One Of Us Speaks – Another Green World

Summer in Spanish cities can be unbearable. All across the country, apart from in the very north and northwest, the heat is stifling, and intensified by the fabric of the city. Most people live in the newer districts, which are dominated by high-rise apartment blocks exposed to the brutal sun, towering over noisy streets choked by traffic.

There’s little public space, save the odd playground or isolated square. It’s the upshot of decades of dubious urban planning and, very often, the insidious influence of developers on municipalities. In the 70s, 80s and even the 90s, shaded open space was barely a consideration.

At this time of the year you envy the old-town dwellers at the compact and dark core of the city in their ageing courtyards. Temperatures on these streets feel a few degrees lower thanks to the shade – the alleys here are narrow for this reason, and the centuries-old stonework gives the air a sanctified quality.

But it’s that grid system of hazy, baking concrete I want to talk about. Uncomfortable enough in the summer that, even as I watch my road in London break its banks again, I never pine for Spain in July.

My walk to and from the office would take me past an inner-city playground. Part of a proper barrio with a strong Latin-American flavour, where the unmistakable reggaeton beat thumped from boy-racers, and there was a pleasing continental aroma of cortados and stale tobacco that wafted from the cafe on the corner. It could be quite an intimidating place, but the kids didn’t come here to waste time; they came to play football.

It never looked very appealling to me. After a few minutes a brand new ball would start to get scoured by the surface. Any kind of spill or slip meant blood. The boisterous spectators, wire cage and sunken pitch gave it all a bit of a forbidding Mad Max at the Thunderdome quality. The other reason I never felt like joining in was because these lads were scarily good.

Slowly I’ve got the vague idea that it was in this imperfect urban environment that the momentum for football’s next big step gathered – where there’s intense passion for football, community spirit and an urge to gather in public, but hardly a grass pitch to be found. Technique and awareness flourishes here.

Teams at all levels trust in an individual’s control. A clean first touch is everything. Patience goes a long way, especially between May and October. The heat makes you more efficient, more economical in your exertions. Diving into tackles is not an option – the same goes for any kind of action that will end with part of your anatomy, aside from your feet, making contact with the unpleasant playing surface.

You start to understand why Futsal does so well. It’s played throughout southern Europe and South America. It arrived in Spanish cities in the early 70s as the cities swelled. Courts are found at local sports centres, or Polideportivos, which in many places offer the only delineated and maintained environment for a game of football. They’re away from the sun and a hell of a lot cheaper to use than the UK equivalent.

Where I live in London there are acres of lush grass pitches ten minutes on foot. I can’t think of an area in the city, apart from maybe W1 that isn’t a few minutes’ walk from the nearest set of goals. Because of the climate, almost all surfaces available are artificial in Spain. You start to wonder if grass is the problem.

My local pitches are verdant but inconsistent. Even during the season the grass is overgrown, and the roll of the ball is hampered by tufts and diverted by bobbles.

In many Spanish cities the Futsal court is what they’ve got. They play on a smooth surface with a size four ball that rewards only the deftest touch. Adults trap the ball with their soles and roll it forward like school kids do with a tennis ball on their lunch break. The goals are narrower than what you’ll get at an indoor or 5-a-side football pitch in the UK, making shots from distance just a hopeful punt.

I’m aware that there are plenty of factors that go into a footballer’s development, but one thing’s for sure – the generation raised on Futsal has taken over. Two of the best players from the last 20 years, Messi and the Brazilian Ronaldo, first turned heads on the Futsal court. Much of the Spain team was brought up on this type of football, and when you watch a Futsal match you can see the similarities.

In England the most recognised form of the sport is played on poorly maintained public grass pitches that forgive deficiencies and give the cloggers time to get their challenges in. You could even take that idea up a few rungs:

Sure, it would take a long time to see a difference, and the improvement might well be negligible, but I reckon the simplest way to raise the standard of football in this country would be to encourage teams at all levels to train and play on grass cut as close as possible to 1cm in length. More important than stadium capacity, in the Premier League the Desso GrassMaster surface or equivalent hybrid surface should be compulsory.

In one of the Clásicos two seasons ago, Real Madrid opted to leave the grass in the Bernabéu at three centimetres as part of their plan to contain Barcelona, and it caused uproar. Xavi went to the press – he wasn’t having any of it. To him, those two centimetres only suited the team that didn’t want to play.

But then he never had to go to Stoke, or Sunderland, or Wigan after a Rugby League match. When Arsène talks about pitches in England it draws sneers from the press and frustration from the fans. Of course he wants an advantage for his team, on turf that rewards technical players and shuns the cloggers. But in the end, isn’t that what everyone else wants?

Posted on July 13, 2012, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 222 Comments.

  1. Fascinating ideas Al and beautifully put as ever. But will anybody listen….

  2. 1st….Booom..

  3. bananas…reminded me of the AC Milan away game last year

  4. The pitches play an important part. An analogy can be found in cricket. The Indian cricket teams of past were poor at fielding. The grounds hardly had grass like in Spain and no one would dive to stop the ball. But as the grounds have improved so has the level of fielding.
    Since people in Spain are averse to throwing themselves at tackles it’s becomes easy to see why they put more emphasis on pressing and positioning in defense.

  5. Yes I think most fans or football fans want good pitches or good attractive football but Stoke fans actually just want a win much like us they know they can’t match us on the technical side but when has English football ever been about technical play? and where do we play in England so instead of blaming a handful of clubs maybe the blame should be at the FA because until England start producing technical players nothing will change.

  6. Wouldn’t it be great if the governing bodies of football would think like this? Or as they can’t be visionary, at least care about what’s good for the game. At the moment, non-moronic woul be a big leap forward. Football is in the hands of corrupt conservative fools.

  7. One of your best OOU. I think it’s the ‘we invented football’ mentality that is holding England back. Lack of technical players has stopped the Country winning anything since 1966 but the FA still fail to learn the lesson. Until they do, nothing will change.

  8. I run a youth football club with kids from 5 up to 18. I have continual battles with the council over the length of grass on the pitches. At times the kids can’t pass it along the ground as the ball just wo,’t move very far at all. Xavi woild be unimpressed, in fact he’d be killing people to play on 3cm of grass. Seriously, football in this country will never develop kids to the level we want without a complete overhaul of the game that includes pitches, coaching, education, etc. And that requires funding from the FA, who need to spend their money on the things that will make a difference. The amount of money spent on the Respect campaign alone must be frightening, but they can’t provide free coaching courses to encourage more parents (who tend to run most youth teams) to obtain coaching qualifications.

    Sorry, rant over. Love the site.

  9. OOW – Nice write up. And it opens debate as to what football actually is. We as Arsenal fans (me inluded) often sneer at other sides that don’t attempt to play the same passing game as us. But is that right? Who says that is how football is “meant” to be played. It certainly is not always the most effective style of play.

    I would point to Manure (unfortunately) as a team which strike the almost perfect balance between paasing/direct football. There can be little argument that they have been the most sucsesful British side for the past few decades, but have often done so with the technically giften players that we had. Their football has been far more effective though and is hardly hoofball. Which begs the question… should football be played?

  10. I run a youth football club with kids from 5 up to 18. I have continual battles with the council over the length of grass on the pitches. At times the kids can’t pass it along the ground as the ball just wo,’t move very far at all. Xavi woild be unimpressed, in fact he’d be killing people to play on 3cm of grass. Seriously, football in this country will never develop kids to the level we want without a complete overhaul of the game that includes pitches, coaching, education, etc. And that requires funding from the FA, who need to spend their money on the things that will make a difference. The amount of money spent on the Respect campaign alone must be frightening, but they can’t provided free coaching courses to encourage more parents (who tend to run most youth teams) to obtain coaching qualifications.

    Sorry, rant over. Love the site.

  11. Now you have made me think about Stoke…. Just as I was getting excited about the new season. Yuck, have those bastards managed to crawl out from under their rock again this year?

  12. Nero – All good points.

    I remember at school playing on full size pitches at he age of 9 and 10. The best players were the biggest and strongest, meaning many other player with probably much greater footballing potential fell by the way side. When the bigger player sreached the age of 17 or 18 it turned out that they were not very good at all. Too late for the players that fell by the wayside though.

    The goalkeeper had hardly any chance at all in a full size net, yet only stood 4 foot in height. He could barely kick the ball outside the area on goals kicks.

    In Holland and germany (at least) the picthes are much smaller, and therefore encourage better football.

  13. Goonerandy

    Good point, but giving our kids the technical ability of their foreign counterparts at least gives you the option to choose how you want to play the game. Otherwise you are Stoke.

  14. Excellent and thought provoking, Al.

    Interesting interview with Xavi in the last Blizzard who grew up playing football in one of those urban ‘squares’. He says it is now forbidden on the one he played.

    Nero, you go to the hub of the problem. In this and much more, the FA are culpable. They have long been a broken reed, seemingly only interested in their power games internally and with EUFA and FIFA. It’s about time they stopped being given an easy ride. They are a disgrace.

    You have a point, andy. ‘Effectiv’e football is what wins games I suppose. The issue here though is, how will young English players learn technique? English ‘effective’ football versus, say, Spanish ‘effective’ football will usually lose. Unless we play all our home games at Stoke, of course.

  15. Superb take on todays’ football landscape on Arseblog this morning.

  16. Bob – Yeah, very true. And the scenario I gave sheds light on why many English players have a culture of after 4 or 5 passes, to hoof it in the general direction of the striker. As showcased by our national side against most teams.

  17. Wonderful piece, well thought-out and deftly written. The point is clearly stated; the pitch, grass and overall team technique has an effect on the results. It is important to note however, that while we expect the authorities to wake up to thier responsibilities for the good of the game, it is good that we understand that every team and their board have peculiarities and we all strive to give our team a level of advantage….no matter how little or unpopular.

  18. Nero, I also run a youth team. It is so depressing. At under 11, the league rules that we had to move to 11-a-side on a full size pitch with full size goals. Its ridiculas.

    Every game goes the same way, stick the quickest kid up front, boot it long over the defence leaving said striker with the very undaunting task of a 4 foot keeper standing in a full size goal.

    I have spent years of wet Thursday nights, teaching kids ‘pass and move’, all of it comes to nought. Kids want to win games and parents REALLY want to win games, if they don’t the kids are generally moved on to another club that adopts a kick and run system.

    Until the govening bodies that run our beautiful game at grass roots see the long term devastation they are producing, British national teams and subsequently British players will continue to fall further behind other continental nations.

  19. What an immensley well written article, captivating and enchanting. An absolute pleasure to read, love the colour and texture. Great piece of work, should be in FourFourTwo!

  20. Kingsalami – A great example of why British football struggles to improve and progress.

  21. Birdkamp

    An insightful and though provoking piece. Well done. In an attempt to explain our lack of technical ability I have often described similar scenarios from my youth in London. Instead of long grass being the problem I remember having to play on quagmires. My word, we would sink in the mud. We had no choice than to ‘hoof’ the ball aloft. The ‘quagmires’ also ensured a soft landing so throwing yourself into reckless slide tackles offered no fear of flaying your thighs. Superimpose our worship of the ‘warrior’ onto this style of football – you know, ‘get in there’, ‘let ‘um know your there’, ‘put your body on the line for the team’ and hey, this is where we are today.

    I also think that it would have taken a soothsayer to predict that this would lead to our lack of technical skill becoming so obvious some 30 years later. So to a certain extent we are the victims of circumstance. The problem is now cultural. Most of our pundits probably experienced something similar to what I have described and have been nurtured to believe ‘Britain won the war’ with no help from anywhere. Hence, the contempt for all things ‘continental’, we liberated them and they should not forget this. They may have used advances in sports medicine to fine tune their athletes, but they are pansies, dishonest, they dive and fake injury. And we can still match them with our beer and pies!

  22. It seems that the Spuds have secured the Adebayour signing. The wheel slowly starts to turn……

  23. Fantastic stuff Big Al. Really interesting. The FA probably sees English football as a brand with a USP that shouldn’t change. People around the world tune in. Why would they even think about changing it. I”m sure they think it aint broke. And the contrast in playing styles does (admittedly) make the league(s) interesting in England.

    However a couple of seasons ago I watched a Chelsea Birmingham game on the screens in the departure lounge of an airport before flying back home to London. It was the most dire game imaginable. And no one else was bothering to watch it!

    Tennis played on the different surfaces does make it a more interesting sport. We don’t produce clay-court specialists in the country. With the patient, chess-like strategy and long rallies it fosters. (?) I’m not sure what we do produce however. Apart from Murray.

    The geography and climate of a country has the biggest impact on more than anything else. Music, cuisine, art, religion politics And clearly sport?

  24. In Brasil, the kids play on the streets in the favela’s. In Rio the city is built upon in to the side of the Mountain. The streets are hot but he kid learn to play with anything. In hoops terms this is called street ball In New York City its called the Ricker league, Philly the Baker League. The best players learn the game on the streets. You learn to play “D” with your feet and body position. It’s wide open game.

  25. A good piece OOU as usual and my experience in line with Kingsalami- too much obsession with the physical attributes of football, not enough with working on and improving the technical skills of the youngsters. Everything is sacrificed to the game, and winning the game. Investing time and effort acquiring and perfecting skills is not valued or seen as important.

    Spent a bit of time in Lisbon and compared my experience with the arrangement for the childrens and youth teams at Benfica who spend their sessions working on individual skills, 20 minutes solid heading, 20 minutes shooting, 20 minutes learning to volley the ball etc rather than hurling themelves around in games.

  26. Wonderful and insightful post! Thanks. A joy to read. And if I’m not mistaken a nod to Eno’s classic in the choice of title. Icing on the cake.

    Kingsalami and Georgaki are right, it’s now a cultural thing. I often hear pundits spout nonsense along the lines of “after all, winning is what matters at the end of the day”. Until they stop glorifying the likes of Stoke and start vilifying them as (mostly) everything that’s wrong with English football then we will forever keep one foot in the dark ages. England with their “grit”, “passion” and, god help us, “bulldog spirit” will usually end up embarrassed by the more technically able nations. It’s a sweet irony that with the emergence of Wilshere and other Arsenal youngsters it’s taking a Frenchman to lead the way.

    But what do I know? I’ll tell you what I know: fuck all. Which may be all the credentials I need for a job with the FA.

  27. re: anicoll5’s comment
    “…..who spend their sessions working on individual skills, 20 minutes solid heading, 20 minutes shooting, 20 minutes learning to volley the ball etc rather than hurling themelves around in games.”

    I’m sure it won’t surprise you that that is exactly the kind of thing the Arsenal youth do.

  28. Kingsalami and Nero,

    I’ve long believed that ‘if you are, you are never alone’. You two coach youth sides in a league, speak to other youth coaches and petition the fuck until you effect the change you want. In fact, you probably don’t even need the petition to be signed by just coaches.

    Although it may be presumptuous to assign the removal of Robson from Arsenal player to that petition, it certainly does look as like democracy in action. I say get to it.

  29. I agree with Passenal at 8.51
    Playing football on mud can be fun. You won’t remember the exciting tale of my football career Big Al but after making various teams for having the ability to time a slide (but not pass & other stuff) I eventually learnt how to play Football off the Futsal genius’ of N.London.
    Of course, my excuse was that I had spent most of my time playing cricket.

  30. Great article, very nicely written and as ever, plenty to think about.

    Although comprehensive, I think there is another dimension to be considered here which hinges on practice.

    Earlier generations had less choice as to how to spend their leisure time whereas now we are nurturing a generation of kids more online than out of line. Our digital children, choice rich but time poor.

    Once suspects the problem will get worst before it gets better, if it gets better at all.

    I can recollect a childhood invested in hour upon hour of playing the game on any surface going – grass, meadow, concrete playground, road, you name it. These days the roads double up as car parks, half the school playing fields (in the UK at least, we are told) have been sold off to builders, anxious parents are reticent to let their charges loose without constant and unending supervision.

    It’s actually harder to play kickabouts these days, let alone organised matches – and a whole lot more tempting not to. Xbox’s enable youthful online communities to replicate what we had to physically leave the house to do – play, fight, interact, cry, laugh and learn.

    I’m still today shocked at the antics of overly competitive parents on the sidelines of organised matches. So even when kids are playing in a relatively decent environment, the presence of their guardians seem to turn the game into something else – again, something that wasn’t there when I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s.

    None of the above negates anything in the excellent main post, of course – there are cultural differences in the way we play the game in this part of Northern Europe compared to the hotter and drier climes. Differences that are quite easy to understand.

    And as several have pointed out, it’s the lamentable failure of the English FA to address these differences in any meaningful fashion that goes a long way to perpetuating long-standing weaknesses in the English game.

    Personally, I would like to see the big league football clubs do a great deal more in partnership with schools and other community groups. Not necessarily in reinventing the wheel but in providing relatively small sums that could be made to go a long way to making big differences at grass – and even concrete – roots.

    I know Arsenal do some tremendous work in the community in North London but I would like to see the FA co-ordinate a wider, more national approach to saving, nurturing and developing the game.

    One last point relates to the weakness of cricket in England. Unless you are at a fee-paying school, chances are you will have played on some rubbish surfaces as likely to maim you as develop your skills. To play a decent standard you have to join a local club which generally have finite places and there is a natural ‘filtering’ process that then takes place. Sadly, the filtering takes place at such a young age that countless ‘000’s of kids that might have gone on to ‘be something’ end up doing nothing in this particular game.

    The long-term result of this is that cricket, as an ‘industry’ is very much the poor relation compared to football, despite all our favoured game’s flaws.

    But the principal causes of the weaknesses found in cricket can also be seen nowadays in football, too.

  31. I agree with arsenalandrew

  32. a perfect piece Big Al.

    we tend to forget the effect nature has on our choices but “she’s” always there to remind us of her presence by passing the baton of success to somebody else, somewhere else.

    Its been a pleasure being alive to witness the variety of flavours in football.
    Like all things organic, as long as there are people there will be no end to it.

    the spanish play it “best” today…..wonder who’s next?

    “The geography and climate of a country has the biggest impact on more than anything else. Music, cuisine, art, religion politics and clearly sport?”

  33. “the man that knows something knows that he knows nothing at all”
    ……a smart man learns from the successes & mistakes of others.

    even an arrogant FA will eventually change…

    understand the envy,
    we have AW.

  34. Mingus “I’m sure it won’t surprise you that that is exactly the kind of thing the Arsenal youth do.”

    It certainly would not Mingus but if I have never ever seen the same concentration on mastering key skills at junior level in the youngsters football I have been involved with and coached in. It just does not happen, and while part of that is a lack of leadership and implementing good coaching practice on the part of the FA etcetera it is also that the kids would riot 🙂

  35. Big Al

    Absolutely a gem and certainly one of your best literary pieces.

    For a fan, we can easily spot which players enjoy masturbating with the ball.

    RvP and Santos are from the hierarchy of football cultures. I’m sure nurtured their ‘confidence’ on the ball in similar but dissimilar methods.

    Every footballer’s style of play is influenced by someone or something……at an early age.

  36. Great piece OOU. Made me recall my childhood, and many a day spent playing headers and volleys on a road with a 7-foot wall standing in for the goal. Did wonders for our shooting accuracy, since any wayward shot would result in the offender scaling said wall to go get the ball back, and hopefully not get mauled by a big dog. We had great ball control and could head and volley with the best of them. But put us on an actual pitch and it was a different story altogether.

  37. Andy

    re: Ade
    Dating and marriage require different skill sets.

  38. Looks like the club have addressed some access issues regarding ticketing at the ground with an introduction of a third tier of ticketing for ‘lower level’ games which should make things a bit more affordable – and the stadium fuller – for certain games.

    Also seem to have made progress in making it possible to swap tickets between friends and family if, as a season ticket holder, you are unable to make a game.

    Good progress, and more evidence (if any was needed) of a well-run club.

  39. arsenalandrew


  40. Gadget,

    I have both written and put forward my case in person at various meetings.

    The leagues response is that the orgainisation is set up primarily for fun and to allow as many children, of all levels of ability, to play and contribute. The kids who show a flair for the game will eventually be picked up through the scouting networks of local teams with sporting academies; Reading, Aldershot, Southampton, etc.

    Whilst there is rational to their thinking and yes these clubs do regularly attend our games, I am positive by the time these players are scouted, the informative years of learning good close control are already lost replaced with ingrained kick and run attributes.

  41. Spotted that too, arsenalandrew. A move in the right direction. Got to get those empty season ticket seats filled…and filled by real fans.

    I would like to see even cheaper seats still, offered to local kids from schools.

  42. Wow, over the top, GA (I mean all this “almost perfect Manure” stuff). A narrow view. I agree how well SAF has done, what they have achieved. There is a story behind, an amazing (in many ways unprecedented) group of young english players and the courage to play them, the habit of winning, winning at all costs, playing to win, investing huge sums (relative to year/period) on players, and a little help along the way.

    But their European record tells a different, more honest story. Why has ManU been so effective in England and considerably less effective in Europe? True, they strike a balance between directness and technical ability, but the focus is strengths that are effective in england: defence, crossing/heading, traditional hard-man midfielder (Keane more or less replaced by Fletcher), refs “looking the other way”, the goal poacher style striker. It is a “formula”. SAF has brilliantly applied it – none better. Top European teams predictably neutralise it through technical and tactical play.

    It is conjecture in a sense but I think Wenger had it (the balance between directness and technical ability) figured all along, and his tactical approach has been more advanced than SAF. Had Wenger elected to win trophies as his sole raison d’etre, I have no doubt we would be sitting on a hatful, and challenging SAF in that over a 15 period.

    Wenger added so much more to the pot and raised the bar. He decided (as a business and football strategy) that style and entertainment was important in building a club’s identity. He looked for interesting players, unusual and special talents. He decided that developing players at a younger age was vital and long-term. He oversaw the self-sustainability model, the stadium, the move and the massive compromises (in terms of football trophies) needed to achieve this. He saw that Europe was important and FA and CC less so for building a big club.

    He set Arsenal a different set of criteria as to “success”. there have been set-backs. so much was pioneering. Now, I believe he is about ready to re-launch the “effective football” quest as the # 1 goal, something he proved once and placed aside while building, building.

  43. Do you know, andrew, or anyon,e how far afield Arsenal reach into schools?

    I ask because there have been coaching sessions at Widdicombe in the Moor Primary Sxchool by Arsenal.

    I haven’t quite got the full story from No. 1 grandson but they have been twice.

  44. When arsene talks about pitches it draws sneers from the press and frustration from fans-how true. Those would be the same people that say we never produce players that can pass a ball,that appear on media outlets whining about an unsuccessful and dire England performance in a tournament,that praise pullis and alladyce for their plucky tough guy football,that along with the poisonous amounts of money used to buy success are strangling football as we know and love it,thank god for arsene wenger.

  45. Well said ZimPaul!

  46. Frank love you as I do I have to tell you – you’re the worst greengrocer ever.

    You need to broaden your product base.

  47. 99% of African players learn their trade on “pitches” (you use the word loosely) so dire and with boots and footballs so rudimentary it is impossible to fully describe. A “football” can be anything round, tennis balls are perfect (and incredibly hard to control), a plastic bag filled with stuff and tied with string is a common sight. Barefoot is common until age 10. A pitch is anything vaguely flat and shaped a bit rectangular, although “uphill and downhill” is still common. I have played on pitches that have paths furrowed through them (from pedestrians because that “patch” is the way to the shops).

    A big story in world football is the rise of this very football culture to the top of Europe. It started with Zaire getting beaten 13-0 by Germany at a world cup, ’74 maybe? By the early 2000s, there were 300 African registered players just in France, (about 15 in England). Today is anyone’s guess, every league (top 3-4 divisions) from Poland to Turkey, Scotland to Greece has African players, even their off-spring.

    Apart from athleticism per se, especially West African, and work ethic (hungry people work harder), what explains it? My take is two-fold: that these players develop extraordinary ball and coordination skills, and when they master the same technique on bowling green pitches and footballs and boots that work, they find they have advantages. More importantly, the culture (philosophy almost one could say) of playing for the sheer joy of mastering skills makes for a better player.

  48. Yes, and Frank, it would help to actually shout out a price. Bananas are “dollar for 10” this side.

  49. pedantic george

    Andy asked”Which begs the question… should football be played?”
    He had mentioned that United’s style was effective .And pointed out that although not hoofball it was more direct than our(currant) style.
    The most “effective “way to play is decided by many thing ,Some within your control (playing staff,coaches ,tactics,formations.and so on)and some not.
    The” not “ones are the likes of the away pitches (Sunderland,Milan).the rule changes,application of the rules by officials.
    The fact that the media and the authorities allow the likes of Stoke to continue to pollute the league ,does not bode well for the games future in this country.

  50. Good piece Birdy! And it follows on from many a discussion here.

    Andy; Nor sure what manU have to do with today’s article man? Its about the culture of football and it’s coaching in this conuntry and how it needs to change so we dont see England teams hoofing the ball because they dont have the basic technique of players from macedonia, Estonia etc.

    ie Not the here and now, but what needs to change for things to improve in say, 10 years. Although i remember having exactly this kind of debate after every tournament that England fail to qualify for, or make a show of themselves!

    Stoke and manU need to win games to either stay in the league or win shit, they are going to use any trick in their dirty little books (:) ) to do that, therefore it is not their responsibllity to improve the state of the national game at grass roots and youth level.

  51. Much African football below the top levels is predictably of poor quality, sometimes even unwatchable. I prefer amateur football, skilled and entertaining. But one thing is for sure; it is more important – at most levels – to be skilled (team and individual) than just to win per se, it has a higher cultural value. The best is to be skilled and entertain the crowd. The best of the best is to show off your skills, entertain the crowd, and produce a move and a goal that Arsenal would be proud of. That’s football. Who won? Who cares! But did you see that move? When our fans watch Arsenal, they talk endlessly about this and that move, its nuances, who “created”, the different skills involved. Football is just a game of skill, chance and fun. Winning is nice too!

  52. CBob

    I know that the club runs football schools nationally and there is a roadshow again this summer; comes to your neck of the woods in August, I think.

  53. Great post Big Al! Really enjoyable to read.

    I can’t bear the hypocrisy when folks I play football with take the mick about Arsenal’s style of play, but lauding the more technical, entertaining players.

    A friend and I have toyed with the idea of “starting a revolution” and teaching kids to play football, but concluded that with the current set-up in the UK, it wouldn’t be as fun as we’d originally hoped.

  54. OOU – Brilliant post Big Al, very insightful. Yes, as you said, there are other factors that contribute to a players development but I do believe you hit the nail on the head with this one. It is not just a player’s development that is effected by what you say but also how the team itself would be forced to play. If the condition of a pitch is conducive to rapid passing, coupled with close ball control and leaves no time for clumsy tackles, and makes hoof-ball obsolete, then almost every team playing on such a surface would find itself playing a more ‘flowing’ form of football. A good example of this would be indoor soccer, a game that demands short, accurate and rapid passing and excellent ball control. It would be interesting to see what difference you would see in a team if said team was made to play indoor soccer, or something similar, for the off-season summer months. There are school gymnasiums up and down the country that, for the most part, sit empty during the summer. If I were a coach of a young football team, I think I would have them train twice a week in such a gymnasium. With their passing ability and ball control being the two things to concentrate on. I remember all too well playing in the local park in Dublin, on pitches that were more like something you would see after a rock concert than a football pitch. How I did not turn an ankle in every game I will never know, truly awful conditions.

  55. Here’s some photos from Arsenal training. Great to see Bouldy there, with the bossman. Check out Gervinho in pic 16, talk about slight! He needs bulking up!
    I am sure George could give him some tips on how to put on a shit load of weight in a short period.

  56. “n Brasil, the kids play on the streets in the favela’s. In Rio the city is built upon in to the side of the Mountain.”

    true – but a lot is also played on the beach sand which fosters completely different skills

  57. I think he looks anorexic standing next to Bouldy. Put him next to Hleb and he’ll look like George.

  58. I thought Alan Pardew was running in one of the photos

  59. pedantic george

    Hey ? how did I become this fellow all of a sudden?

  60. Perhaps there should be a specific standard for pitches, that apply to every match, so that a club cannot be entitled to doctor their pitch either to suit their play, or to hamper their opponents.

    If the FA are really interested in football and its development as a spectator sport, rather than just a source of money, then it should mandatory for the home club to ensure that the grass is cut to a minimum length and properly watered and ready for the game.

    WE are, of course, dealing with professionals, who should be expected to prepare the conditions in a professional way.

    What happened at AC Milan last year should not be allowed to happen again.

    I am, of course, whistling in the dark here, as it will never happen, as it would suit only a minority of the clubs.

  61. What PG? You’re giving yourself the nickname, ‘Butch’…

  62. Going back to yesterday’s comments

    “anicoll5: I would not mind if the designers went a bit further in fact and produced something truly wild like the Stade Francais rugby jersey ” I googled and what I found was actually one my highlights today, I think sometimes my colleagues think I am nuts, as I keep having this laughter outbursts,(to them) for no apparent reason but some of the stuff posted on ACLF is funny.

    The new kit looks so un-arsenal like but personally I think it is not too bad, I know most hated the navy blue we wore in 2008 or 2009? that had a collar, (somewhat looked like a polo shirt) but it was one of my favourites.

    On today’s post it is an interesting read, coming from a country (Kenya) where we like football even though our footballers never live up to our expectations, to make it worse football is marred by corruption and politics which just exacerbates matters. I have watched alot of skilful kids play in the grassroots but they never get discovered which is quite a shame as we can do much better on the national levels.

  63. Great article, birdkamp. It’s one of many things the FA could do if they had a mind to. I sometimes think that the current generation of administrators will literally have to die out before anything will change. The English football establishment seem to have a love-hate relationship with technical ability – they admire it but also mistrust it as fundamentally un-English and unmanly. And in the meantime, English football continues to suffer.

    Effective football is not a style of football. You can be effective playing any particular style if you have the players.
    It is easier to be effective if your players have technical ability, whatever your style. Mourinho’s Chelski were all excellent players – it’s not as if they played negative or ultra-defensive football because they didn’t have the ability to play any other way, in fact that was many people’s beef with them.

  64. pedantic george

    People are calling me enough names Yogi,without me making up more.

  65. Not guilty??? Pfffft, pathetic

  66. First Lady – Glad you enjoyed the colourful explosion that is Stade France – these kit designers may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb

  67. Well maybe George’s left tit.

  68. Big AL wonderfully well written piece.

    Myself I don’t really care about England. I wish that we here in the USA could figure out how to make better footballers. We have a huge pool of great athletes. I guess the problem has to do with culture.

    Zimpaul @12:37:

    SAF has had significant success in Europe. I know he has won the CL at least twice and although they bombed out last season I think if you look their long term record speaks for itself.. Jose mourinho has been the most successful manager of the last decade in 3 different leagues and in the CL and he certainly focuses on strengths that translate well in today’s English football. Barcelona and Spain on the other hand emphasize passing and technical skill. The one thing that SAF, Jose, Barcelona and Spain have in common is their ability to defend at a very high level. ManU and mourinho’s teams are always at or very near the top of their leagues in the goals conceded table. Spain is by far the least scored on international team in the world, probably the best defensive team of all time. Although Barcelona does not have the reputation as a great defensive team, look at the tables of la Liga and they have conceded fewer goals then almost any club in the world over the last 5 years. Our relative lack of success in the league and Europe in recent years not part is of some master plan (I hope) but it is about money had arsene’s inability to marry elegance with sound defending.

  69. “I ask because there have been coaching sessions at Widdicombe in the Moor Primary Sxchool by Arsenal.”

    Consolsbob Arsenal is far reaching, they did come to Kenya sometime last year and everyone was raving about it.

    Zimpaul at 1.08 1.43 totally agree with you. Many are times that people get excited when a player displays a certain skill on the pitch, and these memorable moments last forever.

  70. Terry ‘Not Guilty’ – Anyone surprised?

  71. So John Terry is found not guilty, I am very sure the FA is going to take the cue and not punish him, given the uproar in the suarez case it will be a travesty and people say there is no bias, yea right!!

  72. No. He’s a “celebrity” and he plays for England.

  73. That was a response to DG.

  74. OK – one more time.
    Have members of the Royal family ever attended football match?

    or is this a taboo subject?

  75. I think the fact that Clark carlisle said he should be sacked by the chavs if found guilty probably had a bearing on the outcome too.

    This decision was made with an eye on the potential fallout and the magistrate was probably ‘advised’ to reach a not guilty verdict, while trying NOT to undermine the victim either.

    A Royal British fudge.

  76. Terry not guilty. i haven’t followed the trial. Still digesting the OJ trial here in North America.

    Was it a trial with an all-white jury?

  77. Dex stop calling George fat 😀 I can assure you he is nowhere near that demographic having seen him on youtube.

  78. Philmar;

    Not sure its taboo, the Queen has attended the FA Cup final along with a few other Royal leeches. Prine William is apparantly a Villa fan, or is that James hewiits kid? Can’t remember?

  79. “Jose mourinho has been the most successful manager of the last decade in 3 different leagues and in the CL and he certainly focuses on strengths that translate well in today’s English footbal”

    Portugal, UK, Italy and Spain – 4 leagues, no?

  80. He used a stunt double 1st lady 🙂

  81. Well, guilty or not of racism he is still a certified scumbag…

  82. Philmar; No jury (I dont think) just the magistrate. So only one person to bribe then! 🙂

  83. “Dex stop calling George fat I can assure you he is nowhere near that demographic having seen him on youtube.”

    Surely you mean Google Earth 😉

    Sorry George, I’ll behave now.

  84. If you are interested Phil read the judgement from the magistrate himself;

    Click to access r-v-john-terry.pdf

    While I would have been pleased to see Terry found guilty it is about right.

  85. Oh dear god Bill. Mentioning that vile disgusting cheating c*nt Mourinho in ANY argument is a complete no no.

    I know you cant help being a Yank man, but dude! 🙂

  86. Dexter you are just jealous, admit it 😀 😉

  87. Magistrates aren’t bribed. They are blackmailed….with dossiers of photos of them with young under-studies in compromising positions.

  88. anicoll5 – thanks. I am not sure I am in the mood to read anything written by an upper class twit on the subject of a lower class rogue. In fact i’d rather get embroiled in a pointless argument about Mr. Bendtner’s wages.

  89. Thanks Dexter. I’m sure I’ve seen the Royals at horse races, polo and tennis but never at a football match.
    Especially since they banned the terraces.

  90. To celebrate todays verdict, John Terry will be buying drinks for all the regulars at his local boozer; Expect it will be pretty rowdy down at the Hitler’s Arms tonight.

  91. Maybe the magistrate wasn’t bribed or blackmailed. Maybe he was happy just to watch John Terry shag his wife.

  92. Dex @ 2:42:

    Take “the special one” out of the post and the point remains the same. Jose has the luxury of being able to take jobs where the owners of the team are willing to spend so he clearly has an unfair advantage. Arsene could have done the same thing if he wanted, but I think he has so much emotionally invested in what he is trying to do financially and football stylistically that he is determined to win his way or no way. That makes him unique and special.

  93. On the subject of Grass roots football.

    I am of somalian and italian descent, mixed between both, i would like to talk about street football.

    This is a specialty of somalian youngsters in this, many a time i have seen many of these youngsters play on concrete, they value skills and passing and moving, most of these youngsters grew up watching the brazilian sqaud containg the Ronaldo and Ronaldinho’s, and in our culture it is frowned upon for a player to slide tackle or use his strength to bully players. All you get for your troubles is snide remarks from the other players about how you don’t have enough skill to beat them and have to get dirty. This encourages most players to develop their skill and touch because of peer pressure.

    But they never get anywhere near a football pitch for a full 11 a side match. I have always wondered about this, and i asked one of them and you know what he said “It’s fun to play street football” Has football become so serious at such a young age that they are discouraged to play? Or do they lack ambition? I don’t think ambition is the problem.

    My school football team was dire to say the least, it took me a while to get into it but when i did i was confronted with the fact that i had to play upfront because i was the fastest in the team. That wasn’t my position. Every match i was knackered from the constant running. There was a kid there, he was somalian and the thinnest person i had seen for quite a while. But on the football pitch in a break time kick about, he was a monster. Sheer skill and close control, passing and vision. I asked him to join the school football team.

    He did, he didnt last a week, his lack of physical strength didnt impress the coach even though he was by far the best player there. He gave up football and hes now studying in Bristol university i think.

    The point was that i think the somali community of youngsters is the perfect example of a group of talented players (not all of them) that cannot and most don’t want to join a football team at a higher level, because they dont have the physical strength ( somalians have a very slight built) or they just wont be accepted.

  94. In all fairness to the Portuguese toad, even the best players won’t automatically win championships. He does have some motivational skills. Even if you have the best players you do need to organise them in to a team that plays for each other and gives their all. Yes he’ll have the better players but he may also have the bigger egos to deal with. He’ll have a deep bench full of bruised egos and malcontents that he still has to integrate in to a team ethos. He still has to get the part time players to contribute and that isn’t easy when they probably think they are wonderful players deserving to play. As much as I admire Wenger, I am sure Mourinho could deal with a Bendtner better. (now how do I work his wages in to the discussion?…)
    One thing that impresses me about the Protugeezer is I get the impression that he could get most of his high priced players to run in to a brick wall for him. Not too many managers could get all these primadonnas to commit to a full 100 minutes of dogged defensive play.
    But he is an arrogant cunt.

  95. Harry Flowers

    “Guys like [Fabio] Capello and [Jose] Mourinho are hailed as geniuses because they win. Well, they win because they have the best players, not because of what they do. I could put my dead grandfather in charge of their teams and they would still win.”

    Definitive quote from Zdenek Zeman on Maureen (and Fabio).

  96. No Bill, ManU under SAF have not achieved the same level of attaintment in Europe as in EPL, where they have been dominant for a period (my point is not that they have never had success in Europe). This has nothing to do with Mourinho who’s successes are relative in that he has never sustained success in any one team. He is out of the equation.

    The “easy” and part-correct answer is the level of the top competition in Europe in higher than EPL (even though it is arguably, and obviously, the most challenging league in the world). But the real answer is that ManU is simply not as “effective” (the word AG used) in Europe as it is in England. The reason should be obvious.

    ManU is not nearly as “effective” as AG thinks (he called them “almost perfect” in terms of balancing directness and technical ability). No AG, they are effective in English conditions, for specific reasons.

  97. pedantic george

    So the biggest club in the whole wide world ,dominating their own league when no team could compete financially is a great achievement is it?

  98. ““ I could put my dead grandfather in charge of their teams and they would still win.””

    Then the dead grandfather is a better coach than Scolari. Benitez, Leonardo, Hiddink, Ancelotti and others who failed to win after Mourinho left.

  99. Moe, we have alot of somalians in Kenya, until recently i had never seen a fat somalian.Actually i have seen afew of them in our premier league and they are very skilful.

  100. @ Bill

    Jose has the luxury of being able to take jobs where the owners of the team are willing to spend so he clearly has an unfair advantage.

    Not “willing to spend”, “able to spend”. Unless the reason why you don’t have a flat in central London, a collection of Monets and a helicopter to transport you to your own Caribbean island is just that you’re a bit tight?

  101. Oops it is Somalis not somalians.

  102. Fat Sam said something very similar;

    “I am not suited to Bolton or Blackburn,” he said, in apparent seriousness. “I would be more suited to Inter Milan or Real Madrid.”

    Such a move, he believes, would bring both him and the club involved unparalleled success.

    “It would not be a problem to me to go and manage those clubs because I would win the double or the league every time.”

  103. Bill would love it if we broke the bank and spent 100m, the fewer the players it would get us the better, say like 50m for one and the other two as 30m bargains!!!!

  104. Firstlady

    Haha because there aren’t any, somalians are usually built for stamina through their diet of carbohydrates. In the Kenyan Premier Leaugue? Yes they are skillful, but many of them never make it. I lived in kenya with my family when i was younger.

  105. haha Somalis*

  106. “So the biggest club in the whole wide world ,dominating their own league when no team could compete financially is a great achievement is it?”

    Well in all fairness to the drunken purplefaced bastard his team wasn’t the financial dynamo it was when he took over. He did build them up to the point where they could use their financial dominance to sustain their position. I imagine the Emirates was designed to counter that financial advantage and perpetuate and increase the unfair financial advantage we have over the Wigans, Stokes and Blackburns of the league…and then the 2 sugar daddy financial dopers arrived….

  107. pedantic george

    Philmar ,he put them where logic tells us they should have been

  108. “Moe, we have alot of somalians in Kenya, until recently i had never seen a fat somalian.”

    I saw a whole wedding party of fat Somalis in Addis Ababa. the other half were fatties from Djibouiti.i feared for the Ethiopians because it seemed these 2 families were eating all of the country’s food.

  109. I think Bill grew up with a trust fund and an army of lawyers to “defend” him against poverty.

  110. “Philmar ,he put them where logic tells us they should have been”

    Who is ‘he’?
    Arsene,? SAF? or Mourinho?

  111. Zimpaul:

    There is no way that Fergie could be as effective in Europe as he has been in the EPL. He has dominated the EPL and that is impossible to do in the CL. Arsenal had a more continental style of play during the first 1/2 of the Arsene years and the 2 teams were a lot more closely matched in every other way back then we still didn’t have more success in Europe then Fergie. IMO its not about Fergies style of play, but more about the balance of power between different clubs in Europe and the knock out format which means a team that is able to get into top form and is healthier at the right time has the advantage. The other factor in recent years is the once in a generation group of players that Barca have been able to assemble.

  112. Philmar;

    Mourinho has a knack of leaving cubs just as the old players he has bought are on the way down, so that any new incumbent struggles to get anywhere near the previous levels out of them! He IS a genius for that! 🙂

  113. pedantic george

    when did Maureen and Arsene manage Man United Philmar?
    Did I miss that?

  114. Moe, where do you live now? We have a fair number of large Somalis in Canada. The cold weather promotes a sedentary lifestyle. I imagine their metabolisms adapted to a nomadic lifestyle in the hot humid Horn of Africa probably predisposes them to store as much excess caloric in take as possible. Add a high fat Canadian diet of convenience and the results are predictable.
    Especially those who sit and drive a cab all day…and they don’t have access to qat/khat here. It’s a “controlled substance” meaning it is illegal to possess or obtain unless approved by a medical practitioner. Punishment for the possession of khat could lead to a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
    Not that i am looking for any.

  115. philmar

    That’s what happens when you have alot of money, you get fat hehe 😀

  116. ..oh, not to mention the once in a generation group of referees that Fergie has been able to assemble too…

  117. @ Aman | July 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm
    ha ha
    You’ve got to hand it to the guy – he knows how to build a team and engender loyalty to the club.

  118. c’mon,
    the whole world is into some khat or the other Philmar….

    how fat is Bill?

    i agree Dex,
    Mourinho loves to be so fresh & so clean…
    we know he wouldn’t win jacksh*te if he was lord @ the Brittania

  119. yes Fun,
    Fergie is what i imagine David Dein would be like if he were a manager…

    Fat Sam on the other hand is mega-deluded….he’d be unfailingly obese if we go by Moe’s 4:27 theory..

  120. aah, let me rephrase….

    Moe (per your 4:27),
    how fat do you think Bill is?

  121. “Mourinho has a knack of leaving cubs just as the old players he has bought are on the way down,”

    Couldn’t the new manager buy younger ones if he had unlimited financial advantage? But they didn’t recognise the need or motivate and organise the same players sufficiently.
    I still think you have to give the bastard some credit.. He manages to create a squad of players willing to defend to the bitter end for him. He creates a bench squad that is ready to step in and perform when asked without too much drama. Yes he is able to pick and choose the best players kn the world but that doesn’t guarantee success or guys like Scolari, Ancelotti, Benetez, Hiddink, Boas, Avram Grant, Ranieri who all had access to the same resources would have achieved the same results.
    That doesn’t mean Mourinho would have been successful with Arsene’s resources. In my mind Mourinho is the type of coach needed for a high priced team of talent that only lacks organisation and motivation. yeah, he’s a prick but he seems to be loved by his players. I love watching him lose but I still recognise he has some special skills.

  122. Limestonegunner

    George, it would be useful to read the article based on 7amkickoff based on Zach Slaton’s analysis of Team Total Value during the PL era. He isolated the effect of the manager in monetary terms and found that both AW and AF added huge value and got their teams to perform at a level far above the TTV. However, AF managed do perform above financial level even more than AW. Of course these statistics don’t tell the story and it is perhaps easier to get more out of even better players. We’ll see how AF does with somewhat more straightened circumstances in the next couple of years.

    Slaton, btw, had a very interesting blog on RvP situation where he suggests we need to sell him, but his assumption rests on the idea that RvP wants to go because he doesn’t see us as competitive.

  123. Dex/Zim – I was talking in general about what “good” football is, as it is a purely subjective debate. I used Manure as an example as they have obviously got it right over the past few decades as far and away th UK most successful team.

    To say they have not done that well in Europe is a bit shrill. They have done much better than us, yet we play the “better” football in many people’s opinion. Which is a point in itself.

    I am not bigging them up (as I hate them), but they have been the benchmark for winning football and they are by no means a hoofball team so are the obvious example to use.

  124. Philmar;

    Of course he does deserve some *spit credit *retch, that was never my original point man. bringing up his ungodly vile name was! But having to overhaul a team and make them successful again takes time oh and the managers who came in after him were bad bad choices. Benitez FFS??? Jeeeeez, how does that man get work? Ranieri? Nice bloke, but come off it! 🙂

  125. Limestonegunner

    Philmar, didn’t know you were in Canada–indeed, any country with poutine as a distinctive delicacy is going to have some dietary troubles!

    I’m in Kingston (the Limestone City!)

  126. Andy;

    I just didnt see it as related, still don’t. You can’t help being a manc lover though can you! 🙂

  127. Limestonegunner

    Aman, too true–once in a generation talents like Mike Dean and Howard Webb don’t come along so often, about as often as a Scholes and Giggs!

  128. Dex – It was the bit towards the end about Xavi complaining about the length of the grass. It reminded my of a conversation on here from last year of what is good football. Is it effective football, or is it pretty passing football, if passing football has no penetration is it still good, etc?

    Just thinking out loud really.

  129. Aman

    Do i have to answer that? 😀

  130. Limestone and Aman:

    “too true–once in a generation talents like Mike Dean and Howard Webb don’t come along so often, about as often as a Scholes and Giggs!”

    Good one. 🙂

  131. I’m in the Big Smoke (T.O.). I assumed you were from around Kingston way as that is where the Limestone District School Board is.

  132. Fair response Bill, knock-out competitions bring more variables, but a little inconsistent. In fact, it is possible to dominate the CL (not winning every year, but “dominant force”, the one to beat etc). Barcelona has dominated CL, and there have been a few like that. Even Liverpool came close, when they had a decent Zimbabwean keeper.

    Still, I think you should apply your reasoning to my main contention, re-stated like this: ManU (to take an example) is so effective in EPL (apart from financial clout, refs, media bias, for now) because it’s primary focus is so well attuned to an english football culture/system, which I call specifically a “formula”. It does not translate nearly as well in Europe. More controversially, when it comes to this business of “balance between directness (an english speciality) and technical ability + tactical play” Arsene is more astute. It is an opinion. And the only thing that has held him back so far are compromises knowingly made to re-construct the club for long-term viability.

    In short, everyone thinks SAF is a genius. I don’t, I think he has applied a formula, and nothing particularly original about it.

  133. Personally I was sure of Maureen’s genius when he plonked Pepe in midfield with Ade up front to run around and kick people in an attempt to not lose 5-0 to FC BBB.

    That worked. Wait, I lied. They finally beat the Barcaholes, without Ade, and with Pepe playing at CB.

  134. Yep, I know GA. It’s not you, and I’m not being critical of you per se, it’s the idea and issue you brought that’s so interesting. In my opinion, the first EPL team to “crack” a hybrid system that assimilates speed/directness (typical EPL strengths), with technical ability (a la Barca) and tactical awareness (pick any top Italian side, esp. defence), will be the first English side to truly dominate Europe.

    I’m just convinced Arsenal is attempting this extremely ambitious goal. I’m just as convinced that ManU have not/are not.

  135. Limestonegunner

    Here is the RvP post on Slaton’s “A Beautiful Numbers Game” blog; he links Henk Spaan’s profile of RvP from a couple months ago that also takes the competitiveness line in the piece and quotes his own interview with Simon Kuper who claims similar things (on what basis? Not clear).

    I’d say from these little stray bits of “information” that correspond to my own observations of RvP on the pitch, that one thing he didn’t do as captain is disguise his frustration with Rambo. He seems to have worked a great deal with Theo after practice and some others, which sounds great and very dedicated. But he doesn’t seem to connect that well with Rambo and very often I could see him being upset when AR went for a shot or pass that RvP felt should have come to him as he was open in the box. I noticed that a few times.

    So if there is one question he might have is are we bringing in a Cesc/Nasri replacement or not, or is there some other scheme tactically/formation-wise to address this? It is a position I have discussed several times here as we consider the summer business–and I’ve been of two minds whether DM or AM was most crucial. I do think we have some questions about creativity centrally in our attack. With Wilshere out for the very start of the season and being brought along slowly and inexperienced at that role (and I think he should be shielded from big expectations that he is going to be our creative fulcrum and play there 40 games next season, the way Ramsey had to shoulder this responsibility after coming back from a long-term injury), Rosicky playing wonderfully–though without many goals or assists– in the second half of our season but having some fitness and durability concerns (especially for two games a week for long stretches of the season), and Ramsey growing into the role–there is no clear solution. One possibility is to create more and more from wide positions–Theo has been a success there, the Ox, Gervinho, Podolski, perhaps Arshavin back; or to play 4231 with a forward like Arshavin or Podolski or RvP or Rosicky in the middle of that three.

    Arteta is a bit of a conundrum–he’s been great. I wonder if he was supposed to provide more forward creativity, however. The first few games he was attacking a great deal but quickly started playing deeper with the occasional foray, penalty box through ball or long distance strike. But it wasn’t his chief role to coordinate our attack. Ramsey and then Rosicky took that on. It seems like we have lots of box to box players: Wilshere, Ramsey, Arteta, Diaby, Rosicky, Song, Coquelin but only Rosicky who is an experienced and dynamic orchestrator of our attack. Ramsey and Wilshere may grow into this but it is a big ask for next season to rely on them.

  136. Zimpaul:

    OK, We will have to agree to disagree about the first 2 paragraphs. I think you can win in Europe with any “formula” and you just have to be good and have good timing and be lucky. IMO Barca’s domination is not about because of their style of play but related to the level of talent of the players, their energy and motivation and that fact that they defend so well despite their attacking ethos. What they have assembled is very rare.

    I agree with the last paragraph. Fergie is pragmatic,not brilliant. The other thing Fergie does well is motivate players and deal with ego’s.

  137. Limestonegunner

    ManU has certainly underperformed in Europe. Look at last season. The season before they coasted to the final without playing the best teams but were so obviously outclassed by Barcelona. They managed an iffy victory over Chelsea on penalties during Ronaldo’s heyday. The golden generation got one. But nothing like Bayern, AC Milan, Real, Barca. I think Fergie would agree. I agree with the assessment that he is a pragmatist, a canny battler and unrelenting competitor not a cultured footballing genius. I think Patrick Baclay’s bio of him in Football–Bloody Hell! seems very perceptive.

    But Arsenal certainly have under-performed too, haven’t we? During the glory years, it is still astonishing to me that we never won the CL, with those fantastic and technical teams. How did Dennis Bergkamp not win one with us? Evil pointed out once when we were discussing this that the format made it more unpredictable in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Perhaps. It just seems strange and unfortunate that those great teams and a top European manager didn’t go further and break through one of those years. Of course, Paris in 2006 was a heartbreaker. But if you think about it, that was at the very end of our dominant period–what of 1998-2004?

    I would dearly love to see AW holding up that trophy. Does anyone deserve it more?

  138. YW when you relaunch is it possible to have nationality flags or geographic tags against users names?

    I find it grounding and interesting knowing where people are from.

    Zimpaul kind of gives the game away mind.

    Philmar – good to know you’re whereabouts – I have you mentally tagged now. 🙂

    Are you a recent ACLF person or just started commenting recently?

  139. Luck is absolutely key in Europe.

    Pity we only deal in bad luck since the Invincibles.

  140. Zimpaul @ 5:14:

    “I’m just convinced Arsenal is attempting this extremely ambitious goal. I’m just as convinced that ManU have not/are not.”

    I agree 100%. Myself I would rather see the pendulum swing more towards pragmatism and away from idealism but thats just my opinion as a fan. To each their own.

  141. Spelling!

    *hangs head in shame*

  142. Back again, somewhat late.

    Gadget @ 11.12 – accept your point about driving change from the bottom BUT (and I can only speak for myself) it is enough of a struggle for me to keep things ticking over administering a club, hence the need from my perspective that the FA take responsibility for driving that change. And I’m sure I’m not alone in having this issue. Sounds like an excuse I know but that is the reality.

    Irishgray @ 1.57 – you are also spot on with the training sessions in gyms a couple of nights a week. Sadly, I actually bar my managers from booking indoor/outdoor (MUGA pitches) between April and Sept purely due to the fact that I can not fund it. Again, this is something that could be supported by the FA; as a Charter Standard club they will give me a grant towards building facilities but will not pay for the hire of training facilities.

    Anybody would think that I have an issue with the FA. Oh, I do…..

  143. pedantic george

    LG ,I have read that article.
    When you consider the value Arsene adds to the team it makes complaints about his wage somewhat mute(as Gus used to say,of course he meant Moot,but I think mute ,as in “STFU” is better)

  144. Fair do’s Andy.

    Great post LSG and I agree the AM position is something that definitely needs addressing, one way or the other.

  145. “Are you a recent ACLF person or just started commenting recently?”

    I’ve been reading the blog for over a year but only really started to read the comments recently.

  146. Fair enough. You seem much more reasonable now that you are divorced from the man with no name.

    Anywho welcome to the educated lunatic factory, Canucklehead. 🙂

  147. Limestone @ 5:17:

    Great post. You have made that point many times before. I doubt we will address your concerns via the transfer market at this point. I have always hoped we could get away from our dependence for creativity on that one position. That gets back to the whole discussion of directness vs. technical ability. A more direct attack which relied less on ball possession and technical skill and passing and more on moving the ball quickly into dangerous positions and counterattacking would put less of a burden on our AM I think. No way to test it but, a more direct approach might also make it easier for us to defend. I say that only because we have struggled so much with defense with the current system.

  148. I had no idea he was a hated poster posting under a new name. i just agreed with him about his positions on Bendtner and perhaps Andrei. I certainly didn’t expect the shit-tsunami that ensued. I guess a few assumed I was the unnamed re-incarnate under a new name.
    I have to say i DID agree with much of what he wrote in the few last days i read of him. Sorry guys. Maybe previous positions he made were ludicrous, hateful and unsupportable and that coloured anything else he said since – I don’t know because I only started reading the comments section recently.
    So did he stop posting or did Generalissimo Yogi enrol him in to the ranks of “Los Desaparecidos”?

  149. this was a good post..

    my pals and me would pretty much do the same thing..
    execpt there was nowhere to play football we played in the streets, in the back alleys, music would come from someones house..

    they were narrow, so close control became important and the best ones developed a skill for using the walls and curbs etc, as a tool for one twos as well as eachother..

    as well as the walls and curbs, there were cobbles, that would become slippy as ice in the rain and would have tar bubbles in the summer, but it got you used to playing on shite pitches, as well as utilising your hours of practicing kick ups in you bedroom, to help you keep the ball off the floor..

    needless to say there were dozens of broken bones, as well as windows..

    school wasnt as important, you learned your skills playing on the cobbles..but school football gave you the 11 a side feel, although maybe training should have been differently, we just used to piss about and kick shit out of eachother..
    playing for a local boy team was cool as well, you get to use all the skills from street and school football. from the dark arts of pulling the hair on the thighs, and nipping the armpits of some of the bigger lads at set pieces, to one-twoing it with your mate as if he was the wall in your street and smashing it passed the keeper like he was mrs hallarens kitchen window..
    top stuff..
    miss it..jumpers for goal posts..

  150. pedantic george

    He who’s name can not be spoken is in the eternal bin.Again.
    Lovely Jubbly.

  151. Limestonegunner

    George, that’s a given. But how does the analysis of the article shape your views on any of the other issues, particularly that which we were discussing (I wasn’t aware of anybody complaining today about AW’s salary!)?

    Thanks, Bill–are you saying I have an obsession with attacking creative midfielders?!!! In any case, so far there hasn’t been as much wider discussion lately of this issue. You might be right that it is better to create chances in a variety of ways, and it seems last year we relied on the wide forwards to do more. But, we will always want to have goals and assists coming from the midfield, and apart from Song’s assists and Arteta’s goals from a deeper position, we didn’t reliably have as much contribution from an attacking midfielder in those goals and assists. Rosicky doesn’t score or assist but he does make the team play so fluidly.

    That’s why I wonder if there might be a tactical or formation change on the cards. Without Cesc, why play the 433? Perhaps a 4231 suits our personnel better? Against weaker teams we could play Ramsey/Wilshere along Song/Arteta. In tougher, physical matchups, Arteta/Diaby alongside Song. When we want to hold onto a lead against a lower table side, switch out Ramsey/Wilshere with Coquelin from the bench to pair with Arteta/Song. And so on. But this allows our attack to play further forward with two strikers/forwards centrally. Or more conservatively with Rosicky in the centre.

  152. Limestonegunner

    And, George, I do agree with you that it is quite funny and meaningful to use “mute” when meaning “moot” as so many posters unconsciously do!

  153. We do need to up the creativity and goal scoring from other areas, not just the CAM position, but that still doesnt detract from the fact the AM position is definitely up for grabs by someone. Anyone!

    George; You seen the RvP to PSG for 40m Euros rumours?

  154. Philmar; Let’s not go there again man. I have only just about stopped visitng the therapist!

  155. pedantic george

    Today? no but plenty do complain about his wage.
    I believe Arsene likes al of his MF to attack and defend.4231 ties to players to sit.It is a less attacking formation

  156. Limestonegunner

    Well, it looks like PSG is pulling in Ibra and Thiago Silva. Do they need another striker or plan to play RvP in the middle of the 3 in a 4231, a position he would excel in, but that Ibra has also played for AC Milan. Can PSG accommodate both in that position? I wonder about that.

    AW has very good connections at that club. It would certainly be a good solution if the club plans to sell RvP, because we would get big money and not have him in Europe.

    However, the best scenario for me, still, is to keep RvP and go for it next season.

  157. pedantic george

    Dexter have they not just done 2 mega signings?

  158. Limestonegunner

    Still not engaging the real issue we were actually discussing at the time I suggested the article. But I’m not all that interested in that issue either, so fair enough.

    As to the point about formation–the first thing to say is that you are only playing with two midfielders who would of course attack and defend. So would the wide forwards. You could instruct the middle of the three either to press high together with the 1 or to withdraw a bit to defend. It isn’t less attacking at all–it depends on who you put there and how they play. The point of this is that it might be possible to integrate more of our forwards and not just in wide areas, (even AA, George!).

  159. @ Limestonegunner | July 13, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Still not engaging the real issue we were actually discussing at the time I suggested the article. But I’m not all that interested in that issue either, so fair enough.

    I’m intrigued – what was the real issue? And are you talking about the article featuring Slaton’s research?

  160. pedantic george

    If AA gets a game,I am in

  161. George;

    They havent actually been signed as yet, and they have already signed Lavezzi from napoli. They do seem to be throwing money around in an attempt to make Oil city’s spurge look conservative and well thought out.

  162. For anyone who doesnt think the media has any effect on your avergae punters’ mindset just needs to read some of the shite on twitter.

    ‘Fans’ of almost every cub slagging off Arsenal saying oh I support Plymouth Argyle and we have won as much as you in the last 8 years!! Fucking crazy i tell ya!

  163. Limestone @ 6:58:

    I like your ideas especially regarding the 433. I think the last paragraph is key because IMO we need more tactical flexibility. I think most successful teams are able to change formations and/or tactics depending on the opponent. Old pragmatic Fergie plays a different style and different formation against us compared with mid and lower table teams. We used a different formation in the CL during the run to the finals in 06. Having the ability to change things would make us less predictable and perhaps more effective in some situations and might take some of the burden off the AM position. Hope you are right about tactical and formation changes, we will know fairly soon.

  164. cub = club FFS! 🙂

  165. Limestonegunner

    I knew that would seal the deal!

  166. pedantic george


  167. Limestonegunner

    Bill, I am just musing (and half hoping, because maybe it would work but above all it would be even more interesting following Arsenal–new things to consider in formation and player selection; new grist for the mill!). With a full preseason, it might be possible to develop and build on last year’s more direct style. Plus, where are we going to find another Cesc anyway? If we have to cut our cloth, perhaps this would work best?

    Will it help us defend? I wonder. If we sat back a bit more, I’d be inclined to play Merts and Kos more regularly. Maybe it would just put more pressure on our defense but allow it to be more organized? I don’t know.

  168. Limestonegunner

    FG, Yes, see link above; it was the ManU discussion (and who wants to dredge that up–it’s like acid reflux or vomit rising to praise purple nose.)

  169. Limestonegunner

    Oh, the 7amkickoff piece based on Slaton’s work/advice. But I also think Slaton’s blog on RvP, which I also linked above later, is interesting–flawed, but interesting with a link to another pre-Euro piece on RvP that I found interesting and concerning.

  170. pedantic george

    Arshavin is the most direct and creative player we have ,
    But he said himself that you have to be brave and not afraid to fail. Our fans seem to want the flair and creativity without the risk.Well guess what?

  171. i agree with george regarding the formations..

    im not a fan of the 4231 so to speak becuase of the 451 thing.

    we have the the midfielders and the strikers to play 433..
    and if we do play with a structure to it, i prefer 1 deep player anyway..


    whatever we do we need to keep it attacking..

  172. Limestone @ 5:17: AA……..AA……..AA!

  173. @ LG
    Sorry, feeling a bit lazy and supposedly working – can you spell out what the main issue is?

  174. @ Dexter | July 13, 2012 at 7:27 pm

  175. Lay off Argyle, Dex. They’ve got enough problems.

    Tossers everywhere. Even here in oh, so soggy Devon.

  176. i agree with PG & JonJon,

    4-3-3 flowing into 3-2-4-1 or 4-1-2-3..

    as long as no one’s slacking defensively, we can keep attacking

  177. Limestone @ 7:39:

    We were more direct last season but need to move even further in that direction IMO.

    You know my bias regarding “stay at home defenders” and “lumps”. Mert is thinner and not as good in the air as a classic lump but he is certainly a stay at home type. I like the Kos/Mert partnership, at least in theory. The agressive attacking CB works for a while but our organization seems to slowly deteriorate as time passes. Hopefully Steve Bould will be tasked and given the freedom to create a better balance.

  178. You know,
    if we do Nostrathymus’ bidding & deliver “in stereo”, we just might have to retain the purple reign…pink and all…


  179. Limestone, thank you for the most interesting post and article by Zach Slanton. Slanton’s article places an entirely different perspective on the RvP matter and his interest in leaving the club. The consideration of Arsenal spending 100 million to get back into the winning side of things is, I think, a very remote possibility.

    Slanton’s view of Robin’s interest in going to a club who is competitive for titles is no more than the interest of a professional who wishes to be where the action exists. My initial reaction was a little more vitriolic than Slanton’s more balanced perspective on the matter.

  180. philmar | July 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Didnt see this, and i completely agree, im surprised about the fact you know what Khat is, most people are unfamiliar with it. I always argued whther it was classified as a drug even tho the effects arent as prominent as other plant drug. It is consumed in the UK in large amounts without repurcussion as far as im aware so i dont know the lega ramifications of this.

    And concerning the Somali build, it is mostly due to their mostly sub-saharan heritage, they have the same acestors would you believe as ethiopians and Eriterians. It’s because of a high diet of carbs such as rice and pasta which is a constant in their staple foods. Protein and fat is very scrarce in the west african diets.

    Again, i express my surprise that you know about Khat, not that your ignorant, but i thought most people didnt know about that.

  181. FFS FunGunner, I was correcting a typo. YOu ARE well farkin lazy today.

    Hang on a minute! I thought we played 4-2-3-1??? Not 4-3-3!

    Crazy talk on here tonight.

  182. I just can’t see Robin leaving us for PSG.
    How will he & Ibra get along?

    if he does it means CREAH!

    oh, it just crept out..(i hope Frank’s asleep)

  183. @ Dexter
    I was querying your first 7:27pm post

  184. Limestonegunner

    You all are prisoners of the status quo. Even though the status quo actually changed already, if you get me. How could we have changed the formation so quickly when Cesc/Nasri left so late in the window? We basically tried to play that way but only Rosicky can really make that position work well enough, so we adapted our play. Last season were we the beautiful attacking, passing and possession team of prior years? Not really, we were tough battlers who moved the ball wide and used speed on the wings to create chances for RvP. When we were stuck, often, Song lofted balls from deep. We were playing the Cesc formation but in a different way. RvP had such a great year finishing that we managed. If he goes we have two new non-PL forwards. We are going to have to do some things differently, and building on last year makes some sense, and now is our chance to use our most creative players remaining: Rosicky, Arshavin. Unless you think a new AM is on the way.

    JJ, that 451 thing–well, that explains it then! Btw, 433 was sold as easily allowing it to slip when defending back to a 451, so there is no reason to count it as an argument to keep 433 now! And isn’t that what we expect anyway? Theo and Gervinho have to track back in our 433 and play fairly deep in defence.

  185. You call that querying FG? Not much for me to go on. WHAT are you querying about it?

  186. prefer a 4411..

    its just as effective as a 451 if you have a player like rosicky to fit in the hole..

    keep it attacking..

  187. Limestonegunner

    Who doesn’t know about Khat? It was part of the scary media picture of Somali outlaws riding their “technicals” doped up (on Khat) during George Bush I’s “humanitarian intervention” in the early 1990’s. If anyone has traveled in Yemen, it is absolutely commonplace there as well.

    The question is where can you get some?! (And are you really sure it is legal in the UK?–I am doubtful–Yemeni diplomats get it sent to them wherever they are posted via diplomatic bag–folks are completely addicted to it!).

  188. Thought it was pretty self explanatory TBH. The “8 seasons since Arsenal won a trophy” mantra is so endemic and has been seruptitiously and intravenusly been imbibed into people’s psyche’s that to them Arsenal are a club in crisis and are epic failures.

  189. Limestonegunner

    Aman, let’s start the chant now. George is absolutely correct–the gift comes with risks. Embrace the risk, gooners.

  190. The 4-4-1-1 formation is a fave of mine, but it seems old hat now JJ. I do like the 4-2-3-1 one too though. When we sign M’Villa Monday it will be perfect for the players! 🙂

  191. @ Dexter
    Yes, I get it now. I didn’t read it properly. I’m tired. And I’ve got the lurgy.

  192. FG; Why didnt you just ask me to spoon feed it to you sweety!? 🙂

    PS; Sorry you are poorly, hope you feel better soon.

  193. yeah i like it too dex, i agree it old skool..442 has gone
    i just prefer it to a 451
    as a rule, you should never play with a lone ‘striker’
    its negative in any form..
    i just dont like 451 for this reason, the strikers at least if its a 4411 hes not playing by himself..

    433 is the best option i feel..we have too many wingforwards and strikers to play a 4231, i rate this formation also but i feel its a formation built for cesc arshavin nasri and a false nine so its a no goer now..
    i still think we should have the tippy tap midfileld but i think we should have three strikers up front to bang em away..besides, if rvp goes, we are going to have to play with three to share the goals..

  194. pedantic george

    Where is Yogi?

  195. “Again, i express my surprise that you know about Khat, not that your ignorant, but i thought most people didnt know about that.”

    Having spent a month in both Yemen and Ethiopia i guess it’s hard NOT to know what it is. I sat in on a few khat sessions in both countries and really didn’t feel much other than wondering what the fun was all about. I could see it as a study aid(to keep one awake and alert) but I think there are many better social lubricants out there, be they fermented, brewed or grown.
    Good to see the UK is more progressive about khat

  196. Well, I am devastated personally. Every formation I have posted of our potential or real line ups has been with the 4-2-3-1 formation. Someone could have told me it was 4-3-3!! 🙂

    I think the former suits our players better TBH. We shall see.

  197. Limestonegunner

    Dex, what you suggest is that perhaps the difference is actually fairly imperceptible and a matter of abstract tactical theory with little effective reality! I could well believe that. But we are football fans shooting the electronic breeze. What else is there to talk about?

  198. Limestonegunner

    Well how about this, then. I am sure YW will mention something about the Terry acquittal tomorrow in his post, but it’s worth talking about right away.

    Judging from the evidence we’ve heard reported from the Terry trial, I’d say the FA has at least as good a case as it did against Suarez. If the FA doesn’t pursue it and give him at least the same ban, we will have learned all we need to about the real commitment to anti-racism in English football. All the self-righteousness expressed during the Suarez trial, to me, will be mere hypocrisy. That’s what I said then. The decision to postpone the trial got the FA off the hook, as did the police investigation–they used it to shield themselves from having to do anything serious. So I don’t expect them to do anything serious to Terry now unless there is public pressure.

    What’s the mood in England? Any outrage? Calls for the FA to rule independently? A few, mostly from black players and anti-racism organizations, it seems, but I’m not there. They say they are continuing to examine the issue. We’ll see. Not quite the outpouring of all civil society, like we have seen before though, is it? But if the public doesn’t care, it shows that there is a double standard. People were baying for blood and Liverpool became a laughingstock for protecting Suarez. Well, how about Terry? Oh, right, acquitted in court. (Don’t you think Suarez would have been acquitted as well?–every bit the same chance, I think, at least on the merits of the case and evidence). Probably these fine distinctions will be lost. And even those who are pushing for further action, like Garth Crooks, aren’t saying the obvious: he’s admitted to more than Suarez has and is using the same defense, that he didn’t mean it the way it sounds, with even less excuse than Suarez. He said it in English and both players are English. One man’s sarcasm is another’s cultural/linguistic difference.
    But everyone was so sure that even saying the word in the context of a dispute between players rendered Suarez worthy of censure. Where are the waves of outrage now? Much easier to pillory the foreign player, who happens to have black grandparents!

    What is maddening is that JT is clearly vile, yet he seems to get away with everything and instead prosper. Probably the thing that has hurt him most with people is his behaviour at the CL final, lifting the cup as captain, which made him the butt of many jokes for a week or two. That’s it.

  199. Limestonegunner

    I think 7amkickoff, again, was quite reasonable on this.

  200. Limestonegunner

    Salmon fishing, perchance, philmar? 🙂

  201. Limestonegunner

    Well, off to pick up Limestongunnerinho and play a little footy with him. Until the real night owls are out, then. Good evening all.

  202. Seeya LSG, great posts as usual, from me, yours were alright too, I suppose! 🙂

  203. pedantic george

    Ha Dexter ,you are learning

  204. Learning from the master George. That isnt you before you ask!

    I see we are signing Ganso, Affelay, Dempsey AND M’Villa by Monday.

    I will be well gutted if these turn out to be nuffink more than internet rumours!! 🙂

  205. LSG – Sitting in The Blind Pig, having a few quick ciders before meeting The Girlfriend and two other friends for around Manhattan. Have to say great posts all round today guys. A nice break from all the RVP shite.

    On the subject of formation. When Arteta was fit he seemed to hang back alongside Song, kind of making it a 4-2-3-1. During those games we were, at times, unplayable. However, when we were forced on the back foot we seemed to slip back in to a 4-3-3, it was a smooth transition but it led to RVP having to drop deeper to stay in the game.

  206. Rvp is a right old c*nt isnt he!

  207. and dex, why you being a sexist git for…leave that to george will you.

  208. Whats that petal?

  209. And here was me thinking Stuart pearce has only recently been as thick as george’s midrift;

  210. ha ha ha …nice one dex…not thsat we neede any proof that pearce is a thick poof.

  211. pedantic george

    Hahaha indeed Duke Peearce said”I would have taken Collymore rather than Bergkamp ,even a million pounds more.Liverpool got the better deal”
    That should haunt the cunt

  212. Limestonegunner

    Well im not quite sure if Khat IS legal i do know its consumed by the majority of somalis, so maybe it isnt considered harmful.

  213. I wonder how many other articles there are of pearces insights…

    pearce reckons messi is too small to make the grade.

    pearce in shock adebayor to be best striker the world has ever seen.

    pearce reckons spurs will finish above arsenal.

  214. Late 1950’s primary school football was, for me, played on asphalt with an old tennis ball. Right next to the boy’s playground, behind a four foot wall, was a slaughterhouse. The cows were penned in the yard before being stunned and strung up on hooks – all of which we could see from the classrooms. So if the ball went over the wall it meant tip toeing through cow shit or avoiding cows with not long to live. So we avoided hoof ball and played the beautiful game.

  215. So at what age did Spanish boys start throwing themselves on the ground and rolling around clutching their faces? Or did that come later?

  216. Limestonegunner

    Irish, nice! I never got to do that when I lived in NY. I have to say, you know how to do it right, making the most of living in the Big Apple. Have a fun time!

  217. LSG – Just got home. Amazing night, we picked the right time too as the heat wave just finished. We were going to do it last week but it was 104!! Only about 85 tonight 🙂 Plus they had a live band. ‘Tea Leaf” or ‘ Tea Leaf Green’. It kinda depended on who you asked. (Or whose MaryJane you were dancing with) $25 for a 3 hour cruise, with a cash bar and a live band and food (never tried it but dam did I get the munchies after!!) Highly recommend it.

    And how the fuck did they find that ratfaced asshole ‘not guilty’!!!?

    Ahhhh….the sweet FA!

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