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20.3.17
Moving the deckchairs on the Titanic - Wenger stays.

Tony Pulis let the Wenger sized cat out of the bag on Saturday afternoon, the Arsenal manager confirmed to him that he had signed on for a further term at the helm of the good ship Arsenal Football Club. Sadly, this particular crate is holed beneath the plimsoll line and is taking on water at an alarming rate.

The Arsenal manager is a peculiar character, in that his intelligence is matched only by his arrogance and stubbornness. An Alsatian King Canute, he believes implicitly that he alone has the plan to revitalise the club and make it genuinely competitive once more, despite specific and blindingly clear evidence to the contrary. I actually turned off at half time in the West Brom game on Saturday, we were spineless and clueless. This should have been a great opportunity for Welbeck and Walcott to show England what they were missing by not picking them for the two matches this week, Oxlade Chamberlaine was handed his favoured position and provided little. Xhaka and Ramsey played like they'd just been introduced to each other in the tunnel, much of the passing was rank and Arsenal got what they deserved, nothing. Two shots on target in 90 minutes?

The Baggies, on the other hand were disciplined and scored two identical goals from corners - two! Look at the photo beneath, there are two West Brom players virtually on top of Craig Dawson, and not a single Arsenal player within five feet of him, let alone contesting for the header. That's not schoolboy defending, that's an insult to schoolboy football. This particularly galling to supporters of a certain vintage (like me....) who grew up with centre halves like Peter Simpson, Terry Mancini, Tony Adams and Steve Bould.



Steve Bould is an Arsenal legend, but in crisis times, you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. I've mentioned this before, and it may not be popular with Arsenal supporters, but one of Alex Ferguson's greatest strengths was his willingness to shuffle his coaching pack. Over the years he worked with Archie Knox, Brian Kidd, Steve McLaren, Jimmy Ryan, Carlos Querioz and Mike Phelan. Although outwardly he was famously combative, Ferguson actively sought and encouraged advice from all quarters. This was a quality also famously attributed to Herbert Chapman, it was said of Chapman that he would listen to a ball boy if he had something to say. Look at Guardiola's bench, he has specialist coaches for defence, midfield (Arteta indeed) and forward players.

Wenger has been at the Arsenal for over 20 years. His front line coaching staff has been Primorac and Rice and then Primorac and Bould. It's stale, it isn't working. In the first seasons after Wenger's arrival, the excellence of the defensive players he inherited, the shrewd purchases he made and the innovations he introduced, gave Arsenal significant marginal gains in English football. That ship sailed a long time ago, of course he should do the decent thing and walk away, whilst offering to assist in the search for his successor, but he won't. The fact of the matter is that the arrogance that runs through his DNA like writing in a stick of rock, convinces him that he is the only one who can save us.

The only way forward is for Wenger to recruit some new coaching ideas onto his staff, sadly, I don't think he will. Compare and contrast the way Chelsea are set up and play to Arsenal, look at the ways in which Mourinho is prepared to change his formations and look at the conditioning work that Tottenham's squad is putting in. Wenger might drop Monreal for Gibbs, or play Giroud up front instead of sulky Sanchez but that's the limit of his thinking.


So, we have another year (at least) of the blinkered one, further proof, if needed, that as far as the Arsenal board are concerned, turkeys do vote for Christmas.

By Ian Byrne
















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17.3.17
In Praise of Danny Welbeck - Pick Him - Play Him

I'm a big fan of the 27 year old Mancunian and I'm convinced that Arsenal are a better team when he's playing.

I've heard very positive stories, anecdotal admittedly, about the excellent way Danny handles himself around the club. In contrast with the behaviour of some of our other high profile players (two in particular), Danny is polite, respectful, and concerned about the lower profile employees at Arsenal; cleaners, cooks, ground staff etc.. That counts a lot, because more than ever, footballers are role models for young people and the fact that Danny is always good natured despite the fact that he's suffered horrendous injury problems at Arsenal is indicative of his personal qualities.

The injury issue is obviously the elephant in the room, so let's address it. Danny has suffered from a series of knee problems since his arrival on September 2nd 2014. Prior to this he had experienced some concerns, but his lack of game time but was more due to competition for places. In his time at Manchester United he missed 27 games either at United or on loan at Sunderland. Since 2014/2015 season he has missed 79 games in an Arsenal shirt. It seems that every time he comes back he looks great and then that knee gives in again, the crux of the most recent lay off was damage to the hyaline cartilage. The club's medical team are confident that they have addressed and corrected the core problem, so we can only hope that this is the case.

However, rather than criticise a player for a weakness in one part of his body, I prefer to praise Danny for the courage and tenacity he has displayed each time has suffered a setback. Saying it's "frustrating" doesn't get anywhere near the truth, it must be devastating for a young man who knows that his career may only last until his early 30's. However, Danny is only 27, with his best years definitely ahead of him, and that's one of the reasons why Arsenal should seek to utilise his skills and ability. He has time on his side to be an Arsenal legend.



Danny Welbeck is an unusual footballer, in that his mixture of strength, power and pace, enables him to play in any position across a front three, two, or as a sole striker. He has his critics, I wouldn't describe Danny as a graceful player, his first touch can be a tad sharp, but his qualities have made him an automatic selection for his country. He has 42 caps and has scored 16 goals (2.4 per game), that's an excellent return from someone who has usually started in a wide position.

Two further positive aspects to Danny Welbeck are his fantastic will to win, like it or not, they teach that to young players at Manchester United, the other is his ability to complement the work of those around him. He knows how to link play, he reads the game well and has an implicit understanding of where he needs to be on the pitch at certain times. Again, this is unusual in a relatively young man, but look at the goal he scored last season against Leicester City. Danny knew that this was the last scoring opportunity of an excellent game and strained every fibre to get on the header which won the match.

Since his most recent, and again interrupted return, he looked exceptional in the FA Cup against Southampton and scored the only goal at Anfield, a finish of real dexterity. We are a better, more dangerous attacking force when Danny Welbeck starts for Arsenal. Pick him, play him.

By Ian Byrne













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14.3.17
Can Arsenal reach the FA Cup Final? Maybe.

First things first, thank heavens we avoided Chelsea and Tottenham in the semi final draw. At the moment Chelsea look unplayable and I don't think Arsenal's current form would lead supporters to relish a North London derby in the semi final on the 22nd April. Let's face it, our recent form has been rubbish, we've beaten three teams, two of whom don't play in the football league and Hull City, with a disputed handball goal and a spot kick. We were hammered 10-2 over two legs by Bayern and didn't contest at all in matches at the Bridge and Anfield.

However, as is often the case, we've been lucky. We play City on April 2nd in the league at home and therefore have an opportunity to assess how we might line up against them at Wembley. Also, we do have a chance, less than 50/50 maybe, but a chance nevertheless, to beat the northern lottery winners. Why? Well they play open football and for whole sections of matches, simply refuse to defend, they are just like Arsenal, just better financed and just, well, better.



Apparently, the scan on Harry Kane's ankle is booked for tomorrow with the results within 24 hours. With or without Kane, if we played the Spuds this afternoon, they would beat us. Chelsea could and would knock 3 past us, we're that poor at the moment. So apart from drawing City why are we lucky? In a classic supporter's case of clutching at straws, what we have in our locker is the time to get things back on track. Arsenal's next opponents are:

18th March - WBA - Away
2nd April    - City    - Home
5th April     - West Ham - Home
10th April   - Palace - Away
17th April   - Boro - Away

Admittedly, the two away fixtures are against teams right in the relegation mixer and managed in one case by sometime "nemesis", "Fat Sam". Still these matches offer the opportunity for our esteemed manager to settle on a line up and formation that can get us across the line. There are no Champions league games to complicate planning, we average a game a week, whereas City on the other hand could be heading for a bit of a fixture pile up.

If the Citizens get past Monaco this week, which is eminently possible, they will have to factor in a Champions league quarter final first leg on either April 11th or 12th, with the return leg on the 18th or 19th of April, potentially less than three days before playing Arsenal on Saturday 22nd, this second leg, could also be (of course) away from home.

Therefore, eight matches as opposed to our five, including league fixtures against Liverpool and away at Chelsea. See what I mean? Lucky Arsenal. So my advice, is get in front of the box tomorrow night and cheer on the lads from Manchester, a win might be crucial for the Arsenal.

By Ian Byrne















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