The Weekly Education – Manchester United, Wenger’s future and the battle of the shareholders

Welcome to my ‘Weekly Education’! This is a weekly column in which I will review and comment on my pick of Arsenal matches, news and rumours from the past 7 days. 

I’ve been known for roaming from blog to blog doing guest articles, but now I have an excuse to bother you all on a regular basis! I aim to make this opinionated column interesting and engaging for all those who read it and I hope that, above all, you enjoy reading. So here goes…

This week, Arsenal continued their impressive seven-game unbeaten run in the Premier League with a 1-1 draw against our old rivals, Manchester United. Although not the ideal result and yet further compounding our poor record against the top teams, the point itself keeps us, in my opinion, in pole position for the Champions League places. Off the pitch, the past few days have also seen speculation (rather one sided speculation, might I add) arise regarding Arsène Wenger’s future at the club, another ill-timed Usmanov statement regarding his intentions and Silent Stan’s lack of ambition and an Arsenal membership shake-up for next season.

The Match

Firstly I’d like to focus on the game against Manchester United on Sunday. One of the brightest starts to a match this season led me, and I’m sure many others, to believe that it could’ve been our day. However after a fantastic first 40 minutes or so, in true Arsenal style, we shot ourselves in the foot, or rather Sagna did. One stupid mistake that was born from the desire to make up for the previous, slightly less stupid (but still very silly) one, allowed Manchester United right back into the game. Of course it was none other than the one person we all wished wouldn’t score, but we all could have guessed would, that dragged them back into the game.

However, by putting that horrible mistake to one side for a minute and focusing on the positives, the game was one in which we played some of the most high-tempo and combative football of our season. I was reminded that the on-pitch rivalry between the two clubs is still alive and kicking and quite frankly, I found myself getting most excited when an Arsenal player clattered their Manchester United counterpart or started having a go at them off the ball (a la Walcott and Evans). Having said that, the passionate display that was reminiscent of the Viera/Keane era, was not the only thing that got my blood pumping. The football we played (especially in the first half) was exceptional. The whole-team pressing high up the pitch was not only brilliant to watch, but very effective indeed. Pressing is something that the team have improved on lately and thus done very well throughout the recent run of games, with the likes of Rosicky and Ramsey setting the tone. It was this pressing that led to the goal, but unfortunately we weren’t ruthless enough and didn’t take hold of the game by the scruff of the neck by scoring a second during our period of, what can only be described as, dominance.

In the second half, having been hit hard by the penalty just before the break, this urgency seemed to dip and as a result, Manchester United began to create a good few chances. However, this leads me on to another positive that can be taken from the game: the performance of our central defenders. Once again, Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny were excellent. Of the two, Koscielny was probably the more impressive as he kept the traitor quiet and gave the Dutchman a few bumps and bruises to take home with him. Koscielny was in fact my man of the match partially because of what I just mentioned and also because the stats don’t lie: 5 tackles (100% success rate), 6 clearances, 7 interceptions, 2 headed clearances and 0 fouls committed… Phwoar.

Wenger Off?

There was an article published in the Telegraph on Tuesday that suggested Arsène Wenger may be nearing the end of his 17-year tenure as Arsenal manager. To be specific, it was reporting the news that PSG were confident of landing our beloved Frenchman THIS summer, rather than when his contract finishes the following summer. The article was written by Paul Hayward and clearly seemed to be rather one sided (the PSG perspective). That’s fine, but it just makes the article less of a reliable source as to whether Wenger really would consider leaving this summer which I don’t think he would. In addition to this, when first posted, the article included “unconfirmed reports” that Wenger’s contract included an “optional” last year. That is bollocks and only further creates a sense of bias within the article. Now I know it’s a journalist’s job to not only report and investigate, but to also sell stories to the public, but the inclusion of “unconfirmed reports” was just lazy and attention seeking, in my opinion. If you are into sport betting I would advise not to waste your time betting on Wenger leaving before the end of his contract.

Since the publication of the article, there have been a couple of notable responses, including that of Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood, who rubbished the reports:

“I think this is complete nonsense … In fact, I know it is complete nonsense.” – Peter Hill-Wood

Hill-Wood also slammed the suggestion that Wenger’s last year was “optional”:

“That is news to me and I would certainly know if there was one.” – Peter Hill-Wood

The Lyon manager Remi Garde, who played under Wenger at Arsenal during the late 90’s, also seems adamant that Wenger will, at the very least, see out his contract with Arsenal:

“I think he has one year remaining on his contract with Arsenal, so there is every chance he will honor it … I worked under him a few years ago. Maybe the experience did change some of his principles … I tend to think that he will continue with the Gunners.” – Remi Garde

I personally believe that Arsène will at least respect his current contact at Arsenal, as that’s the sort of respectable professional he is. He is also a lover of Arsenal and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him signing on again if things start to look up after the very important, make or break summer ahead.

Usmanov speaks out… Again

Oh Jabba (the Hutt), you’ve really got your timing down to a T, don’t you? As we approach the crucial final 3 games of Arsenal’s season, the big Uzbek has decided to tell everyone that he will “think what to do with Arsenal” at the end of the season and how little Kroenke cares about driving the club forward onto greater things. Usmanov sates that Kroenke “would probably be happy” with a 4th place finish which I certainly can’t dispute. In fact, there’s not much wrong with what Usmanov has to say and his ambitious attitude is somewhat refreshing, not to mention the fact that he currently sits atop the UK rich-list. But beyond his well thought out, fighting PR talk and his vast multitudes of oil-descended money, he seems to me a fishy character. Having said that, I don’t much like ‘Silent Stan’, as he’s known, either. He doesn’t seem the type who really connects with the fans of his sports teams and I am continuously told by Americans that he settles for mediocrity as long as he’s making a healthy profit… *Sigh* …

So to tell you the truth, I can’t pick between the two. On one hand, there is a filthy rich Uzbek who may or may not b
e of the crook variety, but would undoubtedly pump a lot of money into the club. Whilst on the other hand, there is a silent, mysterious American who seems happy to sit back and make money whilst the club does OK, but retains the club’s tradition and ideal of being classy and doing things the ‘right way’… It’s a toughy and too be honest, I’d rather have neither.

Whatever my opinion, it does seem as if Usmanov will push hard for a takeover at some point in the not too distant future. But whether Kroenke, who has a history of sitting pretty, will sell is another matter…

Membership shake-up

Finally, a quick word on the new membership tiers that Arsenal are introducing as of next season.

Arsenal have announced that they will be introducing a new form of online membership for Gooners all over the globe and the best part is, it’s going to be free! This ‘Digital Membership’ will allow fans from all over the world to receive e-newsletters and to access the Arsenal Player in full.

I think that this is a great initiative to not only make it easier to support and get involved with the club, but also to encourage more Gooners to become closer to the club and invest in other areas.

Another new membership is the ‘Junior Gunners Lite’ which is aimed at Gooners aged 16 or under and will include discounted tickets for matches and player events and will cost £10 pounds a season.

This is a fantastic way to get a younger crowd at the Emirates which will hopefully enhance the atmosphere and encourage more teenagers to get involved with the club. The target audience is the next generation of Gooners and I think it’s very important that they are given the opportunity to support their club to the greatest extent that they can.

That’s it from me this week (my first week!), I hope you enjoyed reading. Until next Thursday, goodbye!

Educated Gooner

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2 Responses to The Weekly Education – Manchester United, Wenger’s future and the battle of the shareholders

  1. adhi_nihir87@hotmail.com May 3, 2013 at 1:49 am #

    Enjoyed your writings thoroughly Billy, cheers!

  2. arulviv93@gmail.com May 3, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    Brilliant write up. This site deserves it!!

    I wrote here for almost a year and even took over as editor for two months, so I know this site with the right people can go a long way!!

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