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Barcelona v Arsenal: No Bragging By Gooners

I will watch today’s friendly between Arsenal and Barcelona with great interest. Whether we win, lose or draw, I expect Arsenal to play positive, attractive football demonstrating the club’s intent for the upcoming premier league season. Arsenal might flatter to deceive, as we did at the start of last season but anything like the rancid, putrid, soul-deadening style for most of last year (exchanging it between the midfielders and defenders in our own half before passing it out wide to the wingbacks for crosses or cutbacks) is totally unacceptable.

Playing Barca also got me thinking how much the gap between both clubs have widened since we gave them the scare of their lives in the 2006 Champions League final.   We scored in the first half with that Sol Campbell header in the 37th minute header and held on with 10 men until Eto’o scored in the 76th and then Belleti broke our hearts at the 86th when he snaggled in the winner. Often forgotten is how many chances our great striker Henry had to score and possibly win the game for us. Titi is so lucky there was no ubiquitous social media available at the time or else the very emotional, stupid element in the fanbase would have had a platform to slag him as useless.

But with that stroke of fortune in 2006  Barca has simply gone from strength to strength; three (3) more UEFA  Champions League titles, three (3) FIFA Club World Cups, nine (9) more La Liga championships and six (6) Copa Del Rey titles (the Spanish equivalent of the FA Cup). In contrast Arsenal had to endure some barren years of austerity having to pay for its new stadium but at least we can point to three (3) FA cups in four years as of 2017.

But all during those years we Gunners could brag with pride, echoing the words of our manager:

“We do not buy superstars. We make them.”

Proof of the pudding is that Barca had to come snooping around to buy our best players. We sold them Henry in 2007 for €24 million; thank you very much, that covered a big hole in our budget. In 2011, after years of Barca covertly and overtly exploiting Cesc Fabregas’s Catalan connections, Arsenal had no choice but to sell him to his childhood club for £25.4m up front, with the player contributing 1m euros (£880,000) from his salary each year of the initial contract (Good Lord; Cesc had to pay to go home). Arsenal also received 5m euros (£4.4m) if Barcelona won two La Liga titles and one Champions League title in the next five years (Wenger rinsed them properly, didn’t he?).

Gooners now have little to brag about

But eight years later can Arsenal fans truly brag that as a club we are making any superstars? In the 2006 champions league final we had a 17 year-old orchestrating from central midfield, leading the line was Thierry Henry transformed into the most potent striker in Europe, leftback was Ashley Cole developed into the best in England for years thereafter and Wenger even relied on a flighty, youthful Emmanuel Eboue as our right back. If we hadn’t lost Lehman in the 17th minute that game could have ended much differently.

We could still brag in 2011 after losing to Barca in the quarterfinals of the Champion’s League. Leading 2-1 into the return leg at the Camp Nou, the referee took the unprecedented step of sending off Van Persie for kicking the ball after the whistle had blown. At the time Wenger had transformed him from a winger into a very dangerous striker. To this day most Arsenal fans think it’s no coincidence that by sending him off Arsenal lost its major offensive threat and were condemned to defeat. Additionally, we could also boast that playing central midfield that day was a precocious 19-yo English wunderkind by the name of Jack Wilshere. So even though we lost by very dubious refereeing, we still had something to hold onto; super-talented players from within who were being groomed for the future.

No future superstar from the academy

In contrast to the past, when we relied on making our own superstars, it is crystal clear to me from the current transfer window Arsenal is no longer a club emphasizing the development young players. Instead the club is increasingly being celebrated for its willingness to break its transfer record and pay £72 million for Nicholas Pepe (reportedly lashing as much as £6 million on his agent to lubricate the wheels of business), buying Saliba and returning him to St. Etienne, taking Ceballos on loan from Madrid and guaranteeing him a humongous number of games and acquiring young Martinelli and fast tracking him into the first team.

These days, hardly anybody connected to Arsenal speaks of a young player, brought in from a young age, whom the club is committed to turning into a superstar in the coming year(s). Only recently we could point to Fabregas, Van Persie, Wilshere and Ramsey whom we knew the club was devoted, fully invested  into making them world class, succeeding with three of the four as measured by the big clubs they eventually joined.

Josh Kroenke emphasizes the transfer market

Even Josh Kroenke, who is now the real boss, seems unaware of the pride felt by Arsenal fans in seeing the development of our own young players. In his response to the “WeCare” petition, he placed emphasis on the transfer market:

“We also must be aggressive and creative in the modern day transfer market to push whatʼs possible both on the pitch and how itʼs evaluated in pursuit of the biggest trophies in English and European Football.”

Is it any surprise that Raul Sanllehi often uses his public appearances to boast of his acumen in the transfer market. A recent interview on ArseblogNews was a perfect example:

“The transfer window is a moving target, I have been doing this for 16 years now and I know that some windows are harder than others.

 Apparently none of the intrepid journalists or correspondents working for Arseblog dared ask him what he learnt from the massive scandal that accompanied the Neymar transfer to Barcelona which happened while he was an executive (like Shaggy, the reggae artist, he claims “It wasn’t me”). For those who have short memories, Barcelona’s bribing of the Neymars cost them a one-year suspension from the transfer market. Neither was there any questions about that strange deal he reputedly engineered bringing Spurs-reject Paulinho from China to Barcelona for €40 million and then one-year later they loaned him back to the same Chinese side and eventually selling him for €42 million. Is this a dodgy trading firm or a football club?

Turning Arsenal into Barca’s bitch

Along those lines, the loudest talk in social media currently is how Raul is now a transfer guru. He is about to take off Barca hands, another of their failures, Philippe Coutinho, and give him an opportunity do a Sacamlexis Sanchez. Based on his Liverpool and Barca track record Coutinho is predictable; he will hog the ball, shoot at every opportunity, inflate his personal stats and seek a more profitable transfer down the line. Meanwhile talented midfielders from our academy with endless potential will never get a chance in the first team. Some mindless fans on social media are celebrating, bigging-up Sanhelli for turning Arsenal into Barca’s bitch.

“I mean if Raul Sanllehi does make the Coutinho deal happen then i think he deserves a statue outside the Emirates.”

Critical thinking

While transfer addicts around the Football Club are high on every piece of business conducted by the club they are entirely incapable of any critical thinking. How will this wheeling and dealing make Arsenal more competitive next season compared to the last? Last summer this time they were giddy with optimism as the club acquired Sokratis, Leno, Torreira, Guendouzi and Lichsteiner, convinced that those transfers by itself it would guarantee a top-4 finish.  While the club was going through a 22-game unbeaten run, many were willfully blind to the poor football on the pitch as Aubameyang frequently bailed out Arsenal with a streak 7 or 8 goals on an equivalent number of shots. Is there any evidence the manager has stopped tinkering, gotten better at managing his personnel and willing to allow the team to play to its strengths (as explained by this blog)?

So while there is no young player to look forward to as our next superstar, today I will be anxious to see if Unai can make us feel excited about our team going into the next season.

14 Comments

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    Reply
  2. Well said.

    As the number of imports increase I find myself unconsciously losing interest.

    I seem to be the antithesis of the modern gooners. They are so used to the good times they can only cope with that and complain if we are not buying in the talent.

    Fans like me who have seen the bad times as well as the good will prefer what you are have set out to the short term potential fix the transfer market brings.

    Maybe I am just a killjoy.

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  3. I well remember Arsenal in the nineteen sixties doing similar antics in the transfer market as that of of today – George Eastham; Joe Baker; Ian Ure; Johnny Mcleod to name but a few! What silverware was achieved? What progress over a period from the early fifties (after 1953) until the late sixties with such great players? I well remember this period…..! However, I am still here, alive and kicking and following my local team and still enjoying doing so despite countless attempts of vitriolic attacks through the national and social media against individual players and the manager/coach.

    Now, as for being a transfer guru! Remember the old adage – a person is only called a guru by people who cannot spell the word charlatan!

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  4. The 0-2 at home in 2016 in the CL was for me a painful result. Only saved by a sympathetic official in the first half the Gunners overcommitted from their otherwise good defending on the day as the second half continued without a goal for the home team who had the ascendancy and urged by the crowd. A glint was all Barcelona needed to sneak the away goal and then a silly penalty killed the tie.

    What was notable for the weaker team sent out to Barcelona as players were rotated and rested was Iwobi’s early performance in the nou camp in the centre. That’s where the old gaffer/coaches saw him at his best?

    So it’ll be interesting to see where Iwobi gets his minutes as the Brazilian kid who plays on the left looks promising, a first feather for Edu perhaps, we shall see.

    Ultimately it all comes down to CM.

    and the difference that all could see on the football pitch when rambo played at CM for that spell earlier this year was night and day nevermind his other cameos over the season. It would be insane to expect the loan player from Madrid to hit similar levels in the PL as we saw from Ramsey last season but he also looks useful.
    as others have said I’m hoping to see some minutes for the other young players too.

    COYG

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    • But at least up to recently, despite their supposed superiority they were always trying to pinch our players. In the summer of 2014 they bought Vermalean whom Billy Big Blogger declared to be not good enough because he wasn’t as physical as their hoofball favorite, Gary Cahill. Two years after we scared them in Paris, in the summer of 2008 they bought Alex Hleb who was then terrorizing English defences. But first they had to flattering him with ice-cream after a visit to the city of Barcelona. Even the Catalans knew Wenger was better at making superstars as young players from La Masia headed for England. That’s how we got Fabregas and Bellerin on our books. Today our club has lost its identity as nobody seems to be focussed on creating our own superstars.

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      • I agree.

        The identity of the current head of the football club can be found in the Catalan courts.

        if Raul’s cunning masterplan is Benfica/Porto Plus (not sure I’d count Mangala etc as Superstars IBSF) then he’ll be looking to flog Pepe on in about two seasons max.?

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        • Arsenal team:

          Leno,
          Maitland-Niles, Chambers, Sokratis, Monreal,
          Willock, Xhaka,
          Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Nelson,
          Aubameyang.

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    • < Barca helped by some generous calls in that first half

      Reply
  5. Shotts

    The difference in this admittedly pre-season contest is that this time Barca didn’t even need to bring Messi on.

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  6. Interesting game especially in the 1st half. Barca did not start its best players by any means; if they did it would have been more difficult for Arsenal.But we were set up in a positive 4-2-3-1 and we earned our goal. We defended in a 4-4-1 and we looked secure. AMN needlessly scored an own goal on top of a couple of mistakes and the fanbase, particularly Arsenal-twitter, is now gunning for him even though we have little by way of an alternative. Usual brilliance by the Arsenal fanbase thinking we can get in a true right back before the start of the season instead of supporting the one alternative we have even though flawed.

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    • Shotts

      Billy Big Blagger blamed the 50 plus goals against two seasons ago on poor coaching, and the 50 plus goals last season on poor players!

      Haha!!

      They’re making right old proper mugs of their listeners and readers.

      AMN as you know is a favourite of mine, and I’ve seen him play better in CM then I’ve ever seen Guendouzi play. Why not play Matteo at RB or LB lol! Because he is not as good a player as AMN?

      We shall see.

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  7. Why not play Matteo at RB or LB lol!
    As in ahead of AMN.

    Everyone knows the answer!

    I don’t expect the donkeys to break their braying silence nevermind the lambs.

    All about the central midfield. Let us not forget Emery relegated Xhaka to LB and destroyed his own CM at a crucial point in the season. Xhaka at FB with Rambo on the bench!!!!! (which will be Emery’s Arsenal epitaph). Why not Matteo? Oh…

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    • For some unknown reason Emery (and Billy Big Blagger) have this infatuation with Guendouzi. I don’t get it. He’s a decent young player but as our 1st choice CM sitting next to Torreira? He is neither a great tackler, passer or dribbler. Great hair though.

      Reply

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