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If, like me, you missed Darren Berry’s irreverent Season Diary columns in Gunners Town last season it turns out there was a very good reason for that. Darren didn’t stop writing them altogether, but instead has combined them in his soon to be released book, Clickbait – Life as a Modern Football Fan. Well worth the wait it has been too.

Darren captures the early season optimism, despite opening defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea, well. “That’s us right now. We’ve had the hardest start we could have had, we’ve lost our opening two games, but still we remain positive. New Arsenal. New Arsenal fans.”

What followed must have been the last thing Darren wanted. A 22 match unbeaten run when you are looking to milk the absurdity of social media isn’t great news. Thank goodness for people like Piers Moron, Stewart Robson, and Adam Crafton for providing the necessary ammunition in an otherwise peaceful spell. Particularly memorable was the North London derby.

“Today, North London is red. It’s not just North London that’s red. Twitter is red, Eric Dyer’s stupid face is red. Everything is red, as we bask in the warm red glow of yesterday’s result, which ended 4-2 to the team in red.”

All good things come to an end, but for it to happen at Southampton nine days before Christmas is a proper kick in the plums. Christmas isn’t much better. A draw at Brighton on Boxing Day followed by a proper thumping by Liverpool at Anfield. The arguing is back on Twitter and making for a fine book. This is what Darren needed, and records better than anybody.

“Spent most of my lunch break arguing with someone called The Transferinator on Twitter…”

You get the gist of the book, I’m sure. It comes to an inevitable conclusion as we spectacularly grab a Europa League berth from the near certain return to the Champions League. We just had to beat Palace at home. We didn’t. Wolves away? Nope. Leicester away? Afraid not. Brighton at home? Really? You’re taking the piss now. All the while Europa League progress is providing one more route to the promised land.

Our own progress in Europe is mirrored by the nomadic enemy in the little cup. I won’t spoil Darren’s take on that. Buy the book! Read it to the end. That is my advice to you.

“NO NO NONO NO NO NOOOOOOOO!!! Giroud.

Clickbait is available to pre-order from www.legendspublishing.net/clickbait so get on it while you remember. You won’t be sorry.

Eddie Nketiah struck a quarter of an hour into our match with Fiorentina this evening (Saturday but ending Sunday!) and it was no more than we deserved. Having put our mark on the match we wondered if and when the first choice starters would appear, The young Guns have certainly made an impression on this tour.

The Arsenal 1-0 Fiorentina

Olayinka’s effort was close to seeing us double our advantage as the youngsters continued to impress in the opening phases of play.In stifling heat we were making the ball do the work which was impressive to watch.

Emilano Martinez enjoyed an excellent first-half before handing the gloves over to Bernd Leno in the second. When required he was in the right place at the right time. His loan spell at Reading last season has seemingly prepared him for his promotion to our back-up goalkeeper this season. Will he play in the cup ties and Europa League? Let’s hope so.

Leno was called on to make a smart save at the start of the second-half as we adjusted from a back three to a four. At the other end Terraciano was in for a busy spell himself, saving from Reiss Nelson and Alexandre Lacazette before seeing just a yellow card for punching the ball clear when outside of his area.

Around the mid-point of the second-half Lacazette presented yet another opportunity to Nketiah who has the wonderful habit of receiving the ball unmarked in front of goal. It was a second for the young striker and for The Arsenal.

The Arsenal 2-0 Fiorentina

New signing Gabriel Martinelli came on with ten minutes to go and served notice as to his promise with a fine individual run but his attempted finish was wide of the mark. It mattered little as Lacazette again turned provider, this time for Joe Willock, and a comprehensive win was recorded.

The Arsenal 3-0 Fiorentina

The United States tour has been a success so far for the Gunners but without doubt the hardest test remains. At midnight, UK time, on Wednesday we face Real Madrid. Although results at this point of the season mean little it would surely serve some purpose to depart the tour with four morale-boosting wins under the belt?

It’s one last test for the kids to face. They aren’t doing so badly right now.

The Arsenal stepped up their pre-season preparations with a match against old foes Bayern Munich at the Dignity Health Sports Park.

Through these bleary eyes at 4am I thought the first-half an entertaining affair. Bernd Leno had the first save of any note to make when denying Thomas Muller, and a second followed from Ontuzans.

The Arsenal were not without threat, however, with Mesut Ozil not only standing out because of his hair colour. Indeed he was a whisker away from giving us the lead after a lung-bursting run from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to set him up.

Surprisingly goalless at the half, the match sprang into life four minutes after the break when Henrikh Mkhitaryan played Aubameyang in on the right and the striker’s cross was deflected in at his near post by the Bayern left-back Poznanski.

The Arsenal 1-0 Bayern Munich

It was a goal that we needed as Bayern had unleashed their first choice strike trio for the second-half. Serge Gnabry, keen to show his old club what they were missing, shave the far post which appeared to be covered by substitute goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

The tall shot-stopper then had to go full length at the feet of Gnabry to deny him once more. Third time lucky when Gnabry crossed and Lewandowski, unmarked eight yards out, picked his spot with a typical headed equaliser.

The Arsenal 1-1 Bayern Munich

As the time ticked away we sent on a number of youngsters to give tiring older legs a rest. We awaited a penalty shoot-out but better lay in store when Tyreece John-Jules and Calum Chambers combined to tee up Eddie Nketiah for the clincher.

The Arsenal 2-1 Bayern Munich

They were not the only Young Guns to catch the eye. Joe Willock started alongside Granit Xhaka at kick-off and gave a fine account of himself in a box to box role and has surely given Unai Emery food for thought as the Premier League season looms ever closer.

The head coach was full of praise for his young charges post-match.

“I am very happy with their work every day in the training sessions and also today in the match. We are going to play next Saturday against Fiorentina, also in another match (against Real Madrid!), and we are going to use young players. It’s another chance for them to show us how they can respond, but today, for example, is very positive.”

All in all that was well worth getting up at sparrowfart for an overseas supporters Arsenal experience. Well done lads.

Quickly into tonight’s post as it will be a full one.

Our 2019/20 season kicked off in the early hours of this (Tuesday) morning with a less than taxing fixture against another of Stan Kroenke’s clubs, the Colorado Rapids. A young Arsenal side put a stranglehold on the fixture early on. Debut boy Gabriel Martinelli was off target with a great chance to open his Gunners account in the fourth minute, but the reprieve was temporary and Bukayo Saka burst through to chip an effort goanward that the goalkeeper could get a hand to, but not enough to prevent it crossing the line.

James Olayinka, there may be a name for the future, cut out a wayward defensive pass, strode forward, and unleashed a piledriver into the far top corner to double our advantage just before the half hour mark was reached. Well worth a look if you can see it.

Martinelli, impressive on first viewing, added the third when he got either chest or shoulder to a Dominic Thompson cross from point-blank range just past the hour. As a contest the game was over.

A tougher challenge lies in wait in the shape of Bayern Munich in the early hours of Thursday morning, UK time.

#WeCareDoYou

I had the good fortune to be asked to do an ABW Podcast special on my understanding of the proposals shared by an alliance of Arsenal fan groups, blogs, and influencers on Monday evening. Please find the finished article below with my usual loss of faculties in the fourth minute left in! Do feel free to ask any questions as I said at the end of the wonderfully brief show.

Josh Kroenke Responds

I spoke of us wanting to open channels of communication with the Kroenke family and today we were in receipt of an open response from Josh. There may be parts of that response that we need to address further, but thanks to Josh for engaging so quickly. Let’s see where we can go from here.

Please check out the response, with thanks to our friends @TheGoonersPod here.

That’s it for tonight. I will try and cover the Bayern Munich match on Thursday evening as best I can whilst enjoying a first drink in eleven nights and preparing for a day of golf on Friday. It may just be brief!

Until then, take care ‘holics.

A broad cross-section of the Arsenal support have put away past differences to come together with a vision for the future good of The Arsenal Football Club. All of the signatories to what is reproduced below have always had the best interests of our club at heart. Now we come together with a plea to Stan Kroenke to live up to his promises of what we could expect under his custodianship of our Football Club.

As Arsenal fans we have watched with frustration as the team’s football performances have declined over the past decade. When Stan Kroenke began buying Arsenal shares the club had just competed in a first Champions League final. Twelve years on, Arsenal are about to play in the Europa League for the third year running.

Off the pitch, fans have never felt more marginalised, less listened to or valued. This was sadly illustrated when Stan Kroenke forcibly bought out the last remaining supporter-shareholders without even a word of appreciation for their custodianship role in the club.

It feels as though Arsenal is at a crossroads. Things need to change. 

What all of us as signatories to this statement want to see is meaningful action by Stan Kroenke to reinvigorate our football club.

This requires work to strengthen the club’s board and football executive and to once again make Arsenal a place where fans have a real sense of belonging.

Change needs to start with better leadership. In his takeover document Stan Kroenke said:

“‘KSE’s ambitions for the club are to see it competing consistently to win the Premier League and the Champions League.”

We see little evidence of how this is to be achieved. Instead our club feels like an investment vehicle, personified by the owner’s statement that he didn’t buy Arsenal to win trophies.

It is sad that an institution like Arsenal FC has such passive ownership. All of us want to see a clear sense of purpose and direction. KSE should start by being more open and accountable and explain how they intend to achieve the goal of winning the game’s major trophies.

If Stan Kroenke is going to be absent from London he needs to make sure the board he delegates to is fit for purpose.

There is a desperate need for some new and dynamic appointments. The addition of independently-minded directors can act as a genuine check and balance on the owner. Ideal candidates would have football and commercial expertise relevant to the needs of a football club in 2019, and ideally some ‘Arsenal DNA’.

Arsenal have invested money in recent years, but their approach to both buying players and paying wages looks uncoordinated and appears to lack strategy. There has also been a lot of turnover in the senior football personnel. A strong board would be proactively managing this.

On a matchday the Emirates Stadium can be a soulless place. The atmosphere is poor and there are thousands of empty seats blighting almost every game. If Arsenal really cared they would make sure seats weren’t left empty by investing in an improved ticketing system and actively supporting initiatives like safe standing. The club uses the strapline ‘Always ahead of the game’. It would be good to see action to demonstrate this.

Finally, the very fabric of football in England and across Europe is at threat from proposals for a European Super League. 

These moves are driven by the greed of a few so-called elite clubs who want guaranteed entry into top-level European competition every year. Why care if you finish fifth or lower if automatic qualification is guaranteed? Arsenal and the other clubs involved should understand that fans do not want more meaningless group stage fixtures designed only to rake in more broadcast and ticketing revenue. You could call it the ‘franchisation’ of European Football. Arsenal should immediately clarify they will have no part in this.

As Arsenal Supporters, we care deeply. We would like to hear from our club and see actions that demonstrate that they do too. The first opportunity comes when the Managing Director and Head of Football speak to invited supporters on July 25th. We urge them to address the issues raised here. We will watch with interest.

Signatories:

Arseblog
Arsenal Armed Forces Supporters Club
Arsenal Supporters’ Trust (AST)
Black Scarf Movement (BSM)
Highbury Library
Highbury Squad
Hugh Wizzy
Gooner Fanzine
Goonerholic
Gunners Town
Gunnerblog
Le Grove
REDaction
She Wore A Yellow Ribbon
You Are My Arsenal Blog
7am Kick Off

I understand there are some who feel our job is just to support and not be critical of the club. This is not a time for us as supporters to be falling out when we ALL want the club to achieve it’s maximum potential. We just have different ideas about how to achieve those aims from time to time. We don’t pretend to speak for everybody, but we do believe we are expressing popular commonly held views of our situation.

It’s pitchfork and lit torches time for me this evening. Those who have seen me at close quarters in the North London derby can attest to the fact that my usually calm veneer can very quickly become what others would describe as irrationally tarnished. It’s my experience of the fixtures over many years that causes these extremes of reaction.

The only other times I get over-excited, shall we say, is at perceived injustice. This injustice is often political in nature so it’s for the best that I don’t give examples here, isn’t it Mr Duncan Smith, bludgeoner of the disabled.

Those who have followed me a while on Twitter know that I can get pretty emotional about the unnecessary use of the ‘Y’ word these days. Racism is another topic over which I have low-hanging blue touch paper, and what happened to one of our young Gunners last night has got the veins in my neck bulging today.

I want you to picture a scene with me. Jordi Osei-Tutu, our 20 year old full-back has gone on loan to Vfl Bochum in Bundesliga 2. He made his debut in a pre-season friendly, yes friendly, against the Swiss team St Gallen. Three minutes before half-time He had what appeared to be an exchange of words with the Swiss club’s Tunisian defender, Sliman Kchouk, as reported in the Daily Mirror by Liam Prenderville.

The upshot was that a visibly upset Osei-Tutu, after an angry exchange with the referee, left the pitch apparently in tears. Although he missed the remainder of the half he did return to the action after the break.

Before I get busy with my implements of protest I have to consider that I did not see the incident live, and am therefore bound to come to a view based on the likelihood of probability interpreting the statement of others and the evidence of a video of the incident.

Firstly I am bound to ask what would cause the young player to react in such a way on his debut for a club on whom he clearly wants to make an impression this season in order to enhance his future prospects at The Arsenal. On this basis alone it is clear that something occurred to prompt it.

Secondly the reaction of the St Gallen Club today leaves a very sour taste in the mouth.

“FC St.Gallen 1879 makes it clear that it strongly condemns all forms of racism and discrimination. Such misconduct would be sanctioned immediately. Our players have a respectful relationship with each other regardless of origin, skin colour or religion. In a clarifying conversation with the managers, the player concerned credibly assured that he had also adhered to this club principle yesterday in the match against VfL Bochum.”

With respect, although precious little, I would suggest that taking the word of a player who unquestionably said something yesterday and quickly condoning his likely racism looks like a very hasty cover-up of what happened.

Thirdly, the standard absurd defence of the truly guilty. In response to a complaint from a German supporter St Gallen’s Twitter account assured us that,

“Where does the certainty that he is lying come from? Notabene are the player’s two best friends, two dark-skinned teammates.”

That’s all right then. Everybody believes that old chestnut.

The Arsenal have been quick to respond to reports of the incident. The club website – arsenal.com – carried the following statement today.

Last night Jordi Osei-Tutu received unacceptable racial abuse playing for VfL Bochum during a pre-season friendly match against Swiss club St Gallen. 

We are working closely with Bochum and Jordi and we are giving him our full support. 

Racism has no place in our game and we do not tolerate any form of discrimination.

Jordi, who is on a season long loan, said: “I am very disappointed about what happened. 

“No one should ever be subject to any discrimination and it is really hard to understand how a fellow professional footballer could do this. Arsenal and Bochum have provided great support to me and I hope that if nothing else, we can show that racism has no place within football.”

I wonder what the attitude of UEFA, proud endorsers of the Kick Out Racism campaign in public, will be to this incident? What action will they take against a player who apparently practices racist acts, and against his club who undoubtedly have been seen to endorse such disgusting behaviour?

I won’t hold my breath.

Refreshed and tanned it is apt for me to recap on a week away, Arsenal style. I had hoped that things would have picked up on the week preceding it when precious little happened. Welcome to yet another Gunners close season.

After a quiet weekend we launched a shiny new kit on Monday. I have to say I have been swept along with the tide of joy about the return to Adidas. Quite apart from the great new strip I hope we are all to put the doubled sponsorship package to good use this summer. Yeah, I know…

I’m not sure I understand the furore that surrounded our £40 million bid for Wilf Zaha, in instalments dammit! Who would offer a transfer fee in instalments, for goodness sake, apart from every club and every deal known to man. Apart from when we signed Sol Campbell of course, when we offered the entire zero pounds and zero pence, up front in order to seal the deal.

We did, however, announce a shiny new signing. Gabriel (yes, another Gabriel) Martinelli joined us from Ituano in Brazil. Will the eighteen year old slot straight into the first team set-up, or get a grounding in U-23 football first? At this point we know not, other than the fact that given our reported financial situation we should see some young talent given the opportunity in the senior side in the coming months. The young Brazilian not surprisingly enthused about the move. Good luck lad.

“It is a dream since I was a child and also my family’s dream for me to be playing in Europe and playing for a big team like Arsenal. I am going to take this opportunity.”

Another young player was taking his development to the next stage by agreeing a season-long loan deal just down the road from me at Swindon Town. Daniel Ballard skippered the Gunners in Premier League 2 last season and earned a call-up to the Northern Ireland senior international squad. Hopefully I will get to see him at close quarters in the season to come before he returns to oust Sokratis Papastathopoulos from the first team.

Celtic’s signing of a left-back prompted the inevitable speculation about our reported bid for Kieran Tierney. Allegedly our initial £25 million offer isn’t acceptable to the Glasgow club. It’s far from certain that the young man is worth even that given his experience to date.

It wasn’t all about arrivals, potential or otherwise. David Ospina completed his move to Napoli so we have added a few pennies to the available funds. Whilst he never commanded the utmost confidence Ospina provided experienced cover for Petr Cech and lest we forget was in goal for our 2017 FA Cup Final win over Chelsea. Imagine beating them in a Final! Let’s hope David is able to nail down a regular starting berth at the Italian club. Good luck to the Columbian.

Back to incoming rumours, and the latest forward to be linked with us is Lucas Vasquez of Real Madrid. If this means we are considering releasing one of the current attacking pairing then someone, please reconsider that strategy. It’s almost as insane an idea as, say, buying William Saliba from St Etienne and loaning him back to the French club for next season. Really?

Finally the pre-season fixtures kicked off with the U23s match against their host club, Boreham Wood, in the Saturday sunshine. Two down in fifteen minutes, it’s fair to say we did not start on the front foot against the National League club. Close to half-time Matt Smith reduced the arrears, but the gap was back to two goals before the whistle blew thanks to a fine strike by Adam McDonnell.

It’s perhaps over-egging the pudding to say we needed a second-half response in the first friendly of the summer, but happily that is what we produced. Supersub Tyreece John-Jules levelled things with a low drive and a smart penalty kick after seeing his first attempt of the half cleared off the line.

Coming up, another week of intense speculation, and hopefully a shiny new signing, or heaven forbid, two. Might we also see further migration from the club, perhaps in the direction of Selhurst Park? We shall see.

Have a great Sunday, ‘holics.

Apologies all, I didn’t realise it had been a week since the last post, not that there has been much to write about other than the dreaded transfer speculation. The lack of apparent activity is probably due to the fact that the international players were, or still are, in action and having a deserved (or not!) holiday. There is another believable theory that any new signings will not be announced until the new Adidas kit launch, now just a week away.

Who might it be? I wrote of Yannick Carrasco a couple of weeks back. All has gone quiet on that front, interestingly. The rumour du jour is that we have bid from £15-25m for young Celtic left-back Keiran Tierney. The Glasgow club are said to be asking for £40m for an inexperienced player with a poor injury record. They won’t be getting that from us!

I see from the drinks that a number of you are following the Womens World Cup. Me too, and I’m finding it largely enjoyable other than the antics of the Cameroon team in the match against England, and the length of time the referees are taking over some VAR reviews. I thought the FA were making improvements in the Cup matches where it was trialled last season. Usually quick and as the competition progressed they tried to give more information on the big screens to keep the supporters informed.

They have stopped short of what would be the major plus of such a system. Mic up the referees so we can hear what is being done. Rugby Union and cricket administrators trust their officials enough to allow that. The FA it would seem do not.

The other thing I would do is to make the offside law more straightforward. It seems harsh that your uncut toenail can be adjudged to be offside. Let’s go back to there being clear daylight between the attacker and the last defender.

France have looked impressive in the tournament but face a test against holders, the USA, in the quarter-final. England too are getting results and improving as the tournament progresses, which is always a good sign. There still much football to be played, however.

I have also caught glimpses here and there of the Copa America. Those on the other side of the pond may care to agree or disagree with me that the tournament has yet to spark into life?

I haven’t caught any of the African Cup of Nations. Alex Iwobi impressed as Nigeria opened their campaign with a 1-0 win over Burundi. Maybe I will catch some of the latter stages of the tournament?

Finally I have a plug for another piece by Dave Seager in his Gunners Town blog. We are thinking on very similar lines for the coming season and Freddie Ljungberg’s appointment as a first team coach would look to be a shrewd move if we were to offer more first team opportunities to our best young talent.

Have a good week, ‘holics.

The announcement of what is in effect a job swap for Steve Bould and Freddie Ljungberg is not entirely surprising. It is clear from the article in arsenal.com that both men are happy with the switch. Steve has been a bit part player in the first team coaching set-up and makes no secret of enjoying a return to a similar role he has already held for eleven years at the club.

“I have always had a deep commitment to developing young players and am delighted to be back working in an area which is so important to the future of our club. We have great young players and my job will be to help them maximise their potential.”

The Arsenal Head of football, Raul Sanllehi, explained the thinking behind the switch and revealed clear thinking about helping to develop the talent rolling off the academy production line.

“Identifying, recruiting and developing young players is a key part of our strategy. We have some great talent coming through our younger age groups and, like all top clubs, the challenge is to help them make the most of their abilities. The hardest part is always the transition from academy football to senior football. We already have good programmes in place but these staff changes will ensure our plans are even more robust and clear for every single player. I’m confident it will make a significant difference to our ability to bring players through to the first team.”

For Freddie too this gives him experience of working with the first team, an ambition he has harboured for a while I believe. This would appear to be a clear sign that we will have to utilise some of our young talent in the coming seasons if Champions League money continues to be absent from our bottom line. Freddie is the ideal choice to continue to help the players he himself has been developing.

“I’m really excited by this opportunity to continue helping develop and work with some of the great young players we have coming through in the first-team environment and to work alongside Unai and his coaching team to help Arsenal win trophies.”

Good luck to both men in their new roles. I’m sure both will be happier as a result, and look forward to Steve producing more young players for Freddie to inject into the first team set up.

Off to watch France women in the so far largely excellent Womens World Cup. They have been a great watch in their two opening fixtures.

Buy All The Left Wingers!

Wouldn’t you know it? Last night I settled down, this page open, and ready to chart the performances of Yannick Carrasco and Ryan Fraser in the Belgium versus Scotland Euro 20 qualifier in Brussels. The team sheets went up, and both were on their respective benches. Just my luck!

Fraser did get on for the last hour and actually looked the pick of a Scotland side that not surprisingly were second best on the night to a team that finished in third place in last summer’s World Cup.

Until recently these were being touted as the most likely attacking additions to the squad, and I seriously doubt with limited funds that we would buy both. Reports, largely originating in European press sources, have suggested that we are close to pipping Bayern Munich to Carrasco’s signing and that the haggling over his price from his Chinese club, Dalian Yifang, is now the final brick in the wall. I’m dubious about us not agreeing a fee of £25m for a young Belgian international.

I’ve been further persuaded to the benefits attached to signing Fraser from Bournemouth. First and foremost he is a ‘homegrown’ player, and remember we had to play the latter stages of the Europa League with a reduced squad because we didn’t have sufficient numbers of those, and we have already lost Rambo and Danny Welbeck this summer.

John Welsh, with whom I often enjoy a shared platform on A Bergkamp Wonderland, made the point that he would lean towards Fraser simply because Carrasco’s decision to go to China suggests that his main motivation is money, and not the club. That is a valid point, and he does not have the Premier League knowledge and experience that Fraser would bring. Fraser shouldn’t need a year to settle in, and the language barrier would be slightly less of an issue with the Scot!

My mind made up, I ventured into Twitter again today, only to read of our apparent interest in Ismaila Sarr. Where does he principally play, I hear those of you who have forgotten his performances for Rennes against us in the Europa League ask? He actually caused us real issues all across the front line, but is more often than not found on the left wing even though he is right footed. He has pace to burn, and looks decent value at a rumoured £30m.

But wait, what more is being written about him? The excellent Layth Yousif, writing for Football.London, wrote of “Rennes hoping for a bidding war for Sarr, with Monaco and Premier League pair Leicester City and Watford interested, along with Serie A giants Inter Milan and Roma”.

There is a powerful whiff of an agent and a club looking to maximise the fee, and then wages, for their ‘asset’. I’m not sure we will be playing those games with our rumoured budget. Again he may take time to settle in the Premier League.

I can’t wait to open up Twitter tomorrow and read the latest rumours. Especially if we are linked with…. who plays left wing for Dortmund these days?

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