From The Left Wing: New Season Blues

AFCB writer Daniel Brookes provides a typically alternative view in ‘From The Left Wing’…

Welcome one and welcome all to my first article on the new-look AFCB. By way of introduction, my name is Dan, I live in London, I’ve been following Arsenal for about 16 years now and my current favourite player is Alex Song.

Now that we’re all enamoured, I’m going to get on with my ramblings regarding the new season ahead and tell you why, to be honest, I’m not really all that excited about it!

I find myself in a curious situation as the only England-based writer on a blog that lauds an England-based team. Because of this, I feel obliged to get the violins out and expose the plight of thousands of similar fans, like me, who have suffered a double-whammy of footballing disappointment over the past few months, thanks to their commitment to both Arsenal, and our laughing stock of a national team.

Seeing Arsenal throw in the towel at the end of last season and slump into a final day scrap for third place was a truly miserable (albeit familiar) experience. Let’s all be honest, it was one of our best seasons in a good few years, yet we only just pipped our favourite neighbours to third place. I was down, but I comforted myself with the knowledge that I had two massive reasons to keep faith in the beautiful game.

Firstly, a World Cup was just around the corner – that’s pure footballing brilliance distilled, refined and sprayed into our faces over six weeks of multicultural partying. Secondly, Arsene Wenger, one of the game’s undisputed masters of discovering obscure footballing talent, was heading to South Africa filled with a crystal clear knowledge of his team’s weaknesses. I still feel the slight twinge of anticipation and excitement when I recall these reasons; it was going to be a brilliant summer!

Perhaps you can already see where I’m going with this.

It takes a herculean effort for English football supporters, entrenched deep in their generations-old club loyalties, to suddenly begin to support a national team comprised of the exact same players they deride and spit fire at, week after week, year after year. But somehow we manage to club together, we ignore the obvious foible of having a foreign manager who can’t speak the national language, and we temporarily pardon the fact that half the squad would rather be sleeping their way through seedy nightclubs and dodging stints in Her Majesty’s Prisons for beating up their fans. We quite naively and hopelessly build our expectations to feverish levels.

Then, come crunch time, we watch the team play. Oh God. The memories, the nightmares, the failure. England were woeful and I’m certainly in no hurry for the next World Cup to roll around. The disappointment was almost, almost enough to make me want to throw in the towel and be done with it all. How can I carry on following a sport that routinely assaults me with so much depression!?

Daniel wasn't the only one who struggled to watch England's World Cup "performance".

Still… at least Arsene was there. Arsene, talent-spotter extraordinaire was surely casting his beady eye over any of the 700-odd players on display, ready to pounce with laser precision and whirlwind speed, ready to execute a flurry of transfer activity which would plug the leaks in our squad once and for all and leave our competitors stoic in his wake.

Surely the only speculation would be about which countries these hidden gems would come from? Would it be a burly Slovenian centre-back or a gangly Algerian reserve goalkeeper. Maybe even the bus driver for the South Korean team, or the local kid playing keepy-uppy in the park opposite his hotel?

Err, well… it was actually none of the above. In fact it wasn’t anybody.

Arsene did his best to keep the speculation-mill churning though. He heaped praise on Keisuke Honda, a wafer-thin attacking midfielder, obviously a man in the mould of what the Arsenal midfield desperately needs right now. Then we were linked with unconvincing Italian goalkeeper Federico Marchetti, who showed true Arsenal goalkeeping potential by conceding 4 goals from 6 shots during his brief campaign.

Although he wasn’t signing anybody of note, Arsene was doing a pretty good job of clearing out the scrap metal from our squad. It’s just a shame he was doing an even better job of not replacing them.

Now, fast forward to our first game of the season. Whereas we possessed an embarrassment of riches up front, even without our two best offensive players, we still maintained an embarrassment of squad depth at the back. Our goalkeeper was picked as the best of a bad bunch, and an unfit Alex Song was the only player capable of coming off the bench to fill in at centre back. That’s the same Alex Song who is also the club’s only defensive midfielder this year (and last). This is a bewildering lack of cover for a first team that seems to collect injuries as if they were rare foreign coins and who seem to end crocked for half the season if they play when the pollen count is too high.

The gaps in our team seem obvious to every Arsenal and opposition fan and I suspect even the manager, but with a couple of weeks left of an open transfer window and the season already underway, I can’t help but feel a little short-changed after a summer filled with so much potential!

I simply wonder, do we have any right to get our hopes up for the coming season? Coming from Arsene’s biggest fan, all I can hope for is an injury-free campaign or a flurry of signings before the transfer window closes, because this may well be our last year with the world’s most ingenious central midfielder running our centre stage.

I hope as always for the best!

Have your say on the first ever ‘From The Left Wing’ by leaving a comment.



  1. Given a choice over a huge ZOMG HE”S A MEGASTAR SIGNING and an injury free season, i choose an injury free season. But that’s almost like wishing there’s Christmas in July…
    But im up and raring to go for the new season and even the doomsday brigade of AFCB have been pretty quiet so we must be doing fine.

  2. AW must be aware of our weaknesses, no doubt.

    But if he has proven 1 thing over the last years it is just how much belief and risk he is willing to spend on certain players in our squad. The 2nd thing is that he will never have extra cover, he prefers to be a bit short, and give youth players a chance.

    Now this is admirable, and has proven sufficient to reach CL, which is pretty impressive.
    But it is no where near enough for PL glory, which is also clear to our key players, Cesc knows AW by know, he has listened to his plans, and seen the outcome many enough times to draw conclusions. I don’t think he planned to go back to Barca already. I think he lost faith in the AW project, seing a systematic failure, and I am sure he feels the same now given the lack of action from our manager.

    Cesc is a true professional, and loves Arsenal, he is loyal and will respect our club in what seems to be his last season as a Gunner. But will he play with the same fire? will his heart be in it to 110%? For that he needs to believe in what we do. if I am anywhere near the true story I see him struggling to find that total commitment.

  3. I understand what you feel and as Arsene’s biggest fan you should know better still, you should know that over all speculations, Arsene is rarely who is having an eye on, no one new about Vermaelen and so for Koscielny, Chamakh was another story as we knew it for ages that he was coming.
    Anyway, I keep faith in a team who may not have gain any silverware for the past 5 years but still remain at the top even tough the lost of all major players.
    What I see today it’s a grown team, I am not talking about Fab4, RvP or Clichy but about players like Vela who is finally ready to break into first team, about Eboue who finally decided to play the Arsenal football style, about Gibbs who is looking more impressive day after day, about Rosicky who seems to get his form back, about Nasri who is angry to win things with Arsenal, add our 2 recruits and it looks like Wenger have signed 7 players, players who were just invisible last year.
    I have faith in our Manager, I have faith in our team, I have faith that this season might be for us and it’s not about a poor display away, at Anfield, with half of the first team missing that I will start shaking like a chicken about this season.

    welcome to AFCB 😉

  4. Hi Dan,

    Looking forward to see more articles from a London boy. Hopefully your writing can help me feel the atmosphere that I won’t get to experience anytime soon. Maybe on the next article you could write something on the life of an Arsenal fan, describe say…the atmosphere at the Emirates,club culture(not rave party) of English fans, how the london gunners generally behave on matchday. I know it may be a bit dry and boring but I really want to see ,matchday through your eyes. Would appreciate it if it happens.

    Good attempt on the first article!

  5. nice article . a lot of arsenal fans seem content be a financial stable club but if some one was to buy arsenal then what would happen i respect people views but my attack is not on wenger its on the office of the manager nomatter who was there if they were doing what wenger is doing then i would have a problem he nows the weakness of this team yet he does nothing. when you get warnings and fail to address dem they catch up an improvement on last year would be third anything under that is failure.

  6. Excellent stuff, though not as completely thorough (is Andy restricting the contents too?) as I and perhaps a few of us more would have liked.

    The writings keep coming in and I like the fact that a lot of different perspectives are on offer now. Good work Andy.

    Finally, its all about our squad quality and depth right now. As long as whoever comes is better than Silvestre, then I have no qualms at all.

  7. Frimpongs out for 6-9 mths, cruciate…..whats with our players?
    Fulham have rejected a second bid from us for schwarzer for 2m……and guess what our first bid was????? it was 2m…..Iv said on here for so long how poor we are when negotiating but thats poor fair… how can Wenger be so forthright when it came to barce wanting Cesc and say ‘if someone wants to buy your house and doesnt meet your valuation, you dont have to sell’ yet when it comes to him actually buying a player hes gets a bid rejected and a mth later puts in the same bid…I mean c’mon if Barce did that wed all be up in arms

  8. @ shambo pls don’t be shocked if koochenly did not get suspended no new defender would be coming in did you read the story Sebastien Squillaci they said arsenal did not meet their evaluation of the player as usual i hope fulham stand firm of their valuation as we did with barca . Is 4 mill a lot? I think not if wenger really wanted this keeper he would buy, some of the media and the fans are getting to him now. This keeper thing should have fixed as soon as the world cup was done. How could you not prioritize this big weakness? Look at the pool game we passed the ball well first half as usual but created no clear cut chance then when they go down to ten men we got nervous and scared. A champion team would have found a way to win And The goal liverpool scored every one is blaming almunia BUT who’s man was it? The vermanator prevention is better that cure, yet! no one is blaming vamerlyn. He looks good going forward and wants to score goals thats fine but he is starting to remind me of galas by making more effort to score than to defend and i can’t accept that A DEFENDER IS PAYED TO DEFEND when i hear people say a defender scor 5 goals last season i asked how much did the team let in and thats the point
    Wenger said at the end of last season he said “We let in two much goals this season and i will fix that” now look same error prone keepers
    But the powers that be at arsenal don’t have a problem with what he is doing so when better can’t be done let the worst continue
    BUT Mr wenger continue to do what your doing because as tomorrow is sure it WILL catch up with you…….

  9. Thanks for the positive responses, guys!

    A few things regarding our transfer policy. Personally, and with all due respect to our antipodean editor-in-chief, I don’t rate Schwarzer at all. I reckon he’s not all that much better than Almunia and at almost 38 years of age, he’s no spring chicken for a long term solution. I reckon 4m is a bit too much to offer, and our repeated 2m offer to new club management (no matter how retarded that management happens to be) after the player has handed in a transfer request was probably worth a punt. I hope it indicates, as Kel mentions, that Arsenal really aren’t that serious about Schwarzer. I’d just like him to have something else up his sleeve!

    I also believe that Arsenal fans aren’t just content with a financially stable club, but rather they are completely proud of the way the club is operated. If we were suddenly bought out by a foreign power and began splashing the cash like City, I would walk away from the club without hesitation. We spend within our means and we aren’t bullied into higher prices and wages by any club or player. With a full strength Arsenal squad we play majestic football, and we’ve achieved that even with a bit of stubbornness in our transfer dealings.

  10. To start, I think that there are a flurry of fantastic puns and metophors in this article. It made me smile amidst teh depression which the rest of it gave me. But aren’t we resigned to the fact that this is going to happen. Arsene Wenger has conditioned us for potential, and possibilities. I am a fan of Arsene. And I love Arsenal the same way my mate rob loves his car, doing whatever he can to make it faster, louder……. terrible.

    But can I get someone to translate the logic of Arsene to me. He makes sense, and there is no question of his intelligence. Yet when Arsenal approach you about buying a CB or a goal keeper. You turn around and say “i will get back with you in 90 minutes” and watch Arsenal vs Liverpool. Or even read any headline thats puffing about Arsenal on Google. You see we are desperately in need of a good cb.

    Arsene then comes and offers you money for a CB, which is most likely well below your valuation. And below most. It is that obvious that he is going to look for a talent, or a cheap buy. Which is good. And makes sense. And it makes me supporting arsenal so much easier to know that they are responsible and intelligent, and are business people.

    Yet there is a point of insanity, and it is where you are not dillusional, instead you are unable to recognise that you are. Everyone else in the world know Arsenal are desperate. And we can stand back behind this morality under which we do hide, and deservedly so. But it looks embarassing when we offer well below any valuation of the player, be it ours or someone elses. And I exclude Schwarzer from this point, because 4 million for a 37 year old with 2 remaining years is excessive.

    But we need a new keeper, a new CB and with the loss of Frimpong, another CM. there are two which are vital to a sustained cfharge for the title. The position of Arsenal is desperate. Other clubs know this. We must expect that we are going to pay a bit more. The same way we would do this to Barcelona if Xavi and Inesta were injured. Arsene finds uncut gems, and polishes them. Right now we need a refined one.

  11. Loved the article, think you are spot on with both evaluations of The Arsenal and England!
    Personally I like the fact that Wenger seems to instil faith in the same players year after trophy-less year… The fact is the club is a business, and the way it’s being run is spot on, we don’t need to get ourselves into millions of pounds worth of debt. However, and this is a sticking point for me, Arsene seems to have forgotten how to build a winning team and has instead found a whole raft of new excuses as to why Arsenal simply aren’t good enough to win the league any more, and has become Mr bargain hunter when it comes to new signings! ‘If it’s not free or under £6m, I don’t want to know…!’
    Take the goal keeping fiasco we find ourselves in at the moment. It pains me too much to actually talk about the current crop of Championship standard keepers we have, but the fact that one of the WORLD’S BEST in Shay Given is literally being offered to us on a plate and Wenger for some reason is offering money for Schwarzer completely and utterly bamboozles me!!
    Losing Frimpong is a blow, as is Nasri at the start of the campaign, but Fabregas has 1 year left in an Arsenal shirt, one of our precious few truly world class players, and to convince him to stay we should be plugging the gaps in the team with world class, not third choice French centre halves and 37 year old goal keepers! Spend some money Arsene for the love of Christ and give yourself a real chance.

  12. where is craig eastmond? He impressed me last season, and should be able to fill alex songs shoes when he is out.
    before frimpong got injuried, I think he would fit well in the defensive midfield position as well..

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