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  • Oh dear Jesus, we need you to save us
    And so we are nearly there. Most likely France vs Argentina and no Arsenal player gets to play this time in the final. Only one of our boys involved in all the four teams left in William Saliba and he doesn’t look likely to play any part in it. I think it is fair to say that it is not a great World Cup for Arsenal. Saka and Xhaka were probably their team’s best players. Turner did great for the States and has come out with his reputation enhanced, surely? Partey was good but Ghana were not so great.

    Our star star boy
    Jesus gave us a big setback and here in the Arsenal supporters club there was awful despondency with his exit. Martinelli showed glimpses of his talent but some Brazilians seemed reluctant to give him the ball, seemingly down to rivalry. Once I saw that I got a feeling Brazil would go out. I predicted to several friends that Croatia will give them a hard game and probably win to general scorn from them being convinced it would be a many goal victory for the Samba boys. You need a united team to win a World Cup and, I reckon that Tite felt he no longer had full control and that is why he exited sharply. A manager knows that all players must go through fire for each other despite any personal differences. Brazil, with the most talented squad in the competition, obviously allowed egos to dominate and Tite couldn’t stamp it out. No manager can perform miracles if the players refuse to listen. Brazil deserved to go out.
    Saka the great, Southgate not so
    Saka has made excellent strides into cementing his place among the elite players of his generation with most observers putting him at the top of England’s players. I have doubts about Bellingham despite the noise being created about him. He did it against weaker teams. Against France he was anonymous. Southgate is still lauded by England but I have reservations about him. Klopp, I feel is right. He lets the media pick his team. Everyone screamed Foden, he played him. The pundits were saying Bellingham was the greatest midfielder in the world, so he played him. Kalvin Philips played very well whenever picked and I think he was the better option against the French. Bellingham is playing in a Dortmund side that has lost six in fifteen in the Bundesliga, and that league is not as competitive as the Premier league. He may well fulfill his potential but he needs time.

    Gareth Southgate - does the media pick his beard?
    The thing is, Southgate, Ben White apart, seems to have the support of his team. He didn’t have to pander to the media. He could have played what he sees as his best team and would have been supported. Bring Bellingham on if he needed to freshen things up. And don’t take off your most effective player when you were still in with a chance of winning the World Cup. Southgate has been very lucky as a manager, mostly getting weaker teams at major championships and that conflates to a heightening of his reputation. I don’t accept him as a good manager. The Ben White situation is an example of why I feel Southgate is overrated. White has not attracted a reputation of being difficult at anywhere he has been, and a player being sent home, or going home voluntarily from a major championship is an extremely rare occurrence. That is down to Southgate, I feel.

    Jude Bellingham - not the finished product yet
    Egos are in charge
    The contrast with Tite, who is dealing with almighty egos in the Brazilian dressing room, is stark.  One example is that our own Unai Emery, when coach at PSG, famously said that Neymar is in charge. Players should never be and as Tite picked Martinelli, the players needed to work with him. Tite believed in him as he played him, but other players decided differently. Those players should never be allowed compete for Brazil again unless they accept the manager is in charge.

    Tite was given an impossible job
    And what does it all mean for Arsenal? Bring Balogun or Pepe back as backup for Jesus? Can Nketiah step up? Eddie has been training with Jesus and reports suggest that it has improved his game. England’s under 21 all time top scorer, if he reproduces that form, could make it difficult for Jesus to get back in. That is the most optimistic scenario. He does seem a more effective goalscorer than Jesus but Jesus brings an enhanced element of threat with his all round game which has translated into many wins for us. There are rumours of strikers being bought but there always is.
    Arsenal should be ready
    Turner and Karl Hein have shown they can truly challenge Ramsdale. That has to be good for our season. Ben White’s difficulty could mean he has a mental challenge to overcome but I feel the Arsenal family will rally around him. Saliba should be fresh unless he gets picked for the last (possible) 2 games but that is unlikely. Centrebacks rarely get subbed. Xhaka and Partey, so essential to our side, look fit and well. Martinelli will be raring to go as always. It could be worse.

    Olivier just keeps getting better
    I predicted France at the start in a previous blog and still feel happy. They have a strong defensive structure and that is essential. Their midfielders and forwards are top class and they surely will stop the Morocco dreadnought that has lit up this World Cup. Morocco have done it without kicking and cheating to anywhere near the extent of other teams ( I am looking at you Argentina) but France will probably be too gamewise to let it slip.
    A sporting World Cup?
    Argentina have always been thugs without any class and this World cup is no different. Football is a sport and, as such sporting attitudes should prevail. I hope they lose against Croatia.  I think that Croatia will more likely lose, though. Argentina will find a way to win. If Croatia does win, even though I have predicted France, I would love to see Morocco go through. I think that only France can stop an unsporting Argentinian team from winning the World Cup, however. Contrast several French players consoling the England ones and the Argentinians sneering at the Dutch. This has been a pretty sporting World Cup, Argentina aside.

    I still like Emi
    I will finish with a little tiny bit of praise for myself as a forecaster. So far, since I started predicting what we will do in tournaments, I have done pretty well, generally getting to within 3 points of our eventual tally. And I hope I have got this World Cup right. I will do my next prediction next week and as usual, give you all our scores in advance. That part is a bit of fun, but I do get a lot of results right, if not always the scores. Maybe I should start betting, this Arsenal team still look like a good bet to me.

    It ain’t funny, you know
    Every so often, a footballer, a manager or a football person says something that is very funny, but most often unintentionally. Today I will go through some of my favourites. I will give an Arsenal flavour to most of them. They made me laugh, but often I actually know what they were trying to say, so I guess I am a candidate for saying such stuff.

    Not if you are the Spuds, Thierry
    This one is probably the most quoted and misquoted, with George Best after his testimonial with a big bag of money in a luxury hotel and Miss World on the bed, and a porter comes in and says “Georgie, where did it all go wrong?” Another favourite from Georgie was “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds (girls)and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.”
    Personally, I love Ron Atkinson "You half fancied that to go in as it was rising and dipping at the same time." And his ability to count:
    "If Glenn Hoddle said one word to his team at half-time, it was concentration and focus." Or his logic: “Liverpool will think 'we could have won this 2-2”.
    Here he sounds dangerous: ‘Stoichkov's playing on the wing, in this situation he likes to come in and scalp the centre-half’.
    Always the smartest guy in football
    And nobody can talk about funny quotes without mentioning the master himself, David Coleman the English sports commentator, who Private Eye the English satirical magazine devoted a section called Colemanballs often including others who were just as inept.
    "Forest have now lost six matches without winning."
    “In fact that's Swindon's first win of any kind in nine matches” David Coleman apparently struggled with the notion of winning.
    And then there was former English manager Bobby Robson and maybe it says something about me that I know exactly what Bobby meant here:
    "I would have given my right arm to be a pianist."
    But maybe not this: “We didn't underestimate them. They were just a lot better than we thought”.
    No, really, what is Sagna doing?
    I am not sure how the former Southampton manager Lawrie McMenemy came up with this one, though: "When you are 4-0 up you should never lose 7-1.”
    Or Des Lynam, the Irish sports commentator who also struggled with maths. "Real’s second goal made it 3-0."
    And Mark Lawrenson the former Irish player clearly  had a longterm struggle with it: “You need at least eight or nine men in a ten-man wall." And:
    "Ireland will give 99% - everything they’ve got."
    Even Arsenal do it
    But I suppose I have to get to Arsenal and I will start with our hero - Ian Wright
    "Without being too harsh on David (Seaman), he cost us the match." And again with his logic:
    "Burton really couldn’t lose tonight – but they have."
    “I don’t want Rooney to leave these shores but if he does, I think he’ll go abroad.”
    Ah Ian, what are you doing to us?
    Send them to their room!
    And Niall Quinn can get in on the logic action:
    "Tony Fernandes is in that goldfish bowl and he’s swimming against the tide."
    "I won’t name any names but I’ll name just one, David Dein."
    And I love this from John Helm, the English sports commentator:
    "Viv Anderson has pissed a fatness test."
    Poor old Merse obviously spent too much time on football and not on school:
    "Paul Lambert has learned Fabian Delph the game."
    Ray Parlour also struggled with counting:
     “Martin Jol has put his hands on his heads.”
    Always, Cristiano
    Logic was the problem for RTE commentator George Hamilton "That's a yellow card for Cazorla. So the next time he's involved in Europe, he won't be."
    Kevin Keegan, ex England manager, was also a great exponent of putting your foot in your mouth: "There's a slight doubt about only one player, and that's Tony Adams, who definitely won't be playing tomorrow."
    "I don't think there's anyone bigger or smaller than Maradona." True, Kevin.
    "Not many teams will come to Arsenal and get anything, home or away."  Also true, Kev.
     "Chile have three options - they could win or they could lose." Maths too, Kevin?

    Ally McCoist, the Scottish player and manager struggled to count:
    "One thing about Germany – they’ll be organised, they’ll be big and they’ll be strong."
    Mark Draper of Aston Villa should have listened in geography class rather than concentrating on keepy uppies  "I'd like to play for an Italian club, like Barcelona"
    But poor Rob McCaffrey actually had a point here: "What do you think of Manchester United's three Rs - Rooney, Ronaldo and van Nistelrooy?"
    The legend
    And then there was this twist of logic by former Scottish manager Craig Brown:
    "We had two shots saved off the line by the post."
    Or this truism from a true Spud Glenn Hoddle: "I didn’t say them things that I said."
    I love this from Ian Wright’s former partner at Palace Mark Bright: "He's signalling to the bench with his groin."
    Elton Welsby the commentator with a great segue "And now the goals from Carrow Road, where the game finished 0-0."
    Another Spud in Terry Venables "If you can't stand the heat in the dressing-room, get out of the kitchen"
    Steve Claridge who seemed to have played for every small club in England: "I'm sure Spurs will get another opportunity, hopefully before the final whistle.
    Craig Bellamy is a master of logic:  "Arsenal are streets ahead of everyone in this league and Manchester United are up there with them."
    Alvin Martin of West Ham got it absolutely right: “If Arsenal don’t finish third, they might not finish in third place.”
    Terry Venables again, how does he do it?: "Apart from their goals, Norway haven't scored."
    Nasser Hussain, the cricketer, who thankfully knows more about cricket, came up with this masterpiece: "They (Leeds United) used to be a bit like Arsenal, winning by one goal to nil or even less."
    Gerard Houllier, showing that Liverpool weren’t winners, Of course he was right: "You can't say my team aren't winners. They've proved that by finishing fourth, third and second in the past three seasons."
    And the wonderful BBC commentator John Motson "The game is balanced in Arsenal's favour." It always is, John, except when it’s not.

    От 01.12 до края на месец  декември всеки заинтересован може да се присъедини към най - многобройния фен клуб на чуждестранен отбор в България на:
    Членството в ASCB дава възможност за кандидатстване за билети за всички домакински мачове на Арсенал и за гостуванията в Лига Европа, както и за гледане на срещите на клуба със съмишленици в 10 областни града, където организацията има своя клонова мрежа. През настоящата кампания съставът на Микел Артета създава фурор и е начело на заглавията в пресата, а с това интереса към мачовете на Арсенал е изключително голям. Ръководството на „Арсенал България“ прави всичко необходимо и съобразно настоящата ситуация за да подсигури билети на желаещите свои членове. През ноември голяма група „български топчии“ посетиха срещата от Лига Европа в Айндховен, а на всяко домакинство в Лондон присъстват членове на фен клуба, като ключова цел на УС е намирането на заветните пропуски към Емиратс стейдиъм. Всеки нов член може да се включи в многобройните спортни и благотворителни инициативи, както и да бъде част от традиционните фен срещи, организирани в различни градове в страната. За поредна година през декември клоновете на Шумен и Варна отново ще се включат в инициативата Операция „Плюшено мече“, която подкрепя деца и младежи в неравностойно положение, а представители на другите клонове ще инициират свои собствени благотворителни акции по места. В самата организация членуват 669 привърженици  в клоновете в София, Стара Загора, Пловдив, Бургас, Варна, Велико Търново, Русе, Плевен, Добрич и Шумен, което прави „Арсенал България“ най-многобройния фен клуб на чуждестранен отбор в страната. През 2022 година фен клубът навърши 18 години, като това бе отбелязано с множество прояви, част от които и участие в издаването на куиз книгата „Арсенал Лондон завинаги“. На 03 декември във Варна ще се състои представяне на книгата със специален гост треньорът в академията на клуба, Красимир Корсачки. В ASCB със същото внимание се отнасят и към развитието на дамския футбол, като през 2023 година отново се предвижда организиране на станалия традиционен благотворителния турнир за дами любителки в помощ на деца с онкохематологични заболявания. Освен това всеки нов член ще има възможност да се сдобие с някой от многобройните фенски артикули, които от ръководството на Арсенал България предлагат на своите членове. 
    Размерът на членския внос до края на сезона остава 30 лв. за пълнолетни и 15 лв. за непълнолетни, като има и допълнителни отстъпки за членовете на едно домакинство. Всеки от новозаписаните ще получи членска карта, заедно с книгата „Арсенал Лондон завинаги“!

    8 Amazing Stadiums
    Such a bad World Cup?
    Today, I have decided to look at the positives emanating from Qatar. None, you say? That’s not quite true. Yes, there have been a million denunciations, complaints, and gibes about corruption. We all know what happened.  But I feel there are positives to be gleaned from the reality on the ground. There are potentially lessons which could improve the notion of what a World Cup is, and where it should be held and how.

    Fifa may have accidentally have done something right
    So what is good from Qatar? I have figured out several aspects which they, and the setting, have got right, and even the restrictions imposed may be useful. First up is the proximity of the stadiums, many are close to each other and even the furthest is 2 and a half hours by public transport. This is excellent, truly a boon for fans, and footballers. Some of my brothers went to America in 1994. The distances were huge and their ability to watch any other matches than Ireland were very limited. And even within the group there was long travel. One really huge plus for Qatar. I will come back to this later.
    A fairer World Cup?
    A small country doesn’t have any real home advantage, which in a sporting sense, puts a lot of previous World Cups under scrutiny. Do the real World Champions emerge from a big team winning at home? I will get back to this as well.

    No Alcohol = No Trouble?
    The alcohol restrictions? In one sense the Qataris have done the stupid football fan a favour. I have been at many matches where hooligans have run riot, fuelled by the demon drink. In a country such as Qatar, lots would have ended up behind bars. They would have no tolerance for public drunkenness. Wembley at the Euros would have been a big wake up call for the Qatar regime. I suspect they decided long ago about this strategy, and they would spring it too late for any real protest to emerge. They should have been upfront about this but I suspect, judging by the evidence thus far, this will be a peaceful World Cup. And something to think about for future World Cups. Fans can celebrate at home, get drunk and their own authorities can deal with it. So far there is little evidence that the colour and joy of the World Cup is diminished by a lack of alcohol. Is alcohol mandatory? They have thrown it up for debate. Let’s have this discussion. I do like having a pint at matches myself but I would be happy to give it up if it meant no hooliganism. Soccer is pretty much the only sport associated with it. The Olympics can be held with fans of all countries intermingling which means small spaces like cities can host them.
    Closer is better all round
    Let’s get back to my first point – that all matches should be close together and easily accessible by public transport. It means fans and players can get to matches without any big hassle. You could probably go to all four matches a day if you were so inclined. This was not possible at previous tournaments. So small countries (or countries where the citizens are too poor to turn up in large numbers) can have a greater fanbase at their games, and certainly attendances at such matches seem bigger to me. I have often seen half empty stadiums in the past. These seem reasonably full. They have allowed their own citizens much lower prices so that it is little economic burden to go to matches for the locals. Around 5 euros for restricted vision and around 10 euros for the rest of the cheaper seats. As opposed to 26 to 65 euros for international fans. I wouldn’t fancy restricted views if I have travelled that far so 65 euros per match could mount up a bit but still, taking in some extra ones seems feasible. It is one huge argument though, for having the stadiums close together and easy to access by metro, etc.

    The closest World Cup ever
    The teams can have one training ground for the whole tournament and no crossing of timelines as can happen in America, for example. The countries would love that. It makes for a fairer tournament as home teams are often based around their capital city and other countries have arduous travel. This is something that for sure should be open for debate. There are many pluses to having the stadiums close together.
    How can it be achieved?
    Now there are 2 obvious ways to do this, one is only have the trophy in a small country like Qatar. Singapore and Hongkong strike me as possible in east Asia. In Europe, maybe the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg could organize enough decent grounds to make this possible. Some of the oil rich Arab states in west Asia could also do it. I am not sure of what candidates there are in Africa, North and South America and Australasia. However we could select 2 from each continent and that brings us to 12. 48 years before a country gets to host it twice so it keeps things fresh. I would envision that you could have big countries being the nominal host alongside the small country if that is deemed important. There is a debate here for sure.  

    These guys dictate that venues must be far apart and they are winning
    That brings me to my second option. Have the Cup in the bigger countries but insist on a geographically small area like London, Birmingham or around Liverpool and Manchester in England. Scotland may also be feasible in this regard. I am sure Germany, France, Italy and Spain could also find a way to have enough top stadiums close enough to make this work. 8 stadiums is what we have in Qatar. If we include Twickenham, London could surely do it, for example. There would have to be a strong debate about security, though, if all fans are geographically close together and are allowed drink. Such places could, at best, have restricted alcohol sales. A small country may be able to have a strict regime. Singapore as I mentioned earlier, has.
    A massive World Cup up next with no complaints. Why?
    Of course the next World Cup is going to be a big bloated nonsense of which there seems little protest. The USA, Canada and Mexico? 48 countries? Madness for sure. You would need very big pockets to follow just your team all the way to the final, or maybe even for the group stage alone. Many matches will struggle for attendances. Teams will face tiring plane trips. Lucky Dennis Bergkamp is retired.

    And next time we go way too big
    The other area I highlighted is home advantage. England got their sole win at home. Teams try to make it as easy on their own players and as difficult for their opponents. Qatar found no real home advantage and from a sporting viewpoint this must be good? The best team in the world should win, yes? Small countries are much better in this regard.
    Debate is crucial
    So, Qatar has opened up a potential debate on a World Cup that is good for players, for fans, for attendances, for banning alcohol and thus probably hooliganism, and for sporting spirit. Will we have this debate? I doubt it. Fifa are only interested in money. The fact that their greed has allowed a World Cup to happen that is far different from all others is inadvertent. Good things have been shown, a better way is possible if we have a serious discussion. Instead we get a humungous, interminable, USA, Mexico and Canada which is surely the antithesis of any sporting ideals. We need to decide what type of World Cup do we want and can we apply the good things highlighted here in the context of, say London? However sometimes I feel I am the only one arguing for a better way. Because I don’t feel we will have any debate, will we? The fans don’t have any say. Thus it has always been.                                                                                                                             

    The new Matt Busby?

    Matt Busby - The Kids and the glamour
    Ah, there was a great buzz around London in the swinging Sixties, but it didn’t buzz around Arsenal. It did around Matt Busby and Manchester United. It was our first dry decade since we burst on the scene in the 1930’s under Herbert Chapman. Manchester United and Liverpool had both won titles before us so we gave them a head start. We never managed to catch them up. Can we?
    Certainly not easily, but with both teams up for sale, maybe they can stay still for a while, while we jumpstart a great period under Mikel Arteta. Our great years came under extraordinarily innovative managers who transformed football, Chapman and Wenger. Few clubs worldwide, even the huge ones, have had managers that brought about the changes they did. George Graham, who achieved wonders on the football pitch, didn’t really have an overall vision about football or the club, other than achieving success. Nothing wrong with that, it is the same as the majority of managers, even the true greats.
    Arteta achieves success?
    So is Arteta in the innovative mould, like his two extraordinary predecessors, or potentially more of a great football man? Does he have the vision to transform football and Arsenal in a new, unique way? Of course the first question is, can he achieve success? That is a prerequisite. He needs fantastic years of winning for people to say, the Arteta way is the best way. That is yet to be seen. He has one big  difference to Chapman and Wenger, they had top achievements before Arsenal. He has none as it is his first go. And so far, it is not obvious whether he has a vision for a new way of doing things. That may come.

    Herbert Chapman - the founder of modern football
    Chapman was a groundbreaker in football: physiotherapists, floodlights, European competition, numbered shirts, and, critically, the WM formation, which is still the basis of all subsequent patterns. are all down to him. Wenger cared about diet, training and a holistic approach to modern footballers whereby they always had to focus on their career, their health and their fitness. He introduced an enhanced level of training grounds and cared deeply about the surfaces on which top footballers play. He also believed they should enjoy their time on the pitch, and their talent. This was in sharp contrast to the hard drinking, make do attitude prevalent, particularly in English football, at the time. He was smart enough to do things slowly, yet was boosted by the instant success which allowed him to change things to his liking easily.
    A better playing career
    Neither Wenger or Chapman had distinguished playing careers, Chapman even appearing for a team in white and black from north London that no-one has ever heard of.  Wenger had even less so, with the highlight at RC Strasbourg for a short few seasons at the end of his career where he was never first choice. Arteta, though, had a pretty successful time, and was on the fringes of what was the greatest Spanish national team of all time. He won trophies at PSG, Rangers and Arsenal.

    Wenger changed football
    Perhaps a better comparison is to Matt Busby, the legend who brought Manchester United to prominence in the 50’s and 60’s. It was also his first managerial job. Busby was a good player who played for Manchester City and Liverpool. Busby wasn’t a great innovator but he did believe in European competition at a time when English football was still insular. Where Arteta and he are similar is their belief in young players, and their seeming compatibility with youngsters. Busby created the Busby Babes, speckled with great talents such as Duncan Edwards, Bobby Charlton, Liam Whelan, Dennis Violet and many others, who won the league in 1955-56 and 1956-57 and looked set to dominate football for many years. The team had an average age of 21-22. 8 died in the Munich air disaster and 2 more never played again. It took a few years for Busby to fashion a new top side in the 60’s with George Best, Bobby Charlton and Dennis Law at the forefront.
    Can disaster fall?
    If Arteta does manage to win this year, then this group of players can only get better. They have many years of development left in them and it is clear that Arteta, like Busby, wants to get the best out of them, improving one improves all is his philosophy, and so he works with all players to make them better players, more tactically aware, and buying into the team system that is essential for success. The Munich air disaster stopped Busby’s team from dominating but, while it is unlikely a similar disaster could befall Arsenal, the modern day curse could derail all our hopes. Arteta could be poached, say to Barcelona, and so could our players to various major entities with large wallets. Now Arsenal are no Ajax, another recent team to have many young stars, who found their top players pinched. We have money and lots of it. If Arteta goes, though, maybe our players will follow suit. Success will be the key.

    The Munich disaster - a real tragedy for football
    There is another parallel with Busby. Busby, when he took on the job with Man Utd, insisted on a long term commitment and a five year contract plus total control of team affairs. He argued that 5 years was the time it would take him to bring Utd to the level required. There is evidence that Arteta argued the same and successfully managed to get the Kroenkes to back him longterm as he imposed his vision of how he wanted Arsenal to play, the type of players he needed and the ethos that will make Arsenal a true top team again. 13 league defeats last season and some bumpy patches never saw the Kroenke’s come out of the traps to criticize him. They believed in him, as did all of the Arsenal staff, it seems, even if that didn’t extend to all fans. A manager needs to be given a chance, even at a big club.
    The glamour and the glory
    Manchester United was the glamour club in England under Busby. They were the team players wanted to play for. There are signs that Arsenal are becoming the same with players from other teams such as Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher and Rio Ferdinand saying they love this new look Arsenal side.

    Does Arteta have the vision?
    We are young, we are strong, we play together and we could be immortal like all the greats of football that have flowed through our lives, making our time on this planet a brighter place. Arteta may not prove to be a big innovator like Chapman or Wenger but he could turn out to be an extraordinary manager like Busby. I would take that all day long. Bring us back to the future and the Swinging Sixties but this time Arteta and Arsenal.

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