Category Archives: Arsenal

Do you need a 30+ goal scorer to win the League?

- The Golden Boot winner has won 9 of 22 Premier League titles (Shearer, Yorke, Henry, van Nist, Henry, Ronaldo, Drogba, Berbatov, van Persie)
- There have been 9 players who have scored 30+ goals in the Premier League (in 95 Cole and Shearer both scored 30+) and only 3 have won the League (Shearer, Henry, Ronaldo) in 22 years
- There have been 6 players who have won the League and scored 25 or more goals
- The average goals scored for the leading goal scorer on the League winning club for all 22 Premier League seasons is 21 goals
- The average goals scored for the leading goal scorer on the League winning club since 2005 (the “post-Abramovich era”) is 21 goals
- The average goals scored for the leading goal scorer on the League winning club since 2011 (the “Shekhigarchy era”) is 22 goals
- Cantona once won the League scoring just 14 goals. A low water mark which was only lowered by Lampard in Chelsea’s rampant 90 point season when he scored just 13 goals to lead Chelsea
- Lampard is one of two midfielders to lead their team’s goal scoring efforts and win the League, Lampard did it twice, Yaya Toure did it last year with 20 goals
- Drogba is often associated with Chelsea rampant yet he only won the Golden boot once, the season he scored 29 goals
- Do you need a 25-30 goal scoring forward? It’s nice to have one but I don’t see any evidence that proves a team must have a dominant striker. In fact, having a goal scoring center mid, like Arsenal have with Aaron Ramsey, is just as likely to win the League as having a 30+ goal scorer.
- What the evidence shows is that you need a good team to win the League

Golden Boot

Chambers2

Would the non-divisive Arsenal player please stand up?

We often hear about how a certain player is divisive. His relative talents left in the trash heap of history and his relative faults brought out and polished for some blogger to earn a few bucks off clicks. But the truth is that I can’t think of a single player at Arsenal who doesn’t divide opinion right now. Even venerated players like Thierry Henry get put under the microscope and examined by Arsenal fans eager to find fault with the gods of the game.

Why? There’s not really one reason. With 60,000 Arsenal bloggers and twice as many people on twitter who want to make you aware of their opinion there is a rush to be the first with some “insight”. This often leads to hyperbolic criticism of players after one or two poor matches, or even a poor first half. But there are also just some people who are always going to be harshly critical (and harshly optimistic!) of everything and call it “being realistic” or folks who just want Arsenal to buy all the players at every other team. Whatever the reason, we all know that they are there and what they have to say but let’s look a little closer at some recent criticisms.

Alexis Sanchez

Removed at half-time against Everton and already some folks are questioning whether he was worth the money Arsenal paid for him. Wenger linked his current fitness levels to his confidence but I’m not entirely convinced it was a fitness issue. Against Everton, Alexis made runs which had the local commentators gushing but Arsenal struggled to get him the ball: he only received 17 total passes in 45 minutes and only one pass in the 18 yard box, on the edge of the box, hardly a dangerous position.

Meanwhile, Giroud’s first touch was a big diagonal placed a yard away from goal and from there almost all of his passes received were in and around the box. He received just 18 passes himself, hardly setting the world on fire.

I suspect that more than lack of fitness was a lack of understanding. Arsenal and Alexis seem just a step off at the moment. When Ramsey expects Alexis to zig, he zags. While Giroud has two seasons at Arsenal and his movements are now predictable to his teammates. I’m not at all worried about Alexis Sanchez and his ability to fit in at Arsenal. He’s a fantastic footballer, with a great first touch, the ability to take on defenders, and who will shine once he learns his teammates.

Giroud

It doesn’t get much more divisive than opinion on the big Frenchman. He’s wasteful. His first shot against Everton should have been a goal. Sometimes seems more comfortable trying a cutsey little flick pass than a basic 5 yard square ball. Unable to face up to an opponent and take him on.

But he’s also big and strong and willing to put in a shift against meaty defenders as Arsenal’s version of Kevin Cyril Davies and yet still score 16-20 goals in a season. Industrious player who can pluck a ball out of the sky with his foot like it’s cotton candy, who wins headers in the middle of the park, and who holds the ball up so well that he has to be credited at least partially for Ramsey’s scoring renaissance.

Ramsey

Before last season was completely written off by many Arsenal fans. The same fans who are writing off Wilshere now. Some of the criticism was warranted, he had an annoying tendency to hold on to the ball too much and that resulted in numerous turnovers.

But his workrate and the fact that he never shied away from the ball saved him. He’s Arsenal’s leading passer, leading tackler, and now he’s a goal scoring midfielder who wins games with his late runs in the box. Cited by Wenger as the main reason why Arsenal didn’t buy Cesc Fabregas.

Wilshere

This 22 year old central midfielder is Arsenal’s new enfant terrible and judging by the heap of articles in the British press this morning, his young career is over. Has an annoying habit of holding on to the ball too much and trying to dribble too much. Often caught in possession and targeted by opposition midfielders for tackles (leads Arsenal in fouls drawn, and those are just the ones the officials call). He was even tackled (harshly, I thought) by Thierry Henry in the friendly against the Red Bulls. Perhaps Henry was trying to say “son, you dribble too much, pass the ball.”

But he’s only 22 years old and he’s had a career plagued with injuries. Hasn’t started more than 20 League games for Arsenal since his breakout season, 2010/2011 — when he was just 19 years old. He has to learn to pass and move rather than trying to dribble the entire opposition team. And defensively he needs to learn better positioning and tackling. The talent is there, though, and like Ramsey before him I expect Wilshere to shine this season.

Podolski, Özil, Sanogo, Arteta… I could keep going

You already know the criticisms of these players. Podolski is lazy, Özil is nicking a living, Sanogo is not Mario Ballotelli, Arteta isn’t beast, etc. But rather than break down every player let’s end with some positives.

Per Mertesacker: who has anything bad to say about Per? A gentle giant, makes Arsenal’s set play defense better simply with his presence. Organizes the defense and a natural leader on the pitch.

Laurent Koscielny: (to the tune of Crazy by Willie Nelson) I’m crazy… I’m crazy for Laurent Koscielny… I’m crazy for Laurent’s kung fu. I knew, Koscielny won’t leave me like van Persie. Or Cashley, who left me for somebody blue. Worry? Why do I let myself worry? Wondering, what we would do without you? I’m crazy… for thinking that red card could hold you. I’m crazy… for crying. I’m crazy for buying. I’m crazy for loving you. (special thanks to Brian from 11 Cannons for collaborating on this).

Calum Chambers: I feel sad for Chambers. Koscielny and Mertesacker are both going to be healthy soon and he’s going to be put back on the bench and left to fight his way back into first team contention either as a center back, a right back, or in his eventual position as defensive midfielder. He’s made a few mistakes but the fact that he’s been universally praised by all across England, with many hoping for an England call-up, is as positive a review as possible for a 19 year old. Really, just perfect. The same way that everyone praised Jack Wilshere when he was 19 and begged him to be selected for the national team. Oh wait…

Have your say below. Are there players beyond reproach for you? Ones you feel you need to defend?

Qq

Wenger-microphones

Footballistically Speaking: volume 1, Everton v. Arsenal

We have to face the inevitable. One day we are going to be sitting in our living room watching some corporate Arsenal manager give an anodyne press conference and suddenly a wave of homesickness will wash over us and we will realize that we deeply miss the old man, Arsene Wenger.

In nearly two decades at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger has given over 1000 pre-match press conferences and countless other interviews where he has been variously frank, hilarious, confrontational, controversial, slippery, and (most importantly) deeply introspective about football and even about the meaning of life itself.

In this modern age I’m convinced that attention is our most valuable remaining commodity. To give your attention is to give a part of yourself. And in his time at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger has given so much of himself.

I don’t mean that he has given just on the training pitch, nor just in the matches, but in every one of his countless interviews, Arsene Wenger has given us a piece of himself. He has exposed his philosophy about football and about what it means to work and live in the modern era. In a time drenched in cliches, and handlers pushing celebrities on the public with the same screen tested stories, redolent with mendacity, Arsene Wenger has remained a beacon of authenticity.

Because he has given us so much of himself I felt it my duty to give him something back. A weekly column where I give you a Wenger quote, and not just the typical stuff, is my way of giving back to Arsene.

This week’s quote is also the title of the column¹ and contains one of Arsene’s most famous words, footballistically. 

Allez-Arsenal

 

First, a note about the photo used to deliver the quote. That comes from my first trip to Arsenal, back in 2006. This photo has always held a special place for me because the graffiti marries the Frenchness of Arsene with the Englishness of the old Chapman crest. Here we have the new and the old, scratched into some fresh cement, indelibly written in the concrete just yards from Highbury.

As for the quote, we see people mocking Wenger for using “footballistically” all the time but few remember where the word actually came from.

April 2004, Newcastle v. Arsenal. Arsenal are held to a scoreless draw on a Newcastle pitch more suited to cattle grazing than football. It was an important match for a number of reasons: Arsenal are in the midst of a tight title race (which they would win) and in the midst of a what would be Arsene Wenger’s most famous season as manager, the Invincibles.

The word itself takes “football” turns it into an adjective “footballistic” and then into an adverb, “footballistically” meaning “with regard to football”. This may seem like a new word but as a letter writer² pointed out to the Guardian two days after Wenger loosed the phrase upon us, it has a Spanish equivalent “futbolisticamente”. So, perhaps our polyglot manager was simply translating a word he’d heard used in another language?

The word “Footballistically” is the main point most people focus on when reading that quote but read it again: he’s lauding his team’s mental strength. Their ability to stay focused despite the obstacles like the pitch or the referees and to try to claw something out of the game.

It’s an attribute Wenger holds in high regard in his players. Men who crumble easily have little place in the Wenger system. He gives his men the freedom to play the way that they want but simultaneously calls on his players to stand up and take account of themselves.

No Arsene team has done that as well as the Invincibles. However, today’s result (2-2 draw away to Everton), showed that this current incarnation of Arsenal share at least some of that willingness to fight and scrap for points: overcoming a terrible referee decision and a horrible first half of football to scratch out a 2-2 draw.

Footballistically it was a terrible match but despite their technical failings the boys showed some great mental strength to stay in the game and nearly pip all three points at the end.

Wenger, no doubt, approves.

Qq

¹Thanks to my friend Brian who runs 11 Cannons for the suggestion.
²Little known fact, people used to have to write letters to newspapers in order to have their opinions heard. In those days, only the best comments were published. It was a glorious era for the exchange of ideas, much unlike now.