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  1. Change the manager is the answer? On the right path so no change, please Top five teams and their managers since a first trophy in the Premier league era Clubs Managers Trophies First trophy Man Utd 7 40 Prem League 1993 Chelsea 19 27 FA cup 1997 Arsenal 5 22 League cup 1993 Man City 3 20 FA cup 2011 Liverpool 8 19 League cup 1995 Ah, football was invented in 1992-93 by the wonderful people at Sky and the 5 teams above have dominated since. Now it is annoying that statistics are often confined to the Premier League era but in this case maybe it is justified. Huge amounts of money made their way into England and exposure, hype, sponsorship and many other factors came into play since then including a ruthlessness with the sack never seen before. Pep Guardiola is the benchmark to which all aspire My question today is: is there any correlation between managerial change and winning trophies? It is very hard to make out a case either way as you can see in the table above. I should point out that I have included exclusive trophies like the Charity Shield and the various Super cups in this list despite them being very confined in terms of who competes. Arsenal and City have never qualified for any type of Super cup although obviously that changes next season. The Glazers are unpopular at Man Utd I have not included in this list the teams who have won only one trophy plus Leicester who have won 3 as they cannot seriously be regarded as contenders. For the 5 teams concerned the figures are from the first trophy in the Premier league era. I have also not included caretaker managers. Money screams not talks What we can see clearly is that that money plays a huge role. These are the richest clubs over the Premier League era. Manchester United dominated at the start simply because they had the most money and a manager whose style very much suited the new Premier league. The backpass rule was changed to stop you passing to the goalkeeper and wasting time. It became dangerous to pass back to the keeper. Ferguson loved this because he liked to attack. Attacking football suited Sky as they promoted their new brand. They hyped Utd, Utd had the most money and this helped them make even richer. Liverpool and Arsenal had a much more counter-attacking style and struggled initially with the new demands. Smaller teams like Blackburn and Newcastle were the only real danger as Utd mopped up trophies. Roman Abramovich changed how football is run Even when Arsenal appeared, they were almost Utd’s only competition which meant Utd continued to take many trophies. The money kept growing and billionaires were starting to eye up potential candidates to take on these giants. Roman Abramovich was the first such and, after failing to buy Arsenal, he opted for Chelsea, a team who had improved enormously over the past seasons. He brought a level of money unheard of as he built Chelsea into a worldwide brand. It is very true that fans are fickle. If a team starts winning, a lot of fans switch allegiance. The point here is that Abramovich’s ownership style was critical to Chelsea’s constant success. Other teams have had money thrown at them without success. PSG, despite unheard of amounts, are still only big in France, the weakest of Europe’s 5 big leagues. Copy the Arsenal and Man Utd benchmarks Something similar happened with City as with Chelsea. Big money came in but the ownership style was geared for success. As with Chelsea, the academies flourished and incredible training grounds installed. This holistic style was pioneered by Arsenal and Arsene Wenger but the other area they borrowed from Ferguson - his willingness to splash the cash to get supreme players. They combined the strategies employed by Arsenal and Utd to get to the top. Sheik Mansour- created the structures to make Man city win Traditionally, Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal are the big trio in English football in terms of trophies won. City and Chelsea are right on their heels now and Chelsea are second in the Premier league era. This is a testament to the importance of owners. Owners at the traditional big clubs know they are coming into a machine designed for success, owners at emerging clubs know they have to emulate that machine. And so benchmarking becomes critical. Looking at the Rolls Royce in the different areas of success and striving to become better. The scouting, the academies, the training facilities, the medical and rehabilitation facilities, the relationship with fans, the branding, the management structures that ensure that people can manage their own areas successfully but all towards the main goal of making the club function as a whole and continuing to win. If one area breaks down, for example, at Chelsea, where the manager seemed bewildered at all the players coming in and could not create overnight the partnerships that are essential to a winning team. The manager needs to have the final decision in team matters. The owners must create the right conditions I believe that the managers are important, yes, but in the modern era, the Premier league one, the owners have to work for the manager to enable him to concentrate on getting the team right. There are areas he needs to be in charge of and areas where others take responsibility. Ferguson and Wenger could not use their method of managing now, they would have to accept that they can’t control everything, it is just too big, but as long as all decisions are with the aim of getting the team to win, that the manager can get the players he can work with, that he has the power over team matters, then all areas are in harmony. City, I believe, has this. Arsenal, I hope, also. Stan Kroenke seems to have quietly put the right system in place Because then, and only then, can you win in the modern era. The manager, if rightly supported, can make a big difference. If Guardiola goes in two years as has been suggested, he will be a huge loss as all structures have been designed for him to succeed. Another manager will probably need the structures adjusted to ensure he becomes a winning machine. This is where good owners come in. They need to be clever enough to accept the changes necessary to suit what is, ultimately, the critical role, the manager’s. To give one simple example, the medical and rehabilitation areas should be able to have a veto over whether a player is fit to play. If a manager can overrule them then that relationship breaks down. If a player then gets injured, then all the team know that the manager doesn’t care about them, only winning. Ask Jose Mourinho. John Henry - are Liverpool fans happy? There are too many areas to be managed by one person And so, as we can see from above, Chelsea have made the most changes of manager and continued to win. City the least but they were also by far the last to achieve success in the Premier league era with an FA cup win in 2011. Todd Boehly -does not seem to understand soccer My conclusion is that how an owner runs the club is the critical factor. The football manager cannot manage a worldwide scouting system, the financial contracts of players, the medical teams, the academies, the relationship with fans, the branding and marketing, the list goes on. He can have an impact in all these areas but to be successful he cannot spend too much time on these matters. Just trying to look after the team he must work with an array of coaches, the goalkeeping, the set piece, the attacking, the midfield and the defence experts. The statistic guys, the tactic guys and also work out all the media commitments. Plus deal with all the players problems, the disappointed, family problems, medical problems, international commitments, scheduling, and keep up, as best he can, with all the areas he hasn’t got the time to manage. You need good owners to be smart in how they manage the manager’s time, to allow him to do what he does best, get the team to win. Guardiola is the benchmark for Arsenal’s owners. They must ensure the same for Arteta.
  2. The fickleness of football fans AFTV epitomise fickle fans Suppose, as we all expect, Spurs gain 4th and Arsenal fifth this season, then there will be many complaints, moans, and even downright abuse of Arteta, the players and the visible staff like Edu. We will read a mountain of bile directed at Arsenal. But suppose, again, that Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs are involved in some scandal and are demoted. Arsenal get crowned champions then suddenly the fans go wild, cheering their manager, their players, and everything about the Arsenal. We wouldn’t care that we finished fifth, only that we are champions. And so, this week, we will listen to all the sob stories as we lament losing our chance at Champions league, how useless Arteta is, how useless the players are, how we will never qualify for Champions league again, and bla, bla, bla. But suddenly, we beat Everton. Spurs fall down a black hole at Norwich. We are in Champions League. WE ARE IN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE! This makes us happy And then the stories change. And so does the song: We’ve got Super Mik Arteta, He knows exactly what we need, Kieran at the back, Gabi in attack, Arsenal on the way to Champions League. Thus it has been since I was a boy, I guess thus it will be after I am long gone. And honestly, having been writing all my life, people don’t want to read measured reasoning about their teams. Generally football fans fall into two camps. Those that are negative and those that are positive. When I was growing up, I had almost no Arsenal fans around me, so I didn’t have the negative ones, and Arsenal overachieved by winning the Fairs cup (Europa League) and then the magical double. Then lots of Irish and successive FA cup finals. And so to me, we were overachieving. And I am mostly naturally positive so probably am mostly in that camp. But I pride myself on trying to be objective, to make a true calculation of where we are, and not one based on the fickleness of fans. Small steps might be wiser A wise member of the Arsenal backroom team here in Bulgaria, Zdravko Talvi, outlined his opinion, that realistically, Europa League would most likely be best for us next term. He made a lot of sense when I thought about it. The team is young, inexperienced, and new young players are coming through that we either let go and may regret doing so like Gnabry, or we have the scope to play them in the Europa League. We probably can’t play them much in the Champions league. The thing is that such reasoned debate is rare in football fans. All they want is victory, no matter how it is achieved. Even in the hypothetical situation outlined above, where the top teams are demoted, we would cheer our great victory. The question is: did we overachieve this season with a minimum fifth? I say yes, we have far too many young players with great potential but not enough experience. Son and Kane are two of the wiliest operators in the league, using every trick to their advantage. Kane knows he doesn’t even get booked no matter what he does, and Son goes down when he feels the wind change direction. Our players need that vital experience. It may surprise younger fans but Patrick Vieira took a long time to stop getting cards all the time. He frustrated us enormously as we saw the great talent but lamented the time spent out suspended. Martin Keown never totally lost his penchant for getting carded but at least we had Steve Bould as cover. I feel, objectively, that that team of Wenger’s and the next one, the Invincibles, were the best team in the world but underachieved because of indiscipline. No team had better players than Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira, Pires, Ljungberg, and the rest. All the way through both teams, we had top players. But we never won Champions League and only 3 Premier Leagues. I reckon we had at least 8-10 years of being the best team in England and a few as the best in Europe. So, bizarrely, we underachieved. Points out a flaw in Wenger, he was superb in assembling a team and getting them to play for him, but ill discipline and a certain lack of tactical nous were probably his weaknesses. Me? I am innocent, ref! The greats underachieved I wonder does he agree with me, that his team should have accomplished more? I would love to ask him. But those were our wonder years, maybe the best spell I will ever see. And so back to the current team. All the teams around us, City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs and Man Utd, even West Ham, have lots of scheming old pros, ready to fool a ref all the time, even VAR. Combine that with the Northern preference of the refereeing system and we did have a disadvantage. The only old pro we have that plays all the time, Xhaka, is a target for refs and can never gain any advantage. He will never escape that, I feel, even if he went on a summer camp with Son and Kane. He battered me, ref In that context, with such young players, we have overachieved this season no matter where we finish. Does that make Arteta better than Wenger if we accept my previous assertion? Of course not. A manager is judged on their overall achievements. Arteta has such a young team because he seems to have a problem with experienced players and even some young players like Guendouzi and possibly Saliba. He got rid of, or doesn’t play the experienced ones. That is his flaw, more so than any other. He then needs these young players to grow with him, keep improving and playing for him, and not giving him much trouble. Then we can see if he is any good or not. All managers have flaws, but the best ones make sure that theirs don’t stop them winning things. Trophies are all that matters To underline my point, Manchester United, under Ferguson, were the richest team in the world and certainly in England, yet that did not mean he won everything every season. Far from it. He rarely came close to winning everything. That is an argument that he always underachieved. A manager who underachieves surely is not a great manager, yes? I hope you can see where I am coming from, a manager is judged entirely on trophies. Gain enough and nobody digs too deep to say whether you underachieved or overachieved. Ferguson and Wenger are two of the greatest to have lived, despite my argument that they both underachieved. And so you can see the fickleness of fans. If Arteta gets us into Champions league, due to a St Totteringhams day, or due to a crazy scandal that demotes 4 teams down the league, or even if Chelsea alone get demoted for some Russian reason, he will be deemed for the moment to be a great manager. I believe it is fair to say that he overachieved this season no matter what, 4th or 5th, and I also believe that it is fair to say that a manager who overachieves deserves plaudits. But the sniping will continue with 5th. The achievement of a trophy, the mythical 4th spot, no matter how it is done fair or foul is the definition. A Russian scandal demotes Chelsea? Shout louder so everyone will hear you The problem with the fickleness of a lot of fans, and I have no idea if they are in the majority or just shout louder so we think they might be, is that the negativity doesn’t help their team. Personal abuse of the managers, players and staff doesn’t help. I hope this piece has underlined for you how difficult it is to even decide if your manager and team have overachieved or not, but one thing I am certain about, it is the attitude, epitomised by our own Zdravko Talvi, that what fans should really care about is the long term welfare of the team, and in that context, EL may be better than CL. I believe our young players will prove the knockers wrong
  3. Arsenal are the greatest football team But not without our black players Chants. Where would football fans be without them? Ones that say your team is the greatest football team, or that certain players have unique attributes, or that the opposing team or the ref has very negative ones. Coronavirus stopped all that for a time and we were forced to watch matches without the chanting. The experience is poorer. They have been around since the late 50’s/early 60’s and seemingly Liverpool and Everton were among the first to adopt such elements to their repertoire. Very quickly, all teams started coming up with their own or adapting other ones to suit themselves. They now form an irreplaceable part of the matchday experience, in my opinion. Easily offended at Euro 2020? My blog today was inspired by two elements. One was the revelation that the Italian team were seemingly annoyed by the English fans singing You can stick your twirly pasta up your arse to the tune of She’ll be coming around the mountain. It didn’t stop them winning and I reckon if I was on that Italian team I would just find it funny. The other, more serious one was the abuse that Steve Bruce revealed during his time at Newcastle, most of it from Newcastle fans and the press. He was called an idiot cabbage head, a fat waste of space and worse. Our own Mikel Arteta went on record supporting him and it is not right, that a manager or a player, who has worked hard to be selected for his team and get to where they are in their career, is out there trying his best, gets dogs abuse for no fair reason. In the real world of work where most of you work, such abuse is rare and there are many laws to protect you. We're up to our necks in Fenian blood I also want to talk about the dark chants of football, where Rangers bloodthirsty chant about the Billyboys probably takes pride of place. If you don’t know it, google it, truly vile. There are also the racist ones, directed at Black players since they started appearing in English football in the 70’s but adopted worldwide, it seems. And of course, the anti-German ones beloved of English fans praising the death toll in 2 world wars. Is there a purpose to such songs, other than the venting of bile? Well, they might upset some players, throwing them off their game, helping your team to win. Truth be told, I reckon they upset all players, if they are on the receiving end, but some choose to try and use them to up their game, in essence, to get the fans to stick their chants up their arse. However, what about the chanting against your own team? This is, in the context of what I said in the last paragraph, is paradoxical. Singing, in order to undermine your own manager, owner, player or players, is more likely to affect your team’s performance and make you lose. So it doesn’t make sense, does it? Often it is very personal, about characteristics they can do nothing about such as the aforementioned Steve Bruce who, like most people, including you, dear reader, has put on some weight as he has got older. Toon toon, barmy army Plenty to chant about with Mike Ashley Let’s take Mike Ashley, possibly the most hated of owners in the Premier League. Why? As far as I can see, it is because he is a cockney wideboy, who only bought Newcastle to make money. As opposed to the trend started by Roman Abramovich and continued by Newcastle’s new owners, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, where direct profit is not involved, but rather an improvement in status, in enjoyment, a chance to move in circles hitherto not available. The money advanced is seen as a payment that brings all sorts of benefits, which are not easily quantified, but are connected to improving the perception of the entities involved. But, again, it is not because they care passionately about the team, only about the benefits. There is little evidence that these new owners cared about the team and the football community in which they are grounded. Maybe that comes over time and it is the peak that Mike Ashley never conquered, as Newcastle fans never felt that he cared. It is not a charge that can be levelled at Abramovich, but is it really that? Chelsea have had continuous success, Newcastle none, and that is more likely the reason for whether the fans like the owners or not and also whether the owners get a buzz out of their team. Abramovich has had many great nights to bond with the fans, Ashley very few. Consistent winning seems to be the difference You're getting sacked in the morning Steve Bruce recently complained about the abuse he suffered at Newcastle. Bruce was a top player, playing for the best team in the land, Manchester United, and won many honours in his time. He was never given a chance to manage at a team that was likely to win trophies but is generally regarded as a good coach and manager who clocked up 1000 appearances as a manager, a testament to his ability. Sam Allardyce famously said that if he was given a chance at Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, he would have won everything. Maybe Bruce feels the same. Instead he gets called an idiot cabbagehead by his own team’s supporters. It’s not right, is it? A good human being gets sacked - ask Saint-Maximin Can anything be done? Can we ban all offensive chanting? Should we? We could, of course, pick out a food from a country and sing about it. The Italian team, apparently, were offended by the English fans singing, You can stick your twirly pasta up your arse, at the Euros Final. To me, it was just funny. I can think of others that would work well. For the Scottish, there are several choices, You can stick your fried Mars bars up your arse, or, You can stick your smelly haggis up your arse. For the Irish, You can stick your bacon and cabbage up your arse, or, You can stick your soda bread up your arse. For the French, You can stick your slimy snails up your arse, and of course, many of the European countries have smelly and even live cheeses that I am sure inventive football fans can dream up chants about. The Germans have their sauerkraut and curryworst and many others for English fans nostalgic for a replacement for the world war chants. When you're sat in row Z, and the ball hits your head, that's Zamora I always liked the funny and the inventive chants that fans can come up with, and, honestly, I would much prefer if they were the only ones I heard. I don’t want to hear abuse of black players or any players, managers or staff for that matter. I don’t stand up to show I hate Tottenham and I see no reason to hate them. I loved it, back in the 70’s, when Manchester United fans were losing in the FA Cup final at Arsenal, they reversed the traditional chant sung at the qualifying rounds of Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be, we’re going to Wemble lee, to, … we’re losing at Wemble lee. A nice touch, funny and sad at the same time. As for me, I am not hopeful of change, but I am glad to get my feelings out there. And for all those that know me, you know I don’t eat cheese and I don’t like tripe, so the traditional favourites beloved of Bulgarians are out for me. You know what you can do with your Shopska salad and your Shkembe Chorba! I do eat it without the cheese
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