Category Archives: Grimbo

Grim Thoughts: Share Wars – The Return of the Judas…

I think it’s fair to say that being a Gooner these last few years has been pretty hard. Yesterday we found out that a player that claimed to be one of us was in fact not. He wasn’t just a typical modern professional football player (aka money grabbing douchebag) either – but instead was the worst complete and utter Judas, since… well… Judas Iscariot, and not at all who we thought he was. I moped around like a child that had just found out that Santa Claus wasn’t real while all around me celebrated the USA’s birthday on Weds. Whilst in this fog I kept asking why, analysing the statement itself and how it could possibly be his attempt to help Arsenal and not just the hefty kick in the bollocks that it actually is. Surely, not the same “No. 1 Fan” Robin that I thought I knew… not the same guy that said just a few years ago that he loved the Arsenal way. Then a sort of epiphany hit me. I didn’t actually know Robin van Persie – how could I, how could any of us? Modern media has given us this collective delusion that just because we see lots of pictures, watch them play and read bits & pieces, interviews and ten second opinions, that we know ANYTHING about these guys. I think this puts it all to bed; we don’t – full stop, period, end of sentence, dot, dot, and dot.

We as fans live within utopian fantasy worlds where our club is the best and everyone else’s is shite – this is the one thing that ALL fans of all teams around the world have in common. We look up to footballers as role models and hero’s despite all the evidence to the contrary: the whoring, the endless partying, flippant wrecking of extravagant cars/houses that normal fans could not afford  in their wildest dreams and inability to stay loyal to some of the most gorgeous women on the earth. In short the majority feel they are untouchable, by law, by rules or morals. Footballers are just like any other person with means who is in the spotlight; they either believe their own hype and become egomaniacs or find some way to be grounded and understand that the world is bigger than they are. They are paid ridiculous amounts of money, have their names sung by tens of thousands in stadiums and millions more around the globe, have fans name their kids after them and if they are good enough and show no disrespect to the club that allowed them to become this hero – they become the stuff of legend. As I’ve said before though, I do believe that word ‘legend’ is banded about all too often in the 24/7 media-machine era. In the last 20 years Arsenal has produced a handful of real legends, those that showed the proper respect to the institution that is Arsenal FC and to us the fans. You should know who they are and these are the players that those who claim to wish to join such an exulted group should emulate. So please stop calling a player, ANY player, a legend after a single season.

I’ve read the Persie-gate statement far too many times for my health and all I see is cynical PR bollocks angled to stop us holding him to his contract as a childish response to a personal disagreement – most likely more with Gazidis then Wenger (hence that bitchy little finish about holiday), but certainly a fundamental disagreement over something. The fact is that we’ll never know exactly what this disagreement is until one day one of the parties writes an autobiography and spills the beans, until then all the speculation in the world will not give us any insight into what actually happened. Maybe RvP wanted more money, maybe he was unhappy with the way the club was run, maybe he wanted the club to buy Affelay, maybe he truly is upset about his and our empty trophy cabinet and didn’t believe in our abilities (stupid after so many close calls, but there you go), but surely he must have realised the media feeding frenzy he was about to unleash upon US, those he claimed to love, with his words that seem designed to disrupt the whole club for the summer and provide the gutter press with enough material to wank and throw shit over to put entire troops of chimpanzees to shame. However, it does strike me that to focus on these issues is to miss a crucial point: RvP, superstar player though he is, is merely an employee of the club and the very idea that a player ‘doesn’t like the direction the club is going’ is fucking absurd. That’s like the Human Resources VP in a bank walking up to the CEO and Board of Directors and saying the same thing – it’s always going to get the same response – fuck, right, off! Possibly followed by; who the FUCK do you think you are?

RvP is/was an Arsenal FC player; he is/was one of a squad of twenty five and although Captain of the team that’s where his organisational powers stop. He has no coaching badges, he does not have the title Manager anywhere in his job description, he has never run a club, never managed a club. He is not privy to all the workings or dealings of the club and nor should he be for how does an army function if every Sergeant thinks they can hash it out with the General? The problem is that he did have a voice in the team, and obviously thinks it should count for more than it does. If/when he goes he’s in for a shock. He’s first on the team sheet for Arsenal and has sway because the team is formed around him as the fulcrum point, he’s never been as effective for Holland because they are a team of ego’s without a fulcrum or focus point – just ten outfield players all thinking they are ‘the one’ – this is evident by their almost complete inability to score goals at the Euro’s despite a team sheet that ANY team in the world would drool over. He will have no such voice in whatever team he rolls into because they already HAVE their team hierarchy –he’ll be the new kid at school again. His statement is nothing short of an abuse of power and should be viewed as such and dismissed just as quickly.

I honestly don’t know if this is about money (although sadly it looks like it probably is), his want for silverware in his private cabinet or what, but one thing is for sure by not co-ordinating with the club in his statement, by not dealing with his wished for exit in a dignified manner and by going public and starting the biggest shitstorm in recent history he’s destroyed his public image as a figurehead. Whatever club he goes too and regardless of the status he elevates himself to while there, this massive shit-stain will always skid up his back, up from his arse-crack all the way to the name on the back of whatever jersey he wears. He has made a mockery not just of his own words in the last three years, but of those of his father, his wife, his mentor, his teammates and all of us that thought he could be the second coming of the Dutch No. 10 God (blasphemous thoughts I know, Bergkamp forgive me), in short he could not handle the weight of the dignified and mighty Dutch No. 10 he proclaimed to follow. He has tarnished all the hard work of last season where he was our leader, our inspiration and chief dig-us-out-of-a-holer – now he’s just another example of the modern player, one that thinks it’s all about him and not the team. Well – without the Arsenal express supply line, let’s see if you can score 30 next year – Henry couldn’t once he stopped being the focal point, despite being at the Barca pass-pass-pass machine and he IS a REAL. Fucking. Legend!

One thing this is not about is ambition, plain and simple. Two of Europe’s top strikers just joined the club; we’ve been connected with many others, have shaken up the back room staff and are one of the only clubs in Europe to have spent 15 years in the Champions League, we were and I believe are poised to make a title charge with all of the anger, hurt and shitty bad luck that we’ve had since 2005 the constant back stabbing of players giving their all for ONE ‘shop window’ season (Flamoney, PHleb, Adeybackdoor, Na$ri, RvP) and then agitating for a move – all of this has created a siege mentality. We’ve been a hairs breadth (and a sulking exCaptain) away from winning the title on more than one occasion since we last won a trophy, fate and in no small part RvP’s own injury record have screwed us more than once but it has NOTHING to do with ‘ambition.’ Seemingly everyone in the world loves seeing us fail, seeing AW’s pitch artistry collapse so they can point at Arsenal and say “See, we told you it wouldn’t work” followed by laughter and derision. Wenger wants to build on last season’s remarkable turn-around performance as he has the makings of a great team, spirit, grit, fight. It’s all there to see. The idea after last season’s terrible start that we’d make third and return to the Champions league, Tonk our local rivals and whip the most expensive team in the league was just absurd and it’s not been highlighted enough that with a team put together in a very hurried manner after a double stab in the back and despite losing ALL OUR FULLBACKS for a month, missing a crucial player like Jack all year and a cavalcade of injuries, bad luck calls and the constant speculation over our players. Despite all of this, everything that tried to pull us back, Arsenal still made the champions league AGAIN and got to laugh at Spurs AGAIN. No – this is not about ambition for ambition does not guarantee silverwear, this is about how you go about that because RvP’s own actions damage the very same ambition he claims does not exist. You don’t look at someone pitting a Ferrari against a M3 and say “oooo that’s ambitious!” – go read a fucking dictionary.

As predictably as night follows day Alisher Usmanov pops as he does whenever there’s any negative news with an open letter to the board conveniently ‘leaked’ to the press, in a similar manner that ketchup is ‘leaked’ onto a Fish & Chip Dinner.  His transparent aim is to rub even more salt into the wounds being collectively licked by supporters that are sick and tired of betrayal. Claiming to care about the stability of the club while simultaneously throwing disarray into the supporters is the sort of Irony that deserves nothing less than capitalisation, italics AND underlining as it’s just so asinine. The fact that only the sensible heads at blog sites such as Arseblog, our own Tim the Enchanter and other sensible minds out there have pointed out the polarising effect that Jabba’s statement claims to be against was of course designed to instead instigate. Wow hasn’t it been successful? It is cuntery of the highest order and is nothing but a power grab while we’re all supposedly blindsided by another hero turning out to be a zero, it’s funny how one letter can change a word to its polar opposite just as a simple statement can change the opinion of a player in complete parallel. I’d have to applaud the beauty of the play if it wasn’t just so spiteful. I’ve already unfollowed a ton of people on Twitter who think Jabba is a messiah; I don’t have time for the simple minded thinking that would believe his statement verbatim without cognizant thought or discussion beforehand. If he really wanted the club for ‘generations’ and was the Abramovich/Sheikh Mansour figure so many have wet dreams about why hasn’t he made Kronke an offer he can’t refuse? He certainly has the money – that’s what those sort of people do; Abramovich wouldn’t blink. It’s not like he’s poor, he made some $1bn odd (do not quote me) from his Facebook investment when they went IPO and he’s claimed to be worth 18 billion quid (30 odd billion bucks). No – he wants to get the club for the least amount that he can and while that’s certainly fiscally prudent, that’s not the M. O. of the great benefactor he paints himself to be, it’s that of an investor. Think of Torres for 50 million squid, Hazard for 32, bankrolling the club for 9 years at a loss etc. you know who I’m talking about. Love him or hate him he buys what he wants without looking at the price tag, fires managers for daring question him and runs Chel$ki like a Tsar of old. I’m not even saying that Jabba wouldn’t be a better owner then Kronke, only time, circumstance and outcome could decide that, I’m merely pointing out that he’s not the man he’s painting himself to be and that should worry anyone that buys into his crap. Maybe Kronke is not either but he’s far less shady the Jabba –  read up on his background yourself while you still can because he has an army of lawyers out there silencing all dissenters in the finest traditions of dictatorships throughout history. The crux of my point here is really a message to fellow Gooners, we as a club need to act differently. Jabba or Silent Hill Stan… makes no difference; neither is going to plough their own cash into the club and buy us any titles so we have to put up with what we have.

You might read the above and find it hard to find any optimism in all that’s been said before… but history teaches us that within every challenge lies the seed of opportunity. How we act is the question, and while I’m not a big fan of Baseball here in the US (sorry – it’s there with Cricket in the snooze section of my head), I am a big fan of a book/movie called Moneyball. If you don’t know of it, the story looks at the radical approach that a Baseball club called the Oakland Athletics took to player recruitment in the early 2000’s against all the odds and flying completely in the face of opinion of the time. They like us were successful but year upon year had their best players poached by richer clubs and so at great risk the General Manager; Billy Bean, they took a punt on a different way of thinking. The focus was removed from star players and placed on the team’s performance and analytics; cost per run, on base performance etc. It’s not players but runs that win games (I’m radically oversimplifying here before any Moneyball fans rip me a new one). Using a system called Sabermetrics they used analytical techniques unheard of to build a team of undervalued talent that claimed an American League record for an undefeated run of 20 games on a team salary one third of the well known NY Yankees. The approach was quickly picked up by other teams and it changed the game forever. Before there’s any riots, I’m not suggesting this is emulated in Football, but I am trying to say that there’s always another way… regardless of which investor owns our great club, I cannot see either dumping their own cash into it. One plays the sustainable card; the other seemingly wants to dilute the share base to release funds.  Neither is a show-off of Abramovich proportions so however the Share Wars turns out we will not compete mano-e-mano with Citeh or Chel$ki.

On the Robin van Perse situation, personally I think Wenger needs to get RvP out of the changing room asap. He is an influential figure and you don’t want him polluting the dressing room any more then he already has. Flog him for whatever we can get to someone other than a UK team and let him fill his cabinet with hollow tin cups, for trophies represent nothing if not the toil to achieve then no? Even if we take a hit, I would not sell him to Shitty, yes TOTALLY out of spite, they tapped him up and have had plenty of our players, so fuck off. Put Walcott’s contract in front of him – tell him he can fill RvP’s void if he wants too, but sign it or put him on the market too. Sorry to be like that, I like Walcott but I think we have to be ruthless and show everyone at the club that you are in or out – no more fucking ‘let’s see how the season progresses’ shit. THAT play is done. Anyone else that’s vital to the team needs to sign up now or fuck off, plain and simple. Look for a LEADER who will not think he’s above Wenger and give him the Captains armband. Promote a couple of players to the first team that deserve it (my picks are Ryo and LeCouq), hope that Jack & the Bacman are fit and get the new boys settled and maybe bring on one or two more players. RvP was the last of the players that were around during the Invincibles, this is time for a new team to shine and it’s our job to back them considering the circumstances. We have a record of someone standing up when a star leaves; I feel this situation will be no different, the tall tree falling allows for younger more ambitious trees to grow in its place.

We are Arsenal! This club is famous for walking a different path, for moulding stars and being ridiculed for not ‘splashing the cash.’ For not being a fucking Clone and and doing what other clubs do, for innovating and invigorating the game. Citeh looked at Chel$ki and saw that the league was for sale, copied their model verbatim dumped in an obscene amount of cash and achieved the same result. That’s not a challenge, that’s not ambitious. That’s cynical. Ambition is born from doing something not done before, not copying a successful model and proving it works. Contrary to what old football commentators have said the richest clubs are generally the most successful, it’s not new – Madrid & ManUre have been doing it for years and Liverpool before them. All Shitty have proven is that now it’s more expensive than ever to buy the Premier League. Football is a game of inches: A goal vs. a goalpost. A missed pass in a Carling Cup final. A keeper’s bad judgement in a CL Final. A referee bending to crowd whistles at their home ground. A morally destructive broken leg. Success is the ability of going from one failure to the next with no loss of enthusiasm, not quitting when it gets tough. If RvP wants success so badly he needs it bought for him, instead of earning it history will step over his achievements of last year like the dog shit it has become and he’ll be added to the list of ‘could have been’ players in the Arsenal lexicon. There’ll be no statue and no memories of glory goals which is sad, but his is by far the worst betrayal of all those who went before him in trying to sully the name of Arsenal FC. His goals will remain available for sure on youtube, but he will never be mentioned in the same breath as Bergkamp, Henry or Adams.

It’s US that decide who is worth the label legend and who is not; all players, managers and owners would do to remember that – Arsenal is not merely a collection of players, not a stadium, not even a historical monument. It’s a way of thinking; it’s about reinventing the game and playing to our methods not others. I’m immensely proud of all that’s occurred during our xyearswithoutatrophy – for the way the club picks itself up and fights on despite every obstacle thrown at us. These things make us what we are and if we can provide Victoria Concordia Crescit, will that not be worth it?


Grim Thoughts: Divining the Future of Football part 4; To insanity – and beyond!

New ideas pass through three periods: 1) It can’t be done. 2) It probably can be done, but it’s not worth doing. 3) I knew it was a good idea all along! – Arthur C. Clarke

I’ve been inspired to write this multi-part series by many a twitterfight with fellow fans that are in my opinion not looking at the whole Arsenal vs. the world in the wrong light – we need to look at Arsenal’s place in the future as well as in the here & now. If you haven’t read the first three pieces then please click herehere and here as what’s to follow will make much more sense with the correct backdrop. Again I’d like to reiterate that I’m not here to argue about whether any of this is good or bad, nor is anything I’m saying to be used as a Wenger we trust/rust argument – I am simply stating the facts in a timeline as I see them and understand them. Now with that as a backdrop let me get a few things out of the way so that I may write clearly for the rest of this piece: OK so Na$ri won a trophy first – he’s still a cunt.

I have to say this is the bit I’ve been really looking forward too because I can use all the wackiness of my work persona and transfer it to football. This is where I get to have little fun, because I have a window into tech stuff that’s going to change the world… seriously. The Internet of everything, embedded systems, cyberism, augmentation, social separatists, human evolution itself. Have any of you heard of the singularity? Homo-evolutis?  If you’re vaguely interested in the topic then take a look at this excellent TED presentation (Technology Entertainment Design) as it goes further into the driving forces behind these developments then I’m going to, anyone that doesn’t want to nerd out then don’t (it’s 18 mins long), I’m going to try and give you an overview here and relate it to the beautiful game.

We’re in control of evolution now.

As anyone that’s been to an old building somewhere in Europe, China, India or any of the ancient civilisations knows, humans are getting bigger in general. Go to the Tower of London and try to walk through the doors without nailing your face on a lintel. Modern technology, medicine and knowledge are all allowing us to live longer and more completely and modern dietary habits are having other side effects such as obesity as we have more time to spend, well…eating. The point is that whatever your views on Science & Technology, they’re changing everything you see, touch and interact with and you cannot stop it, it’s happening now, all around the world and it’s happening FAST. Kind of stupid to say seeing as you’re reading this courtesy the interwebs which is mankind’s latest toy, but it needed to be said. OK – with that as a baseline; what’s next?

Handicap or augmentation?

The interesting thing about this particular path of thought is about the convergence of medical technologies, processing power and artificial intelligence. You’ve seen those Para Olympic athletes, you know the runners with those carbon fibre blades as feet right? Well as you’re probably aware technological systems (think smart phones, computers, etc.) evolve at a far greater rate than biological systems (you, me, the cat, etc.) are able to. So, the runner we mention will continue to have his blade technology upgraded, improved upon and eventually, inevitably his ‘handicap’ will stop being a ‘disability’ and will become an ‘augmented ability’; he will surpass the abilities of the best athletes and note that I’m not saying ‘maybe’ this is a certainty, it’s not if; it’s when. Sooner or later, we will see this happen. Look at an ACL injury in football: 30-40 years ago that was career ending, now it’s a relative annoyance lasting 9 months! THAT IS MASSIVE. Frimpong has done BOTH ACL’s! This was an unheard of injury in the 70’s/80’s, because if you fucked one that was it, game over. Now add that medical know how to solid state technologies (chips, memory, processing, sensors etc.) and you get the Six Million Dollar Man… Well not quite yet, but you are getting people having ELECTIVE surgery to have smart prosthetics take their place – take a look at this 10 min story. Now to put this in context, think of your cell phone today, be it iDrone, Undroid or Crackberry then try to imagine it’s predecessor of 20 years ago, it looked like a brick with an antenna. No voicemail, no texting, no cameras, no games, social networking, internet etc. Simply put it was a phone and only a phone. Your phone now is way more than just a phone; it is more powerful by several orders of magnitude then all the computing power it took to get man to the moon. Now that you have this as point of reference, add that same technological evolution to things like prosthetic arms, blade feet/prosthetics, artificial hearts, brain implants etc. and you might get the drift of where I’m going with this.

From Super-athletes to Cyber-athletes

There was an excellent Puma commercial not too long ago where all these superstars had their torso’s superimposed to robotic kangaroo looking legs. This to me was actually fairly prophetic, in actual fact the date in the ad of 2178 is too far out in my opinion. I could see this happening by 2050. You see we already have hip replacements, knee replacements, we insert metal plates and screws to support broken or weakened bones when does this sort of thing stop being a liability and become an advantage? Then what happens? When one player has the advantage and another ‘natural’ player does not? Sounds like science fiction right? Well so was the self driving car until Google’s self drive got its driving licence earlier this year. Technology and its impact on sports is frightening, because its impact on society at large is frightening. We will face many challenges adapting to this new reality because whereas there are of course advantages such as the potential to completely banish things like paralysis, they ask moral questions of us all. There are already exoskeleton legs that can help people walk again after losing the use of their legs and that isn’t shit compared to what the military have  and bear in mind, anything you see on the web like this is probably old tat compared to what they have behind closed doors. This is just the hardware, as I’ve mentioned before this is not to mention the medical advances. Anyone that watched Muamba collapse a few months back can’t help but be amazed he’s still alive now thanks to some quick thinking medical assistance, but it’s shocking to think they are looking at ways of getting him playing again! He was clinically dead for what, 78 minutes? I’ve read they want to implant a defibrillator, you know a miniaturised version of the big paddles they use in hospitals; so if he has a heart attack while playing again, he can instantly get zapped. That’s fucking unbelievable! The fact that more people aren’t completely gobsmacked by this is testament to the fact that we are all so used to the ‘miracles’ of modern technologies that they’ve become a bit ‘meh’. Look at Abidal at Barca; it’s already amazing that he’s been playing again after his cancer treatment, but now he’s going in for a liver transplant and already there’s talk of him playing after that. That’s heading distinctly Dagenham! 

So what do these amazing advances mean for the game? Well at the moment no one would call a heart pace-maker or embedded defibrillator an augmentation, they are helping people to avoid a repeat of a heart attack. However it’s not beyond the realms of thinking that one day soon they could replace the heart altogether. At first this would be a disadvantage because you’d need to carry a big battery with you, although obviously it’d be better than the alternative (pushing up daisies), but again looking at the cell phone analogy and taking that trend of shrinking in size & explosion of functionality as the rule of thumb – inside 20 years an artificial heart will be able to pump blood around the body better then a human one. Then you face tough questions: Does this person have an advantage? What if they can pump blood to muscles at twice the efficiency and not get tired? If so is it fair that he/she play against un-modified players? These are real questions that will split opinions the same way that performance enhancing drugs do today – steroids; pah! How about a genetically modified type of stomach bacteria that can metabolise calories twice as fast, or some kind of embedded lactic acid buffer? Artificial lungs with twice the oxygen/nitrogen capacity? Before the robo-legs thing is even a concern we’ll have to deal with this sort of technology.

Watching the game.

Anyone that’s been to a match knows that watching it on TV is a completely different experience to being at the ground; however with 3D TV’s and numerous cameras springing up this experience is bound to change radically. There are numerous GPS, biometric systems and miniaturised camera systems already available and while presently they are bulky and not really usable in match conditions, again using the exponential nature of technology this will not remain the same for long. So what am I suggesting here? Well already in sports like motor-racing and the like you have info-graphics on fuel, systems, and other information of that nature. Any F1 fans will have seen the KERS/DRS (kinetic energy recovery system/drag reduction system) graphics that give the viewer a little more insight into what the drivers are doing, the in-cockpit and new ‘helmet’ cams give us a new appreciation for the drivers skills and how much hard work it is to control a car weighing a few hundred kilos with 800bhp on tap (plus squirts of 80bhp with KERS). Watching a 160mph powerslide is freakish in slow motion but only takes a millisecond of real time. In the USA where the game called football is played by 300lb monsters ‘soccer’ is seen as a bit of a sissy sport, one just for girls. That changed radically at the last World Cup with all the super-slow-motion footage of ankles folding in half, of guys getting flipped over, flying elbows in the faces & heads clashing. Suddenly many stopped thinking of it as sissy and started taking it more seriously from the physical perspective. The way the game is portrayed on TV effects how people perceive the game itself.

So how does this equate to future football coverage? Well, think of the FIFA console/computer games. You know those ‘life meters’ that the players have over their heads? Well there’s no reason to think that in 20+ years the technologies to measure; heart rate, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, endorphins, brain activity etc. would be small enough to be injected in to a player’s bloodstream and could wirelessly transmit this data to our TV screens. Not good enough? Well how about player-cam? No, not a camera that follows the player; a bionic eye implant or contact lens that transmits pictures from their perspective allowing you to see what Robin sees as he smashes another amazing shot past a hapless goalkeeper. Think I’m bullshitting? Watch this – it’s already a reality.  These technologies will change the way we watch, talk about and even think about the game. Discussions about ‘lazy’ players could become discussions about ‘not as fit’ players, or that they had a piss up the night before and buggered up their blood chemistry. Or how about; “it’s amazing that X player managed to run 70 yards when his blood-sugar was down to 95mg/dL! wOOt!!” Player Medicals would radically alter with everything being known from a genetic level, you could sequence a players genome and know at what age they’re going to slow down… how their bones will mature, if they will have illnesses etc. What effect would that have on the transfer market, player values, players careers?

It all sounds mad right? Well futurism is a very difficult topic but everything I’ve written about above is either in research phase or early prototype now… this is not science fiction anymore, you and I will see this technological explosion in our lifetime – no, maybe not your jet-pack or your flying car – instead how about a robotic body with your brain in it? How about when your body dies your personality is ‘saved’ digitally and you can download yourself a-la the Lawnmower man onto the web? It might sound crazy but somewhere out there are men & women making it happen, I have seen a lot of it with my own eyes and it still makes my jaw hit the ground.

Anyone not sufficiently creeped out by the above that wants to know more can send me a message via this site and I’ll send you a reading list.

I hope you enjoyed this trip into my weird world & perspectives on football. It’s been said a few times that I’m not a typical football supporter and whereas that may be a valid theory never fear I’ll be back to my sweary self in the next piece. Until next time…



Grim Thoughts: Divining the Future of Football part 3 – The next twenty years.

The future influences the present just as much as the past. – Friedrich Nietzsche

Gooners; firstly an apology. This third part is late, I wrote the majority ready for release on Saturday and then ATT decided to switch off my interwebs early because I’m moving in a few weeks. Thusly has this been sent from work today as Monday was memorial day here in the USA one of the scant few holidays’ we get here as penance for living in America. I’m pretty sure Tim the Enchanter is going to explode me for ruining his excellent blog, so if the last part fails to appear it’ll be because I’ve disappeared in a puff of smoke.*  I’ve been inspired to write this multi-part series by many a twitterfight with fellow fans that are in my opinion looking at the whole Arsenal vs. the world in the wrong light – we need to look at Arsenal’s place in the future as well as in the here & now. If you haven’t read the first two pieces then please click here for part 1 and here for part 2, as this will make much more sense with the backdrop. I’d like to reiterate that I’m not here to argue about whether any of this is good or bad, nor is anything I’m saying to be used as a Wenger we trust/rust argument – I am simply stating the facts in a timeline as I see them and understand them. Now with that as a backdrop let me get a few things out of the way so that I may write clearly for the rest of this piece: The Stoke fans that booed Aaron Ramsey last season have proven to me the true meaning of the word cunt.

They are off the cuntometer scale; a completely new measure of cuntery needs to be invented because the level of CUNT reached by those fans has grown so immense it’s become a singularity and ripped a hole in the fabric of spacetime itself – a central mass of such irresistible cunt that nothing, not even class, decency or literacy, nothing that we hold dear can escape. I am going to call this Stoke-hole-Syndrome and ask that it be added to the lexicon.

What’s coming?

OK – enough of those shitbags, back to the weird and wonderful world of Football Futurism… Some of the ideas to follow in this part and the one to follow are in my opinion pretty likely, some are inevitable and some are downright just me chucking a dart at a dartboard while blindfolded, drunk and after being spun around a few times. Take them for what they are. I’m going to break it up into near future (the next ten years), mid-term (ten to twenty years) and beyond in the final part which is a bit all star-trek. I’ll try to keep to the general trends of that which I’ve been speaking about already, but if I go a bit of track then you must forgive me because I have a tendency to do things like that… I have a bit of crazy in me when I start thinking about the future. This hopefully will be about the great game itself, the league/s, the audiences, rules, players, clubs and how they are all intertwined. Let us press on.

The near future is the easiest bit because I think the writing’s on the wall already. Players are going to continue to become more important than the clubs they play for as more and more fans (die-hard Gooners may find this hard to stomach) follow more than one club. There is a dilution in the fan base that’s been occurring since TV coverage got bigger and more global, most clubs have something like 70% of their fanbase outside of the country they play in. Here in California you cannot kick a ball in a park without seeing Farca, ManUre or Madrid jerseys, usually with the three great predictable names on the back; Messi, Rooney, Ronaldo. Also take a look on your twitter feed (if you’re on twitter); if you follow anyone not from England then quite often you’ll see split loyalty. “I love FC Club Local AND Arsenal till I die.”

This is a massive switch from when I was a kid. Picking MORE THEN ONE TEAM? We are in an era of what many call ‘plastic fans’ aka casual supporters. I’m personally torn on the good/evil of this because on the one hand my one-club-heart finds the concept abhorrent but on the other it’s impossible to ignore the way the wind is blowing, like it or not. If we live in a democracy (assuming you do if you can read this – too much swearyness for non-free countries methinks), and democracies are supposed to be ruled by majority (apart from all this 1% business of course) then ‘plastic fans’ will rule no? There are far more casual supporters then die-hards – and they outnumber hard core fans maybe 5 or 6 to 1.

Players will call the shots, hold all the cards and are the brands of the future. Look at Edin Hazard; 21, no doubt talented but far from the finished article yet seemingly able, in the public mind at least, to hold clubs to ransom for money he thinks he has already earned. Fans are waiting for him to make a decision with baited breath! WHAT. THE. FUCK?

This is becoming more common as the latest players to come out of France, Brazil, Argentina, Spain etc. all thrive on the speculation surrounding them while their agent’s rub their hands with glee like a cheesy cartoon villain and cackle uncontrollably.

Super League

One of the most interesting aspects I think we’ll begin to see is just how important Europe is to big clubs. Liverpool is the prime example here. For years touted as better then Arsenal (how many times have you seen Liverpool to finish in top four and Arsenal not?) and for years failing to deliver. When they fell out of the top four it began a spiral descent that I can’t see improving any time soon. This is partly down to the financial penalty for falling out of the elite competition and partly because it makes recruitment harder as the best players want to play in the CL; and this is VERY important to remember.

It’s harder than ever to finish in the CL spots in the Premier League, and although we’ve not won anything in blah, blah years AFC’s 15 years unbroken in the competition is truly amazing. However the real importance of being at the big table is that I suspect that within 15 years we will see a new European Super League start up.

There are many pointers towards this super league, one of the biggest being just how much cash the CL generates and one of the soundest ideas in any process of prediction is; follow the money. Where it goes so too will trends. The second pointer is the current predictability of the domestic leagues. Even with the Rich buying leagues, the last 10 years has seen the same names dominating their leagues – in La Liga it’s the usual suspects barring the odd aberration. The Premier League has only been won by 5 clubs since its inception. How about the Bundesliga? Yep – 5 clubs. La Liga? 3. Ligue 1 – 5. Serie A – 3. Eredisivie – 4… Are you getting the picture yet?

You can bet that the clubs would be up for it because the global audience prospects. The players are always going on about playing against the best clubs and it probably gives Platini & those at UEFA a full on boners to think of the money potential. So what am I talking about; a bigger Champions League? Well no, because the CL is NOT a league — it’s a copy of the World Cup format — I mean a League. Top three from each country go in; three relegated from league every year, or something. Obviously it’d be tough because you’d have periods where countries would be particularly dominant and would saturate the league, but I can’t help but see things going in this direction. The domestic leagues would be hacked off for sure, but experiments like the Premier League itself have shown how a super-league could work.

Rising football powers

It’s a common misconception that Football, aka Saaaccccceeerrrr, in the US is non-existent. It is overshadowed by just about every other sport in audience power and revenue generation, but it is growing. You have to see it to believe it though, school fields are saturated with kids playing the game from every age and both sexes. I know this because my Marin League team (the amusingly named West Tam Utd – after Mt Tamilpias in Mill Valley) gets regularly kicked off those same fields. Also the professional game in the US is growing. Major League Soccer (MLS) is probably pretty laughable to most Europeans, but it can be very entertaining, and the fact that it exists at all is testament to those that run the MLS.

In Europe you don’t have; NFL (which dwarfs all of Football in revenue generation), NBA, NHL, MLB etc. All of these major sports compete with each other for audiences. The fact that MLS exists at all while facing this competition for money/attention is amazing.

Ans now MLS is starting to attract numerous players in the ‘twilight’ of their careers. Obviously Beckham’s been plying his trade here, Henry too and there are quite a few others. These help draw in the crowds and give kids something to aim for out of the college system.

You see, college is where football in the USA has fallen down. I play with some very talented guys on my Saturday league team, many of whom played in college to a high level. But when they graduated they had no opportunity of a league system to go into. Now there is one, I think it’s only a matter of time before we see a home grown superstar player. No, not Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey, good players both, but I’m talking about an American Messi/Ronaldo/Zindane/Pele/Maradonna. Someone that’s so much better than everyone else he’ll provide that break out moment. Mark my words, when that happens Football will explode over here, American’s love a winner and there isn’t another country on the planet that can promote a superstar like they can here. This would be the MLS Linsanity moment.  I’d like to suggest that with big players headed to China fairly regularly that something similar is happening out there also but as I know nothing of the game out there I cannot comment on it – anyone that wants to contact us to enlighten me would be welcomed.

Audiences, TV & Technology

The next 10-20 are going to be most shaped by more globalisation, larger audiences and more money but in order to do this it will have to adopt technologies that FIFA/UEFA currently baulk at. I think this will happen with that wrinkly old corrupt fool Septic Bladder finally steps down as he’s been on some sort of crustade to stifle any sort of new technology getting into the game.

As audiences outside of Europe grow so does the shift of influence – again follow the money. By technology I don’t just mean for to help those poor hapless bastards that referee games, I mean how the game is watched, on what, and other such things, I’ll leave augmentation until the next piece. We all know technology can solve all the issues with the amount of cocks ups that the refs currently deal with but there is a real fear that it will allow ads into the game and this is an important point. The NFL was built for TV, every time a play stops they go to an ad break. This is why NFL is so rich. But I think it really does detract from the experience itself.

NFL, aka ‘American Football’ to those not here, is a breathtakingly brutal sport where players are encouraged to kick the snot out of each other. Don’t let the padding fool you, it’s there to allow them to hit harder and two 300lb guys hitting each other at high velocity is cringe worthy in the extreme. The reason it doesn’t catch on outside of America is, I believe, the ad breaks. After almost every play there’s 20-30 seconds of ads, it breaks up concentration and is really annoying. The DVR is changing this, most people I know that don’t go to a bar watch games on DVR-Delay and zip through the commercials. This is technology directly effecting the game because sponsors don’t want to pay a bagillion dollars to be zipped past.

Football must avoid anything like this happening; this is fear of destroying the ‘flow’ that those old farts allure too which is why we still don’t have instant replay in football. Stupid as the phrase ‘instant’ should give it away and it’d be easy for a 4th official to be able to watch the TV and make a decision. Some would STILL be wrong as it’s quite obviously down to interpretation of the rules, but the howlers would be gone and I’m sure there’s something technology can do about linesmen.

How about other technologies? Wearable technologies? As gadgets shrink they offer options that weren’t available before. How about cameras embedded into the turf? A ballcam? Instant computer analysis of trajectories and how hard the balls being hit? Info-nerds like Tim already love this stuff – but new cheap sensing technologies could make the availability of data-points explode.**

The last point to this is how our viewing habits will change. TV is the largest source of income for all clubs these days and this is only going to get bigger in my opinion. If you look at the disparity between Barca/Madrid in the Spanish leagues and the third placed team, you can see the corrupting influence. Barca and Madrid are allowed to negotiate their own TV deals whereas everyone in the Premier League does it via the league. This will change sooner or later and when clubs control their own rights their success or failure on the pitch and consistency will be even more important as will a Global fan base. This is why Arsenal’s efforts to appeal to Asia, Africa and the US are vital to the clubs future. There is a danger to relying on TV money – the interwebs. The internet is begging to take over regular TV, a point most obviously seen with the rise of Smart TV’s. If I wanted to here in the US I could pay $20 a month and watch Fox Soccer on my phone, my tablet or my laptop. I don’t have a Smart TV yet but when I eventually do, why would I then spend the same $20 a month to have the TV channel? This blurring of the lines between TV and Internet will revolutionise the way the game is watched and in doing so revolutionise the money involved. Why do you think the illegal streams we all used to rely on for non-televised games have all been crushed in the last 18 months? Ask yourself this – if there was an Arsenal channel that you could get ALL Arsenal games from Academy to the First Team in all competitions, would you buy it? I would and the first thing to go would be Fox Soccer and they’re irritatingly biased commentary.

This is the way it’s going people… but for the truly weird you must wait until the last piece on this that’s going to speculate on the truly strange.


*Ed. Note: Don’t be ridiculous, I’m no simple enchanter. I am Evil and I have the knowing of many things, even washing machines.
**Ed. Note: you will see an explosion of infographics and data laden analysis next season as several new programs hit the market.