Wenger lifts the FA Cup

How many trophies per season would make you happy?

How have you been since Arsenal crashed out of the League Cup, losing 2-1 to Premier League team Southampton? Did you drink too much that night and wake up the next morning to the sound of your wife dropping frying pans into the sink in the kitchen? Did you carry on drinking into the next day? Do you know why they call it “hair of the dog” instead of “scale of the snake”? Has anyone ever been poisoned by a dog bite? Did you know that drinking to excess causes your liver to work extra hard and as a result it’s unable to properly burn the calories you consume when you inevitably have that drunken fry-up at two in the morning, the drunken fry up that your wife is now noisily tossing into the sink as you mutter “bollocks” and try to get out of bed?

Do you know why the British use “bollocks” to mean that something is both good and bad? And when someone says the phrase “load of bollocks” do you imagine a red wheelbarrow, beside the white chickens, overflowing with cartoon sized bollocks? And why are “dogs bollocks” synonymous with “bees knees”?

Did you see that Tottenham beat Nottingham Forest 3-1 in the League Cup? Did you know that Nottingham Forest is top of the League Championship and that their manager, Stuart Pearce, rested nine of their starters including their star striker Britt Assombolonga for this match and despite that, Forest still took the lead in the game and that Spurs couldn’t score until the 62nd minute?

Can you imagine a manager prioritizing League position over a cup competition? Doesn’t winning breed a winning mentality? Do you know how much it is worth to Forest if they win the League Championship? What if I told you it is worth £120m? Would that make Pearce’s decision to rest nine players understandable? If you were a Forest fan would you rather win promotion to the Premier League or win the League Cup? What if Forest finish fourth but win promotion to the Premier League via a playoff system, would that win be looked upon like a “fourth place trophy?” Which trophy would their fans celebrate more, the League Cup or the “fourth place trophy?”

Do you know the difference between a trophy and an achievement? Would it make sense to you if I described finishing fourth in the Premier League not as a trophy but instead as an achievement? Like when you’re playing a video game and you collect a certain number of points and the game spits out “Champions League Achievement Unlocked!” would you high five your friends if you won that?

And what about Tottenham? Which trophy would their fans most celebrate? If they could have their choice between winning the League Cup or winning fourth place in the Premier League and unlocking a chance to get into the Champions League would they laugh at their manager for getting them into fourth place? Did the Liverpool fans mock their manager for getting them into the Champions League? Did they ridicule him for inculcating a “losing mentality” for getting his team on the cusp of winning the Premier League and then faltering at the last minute? How many trophies has Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers ever won? How many trophies has Tottenham’s manager, Mauricio Pochettino ever won? How many trophies has Arsene Wenger won in the last ten years?

Would your team have an open top bus parade if they won the League Cup? Will any team ever have an open top bus parade for winning the League Cup? Is it because the League Cup isn’t considered a major trophy? Is winning the League Cup a bigger achievement than securing 4th place in the Premier League? Has any team ever spent £200m, like Liverpool and Tottenham have trying to get fourth place in the Premier League, in order to win the League Cup? Or the FA Cup? Have you ever heard the phrase “follow the money?”

If the League Cup isn’t a major trophy and the Charity Shield isn’t considered a major trophy then how many major trophies can a team in the Premier League win in a season? Two? And does that mean that a team could only win three major trophies, max, in a single season if they are a “top” club and have Champions League football to play? And don’t they have to qualify for the Champions League to win it? If there are 20 teams in the Premier League, and lets say 3 trophies that matter, then how many trophies should a manager win in a season? Would nine major trophies in 18 years be a good return?

Would you be happy if your team won just one major trophy in the last year, especially if they were rebuilding the team and adding a bunch of new superstar players?

Qq

Apologies to Padgett Powel for borrowing from the Interrogative Mood, a book written entirely in questions, for this post.

Brian Kidd - Rogue

Rogues Gallery: Brian Kidd

There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.

Arsenal have recently signed Danny Welbeck from Manchester United and to many fans, Arsenal always seem to get screwed by United whenever we sign their players or they buy from us. This is often a myth. Many fans will say, look who we sold to United: in the 1960’s we sold David Herd, in the 1980’s we sold Frank Stapleton and Viv Anderson, and recently Robin Van Persie forced a transfer so that he could be the Dutch icing on Sirr Alex Ferguson’s retirement cake. Whereas Arsenal fans will point out, what have we got out of them? Mikaël Samy Silvestre.

But looking back through the history tells a different story: Arsenal have also sold United a defender for £30,000 even though he was injured, and the Gunners have also signed some great players from Manchester United. For example, we signed Jimmy Rimmer in the 70’s and we also signed another player in the 1970’s in a striker called Brian Kidd.

Brian Kidd, like Welbeck, had come from United to Arsenal a winner. But Kidd had won and scored in the 1968 European cup on his 19th birthday:-

Kidd went on to make appearances the following season for England, getting two caps and scoring a goal. Kidd remained at United until the summer of 1974 when Tommy Docherty took over a relegated Manchester United (you did read that correctly). Tommy Docherty was bringing in some new players for his team up front. These included Lou Macari, Gordon Hill and Stuart Pearson took over in his place.

On the 12 June 1974 The Times (licence required) reported:-

Football Brian Kidd, Manchester United’s former England striker, has asked for a few more days to think over the possibility of a transfer to Arsenal. Kidd is understood to be staying with friends in London over the weekend and Arsenal are expecting a definite decision next Monday. Kidd said “It is a fantastic opportunity to join a club like Arsenal, and at 25 I don’t think I could have a better move at this stage of my career”.

At the time Arsenal had been playing Ray Kennedy as our main striker alongside John Radford. Kennedy in the previous season had scored 12 league goals and had not really reached the heights of 1970-1 double season. Ray said when he had found out about Kidd coming he felt he would be joining him upfront, with Arsenal selling Raddy instead. Unfortunately, Bill Shankly made Ray Kennedy his last signing for an English record of £200,000 to Liverpool.

Brian Kidd would make his debut for Bertie Mee’s side away to Leicester. It was an Arsenal side that had won the double 3 years previous yet only Peter Storey, Peter Simpson, Eddie Kelly, George Armstrong, John Radford and Charlie George remained. Liam Brady had come into the side as well. But Jeff Blockley remained. This was the beginning of the end for the double team. Bertie Mee later said to the author of Arsenal in the blood said:-

The side broke up too soon…..There were offers to players to further their careers.

Arsenal won the game 1-0 and Kidd scored on his debut. The season showed that we had signed a good fox in the fox. A poacher of goals.

A defeat to Ipswich in the next game at home, was turned around when Arsenal played Manchester City at home 4-0 with Radford and Kidd scoring two goals apiece. Unfortunately, the season of 1974-5 was one to forget. By the time they played Leeds in October 1974, Arsenal dropped to bottom after a 2-0 defeat. The Times reported:-

Arsenal seem to have more problems than Leeds United. They look up at all the rest now that they have been pushed to the bottom of the First Division by their 2-0 defeat at Elland Road on Saturday. Though they are of sterner stuff than some who have struggled there in recent seasons, they will need more ideas and adventure than they showed in Yorkshire to extricate themselves. Old hands were feeling for old flair and the newer ones, despite their obvious promise, have still to learn to assert themselves. Rimmer, authoritatively alert on his line, preserved Arsenal from a sharper, setback and Kelly, too, had a significant role in restricting Leeds opportunities as they claimed the major share of the match.

For Kidd though the season was a success. Throughout the season, him and Jimmy Rimmer kept us from sinking into being relegated, scoring 19 goals. Arsenal’s last home game would Spurs. A win would make Arsenal safe from relegation. A defeat for Spurs would mean they had to beat Leeds United. Fortunately, Arsenal won the game 1-0 with Kidd scoring the winner:-

Unfortunately Spurs won their last game, coming in at 19th. We were a mere 16th. Moribund was the best way to describe the team. As said previously though, Jimmy Rimmer and Brian Kidd were often the stand out players.

The following season Arsenal were again terrible, signing such poor players as Terry Mancini, a centre half from London, who on his international debut for the Republic of Ireland sang the oppositions national anthem. Again, Kidd’s goals were important, but in 37 games he only scored 11 goals (still top scorer though). Of his  11, 3 goals came in one game against West Ham:-

Off this game, Liam Brady recalls before the match that Mee gave a great speech as they seemed to be nearing relegation, saying:-

By the time he finished countering our accusations of neglect [as a manager], he had earned genuine applause from the players, who, for the first time in many month, felt they had support and someone on their side.

3 games later Kidd played his final game for Arsenal against QPR, with Arsenal losing 2-1. Arsenal came a dismal 17th and Bertie Mee had handed in his resignation.

Brian Kidd though had got homesick for the north. Peter Storey wrote of Brian in his biography:–

I got the impression that Kiddo never wanted to be at Arsenal; in his mind he was still a United player…I wasn’t surprised in the least when Kiddo jumped at the chance to return to Manchester, albeit with City rather than United.

Bertie Mee and the players also felt Kidd never settled, often coming off the pitch playing for Arsenal asking the Manchester United scores. Hardly the best way to endear yourself to a team.

The thing with Kidd, is like Welbeck, he came through the United youth team. Whilst at United they both won things at a young age. They were also both England internationals overlooked for a new manager at United and sold for a reasonable price. Kidd, although only at Highbury for two season, is often a man overlooked. His goals in his two seasons kept us in the top division. Therefore, if you think Arsenal always get short changed in transfers with Manchester United, remember Brian Kidd.

Everyone needs a hand

Dear 2014, do you still care about the league cup?

I love to say ‘Graziano Pelle’. Such words call to mind Mediterranean cheese or the prayers one might offer while genuflecting at the foot of Pele’s statue. The magic—olfactory or otherwise—native to his name is matched only by the supernatural high jinks conjured by his club. To what unique form of devil worship does Southampton owe such imperious form?

Weren’t they robbed of all their key players? Didn’t they sell the greatest manager of all time to Tottenham? Wasn’t Scheiderlin supposed to sulk his way into a rut?

Well done to them. They wanted it more than us, fielded the right team, and rightfully took full advantage of a naïve back line, and a rusty midfield. Indeed, I think most disappointing is not the result itself (more on this in a moment) but rather that players we’d expect to lead the way on a night like this decided that, instead of participating in a football match, they would get out their Ouija boards and call on the spirit of Alexander Hleb.

“Oh, Hleb,” they intoned, while opposition players bustled around them, “teach us your decision-making!” “Shall we dribble into blind alleys and feed the hungry shoes of an opposition defender?” The planchette inclined ever more to “Yes.” Yes, yes, yes!

You can forgive Rosicky, perhaps. After all, he once played with Hleb, and tonight he seemed intent on offering a testimonial to his erstwhile Belarusian counterpart. I wish Rosicky’s display could be put down solely to a lack of playing time, but for years now his effort has resembled a frantic waiter whose tables have all been seated at once. Can he ever again complain at a lack of playing time?

I should be fairer in my criticism: Wilshere was no better, and he has fewer excuses. And Sanchez, too, rarely picked out a teammate, despite picking out the top corner of the Southampton goal. It was a strange team and a strange night: Coquelin was our most experienced player on the back line! Chambers was discombobulated throughout! Bellerin our man of the match! Podolski was mentioned! Diaby is alive!

Speaking of Diaby, I thought he had a decent game. He was the 1 in the middle of the 4-1-4-1 tonight, and for much of the earlier portions of the game, everything went through him, and he looked both exciting and understandably raw. Will he be the surprise of the season? Is he the incarnation of Patrick Vieira? Does Dan Smith work in a call centre? More importantly, can we speak of Diaby without fighting? I suspect not.

The bigger question is whether you care about the league cup. Did you think it a ‘blessing in disguise’ that we were dumped out of it?

Arsenal seem to be in the unenviable position of not having a realistic chance of winning the most prestigious of competitions, while also being too proud to take seriously the competitions we have the most chance of winning. This has been our problem for some time, largely because we usually just qualify for the most elite competitions, all the while tacitly accepting we’re in them to make up the numbers (including financially). For several years, we have been at a crossroads with respect to expectations.

In other words, the league cup is a lightning rod for our ambivalence. It has, traditionally, spoken to our hopes for the future while at the same time reminded us that such an idealized future is the cause of present penury. That is, the league cup ambitions now have a musty feel, the mandate of an older order. We’re richer now. We can exit the league cup with a dignity derived from loftier ambitions, which weren’t available to us before.

And yet, we’re not quite there. We are caught between two epochs. And the degree to which that’s true is the degree to which you watched our defeat and felt both frustration and relief.