23 September 2016

Jose Mourinho's Worrying Obsession with Arsène Wenger

Mourinho: "Referee, go on. Tell him to acknowledge me".

In what is fast-becoming a weekly diatribe and without a hint of irony, the self-appointed, narcissistic, 'Special One', who once described Arsène Wenger as a 'voyeur', has once again been recorded spouting bile towards the Arsenal manager. Serialising Jose Mourinho's time at Chelsea, journalist, Rob Beasley, recorded the following reaction to Arsène Wenger being asked about Juan Mata's sale to Manchester United:

"When Mr Wenger criticises CFC and Man United over the deal with Mata...I will find him one day outside a football pitch and I will break his face."

Worrying.

What makes his behaviour even more disturbing, is that the Chelsea manager has a history of trying to convert the majority of questions that he has had to face into a critique of Arsène Wenger. Here are a few examples:

When discussing whether he had any sympathy for under-fire Newcastle United manager, Steve McClaren:

"In this country, only one manager [Wenger] is not under pressure. He cannot achieve, keep his job, still be the king."

When asked in March 2014, about Chelsea possibly failing to win the league:

"We don't want a trophy for finishing second, third or fourth ... like some other guys [Wenger] want."

Even after being sacked by Chelsea in 2007, when asked a year later about his experience of coaching in England:

"The English like statistics a lot. Do they know that Arsene Wenger has only 50 per cent of wins in the English league?"

Even more worrying.

Quite frankly, I'm amazed that Jose Mourinho hasn't blamed Arsène Wenger for: United's awful run of games; the Eva Carneiro situation; Rooney's confusion as to how football is played; global warming; the prospect of America electing Donald Trump as President; the crisis in Syria; and Brangelina splitting up; 

With the book launched in just a few weeks, I can estimate with a large degree of certainty that it reads more like an angry series of letters, reminiscent of the ones penned by a young fan in the song 'Stan' by Eminem. The song begins with a guy named Stan respecting Eminem and his achievements. As time goes on, Stan questions why he isn't receiving the same attention that Eminem receives, he later takes it personally, becomes more mentally unstable and blames Eminem for everything that's going wrong in his life.  

Sounds familiar?

Despite being quite clearly, a very talented manager, Jose Mourinho's obsession with Arsène Wenger has reached rather unhealthy levels and goes way beyond the footballing rivalry shared between the Arsenal manager and his long-time foe, Sir Alex Ferguson. Whilst Arsène Wenger commands respect from his peers (with the exception of Mourinho), players and people involved in world football, with every barb, jibe and disrespectful insult towards Arsène Wenger, Jose Mourinho becomes an even more polarising figure in world football.


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2 September 2016

Why I HATE Transfer Windows

ITK or just a little bit weird?

It’s over. After weeks and months of rumours and speculation, the summer transfer window has closed and I couldn’t be happier. I do not say this because I am overjoyed with Arsenal’s transfer dealings (I am quite pleased, but more on that later). I say this because transfer windows and all that they entail are perhaps the least pleasurable thing about being a football fan. 

It happens every year. Long before the window has even opened, long before any player is able to sign on the dotted line, the rumours begin. Ranging from the barely credible to the outright ludicrous, we are bombarded with idle gossip about player movements from all angles. Which Former Chelsea Star Is Looking To Move This Summer? Liverpool Readying To Snare Sevilla Sensation. Manchester City Poised To Spend 800 Million Pounds To Land Messi’s Ghost.

As the window opens, the speculation only intensifies. Sensational headlines are bandied about in the ever raging battle for clicks. Journalists are given license to spend a couple of months to stretch the truth as far as they can, and in many cases, simply outright lie. They are paid to insult our intelligence. I know what you’re thinking: they wouldn’t do this unless it is what the public wanted. I would submit that this is simply not true. Nobody takes the majority of rumours seriously. They are laughed at and scorned. Would any of us be any worse off if we didn’t see that guy we weren’t really friends with in school share a story on Facebook about Arsenal gearing up to bring back Bendtner? 

The unfortunate thing is that this dross is only getting worse and at a rapid rate. Before we only had to worry about news organisations of dubious repute. Now every Tom, Dick and Harry on Twitter has inside information and they sure as heck want you to know about it. The proliferation of ITK accounts is a stain on modern football. How sad do you have to be to pretend you work in a profession as odious as player management?

What annoys me most out of all of this is that there is more than enough drama and excitement during the transfer window without needing to make things up. Just look at Arsenal’s recent window. There was the early and unexpected signing of a much needed defensive midfielder in Granit Xhaka. The torturous attempts at signing a striker, only to be knocked back again and again for our feeble offers. Then, finally, when all looked lost, Mustafi and Perez, who play in the two areas that most needed addressing, were signed. This is without mentioning the players that would leave Arsenal on loan or otherwise over the Summer. It was a busy window before entertaining all of the made-up rumours.

If you gained any genuine pleasure out of reading lie after lie about negotiations and deals that never happened, I feel sorry for you. The reality of the situation is that Arsenal signed three experienced players in the three positions that most needed addressing. That’s what excites me. Seeing new combinations play in pre-season games excites me. Watching the new players take the field for their Premier League debut excites me. 

So next time the window opens, join me in shutting out all of the nonsense. Ignore Twitter and news sites. Mute any mention of the words “snare”, “swoop”, “nab”, and all of the other bizarre verbs that only ever appear in transfer articles. Just check in when the window closes to see who has actually been signed. Your blood pressure will be much lower and you’ll have consumed far less nonsense in the meantime.


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12 August 2016

Season Preview: Wenger's Last Stand

Will Wenger reign in what could be his last season?

Approaching 20 years in charge at Arsenal, the upcoming season represents perhaps Arsene Wenger's most important. Should he call time in May to a wonderful managerial career with the North London club, he will go down as their most successful manager to date. However, as Manchester United experienced long after the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, questions will remain as to the state of the club in the post-Wenger era.

In June 2013, Ivan Gazidis told a room full of journalists, "we can compete with any club in the world". A statement of intent that Arsenal could match the biggest clubs in world football - both on and off the pitch. Since then, the club has signed Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, and this summer, Granit Xhaka, for the three highest fees in Arsenal's 130-year history.

Although the signings have certainly hinted at the club's ever-growing spending power, with approximately £160million in the bank, the Gunners simply cannot afford to let the signing of a world-class player become a yearly occasion. As with recent transfer windows, there is an air of resignation among Arsenal fans that this summer will be another missed opportunity to compete with league rivals (who are seemingly trying to outspend each other) and to plug the remaining gaps in our squad, which were horribly exposed last season.

Granit Xhaka

At £35million, Granit Xhaka is a superb addition to the squad. The midfielder gained the plaudits this summer, having guided Switzerland to the last 16 of Euro 2016. With the ability to pass the ball between the lines, Xhaka will be vital in sharing the burden on Ozil and Cazorla of driving the team forward. The Swiss star also adds some much-needed steel to the side.

A Crisis in Defence

With injuries to Per Mertesacker and Gabriel in pre-season, the need to bring in an experienced defender to partner Laurent Koscielny has never been more apparent. Whilst Rob Holding has been drafted in from Bolton, it would be premature to expect the young defender to dominate the Premier League. Moreso, Calum Chambers, who could do with a season-long loan and the opportunity to play regularly. Having been strongly linked to Shkodran Mustafi, the German would be exactly the type of defender that Arsenal need to replace Per Mertesacker.

The Need for More Firepower

Another area that Arsenal need to make changes in is attack. With the majority of goals last season coming from Olivier Giroud, who himself had a 19-game goalless run, and Alexis, who has run himself into the ground for the past two seasons, it is painfully apparent that Arsenal need more goalscorers. Add to this Mesut Ozil creating more goal-scoring chances than any player in the Premier League last season and it's evident the team is crying out for a clinical striker. With a failed first bid for Lyon's Alexandre Lacazette, it remains to be seen whether the club will move for the striker but following Arsenal's pursuit of both him and Jamie Vardy, it appears that the club are keen to address this issue.

This season presents many opportunities for Arsene Wenger: to strengthen the team; cement his legacy; and ensure that Arsenal can compete with Europe's elite. However, if this summer window sees no further investment in the squad, there is a very real risk that both Arsene Wenger and Arsenal Football Club will be left behind by the Premier League's big spenders. Let's hope that for the sake of his and the club's future, he can get it right. 


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