Category Archives: Arsenal

empty seats

Empty seats and the Americanization of the FA

By Tim Todd, Tout-in-Chief

Watching the FA Cup semi-final on television this weekend I was struck by a camera shot just after kickoff. It was a scene from the half way line which showed a huge swath of empty seats. These were the best seats in the house; lower tier, center line, directly behind the player’s entrance tunnel and yet there were a ton of empty seats. It only took me a moment to remember that, at Wembley where this match was being played, the Football Association takes control of over 40% of the ticket allocations and gives them away to their corporate sponsors and partners. It was those seats which were empty.

Many of those seats remained empty throughout the match. And in the match the next day between Liverpool and Villa the exact same scene played out: empty seats in the FA allocation. This wasn’t a case of a few corporate sponsors lingering over a cocktail after half-time, many of these ticket holders simply didn’t sit in the stands or didn’t even attend the match. And so, there on international television was a glaring example of corporate cronyism, greed, and a pure indifference to the sport.

Clearly unperturbed that their semi-final allocations weren’t used, the FA announced ticket allocations for the final; Arsenal will get 25,000 tickets, Villa will get 25,000 tickets, the FA will give away 20,000 to their “football family”, and the FA will allocate 17,000 to Club Wembley members.

The FA did something similar last year and their actions prompted Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis to write a letter pleading with them to get the balance right. And that’s, unfortunately, what we are really talking about here, getting the balance right. Changing the numbers just a little bit in favor of the fans.

No one expects the FA to take tickets away from the Club Wembley partners. Those are the super-rich, the corporations, the lard which greases the pig that is modern football. Without them at the match, the FA officials wouldn’t have rich folks to rub elbows with. They need those tickets to give away to the mega-rich so that FA officials can bask in the glow of their power.

And the FA need corporate sponsors because they need money to pay the salaries of guys like Martin Glenn. Martin Glenn, former chief of United Biscuits, is apparently a marketing genius or at least that is how the FA sold his appointment, calling him “a veteran of industry”. That is exactly what the football association needed in order to improve the quality of their international football program, a great new marketing campaign. That way the fans can sing, “We are lions hear us roar!” as England crashes out of group stages of the World Cup, again.

The other 20,000 tickets will be given away to the FA’s football family. This means, practically, that clubs who hate Arsenal and Aston Villa will get an allocation. And it’s all done on a very fair basis as well: last year, volunteers distributed the 20,000 tickets. Arsenal and Villa are going to use complicated arithmetic to figure out who get their paltry allocations, meanwhile the Football Association are using “volunteers.”

And there you have it, 55% of the tickets for the FA Cup final go to the real fans and 45% go to everyone else. That 55% will be divided by lottery and will hopefully be going to the fans who travel week in and week out to see their team play across the country.

It’s a shame that the allocation couldn’t be 90% of the tickets for the clubs and 10% for the corporations and associations. It would be nice for once to be able to give every season ticket holder a seat at the final and make the corporate sponsors and friends of the FA have to enter into a lottery.

But this… this is modern sports. They renovated Wembley in order to build more corporate box seats. And it’s not like the FA are doing anything unusual, they are simply becoming more American in the way they allocate tickets.

The NFL’s signature game, the Superbowl, is divided in a similar way that the FA did their ticket allocation. The NFL give each team 17.5% of the total seats and a further 5% goes to the host team. After that, 35% are divided equally among all the other teams in the NFL and the organization takes the remaining 25% for themselves. In terms of percentages, the FA actually give a much bigger chunk to the two clubs in the finals, doling out nearly 28% of the tickets to each team.

The result of the NFL allocations is that an infinitely small number of real fans go to the Superbowl. With online ticket resell sites run rampant in the United States, combined with the rarity of obtaining a ticket, the average fan can pay for his season tickets many times over with the profits from the sale of a single Super Bowl seat. How many “real” fans attend the Superbowl is unknown but I’ve only ever known one.

This last bit could be misconstrued as me saying “hey it could be worse, you should quit complaining” but it’s actually just the opposite: “hey, it could be worse, you don’t want it to be worse, COMPLAIN LOUDER!”

Those empty seats in semi-finals were just a symbol. They are a symbol of how English Football is changing, is becoming more Americanized. And if that continues, the average fans might not even be able to go to the games.

But hey, if you’re really lucky you’ll get Katy Perry and Left Shark as your half-time entertainment for the Football Association Sponsored by Doritos Budweiser Cup Final presented in Sony Humorphic 3D.


It will almost be like being there.



By Tim Todd, donut without a hole

Al: Oh, this is Anfield, huh? A lovely stadium. Hey baby, you must’ve been something before electricity.

Al: And this kid Sterling? Nice kid, great looking kid. Now I know why tigers eat their young.

Al Czervik: (dancing with Brendan Rodgers) You’re a great manager, you know that? Yeah, wanna make 14 dollars the hard way?

Tottenham Fan: I want a beefburger. No, cheeseburger. I want Champions League football. I want to finish above Arsenal. I want to keep Harry Kane this summer
Arsene Wenger: You’ll get nothing, and like it!

Carl: In the immortal words of Jean Paul Sartre ‘Au revior, Tottenham.’

Carl Spackler: The grass at Wembley is a hybrid. This is a cross, ah, of Bluegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Featherbed Bent, and Northern California Sensemilia. The amazing stuff about this is, that you can play 90 minutes on it in the afternoon, take it home and just get stoned to the bejeezus-belt that night on this stuff.

Steven Gerrard: [as he misses a chance at goal in the dying minutes of an FA Cup semi-final, a goal which would have seen him play in the FA Cup final at Wembley on his birthday] OH, RAT FART!

Roberto Mancini: Tevez, get dressed you’re playing football.
Carlos Tevez: No I’m not grandpa I’m playing tennis.
Roberto Mancini: You’re playing football and you’re going to like it.
Carlos Tevez: What about my asthma?
Roberto Mancini: I’ll give you asthma.

Ty: Just be the ball Ramsey. Be the ball. Be the ball. You’re not being the ball, Ramsey
Ramsey: Well, it’s kinda hard with you talking in my ear like that.
Ty: Ok.. just… be the ball.
[Ramsey kicks the ball]
Ramsey: where’d it go?
Ty: Into the lumberyard.

Porterhouse: [watching Newcastle play football, turns to his friends] 50 bucks that Steven Taylor kid picks his nose.
Friends: [you got it, you're on]
Porterhouse: [encouraging Taylor as his finger slowly makes its way toward his nostril] come on kid, that’s it, take your time… [Taylor picks his nose] YEAH!
Friends: [grumbling as they pay the bet]
Lou: Hey, another 50 says he eats it.
Friends: [you got it, you're on. They turn back to watch Taylor contemplate the booger on his finger]
Don’t do it.. come on kid, you can do it… [Steven Taylor eats his booger]
YEAH! Ha ha, what a pig.

Maggie O’Hooligan: Samir Nasri? He’s been plucked more times than the Rose of Tralee, biggest whore on 5th avenue I’ve heard.

Al: [Sees West Ham's third, purple kit hanging in a store] Oh hey, nice kit, I bet you buy a kit like that and you get a free bowl of soup!
[looks over and sees Alex Song in the third kit]
Oh, looks good on you though!

Carl Spackler: A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I’m a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? Arsene Wenger, himself. Three time League champion, five time FA Cup winner. The big puffy goose down jacket that looks like a sleeping bag, the grace, grey hair… striking. So, I’m on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one – big hitter, Arsene Wenger – long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what Arsene Wenger says? “If you eat caviar every day it’s difficult to return to sausages.” So we finish the eighteenth and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, “Hey, Wenger, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.” And he says, “Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive two season tickets to Highbury, in heaven.” So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.

Carl: Yaya Sanogo stands on the penalty spot. This crowd has gone deadly silent. He’s got about 11 meters, looks like he’s going to go straight down the middle. Its a Cinderella story. Outa nowhere. Former greengrocier. About to become an FA Cup champion. It looks like a miracle! It’s in the net!

Al: [sees Smails about to tee off] hey Smails, I bet you a pair of match tickets to Arsenal-Chelsea, that’s over $1000, that you slice.
Smails: touting is illegal in England, SIR, and I NEVER slice.
Al: Hey, you can owe me!

Judge Smails: It’s easy to grin
When your ship comes in
And you’ve got the transfer market beat
But the man worthwhile
Is the man who can smile
When Coquelin returns from loan, plays amazing in the DM spot, and Arsenal go on a 10 game win-streak.

James Beattie: [from inside the showers, hears someone, assumes it's his manager Tony Pulis] Tony, will you come loofah my stretch marks?

Mesut Ozil: [sees Alexis Sanchez for the first time as he strides into the club] Madonna with meatballs.


Thanks to @P_Dors and @giantgooner for the inspiration. We will return with more “serious” fare tomorrow.

What… you wanted to talk about Gibbs, and rotation, and why Wenger didn’t play Monreal and Bellerin? Ugh. That stuff is dreadfully boring. Besides, I already talked about that on the Arsenal Review USA podcast – give that a listen tonight and you can hear me complain about Gibbs being 80 yards out of position constantly while pretending that I’m not complaining about Gibbs being out of position constantly.

Man at the match; Chary: Early season Gunners reappear as Alexis to the rescue

Two contrasting pieces of class finishing from Arsenal’s early season saviour Alexis allowed a slightly shaky performance from the Cup holders to overcome Reading and reach a record 19th FA Cup final.

A sunny, but bracing and windy, mid-April Saturday took me back to similar conditions at last years semi-final against Wigan, however pre game there was no thought of it being as problematic today as it was then.

After a few lagers at the Green Man pub to settle the matchday nerves it was a meandering walk to my seat.

Drinks at The Green Man

After ascending many flights of stairs I took my seat and registered that Reading had taken up their full allocation, quite a feat when their average crowds are 14,000 on average, less than half their allotted seats.

Where did the extra 17,500 come from ?

Team line up wise there was no surprise in the Arsenal end when Chesney was in goal however a little surprise at both Gibbs and Debuchy usurping the incumbent full backs.

Red Actions match day banner

A bright start from the Arsenal saw Welbeck almost run onto a through ball successfully and bear down on goal.

The gulf in class between the number 2 premier league side and one from the lower reaches of the Championship began to show as Arsenal applied steady pressure and the Royals back line began to creak.

Gunners turn the screw

While Santi appeared to be having one of his less effective games the Arsenal midfield was palpably of higher quality than their Berkshire opponents with Özzy pulling the strings nicely for Alexis to rampage upfield with the only worry in team play were a few clangers from Gibbs, who was understandably ring rusty.

That aside the first half hour saw Arsenal retain and dominate possession to the extent that the Reading goal’s charmed life finally ran out of luck when a blur of speed from Alexis in the penalty box, after an exquisite floated pass from Özzy resulted in Arsenal taking the lead.

Alexis scores

Thus Arsenal score first and therefore the Gooners at Wembley could relax over half time.

The second half started with as little lethargy from Arsenal and the worrying aspect of both fullbacks deciding to maraud forward at inopportune moments – one such lapse forced Chesney into a poor clearance from a scuffed back pass which led to a throw in. From this throw in down our right came a lofted cross to the other side of the goalkeepers box where Gibbs failed to track Reading’s McCleary who slid in to volley an equaliser.

This woke the blue and white hordes – who to the casual observer would think purchased their home shirts from the English equivalent of a slightly up market Walmart, namely Waitrose – from their first half slumbers.

It was at this point the notion of changing 3 components of your back 5 from the start (which became 4 when the BFG was subbed off for Gabriel) would affect your defensive stability hit home.

Arsenal regrouped and carried on pushing forward and once Olly Giroud was brought on the Reading goal was under more and more threat. Olly’s first intervention was to win a clearance and get a free kick, although Welbeck worked hard he is still not at the polished level of our number 12 just yet.

Frustratingly a combination of the post/crossbar and some great saves by Federeci consigned the semi final to extra time which seemed to suit Arsenal more as our more potent attack would surely penetrate the opposition goal.

As the first half of extra time drew to a close wave after wave of shots and attacks were fruitless when, quite unexpectedly, yet another surging run from Alexis caught the Wembley crowd out.

From where I sat it seemed Alexis had run into a dead end with his back to me as he charged forward yet he turned around and wheeled in celebration. I looked to my fellow Gooners on either side of me, all of us unsure as to whether he had scored or not.

A pause and seconds later, it seemed Alexis had scored so we could celebrate going ahead, at a morale sapping (for the opposition) point – the last moments of the first half of extra time.

Now the Alexis’ chant, a choice which won’t please all I suspect, went up:

Alexis, Alexis babbbyyy

Alexis, Alexis , wooo-ow-oh-oh !

(to the tune of the chorus of “Don’t you want me” by Human League)

The second half of extra time had the supporters cursing our cavalier defending and Reading had quite a few big chances to score, which only a combination of their lack of quality forwards and luck prevented a second equaliser.

The openness of the game meant Arsenal should really have scored a third, with Theo Walcott providing late attacking impetus, however the long suffering Gooner nation were spared another FA Cup semi-final penalty shoot out as the whistle blew and we could look forward to returning to Wembley for the final.

Relieved Arsenal at full time

Final thoughts – we need to play better than we did today at the final if we want to retain the trophy but we every chance to regain our defensive shape until the final but I suspect the choice of goalkeeper may not be an easy one to make as Chesney didn’t inspire confidence today.

Still we are in the final and more silverware beckons while the season is still rising to a decent climax.


By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)