From Jim Johnson: is Unai more George than Arsene?
Thought I’d add my two pennyworth to the Unai debate before the madness and hullaballoo of the World Cup starts and we are awash with VAR, dodgy refs, racist fans and the inevitable back page back-stabbing surrounding Gareth and his squad.
In the spirit of ‘where we are,’ Unai has got his sights well and truly on fourth place with the hope of winning the Europa League alongside. Transfer policy points to this. Lichtensteiner and the rumours of Fellani suggest a fattening out of the squad with well-coached players whose best years and salaries are behind them. These guys are not part of the long term future of the club but are designed to drag on the Nelson’s and the Willocks into something appertaining to a quality player who can challenge Citeh in three years.
Whether Unai can get a tune out of them remains to be seen, but his recent career suggests he prefers a journeyman or a promising youngster over a superstar, and that will do for me.
One thing is for certain, nearly all of Arsenal’s existing key players will be returning for training in a weeks time, such is the decline of the squad over the past couple of years. One can only hope that the lack of a summer tournament leave Miki, Auba and Rambo fit, fresh and ready for the fight.
Along with Ozil, these guys are what’s left to be considered superstar talent, although one wonders who amongst them would get in the City team? That said, Arsenal have never been much good at signing superstars, but they have a good track record of making them.
My concern is that Arsenal’s history has a nasty habit of repeating itself.
Such was the case when we signed only Johnny Hollins in the summer of 79. That heralded a decline in Arsenal’s fortunes that saw Brady and Stapleton leave quickly after and the big money spent on Nicholas, Woodcock, Petrovic and Mariner did not arrest the managed decline of a club that didn’t re-emerge until George took on Don’s babies in ’86.
George galvanised the likes of Williams, Anderson and O’Leary, showed the door to the injury-prone Robson and resisted the temptation to re-sign Brady (our kid has still got the hand signed letter from George explaining that decision and transfer policy!) and he went on to win the club its first trophy for eight years within eight months of his arrival and went on to bring home two titles, one FA Cup and one of our only two European trophies in a seven-year reign where the watchwords were collective spirit, a siege mentality, and flair when needed.
George’s in-game management was extraordinary at times.
Football hasn’t changed that much. An organised team that can outscore the opposition and only concede 18 odd goals will do for me.
Not enough is made of that 1991 title-winning team.
They beat Kenny’s Liverpool, an emerging Fergie United that won the Cup Winners Cup against Barcelona, plus decent Villa, Forest, Everton and Spurs sides packed with the best players of the day.
Talking of the best players of the day, did you see this interview with Neville Southall in the Guardian? Well worth a read. The man’s a legend. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/jun/04/neville-southall-flak-sex-workers-lgbt-issues
Enjoy the summer and let’s finally draw a line under Arsene and let’s keep some optimism about Unai, lest he doesn’t emulate the catch phrase of the only other Emery that springs to mind…
Emery is the remedy. Just the ticket.
I drew the line under Arsene when he lost 1-3 at home to Monaco.
Drew two more lines under him when he lost 10-2 to Bayern Munich the following season.
I remember Everton manager Howard Kendall quite vividly and he features in the football memoir I’m writing.
When West Ham played champions Everton, Frank McAvennie scored two thrilling goals that turned the game upside down. That was the best game I ever saw at Upton Park, even though I called it wrong. I emphatically told my press box pals: When Everton score, it’s over.
Turned out to be a good game but a very tight one that was still 0-0 at half-time. I still thought: When Everton score, this game is over.
Then Trevor Steven made it 1-0 to Everton on the hour and I was sure this was a 0-1 away win. When the blond McAvennie, signed from St. Mirren as a midfield player, twinkled through for a one-one-one against Neville Southall and went round him and slotted sweetly.
Like many flair players, Frank was a nutcase off the pitch.
When West Ham manager John Lyall eventually came out to talk to reporters he said he enjoyed that goal because, “Southall one-on-one is a very good keeper.”