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Myles Palmer ain't happy with what's going on at the Emirates......

 

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Arsenal's season : the verdict

By Myles Palmer

 

 

Wenger asked to be judged at the end of the season. What’s your verdict?

 

More of the same but not as good. With Flamini, Arsenal were top for six months and won nothing. Without Flamini, they were never top and won nothing.

 

Will Wenger ever change?

 

Don't be silly. He's interested in his own quality of daily life, his own enjoyment, his own expression, his own ideas, his own experiments. He will never do the hard, monotonous, repetitious work of drilling a back four so that they can function as a unit. He wouldn't know where to start.

 

He prefers to re-invent a sport that does not need to be re-invented. He gets off on skill and fast attacks and his main ideas are pace, pace and pace. He thinks all the best athletes from the same West African gene-pool that was dispersed round the world by the slave trade. When he picks Adebayor he thinks he's plugging into the mother-lode from which scores of gold medallists came, right up to Usain Bolt.

 

Long jumper Bob Beamon jumped out of the pit in Mexico City in 1968. He made a mind-boggling jump of 29 feet and 2 1/2 inches. By doing that he became the first man to jump 28 feet and also the first man to jump 29 feet, beating the world record by 21 3/4 inches and setting a record that stood for the next 23 years. When his teammate Ralph Boston told Bob how far he had jumped, he collapsed. As Britain's champion Lyn Davies told him, "You have destroyed this event. " Bob Beamon came from New York. What part of New York? Brooklyn. What district of Brooklyn? South Jamaica. Trouble is, football is not athletics. Adebayor is closer to Bob Beamon than he is to George Weah.

 

Fabregas this season?

 

In the whole of the Premier League, the player who is best at keeping the game moving is Cesc Fabregas.

Recently, Wenger pushed Fabregas forward into a Stevie Gerrard position, knowing he lacks the pace and power to play that role. So he has castrated his captain, who has the ability to see a longer pass and play it beautifully, and the ability to keep the game moving. He moved Fabregas forward to a role where he cannot dictate the tempo and direction of Arsenal's attacks, where he is facing the wrong way, where he is reduced to nudging three-yard passes into Walcott's run. How insane is that? Why did he do that? To give a French player a bigger role? To turn Nasri into what the French call a "Number 6."?

 

How does he want Arsenal to play?

 

He still wants an athletic, quick-passing team. Fabregas, like Vieira and Bergkamp, was a key player in that concept because of his ability to pass the ball forward early. But Van Persie ruins the concept because he needs five touches, while Adebayor negates the concept because he is so static and predictable. I've watched managers get it wrong for 40 years and 25 of those were in the press box. But I've never seen anybody get it wrong on this scale before. This Arsenal team is a pig’s breakfast, a shambles, worse than it's been since the early Eighties. But Arsenal did not build a new stadium in the Eighties, or redevelop their old one into flats

 

Are you a Gooner?

 

No. I'm an author who scribbles in cyberspace while writing books. Many of my friends are Gooners and this season has been very hard for them. People are gutted and bewildered. Trainer Jed at the gym, who is a footballer, can't believe that Wenger tinkers with Fabregas and Nasri in April, and doesn't think Walcott will make it. Ian Grant is a season-ticket holder who told me the Man United game was “torture” and the Chelsea game was “complete humiliation.”

 

Many people now agree with you on Radio 5 Live, in the papers. Are you now redundant ?

 

Yes, absolutely. I was a voice in the wilderness for three years. Now people agree with me, so I'm redundant. My dad used to say, "When two people are continually in agreement, one is redundant."

 

On Sunday I watched the Manchester derby, the Arsenal-Chelsea farce, half of the Barcelona-Villarreal game - and forgot all about Match of the Day 2. I normally watch MoD 2 or Sky+ it. On MoD2, Lee Dixon analysed the failure of Arsenal's midfielders to track back, especially on the Anelka goal. Alan Hansen said : This team won't challenge next season. They need five players.

 

What about Theo Walcott?

 

His decision-making is terrible. But he is an honest boy who realises he's lucky to be earning mega-money for 90 minutes work every morning. He tries his best. But he's not a winger. Walcott thought he was a striker like Michael Owen. He went to Arsenal and Wenger played him on the wing for three years, so now he doesn’t know what he is. I wish Walcott well, I really do. But I can't see him improving that much. He is a choirboy who lacks a football brain.

 

Playing in an England team of men, with a tactical coach, Fabio Capello, he scored a hat-trick in Croatia. Playing against Chelsea in a team of 22-year olds at the Emirates, he could not hit a barn door from inside the barn.

 

My friend Mair and his son Rob come round to watch games occasionally. Last time they came Mair walked in and sat down on the sofa and 16-year old Rob came in and asked me a question before he had even sat down.

“Theo Walcott- yes or no?”

I was surprised the lad was so sharp.

“No,” I said.

 

Wenger is still regarded as one of the giants among managers. Is that reputation deserved ?

 

He was a giant at Highbury with a medium-sized club punching above its weight. Since Abramovich, and since the new stadium, Arsenal have not competed. We all thought that Arsene Wenger was a big man but his intransigence has shrunk him. A truly big man would listen. A big man would share. A big man would delegate. He is very touchy if any mention is made of Martin Keown's input into the run to the Champions League Final in Paris.While working for his Uefa coaching badges, Keown coached a back four of Eboue, Toure, Senderos and Flamini, playing in front of Jens Lehmann. They did not concede a single goal in seven games prior to the Champions League final, and then Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell played in the final against Barcelona and they lost 2-1. Keown would love to be Wenger's No.2 but he does not think that will ever happen because he is independent-minded. He knows that Arsene FC is a one -man show.

 

Ultimately, it's up to the fans. When they start voting with their feet, Wenger will be replaced. Until then you will be watching a team that can't defend and can't prove the manager's theories right by winning silverware. He is a sports scientist who lives on data, a track-suit messiah lost in his laptop. He could prove me wrong, of course. He could prove me wrong. I love it, just love it, when people prove me wrong. Seriously, I get a big kick out of it.I wish it happened more often.

 

What annoys you most about Wenger?

 

That he talks to his players through the media, and that he does not trust the lifestyle of British players or the underclass they come from. It's already clear that he doesn't fancy Aaron Ramsey, and that Jack Wilshire will be sold on to Blackburn or Birmingham to make millions that will be spent on more French and African kids for his academy. Wilshire was on the bench at the start of the season. After he signed at 16, he suddenly wasn't on the bench. What does that tell you?

 

After getting battered in the first leg at Old Trafford but losing only 1-0, Wenger said, "I believe you will see a different Arsenal next week." To say what he says, purely for the benefit of players who will see it and read it, is, to my mind, pathetic, bizarre and dishonest. It's also insulting to reporters and newspaper readers. It’s O-level psychology. If players are morons, they might believe it. But recent evidence shows that such ridiculous remarks do not work. Arsenal lost the Man Utd first leg 1-0 and the second leg 3-1. And then they got their worst result against Chelsea since 1960.

 

Fabregas, walking out alongside John Terry, knew it wouldn't work. He has not looked happy all season because he does not endorse what is going on around him. The team has slumped since Flamini left, and Fabregas has been average since Flamini left, and he is now a shadow of the player he was. Wenger, the high-tech sports scientist, has run Fabregas into the ground since he was 18, so he is now burned out, depressed, playing out of position, and carrying a far bigger burden than any 22-year old captain should. Just as Wenger ran Vieira into the ground after he sold Petit. PV4 played on and on, often with injections in his knee.

 

Fabregas clearly hates playing in the Stevie G position. When asked on TV how he liked his new position, he snapped," I've been playing up there all season." No, you haven't, mate. You became captain of Arsenal and Wenger had the worst of his 13 seasons. What does Fabregas think of Wenger's comment that, "You'll see a different Arsenal next week."?

 

When will the Emirates have a glory night, a memorable victory that will echo down the decades?

 

I really don't know. When they have another manager, I suppose. It's very, very sad to build a 60,000-capacity super-stadium in London and put a lightweight Afro-French team in it that finishes fourth every year. If that's what Gooners want to watch, they'll pay £1,200 and £1,700 and £1,900 and even £2,500 a year for season- tickets, and £4,000 for Club Level, and they'll keep going because it's a social thing. Football supporters are a species and Gooners are a sub-species. And half of them are Sky Sportsniks, Nineties nouveau football fans who buy into the whole Premier League hype.

 

Will he be the Arsenal manager forever?

 

I hope not. Maybe Wenger assumes he will be there for another five years. No other manager in the world assumes that. I would love to see a proper team again, not a half a team playing five-a-side football with 11 players. Arsenal is a French club playing in England and playing in a league of one, just below the Big Three, and this group of players will go on repeating 2008 and 2009 for as long as Wenger is the manager and he has a contract till 2011.The official line from Ivan Gazidis to the AST on Monday night, is that the stadium and Wenger are the biggest assets of the club. The third biggest asset of the club is one the CEO cannot mention.: the loyalty and gullibility of Arsenal supporters.

 

After the disappointments of Hleb, Rosicky, Diaby, Walcott and Adebayor, have Arsenal made any great signings in the last five years?

 

Gazidis and Arshavin are two great signings in 2009. Everything else about 2009 has been rubbish. But those two give me some hope. Gazidis has made a very good start and has now said something that Keith Edelman would never have said : We had to concentrate on the Emirates, but let’s now focus on improving the team.

 

The player who changed Arsenal's season was Arshavin. He ensured fourth place. It’s absurd for Wenger to say: We were good before we signed Arshavin. No, you were not. Your unbeaten run was against muppets and half of those games were draws. That is a meaningless stat. Nothing to boast about. Against Liverpool at Anfield, Arsenal had five shots and Arshavin scored four goals. Against Chelsea at the Emirates, without Arshavin, Arsenal had 16 goal attempts and lost 4-1. If five of those chances had fallen to Arshavin, it might have been 3-3.

 

Man City have big finance and Aston Villa are improving. Is fourth place sustainable?

 

Yes, Arsenal can be fourth for the next five years. Spurs won’t challenge and Everton lack money.

 

What will happen in the summer?

 

Maybe nothing, maybe huge things. Impossible to say right now. Football lives on hope and fans live on hope. But the extent of disillusion among ANR readers is huge, if my inbox is anything to go by.

 

You used to like Arsene Wenger. What happened?

 

Big building debts happened, I think. Fear happened. Fear and anxiety and the credit crunch. Before that, Arsenal was fun and Arsene was fun. I met him hundreds of times at games from 1996 onwards, as many journalists did, once at a QPR night game, quite a few times at Sopwell House and Colney. In 2001 he knew I was writing The Professor. Just before publication I called his mobile and told him when he would receive a pre-publication copy. I still remember our conversation.

 

Myles : “The book basically says that Arsenal is a very good football club but not perfect, that David Dein is a very good football executive but not perfect, and that you’re a very good manager but not perfect.”

 

Arsene : “Exactly.”

 

After that, more trophies and a decline, all summarised when The Professor was updated to 2008.

 

 

May 13, 2009

 

http://www.arsenalnewsreview.co.uk/index.p...nt01returnid=42

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