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Monday, 25 January 2016

Mertesacker done and done for

No contact made

Everything about yesterday was wrong. From Mertesacker handing over the Arsenal captaincy, to Mertesacker being the wrong side of a quick striker, to Mertesacker diving in to a challenge, to Costa diving over said challenge when in on goal, to Clattenburg allowing himself to be fooled (again) by Costa's cheating, to the defending for their winning goal, to the failure to get close to Fabregas whenever he had the ball, to the substitution of Giroud and then Joel Campbell, to the collective failure to put pressure on Clattenburg, to the collective failure to get in the face of Diego Costa, to Flamini being the only man with any desire to get in to a scoring position at 1-0 behind. The only thing that I felt was a positive what that the players certainly tried hard on the day and did everything they could to get something out of the game, but the actions of the Manager severely restricted their chances of doing so.
The major incident is, of course, the sending-off. As the play developed, with Willian moving past Ramsey like a cone on the training ground, I could see what was about to happen. My seat at the stadium gives me a very good view of the pitch, from high enough to see things unfold. I screamed that Mertesacker was the wrong side of Diego Costa. I fail to see how the BFG couldn't recognise this fact. Once Costa was given the pass there was no way Per was ever going to catch him having given a yard start. I've seen Flamini criticised this morning for backing away from Willian as he ran towards the halfway line but all that should have meant was Koscielny (who was outstanding on the day) and Mertesacker drop off themselves to occupy the space in behind. Koscielny was doing that which is why Costa was onside. What happened next was the kind of thing I expect to see from a youngster learning his trade. For a man with over 100 caps to dive in, with no chance whatsoever of reaching the ball, simply defied belief. It was amateurish from the most senior player in the team. What then happened, of course, is all about the kind of person and footballer Diego Costa is. The fact is, and this is indisputable, that Mertesacker didn't touch him. He didn't cause him to stumble or break stride. Costa's first-touch had actually been perfect and put him in to score past Cech. What kind of centre-forward then is the man who would choose to dive? You could argue that it was exceptionally clever as he went on to score the winning goal a few minutes after against a defence that hadn't yet organised itself properly, but that's far from a guaranteed outcome when you've just passed up the opportunity to put your team ahead in order to get someone a red card. When Clattenburg jogged over to the incident I initially thought he was going to book Costa for diving - the rolling and body-popping that was going on as he threw himself towards the penalty-area should have been a bit of a clue to the official in hindsight. And regardless of the red card Clattenburg could still have booked Costa for his blatant play-acting - I'm not holding my breath for the FA to act on it either. Once he had given the free-kick the referee had no other option than to send off Mertesacker. There is one thing that is bothering me, however. Clattenburg took his time, which is good refereeing. But it also would suggest that he wasn't quite 100% sure until he'd thought about it a bit. Now given who the forward was in this incident, and his record with regards to diving, it should surely follow that if you need time to consider whether or not he dived then the chances are that he did. Costa is the boy who cried wolf, but it seems match officials don't know that story. It's actually the case that there should always be enough doubt whenever Costa is involved. None of this excuses Mertesacker, however, who should have been equally aware of who it was he was trying to tackle and that referees seem incapable of dealing with him. As I said, once the decision was made to award a foul, the red card was inevitable.
For me this should mark the beginning of the end of Per Mertesacker's Arsenal career. I've been a fan of the BFG since he arrived. His lack of pace has always been chronic but he reads the game superbly. He is a communicator at the back and the likes of Jenkinson and Bellerin have benefited greatly from his presence alongside them, as has Koscielny who has developed in to a fine player. The pundits have regularly slagged him as not being good enough but this is a man with over 100 caps for Germany - you do not win 100 caps for Germany if you can't play. My biggest criticism of Mertesacker has always been his failure to dominate in the air when he stands at 6'6". He doesn't attack the ball properly for the most part and this has let him and Arsenal down too often. Earlier this season he had a spell out of the team and Gabriel and Koscielny formed a very decent alliance. This came to a head last time we encountered Diego Costa and Wenger seems to have not forgiven the Brazilian. He also relies on Mertesacker as a leader, especially as the actual Captain of Arsenal is either injured or no longer worth a place in the team. This has been totally misguided in my opinion. Mertesacker could still have been a major figure in the squad, even if he isn't actually on the pitch - Arteta certainly is. The other concerning thing from Per yesterday was this issue of passing the armband to Theo Walcott. Now there isn't much wrong with Theo being skipper - he's a senior player and he sets the right examples in the way he behaves off the pitch. He is committed to Arsenal and has done the job before in pre-season. However, it is not Per Mertesacker's responsibility to decide on Arsenal having a ceremonial captain. This isn't the NFL for God's sake! It says to me that the attitude is wrong when you're taking time out to give Theo this "gift" instead of thinking about how you motivate those around you in a crucial match when you're trying to win the Premier League. Where is your head at when you've been named as Captain of Arsenal FC an hour before kick-off but you have time to think of passing it on to someone else because you believe he deserves some kind of recognition? As I said at the top, just about everything was wrong yesterday.
When the red card occurred we all knew Arsene Wenger would have to make a change to get Gabriel on to the pitch. I don't believe anyone would have considered that Olivier Giroud would be the man to make way. It was utterly crazy. The reaction of those of us inside the stadium and of Giroud himself spoke volumes. It had to be Walcott or Ramsey as far as I'm concerned. Wenger's claim afterwards that we wanted to go longer and use Theo's pace does not hold water. Since when have we been in the habit of doing that? And for a man who will take every opportunity to remind us of his years in football, while we have no experience, it showed a deep lack of understanding of tactics. What made him think that, with an extra man, Chelsea would start playing a high enough line to let us use Theo in behind them? What we needed was Giroud's height and strength to hold the ball further up the pitch allowing Ozil and co to get on the ball in better positions. Giroud had already dominated Terry and Zouma for the first 20 minutes and we'd created some good chances - Campbell and Flamini both should have scored before the red card. When we really went for it after half-time we got in to some really good positions past the Chelsea full-backs, only to find that there was nobody in the middle because we had taken off our centre-forward and leading goalscorer. It is to Flamini's absolute credit that he twice more got in there during the game, albeit he was unable to score - the one on half-time should have been headed in to the net rather than what he actually tried to do, but I'm not having anyone criticise him as his attitude was second to none on the day. The fact is that we were immediately hamstrung by Wenger's stupid substitution that he then compounded by taking off Joel Campbell ten minutes in to the second-half instead of Waclott who may as well have come and sat next to me in the stand.
I was interested in Wenger's comments after the match, when questioned about the lack of a protest from Mertesacker, that his players will not argue with the referees as this is something they have decided is right. It's a very noble attitude and should be lauded, I suppose. However, it does us no favours. I understand why we are like this as, when we had a team that set about pressuring the officials, the media attacked Arsenal at every opportunity. But look at how the other top teams behave. When Mertesacker dived in yesterday the first player to charge towards the referee was John Terry, as he does every time there is a decision to be made, in order to put pressure on. Manchester United have it with Rooney and others, and used to have it with almost their whole team. Vincent Kompany attempts to act as some kind of pseudo-official every time he takes to the pitch at Manchester City. We do nothing of the sort. When the incident occurred at Chelsea earlier in the season their main protagonists were all in Mike Dean's face - not the least of whom was Fabregas, a man who was constantly in the ear of Clattenburg yesterday. All we are doing is rolling over and making it easy for the officials to find against us. We make it too easy. Do I like people haranguing the referee? Of course not. But the time has come to realise that we can't beat them so we may as well join them. If all these sides are allowed to bully the weak officials then it is time Arsenal's players grew a pair and got involved themselves.
I personally believe that the Premier League is beyond us now. We are only a couple of points behind but we are going backwards at the wrong time. A look at our away fixtures to come means I have no real cause for optimism, unless we bring in a player that will seriously boost all the other players in the way Arshavin and Ozil did with their arrival (I thought Ozil tried his heart out yesterday, by the way). We have signed Elneny yet it seems he has not been signed to be a first-team starter at this point, making me wonder why we bothered. The one bright spot is the reaction of Petr Cech to what happened yesterday. He literally picked Koscielny up off the floor and then went on TV to talk about why we can still be Champions, and did so with the smile and confidence of a man who knows what it takes. That is real leadership. I'm no fan of making a goalkeeper your skipper, but it underlined the importance of Cech to this team in every possible way. I might need to cling to his optimism over the next week or so.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Not a bad point

Aaron Ramsey: He's won more than you!

I don't want to make this post all about the abuse that Aaron Ramsey suffers every time we play Stoke City. It's being covered in a big way just about everywhere else after Arsene Wenger, when asked about it, answered with a somewhat more reserved answer than perhaps the situation deserves. Regular readers know that Rambo isn't my favourite Arsenal player by quite some distance. However, he is an Arsenal player and he is getting some of the most vile stick from a bunch of total neanderthal f***wits and taking it all with class to spare. I was pleased to see the likes of Matthew Le Tissier and Ian Wright expressing their disgust yesterday as it puts the issue on the agenda properly. 
What exactly has Ramsey done wrong? Refused to shake the hand of a man who, at the time, seemed like he might have ended an incredibly promising career? What a crook he is, that Welsh charlatan! You only have to read through the sad, pitiful bile that was directed towards me in the comments section on Saturday to see what kind of people they are. I particularly enjoy being abused by someone questioning my education, but who can't tell the difference between "your" and you're". Or there are the clowns that accused me of being an armchair fan because they can't read well enough to see the bit that tells them I'm an Arsenal season ticket holder. I don't doubt there will be more here this evening, spewing their guts over Aaron Ramsey while spitting uncontrollably at the screens on their computers. The best thing I saw yesterday was a cracking Tweet from @DaleyAFC which said this:

"Do Stoke fans stand outside hospitals and boo the ambulances as they bring people in?"

Let's face it, that's effectively what they are doing when they direct their horrible abuse towards Aaron Ramsey. Oh, and by the way, the bloke from the Football Supporters Federation on Sky Sports News today who wants to condone it on the grounds of self-expression and free-speech needs to be removed from his position. 

I hadn't intended to waste so long on that, so let's get on with what happened in the game.

I wasn't disappointed with the point yesterday. I thought it was a solid display and we were pretty strong across midfield. The defence did okay, the goalkeeper did brilliantly, and we missed three very presentable chances. It's still what happened on Wednesday night in injury-time that is irking me. 
I've seen Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain getting plenty of stick since the game but I can't agree with a lot of the criticism. Maybe it's fashionable to get at him right now. Yes, The Ox gave possession away with some poor passing at times, but he wasn't alone - Ramsey, Koscielny, Flamini, Bellerin and Walcott were all equally at fault, and some of them (Theo) far worse than Chamberlain. I liked the hard work from him yesterday in the centre of midfield and the fact that he was able to hold the ball in tight areas and win it back when he had to. No pelters for The Ox from me.
Olivier Giroud had two good chances. The second one was a magnificent save from Butland, but the first one was a bad miss as far as I'm concerned. When you see the angle from behind the goal Butland had actually got himself in the wrong position and left the whole of the far side of the net open. If Giroud had done what we're told strikers should do and put the ball across the goalkeeper he would have scored. Instead of that he hit it to the near-post and Butland was there to keep it out. Joel Campbell (one of our best players again yesterday) also had a great chance late on when he came in on his left foot, only to spoon it high and wide. I also have to give a word of praise to Alex Iwobi who I thought was excellent when he came on for the last 20 minutes. 
At the other end we had Petr Cech to thank again for the clean sheet. Stoke weren't without their opportunities and, in the last minute, Cech made an incredible save with his outstretched left leg, just a second after Aaron Ramsey (take that you mugs!) had cleared off the line. It ensured a deserved point for The Arsenal in an always difficult game.
We might have had another avenue for the three points had the referee been doing his job properly instead of allowing himself to be intimidated by a raucous home crowd. There were two clear penalties for Arsenal in the second-half that he failed to give - Jamie Carragher was made to look the absolute mug that he is by Souness after the game. That's three in a week following the one Giroud didn't get after being flattened against Sunderland in the FA Cup. We also saw a succession of fouls go unpunished by the Stoke players - Pieters the worst offender with foul after foul, especially on Joel Campbell. It's hard enough at Stoke without having to play the officials at the same time (cue the "whingeing cockneys" in the comments).

Just to finish on a high note, check out the new Mesut Ozil chant that got its first airing yesterday. Apparently it's been nicked from West Ham but I really couldn't care less to be honest.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Elneny to debut against the rugby team?

Sort your barnet out mate

Let's just put it out there straight away - the current Stoke team plays far more good football than any we've seen in recent years. They have the likes of Bojan and Shaqiri playing some lovely stuff at the top end of the pitch, with Arnautovic looking a better footballer than he did up to now. However, they also still have Ryan Shawcross, Charlie Adam, Arnautovic and Jon Walters. They are not short of kickers and thugs. As a squad they now reflect every facet of Mark Hughes when he was a player - wonderful ability but downright dirty.
I imagine that Stoke's thugs are the thing that is playing most on Arsene Wenger's mind when it comes to giving Mohamed Elneny his Arsenal debut. Is the new boy sufficiently aware of what he might be walking in to if he starts the game tomorrow? It wouldn't surprise me to see the new man starting as a substitute so that he can get a good look at just how hard the game can be in a Premier League midfield. It seems more likely to my eyes that we will see Ramsey and Flamini in midfield again tomorrow and both of them must be more aware of their role than they have been in recent matches. Flamini mustn't move from in front of the defence, and Ramsey simply has to be told that it isn't all about him in the Arsenal team. Yes, he scores the odd goal, but his constant giving up of possession with his insistence on trying to be clever is more than a frustration. The simple fact is that Aaron Ramsey isn't as good a footballer as he thinks he is. He is living on a six-month spell two seasons ago and that isn't enough.
Wenger seems very reluctant to bring in Alexis Sanchez who constantly seems to be on the verge of a comeback. Interestingly, to me at least, is the fact that he hasn't featured in the training photos in the last couple of weeks which tells me he might not actually be in full training after all. Theo Walcott, his goal against Manchester City aside, has failed to impress on a recent run in the side and has been totally outshone by Joel Campbell. If Alexis is back tomorrow it has to be Theo that he replaces as far as I'm concerned. Meanwhile Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looks a shadow of the young prospect he was a couple of years ago. What I would say is that he started this season scoring a cracking winner at Wembley in the Charity Shield so he's not so far away from his best form as we maybe think right now. That being said, I don't see a quick way back in to the starting XI for The Ox any time soon.
The draw at Liverpool the other night adds some pressure to our result tomorrow. I suspect most of us would have been happy with four points from six out of these two fixtures going in to them. However, we threw away two of those points on Wednesday night making tomorrow a game that we really have to win. We have failed to take so many opportunities to put daylight between ourselves and Manchester City that we can't afford to drop many more points. As my brother said yesterday, City won't keep dropping these points, and they've played almost all of the more difficult away games in the first half of the season - the total opposite to us. Other big teams have already fallen over at Stoke this season, and we have an abysmal record there, so the omens are not good. All the more reason to get business done and send the zombies back to their slums unhappy.

Friday, 15 January 2016

New signing needs to be a gap plugger

Defence wasted his work at Anfield

It's been an eventful week since I last wrote anything. Arsenal made reasonably serene progress in the FA Cup against Sunderland, threw away two points (not for the first time) at Liverpool, and signed a new midfield player to boost the squad. 
The Sunderland game maybe gave an indication of what lay ahead to a certain extent. There is seemingly not too much trouble in eventually getting the goals in a game for this Arsenal team, especially when Giroud is on his game. However, the defending is finally being exposed for what it really is at times. Sunderland's goal came from people trying to play their way out near our own penalty area while under pressure from attacking players. The second-half saw Steven Fletcher beating our men in the air and nearly scoring a couple of times. Petr Cech's interventions have papered over many cracks, especially since the midfield shield afforded by Coquelin and Cazorla has been removed by injury. These problems were in evidence at Anfield in a big way, and Cech did not cover himself in glory for once.
I found it so annoying to yet again concede a last minute goal at Anfield. It has happened so often down the years and has cost us points numerous times up there. I realise the football gods probably owed us a bit of badness after 1989 but where does it stop? Did the 2001 FA Cup not redress the balance? I have to say I felt conceding that goal, with the chance to put decent space between ourselves and Manchester City and Tottenham, had more than a whiff of Birmingham 2008 in terms of what it might mean for our season. Joel Campbell and Olivier Giroud had been outstanding and got us in to a position to win a game in which our lack of tactical nous had allowed Liverpool to be on top in most of the early going. A brief look at their midfield would have shown you that a high pressing game was going to be played - that's how Klopp likes to get his team playing. A small adaptation in to going a little longer towards Giroud, rather than the intricate passing in midfield, was surely the way we should have gone. To me it is obvious. 
Arsenal's determination to play their way out was the cause of the first goal. This is particularly frustrating when you see Theo Walcott trying to take on three players on the edge of our own penalty area - this is a man who normally refuses to run past his opposing full-back on the outside when one-on-one with him high up the pitch. Giving the ball away in those areas is ridiculous and will usually lead to a chance for the other team. Cech might have done better with the first shot, and then was wrong-footed when Firmino put it away. It was rank bad play from Arsenal. 
Liverpool's second goal was a great strike. Of course it could have been closed down better, and Cech had a touch of the Peter Shilton's in terms of getting off the ground, but if one of ours had scored it we wouldn't be moaning - Giroud's second goal is similar in that regard; yes, you can pick holes in the way it was defended, but acknowledge the superb play by the attacker in the first instance. 
What irks me more is the third goal and how we got ourselves in the position to concede it. I hate this business when Wenger takes off most of his attacking players and replaces them with sub-standard defensive options. For years it was Cygan who would be thrown in to the fray and it invariably ends up with us under intense pressure and conceding a goal. We can't defend properly so why not just stick to the possession play we're actually quite good at? I always find it crazy when he takes off Theo Walcott in these circumstances as his pace is surely just what we need when the opponent is going to stretch the play. Taking off Joel Campbell and his incredible work-rate is just plain stupid - he wouldn't substitute Alexis Sanchez so why take off the running of Campbell? Even with the changes we don't adapt properly. Anyone could see that Liverpool would be playing aerial passes towards Benteke, so how was he able to get himself on to Nacho Monreal (who didn't do anywhere near enough to put him off) to win the header that led to Allen's equaliser? Where were Mertesacker and Koscielny? Who was organising the team properly? Why was Ramsey not closing down in the same way that Giroud was higher up the pitch? When Benteke headed it across Bellerin was uncharacteristically slow to react, allowing Allen to stab his shot towards goal. Even then, having got to it, Cech should have stopped the ball - it looked a lot like when Richard Wright let Poyet score late on in Sol's first match back at Tottenham in 2001. This long list of cock-ups under pressure is why I felt it had "Birmingham again" written all over it the other night.. Two points dropped in injury-time was really not wanted ahead of a visit to our bogey-ground this Sunday.
I was slightly cheered up yesterday with the announcement of a new signing, albeit that excitement was a bit subdued by the fact that we've taken about three years to get the deal over the line yet again. I know nothing about Mohamed Elneny as a player. I couldn't tell you whether he's a defensive midfielder or an Aaron Ramsey box-to-box type of man. What I hope is that he's the sort of player that can give us what we're missing without Coquelin in the side. If it means he plays alongside Flamini, with Ramsey being dropped, I wouldn't complain. As I said near the top this side can create and score goals. It's at the other end that the problem lies. Once again I find myself crying out for Gabriel to come in to the centre of the defence - for me we looked at our best defensively when he had that run of games alongside Koscielny earlier in the season. If Elneny can add some much needed protection then maybe my thoughts on what happened at Anfield can be quickly forgotten. It's a big two weeks ahead and the dropped points at Anfield see us needing wins at Stoke and at home to Chelsea. I'll try to do a preview for Stoke at some point tomorrow.

Friday, 8 January 2016

On the road to Wembley once again


The thing about cup football is that a defeat means you are out. You can lose the odd league game and it might not matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. Lose in the FA Cup and your dream of Wembley is over for another year. We've been dead lucky as Arsenal fans in the last two years as we haven't lost a single game in the FA Cup. As a result we've had a couple of our greatest Wembley days out including what must have been one of the most dominant ever displays in the Cup Final. Indeed, no other club in the history of the World's greatest knockout competition has ever won it as many times as Arsenal. This weekend we start the campaign to win three in a row. The chances of that happening are not great - law of averages says you've got to lose a cup-tie sooner or later - but, whatever happens, I want us to do everything possible to win it again.
Sunderland visit tomorrow and Allardyce has given every indication that he will be putting out a shadow team. He has used the media to attack the FA over scheduling and how they are de-valuing their own competition. I happen to agree with the sentiment - Liverpool will have played Saturday, Tuesday, Friday, Wednesday by the time they play us next week, which is not fair on the fans or the players. There is no doubt the FA has long treated the Cup with almost total contempt, starting with allowing Manchester United to excuse themselves from it back in the day. However, Allardyce has rarely fielded a first-team in the FA Cup almost whatever club he has been in charge of, and regardless of their position in the league. A man like Allardyce should be using the FA Cup to actually achieve something from his managerial career. By doing what he does he is just short-changing the supporters - his failure to take either cup seriously at West Ham was a large factor in his downfall where the Upton Park regulars were concerned. Fans of any team unlikely to challenge in the Premier League live for a decent cup run every now and again. Obviously I won't complain if he does put out a particularly weak team against us tomorrow, but I don't trust him to do it against Arsene Wenger. 
There will be changes for Arsenal tomorrow. The problem is how many. We have such a threadbare squad at the moment that there isn't much scope. Ospina will probably come in, maybe Debuchy, certainly Gibbs and Gabriel. In midfield we could see Chambers and/or Arteta, but then we start to struggle. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Campbell will probably start, but we have little alternative to Walcott or Giroud to play through the centre. We could put Joel in there and get Reine-Adelaide or Iwobi on the wing but this is then moving towards too many changes at once as far as I'm concerned. There is also the small matter of Arsene wanting to give some respite to Ozil ahead of two of the toughest away games of the season in the next week. It is a headache for Wenger that Allardyce could take advantage of if he actually took the game seriously himself. Given that Fat Sam loves nothing better than going after Arsene or Mourinho it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if he was lying about a weakened team.
As holders I want to see Arsenal come out and do a proper job tomorrow. We don't want any of the kind of performance we saw at Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup. That comes down to attitude and how the players apply themselves in the game. I would hope that they have pride in what they've achieved in the FA Cup these past two years and are seeking to do all within their power to defend the trophy again. The Premier League ceases to matter for 90 minutes tomorrow and it's all about the Cup. It belongs to us and I want to see it stay that way.


Thursday, 7 January 2016

Grow up you bunch of muppets!

The only Arsenal fan who has "connections"

I've been on nights since new year so this is my first opportunity to write in 2016. I managed to see the whole Newcastle game, albeit on Canal+ via the internet and I was more than pleased to see us escape that with the three points. The players weren't at the races on the day, with the notable exceptions of Petr Cech and Olivier Giroud who I thought were outstanding. Newcastle should have got at least a draw, while Aaron Ramsey did his best to stop us winning - his back-heel to concede possession with 25 seconds of injury-time left would have been met with a fine of a weeks wages if I was in charge. It didn't cost us on the day, but for experienced players there was little idea of seeing out the game in the way they did against Manchester City a couple of weeks back. Onwards and upwards, a win is a win and we stay at the top.
I spent this morning in Canterbury at the Marlowe Theatre pantomime. I think I can honestly say I saw less silliness there than I have on Twitter and in the newspapers all week when it comes to transfer "gossip" and what it means for Arsenal. Those of you who read this site regularly, and have done for a long time, will know I do my best to avoid worrying about the nonsense of transfer windows, safe in the knowledge that the so called rumours are, 99.99999% of the time, just pure made-up bulls***. I don't get out of my pram over it because I know it's all lies. I'm embarrassed for the so-called journalists who peddle this cack in the interests of generating publicity for themselves and their newspaper, but it never ceases to amaze me how people fall for it. 
If I was to stretch reality slightly I might be able to accept that, occasionally, a journalist might get a sniff of something close to the truth. After all, it is their job to do that kind of thing. I do not include the likes of Guillem Balague or Graham Hunter among that number as, despite what Sky TV would have you believe, neither of those two idiots have the ear of the President of Real Madrid or Barcelona, or even Dog & Duck 2nd XI on Hackney Marshes. They are parasites and charlatans who must actually be very fine actors who missed out on their opportunity to be in The Bill 20 years ago. I also exclude John Cross of the Daily Mirror. Mr Cross used to work on the Islington Gazette so has been close to Arsenal for a long time. I also know one or two people who can vouch for him as an Arsenal supporter. However, his claims to have any knowledge of Arsenal's transfer targets are nothing more than total nonsense. On Christmas Eve he reported that Ken Friar and Liam Brady had flown to Moscow in the week to conclude the deal for Arsenal to sign Aleksandr Kokorin, thus boosting our numbers at centre-forward. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when Crossy announced on Boxing Day that Arsene is interested only in signing a midfield player in this transfer window. Does he think we'd all forgotten what he said in the paper just two days before? I know most of us over-indulge over Christmas but not to the extent of collective amnesia. Or do we? The sad fact is that people believed both (fairy) stories even though they came from the pen of the same bloke within 48 hours of one another. Having believed the original Kokorin story and got mildly excited about it via Twitter etc, these same people were then getting uncharacteristically upset two days later. Worst of all, these are not children. This week we've seen Crossy tell us that Debuchy is heading for Villa, before suddenly being "in talks" with AS Roma. So which is it? Maybe neither, I suppose. I don't want to single out John Cross as he is far from alone, but being the man who follows Arsenal for the Mirror, and being a man who claims to have something of an "in" at the Club, he gets a lot of traffic as a result. Don't get me started on The Sun and their particular collection of idiots who have literally no affiliation to Arsenal whatsoever. Suffice to say they are among the very worst.
Do you know what's worse than a journalist claiming inside knowledge? It has to be the "in the know" fan. The man (or woman) who knows someone "close to the first-team" or some such nonsense. Gunnersaurus is close to the first-team but I can guarantee you he does not know the likely signings at Arsenal any more than you and me - by the way, I do actually know the man who is inside the Gunnersaurus costume and I'm no nearer to knowing what Arsene Wenger is planning. Frighteningly these "ITK's" have developed a massive following thanks to Twitter and the like. Thousands of people hang on their every word, especially once we get to January and August. So this week it is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who has been the subject of the speculation. He's been at all stages of a transfer this week from being "nailed on" to "no interest" depending on which compulsive liar you want to listen to. The thing that has irked me is the way that apparently sensible people have reacted. I would have to admit that I am excited by the idea of Arsenal signing Aubameyang. I'm also excited by the prospect of us signing Lionel Messi. None of us know whether or not Arsenal are interested in signing the Dortmund man. None of us. Not one. None. Only Arsene Wenger and Ivan Gazidis do (and maybe whoever they employ to lead negotiations). It is clear we are on the case for Elneny from Basel, nobody doubts that, but that's largely because Arsene has confirmed it himself by refusing to speak about it! Actually, when you've been through all this speculation nonsense it becomes quite easy to sort the made-up from the genuine. The thing that really got to me last night, however, was when "FKHanage" (a prominent pod-caster with no connection to Arsenal other than being a supporter - just like you and I) went on Twitter to "announce" that Arsenal have no interest in Aubameyang. This wasn't stated as an opinion, or a comment, but as a matter of absolute fact. It may well be true, of course, and is more likely to be true than not. But there is no way this bloke knows it as fact. He is not in the company of Arsene Wenger or Ivan Gazidis. It didn't stop people getting hot under the collar about it though. The gullibility of people is beyond my comprehension. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth going on, that's for sure.
The only Arsenal supporter close enough to Arsene Wenger to know anything about our transfer targets is David Dein. I don't doubt that Arsene probably talks about most of this kind of stuff with Dein, but I also doubt that the former vice-chairman would divulge Arsene's secrets to some prat on Twitter! I also doubt he tells John Cross or anyone else from the media. I get people at work sometimes asking me if I've "heard" anything about potential signings. As if a season ticket somehow puts me on Wenger's mailing list of people who must be told who he's trying to sign. The difference is that I'm not then making stuff up to try and sound like I'm well in with Arsenal Football Club at the sharp end.
Here is my advice to any of you who believe anything you read in the newspaper or on Twitter or on Facebook or hear down the pub:

Get a life and realise that, when Arsenal do sign someone, they will let you know. In the meantime grow the f*** up!