Say Yes to Racism or Embrace Sports Psychology; Pick One, Reap the Benefits

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Luis Suarez is the most recent and arguably most important addition to FC Barcelona’s attack that won the treble in 2015.

As one of the world’s best strikers, it’s natural that Suarez is a wanted man on the pitch. Alongside partners Neymar and Lionel Messi, defenders up and down Europe hunt the trio like Wile E. Coyote does the Road runner.

Unlike the bird, the equally looney Suarez has a well documented short fuse. It’s believed Barça explicitly wrote in El Pistolero’s contract that he isn’t allowed to spaz out like he did most famously on Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.

Dazzling foot skills and temper tantrums have long been the stereotype of South American stars for years, but it turns out the popular criticism is also backed by numbers.

According to political scientist Sebastián Saiegh, co-author of National Cultures and Soccer Violence, Messi, Neymar and Suarez’ former national teammates were some of the most statistically violent players in the game.

The study looks at the average number of yellow and red cards earned by players of various nationalities across the world’s top leagues from 2004 to 2006. It found that players who came from countries with impressive histories of civil war since 1980, such as Argentina, Colombia and Turkey, were the most violent among their club teammates.

Comparing the years players spent maturing (ages zero to 18) with a country’s times of war, the study was able to pinpoint which nation produced the world’s most violent professionals.

Extremely strong correlation between civil war and violence on the pitch is one thing, but explaining why the phenomenon exists is more complex.

The study suggests a history of violence in a country affects local cultural norms, making violent conduct more socially acceptable, expected, or even desirable.

“Our speculation is that it’s how these players are socialized; what is acceptable in society growing up. Something they experience at home, school, what they watch on the news. Some argue that our study is flawed because it assumes that every player has the same type of exposure to civil war, which isn’t true; it makes the results of our study even more surprising,” Saiegh said.

What’s less surprising is a player’s salary also correlates strongly with how many yellow cards they concede.

“These guys are the targets for more fouls – look what happened to Neymar just a few weeks ago in the Copa America. He felt that the ref wasn’t protecting him properly, that the players are taking turns fouling him, so at some point he’s going to retaliate and get a card,” Saiegh said.

Given the ease of access to a player’s finances, the world’s best-paid players are inevitably more visible. They’re targeted by fans with humiliating chants, kicked to pieces by opposition, and generally shown a torrid time week in, week out.

Much like prejudice by paycheque, a player’s nationality can play as large a part in their treatment on the pitch. Unabashed racism from fans is the most obvious example of discrimination in the game, but the motivation behind players’ actions isn’t as clear, unless you’re someone like Suarez.

But what about the ref? Every fan has thought it. The ref is clearly out to get their team, and they can’t figure out why. While tough to prove, it is reasonable to speculate that players of various backgrounds receive different levels of sympathy from officials.

“There are refs who interact regularly with certain high profile players who are more easily recognizable. [Especially] In the case of international competition, it would [make sense] that he gives the Colombians more cards [over a more docile team – South Korea], based on his bias, yes. It’s definitely possible,” Saiegh said.


At one point in his career, Toronto sports psychologist Paul Dennis consulted three teams of three different sports, all at once. He juggled his full-time position with the Leafs alongside the needs of Toronto FC and the Raptors.

“It was easier with the Leafs. I was with the team for every game. My work with TFC was whenever I could fit it in. When athletes are struggling with their emotions, they need constant encouragement and counselling opportunities, and I couldn’t be around for that,” he said.

Dennis acknowledges the main reason TFC wanted his help was to “fix” a “problem athlete”, similar to the maligned Suarez, not help the team. In his time working with the club, Dennis knew there were skeptics within the organization.

“They should’ve hired somebody full time. Some teams don’t understand what role a sports psychologist plays in a professional team. It’s not for a lack of resources, they have the money. I think it’s a philosophical decision that has to be made, but they don’t see the value, so they don’t do it,” Dennis said.

Mental health is an issue largely overlooked in the world of sport, and especially so in a game as maddeningly traditionalistic as soccer. Embracing psychology as a beneficial tool in soccer has always been taboo, and not just in North America.

“Some people say if you need a sports psychologist you’ve got a mentally weak team, which is ridiculous, because you’ve got a nutritionist and strength coaches, so why not hire someone who works with the mind?” Dennis said.

It’s a valid point. Worldwide, soccer is heavily criticized for its reluctance to change. Fans gripe about the inflexibility over safe standing in England, slow adoption of game-enhancing technology across leagues.

Maybe the next problem will concern recruitment outside how much an addition will cost and where they’ll play.

Players with discipline issues are an inherent risk to a team. Volatile players walk a thin line between utility and liability for their sides, those that use conflict as a means of success are the most difficult to change.

“There are some that realize that their violence pays. They intimidate opposition, refs; they use their aggression to their advantage. They have this instinctive ability to hurt people, and they like it, so why change? I’m not able to help that type of person,” Dennis said.

There are obvious drawbacks to violence in soccer, but top managers still value what a hard man brings. Dennis agrees that while there’s a better balance to be struck between slide tackles and skill, it’s a tough sell to teams who find success in rough play.

“These types of individuals have the power to influence the mindset of the opponent, they’re always looking over their shoulder and that throws them off their game. The intimidation factor is huge, and so is the fear of injury. [It’s] enough to occupy the mindset of athletes to the point that they are completely distracted, and their skill level is neutralized. It’s a part of sport, sure,” he said.

As it stands, clubs have two options to improve. Stop signing the game’s most violent players, or just pick their brains.



We Need to Talk About Jack Wilshere

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Jack Wilshere is the last piece of a puzzle that Arsène Wenger has lost. Wilshere is nice to have, but nobody’s quite worked out what to do with him yet.

It’s a good thing Arsène Wenger is a patient man. In the past 10 years he’s created midfield maestros and dealt with morons. In the decade Arsenal have spent under Emirates Stadium’s shadow, Wenger’s commitment to youth development has been a two-edged sword.

For every Cesc Fabregas to rise through the ranks and validate Wenger’s unwavering faith in project youngsters, a gaggle of Denilson’s and Pedro Botelho’s served as boat anchors to Wenger’s balloon of ambition.

The youth to come good in the current line up include Wojciech Szczesny, Kieran Gibbs, Hector Bellerin, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, and Serge Gnabry, with more knocking on Wenger’s door. All have found good amounts of playing time in periods of fitness, and have established themselves as valuable assets to the team. However, it could be argued that none possess the raw talent of Wilshere.

Wilshere’s situation is enigmatic. There’s no doubting his high ceiling or his commitment to this club, but there is a question mark above his head regardless. Where does he play in our current system? Does he play instead of, or in addition to the players making up our starting nucleus?

In every potential position for Wilshere, there seems to be a more suited option. Francis Coquelin has been on form to the extent that he’s undroppable except to be rested. Aaron Ramsey hasn’t reproduced his scoring form from last season, but he’s proven himself valuable in possession, and helping Hector Bellerin defend the right flank.

The person standing tallest in Wilshere’s way is Arsenal’s shortest player, Santi Cazorla. The Spaniard goes against the archetypal grain of deep-lying midfielders, but his size hasn’t stopped him. Cazorla has been instrumental behind Mesut Ozil, distributing the ball from deep and chipping in with the odd defensive effort too.

After returning to full fitness, Wilshere has made all of his appearances as a substitute except for his start on the weekend against Sunderland, where the Gunners fell flat.

Despite the circumstances, Wenger seemed to praise Wilshere through gritted teeth when he spoke to media.

“Jack Wilshere gave a lot, he did alright,” Wenger said. “He had some good movement.”

Expecting much from a player severely lacking match fitness at the tail end of a season where Champions League qualification is guaranteed seems unfair. Yet, that’s exactly what everybody wants from Wilshere, because his capability of excellence is well documented.

It’s this expectation, both at club and national level, that will either make him great, or give him a nervous tick.

What Wilshere needs is time, and lots of it. Wenger himself said it could take years for Wilshere to get back on track.

Fortunately for Wilshere, time is on his side again. Arsenal’s season ends in two games, and there’s no major tournament for England to attend. He has the entire summer to recuperate, train, and be ready for pre-season.

Unfortunately for Wilshere, time has also sent him back to square one. It’s up to him to prove he can still cut it on the world’s biggest stages – his sensational performance against Xavi and Iniesta is no longer relevant.

Arsenal fans should be excited for the new Jack Wilshere, a player who doesn’t know where he fits in yet.

I am @BergkampSpin

Arsène Wenger Needs a Reality Check

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Arsène Wenger’s body language in his post-match interview painted the picture of an aggrieved and flustered man.

Wenger used words “lucky” and “too easy” to describe the match, discrediting Swansea’s defensive work ethic and Łukasz Fabianski’s solid display returning to the Emirates.

Yes, statistically Arsenal dominated the match, and yes Swansea’s goal came with a bit of luck. However, this result speaks more to the club’s shortcomings than it does its misfortune.

There are many character flaws that the Gunners have managed to shake this season, but conceding against the run of play isn’t one of them.

Naiveté in knife-edge games has cost Arsenal dearly, and will continue to until Wenger can instill a sense of perspective in his players.

Wenger’s words in the post-match press conference didn’t match his actions on the touch line.

“When you cannot win a game, don’t lose it. We knew exactly what could happen. It was not even a break,” he said.

Wenger knew Swansea could score on the break, and yet he stripped his side of its most important defensive asset well before stoppage time.

Criticize Jose Mourinho all you like, but if Chelsea are playing for a win or draw in a match they’re dominating, he won’t take off his only DM.

Yet that’s exactly what Wenger did, swapping Jack Wilshere for Francis Coquelin with 20 minutes left to play.

With that substitution, Arsenal’s midfield was comprised solely of attacking players. While this imbalance in midfield can’t be directly attributed to a goal scored just outside the six yard box, it couldn’t have helped. The back four were hopelessly exposed without Coquelin’s shielding presence.

Wenger needs to learn from the teams that frustrate us. At times his insatiable appetite to win is more trouble than it’s worth.

A scrappy 0-0 at home wouldn’t have made much difference in the race for second, but throwing the kitchen sink at Swansea only to leave the pitch empty-handed is demoralizing.

At some point, Wenger needs to swallow his pride and learn to play ugly when the situation calls for it. We’ve seen this season that conservative play coupled with a sense of perspective wins championships.

I am @BergkampSpin

Are Arsenal Finally Set?

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January has gone quite well. Exceptionally well, actually. Arsène Wenger has managed to address two squad issues, trim our roster up front, and pick up a more than respectable points tally along the way.

This is the point where our season is really going to kick on; equal parts necessity and squad rejuvenation dictate. Everything about the Premier League has been quiet since the turn of the year. Chelsea look weaker by the day, we’ve found a head of steam, and City are being found out a little bit without Yaya Touré.

The only real surprising thing that remains neglected is United’s position in the table. They’re ahead of us by one point. That’s a bit sad, considering how well documented their so-called calamitous season has been.

Am I making a mountain of a molehill? No. Yes. Maybe. All I’m saying is that there’s plenty of room for us to improve, and right now, we’re showing every sign of doing so.

A lot of that is down to having a fit squad again. Imagine having to pick between Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil to play number 10. Ridiculous luxuries are afforded to us when our roster is healthy. We’ve now arrived at the point where we’ve got at least two very good options per position. Finally, finally, finally.

Be it Francis Coquelin making the DM role his, Ozil hitting form straight after returning from injury, or Laurent Koscielny starting to look back to his old best, there are very few negatives to look at, as the squad stands. That’s good, because we’ve got three competitions to compete in.

I won’t turn my nose up at the Champions League just yet; stranger things have happened. Monaco are by no means an “easy” opponent, but when you consider prior opposition, you can’t help but feel good about our chances. I’m banking on us reaching the semis before we end up with Real Madrid. No pride in bowing out to them, really. It’s the FA Cup we should hold at highest priority, anyway.

I say that, because we’re not going to win the league. A third place finish is what I’m hoping for, I’d say that’s more than attainable looking up and down the table right now.

If we manage to do all that, and maybe add a DM in the summer, I’d say we’re a complete squad. I mean totally complete, not little bit competitive, or little bit short – complete.

That’s a strange thought, because you’d swear Arsène was always little bit sadistic in his approach to the fans. We’d always enter the season with some sort of handicap. You’d always wonder just what exactly he was playing at.

We’d have no centre backs (we have a good one this year… on the BENCH!), or they’d be Johan Djourou and Seb Squillaci. We’d have one good striker who’d be injured half the season, and Nicklas Bendtner and Marouane Chamakh as backups.

We actually used to employ Manuel Almunia.

I can go on and on, but the point is that Arsène always found ways to sprinkle a little bit of banter into our season.

I’m almost sad to see it go.

I am @BergkampSpin.

Arsenal Might Sign Some Guy You’ve Never Heard of.

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I’m going to go out on a limb, and put stock in Twitter transfer rumours for just a moment. Mostly in this one, because Cadena Ser is mentioned as the source for this bit of news. They’ve been pretty spot on for us lately, accurately reporting both the Özil and Sánchez sagas.

Another thing going for this rumour, is it’s a bit out of the blue. I have no idea who this player is, and it seems as though he’ll have to apply for a work permit to complete his move. Very Arsenal indeed.

Could Joel Campbell be involved as a makeweight in the deal? It would kill two birds with one stone. I feel bad for Joel, he really seems to have a good head on his shoulders. He’s just not looking like being anywhere near as good as the players ahead of him. Shame, but right now he could be a very useful bargaining tool.

It makes me wonder why we haven’t heard talk of asking around the Premier League. Surely there would be some takers, and the added bonus of getting a player with experience in England would be invaluable at this stage in the season. Just food for thought.

I don’t want to hurt my head with the ins and outs of a transfer that’s yet to materialize, so if you want to learn more about this guy, have a look at what Sid Lowe had to say about him on ESPNFC. It’s worth the read.

Elsewhere, there really isn’t much new in the world of Arsenal. Even the club website are struggling for content. Right now the headlines read:

Giroud: “You have to be good at scoring goals in front of goal”
Walcott: Alexis is quite good
Ramsey: Coquelin is really good
Ramsey: Cazorla is really quite good

I’m not complaining. Okay, maybe a little. But if this is what winning two difficult games consecutively does to our media presence, I think I’ll get over it.

Follow me: I am @BergkampSpin.

Wenger Looks to Bolster Squad, Extend Coq

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The biggest news since our win at City is rumblings of a new contract for our in-house shit house, Francis Coquelin. Which is absolutely brilliant in every way.

Coquelin is a testament to Arsène’s trademark patience with his players. Looking at the names he’s taken from teenaged nobodies to household names is remarkable. I’m glad we’ve found an – albeit short term – fix to the dearth of defensive midfield options currently at the club. The fact that our solution was sourced internally is especially pleasing.

I suspect Arsène sees Coquelin’s resurgence as the perfect excuse for putting off chasing a DM this window; frankly, I don’t blame him. Whoever we can get into the team now probably won’t be good enough to continue on with, so why bother? It’s better to stick with what we have in central midfield. Between Ramsey, Coquelin, Rosicky and others, I think we’ve got the numbers to last the rest of the season.

Where we could use an addition is at the back. I’m still not convinced Laurent Koscielny or Calum Chambers are fully fit, and there is no way that Per Mertesacker isn’t at least a little battered and bruised. He hasn’t had a proper rest in years. Again, it is January, so getting what we’re after is no easy task.

Nonetheless, the papers have linked us with two defenders, both from La Liga: Villareal’s Gabriel Paulista, and Valencia’s Nicolas Otamendi.
I can’t admit to knowing much about either, but it’s nice to see us sniffing around in Spain some more. We haven’t put a foot wrong signing a player from there since, well, Sebastien Squillaci, but that shouldn’t overshadow the fact that there are deals to be had. Nacho Monreal being the most recent example.

If they’re good enough, sign one of them, and we come out of January looking tidy indeed. Our defensive core is looking rather tasty, with five up to five contracted full backs vying for two starting spots next season.

What interests me more than our defense is the impending midfield shake-up.

The contracts of Coquelin, Abou Diaby, Mikel Arteta, and Mathieu Flamini all expire in the summer. This is a huge opportunity to free up a lot of cash to store forever and ever under Arsène’s mattress tied up in players who aren’t contributing enough to the team.

I’ll love Abou Diaby for ever and ever, but even on the alleged sporadic pay-as-you-go deal, it’s just not worth keeping him around. We’re never going to fix him, it’s best just to wish him well and send him on his way.

My sentiments are a little different towards Mathieu Flamini. His form from last season has taken one of the sharpest nose dives I’ve ever seen from an Arsenal player. No one has attempted explaining it either. Sadly, it’s probably because no one cares. Flamini’s re-hiring reeked of desperation at the time, so it comes as no surprise that we’ve stalled on giving him a bumper deal. I’ve enjoyed his enthusiasm and general calamity in his play, but turf-shredding tackles can only get you so far in this game. It’s probably time to say goodbye.

What this means for us is the possibility of a truly new-look, young Arsenal midfield. For once, the lack of an old guard would be welcome in my eyes. I think the best outcome in this contract situation would be getting Arteta to sign a player-coach contract, and letting the rest be byegones. We’re ever so close to having a complete squad, but there’s still some trimming to do yet.

Right now, I’m just happy that some of our problems are solving themselves. Cheers Francis.

I am @BergkampSpin

The Show Must Go On Without Arteta

Mikel Arteta is injured again. The Guardian claim he is to be out for “many more weeks.” That’s unfortunate, but I think it’s indicative of our problems within the squad that we still rely on a 32-year-old with degrading legs to be our midfield lynchpin.

His transition from number 10 in his younger days to the quasi defensive mid role in our side was always a bit of a gamble, but it did pay off quite well in his first two seasons as the club.

Sure, Mikel is not perfect. But he did a damn good job in his time fit here. I think it’s fitting we keep him on as a player, as he’s still got a role to play in this team. As an experienced player who’s shown leadership qualities in the past, I’d have no qualms in giving him a contract that sees him well into his late thirties. Can you say player coach? We’ve managed to nab a few of the Invincibles to get their coaching badges at the Emirates, but it’s equally important we keep what few old heads we have now. You’d be forgiven in forgetting that a lot of our important players are still in their early to mid twenties.

I think it’s realistic that we won’t see Mikel play more than 10 games from here until the end of the season, if he plays at all. So, how do we cope with that?

The re-introduction of Francis Coquelin was a timely one, although I imagine Arsène did it out of bare necessity more than anything. That’s not a knock on Coquelin. He’s a player I’ve always said would eventually do well in this side, despite the fact that he could never quite nail down a starting place, supposedly due to attitude problems. He’s doing well now, and that’s what matters.

Beyond Coq, we’ve got the walking calamity that is Mathieu Flamini. I can wear rose-tinted specs with the best of them, but Flamini seems much, much worse than last season. Him and Aaron Ramsey were so complimentary last year. I really can’t figure out what changed. He is the wrong side of thirty now, but there’s something more to his sharp decline that we might have to put down to natural regression. I’m not going to cry about it; we got him for free. He’s put in a few entertaining tackles, and has enough red cards to make a home shirt out of. Let’s just leave him be.

This is where Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey will have to step up. Jack should be back in months, Ramsey in weeks or less. The lack of appealing options in the middle of the park goes in his favour, with Tomas Rosicky seemingly preferred next to Coquelin over the ailing Flamini.

Aside from making a signing in January (haha), that’s just about all we’ve got in the middle. One option that I’d love to see Wenger try in the long term is pushing Santi backwards, making him the deep lying playmaker; the role earmarked for Jack Wilshere, and potentially Oxlade-Chamberlain.

There would definitely be some growing pains with our daintiest playmaker next to an anchor man, but I think it could be useful against sides who are notoriously tough to break down, specifically all those shoddy Premier League outfits who show up to stack two banks of four against us for 90 minutes. It would mean fitting Cazorla, Ozil, Sanchez, Walcott and Giroud in the same side without using any of the aforementioned ineffectually.

Just food for thought. In any case, I think we can manage without Mikel for a while longer. The same way we’ve kicked on during Flamini’s stint on the bench. It’s time for a bit of a rethink, and it starts with the personnel we’ve already got at our disposal.

I am @BergkampSpin

Wenger’s Probably Not Arsed with January – Here’s Why

Look, If I had a fuck to give, I would give. You know that. If there is a fuck out there that I can get that will please you, I will get that fuck and give it.

Remember the great fullback crisis of 2011? Or was it 2010?

I honestly don’t remember what year. Sadly, that’s pretty indicative of how common massive injury plagues are on this club. How we manage to temporarily kill a third of our squad year after year is a notable accomplishment in itself, really. A salute to duncery in its purest art form.

I think our coaches and trainers took A-levels on ignoring “little bit niggles” that turn into “oh no my arm’s fallen off”, and, credit to them, it works.

You might be wondering where I’m going with this.

To me, that calamitous season sets precedent for Arsène’s behaviour in the January window. We were playing a back line of Thomas Vermaelen, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, and Johan Djourou, were we not? We had Sebastien Squillaci knocking around too, if memory serves. Honestly, I’m getting chills just thinking about it. That is just tragic, and cruel to the fans who endured that shambles. What did Wenger do to remedy that situation? Nothing!

We were linked with Chris Samba – the largest centre back in the known world – and nothing came of that. We were linked with Emilio Izaguirre. He still plays for Celtic. We went all the way through January, and nobody came in. We made fourth place, and the world reset. No sweat off Arsène’s neck.

Sure, it would have been easier for Arsène to go out and get in a few competent players to cover our positions, but then what would we have done with six full backs in the summer?

The situation is similar this year in defense, and to an extent, central midfield. For time’s sake, let’s just look at the back line.

Depending on how you classify Calum Chambers, we either have three centre backs and four full backs, or two centre backs and five full backs. Most say we need one more body in the centre of defense, and I’m inclined to agree.

However, we’ve been through this before. We’ve seen how hard it is to keep all of our defensive players happy. Remember Thomas Vermaelen? He is the microcosm of our current issue.

So, I put it to you. Make sure any player you have in mind to sign fills out “yes” to each of the following questions.

  1. Is he good enough?
  2. Is he willing to compete with two established starters?
  3. Is his transfer fee reasonable?
  4. Are his wages?
  5. Will his club let him leave?
  6. Does he want to leave?
  7. Can we strike a deal in two weeks’ time?

If you’ve found a player who ticks all those boxes, congratulations. You should send in your resume to Steve Rowley’s office. Rub elbows will Gilles Grimandi or something, because you’re damn good.

I am @BergkampSpin

The January Window is for Fools.

Andrey Arshavin was our last good signing in the January transfer window. It took until February, and it almost didn’t happen in the end, but we got the little meerkat. We smashed our transfer record, and walked away happy.

So there is potential in the month of madness and mild annoyance. But you can’t seriously expect to conclude a deal, start to finish in 31 days. And you definitely don’t want to bank on knocking it out of the park with any form of consistency.

Signing a player, especially a high calibre one, takes multiple weeks to pull off at the best of times. It’s just how the business works. Since time is at such a premium in January, everything is accelerated and inflated. A centre back worth £5m in July becomes £17m in January. A player’s wage demands are likely to bump. Everybody gets greedy, because if you’re in a tight spot with only four weeks to do anything about it, you’re going to have to pay.

There’s a lot more to it than picking up a phone and rattling off some numbers.

Mesut Ozil signed on the summer deadline day. Alexis Sanchez’s transfer stretched late into August. Both took months to organize. These are our two best players, and Arsène Wenger personally moved mountains to get them both. Both superstars commanded large fees, and both required some convincing to come to North London.

Almost any player we do or don’t end up signing will have a price tag they simply don’t merit. Why do you think most of the biggest signings in football are in the summer? Manchester City paid just under £40m for Sergio Aguero in the summer of 2011. Imagine how much more they would have forked over to Atletico Madrid in the winter? Suddenly a four turns to a six, and you’re left wondering where your oil money has gone.

It’s just not good business.

This is why I want Dick Law locked up in Steve Bould’s trunk until February 1. Give him some twizzlers and a Skype account for tying up that Bielik kid, and let that be that. If we want to add one centre back, so be it. But you and I know that Arsène, Steve Rowley and co. are going to have one hell of a time finding and signing the the damn unicorn that is a world class, brick shit house with a sprinkle of Paddy Vieira defensive midfielder.

The simple reason is that they simply do not exist. Not for less than half a fortune. Nemanja Matic reportedly cost just north of £20m. Javi Martinez and Fernandinho both rang in around £30m. Not only are quality defensive players a dime a dozen and expensive, they’re hard to pry from the hands of their current clubs.

Another problem. Anybody who has decent tackling and possession stats can command north of £20m in today’s markets. You can thank YouTube for that. Not a good thing, considering we’ve only paid more than that for two of the world’s absolute best attacking talents, and no one else.

I don’t want a DM, because we’ll invariably end up paying £13m for Jeremy Toulalan’s corpse, or Flamini’s younger brother. January is a waste of time.

I am @BergkampSpin

CFC 2 AFC 0 – What’s Our Problem?


What do Chelsea have that we don’t?

Immediately, you think of money. Both clubs have it by the bucket load. Yes, Chelsea are owned by one of the richest men in the world, and yes, they spend recklessly at times. But, when you give Jose Mourinho a blank cheque and holes to fill, guess what? Those holes won’t be there at kickoff on Matchweek 1.

Inversely, Arsène Wenger is probably still considering getting his Chevette rust-proofed, not realizing Steven Gerrard’s cousin nicked his hub caps two years ago. We needed an attacking midfielder when Fabregas left. Arsène stuck with an ailing Aaron Ramsey. Robin van Persie left, and Giroud came in. Olivier Giroud.

And still, we lack a high calibre defensive midfielder. We have for many years. We lack a top striker. I love Danny Welbeck more than the average Arsenal fan, but it’s plain to see that he needs time to develop.

Let me take a step back. Fundamentally, Arsenal are inferior to the cream of the crop in almost every facet. The amount of times we’ve come close to challenging the best – Milan, Bayern and Barça come to mind – only to have a moment of calamity and fold in on ourselves, is maddening.

Couple those bittersweet European nights with huge losses suffered to English juggernauts, and you get a team who are famed for their comedy rather than their gusto. It makes you wonder why Arsène spends so much time wringing his hands. Everybody in the stadium knows how a match is going to play out.

Why does it have to be this way? Why do we go to Stamford Bridge expecting to be left humiliated? Is it because we’re a top side underachieving, or are we a patchwork side under the guise of what we once were? I think it’s time we realize that Arsenal are no longer a top side. We’re also-rans. That much is evident in taking maximum points from only two matches of the seven played. The fact that United’s trimmed fat is our first choice and only fit striker.

We’re not the Arsenal who win 1-0 at the Bernabeu, and Arsène Wenger is no longer the manager to make us so.