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In the business world there is an entire industry devoted to managing change within organisations. Most large organisations now have a Change Management function within them. I find the linguistics of this fascinating.  You will notice that the term used is “Change”.  Not “Progress”.   It is almost as though there is acceptance at the outset that the end result might not be for the better, an implied management downwards of expectations of outcome.  There is a school of thought within the strategic change literature that in order to bring about large-scale change there needs to be an existential crisis, focusing minds on the near future in order to ensure the necessary changes can be brought about within the organisation.   Arsenal, as an organisation as well as a football team most certainly has both needed and is undergoing that change process.  So how are we doing and where do we go from here? 

Organisational Change

Given the years of stasis towards the end of Mr Wenger’s reign, I don’t think anyone underestimated the size of the task at hand.  The implementation of a more modern approach off the pitch to spread the load in terms of squad management, signing, developing and selling players and separating the coaching side from these other activities were all required.  To date, I think it is fair to say that the popular opinion is that we have seen mostly change rather than progress. And there is plenty to be unhappy about.  I suppose that the passing of 2 administrations- those of Gazidis and then the Sanllehi-Edu-Emery triumvirate – can be seen as a good thing given the dysfunctionality and lack of genuine direction that each engendered.  Both of these groups to my mind had, to borrow the immortal words of Ann Widecombe when talking of Michael Howard, something of the night about them.  Even their demise can hardly have been said to have been in any way planned rather than necessary, as a result of what can kindly be called a haphazard approach to running the club.  Of course, in an organisation with a functioning board and some form of external executive level oversight, these fault lines might well have been spotted and dealt with earlier. The policy of not- terribly-benign neglect followed by the owners is ultimately to blame here.   

Over the last season there have, however, been some signs of a change of approach in terms of the off-pitch running of the club.  Having discarded all the internal custodians with so many years’ experience and tacit knowledge both of football and of the club itself, the owners last summer belatedly took on an external adviser, in the form of Tim Lewis, a senior partner at Clifford Chance with a background in corporate law and M&A.  I’m not clear as to his credentials in terms of post-transactional restructuring.  However, he seems to have arrived with that as his remit as he immediately set about a review of the off-field setup, resulting in several high-level changes, most notably the departure of the Howardesque Sanllehi.  He has also been involved in the hiring of Richard Garlick from the Premier League as Director of Football Operations.  Garlick comes with a good reputation in football administration and is, like Lewis, a lawyer by trade.  We can only hope this change is reflected in better oversight of transfers than the last administration showed.   Of course, Edu and Vinai are still at the club and time will tell for how much longer.  Both have some markers against them and a good summer in terms of the ins and outs will need to be had to give them any security of tenure, I would have thought, especially with the arrival of the aforementioned Garlick.

We have also witnessed a restructuring of the sales and marketing side and the spectre of redundancies at the lower levels of the commercial side.  Never pretty but this is the way of the world. I seem to remember a statistic being bandied about that while Manchester City had around 300 permanent members of staff in the organisation, Arsenal’s was over 500. Given the radical difference in business model between the two clubs, and the fact that Manchester City doesn’t have a business model as it is clearly not run as a business at all in any meaningful sense, this just didn’t stack up and so I can understand the need to slim down, notwithstanding the odious human impact of the loss of jobs.  The optics of this couldn’t really have been much worse though, given the pandemic and the performance of some of the more egregiously overpaid members of staff, both on and off the pitch.

I would venture that the structural and organisational changes at the club have ultimately, although belatedly, been very much for the better.   We have now a structure which is beginning to look as though it is approaching fitness for purpose, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple more changes with a view to weeding out underperformers over the coming year.  To my mind, this should be a natural feature of a well planned and run organisation with the executives held to account and not simply kept in place irrespective of their performance.

The Football Side

The football side of the club has clearly undergone considerable upheaval. As on the organisational side, this was necessary.  However, I would posit that the changes on the footballing side are far from being as advanced as those off the pitch. The state of the first team squad, the detail of which I will leave others to discuss in detail, is still well short of where we need it to be.   This was in no way mitigated by the club’s appalling contract strategy, to aggrandize the pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey approach seemingly followed up until the season before last.  Allowing players to run down contracts; over-rewarding others with a history of fragility and caprice with respect to performances; signing others for at best opaque reasons; This all has to end.  It is as yet far from clear that we are out of the woods, but we can hope and expect that having cleared out some of the dead wood at executive level and with the eagle eye of Mr Lewis around the club, these mistakes ought not to be repeated.  We saw the first signs of what we hope will be a professional approach towards squad management at in the New Year with the departure of several of the lower and indeed non-performers.   Unfortunately, far more of this is needed simply to rationalize the playing staff without even thinking of then improving the quality, although I dare say the former will of itself lead to the latter.  There are several positions which I think most supporters would agree we need to improve including most obviously right back and central midfield where we are way short of what we used to and indeed want to see.  The extent to which these positions and others can be strengthened will be determined for the most part by the amount we can reduce the wage bill and pull in from transfer fees for the outgoing group of players.  I can count off 10 players, loanees and signings, whom I would happily see leave the club, of whom only Luiz is out of contract in the summer.  I expect to see the great majority of these players go. I wish them well.  But I wish them gone.

The outstanding success of the last year or so has been the breakthrough and development of 3 players in particular. The two from the academy are the source of greatest pride and pleasure.  We all dreamed of being that player, and through them we vicariously live our dreams. Both Saka and Smith-Rowe have come to the fore this season and it has been a pleasure to watch them.  I can’t remember the general level of excitement about the development of young players being higher since the mid-late 80’s saw the youth setup throw up Davis, Adams, Keown, Thomas, Rocastle and Merson in quick succession. 

The other one is Martinelli.  I can only hope that his non-appearance this year has been down to learning from mistakes of the past in terms of overplaying youngsters and nothing more sinister.  It would be churlish not to mention that he was an Edu signing, and under Sanllehi’s watch, so credit where credit is due.  

The re-signing of Balogun, when until the new year it really looked as if we would lose him, was, I think, a genuine sign that we may be beginning to get our house in order. From the admittedly small sample size I have witnessed, he looks to be a genuinely excellent prospect combining lethal finishing with speed, physicality and nous.  We are led to believe there are several others capable of making the step from Walthamstow to London Colney and on to the first team next season and this is a genuine reason for hope.

Much of the groundwork for these players development was done years ago, so I am not sure how much credit the Academy administration under Per Mertesacker can rightly receive.  Clearly though the Academy has been doing something right, notwithstanding this year’s poor performance for the U-23’s.  It should be said that a large number of players who would have expected to play at that level were loaned out this year which will have led the poor overall showing in the league. Steve Bould it would appear has fallen on his sword.  Its always a shame to see a club legend go, but on the understanding that his successor will be an improvement rather than just a replacement, I am happy to postpone making a call on that one.

Which leads on to the performance of the manager.  Let’s put this into context.   A first-time manager, managing a club in disarray off the pitch and sharp decline on it, during a period of global crisis. I don’t know about you, but I think I might well have wilted quite a while ago.  Given the performance in the second half of last season, culminating in very good performances to win both FA Cup and Charity Shield against two of the best sides in the country gave us hope for real development this season.  Unfortunately, the first 15 games of the season gave us a metaphorical kick in the nethers as far as those hopes were concerned.  At times during that period, and even since, we have appeared as incoherent and plan-less as at any time under Emery or the later days of Mr Wenger.   The second half of the season saw a spectacular improvement in terms of points gained if not necessarily performances.  I think Arteta can rightly be criticised for overplaying some players, one in particular, quite outrageously.  Also tactically there have been times when he seems to have outthought himself.  Playing Xhaka at left back works to an extent but really shouldn’t be contemplated beyond anything other than the most extreme of circumstances.   He has to learn from these mistakes, not just so as not to repeat them. He also needs to develop a coherent style.  There are just too many games when it is just not apparent what he has asked the team to do on the pitch beyond maintain possession of the ball.  This is all very well and I’ve yet to see the team that scored when they didn’t have possession.  But for too many games we have had to witness aimless “Horseshoe Football”.  Next season, with (deity of choice willing) the crowd back in the ground, I don’t think this will be tolerated.  There are times this season when I think the chorus of disapproval which has sadly been present for much of the 5 years or so would most likely have made its presence felt.  I hope he appreciates this and uses what will be his first genuine off-season period to reflect accordingly.

To return to where I started, I am hopeful that there are signs of progress off the pitch. More, much more, of the same please. On the pitch, we’re still in the change rather than progress state for me. I do however see the green shoots of recovery. Certainly, enough to look forward to next season and get behind the club and manager.  

141 Drinks to “Whither Arsenal? Change or Progress?”

  1. 1
    Countryman100 says:

    Thanks for a terrific, thoughtful and well written “state of the nation” CER. You yourself have moved this season from the terraces of the drinks to the stable of regular writers of this blog. That process has been both “change”, but also definitely “progress”. The top executive team at The Arsenal is as important as the team on the pitch. This summer will be a critical test of their abilities.

  2. 2
    ClockEndRider says:

    Many thanks, C100. I enjoyed putting it together and hope it provides fuel for the usual high standard of discussion in the bar.

  3. 3
    bt8 says:

    Much appreciated CER. As the business and management world is a mystery to me I take your Welke pressed words for it and will be hoping for the green shoots to prosper organically on this side. 🤞

  4. 4
    bt8 says:

    Welke = well, or very well I should say. 👍🏼

  5. 5
    TTG says:

    Since the death of Dave Faber we have been operating ( I think pretty successfully ) as a co-operative and the standard of writing has been generally of a very high level. I think you’ve taken it up a notch here with this beautifully written and analytical piece which captures so many of the issues which have plagued the club on and off the field .
    Stan Kroenke decided on the ‘ if it ain’t broke don’t fix it ‘ approach ‘ when he assumed control as Wenger had turned Arsenal into a cash cow for years. But he failed to appreciate that Wenger had been declining in effectiveness ( from a very, very high level) The botching of the sale of Sanchez, Ramsey’s contract renewal and Ozil’s crippling contract all of which Gazidis was fully complicit in should have been prevented and given warning signals as to the lack of effectiveness of major decision-making .
    Silent Stan has overseen a huge reduction in the worth of his asset , yesterday’s news about the drop in Arsenal’s enterprise value was nice for those who hate KSE but bad for those who love Arsenal.
    This is where it is hard to strike a balance . As possibly one of the more hawkish people on a relatively conservative blog I’ve often felt that my concerns bordered on the extreme .In reality a passive approach and an inability to challenge the strategy of the club ends in the chaos so well charted by CER.
    Are Dick Garlick and Tim Lewis the cavalry or just more footsoldiers ? After all we thought Sanllehi, Mislintat and Fahmy held the keys to a new Promised Land when in reality they led us nowhere . Time will tell but I’m far from convinced that the club is still in the right hands while KSE oversee events in North London .

  6. 6
    ClockEndRider says:

    High praise indeed, TTG, for which many thanks. The Guv provided such a wonderful space for discussion in a friendly and bar-like environment. Well with making the effort to keep going.

  7. 7
    Bathgooner says:

    That’s a top class analysis, CER. You nicely highlight how the organisational chaos at the Arsenal since the final season(s) of Arsene Wenger are the consequence of the owner’s hands-off approach, his impotent ‘board’ and his flawed executive appointments and that these are also the root cause of the dysfunctional squad management, the unbalanced squad and the club’s decline on the pitch and its slide down the table. We must hope that our owner has come to the same conclusion and that he has decided to rectify that situation forthwith. If he hasn’t yet had that Damascene epiphany, perhaps someone could ask him to read your review.

  8. 8
    Countryman100 says:

    On the topic of corporate level moves, it’s interesting to note that Spurs have just converted their short term Government COVID loan of £175m to a “private placement” of £250m. In other words changing a short term loan (albeit on very favourable terms, but repayable in the very near future) to a medium term refinancing, probably on less favourable terms to avoid a cash crunch. In other words something very similar to what we have just done with Barclays.

    In my experience “private placement” suggests private equity and an eye watering interest rate or an option to take an equity share and so, of course, dilute ENIC’s holding (unlikely). I could be wrong of course. Ours appears to be a pretty standard bank loan.

    Always remember the old business homily “ sales are vanity, profit is sanity, cash is reality”.

    And it appears that Stan continues to keep his cash in his own pocket and load any debt onto the club.

  9. 9
    ClockEndRider says:

    Interesting point re the private placement. There is a very active secondary market in these debts with asset managers vying to take them off of banks balance sheets. While the rate is likely to be in excess of a more conventional bond issue, and there will most likely be default covenant terms resulting in equity conversion in extremis, the spread over bank debt is not as wide as once it was, especially given the underpinning of Spurs cash flows by the new tv deal. At the same time, why would you take in debt at a higher rate than bank debt if you don’t need to? It is most probably a reflection if the fact that banks are not terribly keen on corp lending at the moment and is more a necessity than a virtue.

  10. 10
    Countryman100 says:

    CER, I’d love to see those covenants! They will no doubt be very challenging! Confirms I think that Kane has to leave.

  11. 11
    ClockEndRider says:

    I’d be hugely surprised if there wasn’t a financial need to sell Kane. Essentially they are where we were in 2006/07 but following, rather than before, a financial crisis.

  12. 12
    TTG says:

    Interesting discussion about the Marshdwellers . If you think that they ran considerably over their deadline for opening the stadium , saw the cost of building it rocket and then before they had one year in there we were into the pandemic which cost them the football revenue streams and the ancillary revenues like NFL and concerts , they are in deep shit . The benefit of participation in the European Conference with its likely impact on the League performance and the cost of paying off Mourinho exacerbate this . Their situation is very precarious . Shame .
    A couple of reasonably well-connected people have assured me that KSE are going to push the boat out in the transfer window to try to get our fans onside and to protect their investment . Paradoxically it’s not a lack of spend but quality of spend that has been the problem . We shall see

  13. 13
    ClockEndRider says:

    Re Re the N17 Low life’s – what TTG said.

  14. 14
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks CER, the burning platform theory, followed by a well-thought out summary of where the fires still rage. Great stuff.
    « way short » at right back is a touch harsh on Calum who was a pleasant surprise for me
    but I agree generally there is much to be done this summer. Given KT’s injury record and the reluctance to play Soares I think another LB is important, as of course is CM, a decision on Laca, and a back-up keeper. 4 must haves is, based on our recent history, a tall order for the club to get right.

  15. 15
    ClockEndRider says:

    Indeed, OM. And whilst not exactly a burning platform, if it were my asset I would either have ensured closer oversight or cut and run. Staying and watching the asset lose value makes no sense beyond the fact that a club/ business likes Arsenal has, until recently, thrown off lots of free cash flow to fund investments in the rest of the Kroenke portfolio. At this point, my ability to dissect the financial trail hits the buffers.

  16. 16
    North Bank Ned says:

    CER: You are clearly not a management consultant. You write far too elegantly and clearly and your analysis is far too insightful. On the basis of both, I am encouraged that you can see green shoots of progress.

    You make a telling point about the lack of independent directors. Their absence is invariably a precursor of poor governance.

    It is inevitable that revamping the playing side lags the admin side. You can’t make players redundant on the basis that the job they were hired to do no longer exists, that new technology has made their job unnecessary, or that cost-cuts are necessary for the survival of the business and so there have to be staff reductions. The club still has to put eleven footballers on the pitch each game.

    Also, let me beat Trev to the punch that Garlick is usually an antidote to something of the night.

  17. 17
    ClockEndRider says:

    As I often say to friends, a classical education is never wasted, except perhaps on me! And, sad to say, I am a member of the benighted profession you mention.
    O tempora, O mores!

  18. 18
    TTG says:

    So was I Ned !
    Much good it did me…or my clients!

  19. 19
    North Bank Ned says:

    You are rare exceptions to the rule, in that case, gentlemen.

  20. 20
    Potsticker says:

    A fine piece, CER! I would send it to Stan and invoice him at your usual rate. And what powerful (although unconventional) imagery – Davis, Adams, Keown et al as the vomitus of the youth setup. I agree a classical education is never wasted, and lament the lacunae in my own education, which I fill by reading GHF. Kudos to all of the regular contributors here.

  21. 21
    ClockEndRider says:

    Kind words indeed. Stick around this bar. The conversation and general atmosphere are decidedly top level, in my opinion.

  22. 22
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Fantastic piece CER. That is superb. (And would you believe I loved the photo too?)

    And a top set of drinks have followed it.

    The common denominator has been Kroenke. I hope he has finally hit on something that works. I’m not sure about Edu or Vinai. Lewis was a vital appointment and Richard Garlick seems to be well-regarded. Arteta will be clear with what he wants and does not want, so the blokes in charge of sorting the squad out will have plenty to do.

    Of course, if they sell Xhaka for a decent fee they will gain a significant amount of goodwill from me. Make it happen!

  23. 23
    Steve T says:

    Nice stuff CER, although I’m not sure I share your same optimism. I’m slightly more cautious.

    As long as the club is in the hands of the Kroenkes I will have little to no confidence that things at the top will be much more than guess work. When you think that when dear old Stanley invested in the club that he did not know there was relegation from the Premier League then I’d suggest that tells you all you need to know about his football knowledge.

    I would love nothing more than to see Arteta succeed. It would be fantastic. I accept he’s young, and new to the position, but he’s not here on work experience. Some of his decisions last season were simply bizarre. Both legs of the Europa semi provide evidence of that. How can you think it’s right to play two wide players and no centre forward????

    Balogun is an interesting one. I keep hearing from many circles that they have high expectations of him. But he’s played only a handful of games and no one knows what will happen. I would love to see him develop, but he also needs both time and patience. ESR is another interesting one. He’s looked fantastic since he’s come into the side. But from memory, he spent a lot of time on the bench and couldn’t get a look on at a time when it really wasn’t great. He then appeared, almost by accident, and we were all left wondering where he’d been for all of this time.

    Spending money at Arsenal isn’t a problem. We’ve spent bucket loads. But it’s how you spend it that’s the key. I would suggest that in recent years our transfer dealings in general have been poor. This as always comes back to those involved in recruitment, and those at the top of the club. I said years ago now that when AW was to depart that I had very little faith in those at board level to select an adequate replacement. It’s become quite clear just how much AW has carried the club in his last years.

    Recruitment is not just the only problem we face. The other massive issue is retainment. If we do not show the right aptitude throughout the whole club then we will struggle to hold on to the little quality that we have. This season has been the worst for decades. If we do not make major strides next year then we will struggle to hold on to some of that young talent.

    I hope we are heading in the right direction, but at this stage, I’m not yet convinced. It will be an interesting few months.

  24. 24
    bt8 says:

    Fernandinho, one of my favorite players who doesn’t play for Arsenal, getting some of his deserved plaudits: https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/56903705

  25. 25
    TTG says:

    The Athletic has a rather long and complicated article on our transfer targets .
    To précis it we are after lots of players in all positions and may sell quite a few !
    The main target appears to be Odegaard. I’m not certain with ESR developing and Real wanting a chunky fee I’d make him our main target but if we could get another year loan we could see if he makes a real difference in the Premier League week in week out . We are being linked with Mahrez (great player but we have Pepe) and Sterling ( very erratic, wonderful in bursts but awful when he isn’t at his best) because Grealish is Citeh’s top target . If they got Kane as well they might have a decent team . Can we sell well looks to me to be the key question . It’s a buyer’s market but we have to sign players without offering European football.

  26. 26
    Bathgooner says:

    So, rather than being the twilight home for superannuated Chav rejects, we are to become the twilight home for superannuated Shitteh rejects? I would prefer us to scour the lower divisions and give opportunities to ambitious young talent rather than throw vast sums at tired old lags.

  27. 27
    TTG says:

    I do agree Bath
    I’m currently being very impressed by Toney of Brentford who I’ve mentioned here before . But he looks like being a Premier League player by 5 pm !

  28. 28
    Cynic says:

    I would prefer us to scour the lower divisions and give opportunities to ambitious young talent

    That would mean actually scouting the lower leagues and having a manager who wants to find players at that level, and actually play them if we find them, rather than relying on bollocks stats companies to do all the work.

    Toney is an absolute monster of a striker at that level, it will be interesting to see how he copes in the Premier League.

  29. 29
    Bathgooner says:

    Being able to spot a potential top player in a kid or in a lower league team is a rare talent as it’s not just about touch, vision and athleticism which are immediately apparent but also about desire, dedication and the capacity to deal with wealth, pressure, flattery, success and failure which are not. However bringing in young players with potential is so much less expensive than buying established players and declining stars that you can afford a failure rate provided you have scouts with a good eye for talent. Have we re-hired any yet? Good scouts are worth their weight in gold if you don’t have an oil state’s treasury filling your coffers.

  30. 30
    Countryman100 says:

    Well played the Bees. Very slightly disappointing because there is no chance I’ll get a ticket for Brentford (A), it’ll will sell out at 60+ credits. But Swansea was a pants away day anyway.

  31. 31
    Countryman100 says:

    Like for like with Fulham going down.

  32. 32
    TTG says:

    Arsenal have developed a fanbase who will crucify Arteta if he brings in too many youngsters because that would delay success and is fraught with challenges and would be seen as KSE doing it on the cheap .
    I noticed some silly Twitter quotes today because Arsenal were being outbid by Real Madrid or Barca for the Inter Milan full back – Hachimi?-
    Some of the remarks were critical because the Spanish clubs were prepared apparently to lay out £50 m for a right back
    ‘ our club is finished ‘ etc
    There are an awful lot of prats out there

  33. 33
    bathgooner says:

    It’s a balance isn’t it, TTG @32? I can’t see us relying entirely on young players whether home grown or plucked from lower leagues. However, for example, I would rather have seen us take a punt on 2-3 young players with potential than engage a tired old lag who has been there and done that already and whose motivation has to be questionable because such a player may not feel that he has anything more to prove.

    A punt on Buendia and Bissouma last summer would have been a lot cheaper than Willian has so far cost and probably would have left some change on the table for another younger still prospect. In retrospect they might also have made more difference to the team this season than Willian has and they would have been cheaper to sign than they will be this summer.

    For the same reason, I would rather see us sign more Martinelli-types even if some fail to fulfil their potential than invest in Mahrez’s or Sterling’s retirement funds.

  34. 34
    bt8 says:

    Swansea a pants away day? Quite liked the place myself, particularly due to its proximity to some of the best rambling amid wildflowers on the Gower Peninsula. Never went to a football match there though.

  35. 35
    TTG says:

    My brother in law and I found ourselves in Swansea on their first day in Division One in 1981 . Careful negotiation with our spouses allowed us to park the kids ( safely) and slip away to Vetch Field where they stuffed Leeds 5-1. The sheen was taken off our day when we found ourselves in the middle of a pitched battle between Leeds and Swansea fans . I’ve not been to the Liberty but I imagine it’s safer than that nowadays !

  36. 36
    North Bank Ned says:

    Congratulations to Brentford. Back in the top flight for the first time since 1946-47. That’s quite a wait.

    The last game the Bees played in the old Division One was at Highbury. We beat them 1-0 with Paddy Sloan scoring his only Arsenal goal. Dr F might be interested to know that Sloan subsequently became the first Irishman to play in Serie A, and did so with some success.

  37. 37
    Countryman100 says:

    Bathgooner@35. Sterling an old lag? Retirement fund? He’s 26!

  38. 38
    Bathgooner says:

    C100 @37. Oops! I was still thinking about Willian who must be the epitome of an old lag.

    Put it down to poetic licence. Sterling would certainly command an old lag style salary.

  39. 39
    Countryman100 says:

    If he’s available I’d certainly think about him. It’s noticeable that he found his best, almost unplayable form, when Arteta was coaching him. One thing that is noticeable tonight so far is that Rob Holding is head and shoulders above John Stones. Yet Rob never gets an England call up.

  40. 40
    North Bank Ned says:

    Leeds fans in fights, TTG? I am shocked! Shocked!

    Inter’s Hakimi is the most expensive right wing-back in Europe by a country mile. Real Madrid unloaded him on Inter a year ago for 45 million euros. Inter wants to cut its wage bill by 20% because of the financial problems at its Chinese owner, but it is unlikely to take less than what they paid, and reputedly value the player at least 80 million euros which is silly money for a 22-year-old in my book.

  41. 41
    North Bank Ned says:

    Pep playing 4-3-3-0 again, I see.

  42. 42
    Countryman100 says:

    City’s centre backs are all over the place. A great ball to put Havertz in but there was a 25 yard gap for Mount to pass it into.

  43. 43
    Countryman100 says:

    Stones is having an absolute Weston and surely has to be hooked at half time.

  44. 44
    Bathgooner says:

    C100, TBH, I’ve never really rated Sterling as a player and I’m not sure where he would fit in our team. Could he play with Auba? Or instead of Auba and link with a CF like Laca or Balogun? I guess the person best placed to answer that would be Mikel so if we do go for him I guess the answer is ‘probably’.

    That Chav goal was coming.

  45. 45
    ksn says:

    Chelsea’s pace and movement is killing City who have just conceded. City’s defence is so stretched leaving acres of space for Chelsea on counter attacks and this space has been exploited really well. City have only one style of play which is passing to feet and Chelsea appear to know how to counter this. The two names, Sterling and Mahrez, linked to us for transfer have been totally absent. Win or lose today, Tuchel has been impressive and lucky.

  46. 46
    Countryman100 says:

    Bath – maybe so . But when on song he is an absolute match winner . I was only really taking issue with calling him a pensioner!

  47. 47
    Countryman100 says:

    “Turns over to the golf to avoid the half time Chelsea wankfest”.

  48. 48
    TTG says:

    I’m struggling to see the benefit of a false 9. Ever
    If Chelsea had a better striker than Werner it might already be over . Very good game though

  49. 49
    Countryman100 says:

    Well, Barca made it work when the false nine was Messi. But the false nine was Messi.

  50. 50
    Cynic says:

    I can’t see us relying entirely on young players whether home grown or plucked from lower leagues.

    Indeed not, but if you have a scouting system that can spot the Tierneys of this world, young players with a chunk of experience who have that extra bit of something, you’re ahead of the game.

  51. 51
    Bathgooner says:

    Losing the Belgian ESR is a huge blow for Shitteh. This game is drifting away from them. I still find the absence of Fernardinho astonishing. Pep has pulled off a ‘Mikel’ tactically.

  52. 52
    Countryman100 says:

    I have to say this has been so much better a game than the Europa final.

    Anyone else thinking we’ve beaten this Chelsea team the last three times we’ve played them?

  53. 53
    Bathgooner says:

    Yep. And I am finding it an astonishing thought!

    This is an extraordinary defensive performance tinged with offensive menace by Chelsea. A masterclass really.

  54. 54
    Bathgooner says:

    Good game. Deserved winner. Sickening really.

  55. 55
    ksn says:

    Chelsea it is. If Pep, with all his expensive, world class players, couldn’t win, can Arteta ever hope to get us the UEFA CL?

  56. 56
    Steve T says:

    A very enjoyable final I must say.

    I know we have beaten the chavs in the last three outings but we look so far off Friday m being able to compete in a game of that level.

    Lots of work to do.

  57. 57
    Steve T says:

    From being able to compete even..

  58. 58
    Countryman100 says:

    Steve how can you say that? Surely 3/3 wins against the CL winners shows we are getting closer? I understood the negativity Sept to Dec. But Dec to May has been much better.

  59. 59
    Countryman100 says:

    In France Lille beat PSG to win the league. In Spain Atletico beat RM and Barca to La Liga. We can do this.

  60. 60
    Bathgooner says:

    What an excellent referee that Spanish fella is. We have no-one of that quality in PGMOL.

  61. 61
    Steve T says:

    Quite simply C100. I don’t think we are good enough to live with a game played at that level and at that pace. That Chelsea performance tonight was a vast improvement on the performance against us recently.

    It’s not negative. It’s just my opinion

  62. 62
    Countryman100 says:

    I agree with your point. Excellent performance by Chelsea.

  63. 63
    Steve T says:

    Does this also mean that Ollie G has now won something in every season since he came to the Premier League?

  64. 64
    Cynic says:

    I don’t think we are good enough to live with a game played at that level
    Nor play anything like that level enough times in a season to win the league. Or even finish fourth.

  65. 65
    TTG says:

    I was astonished that we beat Chelsea at Wembley last year and very surprised at beating them at the Bridge but we defended for our lives and Leno didn’t have much to do .
    Tuchel really has got Guardiola’s number at present. In the semi-final he neutralised them in exactly the same way and showed up their deficiencies
    I also agree this was completely different fare to the Europa League Final ..but then you’d expect it to be .OGS also coached United to a very comprehensive win at the Emptihad this season and we weren’t outclassed in our two league games . Rúnarsson handed them the League Cup tie .
    I think Arteta’s set -up in Villareal was similar to Pep’s tonight and the second leg set-up in midfield was also unbalanced . Perhaps it indicates the importance of the coach and the need to get tactics spot-on .
    Citeh will buy Kane and Grealish and Chelsea will buy a proper striker . Don’t be surprised if Tuchel bids for Auba.

  66. 66
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Anyone who wants to argue that we are miles away from winning the CL is obviously right.

    But a very average Chelsea team just won it.

    They are really not great. And neither are we.

    Hope springs eternal

  67. 67
    OsakaMatt says:

    Wanted both teams to lose so I’m half happy, pity our whipping boys won but Shitteh needed DeBruyne to step up and he didn’t. Personally I think we could have beaten either of them tonight – and also lost 4-0 to either too.

  68. 68
    Bathgooner says:

    TTG@65, with a striker with a more effective strike rate than Werner, this Chav team under this coach will be a strong challenger next season. I cannot see Levy selling them Kane who has already expressed the desire to play for Shitteh nor will Haaland move this summer so a bid for Auba seems quite likely given Tuchel’s past history with him.

    Do you think we would sell, given what it says about the relative relationship of the two clubs (something that has been growing since Mourinho poached Cashley)?

    Should we sell, as an essential step in our rebuilding the team?

    Do we trust the current custodians’ decision making with the resultant resources?

  69. 69
    Cynic says:

    Guardiola neutralised himself with this false nine bullshit.

    As for selling Auba, it’s a tough decision. I don’t really want to be sitting here in a year or two with people saying things like, “Wow, that malaria really took a lot out of him” 😉

    I’d sell him if Chelsea wanted him and were prepared to pay big bucks. We’re not competing with them for the foreseeable future and the next year to 18 months should be about building for a challenge in two to three years. Get younger players, stop spending big money on has beens and build something for that future.

    If we sold Auba for ridiculous money and bought Toney, for example, he’d be 27/28 by the time we were ready to launch ourselves at the top four again, with two years experience at the top under his belt. I’m not just talking about Toney because he’s flavour of the month, but he is exactly the type of player we should be looking at. Young, fought his way through his career and proved himself. He’s not an academy prospect who’s had a comparatively smooth ride.

  70. 70
    Steve T says:

    Bath, your last sentence sums it all up. At this moment in time I can’t honestly say that I have confidence in any of them. That’s from Kroenke, down to Arteta.

    It’s been a strange old season for all of the obvious reasons, but it’s been strange for everyone. We are no exception. I also agree that under Tuchel, the Chavs are a top goal scorer from being a top side. So say that because we have come out on top in our last three encounters is of course correct. To use that to suggest some sort of parity I would suggest it totally wrong. For me, it papers over the cracks.

    In recent years we have wasted money by the bucket load. This season it’s been abundantly clear to see how much we have effectively been carried by Auba’s goals. We lack leadership and for a lot of the time, we have lacked cohesion.

    One area that needs urgently addressing is the midfield. Like some here, I would happily offer Xhaka a lift if he finds himself another club. Partey so far has been disappointing. I hope that he can be the player we all want him to be next season. We also need a midfield that contributes with goals. The fact is that ESR, Willian, Elneny, Ødegaard, Partey, Ceballos and Xhaka scored a combined total of one goal less all season than an on loan Joe Willock did in seven games. If we want to be a top side then that has to change.

    We have had our worst season in decades. We finished 8th for a reason. Why did we finish 8th? Because we managed to win our last 5 games. Otherwise we would have ended up considerably lower.

  71. 71
    Countryman100 says:

    Good thoughts Cynic. I think I agree with all of them. I can’t see Brentford giving up on Toney right now, or at least not until they are relegated next season. I think he’s 25 and, of course, home grown. Reminds me a little of how our own Ian Wright came, or Jamie Vardy.

  72. 72
    Bathgooner says:

    Cynic, I tend towards the same view on Auba. This squad requires a major rebuild with a coherent plan for signing players who will fit and our financial situation demands that our execs indulge in no more dilettante behaviour in contract awards or their management. We have few assets whose sale will give us the bounce that the sale of Coutinho gave Liverpool’s buying power or the sale of Kane may give our neighbours (subject to their rumoured impending financial meltdown which may simply be wishful thinking) but one such is Auba despite his relatively indifferent ’20-21 season. If Chavski offer silly money then I would bite their hand off, give Laca a one year extension and use the fee and the savings on Auba’s salary to rebuild the midfield with ambitious young talent.

    Now would certainly be the time to buy Toney as he is unproven at PL level – of course, you risk him hitting the wall (the Gus Caesar effect) but if he copes well at PL level he would cost more next summer – but if I were Brentford I would not sell him at this point in time, nor were I him, would I move to join a big club and sit on the bench when I could have fun playing in the PL for Brentford every week, knowing if I did well I could move to a big club in a year or two on a bigger contract.

  73. 73
    Lavoisier says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the sentiments expressed above. Sell Auba, Toney could be our own Havertz (or better). Seeing Chelsea lift the cup last night made me feel that we actually won it – if they managed to win it, there’s no reason why we can’t emulate them next year!

  74. 74
    North Bank Ned says:

    I doubt Chelsea will buy Auba for silly money or even fair value. He turns 32 in less than three weeks. Apart from Thiago Silva, who came on a free, Chelsea hasn’t bought an outfield player that old since Drogba returned from China in 2014/15. It would be more their style to overpay for someone like Toney.

    A fair-value offer for Auba would really test our management’s judgement. As Steve T said, Auba’s goals carried the team in previous seasons. However, his conversion rate was unusually high. This season past, his conversion rate reverted to the norm, but it did not fall off a cliff (and only Laca was better). The other big difference was that Auba got off far fewer shots (57 v 93 in the league in the season before), which implies the midfield weren’t creating sufficient chances for him. Fix that, and he’ll get more goals. So if Auba is sold to fund revamped creativity, are we confident that we will have the strikers to take advantage of that as effectively?

  75. 75
    bt8 says:

    CER, Seeing as you are a professional management consultant and an Arsenal supporter, I was just wondering if you could give us a few words on your perception of Jose Mourinho’s management style. No pressure. 😉

  76. 76
    TTG says:

    Gardening duties dictated that I joined the debate late in but I’d agree that Auba is expendable . I would also sell Lacazette if we have a silly offer but his experience and attitude around the club make him an asset .
    Toney , Edouard and Ings all commend themselves as replacements but Ings will be very expensive .
    I’d only regard as unsellable; Tierney , Saka , ESR , Partey , Martinelli and Pepe. Not everyone will agree with that last choice but he us showing signs of becoming a marquee player and we are unlikely at present to get anything like the figure we paid for him .

  77. 77
    bt8 says:

    Based on his performance this season I have to agree that Auba shouldn’t be kept if we get a good offer, but I do fear that my saying so is the one surest way to guarantee he will score 30 goals for another club next season. 🤔

  78. 78
    Cynic says:

    As long as that other club is PSG or Juve, it matters not 🙂

  79. 79
    OsakaMatt says:

    Fair questions@68 Bath
    Doubtful, no and we’ll see would be my answers.
    Pints of dark and gloomy on the bar for some of you😁

  80. 80
    North Bank Ned says:

    I’ll take the pint of dark, OM, and raise a glass to you, kampai, but leave the gloom to others.

  81. 81
    ClockEndRider says:

    The only words I have for Mourinho’s management style are all expletives. Not appropriate for a fine Bank Holiday Monday morning!

  82. 82
    OsakaMatt says:

    Cheers Ned😁

  83. 83
    TTG says:

    One word beloved of sports writers in connection with transfers always amuses me ‘ ‘ ‘Arsenal brace for double transfer raid ‘ , ‘ Arsenal braced for Xhaka bid ‘
    Those of us who have experienced ( albeit as spectators ) the delivery room might have slightly eye watering images coming to mind at this stage but it’s become a cliche that regularly gets trotted out .
    I’m less braced for a Xhaka bid than deeply and blissfully relaxed .

  84. 84
    Countryman100 says:

  85. 85
    Cynic says:

    Anyone buying Toney will have to pay a premium as there’s the Barry Bonus to take into consideration. Barry Fry has negotiated a sell on fee, as he always does, that has been as high as 30% in the past. Brentford has already been landed with a £1 bill for a promotion clause, negotiated when Toney was sold to them.

  86. 86
    Cynic says:

    That should read ONE MILLION pounds.

  87. 87
    TTG says:

    Thanks for the correction Cynic! I was about to volunteer to buy it out myself!
    C100’s figures are very interesting.
    They moved to a Moneyball , Data- based approach a few years ago when the new owner took over and it appears to be paying off ! The manager came on board on that basis after Warburton left
    I’m yet to understand what our approach to scouting now is . We have plenty of gems but we also have lads in the U23s who are nowhere good enough to be at Arsenal and appear to be ballast . Not quite sure how this works!

  88. 88
    bt8 says:

    Article looks interesting Countryman, and Brentford certainly seem to be doing lots of positive stuff both managerially and footballistically but to quote our departed Irish friend, I can’t be arsed to subscribe and then cancel with the Telegraph before they start charging me real money, and I feel cba would have felt the same way. Without being certain of course.

  89. 89
    Countryman100 says:

    I only put it up for the headline numbers bt8. I have seen Brentford’s scouting team described as the best in the business, but this seems to show that they are relying as much on data analytics.

  90. 90
    Countryman100 says:

    Saka left out of England Squad. Their loss.

  91. 91
    bathgooner says:

    It is indeed England’s loss but I am delighted for Saka and Arsenal. He doesn’t need the aggravation of being coached by Southgate and he deserves several weeks of good rest. Arteta ran him into the ground this season for obvious necessity. We don’t want him knackered before he has developed fully.

  92. 92
    TTG says:

    With the exclusion of TAA and Saka it confirms my suspicion that England who have an extraordinary group of players will still manage to shoot themselves in the foot. Southgate is a boring and limited manager .Saka desperately needs a rest but would have graced the England squad. At least he won’t be putting Dier in the squad .

  93. 93
    bt8 says:

    Which reminds me, if Trent’s parents had only given him Theo as a third name we could be referring to him as TATA.

  94. 94
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Excellent analysis CER! A lot to think and discuss about.

    I think the club has been suffering lately from a true identity crisis. What kind of club are we?

    There used to be one or two clear narratives in Wenger’s time. I believe it’s important to revisit those and build on them.

  95. 95
    bt8 says:

    *Shuffles the deck*

  96. 96
    bt8 says:

    A managerial shuffle of course, to be topical.

  97. 97
    Cynic says:

    Good God, Jarred Gillet is on the shortlist of referees being considered to replace Lee Mason in the so-called Elite Group of officials next season. You remember him… he was the VAR official on this game.

    Useless cock

  98. 98
    Osakamatt says:

    Southgate seems to be missing a full deck

  99. 99
    Osakamatt says:

    Two old fashioned 9s waiting for
    a tap in

  100. 100
    Osakamatt says:

    But takes it himself!!
    Risking an admiring glance from

  101. 101
    bt8 says:

    Admirable opportunism of the Far East variety.

  102. 102
    bt8 says:

    Isn’t that what started the Opium Wars?

  103. 103
    Osakamatt says:

    Greedy westerners hanging around and
    exploiting the locals? 🤔
    It does seem familiar

  104. 104
    Steve T says:

    Morning all.

    The latest odds for next season have us at 66/1 to win the league, and 50/1 to finish in the bottom three. So, they clearly believe that we have more chance of being relegated than being crowned as champions!!!!

    I guess that tells you where we are at this moment in time.

  105. 105
    bathgooner says:

    Steve T @104, those odds are entirely logical if you take the owner at his word (if you want to win championships then you would never get involved) and factor in the trajectory of the club under his ownership. Bookies are generally not stupid.

  106. 106
    Steve T says:

    We all know the reasons why, but you can’t argue with the figures.

    Speculate to accumulate.

  107. 107
    North Bank Ned says:

    The Telegraph article on Brentford points out that the Bees use analytics to spot underpriced, raw talent but then develop it into players they can sell to clubs higher up the food chain. Their buy-develop-sell business model relies on having replacements ready so they can sell their best players each season. They fish in the pools of the lower leagues and big club’s academy rejects rather than bring players through their own system from an early age. How well will their business model hold up now they have been promoted to the Premier League and are closer to the top of the food chain? The pool of overlooked young talent with the raw potential to play for Europe’s top clubs is small.

  108. 108
    North Bank Ned says:

    Steve T@106: Over the past ten seasons, Chelsea’s net transfer spend, at £496.4 million, has been not that much more than our £472.5 million, and about half of what the two Manc clubs spent. How well you spend the money matters more than spending it. Who knew?

    Abramovich is also a serial rotator of his managers. All this talk of Tuchel being there for the long haul to build an empire might make for good headlines but doesn’t jibe with the reality of a Chelsea head coach.

  109. 109
    TTG says:

    That’s an impressive trophy haul and no one can argue with the effectiveness of Abramovich’s ownership . I think a number of us on here rejected the notion of an owner like Abramovich- I got very short shrift on here when I suggested I didn’t think there was much difference between Kroenke and Usmanov in terms of desirability but that was many years ago and views soften over time . I don’t like the constant management changes but who can say they don’t work ?
    Abramovich appears with the benefit of perspective to be a more acceptable owner than he threatened to be but I’m still not sure he’s quite what we’d ideally like as owner of Arsenal. But the Archbishop of Canterbury doesn’t appear to have the readies to buy us!

  110. 110
    North Bank Ned says:

    We are 6/4 for a top-six finish next season and 7/1 for the top four. That looks like the bookies think we’ll end up in a Europa League spot. Seems about right at his point unless Edu and Garlick work some transfer market magic this summer.

  111. 111
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@109: One of the many differences between Abramovich and Kroenke, I would suggest, is that Abramovich actually likes football and understands why fans like their teams to win things.

  112. 112
    Countryman100 says:

    The Archbishop of Canterbury would work very hard to get us back in the Champions league because he wouldn’t want us to be playing on Sundays because he’d find it hard to get to the games.

  113. 113
    Osakamatt says:

    and who’d mess with a missionary man?

  114. 114
    Steve T says:

    “How well you spend the money matters more than spending it. Who knew?“

    The smallest nail, hit with world’s largest hammer, quite squarely on the head.

    Which takes us all full circle. How much, from top t bottom, do we trust the custodians of this great club?

  115. 115
    TTG says:

    A true story
    Many years ago ( about 2003) we played Charlton ( I think)at Highbury on a Sunday morning – quite an early kick-off . After the game ( which we won ) I was queuing for Arsenal tube when who should be in front of me phoning , what I assumed to be his missus, with his ETA but George Carey , Archbishop of Canterbury . He might just have been stepping down from the role about then
    Against my better judgment I made the inevitable reference to him throwing a sickie to get to football . He gave a tired smile but then we had a short exchange about the match .
    While George was Archbishop , Jonathan Sachs , also a keen Gooner , was the Chief Rabbi so we had two of the major bases covered !

  116. 116
    bathgooner says:

    Ned @111, another nail hit on the head. Abramovich has been labelled a Russian gangster because he exploited the opportunities that emerged on the collapse of the USSR’s state owned economy to accumulate obscene wealth and may have done so without strict observation of the law as did many of his oligarch peers. Kroenke has accumulated his wealth in a more conventional Western capitalist manner and is said to have displayed somewhat ruthless traits en passent. Who is to say which has greater moral turpitude. I know which is the better owner of a football club though.

    Of course, as a simple peasant I suspect all self-made billionaires of moral turpitude in the accumulation of their wealth.

    As to the Archbishop of Canterbury, TTG, there have been several throughout history who might have been visionary leaders of the club but the present incumbent with his confused interventions over the past several years could not run a whelk stall. No thank you. The organisation he leads is broke anyway and in a far worse state than it was when he took over. A Kroenke-esque leader, you might say?

  117. 117
    TTG says:

    I’m no authority on prelates but a few years ago I was asked by a friend to attend the model railway club which was being held in the parish church on the first Monday of every month as usual . The reason my presence was required was that it was the week before Easter and he was visiting a local parish near HQ- ours- to meet the great unwashed .The club wanted to suggest a burgeoning membership.
    He and I had a short chat about life in rural Kent and he then decamped from the church to the local Weatherspoons where I’m told he despatched a full pint of MasterBrew. He was the second Archbishop of Canterbury I had met after my mate George the Gooner.
    I stayed for my first and hitherto only , meeting of the railway enthusiasts . A friend of mine was most amused to see me there knowing my knowledge of model railways could be inscribed on a pinhead. I said to him ‘ I will be fine as long as we don’t have a quiz ‘. Then the Secretary called the exclusively male group to order saying ‘ Please get into your teams for the quiz ‘ I was surprisingly good at recognising London termini from the air. Some evenings are best glossed over.

  118. 118
    TTG says:

    That Gareth Southgate .
    He could run a very good whelk stall .
    I’m pleased to see Saka and TAA in .

  119. 119
    Countryman100 says:

    Well after everyone yesterday saying Saka wouldn’t be in the England Squad, including Arseblog this morning, he is!

  120. 120
    C100 says:

    The folly of paying attention to Twitter !

  121. 121
    Cynic says:

    Watching international football is a desperate act. Like picking up dog ends in the street when you haven’t got a fag.

    Despite this, I’ve still entered a sweepstake but with one stipulation. If I draw Scotland I want my money back.

  122. 122
    Countryman100 says:

    Who is abusing my blog name?

  123. 123
    Bathgooner says:

    TTG, pay attention to forthcoming posts on this site and you’ll learn the difference between a Class 40 and a Class 50. Yet another nugget of information for which you can thank the Goonerholics Bar.

  124. 124
    TTG says:

    I knew if I revealed my stunning lack of railway knowledge I would flush out an expert .
    Please hold yourself available on Monday evenings should the Archbishop return on quiz night ! I will attempt to recognise Liverpool Steeet from the air!

  125. 125
    Bathgooner says:

    I’m no expert, TTG. I have just learnt the difference between a Class 40 and a Class 50, and indeed the terminology itself, from editing Ray’s forthcoming piece. The only engines I could identify before that are The Flying Scotsman, Mallard, Sir Nigel Gressley, The Golden Arrow, the Great Western Railcar, the 125, Thomas the Tank Engine and James the Red Engine.

  126. 126
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@115. Sunday noon kick-offs are perfect for Anglican gentlemen of the cloth. Eucharist is sung and you can be back in time for Evensong.

  127. 127
    bt8 says:

    “Carlo Ancelotti leaves Everton for Real Madrid return“

    Where does that leave 10th placed Everton, I wonder. The choice of Arteta rather than Ancelotti is now looking that much better.

  128. 128
    TTG says:

    I had forgotten that we had a railwayman amongst our new correspondents! I have spent many evenings reading Thomas the Tank Engine in an attempt to get children to sleep only to send myself off to the Land of Nod.
    Sad that I am I tracked down the game . It was Arsenal v Charlton in about March 2003. We won 2-0 and George Carey stepped down from his role the previous year . I suspect he had celebrated a very early Eucharist and any entreaties on behalf of Arsenal worked well. I vaguely recalled Jeffers scoring but can’t remember the game

  129. 129
    TTG says:

    I never quite bought into the Ancelotti revival of Everton . They finished the season very weakly and had a terrible home record . Their two wins over us were very disappointing from an Arsenal perspective .
    It’s a club that takes one step forward and another back . Possible candidates to replace him might be Moyes, Benitez and Eddie Howe.

  130. 130
    scruzgooner says:

    don’t forget nuno, TTG. or are people still hoping he’ll replace arteta?

    CER, well done on the post above. i’m decidedly not a management consultant, but managing change is something i do regularly in my so-called professional life. and it’s so often an exercise in handholding, in allaying fear of the change, as much as it is the actual plan to make the change. i find so many arsenal supporters need their hand held through these times…

    baff, better a railwayman than a highwayman, eh?

  131. 131
    Bathgooner says:

    I don’t know about that, scruz:

  132. 132
    Osakamatt says:

    Trains, Thieves, Trainers and Twitter. Lots covered in
    the drinks tonight. Great stuff but what about the
    HolicsRopeyLeague Final Fantasy placings?
    That’s what the people really want to know.

  133. 133
    scruzgooner says:

    baff, then there’s this: https://youtu.be/USfzF-4QphQ?t=0

  134. 134
    TTG says:

    I had forgotten about Nuno. He may well be a candidate to take his place in a long line of Everton managers who fell short of expectations – Martinez, Koeman, Allardyce , Silva .I would be very concerned if he pitched up at Arsenal although his agent tried his best to pitch him as a candidate to replace Emery .
    I’d love him to replace Mourinho at the Marshdwellers . Levy will float lots of spectacular names but it will be hard to bring in Conte or bring back Pochettino . With everyone returning to their old clubs might we see ‘ Arry make a comeback at the Lane ?

  135. 135
    Osakamatt says:

    If England don’t do well at the Euros
    perhaps Southgate will be a candidate
    for the spuddies😁

  136. 136
    bt8 says:

    Re: Bath @131. Many thanks for that one, a new one on me. Don’t know how I managed to miss it all these years.

  137. 137
    North Bank Ned says:

    The golden rule for managers is never go back.

  138. 138
    North Bank Ned says:

    Local resident Rafa Benitez might be a candidate for the Everton vacancy.

  139. 139
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG: March 2, 2003. Noon kick-off. Robert Pires got the second on the stroke of half-time.

  140. 140
    Bathgooner says:

    scruz @133, I hadn’t heard of Adrian Belew. He’s very good. Thanks for that one.

  141. 141
    Bathgooner says: