ARSENAL CIRCULAR 127
There is a warm-hearted community character to football. The minute’s silence for a recently deceased favourite or the alternative – the energetic applause. Both work and both represent a coming together of fans in numbers to display affection and remembrance and solidarity. But football is capable of the opposite and at Stoke we saw and heard the nasty side of football. It was not just jeering, it was inhuman and a reversal of everything football stands for. We may not always like our opponents but we respect them and on occasions applaud them. Remember the Portsmouth fans clapping off Thierry Henry when he was subbed after a great FA Cup performance at Fratton Park or the respect AFC earned from the Liverpool fans when winning the title in 1989. But Stoke and their club and their city and all people associated with the Club plummeted to a new low. As Wenger says in today’s Sun “when people get together sometimes they forget their individual responsibility”. Those Stoke fans who disapproved of the sick chant have to stand up. They have to find a vehicle, an outlet to distance themselves from the Stoke Chanters. They can go on 606 or write into fanzines or use any number of the blogs but do it and end this sorry chapter that soils the reputation of football.
At the same time let me question Wenger’s words after the game when he said that the match was “an old fashioned Stoke battle as they made the game very physical”. Did they? Were Stoke dishing it out as of old? There was not one yellow card and from a referee who scored a 9 from Steven Howard. Yes there was tension and commitment and tackles but it was far from being “nasty” as we understand the term. There was no Chopper Harris, no Peter Storey, no Cyril Knowles so why does Wenger use words which are an echo of the past. No one knows better the importance of words and Wenger gets them right more than most and that is why I am critical of him this morning. It is true that Stoke played balls into our back four – not from their own back four but chips from their midfield and why not – after the Benteke header that led to the Allan goal Stoke were spot on in testing our defence. But they played down the wings as well and through the middle. As Hughes says “We approached it in the right manner, got the ball down, and passed and moved and mixed things up” I agree.
One last point about Stoke and Shawcross – Ferguson was the real villain. He went public and lauded Shawcross for a quality tackle. Ferguson had his own agenda at the time – he was in a battle with Wenger and lined up with Allardyce and others who condemned the moans of Wenger. It was an horrific tackle and today it would be a straight red. That is how wrong Ferguson was to support it and how right Wenger was to condemn it.
CLASSIC FOOTBALL SHIRTS
OK we have to move on – we do not want Wenger’s comments to stir up further resentment against Stoke especially when Hughes deserves credit for dispensing with the Pulis approach and playing football. The best thing is that there is a public handshake of reconciliation between Shawcross and Ramsey at the start of their next match at AFC. Clear and deliberate. Do that it will stop the Stoke fans from stirring the resentment and it will stop the Arsenal fans from baiting Shawcross. We all have to move on.
Wenger is nursing Reine-Adeleide into the squad and into the team. He won’t rush it. The chance will come and we will be able to see if he is a real star in the making. Sometimes if they are good enough they are old enough. I have seen only a little of him but it was exciting. However a flowering talent faces so many challenges. I am saying the obvious – the pace is quicker, the tackles are heavier, the gamesmanship of a different dimension. Everyone will try to blow the new boy off course and Wenger will be watching to see how he copes – whether has inner mental strength or whether he will buckle as opponents go at him.
Charlie George had it the first time he played and I remember when, early in his career we were down to ten men against Leeds at Highbury (Eddie Kelly was sent off for landing a punch on a Leeds player – Giles maybe?) and Charlie took on Bremner and beat him. You knew Charlie was going to make it. He had the ability and the confidence and the impudence to settle in without a long apprenticeship. Thereafter things went wrong. He was headstrong – there was a clash of generations with Bertie Mee and he slipped away with just one cap for England. It is so good to see him at the Emirates. His goal at Wembley is remembered by all but his couple at Maine Road in the 5th Round of the FA Cup were top drawer. And the explosive half volley at home to Newcastle after fisticuffs with Keith Dyson. Great moments. Thank you Charlie
I have asked the question recently – how good would England be without Cook, Root, Stokes and Broad? How good can Arsenal be without Wilshere, Cazorla, Sanchez and Coquelin? Answers on a post card to Horace Batchelor.
My day starts with an early morning chat with Steve who has a newspaper stall at Stanmore Tube Station. 6.30 am and we are exchanging views about the weekend. He has read most of the papers and has an ear for Talk Sport. Fans of other clubs come along for their paper – he knows them all and has a friendly dig at all of them. He creates a great atmosphere and football does as well. Sets us all up for the day. This morning we both felt good. Three clean sheets in succession. Looking solid. Still at the top and with star players to return and maybe Elneny to have a chance as well. Glass is half full not half empty. Thanks Steve.
I like the look of Iwobi – he is strong, keeps the ball close and makes surging runs. You never know where a new addition is going to settle but these first few minutes are so important to settle the nerves and allow you to realise that you have earned the right to play. By the same token Theo looked very unhappy when he was subbed. Since the City goal he has not shined and his confidence may be falling away. Also there was no Ozil and no Sanchez to set him up. The Ox is another one who is trying his best without quite hitting it right. He gets more of the ball in midfield but the head drops quite quickly. He needs more arrogance in his play though who am I to say that?. All I do is watch the game. But it is a great game.