22nd March 2016: Ozil rubbishes ultimatum reports and discusses footballing upbringing

Welcome back. I’ll start this evening with Mesut Ozil, who today rubbished mischievous recent reports that had suggested the German schemer would push for a move away from Arsenal if Arsene Wenger remained as manager.

He tweeted:

Much like Duncan Castles’ piece for ONE World Sports telling us ‘third parties’ have sounded out Jose Mourinho about shocking football to it’s core and succeeding Arsene as Arsenal boss, the Ozil story about him giving the club a ‘me or my manager’ ultimatum is no more than made-up sh*t-stirring.

Moving swiftly on then, but sticking with our assist-king Ozil, the German has been reminiscing about how he honed his footballing abilities in an interview with Arsenal Magazine. He said:

When I was younger, if I saw something lying around, I would try to juggle with it. I would always go on vacation with my friends and we would always play games like two touch using a tennis ball, or play with a basketball, which is heavier than a normal ball. [I didn’t just play] with chewing gum or tennis balls, sometimes with basketballs or medicine balls too – even ones that are 5kg, though that is very difficult. Sometimes on the pitch if the game has finished and I see some tape on the floor, I’ll take it and play with that too. What helped me before was playing against older people. I would play against my brother and his friends and they were always five or six years older than me. When I was 11, they were already 17 or 18. It was tough to play against them and the pitch I grew up playing on wasn’t that nice, it always had stones on it. You had to be really concentrated when you got the ball. I think that kind of stuff helped me more. Juggling with tennis balls is good but I think what helped my technique was the pitch I grew up on in Gelsenkirchen.

I have to say reading that made be smile, but also left me very confused. Smile because I did most of the above; play football with and against my brother, his friends, our cousins, their friends, all of whom were considerably older than me. I too kicked tennis balls and basketballs and even tightly rolled up socks (to avoid breaking stuff in the house). Yet what confuses me is that I’m not a World Cup winner who’s played for the best club in the world and Real Madrid. Weird.

On a serious note, I’ve long held the view that talent acquisition for a footballer comes at a young age and can’t be coached. It’s self-taught and Ozil’s a great example of a player who developed his abilities in a chaotic playing environment as opposed to pristine playing surfaces in a state-of-the-art academy where physical attributes are way more valued than footballing intelligence, speed of thought and ball control. Anyway, that’s a topic and discussion for another time because I’m beat and need to make the most of what little of my evening I have left.


17th December 2015: Mourinho won’t be missed + Bruno Peres if Debuchy leaves

Well, well, well. Jose Mourinho has failed to last more than a few seasons in charge of the same club. Who’d have thunk it?

It’s not like he has previous for taking over a team, splashing big in the transfer market and working his psychological magic to motivate his troops to a few trophies, before his squad grow tired of his childish, egotistical, hypocritical ways and his soul-destroying footballing ‘philosophy’ and can’t wait to get rid of the c*nt. Oh wait …

Good riddance I say, and no, English football won’t miss his ‘character’ at all. Not one little bit. So I hope Manchester United, or any other top-flight club thinking of giving him a call think again. He may bring you silverware in the short-term but he’ll stink the place out eventually. He always does. The bad news as an Arsenal fan is that Chelsea will now start to win games more regularly and won’t get relegated, but I suppose we can’t have it all.

But from Mourinho, to the manager he fragrantly wishes he was more like, and who’s respect and one-club longevity he craves, Arsene Wenger, and the boss held his pre-Manchester City press conference this morning, revealing the latest team news and discussing much more besides.

Pointing out the fact the City game was still a few days away yet, Arsene explained Alexis Sanchez has a glimmer of hope of being ready to return from his hamstring injury and there are no fresh concerns otherwise. He said:

We are quite far from the game but at the moment, everybody who played against Aston Villa is available for Monday night and there are one or two possible comebacks. Maybe there is a slight chance for Alexis to be in the squad again but it is too early to be sure about it. He (Sanchez) is running but not participating in full training.

Given how well I thought Theo Walcott performed in Sanchez’s left-sided position at Villa Park last time, plus Joel Campbell’s industrious contribution on the right, I wouldn’t take any risks at all with our Chilean, despite the opposition being City, who remain the team I think are our biggest rivals in the chase for this season’s title.

We have a busy period after the City game and the last thing we need is for Sanchez to return too soon, suffer a relapse and be ruled out of the festive fixtures. I’m sure Arsene will make the right call and when asked if it would be him who made the call and not the player, he said with a smile:

Yes, because he (Sanchez) says he’s always ready.

Meanwhile, he was also asked about his transfer plans for the upcoming January transfer window and offered:

We are open-minded. We are not the only ones who can decide about the speed of the transfers because we have to adapt to the availabilities and the speed of negotiations and the willingness of clubs to sell. We are open to do something because we are short.

Amidst all the talk of a new defensive midfielder and perhaps even a new forward, it’s easy to overlook the fact we also have a bit of an issue at right-back. Clearly Hector Bellerin is first-choice, as he would be in any team in the world, but his back-up, Mathieu Debuchy, went on record recently as saying he wants talks with Arsene over his playing time.

Which is understandable, as he obviously needs to play regular first-team football to stand a chance of forcing his way into the France squad for the Euros in his home country next summer. So if the boss decides to grant Debuchy a move away, we’ll need a new right-back. Off the top of my head, my choice would be Bruno Peres from Torino.

He’s a lightening-fast, attacking full-back who’s very comfortable in possession and crucially, also a very good defender. Here’s a video showcasing both his defending and attacking, including a quite astonishing goal against Juventus at the end …

Back with more from the boss’ presser on Friday.

See you then.

2nd November 2015: Arsenal should make a bid for Eden Hazard in January

Evening all. It may technically still be autumn but wintry weather is beginning to take hold, so if you’re feeling a little blue, due to the increasing chill in the air, the shortened days and dark, dreary mornings of this time of year and need cheering up, just take a moment to ponder the predicament of poor old Jose Mourinho. Then laugh out loud.

Because despite lifting the Premier League trophy just a few short months ago, he’s allegedly managed to alienate significant sections of his squad, turn champions into relegation candidates and leave himself perilously close to being sacked according to widespread reports.

Judging by Saturday’s pitiful performance in the loss to Liverpool, some players are purposely doing their utmost to hasten his departure, by flagrantly refusing to play to their potential. The inertia in their defensive line for Liverpool’s third goal for instance, was particularly telling in terms of how little the players cared I thought.

In fact, a well-respected BBC journalist claims he’s been told one Chelsea player ‘would rather lose, than win for Mourinho’. It takes a special kind of manager to be able to achieve such an about-turn in fortunes in such a short period of time. So hats off to Jose.

The hilarious happenings over at Stamford Bridge did make me wonder though. Should Arsenal make a bid for Eden Hazard in January? On the face it, that seems a preposterous suggestion. Why would Chelsea sell? Why would the player want to move and where would Arsenal play him given they have Alexis Sanchez performing so majestically in Hazard’s usual left-sided position?

All very good questions, so let’s take a little look. Well, Chelsea may not want to sell him, particularly to a Premier League rival, but no objective observer could deny relations seem a little strained between Hazard and his manager at present.

So far this season, Mourinho has publicly criticized the reigning player of the year for not contributing enough defensively, just as he did two seasons ago. He’s dropped him to the bench for a couple of games and against Liverpool, substituted Hazard very early in the second period as Chelsea chased a much-needed victory, only to replace him with an inexperienced teenager in the Brazilian Kenedy.

Yet Mourinho continues to hang on in there as Chelsea boss. If they decide to break from tradition by showing faith in the manager and stick with him at least until the end of the season, it raises the possibility that certain players will leave the club instead, whether they’re forced to, or insist upon it.

In such a scenario, Hazard would be high up the list of potential departures given the above, and if he’s the one to instigate a move, he’ll obviously have the ultimate say on where he ends up, as players always do. The prospect of playing alongside the likes of Santi Cazorla, Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, and working under a world-class manager with attacking ideals like Arsene Wenger, would no doubt be extremely appealing.

So that deals with the ‘why would they sell’ and ‘why would he want to move’, so onto the ‘where would we play him?’. My answer would be from the right in a fluid three alongside Ozil and Sanchez. Of course that would have obvious implications on the futures of several of our current players, but nobody could deny Hazard would improve our squad and our first-team. He’s super, super, top, top, quality by anybody’s standards, except evidently, Mourinho’s right now.

We kept our powder dry last summer because no ‘star-quality’ was available in the market, but Arsene is on record as saying he’d sign players for any position providing they improved our line-up. Hazard would certainly do that. His signing would show we’re ruthless and ready to build on what we’ve done in the transfer market in recent summers by snapping up the likes of Ozil, Sanchez and Cech. Hazard would be to us what Luis Figo was to Real Madrid all those years ago in terms of making a statement.

We showed with our pursuit of Luis Suarez in 2013, as well as Cech’s capture a few months ago, that we’re not afraid to approach domestic rivals for their best players when we sense there’s a will to sign on the part of the player. Any move would therefore hinge on the future of Mourinho but if he stays, I’d implore Arsenal to take advantage of the situation and make a concerted effort to lure Hazard from west to north London.

Back tomorrow when I’ll start looking ahead to our game at Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

3rd October 2015: Premier League Preview – Win against United long overdue

Happy Saturday. Unless your name is Jose Mourinho obviously, because then it’s anything but, and there’s a good chance you’ll be getting sacked in the morning, you specialist in verbal diarrhea you. Is he still speaking?

We host Manchester United tomorrow afternoon of course, and having just checked, I’m slightly shocked to find that our last Premier League victory over tomorrow’s opponents came way back in May 2011, when Aaron Ramsey’s carefully-placed low strike secured us a 1-0 win at Emirates stadium.

Since that game, we’ve played them eight times in the league and lost five of those matches, conceding 17 and scoring just 7 times along the way. Of course those aggregate scores are skewed somewhat heavily by that infamous 8-2 at Old Trafford, and we did beat them in our last meeting in the FA Cup, but still, we’re long overdue to put a few past United. Needless to say, tomorrow would be the ideal time to do it as we look to bounce back from our midweek defeat in the Champions League and keep pace with the challengers for the title.

Arsene Wenger spoke about the fixture at his pre-match press conference yesterday (despite the assembled media’s best attempts at keeping the conversation on David Ospina and the Olympiakos defeat), explained why his team will go into the game in confident mood and also pointed out that no team can be identified as likely champions, given the close proximity in points of the teams at at the top of the table. He said:

It is a special fixture because usually Man United are always fighting at the top. It has an even bigger meaning now because there are three points between the teams, and we play at home in a big game. We have just come from a big win at Leicester and we want to continue our run. We are the only team who has beaten [Leicester], so I don’t see why we should not believe we can beat Manchester United. At the moment it is too difficult to say that any team dominates the championship. It is so tight that one point more after seven games does not mean you will suddenly make a big difference in the league. It is settling at the moment and it is a very important time in the Premier League but you cannot come to a conclusion that one team is above everybody else.

In terms of team selection, Laurent Koscielny is ruled out with a hamstring strain but Gabriel is available after serving a one-match suspension for last week’s win at Leicester so barring any last-minute injury concerns, the Brazilian should play alongside Per Mertesacker in central defence and I’m guessing Petr Cech will have recovered sufficiently from the ‘slight alert’ over his calf to take over from Ospina in goal.

Elsewhere, I think the team picks itself. Our two Spanish fullbacks, Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin in midfield, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Ramsey ahead of them with Theo Walcott again leading the line and looking to score his 13th goal in 14 Premier League starts. I suppose Olivier Giroud has a chance of starting in Theo’s place given the fact he was banned for Tuesday’s game and may therefore be physically fresher but I can’t see it. Theo’s in fine goalscoring form and I’d be amazed if Arsene left him out.

As for the opposition, despite Anthony Martial dominating discussion given his solid start to life at United, Juan Mata has been playing pretty well too and Arsene praised the former Chelsea man’s quality yesterday, as well as highlighting United’s other dangermen, saying:

He is an intelligent player and his position is a bit secondary. What is important is the timing of the moment to get rid of your marker and the quality of your vision, and Mata’s quality of vision is very high. Let’s not forget at Chelsea he was twice voted player of the year so that is a quality he always had. United have a few dangerous players. The danger can come from Martial, Mata and Depay. Maybe Mata has been in top form of late but with these types of games it is important you are focused on defending well as a team as the danger can come from anywhere.

Individuals aside though, I don’t think United have been anything special at all so far this season. I saw them host Wolfsburg on Wednesday evning and thought they were very fortunate to win the game. The Germans were the better team. But then when you make as many squad alterations as United have, finding fluency takes time and hopefully we can capitalise on their lack of familiarity with one another.

Despite losing this fixture last season, we actually played very well and Jack Wilshere’s chance when one-on-one with David de Gea sticks out as one that may have led to a different result at full-time. Taking the lead in these big games, as lots of managers often point out, is vital. So if we can reproduce that same level of intensity in our game but take our chances this time, I expecting us to pick up all three points and show that maybe we’re serious contenders this year after all.

Back post-match.


22nd September 2015: Gabriel ban rescinded but damage is already done

Greetings Gooners. There has been a shock development in the case of Mike Dean, Diego Costa and the Scandal of Stamford Bridge after the FA today rescinded Gabriel’s three-match ban for his straight red card on Saturday, displaying the kind of common sense and fair ruling they’ve so often shown themselves incapable of in the past.

The Brazilian defender still has a charge of improper conduct hanging over his head for failing to leave the pitch immediately following his dismissal, but for the time being, today’s statement means Gabriel is available for tomorrow’s Capital One Cup game at Tottenham should Arsene Wenger decide to use him. The full release from the FA reads as follows:

Arsenal’s claim of wrongful dismissal in relation to Gabriel has been upheld following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing. The player’s three-match suspension has, therefore, been withdrawn with immediate effect. Gabriel was dismissed for violent conduct during the game against Chelsea on Saturday [19 September 2015]. The player is currently subject to a separate FA charge of improper conduct in relation to Saturday’s game and has until 6pm on Thursday [24 September 2015] to reply.

According to The Mirror’s John Cross, Arsenal have ‘proved’ Gabriel made no contact with Costa in his red card incident and our ‘legal team compiled a ‘dossier’ of Costa’s dirty tricks which convinced the Football Associaton to uphold the appeal’.

Whilst I’m obviously glad we’ve used video evidence to bring some of Costa’s despicable antics during the game to the FA’s attention, including his kick-out at Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, I do wonder if they’d have charged the Chelsea player had we not done so. I mean, his behaviour was clear for the watching world to see and should have been addressed retrospectively, regardless of any encouragement from us, but I’m not convinced it would have been.

Frankly, if the authorities don’t discipline the Chelsea striker (and he’s shown himself a better ‘striker’ when lashing out at opponents than he’s been when putting the ball in the back of the net so far this season) with a punishment in line with his crimes, then they’d be wasting a great opportunity to try to stamp out this type of violent, game-wrecking, cheating from the English game. Let’s hope they use as much common sense in dishing out a lengthy ban for Costa as they have in upholding our appeal over Gabriel’s red card.

All that said however, the overturning of Gabriel’s ban and the prospect of a lengthy suspension for Costa doesn’t come close to making up for the fact that the damage, in terms of Premier League points, has already been done. At the time of Gabriel’s dismissal, we were comfortably drifting towards the interval and quite conceivably have gone on to win the game.

Instead, as today has shown, we were unfairly reduced to ten men and went on to lose the match. Why Mike Dean’s role in all this hasn’t been looked at is beyond me because a more incompetent refereeing performance you’d struggle to find anywhere in professional football.

Chelsea and Jose Mourinho’s response should be fun to hear as the Portuguese will no doubt find a new word for ‘campaign’ to suggest evil forces are conspiring against his side. Speaking of the Enemy of Football, it was interesting to see a video of his post-match press conference put up by various websites including the BBC, because it brought to wider attention his belligerent, warped and venomous mood after the game. I think it was Sky Sports’ Andy Burton who was ridiculed by Mourinho for suggesting Costa had crossed the line during Saturday’s game.

The manager said something like ‘you must have played badminton when you were a kid’, implying that football was a man’s game and his player had done nothing wrong. How the press, as a collective, let Mourinho get away with such insulting, snide comments – his default mechanism for deflecting difficult questions and criticism – is bewildering. Perhaps they ought to approach interactions with him in a more no-nonsense, hard-hitting style like their Spanish and Italian counterparts have done in the past, because letting him treat them with such disdain should just not be accepted.

For all his successes and undoubted ability to win football matches, his attitude, in public at least, is quite simply sickening. For a long time he was said to be a master in mind games but I wouldn’t give him the credit for being calculated. Arsene Wenger has his faults as a manager but he could teach Mourinho an awful about being a human being and treating others with respect. For that, as well as the fact he’s a top manager himself, I’m proud he represents our football club.

As I’ve been writing this post, the FA have confirmed they have issued Costa with a three-game ban for violent conduct on Saturday. It’s not nearly long enough in my opinion, but I suppose some consolation at least, for last weekend’s refereeing shitshow, if not the dropped points.

Back tomorrow.

21st September 2015: Charges all round as FA release statement

So the FA have today confirmed they will be charging Cheatsea’s Diego Cheata for his attempt to rip Laurent Koscielny’s face off with his bare hands, in the 43rd minute of Saturday’s game at Scamford Bridge.

But just in case they’re accused by Jose Mourinho of having an agenda against his ghastly club, they’ve also charged Gabriel with ‘improper conduct for his behaviour following his dismissal’, both clubs for failing to control their players and warned serial troublemaker Santi Cazorla for his behaviour following his own dismissal.

Meanwhile, Arsenal have also confirmed they are appealing wrongful dismissal and the three-match ban given to Gabriel. The full FA statement read:

Following the game between Chelsea and Arsenal on Saturday [19 September 2015], the FA has taken the following disciplinary action. 

Diego Costa has been charged for an alleged act of violent conduct which was not seen by the match officials but caught on video. The Chelsea forward was involved in an incident with Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny in the 43rd minute of the game. He has until 6pm tomorrow (Tuesday 22 September 2015) to reply. Off the ball incidents which are not seen at the time by the match officials are referred to a panel of three former elite referees. Each referee panel member will review the video footage independently of one another to determine whether they consider it a sending-off offence. For retrospective action to be taken, and an FA charge to follow, the decision by the panel must be unanimous. 

Arsenal defender Gabriel has been charged with improper conduct for his behaviour following his dismissal, whilst teammate Santi Cazorla has been warned for his behaviour following his sending off. Finally, both clubs have been charged for failing to control their players under FA Rule E20. 

Both clubs and Gabriel have until 6pm on Thursday [24 September 2015] to reply.

The first thing to ask is why has Diego Cheata been charged for only one act of violent conduct? Even if you discount the chest bump on Koscielny and the provocatively forceful palms to Gabriel chest, that still leaves the attempted face-off, scratching Gabriel’s neck and kicking out at Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. A hat-trick of violent acts.

I was hoping a for a wave of condemnation for the Brazilian-turned-Spaniard’s behaviour and although he’s received criticism in some quarters, when you have a high-profile figure like England assistant and Sky pundit Gary Neville going on Twitter to say ‘I like Diego Costa’ following the game, is it any wonder his constantly grotesque behaviour on a football pitch is tolerated? In fact, as Neville’s tweet suggests, it’s accepted, admired and perhaps even encouraged, which is ridiculous.

We may as well make our next signing from the WWE roster because if its grappling the fans want to see, then why not give them the real deal, rather than an average striker who spends most of the match trying to maim opponents and the rest of it shouting at the referee trying to get his victims dismissed.

Anyway, as Arsene Wenger said after the game, Gabriel, no matter how much he was provoked both physically and verbally by Diego Cheata, should have remained as cool as Koscielny, and not reacted. The man who’s place in our starting line-up the Brazilian has occupied in recent weeks, Per Mertesacker, has been giving his take to the controversial game when speaking on German TV. As transcribed by Arseblog News, he said:

First of all, he (Diego Cheata) should have been sent off. That’s what should have happened above all. He went far too far and it seems that English referees lack the common sense that’s necessary. The officials certainly didn’t look good in this situation. Having said that, Gabriel can’t let himself be provoked and he should have been walked away from the scene by his team-mates. So we have to take responsibility for the situation, too.

It was also put to the World Cup winner that Cheatsea fans seemed to revel in their striker’s behaviour at the weekend, which is bizarre given English football is very vocal about it’s dislike and supposed intolerance of dark arts like diving and cheating, often blaming foreign players for introducing them to the Premier League. He said:

Well, they certainly didn’t (hate cheating) today. Today the player got a standing ovation from his own fans and that shows you that the rivalry is more important than what happened on the pitch. That hurts, because it definitely didn’t show fairness and certainly didn’t show respect. Those are things football should stand for and that’s why I don’t want anything to do with this (*these sort of antics) myself. I hope it gets punished retrospectively since that option exists. The guy (Costa) was already punished a few times, but so far he hasn’t changed. So I hope the right conclusions are drawn and since there were several violent conducts, it should be easy to make the right decision.

And that’s the point right there – ‘it should be easy to make the right decision’. Except as today’s statement from the FA has shown, they have chosen to completely ignore the majority of Diego Cheata’s crimes on Saturday and in doing so, passed up the perfect opportunity to make an example of a hideous character who is a stain on the English game.

Multiple charges for multiple offences would have been fair and also increased the likelihood of Diego Cheata changing his ways. Instead he’ll serve any short ban he’s given after an inevitable appeal sees it reduced and continue scamming his way through the season at the expense of the competition’s integrity, quality and, ultimately, it’s reputation.

Mourinho told reporters after the game that Diego Cheata ‘needs’ to play this way and all but told the assembled press to shut up about it, because it’s players like him who sell the league to the millions around the world. But he’s wrong on both counts of course.

Players like Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, Eden Hazard, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil draw the crowds and flog the television rights worldwide, and you can show the heart, fight and determination which sets the Premier League apart from the rest, without being a Cheata like his star striker.

Til Tuesday.

19th September 2015: The Premier League doesn’t need cheats like Diego Costa

We all know Jose Mourinho’s been called ‘the enemy of football’, but today’s events at Stamford Bridge provided further evidence that Diego Costa is his chief ally in a deplorable and unnecessary war on both the sport and sportmanship alike.

I don’t want to go into too many details because if you’re reading this blog then you’ll no doubt have seen the game and witnessed Costa’s ‘craft’ with your own eyes, but what I will say is that the striker’s antics on a football pitch should no longer be tolerated by football in a country which prides itself on fair play.

When Sky Sports used a caption reading ‘Costa’s crimes’ in a game last season in which the player had cheated (and there really is no other word to describe behavior that consistently infringes the letter of the law yet remains unpunished) throughout the match, his manager was quick to take offence and the broadcaster basically backed down. Costa’s crimes went from being highlighted as unacceptable, to ‘just the way he plays the game’ in the collective conscience of English football.

Typically cunning psychological string-pulling by the Portuguese manager maybe, but we need to wise up now. The time has come to change that Mourinho-influenced mindset and kick scam-artists out of the Premier League. There is enough talent, and variety of it, for the world’s most watched domestic division to do without such atrocious showings of spite and violence on a weekly basis from a footballer who, if we’re all honest, is far from a standout performer with the ball at his feet.

Costa doesn’t add anything special to the game in this country but does an awful lot of damage to it’s reputation and integrity instead. A match delicately poised at 0-0, between two fierce rivals was heading for half time with the promise of a more open second period where true talents like Eden Hazard and Alexis Sanchez could have decided the game through skill, courage, intelligence etc, but instead, was sabotaged by scandalous skulduggery.

If referees are unwilling to do their jobs and dish out cards for Costa every single time he deserves them (which would see him dismissed most weeks), for fear of a tongue-lashing from the hypocritical Mourinho after the game, then the FA need to make an example retrospectively of the player to lesson the number of future episodes like today’s. Ban him, warn him and tell him he needs to clean up his act.

The Chelsea manager coined the phrase ‘fake result’ when his side were comprehensively beaten by Manchester City earlier this season, but if there’s ever been a more counterfeit score-line than today’s, I’ve yet to see it.

I gave myself a good few hours after the game ended before I wrote this post to ensure it wouldn’t be rooted in rage at the result of the match and the factors influencing it, but all the time in history wouldn’t change my view that analysing the contest has been deemed utterly pointless by pure, unadulterated foul-play. You can’t evaluate a performance that was marred by malpractice.

Diego Costa has to change, or the English game needs to strike him off it’s roster.

Back on Sunday.

3rd August 2015: Wenger goes all Aretha Franklin on attention-seeking Mourinho

Welcome back Blogees. Well, that turned out to be quite an enjoyable weekend I thought. I had harboured that all too familiar feeling of dread leading up to Sunday’s game at Wembley, given our struggles in beating Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea over his two spells in charge at Stamford Bridge, but the result was well worth the stomach churning in the end.

But to begin, a word or two on the ‘incident’ involving the two managers as the Arsenal team and staff walked down the Wembley stairs after lifting the Community Shield and were faced by Mourinho, who had waited to ‘congratulate’ them one by one in a not-at-all-for-the-cameras, public display of his newly-found class.

Having greeted every player like a long lost son, I’m certain the hug he was really hankering for, was from Arsene Wenger. But unfortunately for him, despite over half a century as a human being, he’s yet to realise that to earn respect, you must show respect, as the old adage advises, and this little act of appreciation for his side’s slayers on the day, was not nearly enough to make up for the endless insults he’s aimed in our manager’s direction over the years.

Arsene wasn’t in reconciliatory mood

Aretha Franklin said it best back in 1967 but Arsene was pretty clear with his message for the Chelsea manager when questioned as to why he’d blatantly blanked Mourinho when an olive branch was so glaringly in the offing – a classic use of tactical ignoring from our manager.

He said:

We live in a job where you have to respect people and respect everybody. It’s a difficult job and we just think it’s vital – and I’ve said this many times in managers’ meetings – that managers respect each other.

It did make me wonder though, whether Wenger had Rafa Benitez in mind when uttering those sentiments. Last week saw Mourinho plumb the depths of even his cocksure crassness, by ridiculing the Real Madrid manager’s waistline, in response to an admittedly provocative comment about ‘clearing up Jose’s messes’ from Benitez’s wife.

Her words were far from wise but was Mourinho then entitled to such a personal riposte? He could, after all, have kept the conversation to football and spoken only about what he perceives are Rafa’s managerial short-comings but oh no, he had to call him fat and tell his wife to concentrate on her supposed role in the kitchen. He just goes too far. And in terms of his estimation in our manager’s eyes, it’ll evidently take a sustained period of Jose not being a complete w*nker, before Arsene affords him even a courteous “hello”.

By the way, before anyone starts, I’m allowed to call Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard a little tubby now and again because this is supposed to be a blog with a strong Arsenal bias, written I hope, in what is a clearly jovial, piss-takey tone most of the time. Plus the pair of them are undeniably, for professional athletes at least, rather rotund.

Right, more than enough of that. Back to the game.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s match-winning goal was special enough I thought, but seeing Arsenal beat that horrible lot at their own game, yet at the same time, still attack with all the verve and geometric precision that are unmistakable hallmarks of an Arsene Wenger side, was, for me, the perfect way to win the match.

It wasn’t so much us “leaving our philosophy in the dressing room”, as Mourinho put it post-match, more a case of Arsene tailoring his doctrine to encompass both defensive pragmatism and our inherent panache for pass-and-move purity of football. Except, he implemented the new style at the turn of the year, when Francis Coquelin’s snarling, snapping emergence as our midfield terrior, came to the fore – not just for yesterday’s game.

Indeed, the two are not mutually exclusive anyway. Wenger once said that “making a good pass was also pragmatic”, and having witnessed the effectiveness of Santi Cazorla’s nimble feet and precise, pressure-relieving passing in our defensive third this calendar year, as well as Barcelona’s build-from-the-back dominance in recent times, ball-possession can still be king at both ends of the pitch – providing you are careful, creative and forward-thinking with it.

For instance, Chelsea enjoyed 57 percent of the possession yesterday – hardly dominance – yet did less with the ball than Arsenal managed with their 43 percent share. Barring Loic Remy’s good cross from the left in the first half which presented Ramires with that sitter he failed to convert, and a genuinely outstanding body-feint by Cesc Fabregas to create an opening for Eden Hazard in the second, Chelsea looked as threatening as a baby brandishing a balloon. Their attacking game amounted to no more than lumping it into the box from set-plays and taking long-range shots.

We, by contrast, defended in numbers and with tenacity but also stayed true to our tradition of creating goalscoring opportunities with crisp passing from the back (as for our goal) and bags of creative thinking – all when missing our best attacker in Alexis Sanchez.

This coming campaign should be fun – on and off the pitch.

Til Tuesday.

28th July 2015: Wenger and Mourinho singing from the same hymn sheet – ish

Evening all. I think it’s probably fair to say that Jose Mourinho and the man he’d secretly love to be, our very own Arsene Wenger, don’t see eye to eye – and not just because the Portuguese manager is comfortably smaller in stature.

The pair harbour a rivalry not borne so much of on-pitch battle royales, tied by a mutual, albeit grudging, respect for one another, as Arsene shared for so long with Sir Alex Ferguson, and not least because Mourinho’s Chelsea have never lost to Wenger’s Arsenal.

But more one rooted in political and ideological differences which have often descended, thanks mainly entirely to the Blues’ boss, into distasteful and juvenile name-calling contests, and on one memorable occasion, into physical, touch-line jostling.

Arsene promising the ref that he’ll stop pushing Jose around

Yet as their respective sides prepare to face off once more on Sunday for the Community Shield at Wembley, both have focused on the importance of improvement in their existing playing staff, as being vital in what is currently an ultra-competitive and cash rich top portion of the Premier League.

Forget for a minute the duplicitous drivel spouted by Mourinho yesterday regarding Arsenal’s recent transfer net spend in comparison with his own side, and his calculator quote, because it is, frankly, embarrassingly easy to expose as bullshit, and instead look at what Mourinho said over a week ago about his own squad:

It’s a big challenge. To be better with the same people, the players have to be better individually than they were last year. So when they think: ‘Oh last season I did great’, this season it is not enough.

Which is the same message in essence, that Arsene often conveys when talking to the press – that developing and improving players internally, can sometimes be as good as, or better even, than external recruitment. Speaking at his pre Community Shield press conference today, he said:

We want to improve. We know we will be better and we work very hard to be better. It’s difficult to know how much better our opponents will be. Everybody tries to be better. We want to do well and we enjoy to play together. I think what you want is not to listen too much to what people say, because sometimes in the same week I get two different reproaches: one I don’t spend enough and one too much. I believe if you want to create success, which we want desperately, is to focus on inside and try to do as well as we can, believe in the football we want to play, play it as well as we can and let other people talk.

The main difference between the two though, is that you sense Mourinho is playing the poverty card nice and early because he’s unaccustomed to not being the dominant force in the transfer market, whereas not only has Wenger worked for years with severe financial restrictions, I’m sure he actually gets as much satisfaction from developing a Francis Coquelin as he does by landing a world star like Mesut Ozil. Maybe more so even.

Mourinho on the hand, might talk of blooding say, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, but has seldom selected unproven, but promising and experience-hungry talent, anywhere he’s been. Mainly because youth development inevitably entails a learning curve which is often costly in terms of points and competitions.

And for a short-term specialist, as he’s been throughout his career so far, he’s had no real need or desire to develop players. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how he gets on on that front, if Roman Abramovich can stand him for more than a few years this time, and he gets his wish of a truly long-term stay at a club like Arsene and Sir Alex have managed.

Right, moving on from route-one bus drivers and focusing solely on a specialist in winning trophies, developing players and elevating an entire club to the upper echelons of the European club game organically, the boss explained today how new signing Petr Cech can still improve, even at 33 years of age.

He said:

Petr Cech was already at the top but I believe that you can never deny that you can improve. He’s at the stage of his career, between 33 and 37, where a goalkeeper can be at his peak and he has the desire. As long as you have the right attitude you can always improve in life. I don’t think it’s down to different training methods, it’s just down to him to keep at the top physically and with his experience he will always improve.

Arsene also denied reports of a bid from Southampton to take their former player Calum Chambers back to St Mary’s on loan next season, saying:

They [Southampton] didn’t try to get him back on loan and I will not consider it. Not at the moment. I want to develop [Chambers] as a centre back and at the moment we have just the right number. He will get games here.

And responded to questions regarding the likelihood of Arsenal dipping back into the transfer market before the end of the transfer window, saying:

I don’t rule it out and I don’t promise it. As I said recently in the press conferences, if we can still strengthen, we will do it. We spend when we think we have to spend and do not listen too much to what people think or say. We just try to make the right decisions.

Finally, the boss provided the following update in terms of team news ahead of Sunday’s traditional season curtain-raiser at Wembley:

Ospina has just come back to training today. Alexis is coming back next weekend. Everybody else should be available apart from Welbeck.

And that’s your lot for today folks.

Back tomorrow.