Tag Archives: Arsène

There’s only one Arsène Wenger, and now he has a doppelgänger.

It would be hard if not impossible to overstate the impact that Arsène Wenger has had on this club. To put it one way, there’s an entire generation of fans that might possibly believe that the Arsenal borrowed its name from his, as if it hadn’t existed at all prior to 22 September 1996. It would be a day that would sound down through the ages, even if the early reactions were anything but. The skepticism was and, to varying degrees, justified. Who was this wisp of a man who had only managed AS Monaco for a few years before jetting off to Japan? I hope I’m not going too far out on a limb to suggest that no one else in the history of this club has accomplished or sacrificed more than Arsène.

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Herbert Chapman: Huddersfield Legend.

Huddersfield, newly promoted to English soccer’s top-flight, struggle, bravely but barely grasping at anything to stay up. Bigger clubs with more resources can bully them. Enter a young, new manager with fresh ideas about fitness, about positive, flowing football, about tactics and flexibility. He energizes the squad and propels them towards to the league title. I’m not talking about David Wagner, however. I’m summarising the exploits of one Herbert Chapman before he became the Arsenal legend that we know and love. In West Yorkshire, Chapman might be even more respected and beloved among the Terriers faithful than he is among Gooners.

After the 1919-20 season, Huddersfield earned promotion to the First Division but struggled, finishing 17th out of 22 clubs. Chapman was hired in  March of 1921 and led the Terriers to the club’s first-ever FA Cup final, beating Preston North End. However, they still struggled in league play, finishing 14th. However, over the next three seasons, Huddersfield would go on to enjoy its finest era, winning the league three times (two of these under Chapman, the third after he left), the first time any club in England had achieved such a feat. At a risk of rubbing our own faces in it, it must also be said that Chapman’s Huddersfield thrashed Arsenal each of the four times they met, winning by a combined scoreline of 16-1. Yes, that means they kept three clean sheets.

Many of the innovations Chapman would become famous for at Arsenal were ones he honed and refined at Huddersfield: a strong defence, lightning-fast counter-attacks including some proto-tiki-taka style passing, and positional flexibility of the sort we’re now (in)famous for having played to near-perfection in the early years of Arsène’s tenure at Arsenal. As a precursor to Arsène, Chapman was one of the first managers to take full control of the club’s affairs, not just managing the players on the pitch but scouting, recruiting and signing players. He also introduced the ideas of diet and fitness (as they were understood at the time).

Showing that history may not repeat itself, but there is an echo, Chapman joined Arsenal in 1925 and took a squad struggling to stave off relegation and inspired the renaissance for which he is perhaps better-known than the one at Huddersfield. Taking advantage of the new offside rule that reduced the number of defenders that an attacker had to keep between himself and the goal from three to two, Chapman created, in effect, the 3-4-3 that Arsenal find themselves once again playing.

I had quick exchange with James Winterbottom, author and editor of Terrier Spirit, aHuddersfield site, and here’s what he had to say:

      Herbert Chapman is still a hero to Town fans old and new. He won the league twice with us and an FA Cup (plus left us with a squad that won the league again in 1926).
      I’ve heard other fans have a go at Arsenal for not winning anything recently. We’re stilling living off the glory days of the 1920s, brought about by Chapman. There isn’t a game that goes by that we don’t sing about winning the league there times in a row.
      Chapman is the only manager in Town’s history to have achieved more than David Wagner, in my opinion at least. There are parallels between the two. They both prefer their teams to play with a strong defensive base and to break forward with pace. They also both believe/d in physical fitness being important too, Wagner has a preference for double and triple training sessions when fixtures allow.
      Town’s friendly with Arsenal a few seasons ago was named the Herbert Chapman Cup because of our shared affinity for the great man. This connection had always given me a soft spot for Arsenal, so I’ll be hoping for Arsenal to do well in the games where they don’t play Town. 

As the two clubs prepare to square off on Wednesday, it’s this kind of shared history that should new levels of appreciation and respect for the game, if not for all of our opponents. We are who we are in large part because of the influence that Chapman exerted over our club. It’s a shame that Huddersfield could not sustain their successes to a similar degree. Then again, we were privileged to have Chapman for almost a decade. Here’s hoping that Huddersfield can rediscover those glory days. Just not until after Wednesday, of course.

Arsenal 1-0 Doncaster—Vote for Player Ratings & MOTM!

Arsenal waltzed and/or sleep-walked past League One Doncaster Rovers, allowing Theo Walcott’s 25th minute goal to the be only excitement of the evening. Well, Rovers did make it more interesting than it really should have been, coming up with numerous interesting chances in the last ten minutes. The outcome was never seriously in doubt, however. Arsène had named an unusually ambitious XI for this match, but they looked disinterested on the whole. Still, it was enough to see us through to the next round of the League Cup (one round further in than our old friend Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, for what that’s worth…).  Not much more to be said, to be honest, other than to invite you to get to the poll below the fold!

Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea: Vote for Player Ratings/MotM!

Arsenal dominated Chelsea for long stretches of the FA Cup final but went into halftime ruing wasteful finishing, unhelpful woodwork, inspired goal-keeping and not a few goal-line clearances. It looked as if a 1-0 lead, controversially awarded despite a potentially-offside Ramsey trying to get out of the way of Alexis, would disappear in the secdon half as Conte made adjustments. However, that inspired, determined showing carried over into the second half. Despite Diego Costa’s equaliser, Arsenal went ahead moments later as Ramsey nodded home. Victor Moses was sent off on a second yellow for simulation, and Arsenal rode out the storm to make it three FA Cups won in four years and a record 17th time. And we did it against Chelsea. Fantastic! We’ll have a closer look at it all in another post; for now, get into the poll and give our lads what they deserve!

Europa League: It's all ours, whether we want it or not…

So. It comes down to this. Arsenal’s annual assault on the run-in, the one that sees us seize something resembling victory from the jaws of imminent defeat, has run ashore on the shoals. Despite having won seven of our last eight, we’re still very dependent on help from the likes of Middlesbrough and Watford if we expect to elevate our ambitions beyond the much-maligned Thursday night competition that is the Europa League. That shite-sandwich is already in our hands. Whether we want to be left holding it is another matter. We can’t really palm it off on anyone else, so all that’s left to do is shove it someone else’s face.

Man U are done, at least as far as the Prem is concerned. Mourinho will try desperately to prove that the Europa League is significant. Long may he prosper. After having narrowly escaped Celta Vigo (13th in La Liga), he’ll face Ajax (2nd in the Eredivisie). Win or lose, Man U will burnish the Europa League just a bit—and that’s something well-worth remembering.

After all, if a glory-hound like Mourinho covets the Europa League title, well, surely there’s something in it. The only question is, “should we want Mourinho to win the Europa League?” Whether he wins it or not, there’s something to celebrate at our end. More on that later.

We can bypass the Europa League and qualify for the Champions League through one of the following outcomes

  • we defeat Everton and Liverpool lose to or draw with Middlesbrough. 
  • we draw 0-0 or 1-1 and Liverpool lose by three goals or more. 
  • we win and Man City lose by a combined five-goal change in goal-difference. 

In other words, we’re all but guaranteed Europa League with all of its attendant play in various undesirable locations. I hear that Russia, Romania, and Turkey are delightful in November and December. For those not in the know, I was being sarcastic. Maybe ironic or even sardonic.

Yes, at some level or another, it might amount to trolling to some degree if we were to go into the Europa League—otherwise known as “Spuropa” or “Spursdays”—and win the damned thing. However, we have to measure what that means ahead of the game. How will players such as Alexis and Mesut feel about staying with Arsenal for Europa League play? How willing are they and the rest of the squad to possibly falter in the Prem again yet again in order to win a Europa League title? Will other top-shelf players be willing to join Arsenal ahead of the 2017-18 season, knowing that they won’t be playing in the Champions League or command the weekly wages they expect? It’s an enigma wrapped in a riddle inside a conundrum.

We play Everton at the same time that Liverool play Middlesbrough and Man City play Watford. There’s no way to game the schedule. It’s probably safe to say that we can’t count on Man City losing in any way, shape, or form. As such, we’ll have to hope that we can beat Everton and see Middlesbrough find a point or more at Anfield. If Middlesbrough can’t find that point, well, Arsenal will play in the Europa League. Mourinho’s Man U are in the final, and, win or lose, that does promote the trophy just a bit. Whether it rises to a level that convinces Alexis and Mesut to stay is an open question. What it means for our ability to keep them and to attract meaingingful reinforcements is another. We’ll have to watch the coming weekend’s results with bated breath, that’s for sure…