk of the match is played, is obviously a good thing.

For the first time in ages we are top of the league in January, if we were to go on and win it, I'd be more pleased for Tomás Rosický than anybody in the playing squad.

By Ian Byrne

Follow me at @RightAtTheEnd, I look forward to reading all your opinions on Arsenal Football Club.
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7.1.14
Injury a disaster for Theo but not for Arsenal (+ Ramsey news)

I am absolutely gutted for Theo Walcott, imagine being in his shoes at the moment; he's looking to be a key part of the first Arsenal team for 5 years that looks like making a genuine title challenge and is almost certainly going to be part of England's squad in the World Cup in Brazil. Then on Saturday evening, he chases back, makes a good challenge on Danny Rose, wins the ball, feels something "go" around his knee and two days later - bang! Six months out (minimum).

To be completely honest, I haven't always been Theo's biggest fan, however, in the last two seasons he has improved dramatically. I still believe he doesn't always make the right choices over when to cross, shoot or attack the area, but last season he scored 21 goals in 43 appearances - that's on a level with Thierry Henry. This year he has scored 6 times in 18 appearances, so he's getting there. He's a big loss, but let's face it, the only person who has the right to be devastated is Theo Walcott, for him it's unfathomable, he'll be 29 before he plays in a World Cup. So good luck Theo, I hope you get to grips with the situation as soon as you can.


For the rest of us, we need to take a step back and consider where we are. Most Arsenal supporters that I know believed that the lack of depth of the squad was going to cause problems at some point this season and we might be at that point. However, this isn't like 2008, when Eduardo's savage injury wrecked his season (almost his career) and the team had a meltdown, as that occurred after the transfer window, whereas, at least we have three and a half weeks to explore some options.

Furthermore, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain is very close to a full return and Serge Gnabry looks ready to make a real impact this season. So we have the cover available in Walcott's wide right role. The question is to make sure that we cover his goals. There is a point in Moneyball when Billy Beane, having sold the Oakland "A"'s best three hitters, realises that he doesn't have to replace the players, just their runs.


Let's assume, Theo was capable of another 20 goal season, a distinct possibility, then we need to have players in positions who are able to score a further 14 goals, over a run of games including 18 league matches, 2 in the Champions League and (pure guesswork) 4 FA Cup matches. So that's a further 14 goals needed in a 24 game run, I think that's eminently achievable.

The encouraging news is that Ramsey might be two week's away from a return to training.
I am very disappointed for Theo Walcott, and let's feel sorry for him, not us as Arsenal supporters, but I'm confident that we can cope. Let's also not overlook the fact that when he was out with his abdominal injury we won practically every game.

By Ian Byrne

Please follow me on twitter at @RightAtTheEnd, I'll follow you back, I'm always keen to read opinions on The Arsenal.

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3.1.14
Why do the BBC have a problem with Arsenal?

Let me just state that I don’t have a specific issue with the BBC per se, I think in general they do a great job, all that entertain and educate stuff – fantastic. Admittedly they appear to have the same approach to management as an anarchist collective, but I’m writing this listening to Radio 5 Live and overall it’s spot on.

However, although I don’t have much of an axe to grind against the BBC as an entity, can the same be said for the BBC’s attitude to Arsenal Football Club?Yesterday morning I was listening to 5 Live and they were covering the games having been played on New Year’s Day and there wasn’t a single mention of the team currently leading the premiership - nothing.

The 5 Live “sports-caster” George Riley is currently engaged in a one man competition to see how few words he can use to describe Arsenal in a report – five is his record so far, come on George, put your back into it, surely you can do it in two: “Arsenal won”, “Arsenal drew” and “Arsenal lost” would suffice. It seems to me the BBC likes it when Arsenal are in trouble, in fact they have produced a programme (the season before last and the week before we beat Spurs 5-2) to discuss “where is it all going wrong with AFC?”

So I guess that they must be gutted at the moment, top of the league, still in the Champions League after surviving a tough group and just about to host Tottenham in the FA Cup.

I know as football supporters we have a fascination with conspiracy theories and there is one in circulation, that there is a media preference towards the hugely supported Manchester United, as they are concerned that by upsetting such a huge constituency they could risk viewing/listening/reading numbers – or worse advertising revenue, by persistently “going negative” on United.


                                                MOTD pundits celebrate United premiership victory



If you’ve ever read Bob Wilson’s book “Behind the Network” he describes this in some detail. When he worked ITV, he wrote that the channel were keen to show United matches because, understandably, as they have a massive support, more viewers would tune in and there would be a far broader commercial footprint. I don’t necessarily subscribe to this theory, although it does make perfect commercial sense.

Ironically, the press are treated like vermin at United’s training ground press conferences, they are herded into a freezing cold waiting area, where the vending machines are vastly over priced and they are always on the edge of having their accreditations snatched away if they ask the wrong question. Does this sharpen their pens when they are reporting on matters United? Does it hell, they’re terrified of them and also alienating their huge fan base.

By comparison, Arsenal is a relatively well supported club with a fan base predominantly in London, Hertfordshire and Essex. Fortunately we don’t have many of the “glory hunters” (not anymore anyway!) that choose to follow United and from my formative generation in the 70’s and 80’s, Liverpool. I live in Manchester and count a good number of Manchester United season ticket holders as friends and trust me, they hate people from Milton Keynes who couldn’t find Old Trafford with a map and a compass and clear directions. However, these are exactly the type of “supporter” that influences the news agenda that we all have to digest. They have a cumulative power with a distinct reach.

The BBC should be beyond all of this and that’s why it irritates me when that they seem to fall into the same trap as commercial organisations that are vulnerable to punters voting with their feet. Do you remember the other season when we played Stoke away? The vitriol dished out to our manager was disgusting; the next time you feel like criticising Mr Wenger, just imagine what it would be like to turn up to work and have to tolerate 20,000 men, women and children (for heaven’s sake) screaming “paedo” at you. Utterly beyond belief.
                        
                                                                 A Confederacy of Dunces?
That afternoon, naturally exasperated by a disappointing performance, Mr Wenger gesticulated and stamped his feet but still ignored the abuse shouted at him from yards away. How did Match of the day comment on this? Alan Shearer and Alan Hansen, ex players who are to punditry what King Herod is to babysitting, roundly praised the Stoke crowd and at the closing credits of the programme Gary Lineker chose to ape the actions of one particular Stoke supporter who thought it was appropriate to imitate our manager’s (admittedly) amusing arm gestures. Could you have imagined him doing that to Fergie? No chance.

Years ago, Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch referred to Arsenal as they unloved Visigoths of football and described the reasons for our unpopularity – we were rich, London based and at that time, boring. Since then, we have moved to a brand new stadium and completely re-shaped the way we play football, in fact the way football is played full stop.

Let’s see how Arsenal’s nascent resurgence changes the BBC’s reaction, so far, no change to my eyes, now, if we actually won something……

By Ian Byrne

Follow us at @RightAtTheEnd and we’ll follow you back, always keen to read people’s opinions on The Arsenal.
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